Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Two months out and Affliction's debut MMA event is already off to a strong start. According to a report in USA Today, the July 19th Fedor Emelianenko/Tim Sylvia-headlined event at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California has seen strong pre-show concession sales, with fans purchasing over $200,000 worth of hot dogs, $225,000 worth of beer, $75,000 worth of cotton candy and $25,000 worth of nachos from the venue in anticipation. By comparison, UFC 83 in Montreal - which sold out not long after tickets became available and ended up setting a North American attendance record of over 21,000 spectators - saw huge pre-show concession sales, with fans purchasing over $150,000 in hotdogs, $200,000 in soft pretzels and $75,000 in ice cream Drumsticks prior to the April event. If this trend continues, Affliction's future certainly looks bright.
It seemed brilliant at the time. When inaugural lightweight champ Jens Pulver departed due to a contract dispute in 2002, the UFC was left with no clear heir to the 155-pound throne. So why not have jiu-jitsu master Matt Serra, Shooto champ Caol Uno, fighting phenom BJ Penn and well-rounded warrior Din Thomas battle it out? On paper, the four-man tournament stretching over two East Coast shows should've made for one heck of a compelling storyline - both for the weight class and the inevitable champ. Unfortunately, reality made for something much less interesting. At UFC 39, Penn won an uninspiring decision over Serra while Uno barely squeaked past Thomas, and at UFC 41 Penn and Uno fought to a draw. Not quite the dramatic turn anyone had been hoping for. The UFC brass put the 155-pound belt on ice soon after, and it would remain there until Sean Sherk claimed it as his own in 2006 (when there were enough events annually to sustain the division). It seemed brilliant at the time, but the UFC's infamous 2002 lightweight tournament was a colossal failure.