Affliction blinks after UFC books card

What at first looked to be a head-to-head pay-per-view confrontation between the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the first combined Affliction/Golden Boy presentation now appears to be off the books.

Zuffa LLC, the UFC's parent company, announced Wednesday that UFC 93 will take place Jan. 17 in Dublin, Ireland, at the O2 Arena. Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Mark Coleman is the double main event.

While not officially announced, Affliction and Golden Boy had booked the same date at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., and gotten approval by the California State Athletic Commission, for its inaugural combined boxing and MMA show.

"They are going to do what they are going to do," said Affliction promoter Tom Atencio. "It doesn't make sense to go head-to-head with them. People are going to be forced to make a choice. Either way, we both lose."

Atencio said details of the first joint show would probably be announced within a few weeks.

Franklin (26-3, 1 no contest) vs. Henderson (23-7) matches what most would feel are the second and third best middleweights in the UFC, behind champion Anderson Silva, who has beaten Franklin twice and Henderson once.

The bout will be fought at light heavyweight, a division Franklin moved up to at the request of UFC officials because UFC wasn't going to match him against Silva a third time after losing to him twice.

Henderson fought most of his career in the 205-pound weight class, including winning the PRIDE championship from Wanderlei Silva. He had fought his last two fights at 185 pounds, where he was also PRIDE champion when the company was closed down.

Rua vs. Coleman was originally penciled in for the Jan. 31 show in Las Vegas before the company added this show. Coleman (15-8), who turns 44 two months before the fight, defeated Rua (16-3) on February 26, 2006 in Saitama, Japan when Rua dislocated his elbow after being taken down 49 seconds into the fight.

A UFC Hall of Famer and one of its first heavyweight champions, Coleman has not fought in the company in 10 years. He was brought back for a match with Brock Lesnar scheduled for Aug. 9 in Minneapolis, but a knee injury suffered in training forced him to pull out.

Although there was talk in the last week that UFC 93 would air on Spike TV, it is now officially a pay-per-view broadcast, which will air both live at 3 p.m. Eastern and Noon Pacific, as well as a prime-time tape delay in the company's usual 10 p.m./7 p.m. time slot.

There would be nothing standing in the way of Affliction/Golden Boy moving its show. The Honda Center’s main client in January is the NHL's Anaheim Ducks, who have no Saturday night home dates in January or February. The only Friday they are running is Jan. 9.

Fedor Emelianenko, the consensus best heavyweight in the world, did an interview with Tokyo Sports last week, confirming that he would be fighting in Anaheim for Affliction. If Andrei Arlovski beats Roy Nelson in impressive fashion on Saturday's Elite XC show on CBS, he would become the most logical opponent.

Emelianenko vs. Arlovski, if everything goes right, has the potential to do 150,000 buys and that’s not considering whether a marquee boxing match is added. Even though the idea of boxing and MMA on the same bill may not work as far as satisfying both fan bases, pay-per-views for both sports are bought for main events. Boxing fans are used to buying for one match. MMA fans, while they have more interest in undercard matches, still really buy based on one or two matches.

If Affliction moves its date, it’s almost a sure thing that UFC would air a tape of an old UFC show head-to-head on Spike.

This announcement indicates Henderson won’t be coaching on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, as had been reported in the U.K., for the U.S. vs. U.K.-themed show that will be filming sometime soon. This show would probably take place either during the filming of the next season or right after. Even if it’s a few weeks after, they wouldn’t want the coaches fighting until after the season finishes playing.

Those close to Henderson say he heard all the stories, but had never been approached for the TUF coaching spot.

The coaching of the next season probably eliminates Michael Bisping from the Dublin show, even though he’d likely be the biggest draw. Bisping, after fighting next on 10/18, could be available on 1/17. If Bisping beats Chris Leben and is the U.K. coach for Ultimate Fighter, he wouldn’t be put on this show.

UFC president Dana White has said in the past he really doesn’t believe running a free special opposite an Affliction pay-per-view will hurt the buy rate, saying the hardcore fans who want to buy that show are going to buy the show. Atencio believed otherwise, thinking UFC running a live show on cable on July 19 against the company's debut cost them tens of thousands of buys.