Affliction scraps big card, makes deal with UFC

Hours after scraping its biggest card Friday, Affliction announced it will end its promotional business and enter into a sponsorship agreement with the UFC.

“We are excited about the return of Affliction to the UFC and look forward to seeing our fighters once again walk into the Octagon wearing the Affliction brands,” UFC president Dana White said in a statement. “Affliction is an innovator of mixing fashion with this sport and we are looking forward to working together to promote the sport.”

This seemingly opens the door for a future bout between perhaps the UFC’s biggest star, its heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar, and Fedor Emelianenko, who’s considered the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world.

It was revealed earlier this week that Josh Barnett, the opponent for WAMMA heavyweight champion Emelianenko in the Aug. 1 Affliction main event, failed a drug test.

The California State Athletic Commission denied Barnett a license to fight after he tested positive for an anabolic steroid.

Affliction was scrambling to salvage its card in Anaheim, Calif. Many pundits said was vital to the future of the company as a promoter of MMA cards. Their sentiments were proven to be true.

Locating a worthy foe for Emelianenko (30-1) was too difficult.

“Finding an opponent for the No. 1-ranked MMA heavyweight champion in such a short period of time was a huge endeavor, and I’m thrilled at the amount of fighters willing to take on this challenge,” Affliction vice president Tom Atencio said in a statement earlier Friday. “But in the end, we just didn’t have enough time to promote a new fight to our standards.”

The company now says it looks forward to its new relationship with the UFC.

“Our brand is synonymous with the ‘Live Fast’ approach to life and UFC is the perfect venue for us to market our brand,” Eric Foss, co-Founder of Affliction, said in a statement. “We have come to an agreement with the UFC which we feel will be the best for the sport and will help the UFC continue delivering the highest caliber of fights.”

Atencio had said he was in negotiations with three fighters to replace Barnett. They were likely former WWE star Bobby Lashley, Strikeforce’s Brett Rogers and former UFC light heavyweight champ Vitor Belfort.

The commission said Barnett’s sample was sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency test facility at UCLA on June 25. The commission released the findings on Wednesday.

Barnett (24-5) also failed a post-fight drug test in 2002, after he defeated Randy Couture to win the UFC heavyweight title.

The former wrestler spent some time fighting in Japan, where he beat Emelianenko’s brother Aleksander during the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix, before returning to the United States.

He fought in the inaugural Affliction show last July, knocking out Pedro Rizzo in the second round to avenge his first career loss. In January, Barnett stopped Gilbert Yvel in the third round of the second Affliction show before 13,228 fans at the Honda Center.

Other fights that were scheduled for “Affliction: Trilogy” included Renato Sobral against Gegard Mousasi, Vitor Belfort against Jorge Santiago and Yvel against Paul Buentello.

The Associated Press and Inside Fights contributed to this report.