MMA fight promoters going head-to-head with fight cards - USATODAY.com
Some of the world's best mixed martial artists will be in action this weekend. A couple of belts are on the line, but the stakes are bigger on the business end.
Affliction, the clothing company that segued from outfitting fighters to promoting them, puts on its second fight card Saturday (pay-per-view, 9 p.m. ET). Again, the card has elite heavyweights headlined by consensus No. 1-ranked fighter Fedor Emelianenko.
EMELIANENKO: Familiar road
'RECKONING': Top-heavy card
And again Zuffa, parent company of UFC and WEC, is flexing its muscles with a busy stretch of fights and broadcasts. UFC had a pay-per-view card last week and has a show, UFC Primetime, on Spike's weeknight lineup to promote the Jan. 31 matchup of Georges St. Pierre and BJ Penn.
The company has no live fights Saturday, but Spike will have the network premiere of UFC 91, the Nov. 15 card headlined by the heavyweight title bout between Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar, running opposite Affliction's pay-per-view window.
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Then Sunday, WEC has a live card on Versus (9:30 p.m. ET) featuring a lightweight title fight between Jamie Varner and unbeaten Donald Cerrone plus a rematch between marquee fighter Urijah Faber and MMA pioneer Jens Pulver.
Affliction has lined up support from Donald Trump and Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya's promotion company. Yet Golden Boy has a boxing card featuring Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito on Saturday at Los Angeles' Staples Center, down the road from the Affliction fights at Anaheim's Honda Center.
UFC President Dana White sees vultures circling Affliction's MMA efforts.
"This show will be the end of it," White says. "If not, these guys are willing to lose a lot more money than I ever realized."
Affliction VP Tom Atencio is reluctant to trade barbs with White, but he insists ticket sales look good for his card and his clothing company is on solid ground despite global economic woes.
Atencio also has a powerful collection of heavyweight fighters. Andrei Arlovski, Emelianenko's opponent, is a one-time UFC champion, as is Josh Barnett, who fights Gilbert Yvel in the co-main event.
Well-traveled fighters Vitor Belfort and Matt Lindland face off in a middleweight bout, and light heavyweight veteran Renato "Babalu" Sobral meets recent UFC castoff Thierry Sokoudjou. The undercard has a main event of its own in light heavyweights Vladimir Matyushenko and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (HDNet, 7 p.m. ET).
The heavyweights, though, are the star attraction.
Atencio hesitates to talk about long-range plans but says the Emelianenko-Arlovski winner will face the Barnett-Yvel winner.
In WEC, the UFC sibling that focuses on lighter weights, Faber and Pulver meet for the second time in seven months. Faber won the first bout but lost his 13-match winning streak and featherweight belt to Mike Brown in November when he left himself open on a risky spinning move.
Faber likes being known as an unpredictable fighter but is determined to start a new winning streak.
"It's known that I take risks, and I'm inventive," Faber says. "But it's also appealing that I win."