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Golden Boy no guarantee to be a savior to Affliction

By now everyone knows the rumor of a partnership between Affliction and Golden Boy Promotions is true following Saturday’s official announcement by Tom Atencio at the MGM in Las Vegas.

Affliciton COO Michael Cohen teased the development as “one announcement is truly going to change the world of mixed martial arts.” He’s also the same guy who publicly contradicted the promotion’s Vice President, Atencio, who promised a major announcement on Saturday while Cohen insisted it could take a couple of weeks. Which means either the left hand at Affliction doesn’t know what the right hand is doing or there is a second major announcement on the way.

Cohen also indicated that once the announcement was made, we’d all understand why the promotion’s Oct. 11 “Day of Reckoning” card had been postponed. Partnering with Golden Boy is certainly great news for the company but I am failing to understand why it necessitated the postponement of a major show just 30 days out.

I am also failing to immediately understand how the announcement qualifies one that will change the world of MMA. That’s why I am hoping that there is a second announcement still forthcoming. On paper, landing a deal with Golden Boy offers a lot of sex appeal. But beauty is only skin deep. How does this immediately change the financial fortunes of Affliction?

We’ve yet to hear Atencio and Cohen go into details about what the partnership with Golden Boy truly means, but on the surface, I don’t see anything Earth-shattering. Affliction still has a flawed business plan in that it doesn’t have revenue streams big enough to justify the cost of some of the guarantees they’ve promised certain fighters. It also doesn’t have the right distribution platform to build fighters such as Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett into bigger stars with American MMA fans.

Affliction has said it is willing to lose a lot of money during the initial going because it gains residual value by being able to promote its clothing line. However, doesn’t it make more sense to lose millions promoting your brand to a couple of million people as opposed to losing the same amount of money in front of only a couple of hundred thousand? If HBO came gift-wrapped with Golden Boy then I would agree with Cohen that this is indeed an announcement that will change the sport. But HBO has already come out and said that there is not only no deal with Affliction but that one doesn’t even appear to be on the horizon.

Affliction needs a television partner and it needs one now. If not HBO then perhaps ESPN. Showing replays and pre-show undercard fights on HDNet isn’t a big enough platform to expose their brand in hopes of being able to monetize its viewership through buying t-shirts or seasonal pay-per-view events.

The one major change that has been reported is that January’s show at the Honda Center in Anaheim is expected to feature both boxing and MMA on the same card. Again, I fail to understand how this is a good thing for Affliction. Sure, Golden Boy will now share in some of the production costs but if I am not mistaken, the costs of doing a show could increase now that you need infrastructure in place to support two separate sports on the same show.

If done right, perhaps Affliction and Golden Boy have hit on a revolutionary new way to cut costs by doing two shows on the same night. Maybe Affliction starts off the night with a six-fight MMA show that airs on PPV and then Golden Boy does a four-fight boxing show that airs on HBO or SHOWTIME? If they can split production costs while finding separate television partners for each show, then I can see how they’ll be able to make some money.

But if the plan is to televise both boxing and MMA on the same PPV, then I think things could backfire. I don’t have the scientific research but in my travels I have found that the crossover between boxing fans and MMA is grossly overrated. The real crossover is between pro wrestling and MMA — which is an article all into itself. A hardcore fan will watch anything but regardless of whether Affliction’s July event did 75,000 buys or a 100,000, we know that they failed to penetrate the casual audience that the UFC currently has a monopoly on.

It’s the casual fan that needs to be won over. But if Affliction and Golden Boy present a scenario in which a casual MMA fan believes they have to pay for boxing in order to see MMA, there is the potential that the customer will resent the concept and refuse to pay for something they have little interest in. And in defense of boxing, its fanbase could feel the same way. Let’s not kid ourselves, does a hardcore boxing fan truly give a damn about Fedor?

I just don’t believe splitting the ticket is the way to go. Even if you sell it as a “two-for-one” concept and sell it for only $39.95, there are still going to be some consumers that will feel they shouldn’t be expected to pay full price when they are only interested in one of the two combat sports. The only real way to make this concept work is by putting together a card with one mega-boxing main event along with a mega-MMA main event and a bunch of inexpensive undercard bouts. If you promote a cant-miss fight, the fans will pay regardless. However, if it’s just an overall strong card without a huge draw at the top for each sport, I fear that consumers might spend their dollars on a boxing-only event or an MMA-only event instead.

Maybe it’s unfair for me to question the merits of this deal before Affliction and Golden Boy have had a chance to fully outline the benefits. That being said, I still think it’s a little unfair to present this as an announcement that could change the sport of MMA. The reality is that the jury is still out on Affliction and there are no guarantees that Golden Boy will prove to be the company’s savior. Only time will tell and I am not sure how much of it Affliction has left.

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