Affliction: Playing The Trump Card, Or Drawing Dead?


I still think that to placate Donald Trump’s ego, Affliction MMA will eventually change the name of its promotion to “Trump Affliction,” which may actually be what the current state of affairs really is.

Why is Donald Trump now involved in mixed martial arts? Some people have implied that he’s just there to get laid, but if they were basing that on past history of his involvement in the boxing world, I’m here to tell you that rumors of his alleged involvement with Mike Tyson’s ex-wife, Robin Givens, never had any real foundation in fact.

It could be as simple as the idea that MMA seems to be the sport of the moment. And so, Trump will be on the scene – at least for a moment.

Remember, however, that this entrepreneur has bigger things on his plate. To his credit, he has said as much throughout. Here, from an interview with Sherdog,

“It’s financial, but it’s not a very big deal for me. When you build a billion-dollar building like I’m doing in Dubai and lots of other places, that’s a much bigger financial commitment.”

Logic will dictate that sooner or later, he will bring the shows to one of his casinos. That, to me, would buttress the argument that he intends to get heavily involved, although at that point if they don’t get creative in promoting it he may find it to be something of a disappointment in terms of attractive any real players to the Taj Mahal, for example.

Trump told Sherdog, “It’s really something that I’m doing because I enjoy doing it. If we make money, that’s great. I think we will. I think it will be successful. What I do is usually successful.”

Affliction has a nice concept, good fighters, and a good show coming up. But they have to make sure they are not swallowed by ego. Trump’s name does sell, but one must not lose sight of the fact that even with “big names” involved in a project, the chances of success dim when that key player has one foot in and the other foot out of it. And there have been cases where the more extensively he got involved, the worse it became for those associated with him.

In September of 1983, Trump, who was virtually unknown outside the real estate world at the time, bought the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League and began to compete with the NFL for high-priced talent, including Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker and Doug Flutie. In doing so, he helped drive up the pay scale in the budding league, which has started out life in nice shape, with a national television contract for its spring-summer schedule.

Trump was taking an ego trip at light speed.

Charlie Steiner, who was a radio broadcaster for the Generals and later wound up an anchor at ESPN, recalls that Trump’s motivation was beyond, and often apart, from football.

“He bought the back page of the Daily News and the Post,” Steiner told ESPN.com’s Greg Garber. “Suddenly, he was a man about town. He was building the greatest football team in history. Pretty soon, he was making Page Six. It didn’t matter to him if the league made it or not, he had already succeeded.”

Trump’s showed his actual commitment tot he USFL in subtle ways. When Don Shula, two-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the Miami Dolphins, became available, Trump almost nailed down a deal for him. The deal-breaker was that Shula wanted a condominium in his new Trump Tower and Trump was not willing to give it up because it would infringe on his “real” business.

But the “other” business served his ego just fine, and that ego dictated that for him to reach his ultimate goal, which was to control a franchise in New York City, the league would have to move its games to the fall and compete head-to-head with the NFL. He led the charge on that, firmly convinced the USFL could win that battle, or at least he came off that way. Some of the smarter owners, like John Bassett of Tampa Bay, who got involved BECAUSE the league went in the spring, opposed him. But Trump was too good a salesman. Eventually he got the vast majority into his camp.

“He was the face of the USFL — for better or for worse,” said Steiner. “Like Bush with the Iraq thing, he was able to convince his ‘willing coalition.’ Actually, there are a lot of similarities there.”

The rest is history. Painful history. The USFL could have survived and grown as a league operating when the NFL was off, but instead announced it was going to compete directly with the older, more established league. They never played a game in the fall, however; rather, what followed was an antitrust suit against the NFL which was incredibly costly and which,even though it was successful, netted the USFL the sum total of $3 – the product of a $1 award, times three for triple damages. End of story. End of league.

Keeping all of this in mind, there are some people who probably don’t mind the “competition” from Trump one bit.

If you’re like Dana White, for example, and you are constantly thinking not just about branding but also something called “positioning,” you might wind up loving the end result, because in the event Affliction (oh, I’m sorry, Trump Affliction) does not become a full-fledged competitor to the UFC, and especially if it goes the way of where the IFL looks like it is headed, and where the USFL disappeared to in the past, he and Lorenzo Fertitta can “position” themselves and the organization as the ones who beat Donald Trump to a pulp on that big, vast gridiron that is the business world, which ought to make those guys from Forbes or Fortune or Inc. Magazine even more interested next time.

I ask you – how does this stuff fall into their laps?

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