In Part I of FiveOuncesOfPain.com’s exclusive interview with M-1 Global President and manager for Fedor Emelianenko, Vadim Finkelchtein, discussed in detail some of the specific negotiation points that came up during contract negotiations between the UFC and Fedor.
In Part II, Finkelchtein addresses questions about whether Fedor’s current contract with Affliction and M-1 would prevent him from fighting for the UFC; how his dealings with Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta were from a behind-the-scenes perspective; whether he truly believes that White doesn’t consider Fedor to be the number one heavyweight in the world; and more.
Sam Caplan: Dana White has said he’s still willing to talk with Fedor about having him fight for the UFC. However, would Fedor’s current contract with Affliction even allow him to fight for the UFC?
Vadim Finkelchtein: Affliction is M-1 Global’s partner. We have an agreement with Affliction where we collaborate on these shows. Unfortunately, with the show that happened before, it may not have appeared that way and this is something we’ve resolved with our partners at Affliction. But the first show with Sylvia and this upcoming one is an Affliction/M-1 Global show and the agreement that we have in regard to Fedor is that Fedor is signed to M-1 Global. Fedor’s promoter is M-1 Global.
Affliction is our partner in having Fedor fight in the United States and the contract that in essence controls Fedor is the contract that Fedor signed with M-1 Global, which is essentially that same contract that the UFC offered in terms of money and all of the terms that should have been included in a promotional deal. The only thing missing is whatever Fedor would either not agree to or at least wanted to talk about, which were the restrictive terms that Fedor had concerns with.
Today, if M-1 were to have Fedor fight whoever is considered the heavyweight champion of the UFC at this point, whether it’s Lesnar, Mir, or whoever, the possibility of having Fedor fight any of them is certainly out there. We’ve always wanted to collaborate with good partners. The problem is that Dana White is not letting that happen. Whether it’s a desire to monopolize everything or simply a desire to not want to work with others, the reason why it’s not happening has nothing to do with M-1 or their relationship with Affliction. We have good partners and are putting on good shows but that doesn’t preclude having Fedor fight in the UFC.
Sam Caplan: But as it stands today, if Fedor were to fight in the UFC, he would have to be promoted as part of Affliction and M-1 Global?
Vadim Finkelchtein: Today, it’s hard to say who Fedor would fight because they are trying to tell everybody who they happen to have at the time is the best heavyweight in the world, whether it’s Frank Mir or Lesnar. But if Fedor were going to fight one of these guys today, it would have to be a co-promotion where M-1 Global and our partner Affliction is involved. It can be done just like it is all over the world like it’s done with boxers and any two promotional companies that have an opportunity to bring the public the best possible fight. At this point today, it cannot be a one-person show.
Sam Caplan: In Part I of the interview, you spoke of the rigid nature of one of the UFC’s former attorneys. Can you describe the demeanor of both Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta during your dealings with him?
Vadim Finkelchtein: When we met, in our conversations, everything has always been very cordial. Both Dana and Fertitta has come off as very pleasant, professional people. I think a lot of the problem is whatever Dana puts into these interviews. Maybe that’s his style? Maybe there’s a reason why he goes out there and calls us “crazy Russians” and things like that.
I’ll tell you one thing, we would have really been “crazy Russians” if we had signed that contract that they had offered. Fedor is an athlete who deserves a certain amount of respect and recognition. We don’t make the rankings. We don’t decide who is the number one fighter in the world, consensus wise. These are things that are out there in the world.
I think in my dealings with those guys, everything has always been very cordial and very friendly. But publicly, they’ve created — and I don’t know whether they have an inferiority complex — but I don’t know what it is. But they’re trying to create a monopoly and I believe that regardless that bubble is going to pop because very soon, the sport is going to become bigger than them.
Again, my dealings with them have always been great and I don’t have anything against them as people. But publicly there have been a lot of things said that are maybe said for ulterior motives that have no truth in them.
Sam Caplan: Do you think that White is sincere in his opinion of Fedor or that his comments are simply the words of a promoter trying to do what’s best for his business?
Vadim Finkelchtein: Of course it’s because Dana is trying to protect whatever is his. I do not believe that Dana really feels that Fedor is not the number one heavyweight in the world. If Fedor were to fight for the UFC, I am sure you will hear Dana saying other things about Fedor, such as that he is the number one heavyweight. But we’re talking about about a man who is trying as hard as he can to have a monopoly and maintain his monopoly.
However, don’t get me wrong, the UFC is indeed the number one MMA company in the world, bar none. They were the first to get there and they are continuing in many aspects. And in many weight classes, they have many great fighters. However, there is an evolution of sorts and there are other organizations out there and there are other fighters out there and it’s not correct for the UFC to just clamor onto their own fighters and say “Only our fighters are the number one fighters in the world,” because that is not true. And the public, especially the people that know the sport have seen that there are other organizations out there and other fighters out there and there are other champions.
What’s so wrong about wanting to prove that your fighters are the number one fighters in the world by having them meet other great fighters in other great organizations? Let the public decide who the number one fighters are in the world, not Dana. But Dana doesn’t like that. Dana doesn’t like when the public, or journalists, or anyone else writes that some other fighter that has nothing to do with the UFC is just as good, if not better, than some of the fighters in the UFC.
He killed Randy (Couture). He had an opportunity for giving the public and everyone a fight between Randy and Fedor and he simply killed that opportunity. And we didn’t want that. We don’t want for Fedor to by some mythical creature or this mythical person that people hear as being the greatest in the history of the sport with those same people not getting a chance to see him fight the best in the world so that he can show them that.
Fedor is not a myth. He’s a great person and a great sportsman. He’s a great athlete and all we’ve been trying to do is have Fedor fight the best fighters in the world, and that’s what we’re doing. That’s what he’s done in the past and that’s what he’s doing now. And if Dana really wanted to prove that he has the best heavyweights then he has the capability of doing that with Fedor.
Sam Caplan: Is it true that Dana White and Fedor have never met?
Vadim Finkelchtein: Yes, this is true. It’s true but to put in perspective, I am not only Fedor’s manager but his friend and partner in many different projects that we do. We don’t have any secrets from each other and Fedor knows every move I make. He doesn’t handle a lot of his own business affairs.
I flew to Vegas to meet with Dana. At the time, Fedor was unable to fly out to Vegas. But believe me, if Dana ever wanted to meet with Fedor or wanted to come to Russia, we’d welcome him with open arms. And he has every opportunity possible to sit down face-to-face and have a conversation with Fedor.
Sam Caplan: In an interview, you extended an invitation to Dana White to attend “Day of Reckoning” and meet Fedor. Has M-1 received an official response yet from the UFC?
Vadim Finkelchtein: No, of course not. There has been no response in regards to my invitation. Our arms are open and we’ve always welcomed not only the UFC but other organizations to work with us. Because if this sport is indeed so popular, and indeed has such great growth potential worldwide… well, today – and there will be others as well – but today we are the ones trying to advance the sport.
The UFC has leverage now. They have a great company that they’ve done a wonderful job of building up and building the sport, but mostly in the United States. Today, all over the world in places such as Japan, Korea, Europe, and Australia, the sport is becoming more and more popular. At some point, whether they like it or not, enough fans are going to say “Don’t feed us bulls— with these marketed fighters and hype jobs.” The fans are going to want to see the best fighters in the world fight the best. And whether they like it or not, they don’t have all of the best fighters. There’s actually companies out there more than willing to work with them on making that happen and even even popularizing them all over the world beyond what they have today. But now, Dana just wants to eat his cake and doesn’t want to share any pieces with anyone.
Sam Caplan: I wanted to know if you had a direct response to the things Dana White stated during his radio interview on Monday night?
Vadim Finkelchtein: I have answered the question many times, and at this point, my only response is take who you think is your best fighter and have Fedor fight him. And don’t make it where Fedor has to give up his career and owes him his life to do it. If you want to say that any one of your fighters in the UFC is the best, then prove it. Just stop yelling and prove it.
Why don’t you try and eliminate any doubt? Just give us who you think is your best fighter and let’s work together and let’s co-promote and make the fight happen.
Sam Caplan: During past interviews Dana has raised the point that M-1 and Fedor asked for things that the UFC has never granted to a fighter — not even its top superstars such as Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. Can you respond to that point?
Vadim Finkelchtein: We did not make any unreasonable demands. There was nothing out of the ordinary that we demanded on that contract. In fact, we never asked for more money. We were satisfied with the financial offer that was made. The only thing that we weren’t satisfied with were human factors. Essentially, the initial proposed contract made Fedor a slave to the UFC and there were certain aspects that as a self-respecting man, and if you know Fedor, you know his pride and his principals are very important to him. There were just certain things that he didn’t understand. It wasn’t so much that he disagreed with them, he just didn’t understand why those things needed to be given up.
Since then, Dana White was more or less agreeable with the concerns Fedor had. The one sticking point — and as minor of an issue as it was — the one sticking point he wasn’t able to overcome was this thing about Sambo. And we tried to explain to him and people just have to understand, this is an amateur sport and it’s a hobby for Fedor. But it is the national sport (of Russia) and Fedor made a promise to the President of Russia.
He promised the President of Russia that he would compete in Sambo because for young people all over Russia, this is something that they watch and compete in. You’re essentially trying to kill a national sport by having the face of the sport not participate in it. So as minor as it sounded it was a major obstacle and hurdle and for some reason that was just the one thing Dana couldn’t get over when it came down to it.
Sam Caplan: But considering Fedor lost the World Combat Sambo Championships for the first time in seven years, is Fedor still going to continue competing in Sambo?
Vadim Finkelchtein: If he’s given the opportunity and if it doesn’t interfere with his professional career, it is Fedor’s intention to continue in Sambo.
We have a new team now with the Red Devil Team now being called “The Imperial Team.” And the entire team is comprised of current and former Sambo champions. All of these guys owe their future careers and their future economic prosperity that they hopefully will attain in the sport of MMA to the sport of Sambo.
And Fedor has to be an example for everyone else. He’s a role model for a lot of the younger guys and despite the fact that he’s a celebrity and makes a lot of money not only doing MMA but now doing movies, endorsements, and other things… for Fedor, this is who he is. He is giving back to what got him to where he is today. Sambo is like his parents. You will still go back to them and thank them for raising you a certain way.
It’s the same reason why (Antonio Rodrigo) Nogueira will go back and and participate in a jiu-jitsu tournament because that’s where he came from. You have to respect that in somebody (that) in spite of the success they’ve attained, that there are still things more important to them than just money and fame.
Sambo brings Fedor such great pride and pleasure when he’s just simply asked “Will you please participate in this?” He does it and he does it for free. Sambo does not pay a penny. And he also does it to show everyone that no matter what he’s achieved that he’s still capable of competing on the world level of this sport.
We don’t see a lot of Americans or other athletes who came from wrestling or judo and can thank those disciplines for the success that they are achieving now and go back to those roots and participate in these tournaments. They have probably already forgotten where they came from and what it was that got them to where they are. And Fedor is never going to do that. That’s just not the kind of person that he is and not the kind of person he’ll ever be.