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NEW YORK -- Up front sat Oscar De La Hoya, Tito Ortiz, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Vadim Finkelstein and Fedor Emelianenko, all of them, to varying degrees, collaborating with Affliction to make a run in the UFC-dominated world of MMA.
"A little competition really doesn't hurt," De La Hoya said at the Tuesday afternoon news conference, which promoted Affliction's "Day of Reckoning" event which is headlined by Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski.
De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions announced a partnership with Affliction in September, but the strength of the relationship has been questioned. While Emelianenko and Arlovski meet Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., Golden Boy will also be promoting a boxing bout between Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley about 30 miles away at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Margarito and Mosley will fight on HBO, while Arlovski-Fedor will cost $44.95 on pay-per-view. Affliction and Golden Boy have essentially shrugged off the competition, which could affect pay-per-view buys and ticket sales, but De La Hoya's presence at Trump Tower on Tuesday at least suggested a stronger show of solidarity moving forward.
The Golden Boy called MMA's progress "incredible" and said he expected his company's success in boxing to follow in MMA through working with Affliction and Trump.
Of course, insiders have speculated whether Affliction will survive the year. Affliction vice president Tom Atencio seems to think so; he said he plans to promote four events a year with Golden Boy, while Finkelstein's M-1 Global will promote 10 events, making 14 MMA shows total among the partners.
"The UFC, up until now, has been the only game in town. I hope to change that," said Atencio, who also addressed the UFC's business practices, including counterprogramming. "They're going to do what they have to do to make sure that they're the only game in town. With the organization that we have and the partners we have, I just don't see that happening."
Ortiz, who will commentate "Day of Reckoning" and said he looked forward to "possibly" fighting for Affliction, didn't hesitate to take a crack at UFC president Dana White for criticizing Emelianenko.
"Words from [White's] mouth really don't mean much," Ortiz said. "Fedor's record speaks for itself."
The top-ranked Russian heavyweight grinned when he took his turn to speak. He didn't seem bothered by White or by Freddie Roach, the renowned boxing trainer who has helped prepare Arlovski and who has also criticized Emelianenko's footwork and boxing technique.
"I never claimed that I had the best boxing technique in the world," Emelianenko said through an interpreter. "I never actually made any generalizations about what type of boxer I am. [Roach] has trained a lot of great fighters and maybe he's right, but we'll see what happens in the ring. We'll see what Andrei has to offer. We'll see what I have to offer him."
Asked what he would have to offer UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar should they ever fight, Emelianenko again grinned before taking his time to formulate a response.
"Let's just say everybody has a chance," he said. "He's a strong fighter, and if we were ever to meet in the ring, we would see what would happen."
We won't see that anytime soon, but Fedor could have a challenge on his hands Saturday against Arlovski. He wasn't marked up the way some fighters are days before a bout, no visible bruises or black eyes, but he made it clear that he has taken Arlovski seriously.
In fact, when explaining his loss in the World Sambo Championships in November, Fedor acknowledged that he wasn't as ready as he should have been.
For Arlovski, though, he has been "fully motivated."Joe Hall covers MMA for Sherdog.com.