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Snowden: Worrying About Dollars makes no Sense

Affliction is promoting what will likely be the biggest non-UFC MMA fight card of the year Saturday-and almost no one is talking about it. Fans that are talking are discussing the finances above all else. How can Affliction afford to pay its undercard fighters in the mid six figures for fights that are unlikely to contribute to the precious PPV buyrate? How will the company make any money when it is paying more than a million dollars each for two untested (and Russian!) box office draws? Will this put the clothing company out of business?

As a fan, my answer to all of those questions is a resounding, “who cares?” The important thing is that someone is willing to pony up to bring two of the world’s best into the ring to test their skills. It’s not my job as a fan (or as a journalist) to make these shows profitable. That’s the promoter’s job. It is the job of the journalists to cover it, not promote the show for the “good of the sport.” And if you look back at the history of combat sports, much stranger ducks than Tom Atencio and Affliction have dropped millions of dollars to put on vanity shows for a number of reasons.

In 1974, Mobuto Sese Seko paid Don King millions to bring Muhammad Ali and George Foreman to Zaire for the now famous “Rumble in the Jungle.” Seko was a brutal dictator, a man who once had his political rivals rounded up and executed in front of 50,000 awestruck countrymen. He was so despised by many in his own country that he needed no less than three separate special forces squads acting as personal bodyguards. How was he going to make a profit herding his people into the Mai 20 Stadium to watch the fight for free? How will a bad turnout affect Seko’s future shows?

These are the questions today’s MMA fans would be asking if they were transported back 35 years. Again, who cares? Who remembers? The fight turned into a cultural landmark, with the unforgettable images of Africans shouting “Ali, bom-ba-ye!” and the shocking conclusion being replayed in print and in film countless times to this day. Does anyone remember how much money was lost? Imagine George Plimpton ignoring the bout itself to focus solely on how the papered crowd would react to future events.

In the long term, fans will remember the fights that made them feel. No one remembers the promoters, because they are interchangeable. Does it truly matter if it is Affliction, or the IFL, or Showtime, or Mark Cuban, or the Fertittas? It’s the fights that are important, that will stand the test of time.  MMA fans and reporters would do well to focus on them and leave the promoters to get ulcers worrying about what will draw. That’s their job. Our job is to watch great fights. Enjoy the show.

36 COMMENTS
  • Dox says:

    Fantastic article…and dead on correct. For what ever odd reason, MMA fans in many blogs and chat boards have turned into accountants and mini economists. They want to put the finances on a spreadsheet and work the numbers for themselves.
    Why oh why do these people care? Is it compassion for the individual fighter? Do they have a financial stake in the industry? Or simply do they want to be an armchair CEO.
    Some how I think it is the innate desire of people to predict or forecast and somehow have “insider information” that others do not. The ability to say “I told you so” seems to be the internal drive for many.
    I for one simply want the show to survive…and I want the fighters to survive. I want the fighters to profit from their images, from their battle scars, and from their hard training.
    Lets enjoy the show.

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  • Ben says:

    Actually this is not the same thing.

    Boxing already had a market in the US and fighters already had options.

    By affliction mismanaging their payrolls, strategy, promotion, etc…

    It affects the sport.

    So if you care about the sport you care about organizations who can sustain themselves and pay fighters.

    In boxing promoters can come and go but in MMA only one promoter has been able to make money and pay fighters consistently.

    As fans we have a right to gripe about their poor business model – because after the ifl, elite xc, bodog, wfa went belly up fighters have less venues to get work, fans have less shows to watch.

    So what has affliction done that’s different from any one of those orgs? besides paying the trumps and golden boy to act as partners – nada.

    Maybe if reporters asked more questions about their viability and fans brought this up more they would be changes to ensure a higher probability of success.

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  • Phil says:

    This article misses the fundamental difference between boxing and MMA.

    Who cares how much money was lost on the Rumble in the Jungle? That didn’t stop Foreman and Ali from fighting in the future.

    Yes, I’ll enjoy the fights. But you can’t enjoy fights that don’t happen. When a boxing match loses money, the boxers involved can just go find someone else to fight for. When an MMA promotion can’t put on the next show, you can’t enjoy the fights because fighters like Robbie Lawler, and Nick Diaz end up having to wait months to fight again, and the only reason they aren’t fighting is because Elite lost money.

    Comparing boxing to mma is like comparing apples to oranges, it just doesn’t fit here.

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  • D.Capitated says:

    Yes, I’ll enjoy the fights. But you can’t enjoy fights that don’t happen. When a boxing match loses money, the boxers involved can just go find someone else to fight for. When an MMA promotion can’t put on the next show, you can’t enjoy the fights because fighters like Robbie Lawler, and Nick Diaz end up having to wait months to fight again, and the only reason they aren’t fighting is because Elite lost money.

    Boxers get sidelined promotionally all the time. David Tua’s been in limbo for years. John Duddy is the same way. Tim Witherspoon never fought Mike Tyson because he crossed the boss. That’s nothing compared to earlier decades in boxing, either. Jake Lamotta taking a dive to get a title shot is a major plot device in the biopic of his life not merely because its good drama, but because that actually happened.

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  • Dave says:

    @Phil —

    Really? Really?Somebody will always come along to put on these fights. Why should the average fight fan care what the brand name presenting the fights are, if the company goes under, etc.? I understand your premise, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t make it less troubling. The pretense is that these fight promoters have to do all sorts of things right now to ensure they can put on better cards in the future.

    Could Affliction’s first show of been a bit more cost effecient for them? Could they have paid their fighters less? Of course, but then it wouldn’t have been as strong of a card as it is. This is very much a weird Dave Meltzer mindset to get overly concerned with the NUMBERS and the FINANCES while ignoring the FIGHTS.

    Andrei vs. Fedor is a huge HW fight, and I don’t care if Atencio ends up on welfare the week after as long as he promotes this fight this weekend.

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  • Infernal says:

    @Phil: I’m with you on this one – how can we love fights that never happen?

    The UFC is almost the only game in town at the moment (60% of fighters in WAMMA’s top ten rankings are in the UFC iirc). They have grown the sport and continue to do so. I applaud them from a business perspective for how they have successfully done so and I enjoy the majority of the events they promote.

    Saying that, I think that a lot of online MMA fans are aware that some competition would be good for the sport. EliteXC wasn’t doing too bad a job but failed after it burned through its cash on the website and overinvested in Kimbo. Affliction has looked like it could provide the UFC with some decent competition but like EliteXC before it, faces a very dominant incumbent. The concern from fans about Affliction’s wages being so high relative to its perceived revenue stream gives the impression that Affliction is using a sound business model and will soon close down. If Affliction closes down after Day of Reckoning, when might we see Fedor fight meaningful competition again? Plus less competition reduces the number of opportunities for fighters to gain employment and national exposure. In my opinion, if we want MMA to continue to grow then we should care about the promoters – if they didn’t bear the risk of putting on a show there would be no fights and nothing to look back on with nostalgia.

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  • D.Capitated says:

    If Affliction closes down after Day of Reckoning, when might we see Fedor fight meaningful competition again?

    Who knows? Who cares? He’s fighting tomorrow!

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  • Infernal says:

    Who knows? Who cares? He’s fighting tomorrow!

    Well maybe once Fedor has submitted Arlovski, then you might care ;-)

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  • Mike Wolfe says:

    “Never mind the consequences, go ahead and spend the money.” That philosophy has worked so well for the banking industry and the home mortgage industry, why wouldn’t it work for MMA?

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  • Jonathan Snowden says:

    “Comparing boxing to mma is like comparing apples to oranges, it just doesn’t fit here.”

    I disagree. The Lawler and Diaz situation is an aberration and is a good lawyer away from being rectified. Besides, as D. Capitated points out, boxers have been involved in similar disputes for years.

    “If Affliction closes down after Day of Reckoning, when might we see Fedor fight meaningful competition again?”

    Soon, if history is any indicator. There have always been promoters willing to book big MMA fights. Always. Even when business was at its worst, there was Jamie Levine putting big money into the sport and into fighter’s pockets.

    A point being missed here by all the amateur accountants (who have no idea whether this free advertsing is actually working for the Affliction brand, or whether there are tax benefits here): if Affliction was fiscally responsible, they WOULDN’T BE BOOKING FEDOR AND ARLOVSKI! And we wouldn’t be watching Fedor-Arlovski. That’s not a world I want to live in!

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  • D.Capitated says:

    “Never mind the consequences, go ahead and spend the money.” That philosophy has worked so well for the banking industry and the home mortgage industry, why wouldn’t it work for MMA?

    If most people in this country had tens of thousands of dollars tied directly into the future of MMA, maybe I could see a legitimate comparison. As is, they aren’t playing with my money. Or yours. Or anyone else’s. Tom Atencio is playing with his own. In fact, this is actually a really horrible comparison. The only person being hosed is Atencio by the fighters who are alternately “victims” because they’re making more money than they ever have in their career.

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  • Infernal says:

    There have always been promoters willing to book big MMA fights. Always. Even when business was at its worst, there was Jamie Levine putting big money into the sport and into fighter’s pockets.

    That may be the case but there is also a need for continuity, so that we can see the improvement and build up of fighters’ identities. Let’s take Fedor and Arlovski as an example. They’re not famous because of their association with Affliction (yet) but from their Pride and UFC days respectively. It’s when fighting for those two organizations that their ‘brands’ were created – it’s what makes us want to see them fight now and make tomorrow night so compelling. Affliction is making good use of former Pride and UFC fighters. In time they might start creating superstars of their own – but that doesn’t normally happen in a single event and requires promoters to be around for more than just a handful events.

    A point being missed here by all the amateur accountants (who have no idea whether this free advertsing is actually working for the Affliction brand, or whether there are tax benefits here): if Affliction was fiscally responsible, they WOULDN’T BE BOOKING FEDOR AND ARLOVSKI! And we wouldn’t be watching Fedor-Arlovski. That’s not a world I want to live in!

    If you want to trash people who are interested in more than just the fights themselves then that’s up to you. I don’t personally think that it’s the right attitude of a feature writer on a respected news site but that’s just my opinion.

    You’re certainly right that we have no idea of the actual business model and full financials associated with Affliction and Affliction Entertainment. It may well be that they’re willing to take a few hits as they get up and running and so it could very easily be fiscally responsible if they can project a return on their investment. I for one am interested in seeing how they do.

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  • D.Capitated says:

    That may be the case but there is also a need for continuity, so that we can see the improvement and build up of fighters’ identities.

    So, what? You prefer continuity and a “story” among crap fighters versus good fighters fighting one another? No casual fans do. Aurelio/Franca had a “story” and about 300 people cared about it and only 1/5 of them have probably bothered to actually watch it. I doubt it sold a single ticket.

    It’s when fighting for those two organizations that their ‘brands’ were created – it’s what makes us want to see them fight now and make tomorrow night so compelling.

    What made them compelling was that they were great fighters, not the promotion that they were in. That’s what makes this a better fight than, say, James Thompson/Cabbage would be.

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  • Jeremy says:

    It is legit discussion. Folks have been yapping about the UFC’s finances for years, this is the same thing.

    Affliction has done an awful job of promoting the event. They also had to cancel an event when virtually no tickets were sold.

    Look at any sport, the business end is reported. Should we treat Affliction extra nice?

    No, treat them like anyone else.

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  • D.Capitated says:

    Look at any sport, the business end is reported. Should we treat Affliction extra nice?

    Who says to “treat them extra nice”? That’s not the issue. The issue is that the best heavyweight in the world is fighting a guy in the top 5 and nobody can be bothered to talk about that. Davis/Lytle got more positive PR.

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  • portland mma says:

    This article is horrible. The fact its topped off with a 35 year old analogy to a boxing match in Africa is even worse. I dont see the problem with talking about a companies financial woes when crackheads have better business models then them. They gave Matt Lindland like $300,000 for one fight that they barely even promoted.

    “Does it truly matter if it is Affliction, or the IFL, or Showtime, or Mark Cuban, or the Fertittas?”

    Watch the last UFC compared to the last Elite XC event in terms of production value and let me know.

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  • D.Capitated says:

    “portland mma”, how does Matt Lindland’s paycheck affect you? If Affliction are inept promoters, they’re gonna go out of business no matter what! Why not let a guy like Lindland make a buttload of cash?

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  • portland mma says:

    How does anything in MMA affect me? How does Georges St. Pierre fighting BJ Penn personally affect me? How does any one of the front page stories that Five ounces of pain has on it right now affect me? It doesn’t, I like MMA I like all facets of it. I like reading about the competition in leagues, I like reading who got fight of the night bonuses, I like making fun of Atencio and Beard for their follies. Comments an MMA forum is the epitome of “HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU? If you don’t understand that I don’t know why you’d write on here. Also let me go out on a limb and guess D.Capitated is Jonathon Swowden the author of the post.

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  • Jonathan Snowden says:

    He might be “Jonathon Swowden” but he isn’t the author of the post! You can disagree with me, but impugning my integrity is unnecessary and insulting.

    I agree that fans are interested in the business of sports. But when the discussion is all about the PPV buys, and almost no one is talking about the actual fight between two great fighters, I see an issue. I’d rather enjoy a great fight and let the people with financial considerations in the success of the promotion worry about the red and black ink.

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  • portland mma says:

    In my opinion that was a bad article. This spot where I am currently writing is for my opinion or comments correct? If it wasn’t for people like me, who comment and or read the posts I doubt you’d have a site, whether I am being critical or not.

    “You can disagree with me, but impugning my integrity is unnecessary and insulting.”

    I suggest a change in profession if you write something in a forum that someone doesn’t agree with and you feel like they’ve impugned your integrity in an unnecessary and insulting fashion. Also while we are on the topic, not a fan of the pretentious “lawyer-esque” double speak.

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  • portland mma says:

    I hope your aren’t too hurt over the fact that I put an O in Jonathan. I really hope I didn’t impugn your integrity.

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  • Jonathan Snowden says:

    I don’t have a problem with you disagreeing with my article. I welcome the discussion. I have a problem with you suggesting I am hiding behind a fake screen name to prop up my articles. I post under my own name to make my points and don’t appreciate anyone suggesting otherwise. That isn’t double speak. It is as plain as possible.

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  • D.Capitated says:

    How does anything in MMA affect me?

    It doesn’t apart from entertain you. To that end, you’ve not answered the question. If you’re more interested in venture capitalism than fighting, awesome. Just don’t expect everyone to agree with it.

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  • jake says:

    Hah your argument makes no sense D capitated

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  • Nick says:

    While there may be others looking to put on big fights, when they watch everybody trying going out of business, it will make them pretty gunshy.

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  • D.Capitated says:

    Hah your argument makes no sense D capitated

    Go search ESPN.com. See how many articles there are about the Yankees losing money (which they have for a couple seasons in a row) instead of who they’re signing.

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  • pantera says:

    I don’t get your point, you talked crap to that guy for caring about the financial aspect of MMA and then you tell him not to care just to bring up a financial baseball analogy.

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  • pantera says:

    “If you’re more interested in venture capitalism than fighting, awesome. Just don’t expect everyone to agree with it.”

    “Go search ESPN.com. See how many articles there are about the Yankees losing money (which they have for a couple seasons in a row) instead of who they’re signing.”

    Sounds like you’re pretty interested in venture capitalism yourself.

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  • D.Capitated says:

    I don’t get your point, you talked crap to that guy for caring about the financial aspect of MMA and then you tell him not to care just to bring up a financial baseball analogy.

    Well, its completely factual that the Yankees haven’t made money, however, the vast, vast majority of people who watch baseball and whom follow the Yankees don’t care. If ESPN ran articles about that and NFL’s overnight ratings, their influence in the American sporting media would decline drastically overnight.

    To put it another way: Lots of people watch Entertainment Tonight and read TMZ. Not many people read Variety. Reading Variety doesn’t make you a better fan, either.

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  • themindone says:

    I was there.. it was pretty packed.. , in la which is a pretty big market it was relatively well publisiced, there were “street team” type poster around the city and there was a write up after the fight in the la times.. if strike force can do well in san jose, affliction can and will compete in the la market with donald trump and golden boy as partners.. you would think.. ( not to mention m-1 and fedor , m-1 had a big presence in the arena.. nearly on par with afflicition )
    Fedor should be on the cover of sports illustrated.
    if jeff monson can get an article in espn magazine fedor should get some damn press he’s undefeated.. heavyweight beating five former ufc champs.. that makes affliction legit as long as they can find 10 top or hopefully top five guys to fight him

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  • john says:

    “To put it another way: Lots of people watch Entertainment Tonight and read TMZ. Not many people read Variety. Reading Variety doesn’t make you a better fan, either.”

    You have the worst analogies I’ve ever heard in my life.

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  • john says:

    Also the Yankees aren’t close to folding as an organization, so there is no reason to care about that. Affliction on the other hand is not guaranteed to even be able to put on another show.

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  • D.Capitated says:

    You have the worst analogies I’ve ever heard in my life.

    You want to tell me what’s wrong with it? Does knowing who Universal Music signs and for how long make the appreciation of the music they release somehow better? Because it doesn’t.

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  • D.Capitated says:

    Also the Yankees aren’t close to folding as an organization, so there is no reason to care about that.

    There’s no reason to care about it period! If the Yankees are sold, big whoop. If Affliction goes under, well, Barnett and Fedor have to go fight in Japan! What a tragedy!

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  • john says:

    Did you really just follow up “You have the worst analogies I’ve ever heard in my life,” with another horrible analogy?

    Dude knowing the financial aspects of something doesn’t make you an MMA purist or elitist, but people can care about what ever aspects of things they want. I don’t get why you care so much about something someone cares about? If you told me you liked MMA bouts that feature alot of wrestling I definitely woudn’t agree but I wouldn’t argue with you forever over the fact your interested in something. I bet your going to make like a radioshack analogy now or maybe like a dog racing one.

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  • john says:

    Here, I’ll save you of having to conjure up your sophomoric thoughts into an analogy that makes absolutely no sense.

    If you watched Jerry Jones played football with penguins in the night on thursdays in cold weather outside of a convenience store on day light savings time that doesn’t make you a better fan.

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