HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Report From the NYC Affliction Banned MMA Press Conference and an Interview with Josh Barnett by Ian Friedman

by Ian Friedman

Today, I had the extreme pleasure of being able to cover the Affliction Banned Press Conference that was held at the Trump Tower in Manhattan at 57th and 5 Avenue in Lower Manhattan. I also got the chance to talk with former UFC Heavyweight Champ former Pride, NJPW, and current Pancrase, World Victory Road, and IGF fighter Josh Barnett.

I arrived shortly before the press conference was about to start at the Trump Towers so I had a chance to get a free Affliction t-shirts, which was also given out to fans who were attending the press conference as it was open to the public. I have to say Affliction made a smart decision in giving out free shirts, as regardless of ones opinion on the brand, it is well known and highly regarded and a way to draw people to an event. Trump Tower was also an excellent location choice with its exquisite interiors which helped give the proceedings in New York a very refined and regal look. The interior and exterior was adorned with many posters inside and outside the building including a massive 3-5 floor banner setup behind the conference table. After collecting my t-shirt, I signed in at the press desk collecting my packet and badge id. I then took the escalator down to the first floor where the press conference was being held. Members of the public who were there were able to view the proceedings from the railings of the floor above.

The Press Conference itself including short speeches from all of the participants except for Ben Rothwell’s since he is still listed as fighting TBA and was joked about by Rothwell and some of the other fighters. Not much of substance was really discussed that has not been reported in the past, but I did have a chance to discuss HD coverage with Afflictions media people and they stated that since they will be with InDemand and Dish Network among others, that as long as you have an HD capable cable box your provider will have Banned available to purchase and view in HD. Banned will also be available in Russia and Japan to view which is quite amazing when you think this is the companies first event.

Affliction and their production team did a great job promoting the event even getting Donald Trump who was in attendance to give a small speech putting over Affliction.

After the Press Conference formally ended, the fighters themselves did interviews with members of the press. Because of time constraints I only had a chance to talk with Josh Barnett. I did accidentally nail Matt Lindland with my bookbag. Matt pointed out this out, too which I immediately apologized, and Matt responded with a hearty laugh and an “its ok”.

I figured since fight discussion would be what everyone else was going to be talking about with Josh, I would talk about some of the less beaten areas involving the Japanese fight scene and anime. We began talking about one of Josh’s favorite (along with mine too) anime Fist of the North Star. Josh himself told me that he had not had a chance yet to view some of the newer Gaiden’s yet, but that he really wants to as he is such a massive fan of the series. He has had heard very positive feedback on it from one of the fighters he works with. He also did not pick up the Japanese box sets that recently came out and retailed for over 100,000 yen, because he still relies on English subs. It may be a surprise too some, but Josh is not fully fluent in Japanese even though many think he is. He rates his skills as being able to pick it up and engage around conversational level Japanese, but that it comes and goes, and definitely would not describe himself as fluent by any means. He also was gracious enough to sign a box set of Fist of the North Star that I had and will now a fixture in the office. The music rights to use Fist of the North Star’s first theme, “Ai wo Torimodose!!” for Josh’s entrance have not yet been secured, but Josh is still not sure if he is going to use it or not as entrance music, pointing out Japan and America as different markets and if American fans would responds.

We discussed Josh’s plans for fighting in Japan, he stated that he had no plans for fighting in DREAM because of carry-over issues from PRIDE. He did wish the people fighting in the organization the best, but he did not plan on being involved with the organization in any capacity, so it will look like Josh will be with World Victory Road for the near future in terms of national MMA in Japan. Josh stated that he would love to keep fighting in Pancrase and defending his Open Weight King of Pancrase title, but that Pancrase is having trouble finding challengers that want to compete at Open Weight. He stated that Pancrase is trying and that the door is always open.

In terms of the Inoki Genome Federation, Josh is going to be back there in June and August and stated that “he wasn’t leaving until he had a belt”! I also asked him why does Inoki not just start an MMA group and why have the IGF. Josh felt it is because for Inoki he feels that wrestling and the skill involved is not fake (which is a view Josh holds) and that Inoki wants pro-wrestlers who can compete as if they were MMA fighters in a legit sense. I mentioned that this also seemed to be the goal with Inoki Bom-Ay-Ye and for example, the Yuji Nagata-Cro-Cop match. Josh agreed, but pointed out at the time that no one had truly known how powerful Cro-Cop was and it was not an even match up. IGF seems to have as a goal the evolution in the ideas of the Bom-Ay-Ye and having truly well rounded fighters in the legit and Puro sense.

I then thanked Josh for taking the time for the interview and snapped a quick photo and departed. One thing that was interesting to me was how I was similar in height to Fedor and at the other end of the stick how gigantic Tim Sylvia is, but as both men know and our readers do, size while important isn’t the end all. National Coverage in the forum of ESPN, NBC, and other major groups along with MMA press were present, including a great deal of Russian and European media.

I left shortly afterward, but not before seeing the huge throngs of fans waiting in line to get the signatures from the fighters. Affliction put on a great presentation for both the media and the fans today and I just cannot wait to see their first fight card July 19th.


No comments: