Josh Gross
Friday May 9th, 2008

Making news this week with a switch of venue from Dallas to Anaheim, Calif., the Affliction-branded July 19 event appears to have a nearly complete lineup ready for approval by the California State Athletic Commission.

In addition to the previously announced heavyweight clash between Fedor Emelianenko and Tim Sylvia, Affliction vice president Tom Atencio told SI.com on Thursday that the pay-per-view portion would feature bouts between Pedro Rizzo and Josh Barnett; Renato "Babalu" Sobral and Mike Whitehead; and either Matt Lindland's against Fabio Negao, or Ben Rothwell's versus an undetermined opponent.(Rumors have Rothwell fighting former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, but Atencio, without giving names, said there were a couple options available.)

The evening's undercard, which Affliction said was being negotiated for broadcast on live TV, looks competitive, too. Savant Young, who moved down to 145 pounds, faces striker Mark Hominick; Ray Lamaza takes on Justin Levens; J.J. Ambrose fights undefeated Patrick Speight; and Brett Cooper is set to challenge veteran Mike Pyle.

However, the company's first effort, dubbed "Banned" after Zuffa, owner of the UFC and WEC, and ProElite (EliteXC) stopped fighters from wearing the clothes as a reaction to Affliction's plans as a promoter, is by no means secure in the eyes of the state athletic commission.

"Hopefully I can put everybody in the same room together really, really soon," said CSAC executive officer Armando Garcia. "I've been down this road before."

With Affliction wanting to attach itself to the license of Southern California club boxing and MMA promoter Roy Engelbrecht, Garcia said there are numerous steps to be taken before the company could officially announce a venue or begin ticket sales.

After a similar situation arose when Fight Entertainment Group held an event at the Los Angeles Coliseum last June, Garcia now requires a bond that covers twice the fighters' costs. Though Atencio denied rumors of a $6 million fight purse (he claims that Emelianenko's reported $1.5 million and Sylvia's $800,000 are inflated by public discussion), he said Affliction would have no issue covering the bond.

Aside from promoter/regulatory body issues, part of the licensing process requires that both Sylvia and Barnett, former UFC heavyweight champions who tested positive for steroids during their time at the top, provide urine samples under CSAC supervision.

Affliction, a 3-year-old clothing manufacturer that initially targeted the tattoo and music crowd, threw itself into MMA in 2006 and 2007, aligning with some of the biggest names in the sport in an effort to gain awareness amongst a new audience.

MMA has been "unbelievably important" to Affliction's growth, said Atencio. The company's role in the industry was clouded, though, when it brought together Randy Couture, who is in the midst of a legal battle over his contract with UFC, and Emelianenko, the sport's best heavyweight, who, at the end of 2007, refused to sign with the UFC. The two had fans buzzing with their pre-fight-like photo.

"I never had a problem with Affliction clothing until they took a picture of Couture and Fedor with no Affliction shirts on, but it looks like a fight poster," UFC President Dana White told The Canadian Press in April.

Atencio felt the dispute was related to the Couture-Zuffa squabble that played out in the press at the time. But depending on the July event's success, it could possibly bolster the perception that Affliction has moved into a competitor's stance against the UFC and other top promotions.

Going up against the only MMA promotion to have found success on pay-per-view, Affliction appears to be diving headfirst into a shallow pool, regardless of the money riding on the upcoming event.

-- Quinton Jackson's training camp for Forrest Griffin has moved into its second week. The Juanito Ibarra-led group will soon head to Big Bear, where it plans to stay for seven weeks before coming off the mountain. Jackson defends his UFC light heavyweight belt at the Mandalay Bay Events Center July 5 in Las Vegas.

-- Two days after enrolling in the South Korean military, Hong-Man Choi was discharged over concerns that a brain tumor was pressing against his optic nerve. The condition is nothing new for the 7-2, 350-pound Choi, who was removed from a bout against Brock Lesnar in California last June after questions arose following CSAC examinations. Known primarily as a kickboxer, Choi dabbled in MMA, most recently losing to Emelianenko by armbar on New Year's Eve.

-- MFC will be featured for a second time on Friday from Edmonton, Alberta, on HDNet. Welterweight Ryan Ford returns from his controversial victory over Pete Spratt to fight C.J. Fernandes. Also, American heavyweight Eric Pele, who trains out of the Xtreme Couture camp in Las Vegas, meets Chase Gormley. The broadcast begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on HDNet.

-- Depending on the location of your living room, and the insanity of your devotion to MMA, it will be a late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Starting at 3 a.m. ET, a live five-hour broadcast from Tokyo will bring the third installment of Dream to HDNet. A heavy emphasis on the second round of the Japanese organization's lightweight tournament defines the card. Also fighting: Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Nick Diaz. A replay will air Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.

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