During the conference call announcing Randy Couture's return to the UFC, Dana White did not bother staying on topic. On the day when the UFC booked possibly the biggest fight in its history, White could not resist lashing out at Affliction and predicting their financial demise. He is the best promoter in MMA and knows better than any one how to drive up interest in events. He is willing to play the bad guy, if it means more fans pay attention to the UFC.
The emergence of Affliction has re-energized the MMA fanbase. For the first time, fans saw what a MMA world looks like with more than one major promotion in the United States. The UFC had a rival and people loved it. It energized fans who hated the UFC and fans who loved it, as evidence by the tremendous ratings they received for their last second Fight Night event in July, which went head to head with Affliction "Banned". I do not think MMA enthusiasm was waning before Affliction came along, but it definitely gave every one a shot of adrenaline, including the UFC.
When the first Affliction event was announced, the UFC wasted little time responding. They quickly assembled a Fight Night broadcast featuring one of their top stars, Anderson Silva, going up in weight to face a Light Heavyweight. For most, the response was shocking and maybe even a little childish. For White, it made business sense. He saw how excited fans were by the emergence of Affliction and found a way to steal some of their momentum. White's plan worked, as the UFC's hastily put together event drew over 4 million viewers.
Affliction did not have a bad night, either. Their first event featured a blistering performance by Fedor Emelianenko, which ended with a WWE style encounter with Randy Couture in the center of the ring. The next day Affliction stole the headlines and made the UFC's excellent ratings an afterthought. Even Dana White eased up on his criticism and seemed slightly impressed. He knew what every one else did...Affliction won the first battle and there was no use trying to deny it.
The UFC realized they were in for a fight. In typical UFC fashion, they bided their time before sending a haymaker Affliction's way. Randy Couture's return to the UFC is a crushing blow to Affliction. Their momentum was built upon a possible match-up between Couture and Fedor Emelianenko. Even if they did not sign Couture, they needed him to remain in limbo with the UFC. It gave fans a reason to fantasize about an Affliction event some time in the future, featuring the two legendary fighters. The fantasy is over and Affliction needs to regroup.
Affliction's second event will take place next month. The Pay-Per-View features multiple good fights, but without the star power of Fedor, it is a tough sell. I do not think they can rely solely on the strength of the event to respond to the UFC. The interest is not there and some thing must be done to get fans excited. They need to step up and sign Tito Ortiz immediately. End the courtship and get it done. The UFC has them backing up heading into a Pay-Per-View they need to be a success. Sign Ortiz and announce his next fight at the Pay-Per-View and the excitement for Affliction returns. If the UFC was in their position, I know that's what they would do.