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Affliction's Tom Atencio on Fedor, Dana White, Tito Ortiz and More

MMA fans are eagerly awaiting Fedor Emelianenko's next fight, but will that fight be against Josh Barnett at Affliction's third show? For that matter, will Affliction even have a third show?

In an interview with Affliction Vice President Tom Atencio, I asked him about the promotion's future, what's next for Fedor, whether he'll sign Tito Ortiz and what he thinks of Dana White saying, "I hope they put on another show because I want them to lose more money." The interview is below.

Michael David Smith: Will there be a third Affliction show?
Tom Atencio: I'm working on it right now. I just don't have dates. I've always said I take it one fight at a time, and that's how I've done it. I just don't have dates. I'm trying to work on everything and make sure everyone's on board.

So there's a chance you won't have a third show?
No, I'm just trying to figure out what we're doing, that's all. I'm kind of between a rock and a hard place. The fans and the media treat me like I'm on my 10th show. I'm on my third show, and I'm just trying to make sure I don't make the same mistakes that I made in the other events. If there's things I've made mistakes on I try to fix them. I'm trying to be methodical about everything. I'm just trying to make sure that whatever we do, we're doing it right. And then on the other hand, sponsors and everybody else are treating it like it is my second show and trying to make me prove myself, and that's what I'm doing. So I'm kind of between a rock and a hard place. It's only my third show. It's not like I've done this before. It's not like we come from another organization of smaller fights. This is right out of the gate, we showed up, we did a huge show, we did a second huge show, now I'm just trying to figure out how we do our third show.

What have you learned from the first two?
A lot. The production, making sure everybody's there on time, making sure everyone flies in on time. There's just a lot of stuff that -- not that I didn't know, it's just that there was definitely a learning curve. Not to mention fighters' purses. Pay-per-view. Not that I didn't think about it, it's just very involved.

You mentioned fighters' purses. You guys had a total disclosed payroll of a little more than $3.3 million for Day of Reckoning. UFC had a total disclosed payroll of a little less than $1.1 million for UFC 94. Can you keep up if you're spending three times as much money as they are and not getting close to what they're getting in pay-per-view buys?
I think these are the things that I need to change up and these are the things that I'm trying to remedy. It's completely different, but they've also been in the industry for what, 13, 15 years? I didn't come out to compete with the UFC, but a lot of people have put me in that position. I'm doing what I can because I love this industry.

Don't you think the UFC will always view you as a competitor, even if you didn't come out to compete with them?
I think you'd have to ask Dana White. He's the big dog, and if that's the way they view it, they have every right. I've always had a lot of respect for Dana White and (UFC co-owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta).

I talked to Dana White a few weeks ago. Let me read you something he told me: "I would be f--ing shocked if Affliction put on another show. They got murdered. I dislike these guys so much that I hope they put on another show because I want them to lose more money. But I don't see it happening." What do you think when you hear something like that?
I read that, and he's said that from the beginning. He also said we wouldn't be here in 2009. I can't change his point of view and frankly, I don't blame the guy. He's the big dog, and it's good for him if companies go under.

There have been rumors that Fedor Emelianenko might talk with the UFC this summer. Do you think there's any truth to those rumors?
It's never been a secret that Fedor and his camp have spoken with the UFC. They just haven't come to an agreement. Part of that is because they're our partners and the UFC would have to do a co-promotion with us, and I don't think they'll ever do a co-promotion with M-1 Global, who is Fedor's camp. In this industry there are rumors about everything.

I think Dana has said the people around Fedor are "crazy Russians." How have you found the people around Fedor to work with?
He has said that before. I have a great relationship with them. Whatever he says, I haven't seen it personally. They're great partners and hopefully we'll keep moving forward.

Do you think Fedor will fight in Japan this year?
His contract is open. He is able to fight in Japan if he wants to.

And you think it's possible his next fight could be in Japan?
It's quite possible, but I know for a fact they'll talk to me first, and we haven't had any discussions about it. If that's the case I'll definitely know.

There's a picture I've seen of you playfully putting Dana in a rear-naked choke. Were the two of you once friends?
Oh, we still are. I talk to Dana and I have no problems with Dana. I know even in interviews he has spoken about me and said he doesn't have a problem with me. He has a problem with my partners and some of the other guys involved here. I've always had a lot of respect for him and the Fertittas We were actually out one night at Tryst, I was at one table and he was at another table. I bought him a drink, he came over, we had a couple drinks together, and that's what it was. But of course, people are going to blow that out of proportion and say whatever they want to.

I've always had a lot of respect for him, and for me not to would be arrogant, stupid and ridiculous. The bottom line is, he built this industry, him and the Fertittas. For me to come in and act like I know everything, and disrespect him, it would be stupid. It would be ridiculous. They are the Q-Tip of this industry. He gave me the opportunity to do what I'm doing. I'm not that guy.

What do you think of Strikeforce acquiring most of the EliteXC fighters?
I think it's great. Scott Coker is a great guy. He's a great businessman. It's good for the industry. I like Scott a lot and I hope nothing but success for him.

What role did Showtime play in your last show, and will you have any type of relationship with them going forward?
Basically, Golden Boy has a relationship with Showtime, and through their relationship, Showtime handled the pay-per-view side of it. That was pretty much it. We haven't really sat down and talked about the future.

Tito Ortiz was doing the commentary on the last show. In the next show will he be in the ring?
He's still with the UFC. He's got a contract with them, so I haven't talked to him about fighting. If we can get him to fight after he's through with his contract, then yeah, great. He's coming off back surgery, I think he'll be 100 percent in July, and yeah, I would love to see Tito fight for us. That's completely up to him and up to whatever negotiations we have. I have no clue, to be honest with you.

I understand you just signed Din Thomas?
I believe so. I've been working on it. I don't know if he's signed the final paperwork, but we have definitely been working on Din. I think he's a great fighter.

It's a little weird to me that you're signing fighters when you're not ready to say you're going to have a third show.
It's not that I'm not ready, it's just that we don't have dates. We're moving ahead. It's just a matter of finalizing the dates. I've learned a lot in this industry, and one thing is not talking before I have contracts finalized. The fight in Las Vegas, we had the date and the venue but nothing was finalized, and toward the end we decided it wasn't a good choice. To me, I just want to make sure we're done before we start giving anybody information.

I haven't heard you say, explicitly, "Yes, we're definitely doing a third show."
I don't think it's a matter of that, I think it's just, like I said, I'm just trying to take it one fight at a time. ... You want me to give you a definite answer, and the definite answer I can give you right now is I do not have dates or a venue as of today.

Will you guys promote any women's fights?
Quite honestly, I don't see it happening. I think, really, the only fight that would make sense right now is Cris Cyborg and Gina Carano. Aside from that, there are some great female fighters, I have a lot of respect for them, but I just don't see a big draw right now, other than that fight. I think that's the one big fight, and then the question is, Where do you go from there?

What is your relationship with Golden Boy? Are you still working with them?
Yes, we're still working with them and it's a great relationship. We've only had one fight with them, so we're just trying to move forward and see where everything goes.

What do you think of hybrid boxing/MMA cards?
I think it could work. I'm not really sure. You always get flack for anything you do, and I think that was one thing that the boxers didn't want and the MMA fighters didn't want. The biggest problem you're going to have with boxing is it can go 12 rounds, and MMA fans who are used to three or five rounds don't want to see that. I'm a big fan and I would love to see the crossover, but will it happen? I don't know.

The numbers I've heard put the Day of Reckoning pay-per-view buys around 100,000. Is that accurate?
I can honestly tell you we did 50 percent better than the first event. So we did increase. As far as numbers, I'm not going to go into numbers.

To what extent does Affliction view promoting MMA as a way to advertise its clothing line, and to what extent does Affliction view promoting MMA as a profitable enterprise in and of itself?
It's definitely increased our sales and our business as a whole. ... MMA has definitely helped us.

Will Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski be back in the Affliction ring?
Yeah, that's absolutely my plan. But this is only my third show. For me to bring back Tim Sylvia in our second show, Ben Rothwell in our second show, Mike Whitehead in our second show, any of the guys who lost, why would I do that? Why would anybody come to the second show if it's all the same fighters in the first show? People are acting like this is my 10th, 12th show. I'm only going on my third show.

You sound like you're a little frustrated with criticism Affliction has gotten.
No, not at all. I went into this knowing that no matter what you do, you're going to be criticized. I'm very passionate about this industry. ... I just want people to hear it directly from me. It's kind of the rumors that get to me, more than the criticism. The criticism is what it is.

So what's the message you want fans to hear directly from you?
First and foremost, that I'm a fan. I love this industry 100 percent. This is a dream come true for me. I couldn't be happier, because of what MMA has done for me and also the clothing industry. I hope I can continue to support this and I hope that the brand continues to be involved in this industry. I'm not saying that we're pulling out, I just don't want to get ahead of myself. I love this sport and want people to know that I'm a fan just like they are.

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