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Failed steroid test scuttles Anaheim mixed martial arts show

Promoter says there wasn't enough time to find a new opponent for heavyweight champ Fedor Emelianenko on the Aug. 1 bill after challenger Josh Barnett tested positive.

July 25, 2009|Lance Pugmire

Affliction Entertainment on Friday canceled its Aug. 1 mixed martial arts card in Anaheim because it could not find a suitable replacement opponent to fight Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.

Three days after Affliction learned that Emelianenko's opponent, Josh Barnett, tested positive for steroids, company vice president Tom Atencio scrapped its plans for a third Fedor-led show at the Honda Center.

"Finding an opponent for the No. 1-ranked MMA heavyweight champion in such a short period of time was a huge endeavor . . . in the end, we just didn't have enough time to promote a new fight to our standards," Atencio said in a statement.

Ultimate Fighting Championship is the dominant mixed martial arts promoter and Friday afternoon a UFC spokesperson said that Seal Beach-based Affliction will stop being an MMA fight promoter and instead serve as an apparel sponsor for UFC. Affliction confirmed that deal in a Friday night news release.

UFC already has 275 fighters under contract, its own reality television series and impressive revenue from events such as this month's UFC 100 in Las Vegas, which generated a live gate of $5.1 million and more than 1 million pay-per-view buys. Another UFC competitor, Elite Xtreme Combat, folded last year.

Atencio previously said that Affliction was committed to three shows, and that he would reassess future MMA involvement after this "Trilogy" event on Aug. 1 -- the final bout of a three-fight deal with Emelianenko's Russian promotional company, M-1.

One of Barnett's possible replacements for the Aug. 1 fight was Brazilian veteran fighter Vitor Belfort, who is 8-6 in his last 14 fights and last fought at 185 pounds, but that would have been a challenge against the highly skilled, 230-pound Emelianenko.

Emelianenko, who is 30-1, hasn't lost since a cut led to a TKO defeat in 2000 and is widely considered the world's most talented MMA fighter. Emelianenko, 32, has beaten former UFC heavyweight champs Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski in Anaheim shows and twice won decisions over another ex-champ, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

Barnett won the UFC title in 2002 but was later stripped after testing positive for a banned substance.

Now, UFC is strongly positioned to add Emelianenko to its roster.

This month UFC President Dana White said he was confident he would strike a deal to get Emelianenko to fight his organization's heavyweight champion, Brock Lesnar. One sticking point has been Emelianenko's reluctance to commit to a six-fight UFC deal.

Fans who purchased tickets for the Affliction event can contact Ticketmaster for refunds, Affliction officials said.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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