Tom Atencio has helped build Affliction Clothing literally on the back of some of the best-known names in sports and entertainment. Now the Affliction vice-president is looking to use all his connections in building the California company’s fledgling fight promotion business.
The Affliction celebrity crew includes the likes of musicians Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, Korn and Cradle of Filth among others. In the fight world, the company can count on boxers Sugar Shane Mosley and Ricky Hatton. And in mixed martial arts, Canadian Georges St. Pierre, Randy Couture, and Quinton Jackson.
Atencio and colleagues have used such ties to move into the world of MMA promotion, with their first card “Affliction Banned” set for July 19 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
Atencio’s ties to the sport go back a ways. He has worked as a fight photographer, put on jiu-jitsu competitions and even competed. Ask him about it and he will list his bona-fides.
Now he works those ties as he looks to grow Affliction Entertainment, a fledgling sister company.
His journey in signing Fedor Emelianenko and his younger brother Aleksander is a lesson in how contactsand little thingscan pay off.
Securing Emelianenko is a coup for Affliction. The Russian, often simply referred to as Fedor in MMA circles, is an iconic figure in the sport with the lone blemish on a 27-1 record due to a cut.
Others on the July 19 card include Barnett, Andrei Arlovski, Matt Lindland, Ben Rothwell, Renato (Babalu) Sobral, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Pedro Rizzo, Vitor Belfort, Terry Martin, Mike Pyle and Canadian Mark Hominick.
It’s an impressive lineupfilled with former UFC namesand one that clearly comes with a hefty price tag. Atencio isn’t saying just how hefty.
Affliction is already planning two more fight cards, one in October and the other in February. A Couture versus Emelianenko fight could be on one of them if Couture wins his court battle to free himself from his UFC contract.
Losing money on fight promotion is not in the Affliction business plan.
“I think if you go in there thinking thatand some people do that, they prepare for a five-year to whatever being in the redthey don’t last that long,” said Atencio, one of five partners in the clothing company. “I’m in business to make money. We’re a three-year-old company as far as Affliction goes and we’ve been profitable since after the first year so I’m in business to make money, I’m not in business to lose.”
While winning over celebs is familiar ground for Affliction, putting on a show is not.
“More of the challenge has been on the production side of it and the things that we don’t know,” Atencio said. “As far as the fighters go, I’ve had relationships with all these fighters for quite some time now so signing them, getting everything done, (was) not too difficult because I’ve been working with them.
Once Affliction announced it was getting in the fight promotion business, the UFC banned its fighters from wearing Affliction gear at its events (Affliction thumbed its nose at the move by naming its card “Affliction Banned”). But Atencio is trying to take the high road towards the industry leader.
Affliction is bringing its own ideas to the MMA table. The undercard, usually denied to the pay-per-view audience, will be shown in a one-hour show airing live on Fox Sports Net in the U.S. and The Fight Network in Canada (8 p.m. ET).
Atencio is even mixing music into the main event, with Megadeth slated to play three songs (Osbourne was supposed to play but had to withdraw because of scheduling issues).
While the UFC doesn’t want to play ball, Atencio is looking to other fight organizations for talent. Some promoters and fighters are happy to share, he reports.
“I’m building relationships and these guys trust me and I trust me. As long as we can work together and I do what I say I’m going to do, then they’re going to be happy and they do what they say they’re going to do, I’m going to be happy.”