Affliction Entertainment Vice President Tom Atencio has been a busy man lately. In addition to defeating Randy Hedderick at Ultimate Chaos last month, he has his company’s third major pay-per-view event – Affliction: Trilogy – coming up in less than two weeks. The event takes place on August 1, 2009, in Anaheim, California at the Honda Center and is headlined by WAMMA Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko defending his title against Josh Barnett.
Atencio took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with Rod Moyer of FightLine.com. In part one of the interview below, he talks about what a day in his life is like, his feud with the UFC, Bobby Lashley possibly coming into Afflication and much more. In part two of the interview – which will be up tomorrow – Atencio talks about the big Trilogy event, his thoughts on UFC 100 and Brock Lesnar’s post-fight antics, having a show without Fedor and more.
FightLine.com: What is a day in the life Tom Atencio all about?
Tom Atencio: You know, [I] get to work about 8:30 in the morning, check my email, talk to everybody, get to work early in the morning, talk to everybody, I handle all the celebrities and different promotions. Like today, David Wells came by – the pitcher – and we talked for a couple hours. Stuff like that you know, getting ready for the fight, making sure ticket sales are doing well, making sure that all our promotional stuff’s going out. You know, just doing the push. Push hard for the next event.
FightLine.com: Tell us about Affliction: how long has it been around, how long have you been working with Affliction, etc.
Atencio: Affliction’s been around for 4 years, and I’ve been around since day one. We started out as a tattoo and clothing brand. I started sponsoring friends that I fought with, I trained with, and that I grew up with, and [we] just started to blow up in the MMA industry.
FightLine.com: Now, was the game plan always to transition to MMA or was the game plan just to build the clothing business, and when different opportunities came up, you just took advantage of them?
Atencio: The game plan was to be a fashion brand, and we still are. We support a lot of musicians, and that’s how it’s always been since day one. We did, we do really well in the MMA industry. That was our goal to do very well in the sports industry, and we do. I think with MMA, because we got in the early stages, we were able to tie ourselves well into that brand.
FightLine.com: MMA is obviously a great sport. You guys have been in the headlines for not just putting on good cards, but for competing with the UFC. I want to talk about that, because a lot of things have been published regarding competition between you and the UFC, challenges between you and Dana White, and there has been the war of words. Do you think that is just something that comes from the UFC because as a competitor, they are competing and putting things out there, or where do you think the challenging press about Affliction has come from?
Atencio: The UFC is the one who made up the competition. When they counter-programmed us on the first show, that obviously, we viewed that as them viewing us as a threat, and so they’re the ones that made up the competition. We just do what we do, put a show together, we want to support the fighters, and that’s what we did. Obviously they viewed us as a threat to counter-program us but we have made noise through this industry. So I’m proud, I’m happy to be that so-called competition.
FightLine.com: There are a lot of people that say there’s plenty of room for those that want to get into MMA and do it the right way, but if people want to compete with the UFC, that’s the wrong route. They say that if an organization is going to win, they will need to carve out their own niche as opposed to competing the UFC. What does Affliction say to people who view things from that perspective?
Atencio: You know, I’ve always said from day one, we never started out to compete with the UFC. They viewed us as competition, therefore they counter-programmed us, and I think they still do. I never looked to go out to them; I never looked to compete with them. I just looked to take a share of the market, and they obviously didn’t like that. They’re the ones that don’t want anybody else in their space. From a business aspect, I understand that, but we’re here, and that’s one of the reasons we work with everybody else. We’re fans! I want the sport to grow. I want to help the sport grow, and that’s what I do. I’m not looking to take down the UFC. I’m not looking to take down any other company in this industry.
FightLine.com: I want to transition to the fighting since you’re a fighter as well. You recently beat Randy Hedderick at ‘Ultimate Chaos’ on June 27. Do you have any intention to keep on fighting?
Atencio: First and foremost, I wouldn’t say that I’m a fighter. I would say that I’ve fought, and I enjoy training. If fighting twice makes me a fighter, than I guess that’s what it is. For me, I just enjoy this industry, I enjoy this sport, and I’m taking it to the next level by fighting, sparring in the ring, once or twice in MMA. But, you know I mean, I love this industry, and I’ve been fighting and training since I was a kid. I just love it, and I’ve got it, and would I do it again? I don’t know. There’s a good chance I might, but right now I’m going to just do what I have to do with this business and keep this fight organization going. But, I set a goal for myself, and I reached it. I came out with a win, and that was important. I’m just a guy that loves this industry and sport. I did something that most people will never have a chance to do in their life, and I think most people will never have the guts to do in their life.
FightLine.com: Bobby Lashley main evented that card. What are your thoughts on him as a fighter? And do you see him fighting for Affliction one day?
Atencio: Yes, Bobby Lashley’s a big guy. I think he’s a great wrestler, and I think he’s got a bright future. As far as with us, it’s my understanding that he’s locked in a deal with someone else. But yeah, I’d love to bring him over and have him fight some of the best heavyweights in the world.
FightLine.com: Now I understand that you sign your fighters to contracts where they can fight for you and other organizations at the same time. Is that true?
Atencio: Yes and no. I have an open policy with most of my fighters – not all of them – that if they want to fight in other organizations and they’re not fighting for me right now, I don’t want to hold them back and keep them from making money. So they ask my permission, and I allow them to if it doesn’t conflict with my events.
FightLine.com: I want to mention Andrei Arlosvki and Tim Sylvia in terms of this agreement. Both of those fighters fought in other organizations, and both got knocked out. Would you say that the policy backfired for you, or for them? I say that because of the loss, they couldn’t fight on your card. Is that more their loss, or your loss?
Atencio: I’ve spoken with fighters before and they know, if they decide to fight at another event and they do lose, it will affect fighting in our event. Because of his loss, if he loses, he’s not going to fight in our fight. Same thing with Chris Horodecki. Had he lost, we probably wouldn’t have taken them in. On the other end, if they get knocked out, it’s not because they lost, it’s a combination of the two. They lost, but also they’ve been knocked out. I don’t want to be the promoter that brings in a guy that could potentially get hurt, I mean seriously hurt. So for me it’s a combination of the two. I look at it as separate issues, and take everything as it comes.
Be sure to check back here tomorrow for FightLine.com’s exclusive interview with Tom Atencio.