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Exclusive Interview: Tom Atencio Talks About Fedor, The Future of Strikeforce and his own Future in MMA

Posted by Mark Figula on October 11, 2010 at 12:11 AM

By Mark Figula, The Mouth of MMA Senior Editor

When one speaks of fashion visionaries, names like Donatella Versace, Ralph Lauren, and Marc Jacobs come to mind. You know, some of those names that got dropped in every other episode of Sex in the City.  There's a whole new fashion look out there, though and it's caught on like wildfire.  Shirts, jackets, hats, and just about anything else covered in designs that look like body art, went from being a fringe fashion statement to being a full on fad.  The visionary behind that fad, is Affliction brand's CEO, Tom Atencio.

For most MMA fans, Tom became a known figure when his company launched it's own MMA promotion.  Affliction, featuring none other than Fedor Emelianenko, only got to put on a couple of cards, but the effect it had on the MMA landscape was not so fleeting.  Now reconciled with the UFC, Affliction brand wear can be seen at UFC events and the company is going stronger than ever.  Tom was nice enough to make time for The Mouth of MMA and answer a few of our questions:


Mark Figula for The Mouth of MMA: Most MMA fans know Affliction as an MMA related clothing brand, but your clothing line is so much more.  Was it always the plan to make a full line of apparel and accessories?


Tom Atencio:  It's actually a misconception that Affliction is (or started out as) strictly an MMA clothing line.  We've always been a lifestyle brand and actually got started in and around the music and tattoo industries.  It was because of my involvement in MMA that we started sponsoring fighters.  Although being in MMA helped the company tremendously, we were always in fashion-wear.  My partner always had visions of being a fashion brand.  We went form tee-shirts to denim, hoodies, and everything in between.  It's a full brand.


Mark:  Your company was the first to do the designs on your shirts that has that tattoo or body art feel to it, wasn't it?


Tom Atencio:  Yeah, we were the first ones to do that real polished tattoo style artwork on the tee-shirt as well as to have that large print that goes over the sleeves.  A lot of people followed suit and some people think other brands started that look, but we were at least the first ones to really make that popular.


Mark:  How does a fighter go about getting the attention of your company for sponsorship consideration?  Is it only available to guys on a national level or do you sponsor more local fighters too?


Tom Atencio:  We're always looking at new people.  We can't continue to stay with the same people all the time because, well obviously people are getting older.  My assistant goes to a lot of events to scout out talent.  We're always interested in new people.


Mark:  Is sponsorship only available to MMA fighters or is it grapplers too?


Tom Atencio:  As far as the fighters we actually sponsor, it's mostly MMA.  I don't really sponsor guys that are doing jiu jitsu solely.  We stick mostly with MMA guys and do boxers as well.


Mark:  You have a unique perspective that few can share, in that you have run your own MMA organization.  Having that first hand experience, what can you say is likely to become of other MMA organizations like Strikeforce.


Tom Atencio:  I think Strikeforce is proven.  Scott Coker [Strikeforce CEO] has been around for a long time and he actually makes money.  There are a lot of organizations that gave it a shot – like ourselves – and it just didn't work out.  I think Scott has it right.  He's stayed under the radar and doesn't pick fights.  He hasn't caused an hassles for himself, is the easiest way to put it.  I think it's good to have these other companies out there.


Mark Figula:  Can you comment on what it was like to work with Fedor and his people?  There's always so much speculation about if he'll go to the UFC.  Do you think there's any chance of that, knowing what you do about him?


Tom Atencio:  I've always liked Fedor and have a lot of respect for him.  Unfortunately, we don't work together anymore.  I think anyone that knows me, knows I don't speak bad about people.  For his sake, I would love to see him fight in the UFC.  Whether that could happen or not is a different story.


Mark: You are 2-0 in your own MMA career.  Do you plan to fight again or is it just something you wanted to dabble in?


Tom Atencio:  You know I did it for no one but myself.  It really depends on having time to train...  Having the six to eight or twelve weeks or whatever, but I'm only getting older.  It's just harder to get back in there again.


Mark: What are your goals for Affliction looking ahead to the next few years?


Tom Atencio:  Just to continue to evolve the brand and not get stale.  We can't just rely on what we have now.  We have to always get better and make product that people will want to wear.




Mark "The Ezequiel" Figula is the biggest wuss to ever enter a cage... the most spindly chickenass dude to ever tap out at NAGA... the boy who was told that the pen is mightier than the sword... and thus he writes. Check out his home page of scribblings at


Categories: Features, Interviews

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