Friday, July 24, 2009 | 8 p.m.
Headliner Josh Barnett's failed drug test that Affliction vice president Tom Atencio called "just another bump in the road” on Wednesday became a monster sink hole Friday as the start-up mixed martial arts organization was forced to not only cancel its third show, "Affliction: Trilogy," set for Aug. 1 in Anaheim — but fold as a promotion all together.
Yahoo's Kevin Iole was the first to report that the embattled apparel company will no longer challenge the Ultimate Fighting Championship and will instead become an official sponsor for the UFC.
“We are excited about the return of Affliction to the UFC and look forward to seeing our fighters once again walk into the Octagon wearing the Affliction brands. Affliction is an innovator of mixing fashion with this sport and we are looking forward to working together to promote the sport.” UFC president Dana White said, of a newly reached collaboration between the former competing companies.
Despite White's high-level of criticism for Affliction's foray into the promotion business — which featured two high-profile and costly (the fighter payrolls for each were nearly $3.5 million) events — co-founder Eric Foss said the partnership ultimately benefits not only his brand, but MMA fans.
“Our brand is synonymous with the “Live Fast” approach to life and UFC is the perfect venue for us to market our brand. We have come to an agreement with the UFC which we feel will be the best for the sport and will help the UFC continue delivering the highest caliber of fights.” Eric Foss, Co-Founder of Affliction.
Earlier in the day Atencio blamed the timing of Barnett's failed sample to the California State Athletic Commission for hurting the promotion's chances of finding a worthy late replacement to fight the famed Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko in the headlining event.
“Finding an opponent for the number one ranked MMA heavy weight champion in such a short period of time was a huge endeavor and I’m thrilled at the amount of fighters willing to take on this challenge. But in the end, we just didn’t have enough time to promote a new fight to our standards," Atencio said in a released statement.
The stacked card which was scheduled to feature such fighters as Vitor Belfort, Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Jorge Santiago, Gegard Mousasi, Paul Buentello and Jay Hieron, became in jeopardy late Tuesday night when results revealed Barnett tested positive for a banned substance in the first ever random drug test administered by the CSAC on June 25.
While Barnett, who lost the UFC heavyweight title after testing positive for anabolic agents back in 2002, was denied a license for next week's event scheduled to be aired air on pay-per-view and HDNet, the show was thought to still be viable with notable fighters like Belfort, Brett Rogers, Don Frye, Jeff Monson and "King" Mo Lawal.
A deal couldn't be struck and now Affliction has tapped out for good. Ticket holders for the canceled event can contact Ticketmaster or ticketmaster.com for a refund.
The acquisition appears to be a big boon for the UFC, on a day that already was chalk full of positive reports. Iole reports that UFC 100 set a record 1.5 million pay-per-views. Later tonight,White will be honored as ESPN 1100's Sportsman of the Year at a banquet in connection with the station's 24-hour radiothon to benefit The Caring Place.
Late Friday afternoon, White kept added more fuel to the action-filled MMA day with a post on Twitter that read "Welcome back Tito" — a possible indication that former UFC star Tito Ortiz could likely be back in the fold.
"Tito and I have been talking, and we've been trying to see if we can figure things out," White said in an ESPN 1100 radio interview. "It's a possibility."
The biggest question now (besides whether or not Emelianenko will join the UFC) is what will happen to the nearly 40 fighters who are contracted to Affliction.
While some could easily switch to the UFC, others may want to try and catch on at Strikeforce's Aug. 15 event in San Jose, and yet others could team up with Emelianenko's M1 Global (a partner with Affliction) venture into a major Stateside promotion on Aug. 28 in Los Angeles.
White remained tight-lipped on all accounts but said if Fedor joined his organization he would immediately be in the heavyweight mix.
"He'll fight for the title first," White said. "My job is to put on the best fights with the best fighters and give fight fans the fights they want to see."
White said the UFC will be holding a press conference next week to address a "laundry list" of major announcements.
"We're working on some big things," White said. "It's going to be a lot of crazy things.