19 Questions for Tom Atencio

Back in the Game

By Loretta Hunt May 13, 2009
While the fight community awaits the announcement of Affliction’s next event, one of its vice presidents recently declared his intentions to step into the cage as a competitor. Tom Atencio, Affliction’s affable frontman, will fight in his second career bout against Randy Hedderick (1-0) at Fight Force and Prize Fight’s Ultimate Chaos on June 27 at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Miss.

Atencio shares the bill with a heavyweight contest between former WWE star Bobby Lashley and K-1 standout Bob Sapp. Sherdog.com had a few questions for the 42-year-old Atencio and his newest conquest.

Sherdog.com: What compelled you to take another fight right now?
Tom Atencio: I have no clue. I’ve been wanting to [fight] since I did the first time [Atencio fought and won for Total Combat in January 2005], not that I have time now, but everybody’s willing to let me make the time, so I figured better now than never.

Sherdog.com: Where are you training and what is the routine like?
Atencio: Here at the office. We built a 5,000-square-foot gym. Fortunately, my trainer, Tracy Hess from SubFighter, also works here and Chute Boxes’ Rafael Cordeiro also comes by. He’s just up the street. In the morning, I run or ride bike, then I come here, work a little bit, then train, then go home and run or ride bike again.

Sherdog.com: How are you finding the time to train for a fight and also get another Affliction event together?
Atencio: Good question. (Laughs.) I have a lot of help here. Tracy helps me. I got a lot of good people here. People are picking up the slack, for sure.

Sherdog.com: In terms of your position at Affliction Entertainment, do you think this move strengthens or weakens it in the eyes of the MMA community?
Atencio: To be honest, in the MMA world, I think it solidifies the fact that we’re not just… I don’t want to say wannabes, but not just… we’re in this industry for the fact that I love this industry. If I didn’t [love it], I wouldn’t be so passionate about it.

Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

Rafael Cordeiro is assisting
Atencio with his training.
Sherdog.com: I’m going to play devil’s advocate. I’m going to be one of the people that might be asking, ‘Why are you spending all this extra time and energy training to fight, when you could be putting it into promoting the third Affliction show that everyone wants?’
Atencio: The third Affliction show is being put together right now, so I will give everybody what they want. It’s just one of those things that takes time. I always say this over and over and over again: This is only our third event. It’s not like we’ve done small events prior to our first one. It takes time to re-structure and figure everything out. Yeah, I understand the fans and people want us to continue, but when you’re new to it, you take your time because you want to get it right. You don’t want to make the same mistakes that I’ve made on the last two shows.

Sherdog.com: What mistakes did Affliction make in its first two events?
Atencio: The basics are going to be the music, for instance. It’s great. It was good for the live show, but it doesn’t translate well on television and the cost factor. On the back side, behind the scenes, making sure that the fighters are ready and cued up to do their entrances. Working with the athletic commission. The first show, the ambulance was 30 minutes late. That really screwed things up. Ten fights versus 11 fights –- whether we’re going continue with that is another story. There’s a lot of stuff I had no clue about.

Sherdog.com: You are portrayed as the frontman for Affliction, the one that makes it all go. Have any fighters voiced their concerns that your fighting right now might slow down them getting their contracted fights with Affliction? Have you had any opposition from the contracted fighters, many of which you are close with?
Atencio: No, I haven’t. Actually, it’s just the opposite. A lot of them are happy for me. It’s not like I’m fighting in my own event, so I’m not taking away a fight from anybody that fights for me. It’s actually just the opposite. I’ve been able to fortunately get some the fighters on this show as well. I think most of the guys know I’m fair and I try to do what I can for them. If they need to fight, I understand that we’re not putting on shows every four months or whatever it is. We don’t have a schedule as of right now. We should have a schedule after this [next] one. So, I try to be fair and if they need to take a fight somewhere else because they need money I completely understand that and I allow them. The only thing I ask is they talk to me and it doesn’t conflict with something we have going on.

Sherdog.com: Are these fights you are getting for some of Affliction’s fighters outside the organization satisfying their contracted fights with Affliction?
Atencio: No. It’s completely separate. Pride Fight and Fight Force International are completely separate. I’m just allowing these guys to fight so they can make some money.

Sherdog.com: Just to clarify, I thought a majority of the fighters Affliction had under contract are non-exclusive.
Atencio: Well, they’re exclusive in the U.S. They’re not exclusive for the world, like Japan, Canada and other countries.

Sherdog.com: I’ve also been told that you’re getting paid $20,000 to fight on June 27. I have to ask if that’s true since it’s a substantial purse for a fighter’s second fight.
Atencio: When it comes to money, I always treat it like business. I’m not a typical fighter, so I don’t talk about my finances. If it’s public knowledge, then you’re obviously going to know. It would be like you asking me how much I get paid at Affliction. I wouldn’t tell you. It’s just something I don’t feel comfortable discussing.
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