The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Leave Tom Atencio Alone!!!!

So many issues here.

– He’s trying to “be methodical about everything” but admits he entered large-scale business on PPV with fighters signed for hundreds of thousands of dollars without any meaningful business plan (“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”).

– Complains about being judged as though he’s had experience on promoting before, fails to consider whether starting out smaller might have made sense.

– Complains of lack of experience, but does not appear to have learned thing one about the reasons for the death of IFL, Elite XC, etc. (among them, the need for good TV plus control of expenditures).

– Has begun blaming his customers (“The fans and the media treat me like I’m on my 10th show”) which is never ever a good sign, and probably indicates that he’s spending WAY too much time reading hardcores on the internet. Not that that’s a surprise.

– In response to the question “So what’s the message you want fans to hear directly from you?“, he answers “First and foremost, that I’m a fan”. Except that he’s now a promoter, at least in theory; but a promoter who thinks like a fan isn’t a promoter, he’s a money mark, and will soon be back on the sidelines from whence he came, standing next to the Bodog guy.

– “‘I’m not saying that we’re pulling out, I just don’t want to get ahead of myself.” What a great tag line for their next show, “Affliction: We’re Out of Money.”

– “I didn’t come out to compete with the UFC, but a lot of people have put me in that position.” Gee, perhaps allowing your major star to issue grandstand challenges to the UFC champions while competing in not just the same PPV industry, but the same MMA section of the PPV industry, may have given people this impression? Perhaps, say, having Randy Couture in the ring with Fedor to hype a fight between them while Randy was under UFC contract and in litigation with Zuffa  might have contributed to the perception of competition?

I’m going to blow a synapse if I go through too much more of this stuff. The worst part is, Atencio comes off as a fairly nice guy in interviews and I bought and enjoyed his first two shows and would happily buy the third if they do Fedor/Barnett on top; you almost have to feel sorry for the guy. But my god, the lack of understanding of the business here is amazing, and it’s the kind of thing that should be easily remedied: pick up the phone and call Richard Shaeffer at Golden Boy, your theoretical partners, or else pony up the $10 monthly for the Wrestling Observer and pay attention to Dave Meltzer. No matter how you define the market- PPV, combat sports promotions, specifically MMA, whatever- it’s no longer a business in its infancy. Enough people have tried enough things and lost enough money that we have a relatively clear set of strategies which will work and strategies which won’t, enough so that there’s every reason to believe that a non-UFC promoter who pays attention, like say the guys at Strikeforce, can make a very profitable go at this. Affliction hasn’t done everything wrong of course (they’ve done a good job promoting Fedor into being a low-level drawing card, and their shows themselves are fun), but beyond their small successes here and there they’ve been almost a textbook example of how not to run a fight promotion and this interview really illustrates why. Being a fan is a wonderful thing; but thinking like a fan when you’re a promoter is the kiss of death, because it leads to things like paying Matt Lindland hundreds of thousands of dollars per fight which you won’t make back, because you think he’s really good. Which he is; but he’s also absolutely no buys, which no TV-less startup can afford. Promoting is about understanding how to appeal to average and peripheral fans, not sharing the tastes of hardcores.

Obviously it’s never a good thing when a promotion goes out of business. Lots of people end up unemployed and fighter pay goes down with the reduced leverage for negotiation. But with Strikeforce expanding, I think there’s enough space here to say that sadness isn’t my first reaction to watching Affliction die. It’s a bit like that old-timey news footage of poorly designed flight machines, pre-Wright brothers: an ungainly contraption designed by amateurs and doomed from the start, falling apart in hilarious fashion without ever really getting off the ground. Tragicomedic. Hopefully the next generation of promoters learn from this.

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March 3, 2009 - Posted by | MMA | ,

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