It's times like these that you can't help but wonder if upstart MMA organization Affliction is truly cursed.
All it took was one pre-fight, pre-licensing positive drug test from heavyweight challenger
Even if this wasn't the second positive test in Barnett's career, and even if the California State Athletic Commission didn't have one of the most famously disjointed appeals systems, the damage to Affliction's immediate future is now irreparable. Regardless of who gets tapped to replace Barnett against the world's best heavyweight,
The leading candidate to replace Barnett at Affliction "Trilogy" is
Affliction's vice president
The big obstacle is that not only are the few suitable replacements for Barnett already under contract to the UFC, which would rather give Affliction money than one of its heavyweights, but also that Atencio & Co. have essentially built their promotion around an escalating series of Fedor-themed main events. The Russian juggernaut has headlined both of Affliction's previous cards, beating
But now that meeting is canceled, and Affliction is stuck. This is what happens to the best-laid plans in MMA, and this is the weakness inherent in being an upstart MMA organization.
Had this situation happened to the UFC,
While Affliction's roster has great name recognition among hardcore fans, it is far too shallow for the tricky maneuvering of last-minute replacements. It can throw Belfort in over his head, or perhaps even get an actual heavyweight, like
If he charges across the ring on Aug. 1 and knocks out his opponent, whomever that may be, with a single right hand in the opening seconds, it still won't be enough. If he does it blind-folded and drunk while singing the Russian national anthem in perfect pitch, then maybe fans will be impressed. Maybe.
But when it's all over, Affliction will have suffered greatly for the sins of Barnett. It'll also have learned the same lesson other struggling MMA promotions learned the hard way: A business can't be built around one man. There are too many things that can, and eventually will, go wrong.
Affliction may be realizing that now. But it's probably too late.