Why Affliction Failed, by Dave Meltzer

by Dave Meltzer | source: sports.yahoo.com

Sifting through Affliction’s rubble

Purses too high:
The first was the outdated belief that heavyweight is fighting's marquee division. This notion led Affliction to overspend in an effort to corner the market on those it judged to be the top heavyweights, all in the name of making the promotion a major player.

To the small percentage of hardcore MMA fans, the Affliction heavyweight roster of Fedor Emelianenko, Tim Sylvia, Josh Barnett, Andrei Arlovski, Paul Buentello, Ben Rothwell and others was stronger than the UFC.

But, as an example, they offered Sylvia $800,000 per fight with a $200,000 win bonus, and he was making $100,000/$100,000 in UFC, and UFC had already decided not to renew his contract. The UFC absolutely wanted Arlovski, and Affliction offered him a guaranteed contract that started at $500,000 for his first, and increased to $1.5 million for his third fight, plus a $250,000 win bonus. Even Rothwell, a solid fighter with no significant mainstream name value, had a $250,000 per fight guarantee.

No Free TV:
The second flaw was the idea of promoting pay-per-view events without a strong television show to build up the events. Between buying the company in 2001, and the debut of The Ultimate Fighter television show in 2005, UFC only had one truly financially successful pay-per-view event, and that was based on getting the pro wrestling audience to purchase the first Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz fight in 2002.

While having television in no way guarantees success, the IFL, Bodog and Elite XC all had television deals and failed to make it in the U.S. market, not having television and trying to promote pay-per-view events is almost certain failure.

Fedor not a major PPV draw:
There was also the mistake of equating Fedor Emelianenko's status as the top heavyweight fighter in the world (and many consider him the best overall fighter) with his marquee value. Bodog and Japan's PRIDE had Emelianenko and had bombed on pay per view. Affliction did a better job than its predecessors at marketing Emelianenko, and MMA in general has gained popularity in recent years, but Emelianenko vs. Barnett, which some saw as No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, was going to be lucky to do six percent of the business that Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir did at UFC 100.

Affliction also made the classic mistake that almost everyone on the inside of the industry falls for: thinking Internet message boards and blogs reflect the opinions of the overall MMA fan base. Such sites actually reflect a tiny percentage of ticket and pay-per-view buying public, whose tastes are markedly different than the hardcore base. Promotion on television and the ability to garner a mainstream buzz are the key to financial success, not getting message board posters excited.

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Recent Comments »

nobones site profile image  

7/28/09 5:48 PM by nobones

Free tv was always the biggest reason. Without free tv making PPV fight business work is about impossible. They never even came close to getting a real free tv deal. It was doomed to start.

arclight site profile image  

7/28/09 5:47 PM by arclight

lol...reasons 1 and 3 are what I've said all along. Wasnt thinking much about 2 (free tv) but meltzer's got a great point.

nobones site profile image  

7/28/09 5:28 PM by nobones

I used to subscribe to his newsletter so I'll send him a note. Basically with Fedor it comes down to money and to be more specific, the potential to maximum revenue now and in the future. M-1 Global is important to Fedor and Vadim because they see it as their baby that will one day grow and feed them and their families long after Fedor and Vadim are retired. But to expect their employer to support their own personal business interests is kind of dumb. Not saying it doesn't happen, sometimes your employer may help you out with loans or a flexible schedule if you are valuable enough to them. However, Fedor hasn't really proven that he is that valuable in terms of generating revenue and he will never be valuable enough to the UFC so that they will support the rise of a competitor.But if they paid Fedor a guaranteed $3 million per fight contract, the discussions would stop. Just like he did with Affliction, Fedor would sign the exclusivity deal because in addition to sponsorships and PPV revenue (which is not exactly guaranteed money these amounts rise and fall drastically given circumstances) he would be making more money fighting 2-3 times for the UFC each year and be able to make traveling around to 3 different promotions a year fighting cans and ruining his value as P4P best fighter.The killer is really the money and giving Fedor the impression that the UFC will take care of him the way they might take care of Chuck Liddell in the post-retirement years. That is the only reason they want M-1 to get visibility and are making it such a sticking point. But with enough money and cuts on residuals for merchandise and DVD sales, etc. he might be willing to yield on the co-promotional requirements. But it's a money and security issue (which is basically just another kind of money issue) more than anything else. He just doesn't like fighting for such low guarantees and being tied to one promotion because if he loses he gets really screwed because the UFC can simply cut him. That's the flip side that scares Fedor and would scare any fighter is that lack of any sort of security if you're not winning. But it is what all fighters have been putting up with since the beginning of prize fighting.

HendosToyinExplodingBoy site profile image  

7/28/09 4:57 PM by HendosToyinExplodingBoy

Didn't know that, thanks for the info. You should email your post to Meltzer because it's good stuff.

nobones site profile image  

7/28/09 4:54 PM by nobones

While by far my favorite MMA journalist, Meltzer makes one mistake in saying Fedor's contract with Affliction was non-exclusive. It was originally exclusive only in the US but after Banned they changed Fedor's contract to be exclusive to Affliction and M-1 Global co-promoted events anywhere in the world. Before Banned (and for a couple months after the Banned show) it was certainly feasible for Fedor to have fought in Canada on a UFC card and the UFC would have not had to run the PPV early like they do for cards overseas so they would have made a killing on PPV if they could promote him right against a good opponent in the hottest MMA market in the world.About two months after Banned, Affliction convinced M-1 and Fedor to sign an exclusivity deal that tied Fedor to Affliction. So all this talk about 'exclusivity' is bullshit. Fedor doesn't care about exclusivity as long as he's getting paid. The only reason he wants non-exclusive contracts is because it allows him to make an extra ~$500k in Japan for the NYE shows and to possibly fight on an M-1 card somewhere down the line. But if he's making $2-3 million a fight, or if he thinks he is maxing out his worth with one promoter, he will stick with that promoter.Otherwise, great article as usual by Da Meltz.

john joe site profile image  

7/28/09 4:31 PM by john joe

spot on imo

Fredrico site profile image  

7/28/09 4:31 PM by Fredrico

Nothing new