Dave Meltzer Takes a Look at the Things That Went Wrong with Affliction MMA

– Dave Meltzer has a great article up on Yahoo Sports where he looks at what Affliction did wrong, business-wise, and what their closing down means for the rest of the MMA world. Here are some highlights:



On Affliction paying too much for talent: The first was the outdated belief that heavyweight is fighting’s marquee division.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.

On Affliction’s lack of 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.

On Affliction not realizing that Fedor isn’t 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

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