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Why is Affliction drawing more heat than Josh Barnett?

By Zach Arnold | July 22, 2009

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Ivan Trembow asked this question tonight:

[It amazes me that Affliction is taking more heat for Josh Barnett’s positive steroids test than Josh Barnett himself is taking. Barnett is the one who has placed everyone involved (Fedor, Belfort, Santiago, Affliction, the fans, etc.) in a bad situation.]

I think there’s a cumulative effect going on here involving multiple reasons and/or thoughts:

  1. In much the same fashion that people got sad and angry about PRIDE’s collapse due to Shukan Gendai’s negative campaign about the yakuza scandal, the hardcore MMA fans weren’t so upset at the possibility of the mafia possibly being involved in the fight business. The hardcores were upset that a media scandal ended up taking their proverbial crack away from them and that crack was seeing big-level fights. Again, with hardcore fans it’s not so much the crime (failing a drug test/PED use in MMA or being involved with questionable people) as it is ‘getting caught’ that these fans care more about. Few people online seemingly get upset about the complete lack of ‘real’ drug testing in Japan, but in the States when someone fails people care but they are more upset with the fighter getting caught than the actual use of drugs in MMA. Sports fans at this point are beyond cynical about all of this, which is sad and unfortunate.
  2. Barnett’s never been an Internet darling online. Because he’s never been embraced that much, I think a lot of hardcores are angry at Affliction for pushing Josh as a PPV main eventer in more of the “what do you see in this guy?” kind of logic as opposed to, “Yeah, he’s the 2nd or 3rd best heavyweight in the world.”
  3. There’s a lot of frustration amongst hardcore fans online who want to see UFC get a big rival in MMA and they understand that any such rival has little-to-no margin for error and by basically building an MMA promotion around one guy (Fedor), suddenly everything can fall apart like a deck of cards if one bad incident happens.

Topics: Affliction, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 27 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

27 Responses to “Why is Affliction drawing more heat than Josh Barnett?”

  1. Dan Wilder says:

    Funny. I always thought that, among the “hardcore” fans, Barnett’s long been tabbed as one of the guys they would most want to see Fedor fight.

    I’d argue that Barnett is behind only Randy Couture in opponents for Fedor that the hardcore fans would want to see, so I’m not sure I understand point number two.

  2. Zach Arnold says:

    Dan – on the various message boards, Josh has always had some strike against him — the fact that he liked pro-wrestling or that he fought more in Japan than the States (i.e. UFC) or ‘his look,’ you can go through a laundry list of reasons why Barnett’s long been a lightning rod amongst the hardcore fans that are most willing to support Affliction.

  3. liger05 says:

    I have seen people on forums say “How can Barnett get caught” like taking drugs is fine as long as you pass the test. Affliction shouldnt be getting any heat and neither should Fedor. Fedor will no doubt get criticised for fighting a ‘b-level fighter’ even though this situation is totally out of his control.

  4. Asa says:

    I haven’t liked Barnett since the first steroid mark on his record, nor did I think he ranked as high as people ranked him simply because of the lack of drug testing in the Japanese promotions.

    But I don’t go on the UG or sherdog.

  5. kjh says:

    Zach, don’t forget the Zuffa talking point that Tom Atencio is a babbling idiot with no business acumen whatsoever. When most fans hold the promoter in such low regard it’s not surprising that the heat is focussed on the promoter and not the fighter.

  6. Alan Conceicao says:

    There’s a subset of MMA fans that won’t watch Affliction because of their business concept. Seriously, what an embarassing, subhuman stance to take. Its up there with “I prefer the narrative nature of the UFC!”

  7. Mark says:

    Barnett IS an internet darling. How else can you explain Barnett fighting mediocre fights and such a large amount of MMA fans demanding he be ranked #2, above whoever the UFC Champion is at the time. When PRIDE was opened and Nogueira was always ranked #2 above the UFC champion but behind Fedor people maybe had a point. Barnett has done absolutely nothing in his career since going to the OWGP finals 3 years ago to warrant this. And even then Cro Cop should have been ranked above him.

    And whoever is fighting Fedor is an internet darling by default. There are a large amount of online fans who are desperate to see Fedor defeated because they feel he’s overrated. So just like with Arlovski last time, Barnett is was suddenly the world’s greatest heavyweight and all of the flaws in his game were erased. So now they’re mad the guy who in their minds was finally going to dethrone the hated Fedor can’t do it. But instead of blame Barnett they’ve got conspiracy theories about Dana ordering drug tests and Affliction not defending him enough.

  8. Where does this question even stem from? From all the ranting I’ve been hearing, people have been saying this is Josh Barnett’s fault, his problem, his screw-up. I haven’t really heard an argument blaming Affliction here.

  9. David M says:

    Mark is entirely right. Josh Barnett is a huge favorite among the smarky, pro-wrestling inclined, Zuffa-hating, Aoki-loving fans who swear Pride was the greatest thing ever.

  10. Mark says:

    Another issue on why MMA fans aren’t as obsessed with who tested positive for what like baseball fans are, is because most people who fail drug tests usually lost the fight. In baseball you can see a clear connection where steroids make superstars. But in MMA steroids tend to make losers. I’ve heard quite a few people say steroids are horrible to take while fighting because you’re gassed much faster. (gassed as in tired, not as on “on the gas”.)

  11. Ultimo Santa says:

    “Mark is entirely right. Josh Barnett is a huge favorite among the smarky, pro-wrestling inclined, Zuffa-hating, Aoki-loving fans who swear Pride was the greatest thing ever.”

    That’s right!

    Aoki, Pride and Barnett? The WORST THINGS EVER!

    I can’t believe I’m part of the tiny microcosm that actually liked PRIDE. Me and the 12 people who showed up to their events, and the 6 people who watched them on TV.

    I love being in this super-exclusive club.

  12. Mark says:

    I liked PRIDE. But the fans were such asshole elitists it was hard to sometimes. Insulting people for not watching PRIDE was a very bizarre advertising technique to say the least.

    Barnett is good. But for all the hate Fedor gets everywhere online for “dodging the elite heavyweights”, Barnett’s bandwagon is ignoring that the last top-10 fighter Barnett beat was Nogueira in a razor-thin decision that could have gone either way 3 years ago. Like Sylvia or Arlovski or not, they were worthy opponents. Rizzo and Yvel, not so much.

  13. David M says:

    Pride was great, no doubt, but it was also a promotion that worked fights, promoted incredible mismatches, didn’t test for any performance enhancers, didn’t seem to have any medical regulation whatsoever, and cheated in favor of its stars. That however wasn’t enough to stop the fanboys from saying that it was so much better than the UFC and always criticizing Zuffa’s business tactics instead of Pride’s shady dealings.

    Mark is correct again about Josh’s opponents. I think a lot of mma elitists liked Barnett solely because he wasn’t fighting in the UFC; he was a rebel against the evil Zuffa empire. Im not saying he isnt a tremendous fighter, but I think he perhaps gets more hype than he deserves.

  14. Alan Conceicao says:

    I love how asking why Affliction takes so much heat over Barnett’s drug positive turns into “YOU GUYS SHOULD GO WATCH PRIDE DVDS”, Volume 350.

  15. klown says:

    The problem with Josh Barnett is:

    1) He got busted for steroids in his fight with Randy Couture and yet he (and his fanboys) continue to claim that “victory” as justification for his supremacy

    2) He is pathetically over-ranked in the blogosphere. He is possibly THE most over-ranked fighter in MMA. There is simply nothing to justify his apparently consensus #2 rank

    Besides that, I’ve always found him to be an entertaining fighter.

  16. 45 Huddle says:

    Both Barnett and Affliction are equally to blame. And both have a bad track record. This is the second failed drug test for Josh Barnett. This is the second show that Affliction has had a hard time with (they already cancelled one). the fact that they can’t find a suitable opponent for Fedor still shows how inept they are. Their business model allowed for zero injuries, which happen to occur in MMA much more then most sports.

    “There’s a subset of MMA fans that won’t watch Affliction because of their business concept. Seriously, what an embarassing, subhuman stance to take. Its up there with “I prefer the narrative nature of the UFC!””

    I think most of the people bashing Afflictions business plan are still purchasing their PPV’s. I know I purchased the first two. Won’t be purchasing this one, but that is mostly because I don’t have cable anymore. but they still deserve the bashings.

    “I liked PRIDE. But the fans were such asshole elitists it was hard to sometimes. Insulting people for not watching PRIDE was a very bizarre advertising technique to say the least.”

    This is very well put.

    Also, I am happy to see many people be vocal about Josh Barnett being ranked as high as #2. I’ve been vocal on that for a while. It is comical. He took a year off, his biggest win since then is against a training partner in Jeff Monson… And now he gets ranked #2? The best is people saying: “Well, who else should be up there.” Hmmm, let’s see…. Nogueira, Mir, Lesnar…. All ranked ahead of him easily. A fighter should not be able to just have easier fights and work their way up the rankings as others fight tough competition.

    The same thing is happening with Jake Shields being ranked #4. And Jorge Santiago being ranked in the Top 5. And Gegard Mousasi being #3, despite no Top 10 wins.

    The internet fans are turning into a joke.

  17. Chuck says:

    45 Huddle;

    I can see your point on Santiago, Mousasi (even though he is one of my favorite fighters to watch) and definitely Josh Barnett. But how is Jake Shields NOT a top five or so guy? He hasn’t had a loss in almost five years, and in that time he beat Nick Thompson, Robbie Lawler, Dave Menne, Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami, etc. Those names are good enough for somewhere in the top ten. Actually, that number four spot seems about right for Jake Shields. Actually, Jake Shields’ number four ranking makes a little more sense than Jon Fitch’s number 3 ranking. But he is a worthy top five guy as well, so I am not complaining.

  18. 45 Huddle says:

    Okami & Lawler fights were within the Middleweight Class. They should not effect his Welterweight Rankings.

    Dave Menne has been beaten by many guys at this point in his career. A win over him is not something to put you in the top 10.

    That leaves Condit & Thompson. Thompson is a guy with a lot of wins, but has really no quality wins. His biggest win in the last few years is against Eddie Alvarez who really should have been fighting at Lightweight.

    His win over Condit is legit. And that win brings him into the Top 10. But that fight was a while ago, and since then he doesn’t have any wins over Top 10 guys (I don’t think Thompson is one).

    Also, how can you say he should get ranked over Fitch, when Fitch has a win over Alves?

    Matt Hughes has been ranked as low as #10 if not out of the Top 10 now by sites like Sherdog. He has been pushed down due to his high level of competition. Losing to GSP twice and Alves should not know him out of those top spots. Hughes is being punished in the rankings for fighting tougher competition then Shields.

    Top 4:

    1. GSP
    2. Jon Fitch
    3. Thiago Alves
    4. Matt Hughes

    Fitch is at least #5… If not lower. When 14 of the Top 15 guys are in the UFC, how can one guy who isn’t fighting that pool of competition continue to raise in the rankings? It makes no logical sense.

  19. Chuck says:

    Fitch is at least #5 if not lower? Or do you mean Jake Shields?

  20. David M says:

    45 Huddle saying Affliction is equally to blame for this mess as Barnett is, is entirely without merit. You hurt your positions when you make silly statements like that which betray your bias.

  21. Zack says:

    “2) He is pathetically over-ranked in the blogosphere. He is possibly THE most over-ranked fighter in MMA. There is simply nothing to justify his apparently consensus #2 rank”

    I’d add Kenny Florian to this list.

  22. 45 Huddle says:

    I meant Shields is at least #5…. Darn typo’s….

    As for saying Affliction & Barnett are equally to blame…. I’m not saying this is Affliction’s fault. However, they already have a track record of a cancelled event. They also have a bad business model. The combination of the two makes it understandable that they are getting heat for this issue.

    If they knew how to run a MMA company, they would of had a larger stable of fighters and getting a replacement wouldn’t have been so difficult. But they wanted to run the promotion like a boxing company where it is centralized around one big star. Doesn’t work that way in this sport.

    Position has been defended. Credibility still stands.

  23. Bryan says:

    I agree with David M. Blaming Affliction is misguided. If Lesnar got caught by random testing and blew up the UFC 100 event, people would not be attacking UFC for it’s business model—after all it’s main event, and big draw would have wrecked things.

    Also, Barnett’s rankings are indicative of inaction doing less harm than embarrassing losses. I honestly don’t know how anyone could be mad at Barnett being ranked ahead of Mir.

    Mir got dominated by a LHW fighting at HW and also has losses to Marcio Cruz and Ian Freeman on his record. Does beating a former pro-wrestler in his second fight really boost you up that high? LOL

    The UFC’s HW division has been and still is pretty weak. A former pro wrestler with less than five fights managed to capture the tile fairly easily, and prior to that a guy in his mid 40’s won it pretty easily. Crying about the lack of respect UFC’s HW’s get is kind of ridiculous, considering that the division has been a joke (I’ve even heard Dana White talking shit about his former HW champions, for crying out loud)!

    Barnett is a cheater and not worthy of consideration anymore. But let’s not pretend like Frank Mir is an amazingly elite fighter who was slighted by not being ranked higher.

    Otherwise someone is going to have sick Brandon Vera on him again, so he can be put in his place. 😉

  24. Preach says:

    “The UFC’s HW division has been and still is pretty weak.”

    Really? You think that a division with Lesnar, Mir, Couture, Gonzaga, Nogueira, Herring, CroCop, Dos Santos, Carwin, Velazquez and Kongo is weak? Ooookay…

    And that brings me right back to the topic at hand:

    First of all, it’s of course Barnetts fault. I doubt that Atencio said to him “Dude, take some steroids and cycle that shit, so the people don’t see your moobs when you take off our shirt in the ring!”.

    But i can see why people are putting some blame on Affliction, and i can understand where they’re coming from. Atencio (and all the myriads of ex-Pride fanboys) have been talking about Affliction having THE BEST heavyweight division in the sport. Well, just judging by how they’re scrambling to find an opponent for Fedor to fight next week, i’d say NO.

    They had FOUR fighters that people knew: Sylvia (done), Arlovski (done), Barnett (obviously done now) and Fedor. That’s it, that’s THE BEST heavyweight division. Affliction doesn’t have any fighters with name value that they could push into the spotlight against Fedor, plain and simple. They reached out to Strikeforce for Rogers and Werdum, and got politely told “Umm, no!”, and will now most probably settle on utilizing one of their few name fighters that the casual fans know – albeit one that fights not one, but two weightclasses below Fedor.

  25. jj says:

    “He is possibly THE SECOND most over-ranked fighter in MMA, behind Fedor.”


  26. MMA Tycoon says:

    Where is Affliction drawing more heat than Josh Barnett? Not saying it’s not the case but it’s the whole basis of the article and there is no mention of where this is the case 🙂

  27. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    Barnett’s not drawing heat because the MMA community has already baked “failed a drug test, probably takes steroids, and is a part time pro wrestler” into Barnett’s profile.

    He seems like a nice enough guy, sounds personable in interviews, and is the guy who ought to be fighting Fedor, whatever else is wrong with him, just based on his rankings, but he’s a cheating doper who has now tested positive for three different anabolic steroids on two occasions, and had the heavyweight title in MMA’s largest promotion stripped, in large part, apparently, because he couldn’t get along with Dana White.

    Not sure how you can fall much lower than that in mainstream MMA fan opinion.


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