Affliction MMA is putting on what may be the biggest mixed martial arts card the United States has ever seen. But putting on an MMA event is not as easy as just signing a bunch of fighters and hoping for the best. Many other start-ups closed almost right after they started.
|Atencio says the UFC 'obviously view us as a threat.' (Affliction)|
We recently caught up with the Vice President of Affliction MMA, Tom Atencio, to discuss a wide variety of topics including why he thinks Affliction will be successful, his thoughts on the UFC's counter programming, and what could possibly be the main event for the next Affliction show.
Question: Affliction MMA has its inaugural event coming up soon. What is your motivation for getting involved in mixed martial arts?
Tom Atencio: If we're going to come out, we're going to come out with a bang. We're putting on fights that the fans want to see. There is no arguing that the card is stacked from top to bottom. No matter what you do -- you're going to get critiqued for it, but there are very few people critiquing us for putting this event on.
Q: The main event of the show has the former Pride champion -- although technically still the current champion since he never lost -- Fedor Emelianenko taking on former UFC champion Tim Sylvia. Having a big match like that as well Josh Barnett vs. Pedro Rizzo and Andrei Arlovski vs. Ben Rothwell, are you worried about putting on too many big fights and not saving something for later on?
TA: Yes, it's definitely a concern. We're always going to be critiqued, but as long as we are putting on fights the fans want to see, I think we'll do well. People will say we're doing something wrong. Right now, people are telling me how to run the organization. I think we're looking to be a viable MMA company. We have the musical act in Megadeth. Ozzy Osbourne is very interested as well. It's about the fights as well as entertainment.
Q: Let's talk about Megadeth. Why do you think it's a positive to mix a rock concert with an MMA event? It seems like they are two separate things.
TA: We're not having a rock concert per se. What we're doing is having a band that has a huge following be involved in the event as well. They're playing three songs so it's not a full-on concert. I've been to MMA events. I'm a big fan as well. Sometimes, they just have too many fights to the point where it becomes too much. We're trying to draw the line between having entertainment and something different without having overkill.
Q: So the purpose of the band will be almost like an intermission -- to give people a break?
TA: Absolutely. We'll also have some fans of Megadeth coming as well. They may not be true MMA fans, but hopefully, we can introduce them to MMA. The sport is growing. I know with this card we're going to have the hardcore fans, but I'm looking to bring in the casual fans as well. That is what is going to build this industry. That is what is going to make this industry strong.
Q: In the past, there have been some people trying to break into the industry that have not done so well. I don't want to compare Affliction too much with the other start-ups because what you are putting on is much bigger than anything anyone else has done, but what are you going to do to make Affliction viable where other groups did not succeed?
TA: I think it goes back to what I just said -- getting the casual fan in. I think that's what the UFC did with the Ultimate Fighter. They brought in people that may not be the hardcore fan. They know what the UFC is, but they don't know what MMA is. If I can reach that audience by the marketing that we've done and I know will -- we will be successful. A lot of those companies, Bodog for example, did not do the marketing. Even me as a hardcore fan, I didn't see any marketing on it. I may have seen one billboard for them. We're pushing very hard with our clothing retailers as well. We're doing everything possible to get the word out there that we have an event with an incredible card -- now maybe some of the names on the show aren't too common to the U.S. fan, but they are very good fighters.