Affliction: Live Fast, Die Young
“Affliction was and is a fashion brand first,” Affliction Vice President Tom Atencio said after announcing the cancellation of Affliction: Trilogy and the dissolution of the apparel company’s live entertainment division.
When Eric Foss, Todd Beard, and Clifton Chasen launched Affliction in 2005, its primary audience was hard rock fans. Affliction “wanted to fuse elements of an aggressive, fast paced lifestyle of consumers who love to ‘live fast, die young’ with the standards of the fashionistas,” said spokesperson Pamela Rogers.
Foss, who had a background in apparel design, Beard, who had retail and wholesale experience, and Chasen, who also worked in the apparel industry, wanted to fill a void, and the company’s product touched a nerve immediately. “We started attracting people like Korn, The Addicts, Ozzy Osburne and a bunch of rock musicians,” Atencio said. “Affliction was bursting into the music scene.” The brand reportedly earned more $1 million in sales in its first year.
Atencio, a sports photographer by trade, joined Affliction shortly after the company’s inception. Through Atencio, a one-time fighter and MMA aficionado, the brand began making inroads in the sport. “Tom and Affliction sponsored several UFC fighters like Randy Couture, Georges St-Pierre, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, and [Quinton] “Rampage” Jackson,” Rogers said. Fans, who spent upwards of $50 for high-end shirts featuring the names of their favorite fighters, making Affliction millions in sales and wedding the brand to MMA permanently.
In 2006, Affliction bought the rights to a tattoo and fine art inspired brand called Sinful in the hopes of attracting a female crowd. Pieces in this collection include v-cut t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, and in keeping with the company’s business model, Sinful sponsored female fighters, including “Baby Doll” Reid and Jessica Pene. The next year Affliction partnered with Randy Couture and then-wife Kim in 2007 to create an offshoot brand, Xtreme Couture.
By January of 2008 rumors were spreading that Affliction intended to launch its own fight promotion. That month UFC officials then banned its fighters from wearing Affliction clothing and disassociated itself from the brand.
“I was a little worried,” Atencio said. “But because we have a fast following, the negative perception didn’t hurt us the least bit. That’s why we started the promotion company.” Atencio headed up the effort and became an advocate for the sport as well as the spokesperson for the new promotion company, Affliction Entertainment.
Affliction: Banned took place on July 19, 2008 and featured Pride FC heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko’s destruction of former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. The disclosed payroll was astronomical by MMA standards, and by all accounts Affliction sustained heavy losses on the show.
The company’s second event, Affliction: Day of Reckoning was rescheduled after weeks of rumors regarding a possible cancellation. The second Affliction card took place on Jan. 24, 2009, and again featured Emelianenko against a former UFC champion. This time he knocked out Andrei Arlovski, and again, the payroll led many in MMA to question the promotion’s long-term feasibility.
Affliction: Trilogy was intended to show the public that Affliction was more than just the “t-shirt guys” as UFC president Dana White labeled them. “This is an important event with one of the biggest fight cards in history,” Atencio said in the weeks leading up to Aug. 1. But main event fighter Josh Barnett tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, sending Affliction Entertainment into a tailspin that resulted in the cancellation of the card and the dissolution of the division.
In a surprising turn events, White welcomed Affliction back to the Octagon almost immediately after the announcement. “Affliction is an innovator of mixing fashion with this sport and we are looking forward to working together to promote the sport,” White said in a press release.
“Our brand is synonymous with the ‘Live Fast’ approach to life and UFC is the perfect venue for us to market our brand,” Foss said in a press release.
The apparel company isn’t stopping to lick it’s wounds, instead focusing on expanding it’s clothing line with the introduction of Black Premium. According to designer Katie Tracy, Black Premium is a more sophisticated take on Affliction’s “live fast, die young” approach and will include denim, tees, silk tops and scarves, dresses, and other accessories.