Clothier-turned-fight promoter Affliction held back-to-back press conferences in New York and Los Angeles this week, officially launching the promotional campaign behind “Affliction: Trilogy,” headlined by Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko vs. Josh “The Babyfaced Assassin” Barnett. The PPV event is scheduled for August 1st at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA.
In the co-main event slot, reigning Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral will face former DREAM Middleweight champion Gegard “Young Vagabond” Mousasi, who recently submitted Mark Hunt in the opening round of the DREAM Super Hulk tournament.
“People said we wouldn’t be here after the first event. Well, we were. We had a second event, and it was a bigger card than the first. . . Once again, we’re back, and with a card that’s . . . actually better than the first and second event,” proclaimed Affliction VP and matchmaker Tom Atencio.
Promotional partner Roy Englebrecht added “I think the reason why we’re here today . . . is the fact that we’re seeing, in my estimation, the greatest mixed martial arts heavyweight fighter of all times, trying to do something for the third time: beat three former UFC heavyweight world champions. First show, Tim Sylvia. Second show, Andrei Arlovski. And now, standing in his way, is another former UFC champion, and he was the youngest – Josh Barnett. The trilogy . . . doesn’t happen very often, can happen on August 1st.”
The Los Angeles press conference was short and sweet, with brief, generic comments from Sobral, Mousasi, and Emelianenko about their respective matches. Each fighter was respectful, almost to a fault, of their opponents, and indeed, Atencio, Englebrecht, and M-1 executives Joost Raymond and Vadim Finkelstein almost seemed to play microphone hot potato, as if nobody wanted the spokesman responsibilities. Barnett, who prides himself on having studied the interview skills of pro wrestling personalities, was notably absent, apparently due to transportation problems.
Ever the man of few words, Emelianenko, through his translator (and M-1 USA VP of Legal Affairs) Steven Bash, simply said “I’d like to thank everyone for inviting me out again and giving me the opportunity to fight on a world-class level. I expect the fight with Josh to be very exciting and I promise you a wonderful show.”
One of the more burning topics of conversation was that of Affliction’s future as a fight promotion. Although there was discussion that the “Trilogy” moniker indicated a planned finality to promoting MMA after August 1st, Atencio steadfast denied any intentions to quit.
“Our future isn’t undetermined. I’ve always said that we’ll take one fight at a time. . . We came out and made a big bang in the industry. . . [M-1 Global] has been doing this for a long time, and I couldn’t ask for better partners than them. . . I’ve learned a few things and I’ve made some mistakes, myself and my partners. We take that and we move forward and we correct those mistakes. And that’s what we’re looking to do,” said Atencio adamantly.
M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelstein, also through translation, echoed the sentiment, saying “I’m very proud and honored to have partners such as Affliction. Together, what we’ve done is we’ve come together to build a worldwide MMA company, and utilize both of our resources and put together many products and projects all over the world, culminating in what will be and is the biggest fight in mixed martial arts. This will be the best fight this year and many, many years.”
Another recurring subject of debate was the ongoing standoff with the UFC and promoter Dana White. Keeping true to form with Affliction’s prior two events, an invitation was extended, via M-1 Global COO Joost Raymond, to White and his two reigning heavyweight champions, Brock Lesnar and interim champ Frank Mir, to attend “Trilogy.”
“They are all very cordially invited to come and watch . . . And ultimately we can follow up, in the same lines as what the UFC has done for Mr. Mirko Cro Cop, in a one-fight deal . . . We’d like to make that happen. So, again, we can bring out the true champions and the best fights available for all.”
Mousasi is a former DREAM Middleweight champion who recently declared his intent to move up to light heavyweight, claiming he no longer is able to make the traditional 185 lb. limit. In May, he submitted Mark Hunt in DREAM’s Super Hulk tournament, giving up 63 lbs to the Kiwi kickboxer.
Mousasi was originally expected to face Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort, a former light heavyweight (205 lbs.) who now fights at middleweight. However, in an interview with Tatame.com, Belfort denied any intention to fight at anything above 185 lbs., suggesting that Mousasi’s lack of name value and challenge makes going up in weight not worth his effort.
“I don’t know if he turned it down. I heard, because I had received the contract, I had signed the contract, that I would fight him. I thought he had the contract. He received also the contract, so I thought he knew about it. But obviously he says he didn’t, so I cannot say. . . Because he’s a middleweight, so I cannot say ‘come up and fight light heavyweight.’ I thought he knew about it,” explained Mousasi.
“I think Babalu is a very big challenge. I still have a very tough fight,” he added.
Other matches listed in the press materials were Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia vs. Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello, “Big” Ben Rothwell vs. the unbeaten Chase Gormley, Chris “The Polish Hammer” Horodecki vs. Dan “The Upgrade” Lauzon, and Jay ‘The Thoroughbred” Hieron vs. Paul “Semtex” Daley. The undercard, which includes the Horodecki-Lauzon and Hieron-Daley fights, will air live on HDNet.