The Weekly Wrap: July 18 - July 24

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By Jack Encarnacao Jul 25, 2009
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.

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It can be said that since its inception one year ago, Affliction Entertainment had been building Fedor Emelianenko vs. Josh Barnett. As Emelianenko took apart heavyweights in two main pay-per-view events, Barnett picked up two wins of his own on the same cards. Their fight was set for Aug. 1 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. However, what seemed like a climax for the promotion resulted in the lowest point in its one-year existence, as a failed steroids test for Barnett led to the wholesale unraveling of the event and, according to a Yahoo! Sports report, the entire fight promotion.

Affliction pulled the plug on its “Trilogy” event on Friday, some 60 hours after the Barnett test failure was made public. Early reports indicated Showtime, the distributor of the pay-per-view event, put the final kibosh on the show out of concern over finding a suitable replacement for Emelianenko and having the time to put together any promotional materials.

Vitor Belfort had come to financial terms on a deal to fight Emelianenko. Belfort’s trainer, Shawn Tompkins, told “somebody higher up” was not comfortable with the fight. Affliction Vice President Tom Atencio told Hardcore Sports Radio Thursday he planned to sit down with M-1 Global and Affliction to vote on how to proceed. It was not clear by week’s end if fighters on the card were going to be compensated in any way, or if Affliction would find them fights on other cards, as it had in the past. Affliction promotional partner M-1 Global will make its United States debut Aug. 28 in Los Angeles, and preliminary reports hinted some “Trilogy” fighters could be booked on the card.

The whirlwind was touched off by a Barnett urine sample that contained a metabolite found in the anabolic steroid Drostanolone. The steroid is widely used by bodybuilders because it helps preserve and harden musculature while cutting weight. UFC lightweight Hermes Franca, who tested positive for Drostanolone in 2007, claimed he was using the drug to aid in injury recovery. Dennis Hallman, Barnett’s one-time teammate, and UFC veteran Bill Mahood also flunked tests for the substance in 2007.

The failure meant Barnett was denied a license to fight by the California State Athletic Commission. Barnett’s license had expired, so he did not receive a suspension or fine, commission official Bill Douglas told MMA Fanhouse. Because he did not fail the test while actively licensed, Barnett could be licensed again if he passed a test in the future. Douglas said Barnett’s failure resulted from California, for the first time, conducting an unannounced test after a change to its regulations earlier this year allowed it to do so. Barnett was called in late June and given 48 hours to provide a sample, a surprise factor designed to prevent fighters from timing the cycling of illegal substances out of their system before the standard drug tests on a fight weekend. Barnett said he was “embarrassed” by the situation and planned to appeal. He told Yahoo! Sports he “has a pretty good idea” of why he tested positive for the metabolite in question but did not elaborate.

Barnett was stripped of the UFC heavyweight title in 2002 and suspended for six months after three different steroids turned up in a test administered by the Nevada commission around the time he fought Randy Couture. Barnett has technically failed three separate commission steroid tests, but a Nov. 2, 2001 failure, taken when he fought Bobby Hoffman at UFC 34, was administered as part of an information-gathering procedure by the Nevada commission, which at the time was exploring whether drug use was a problem in MMA and what penalties such use should constitute. Nevada’s commission ramped up drug testing for MMA fighters in 2003 in the wake of a contentious appeals process with Barnett’s camp. In 2002, Barnett’s camp claimed the failure came from an over-the-counter product.

The loss of Barnett, around whose fight the Affliction advertising revolved, set off a whack-a-mole-like scramble to find a replacement. Virtually every heavyweight in the sport with some profile and not tied to the UFC was mentioned as a possibility as the news broke. Affliction was reportedly offering $500,000 for the fight, the amount Barnett made for his match against Gilbert Yvel in January. Emelianenko held a press conference on Thursday in Russia, where he and his handlers stated a greater interest in fighting Brett Rogers, who knocked out Andrei Arlovski in June, than Belfort, who was set to face Jorge Santiago as a middleweight at “Trilogy.”

The interest in Rogers came at an awkward time for Strikeforce, which has him under contract and has worked closely with Affliction in the past. Strikeforce itself lost a heavyweight main event, as well as a welterweight title fight, for its Aug. 15 card in San Jose, Calif. Heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem pulled out of his scheduled defense against Fabricio Werdum after aggravating a hand injury. Werdum remains booked to fight on the Strikeforce card, and Rogers was widely expected to be the replacement. Strikeforce also lost a fight to crown a welterweight champion, as Joe Riggs pulled out of a fight with Nick Diaz after he suffered a reaction to a medication. Diaz is still expected to fight on the show.
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