Whenever a new concept is introduced, there’s bound to be more questions than answers. Such is the case with Affliction and Golden Boy’s hybrid MMA-boxing concept that will introduce four “planned” events featuring MMA and boxing matches on one card. It’s a head-scratcher, I know, in more ways than one. It seems like a bad idea, but maybe it isn’t. How will it work? How many MMA fights? How many boxing matches? Which mixed martial artists will make it on the card? Which boxers will? How do the fighters feel about it? How will the MMA fan base react? How will the boxing diehards react? Like everything else that’s never been done before there’s a million and one questions, and right now, we have hardly any answers.
The question everyone seems to be focusing on is how will this work. Is it even possible for such a bold venture to be successful? It’s a good question, and everyone seems to have their opinion. Some have outright dismissed the idea as ludicrous, while others are keeping more of an open mind. While I have my reservations, I am doing my best to fall into the latter category, as is Bloody Elbow’s Michael Rome. He made a suggestion on how to make it work.
In fight promotion, it is a universal truth that the main event sells PPV buys. There’s a reason UFC 66 did over a million buys and UFC 73 did under 400,000. Similarly, Oscar de la Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather did over 2 million buys without any fights on the undercard to speak of. If Affliction can promote joint shows with just one big MMA fight and one big boxing fight, they may be able to pull in enough buys on PPV to survive. Besides those two fights, the fights on the undercard don’t matter at all, and they need to avoid fights like Matt Lindland vs. Trevor Prangley, which would have cost about $350,000 for nothing in return.
If the January show has Fedor Emelianenko vs. Andrei Arlovski, as well as the kind of boxing fight that would usually draw about 150,000-200,000 buys on PPV, they could very well double the buys of their initial show without increasing their payroll, as long as they cut out the ridiculous undercard contracts from their last show.
I have to agree with Rome here, at least to an extent. At the end of the day, to the casual fight fan, it’s always about who’s headlining the card. One of the most appealing aspects to MMA’s hardcore fan base is a solid night of fights. But is that what ultimately sells the card to the casual fans? No, it’s about names. Is there someone on the card with a name I recognize that I want to see fight? That’s the question that’s asked, and the UFC pay-per-view buy rate data proves it. Now the argument could be made that people associate the UFC brand with a solid night of mixed martial arts and that’s why they buy it. In fact, that’s exactly how Dana White has always sold the UFC in comparison to boxing. But that is only good for so many buys. At some point, there has to be a name at the top of the card that your casual fight fan will hear and say, “I have to see that fight.” Unfortunately, for Affliction, they don’t have the brand name the UFC does, so they have no choice but to bring the names, and that’s where Golden Boy steps in to help.
That said, the thought of having one big MMA fight and one big boxing match with an underwhelming undercard is worrisome. The last thing I ever want to see is the MMA model turn into the boxing model of one good fight for $40-$50. It’s one of the reasons I’m not a boxing fan. I was pretty young when Mike Tyson was in his heyday, but I still remember people complaining about spending thousands on a ticket or $40 on the pay-per-view to watch 30 seconds of fighting. I always thought that was ridiculous and still do. I know most boxing matches last much longer than 30 seconds, and much longer than MMA fights, but it’s still hard for me to justify spending that kind of money on one fight, not an event. Because of that, I think Affliction needs to stick with putting on a decent undercard. They don’t have to stack every event like they did with “Banned,” and as Rome said, a $350k Matt Lindland-Trevor Prangley fight is worthless, but Affliction is only going to hurt themselves in the long-run if they adhere to the boxing model. If they can find a way to put on two or three compelling matches with a big main event, I think they will be better off. After all, they’re going to have to build stars for the future. They can’t count on Fedor forever.
That leads to another big question. Will every fighter who was counting on fighting on Oct. 11 be invited back for the Jan. 17 hybrid event? It would only make sense that the answer is no if they’re adding boxing bouts to the card. Paul Buentello has already voiced his displeasure and concerns with the recent announcement.
“It took the wind out of my sails, man. It’s totally frustrating. I was pretty fired up. The past couple weeks of training has been really hard, and I walk into the gym ready to go and thinking about sparring, and then I got the news from [AKA trainer] ‘Crazy’ Bob [Cook].”
“I’m like, ‘Are you serious?’ I thought [Cook] was joking around. You know, I didn’t believe him until I saw Trevor Prangley’s face walk into the gym, and Trevor Prangley is like, ‘Did you hear about the news?’ And it was downhill from there. I didn’t want to train. As soon as I left the gym, I made my reservations, and I came back home.”
“I’m just crossing my fingers [that I’ll be on the January card]. So we’ll see what pans out.”
Other fighters like Jay Hieron and Ben Rothwell took the news better, but the question is very real. Are guys like them going to have a opportunity to fight on Jan. 17? The possibility exists that they won’t and if that’s the case, Affliction better be ready for the backlash and figure out a way to deal with the problems they’ve created.
At the end of the day though, despite all the skepticism, the fighter issues, the hardcore fan backlash, Affliction had to do something. Without a decent television outlet to promote their events, they were never going to make it in the long run. It’s an interesting plan that at least seems to have some potential if they put it together right. In the short term, I think it’s going to come down to who Golden boy puts in their marquee fight. If they book a fight that will draw, the event has the potential to be a success. In the long run, if high-level MMA captures the attention of at least some of the boxing diehards (BIG IF), and the casual fan bases that do watch find both appealing, Affliction just might have a chance. It’s a lot ifs and a lot of questions, but it’s gives Affliction a better chance than they had last week with only 800 tickets sold.
Say what you want about it, but it’s hard to deny it isn’t at least a little bit intriguing.