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Tom Atencio’s no-good, very-horrible week

By Zach Arnold | July 23, 2009

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If you missed yesterday’s Affliction conference call (the promotion didn’t provide audio but it’s available on a couple of web sites), you should listen to it. You could just hear the frustration in Tom Atencio’s voice. A mixture of chaos, frustration, sadness, and overall miserableness. And that was just yesterday.

I have a new article going over what Atencio has been dealing with since the news broke from the California State Athletic Commission that Josh Barnett failed a drug test and that he allegedly tested positive for drostanolone.

Here’s a snippet from the article, but I encourage you to read it in full.

Right after you find out that you lost Barnett, you realize, “Oh crap, I have two conference calls over two days with the press.” You know what kind of media onslaught is coming towards you. Questions about the failed drug test by Josh. Questions about whether or not you will remain friendly with him. Questions about who you are replacing Barnett with on the card. Questions about Affliction’s future. Being on that conference call is the last place in the world you want to be, but you know that you need the media on your side more than ever so you have to suck it up, you have to be polite and yet careful in how you answer anything so you don’t make false promises.

After you read my new article, here are comments from Fedor & M-1 on the Barnett situation. They all but admit that Vitor Belfort is who Fedor will fight on 8/1, but that they really want Brett Rogers.

As for what happens to Josh next… Sengoku has a big show on 11/5 in Tokyo at Ryogoku Kokugikan and that is when Satoshi Ishii is supposed to make his debut. If the situation in California turns out as bad as it looks for Barnett, then he can fight on that show. Remember, Antonio Silva fought in Japan during his CSAC suspension and it doesn’t look like he paid a price for it. Outside of the November 5th Sengoku date? IGF has a major show on 8/9 in Tokyo at Ariake Colosseum. Given that he’s off the Affliction show now, that no doubt becomes a big booking date for him.

Topics: Affliction, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 101 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

101 Responses to “Tom Atencio’s no-good, very-horrible week”

  1. Mr. Roadblock says:

    I’d really like to see the Rothwell fight.

    This is off topic to what we’re talking about now. But I meant to mention it in response to my earlier post.

    I absolutely think Fedor is worried about Vitor. Either that or Vadim is. Why would Vadim say “people don’t want to see the fight according to Sherdog”? His goal should be to get as many people to tune is as possible to keep Affliction (which he is currently flat out robbing with several clients) afloat. He should say Vitor is a former UFC champion, a legend, a true warrior, one of the pioneers of the sport, etc. All of a sudden he says fans don’t want to see the fight? Wait a second, you’re the same guy who booked your boy against Hong Choi Man, Zulusinho and Matt Lindland (who Vitor killed). Now the approval of Sherdog’s reader base matters? Read between the lines. They are scared. Vadim thinks Brett Rogers who maybe 80,000 people know who he is is a bigger draw than Vitor. I change my statement. Fedor is terrified of Vitor. I bet right now behind the scenes he is telling Affliction he won’t take a Vitor fight.

  2. liger05 says:

    I aldo thought Vitor won the Ortiz fight.

  3. Ivan Trembow says:

    Mr. Roadblock— Fedor’s management preferring Rogers over Belfort is an entirely different thing than Fedor being terrified of Belfort, unless of course you are predisposed to calling professional fighters cowards, even the #1-ranked heavyweight fighter in the sport.

  4. Alan Conceicao says:

    Alan, don’t you know that if you even criticize the UFC’s business model, that alone makes you “anti-UFC”?

    Ivan, why are you so easily riled up by 45? Seriously. Hell, same with Roadblock. You think he’d really find a win over Vitor Belfort at heavyweight more impressive than Monson or Rogers? I mean, its possible he’s mildly handicapped, but I doubt it. If Fedor trounced him, he’d be back here within a couple weeks talking about what a pussy he was not to take on a real heavyweight.

  5. Mark says:

    Ha, now Vitor is hereby dubbed THE WORLDS GREATEST FIGHTER by the Fedor haters I noticed yesterday. So I guess we’ll be getting a shrill “IT WILL BE THE OLD VITOR COMING BACK!” times 20. Yes, he’s now the same guy who beat the shit out of Wanderlei 10 years ago and not the same guy who coasted on an eyelid cut win for years until destroying Lindland. “WE DEED EEET MAH-MAH!!!”

    Like I said, in this situation an upset is very possible no matter who is in there. But it never stops being hilarious to me how people throw away all logic when it comes to Fedor being one of the greatest fighters in history, to them he’s the biggest piece of overrated shit in the world. In no other sport does this happen. Even fans who despise Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady, A-Rod, or Sidney Crosby admit they’re amazing athletes, they just don’t happen to like them. The Fedor haters make up some kind of fluke in their mind on why he wins every single time.

  6. Mr. Roadblock says:

    For the record Fedor is by far my favorite fighter. Tied with Vitor actually. I just think it’s fishy how his management seems to be pushing for someone besides Vitor. I’m sire if it were simply up to Fedor he’d fight five Navy SEALs at the same time.

  7. Dave2 says:

    I thought Strikeforce said no to a Fedor-Rogers fight?

    Btw I think Fedor’s assessment is right.

    “To be honest, in terms of his speed at that weight, I honestly don’t know if being heavier is an advantage with a fighter who is as fast as him at his current weight. I have always found it harder to fight the lighter, faster guys, rather than the really big, plodding heavy and super heavyweights. And Belfort has always stood out in terms of his speed.”

    Don’t let the HW vs MW thing fool you. Belfort would have a better chance of catching Fedor than Rogers. The only thing Rogers has is power and aggression. But if Vitor turns up at 215 when he’s been training to fight 10-15 pounds lighter than that (since a middleweight who cuts a lot of weight fights around 200 in the ring), he might not be in shape as much as usual and this would affect his speed and what not.

    Belfort-Santiago might be significant internet ranking wise but we all know how that would turn out. Belfort by KO. I like Santiago but he is overrated. Or at least he is once he fights a guy that can truly crack his suspect chin.

  8. 45 Huddle says:

    Fedor/Rogers is a gift to Fedor. Rogers would have a chance within the first two minutes, but in no way should they allow an out of shape guy to be fighting Fedor right now.

    I think Fedor is worried about Vitor Belfort. I am no fan of either fighter and could care less who wins. But I think deep down, Belfort worries Fedor. Fedor should still easily be the favorite, but this is not a good fight for him to take.

    Either way, Rogers is no GSP. I doubt he stays in shape year round. They need an inshape guy to fight Fedor. Which means it’s either Belfort or Buentello. Potentially Monson if he has been training.

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    I should also say…. They shouldn’t allow HW vs. MW fight to happen…. but that is my assessment of the situation. Buentello should be first in line, not a Middleweight.

  10. Mr. Roadblock says:

    Vitor will likely hit the scales at 208 or so. He will technically weigh in as a Heavyweight.

  11. Ultimo Santa says:

    “I think Fedor is worried about Vitor Belfort. I am no fan of either fighter and could care less who wins.”

    Incredible insight from 45…

    So a) he thinks Fedor – #1 ranked fighter in the world – is scared about a Middleweight figther, and b) he doesn’t care about the #1 ranked fighter in the world because he’s not in the UFC.

    Two huge surprises.

  12. sheldon says:

    OMG! Josh Gross is saying they’ve cancelled the whole thing!!!!

  13. 45 Huddle says:

    you have got to be kidding me. This is horrible for the fighters.

  14. sheldon says:

    Wow I guess at some point you just have to cut your losses. I feel bad for all the fighters and trainers who were probably counting on the August payday.

  15. 45 Huddle says:

    I really hope Affliction doesn’t try and put on another fight. Free the fighters and let them sign with the UFC, Strikeforce, DREAM, or Sengoku. There are some very good matchups that can happen with Fedor, Barnett, Arlovski, Sylvia, Rothwell, Belfort, Lindland, Hieron, Buentello, Santiago, Mousasi, Babalu, and a few others….

  16. Alan Conceicao says:

    It looks like they took my advice in the end. The only question: Do they reschedule?

  17. Alan Conceicao says:

    It should be fun to watch people blurt out all sorts of absurd advice in the next couple days, a la 45 Huddle. Except some of them will border on serious. T-Minus 30 minutes and counting on Fightlinker or BE demanding that Tom Atencio never promote another MMA card again, lest they violate the inherent trust of the fight promoter/mma blawger relationship, LOL.

  18. Mr. Roadblock says:

    What an embarrassment Affliction has been. 2 great events but 2 cancellations. It was really more Fedor Fights than it was Affliction fights.

    I predicted this a few threads ago. I wonder if the other part of my prediction that UFC pays Affliction a go away fee comes true. It makes sense. All of these guys are trained up and ready to go. You can add Fedor vs insert HW name here to save the Main Event-less September show. Bring Vitor in on that show too. Maybe dig up Chris Leben or somebody for him to smash on. Aside from Hieron UFC probably doesn’t want too much else from Affliction. Jay will be a real nice addition ot 170.

  19. szappan says:

    oh man… this SUCKS! I mean… just a huge WTF?!!

    OK, first of all, is there any sort of compensation that the fighters are entitled too?

    Second of all, what happens now if Barnett’s second sample comes back negative?!

    Maybe Sengoku can pick up some of the fighters for their Aug. 2nd card… heck, just take some of the match-ups too… fighters are already in 99% fight shape.

  20. Mr. Roadblock says:

    I believe in California fighters get 20% of their show purse.

  21. liger05 says:

    I know it was the main event but I cant believe Barnett not being able to fight has meant the show getting cancelled.

  22. Alan Conceicao says:

    The card was really built around one fight promotionally. Fight is cancelled at the last minute. They don’t have a guy who’s big enough to sell the fight in reserve, so they cancel the show rather than half ass it with everyone else on the card and not the headliner. I dunno, I’m fine with it. I didn’t spend any money.

  23. sammyscaff says:

    Obviously the Affliction cancelling the show sucks…and its all Barnett’s fault.

    But I bet 45Huddle thinks that this is great, because “no one should mess with the UFC.”

    It all comes down to the same thing. Real fans judge their sport by the content, entertainment value and excitement. 45Huddle judges the sport by the business model and how much money they make. Does that make sense? I dont think so. I dont know of any real sports fan that judges their sport by the organizer’s bottom line.

  24. Lester Grimes says:

    I really don’t get it. If Fedor is such a big global superstar, then why does every promotion he’s involved in dies or cancels their upcoming PPV event?

    Affliction made millions of dollars selling their fashion line to the masses. They should at least have enough business sense to realize that dealing with Fedor is a KISS OF DEATH for any promotion. The demise of Pride, Bodog & soon-to-be Affliction proves this case once again.

    The sad part is that some upstart American promoter will probably want to sign up Fedor in the future. The cycle will repeat itself and we’ll end up with another dead MMA promotion.

    Unless he’s with a marketing machine, like the UFC, Fedor’s future in America will remain bleak.

  25. 45 Huddle says:


    Do you realize that what you just said makes no sense.

    Here is why business models are important….

    1. EliteXC had a card scheduled for November 2008. It got cancelled. It left a lot of fighters in limbo for months with no pay because they couldn’t fight.

    2. Affliction “postponed” a show in October 2008. Most of the fighters had to wait multiple months to fight again and waste many months of training.

    3. Affliction cancelled a show in August 2009. Once again, leaving fighters with less pay and without a fight or an idea when they can fight again.

    There needs to be a solid foundation for the fighters to compete in. So when that foundation stinks, it is just as important if not more important then the fighters themselves. Because when it crumbles, the fighters are the one’s screwed.

    Why people can’t see this, I do not understand. This isn’t UFC Fanboy stuff. This is the UFC does it the best, and guarantees the fighters the best platform.

  26. Ivan Trembow says:

    Shame on Josh Barnett for testing positive for steroids again and setting this chain of events into motion, but having said that, Affliction should not have cancelled the show. They still had a main event, even if it wasn’t their original main event, and now there are a bunch of fighters who presumably aren’t going to get paid. I know that the MMAWeekly report says that Showtime PPV (the distributor of the PPV event) had a lot to do with the event’s cancellation, but Affliction should have fought harder to keep the event from being cancelled, for the sake of the fighters.

  27. Ivan Trembow says:

    I can only imagine the delight that went through 45 Huddle’s mind when he heard the news that the Affliction show was cancelled. It was probably an even more wonderful feeling than when he heard that Josh Barnett tested positive.

    Seriously, 45, since when does “This is horrible for the fighters” have anything to do with your opinion on anything? I agree with you, it is horrible for the fighters, but I don’t recall you saying that anything Zuffa has done is “horrible for the fighters,” even when they’re threatening non-UFC fighters to turn down five-figure paydays from EA Sports or they’ll be permanently blacklisted by the UFC.

  28. spacedog says:

    This makes no sense. Nobody really cares who Fedor fights, just let him fight.They already had a whole slew of other good fighters ready to go, tickets sold, center booked, ect, ect, One fight does not an event make. Bring in Monson and call it good. I hope they just go away now and never come back. Totally sucks for all the fighters and all the fans.

  29. 45 Huddle says:

    I’m pro fighters union. Have said that more times then I can say. If that isn’t “good for the fighters”, then I really don’t know what is.

    Ivan…. And no I wasn’t happy they cancelled. That’s a lot of fighters getting screwed over. I wanted to see them fail, and I have said so. I did not want to see them cancel a show less then 10 days before it was scheduled to happen.

    But in the long run, this is good for MMA. Those fighters will become more consolidated, which will give us even better fights.

  30. sammyscaff says:

    The UFC is by FAR the oldest promotion in the USA. They have a VERY large roster of fighters. They gained great success because of a reality show, and have turned that sucess into large gates and PPVs.

    THAT is why it is difficult for other promotions (in the US and abroad). It isnt because UFC has some secret formula for success, its because they already have ALOT of fighters under contract. The reason Affliction cancelled the August 2009 event was because one of their main event fighters tested positive and because they do not have a huge roster of stars to replace him with. Again, this has nothing to do with anything they did wrong. Its because most of the big names fight other places or are injured/booked (and there is a lack of top heavyweight fighters).

    You are essentially saying that just because the UFC is successful and has exclusive contracts with most of the known fighters in the US, others promotions should not even bother to compete. If this is not what you are saying, and you are merely saying that a different business strategy should be employed by these other promotions then please enlighten us as to what a satisfactory strategy (to you) would be?? (Besides giving up and admitting the Dana White is king of the world)?

  31. Wolverine says:

    I have no clue why wouldn’t they have signed Monson for 100k and just run the show.

  32. Dave says:

    Seriously, this sucks, but I can kind of understand. It would be like a boxing show and one of the two headliners can’t fight, the show is more or less ruined.

    Imagine Pacman/Hatton if Hatton pissed dirty, do you think they would have just plugged any random fighter in and hoped it would work?

  33. 45 Huddle says:

    According to a Kevin Iole article (and I know he isn’t exactly credible)…

    1. Strikeforce and Affliction are mergining.

    2. Affliction offered to turn it’s contracts over to the UFC if the UFC would lift their ban on Affliction products. Dana White said no.;_ylt=Ah9qu.t7Knbr7LTtt1mxH6o9Eo14?slug=ki-postufconehundred072409&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

    I believe it was predicted that Affliction was going to close up shop before the 3rd event. I’m not so sure Barnett was the only reason. Sounds like it was easy to blame it on him, but they were screwed anyways….

    The thing is…. Strikeforce can’t afford to pay all those guys the big contracts…. Some of them will eventually make their way over to the UFC….

  34. Dave says:

    I don’t know why Affliction was even seen as a “promotion” as much as a company that put on cards and had a small stable of fighters.

  35. Ivan Trembow says:

    Translation: Dana White said that Affliction offered to turn its contracts over to the UFC if the UFC would lift their ban on Affliction products, but Dana White said no.

  36. Ivan Trembow says:

    Also, I have a news story up on my blog about why Josh Barnett is not being suspended by the CSAC:

  37. Alan Conceicao says:

    Sounds like the Affliction/Strikeforce thing was probably in the works already prior to the event and is just about finalized now. Of course: If that’s so, why not let Affliction have Werdum and run the show next Saturday?

    Hopefully this means more free TV shows with bigger names than Nick Diaz. No hate.

  38. NOS says:

    Anybody think a Gomi Vs. Diaz rematch could be in the works with the situation that has happened for both fighters?

  39. Robert Poole says:

    “I have no clue why wouldn’t they have signed Monson for 100k and just run the show.”

    Because that show wouldn’t draw. The last impression Monson gave people was that lame ass performance vs. Sylvia.

    I still think Vitor vs. Fedor would have been better than nothing if only for Vitor’s lightning fast hands and KO ability giving him a puncher’s chance.

    I thought the rest of the card was really average though and still couldn’t believe when I heard how hard Pat Militech oversold it on MMA Live as “one of the greatest cards ever”. Um, no.

    I love Affliction’s t-shirts but there are a lot of things left to be desired about their MMA promoting abilities.


  40. Robert Poole says:


    Interesting info on the CSAC non-suspension. I still think that would be like an NFL player who is a free agent being told that although they flunked an offseason drug test, they weren’t going to be suspended because they weren’t signed by a team and couldn’t technically play the game anyway.

    Atencio should just find a state with lax MMA governance and run the show there if that’s the case. Hell Wisconsin has MMA here but I don’t recall there being an excessively strong commission in place (I could be wrong)… I’m sure a bunch of other states don’t have strong commissions in place like CA, NV, NJ do.

    Didn’t Texas allow Tommy Morrison to fight? Put it on there I guess.

    I mean, obviously Barnett shouldn’t be allowed to fight but what sucks is that Affliction just screwed all these other guys out of their paydays because of it.


  41. Ivan Trembow says:

    I don’t agree that they should have moved the show to a non-commission state in order to allow Fedor vs. Barnett to take place, but I do agree that they should not have cancelled the show. I think they should have run the show with Fedor vs. someone other than Barnett as the main event. It was a bad situation that they were put in by Barnett, but they still shouldn’t have cancelled the show because now all of these other fighters aren’t getting their paydays.

  42. 45 Huddle says:

    It’s more then just moving the show. Mergers don’t happen in 2 days. This has been planne for a while.

  43. Wolverine says:

    Come on, most of the fans would buy the show even if Fedor fought Tank or Frye. Monson wasn’t the only option, how about Belfort, Buentello, Rothwell. I bet more than 80% people would still buy it.

  44. Robert Poole says:


    I was sort of being sarcastic about moving the show. I don’t think Barnett should be given another chance at this. What I was pointing out was that if this show was canceled because one guy couldn’t fight, they could still get that fight if they went elsewhere.

    Moreso this is about Affliction’s lack of roster depth which wasn’t the case when they got all these guys before their first show last year. They looked to have a deeper Heavyweight division than UFC and then they all started losing high profile fights one by one. A lot of bad luck for Affliction in that regard.


  45. Robert Poole says:


    80% of what? Less than 100,000 buys? I don’t think the card was all that particularly attractive to the average fan before and I think if you throw some scrub in with Fedor it becomes significantly less attractive. They’d be lucky to break the 30,000 buys Sky Sports got for the Kotelnik-Khan fight last week.


  46. Ivan Trembow says:

    Affliction is out of the MMA promotion business and is back as a UFC advertiser, according to Kevin Iole. This explains why Dana White previously floated the Affliction/Strikeforce “merger” rumor through Iole, and it also explains why Iole removed the following two paragraphs from his original news story:

    “White said an Affliction attorney flew to Las Vegas only days after UFC 100 and offered to fold and turn its contracts over to the UFC if the UFC would remove its ban on its fighters wearing Affliction T-shirts.

    “I told him, ‘I hope you idiots stay in business,’ ” White said. “We had a record year in 2007. We had a record year in 2008. And we’re going to have an even bigger record year in 2009. I said, ‘I hope you … stay around in 2010 and burn every dollar you have.’ What they do is of no concern to me.””

  47. ajz123 says:

    “Of course, the difference between the UFC being the top organization for MMA and the NFL being the top organization for football, and the thing that makes it an invalid comparison, is that in an NFL-only system, NFL players have the benefit of 32 different NFL teams bidding for their services.” – Ivan

    Ding ding ding! Thank you Ivan. This is the reason why the UFC or any other MMA organization should not be compared to a league. The organization/promoter, is clearly more closely related to a team than an entire league. MMA fans who are not really mainstream sports fans will never accept or understand this.

  48. Mr. Dream says:

    45 Huddle’s argument that the UFC (one major promotion to rule them all) is good for MMA is made in a sporting context. Many others are bringing all sorts of other side issues into play which muddles the argument.

    Suppose the NBA was split into 4 independent leagues.

    – In this new league format, Kobe, Lebron, Wade and Howard will NEVER play against each other.

    Do you enjoy that these great players are all penned in and will never interact?

    – I failed to mention above that each player will make 3X the salary under this new league format.

    Does this second point make you enjoy the new four league format more or less? It should not matter one bit.

    From the business side, I’m all for participants getting their fair share of the revenue/profits (as they have to go somewhere). The NCAA is extremely unfair in this regard. And a certain number/level of participants should be able to make a career out of sport.

    From a sporting perspective, I really don’t give a rats ass whether professional athletes make three times as much as long as they perform. One could even argue that in some cases a hungry (poorer) fighter is a more motivated fighter. Ultimately, the competition is what matters, not whether Fedor can buy a new blender or has to wait a year.

  49. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    The NBA is a special case among the big four sports though. All three of the other leagues (unless the NHL has just changed their policy recently) have teams that never play in a given city in any given season. Generally your schedule is heavily weighted towards teams in your own competitive group, and excludes (or nearly excludes) the teams in the other “vertical slice” of the league.

    Thus the old “superbowl of MMA” argument. If you had two equally powerful organizations, just having their champions fight one another occasionally would be enough for nearly all fans. We don’t need just one organization, or just one “top level” organization to get the best fights between the best fighters.

  50. Mr. Dream says:

    A superbowl of MMA could work in theory, but it is so much more complex and there are so many more hurdles.

    I understand that a promotion can only be so large or have so many stars, but with that understanding, I want one major organization. It doesn’t matter if it’s the UFC.

    When you have to have two competing management groups cooperate with each other for 1 month while scratching at each other for the other 11, it is much more difficult. If GSP fights twice a year, does the promoter who has his rights want to share every second fight with somebody else? What if a star fighter is injured during the superbowl time? Would a promoter give up his biggest draws to stack a co-promoted card but leave the preceding and following PPVs with weak main events?

    With the landscape as it is, we are so close to not requiring a superbowl to see the fights we want put on which really is the best situation for the fans. If Pride was still around and extremely healthy financially, a superbowl card would be the right direction to push towards as fans. But there are still the reservations from each side as your brand is only becomes as strong as your champion.


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