This Saturday night in Biloxi, Mississippi, the most unlikely of combatants will step into a cage and test his heart, mind, and skill in an MMA contest. At Ultimate Chaos, something very rare will happen.
The vice president of Affliction, Tom Atencio, is stepping up to the plate to engage another man in hand-to-hand combat. It is quite admirable to see this man throw himself in the mix and tackle the sport he is promoting head on.
Atencio will square off with Randy Hedderick. Randy is new to the sport, but this matchup has made him instantly recognizable. It's not every day you get a chance to fight the owner of one of the hottest brands in the sport.
Tom is no stranger to the fight game. He carries an MMA record of 1-0. Still, the question burns—why now? What is there to gain?
The answer is probably deeper and more personal than any "logical" answer most can theorize about.
He holds the strings for Affliction Entertainment, and the merchandising side of Affliction does very well. This man is not in need of any recognition as a fighter. He is very successful. He is not broke. He has earned the respect of many fans already.
At the end of the day, none of that really matters. He wants to fight, and test himself.
One has to admit, for a man in his position it is quite commendable to break down the barriers and level with the very product he markets, the fight game.
It takes a special kind of person to be able to leave behind all the perks and accolades that Atencio carries and enter a cage where there is nothing to gain but pain and aggression.
The funny thing about entering that cage, though, is that along with the aforementioned aspects, a man can exit the same cage with pride and honor. Those are emotions that can't be bought or sold; they must be earned.
The bottom line is this is a move that sets Atencio apart as a representative of this sport.
Not only were this man and his associates able to create an empire around the Affliction brand, he has also secured a strong position as a healthy viable alternative to the UFC. Actually fighting, though, takes his legacy to a new level.
All that being said, he is still just a man. He still breathes, eats, and sleeps like all of us. He obviously enjoys a challenge and even goes outside of the perceived boundaries to gain said challenge.
So many people are scared to death of a fight. Most would not have the first clue how to behave if in a fight. To further that, even those who may be "fight material" only do so out of necessity or absolute dedication to proving their talents.
This guy just wants to fight and see what happens. It really is impressive and speaks volumes as to his character. In a game that has shown a deep divide at times between fighters and promoters, this promoter is becoming a fighter.
He is looking at this sport from the inside, not just the top of the mountain. What he will bring away from this fight may make him a better promoter in the end.
It will allow for him to really relate to his product—the fighters themselves. That is something this sport dearly needs, because in the end the fighters are the lifeblood of MMA. No man or organization is bigger than that fact. Sadly, not all agree.
He will further his knowledge of what it is like to be on both sides of the equation. One has to imagine it will strengthen what is already an obviously charismatic man in his quest to bring his flavor to the sport.
Good luck to you, Tom; your efforts in this sport are a breath of fresh air. This is a curveball many fans did not see coming, but it tells us a lot about you.
Hopefully you find what you're looking for in that cage. We look forward to your success on Saturday night and in the future with Affliction.