If you would have asked anyone who’s knowledgeable about mixed martial arts if Affliction would do over 100,000 pay-per-view buys when they announced their first show, they would have told you not a chance in hell. Why would they say yes? No promotion besides the UFC has ever done over 100,000 pay-per-view buys in the US. Why would Affliction succeed where so many have failed?
Well, maybe it was as simple as putting as many of the best fighters in the world that could be found on one event and letting the fighters and the fights sell themselves. A little dose of Donald Trump wouldn’t hurt either.
That’s exactly what Affliction did, and according to VP of Affliction Entertainment, Tom Atencio, “Banned” will go beyond the 100,000 PPV buys mark.
“I don’t have everything on that yet, but for the people who felt this was going to be a total flop in that regard, I have news for them. It’s already done a lot better than what I’ve heard people speculating. I’m not going to release the (official) number, but it’s already well beyond what people have been saying. Well beyond.”
Atencio would only say the final number “definitely” would be beyond 100,000.
By non-UFC standards, this is a huge success for Affliction. It may seem like a small number, but for an event that most people were saying they would be lucky to get 80,000, this is very impressive.
However, what’s really important here is the foundation Affliction has laid. They’ve come out of the gate with a successful event. They have a huge backer in Donald Trump. “Banned” has created a lot of post-show buzz, and their three biggest fights couldn’t have ended any better for them. Because they did so well, they’ll likely have the confidence to pump more money into their marketing campaign and hopefully their production the next time around. Not to mention, they have some pretty sweet footage to include in their video advertisements. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Fedor’s wicked flurry of punches at least as many times as Gonzaga’s head kick KO of Cro Cop, if not more.
Not only has Affliction sent a message to the UFC that they may be competing in the future for fans’ pay-per-view dollars, but perhaps more importantly, existing UFC fighters may have a better option.
“A lot of the guys are telling us they’re not happy with they way they’re being treated by whatever promotion it is they’re with now, and they’re looking at us as a possibility when their contracts run out,” Atencio said. “They’re telling us they want to be treated as equals and not as just workers and nothing more. It’s all about relationships and I have great relationships in this industry.”
It’s no secret that there’s a significant amount of UFC fighters who aren’t happy, but are unwilling to speak out for fear of losing what they have with no other viable option. At least in the short term, this is what the UFC needs to be concerned about. Affliction isn’t likely to put a huge dent in the UFC’s revenues anytime soon, but they’ll have a real problem on their hands if fighters slowly but surely start to jump ship.
Maybe Dana White was a little overconfident when he made this comment at the UFN 14 post-fight press conference.
“I figure after tonight those guys will be out of business. And all those (fighters) will be over here.”
For their sake, I hope they had a back up plan in case Affliction didn’t bomb in their first outing, because it looks like they might need it.
Now that Affliction’s payroll numbers have finally been released, the biggest question is, even with successful shows moving forward, will they really be able to keep paying out such high figures without going under? Well, it turns out that may have been a one time deal.
But he said the pay scale was artificially high because Affliction needed to make noise in the industry.
“We had to come out swinging and make a big splash and we did,” Atencio said of Saturday’s card, which featured five of the world’s top 10 heavyweights. “Having said that, we realize this is a business first and that if we don’t turn a profit, we’re not going to be around. We need to have the guys understand that.
“We know (fighters) want to be treated well and we’re willing to work with them, but they have to be willing to work with us. We just can’t go out there and throw money around without thought. The guys have to be willing to work with us and can’t simply look at us as a cash cow.”
In all honesty, Affliction doesn’t need to have as many high priced fighters on future events. Keeping a casual fan’s attention for five hours is asking a lot. If they can move towards having only four or five high priced fighters on the televised card, fill the preliminary card with the lower level guys, and cut the broadcast down to three hours, they should be able to cut their costs significantly, and still find continued success.
Let’s be honest, the event really didn’t get cooking until the big three heavyweight fights at the end anyways. While Fedor’s asking price was higher than his North American drawing power, he should start to earn back Affliction’s investment in him with his perfect introduction to the American audience. A lot of people saw Fedor for the first time Saturday night, and I can’t imagine any of them thinking he’s not worth checking out again. The is question is how far will the word spread?
Affliction isn’t a legitimate competitor to the UFC yet, but they’re in a hell of a lot better position than they were three months ago, and closer than anyone else has come for that matter.
One last thing. Tom, just how far beyond 100,000 are we talking?