Affliction & UFC No Deal

If they didn’t like each other before, then they hate each other now. In the past few days, you may have heard rumblings about Affliction executives going off on Lorenzo Fertitta and the UFC. Dana briefly mentioned it in his latest video blog, and if I remember correctly, Jeff Thaler alluded to it on the latest episode of FightOpinion Radio. So what was it all about? Good question, but it appears the answer has been made public.

According to a report on MMA Weekly, Affliction and the UFC had been in talks since Sept. 26 to form a formal partnership, but not one to promote shows together. Instead, the UFC would lift the sponsorship ban on Affliction, make them a major clothing sponsor, with the possibility of a Affliction/UFC co-branded apparel deal, in exchange for Affliction ceasing operations as a fight promoter. The deal fell through however, and things didn’t end well, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Now many are already claiming this is Affliction waving the white flag to Zuffa begging them to let them back in as a sponsor, however, I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case. also has a report on the story with “sources close to the situation” that claim Zuffa approached Affliction with the proposal, not the other way around. It’s important to consider the source though, and I’m not sure which party the source came from, but if it is indeed true, it would seem to me that Zuffa views Affliction as a serious enough threat to attempt to strike a deal with them to take them out of the equation.

Back to the deal, there are a ton of details, so here’s the cliff notes version.

  • Sept. 26: UFC & Affliction execs meet including Dana White, Tom Atencio, and Randy Couture and his lawyers (seemingly because of the Xtreme Couture clothing line, or perhaps Fedor) to talk about a potential deal. Talks were “cordial.” No agreement was made, but it was determined would come back with their own proposal.
  • Oct. 4: Zuffa sees Affliction all over the EliteXC “Heat” CBS broadcast and the commercials of Fedor annihilating their former champ ten times over with the message “Fedor will return…” Thinks Affliction isn’t serious about a partnership.
  • “The partnership was placed further in doubt by Affliction’s lucrative licensing deals with UFC champions Randy Couture and Georges St. Pierre.”
  • Both sides think the deal is over until a conference call takes place between Affliction exec Todd Beard, Lorenzo Fertitta, and “others.”
  • Conference call goes south and ends badly with both sides cussing at each other. Near the end, Beard tells Lorenzo, “you’ve fucked with the wrong guy,” multiple times.
  • Deal is over
  • Affliction in ongoing talks with CBS to fill the void EliteXC left for “Saturday Night Fights.”

That’s the gist of it.

Like I said before, I’m not sold on the notion that this is Affliction waving the white flag. I don’t believe enough details are known to make that deduction. Just by following the time line, it would seem that after the initial meeting, Affliction wasn’t too keen on getting out of the fight promotion business in exchange for an apparel deal when they went forward with their co-promotion with EliteXC and CBS. Remember, they didn’t agree on anything on Sept. 26, just that Affliction would come up with their own proposal. Affliction may have entertained Zuffa’s proposal with the hopes of co-promoting events and never even considered shutting down the fight operation. Without further details, we just don’t know.

Financially speaking, it may have been the smarter move for Affliction, at least in the short-term and quite possibly in the long-term, to take the deal, but that doesn’t appear to be the direction they want to go in. And at least for the fans and fighters, that is a good thing.

While we’re on the topic of the UFC and banned sponsors, it appears Zuffa has banned another major clothing sponsor from the UFC—MMA Authentics, popular for its CageFighter brand.

As rumor has it, the companies were competing for limited shelf space in Wal-Mart and for once, the UFC lost, prompting them to enact Article 22.1 of the Zuffa Standard contract which basically says fighters cannot have sponsors that directly compete with the UFC. Yes, I rolled my eyes too.

Of course, the ones who really lose out are the fighters, and MMA Authentics had some pretty big names signed including Chuck Liddell, BJ Penn, Michael Bisping, Forrest Griffin, Marcus Davis, Brandon Vera, Urijah Faber, Sam Stout, and current “Zuffa Freeze Out” fighter Roger Huerta.

[UPDATE 10/23/08 10:08AM ET]The audio from The Scott Ferrall show that Dana mentioned in his video blog has surfaced. Ferrall only referred to his guest as “the t-shirt guy” but it’s definitely not Tom Atencio. I’m guessing it’s Todd Beard, but I’ve never heard him speak before, so I’m not sure. Anyways, it sounds like the gloves are definitely off. Here’s the most interesting part of the conversation.

“They threaten us personally which is hilarious. Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta they’re tough guys. They’re old school mafia guys or wanna-be old school mafia guys. Their grandfather built their business. They’re nothing. They put (Station Casinos) $5 billion in debt. They’re in big trouble right now. They’re going out of business in February, guaranteed. Station Casinos will go out of business in February, for sure. Lorenzo Fertitta … kiss my fucking ass motherfucker. Dana White, by the way, the t-shirt guys are gonna fuck your ass up.”

The audio courtesy of Sirius Radio via Steve Cofield.

By the way, MMA Payout posted a press release posted the other day in reference to Station Casinos being placed on the CreditWatch list which may help support t-shirt guy’s claims of its demise. Here’s more.

Everything isn’t always as it seems I suppose.