Ed. note: This story has completely changed from possible Strikeforce-Affliction merger to Affliction is done, sponsoring UFC fighters again. Instead of starting new post I changed title and updated below.
Hot off the heels of news that Affliction has canceled “Trilogy” comes this little nugget about Strikeforce and Affliction possibly merging tucked inside Kevin Iole’s latest column.
Affliction itself is fighting simply for survival. Several sources have said that Affliction and Strikeforce will have some type of merger with Strikeforce retaining its name. Affliction’s Tom Atencio denied any merger is imminent, and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is in Italy on vacation and couldn’t be reached for comment.
However, two independent sources told Yahoo! Sports a deal is either completed or on the verge of completion.
Obviously, a deal isn’t done until it’s done, especially in this business, and I don’t want to speculate, but given everything that’s transpired in the past week this really seems like the best move for all parties involved if they can agree to terms. Strikeforce could certainly use some of the talent Affliction has under contract (assuming there’s a way they could work it out where they’re not paying Affliction type payrolls) and let’s face it, Affliction could probably use a good exit strategy at this point.
Even more importantly though, this is the second Affliction event that has been canceled now and their fighters certainly deserve more stability than they’ve received so far. Fans have bought tickets and made travel arrangements for both shows only to be forced to cancel hotel and plane reservations and seek refunds. Strikeforce may not be as stable as the UFC, but they’re definitely more so than Affliction. At the very least, the fighters and the fans deserve an organization that has the ability to do what they say they’re going to. A deal like this could go a long ways in giving them that.
It’s an exciting prospect, albeit one that likely has a lot of intricacies involved considering all the cooks in Affliction’s kitchen, so we shouldn’t get our hopes up just yet. But if it happens, that would be pretty awesome. There’s a lot of great fights to be made between the talent in both organizations. Plus, if this week has proved anything, both promotions desperately need more depth in their rosters that a merger would provide.
One last thing, if you can take Dana’s word for it, he claims Affliction made an attempt to turn over their contracts after UFC 100 in exchange for a lift on their sponsorship ban. Dana’s alleged response:
“I told him, ‘I hope you idiots stay in business,’ ” White said. “We had a record year in 2007. We had a record year in 2008. And we’re going to have an even bigger record year in 2009. I said, ‘I hope you … stay around in 2010 and burn every dollar you have.’ What they do is of no concern to me.”
Update: No idea why, but Dana’s comments above have since been removed from Iole’s story.
Update 2: Scratch all the merger talk from above, it’s not happening. This explains why that quote was removed. Kevin Iole just said on Light Out Radio (via MMA4Real) that Affliction Entertainment is done. They will not promote another event. Instead, they will be a UFC sponsor once again. Not entirely clear what Affliction is giving them in return. Obviously, they want Fedor’s contract, but it’s likely far too complicated with Fedor actually under contract with M-1 for Affliction to give them that. Iole says he has a story coming soon. I’ll update again when there’s more info.
Update 3: Iole has updated the original story linked above with this.
Later on Friday, Affliction opted to get out of the promoting business and, in a joint statement with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, announced it would become a sponsor of the UFC. The fate of the fighters under contract with Affliction is not known yet.
Affliction had been on shaky footing almost since its inception, when it paid lavish salaries to fighters on its debut card a year ago. Several sources have said that Affliction and Strikeforce had been working on some kind of a deal, though that clearly fell through.
Also, I missed this listening to the show while I was updating.
Iole is also teasing hard that Dana White will make a major announcement on ESPN radio 1100 Las Vegas tonight at 9pm EDT. Speculation is heavy that that announcement might relate to yesterday’s Bloody Elbow exclusive news of ESPN officials attending UFC 100.
Update 4: Alright, Dana White, Kevin Iole and Steve Cofield just wrapped up their hour on ESPN 1100. Dana was tight-lipped on all of the Affliction news. In the beginning of the show, he insinuated he wasn’t saying anything since Affliction hadn’t made their announcement yet. He wouldn’t confirm Affliction was done nor that they were back in the UFC fold as a sponsor. Iole was sitting there with him and basically said he was standing by his story. Cofield made one more attempt at the end of the show to get something out of Dana, but all he would say is he’s going out of the country tomorrow until next Thursday and would hold a press conference on Friday to talk about “a lot of crazy things” that are going on with the UFC.
Fedor also came up. White reiterated that he’s trying to make it happen and would book Brock vs Fedor first. Cofield asked about how Randy Couture fit into the picture as well. Quotes via MMA Fanhouse:
“I’ve been trying to get Fedor in the UFC. I want it because you want it. Believe me, I’m trying to make it happen…He’ll fight for the title first. What does he need, a tune-up fight or something? … To argue where this guy sits in the heavyweight division, we can argue that all day…Fedor has a ton of experience. The guy’s been around forever. But you can’t take anything away from Brock Lesnar. … It’s an interesting fight. It’s a very good fight…Fedor’s got to come to a deal first. If Randy can go out there and cut that deal with Fedor, then Randy, get to work, buddy.”
Now that Affliction’s out of the picture and Fedor’s running out of options, I think there’s a much better chance we’ll see Fedor in the UFC, but it’s nowhere near guaranteed. Word on the street is he wants to sign with Strikeforce, likely because of the contractual freedoms he’d enjoy there, but I can’t imagine they’ll be able to match the UFC financially. Guess we’ll find out what Fedor values more, freedom or money.
Dana also talked about a few other things like Tito, jumping off Mandalay Bay, etc. which I updated over on the Tito post.
In related news, Iole mentioned on the Lights Out Radio show (which I also somehow missed while updating before) that he thought the Strikeforce-Affliction deal fell apart because Scott Coker was out of the country on vacation.
This came after Iole reported a potential merger of sorts between Affliction and Strikeforce, which was brewing early in the week, even prior to Barnett’s drug test failure, Iole said.
“Somehow that fell apart,” Iole said. “I think it was because Scott Coker, the CEO of Strikeforce, was out of the country and the paperwork wasn’t signed,” Iole said.
“Right now, I’m not exactly sure how that fell apart, but at the last minute it crumbled, so it opened the door for the UFC.”
I’m not sure I’m buying this one yet though unless I hear some supporting confirmation.