Before EliteXC’s goose got cooked, it laid a golden egg that rolled right onto Affliction’s doorstep where it still sits. The question is will Tom Atencio find it and use it to save his fledgling promotion? With EliteXC gone, Gina Carano and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos have no stage for the impending throwdown that EliteXC spent millions of dollars hyping. For that matter Amanda Buckner, Kaitlin Young, Tonya Evinger, Shayna Baszler, and Kelly Kobald all have nowhere to show their wares either since the UFC deplores women’s fighting and has publicly said they would never feature female fights on a UFC card. But the demand is there. Elite’s foray into MMA proved there is a fanbase for women’s MMA and particularly for the Santos-Carano bout, since both have legitimate marketing skills equal to their prowess in the cage.
Affliction is a company on unstable financial footing. The delay of their second show until January and the reported negotiations they had with the UFC to stop promoting MMA spells it out clearly-they’re in deep and their financial backing only goes so far when the balance sheet drops into the red zone. The solution to each group’s woes is clear. If Affliction picked up the pieces of the broken Shaw family and used women’s MMA as a support structure for their vaunted heavyweights and UFC-holdouts, it would provide them a niche in the tight MMA marketplace and possibly do what so few have been able to pull off-make money.
Every MMA promotion has to carve out a niche in order to survive, especially in a recession where fans have precious little disposable income and housewives aren’t too hip on their husbands dropping $45 for a pay-per-view when the WEC is free fifty free. Palace Fighting Championships has built a promising flyweight division that rivals the Japanese stranglehold on the rare 125 pounders. Operation Octagon features military fighters. The Ultimate Warrior Challenge showcases young fighters from well-known camps so they bring their marquee names to the events. Even though it’s a Zuffa thang, the WEC has horded all the best bantamweights and featherweights in the world. Affliction has a great deal of heavyweight talent, but it’s apparently not enough to keep it solvent, especially when their fighters are so highly paid, so a supporting division that no one else has is something that could turn the negative numbers around.
Cristiane Santos makes Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien (Ripley) look like a nanny…and not the kinky type either. EliteXC spent millions proving Carano is more than a pretty face in an American Gladiator outfit and the two were on a collision course in the cage. Why let all those marketing dollars go to waste, especially since they contributed to the death of the organization? A women’s division is a viable opportunity that Affliction should take advantage of and they have the marketing resources to make it successful. Initially they would have to create a common catch-weight class to make the matchups intriguing, but the pooling of talent into one promotion would solve that over time by attracting more female fighters and eventually breaking them down into two or more divisions.
But will Affliction recognize the opportunity and get to the golden egg before a certain southern fox steals it? The American Fight League, a Kentucky-based regional promotion, has Tara LaRosa, Julie Kedzie, and Roxanne Modaferri under non-exclusive contracts, but the organization has caught a case of the EliteXC bug and halted operations until after the New Year due to economic concerns. That means even more talent may be readily available for Affliction’s January 17th show if they do like all those commercials implore and “act now!”
“I’m hungry for a fight these days,” admits Julie Kedzie. “I think Affliction would be an awesome company to fight for, and Buckner, LaRosa, Santos, and Carano are the cream of the crop. I am just waiting for a good offer at the right time.”
At the very least, Affliction should test the waters and strike a deal with the AFL to have LaRosa and Modaferri fight on their January card just to test the waters with their viewers. The two agreed to fight on short notice last month when the AFL tried to loan them to Ironheart Crown out of Chicago, but negotiations broke down just a week before the show. Staging that fight on an Affliction card is a win-win-win situation for the promoters and the fighters because Affliction is a more recognizable name with a bigger audience and better paychecks.
Since the day they decided to promote fights, Affliction has been wearing headphones to drown out the “you can’t make it in MMA” skepticism that’s been assaulting them from all sides. It’s time to take the headphones off, walk to the door, and open it. Outside they’ll find a group of eager females with nothing to do and an eye for the guy with deep pockets. And who doesn’t want to see that?
I’m just sayin.
Kelly Crigger is a freelance MMA writer and author of the book “Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts” which you can purchase by clicking here. Contact him through his website at IntoTheSharkTank.com