FiveOuncesOfPain.com contacted M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelchtein earlier this week in attempt to get his response to comments made by UFC President Dana White during a Monday night interview with “The Carmichael Dave Show” on KHTK radio in Sacramento.
Finkelchtein granted FiveOuncesOfPain.com’s interview request on New Year’s Day and conducted nearly an hour long interview via phone from his home in St. Petersburg Russia.
During the extensive interview, Finkelchtein was asked detailed questions regarding M-1’s past negotiations with the UFC regarding WAMMA heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. In response, Finkelchtein provided detailed answers that were translated through M-1 Global U.S.-based executive Steve Bash.
Below is Part I of FiveOuncesOfPain.com’s conversation with Finkelchtein.
Sam Caplan: When was the first time the UFC and Fedor ever discussed the possibility of him fighting for the promotion?
Vadim Finkelchtein: The first time that we ever discussed Fedor with the UFC was in Japan, when the UFC bought out PRIDE.
Sam Caplan: Can you describe the frequency and volume of communications between M-1 Global and the UFC regarding Fedor since that time?
Vadim Finkelchtein: The first time we spoke in Japan we were talking about different things that we’ve been talking about since, because at first the UFC had promised that PRIDE would continue in Japan and that they would not only continue but expand all over the world. We were very interested in that because obviously Fedor was the champion and in reality what happened when they bought PRIDE was that they buried it and killed it. So since then, our discussions have been different.
Sam Caplan: When was the last time formal communications took place between the UFC and M-1 Global regarding Fedor?
Vadim Finkelchtein: The last official sitdown and official negotiation that we had was right before we formed M-1 Global in essentially the structure that exists today. At that point we were very interested in working with the UFC but the terms and restrictions that they had brought forth to Fedor, mainly, as well as us with M-1 Global were not acceptable. Things such as Fedor would not be allowed to participate in Sambo tournaments, which to him is a very important part of his life. It’s the national sport of Russia and a hobby for him. We felt that it was actually a minor detail in trying to get a deal done but the UFC was categorically opposed to really having Fedor do anything in his life unless the UFC was involved and unless he was doing it under the UFC banner.
Sam Caplan: Many things have been reported in the public as far as what M-1 has asked from the UFC. I wanted to see if I could run them by you and see what was fact and fiction? First, there was a report that in order for the UFC to sign Fedor, they would also have to agree to co-promote events in Russia with M-1?
Vadim Finkelchtein: No, that’s false. There were never any demands made that the UFC come to Russia and promote shows. The contract that the UFC offered was a very, very rigid contract. And it was rigid for Fedor. Fedor was simply not in agreement with having so many freedoms (restricted) at the level he’s at in the sport.
There were maybe ten things that simply he never imagined he would have to give up in his life and in his career to be a part of the UFC. And what happened in result, M-1 Global had been formed. M-1 had always existed (since 1997) but the “Global” version – the new company – was formed and essentially the same offers that were made to Fedor by the UFC – except for what Fedor did not want in that contract – were basically made to Fedor and Fedor signed the same contract without those rigid terms, with M-1 Global.
Sam Caplan: The restriction of competing in Combat Sambo tournaments has been identified, but could you speak to some of the other clauses in the UFC contract that Fedor felt were restrictive?
Vadim Finkelchtein: Honestly, it’s been awhile and the lawyers were handling the negotiations at the time. I don’t remember all of the restrictive terms that Fedor wasn’t agreeable with. I just recall that there were a lot of terms that he wasn’t used to. A lot of things just didn’t seem to make sense or didn’t seem to be very fair.
There were terms in there where certain payments and purse withholdings — basically terms that said he wouldn’t get paid if he did something wrong. And the list of things he could have done wrong was pretty large and it made him feel that there would have been a chance that he could have done his work and not been compensated for it.
There were terms in there about the UFC’s power to change opponents at any minute without Fedor’s permission where if he was fighting one opponent for a fight and then last minute they would switch another opponent. There were things in (the contract) that would have put all of the control in the UFC’s hands.
The negotiations didn’t go very far and the reason why was because the UFC had an attorney that is different from the one that they have today. The attorney at that time, all we did essentially was send them notice that we were not happy with certain terms and that we wanted to discuss them. But the response we got from the UFC attorneys was “This is the contract, you either sign it or see you later. There is no other conversation.”
That’s really where the negotiations ended because at that point we felt that he’s the number one fighter in the world, at the very least you could hear him out why certain terms should be negotiated and discussed. After that point we didn’t even concentrate on all of those terms because we didn’t even get a chance to talk to them about changing them.
Sam Caplan: Was it true that a contract that the UFC presented to Fedor included a “champions” clause, which stipulated that if he won the UFC heavyweight title, he could not become a free agent if he was a champion even if he had fulfilled his contract number of fights?
Vadim Finkelchtein: Yes, there was a clause like that. It was something about an automatic extension in the event he became champion. And that’s another example of how the contract was too one-sided and we couldn’t just sign it and go on. We had to talk about things and that never happened.
Sam Caplan: Did M-1 ask that Fedor be referred to as an “M-1 Fighter” during all UFC telecasts and did M-1 ask that its logo be featured in UFC commercials and inside the Octagon?
Vadim Finkelchtein: That’s not true. It’s not true because at the time we sat down with the UFC to discuss the potential of Fedor fighting in the UFC, M-1 Global didn’t exist. M-1 existed for many years but it was basically just a company that did MMA fights in Russia and other parts of Europe.
The reason why M-1 Global was formed was after the discussions with the UFC because we didn’t really care about having M-1 on a UFC mat or anything like that until we realized we couldn’t work with the UFC. I have a partner now, Sergey Matvienko, he came forward and essentially the idea of having this global MMA company such as M-1 Global was never even in our minds when we were speaking to the UFC. It was only something that was born after we realized that the UFC wasn’t even going to talk to us about the concerns that we had.
The only thing we said to the UFC was that we wanted to have some open dialogue about some points. We told them, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if Fedor is a part of the UFC and he’s the best heavyweight in the world and he happens to be Russian for us to do a show in Russia?” But it was never a demand. It was never us saying “This is something you must do in order to have Fedor.” It was simply a request for some open dialogue.