Well, it appears we have finally got our answer for the time being as this weeks roller coaster ride involving the worlds most sought after MMA free-agent and the worlds’ most dominant fight organization has finally come to an end. There have been many new developments in the world of MMA, and as exciting as all of them have been, there is still a feeling that we didn’t get what we have expected or hoped.
Who would have thought that a single failed steroid test could cause such a shift in the MMA landscape? Sure this new sport is still evolving, but once again, the UFC is establishing itself as a mainstay as promotion after promotion collapse inward on themselves.
The UFC and Dana White have remained firm on their belief that Affliction would fall as quickly as, if not quicker than, all the rest of the other promotions who attempt to go head to head with them. However, I don’t think anyone expected that after only two shows and an attempt at a third, that Affliction would have come crawling back to the UFC with its tail between its legs.
This in turn has been a fantastic opportunity for the UFC to gobble up some of the remaining fighters on the scene to further their stranglehold on the MMA talent pool. The acquisition of names like, Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz, Paul Daley, and Ben Rothwell (along with many others, and talk of possibly more to come) has really sent a message to the MMA world coming out of the promotions 100th show, and that message is that we’re here to stay and we’re open for business.
Since the demise of Affliction as a promotion, their former roster of fighters are forced to look for work, and aside from the UFC, there isn’t a lot of ways to build your name as a fighter and to get your fights seen. As a fighter, you have to manage your own brand as well, the more people know your name and face, the more likely you are to get a big fight or see other opportunities.
One of the most skilled fighters on the planet is dealing with that problem right now, and his name is Fedor Emilienenko. Fedor has been dominant in other fight organizations with top talent and been sought after by the UFC for years now, yet he may even be more illusive than Lyoto Machida in the sense that he has been making some very strange demands. Fedor in previous negotiations has demanded that his Sambo career be allowed to continue, that the UFC build a stadium in Russia, a one fight deal for the title and even that M-1 Global (his management) are allowed to co-promote the shows in which he participates.
Now, with the UFC rising in popularity and credibility all over the world, it is beginning to be likened to the great sports leagues of the world today like the NHL, NFL, NBA, etc. And with all that credibility, the UFC has the option of doing what any other sports league does, and keep its athletes exclusive to their professional duties in order to keep them safe from activities which could threaten their health. You may ask my point, well originally, the UFC laughed off the demands of Fedor to compete in his country’s national sport Sambo. However, in talks made over this past week, the UFC has decided to take the risk involved and allow Fedor to train and compete in combat sport not involved in their business….. kind of a scary prospect when you are talking about Sambo, it’s not exactly a summer softball league, especially when you are the best in the world at it and everyone is gunning to take your head off for national pride.
The other major sticking point for Fedor has been this whole co-promotion issue. There have been some questions about the relationship between Fedor and M-1 since they always seem to be hand in hand every time Fedor fights. Fedor is part owner of the company but nobody could explain why he would demand that the UFC co-promote events rather than just let it go since the UFC clearly wasn’t interested. He has stated many times that he is managed by M-1 Global, but it’s not like the UFC is co-promoting with Ed Soares just because he manages Anderson Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Lyoto Machida.
Fedor’s manager Vadim Finkelchtein has been the target of much criticism since he is the face of M-1 and he seems to be at Fedor’s side the majority of the time he is speaking to the public. Some think that Finkelchtein is somehow attaching himself to the Russian standout in the hopes of making a name for his company and himself. It seems much of the time he is speaking that he is painting himself as a pioneer of the sport and that he feels he deserves a piece of the action in so many words. However, Fedor has stuck with his management and much to the puzzlement of the fans of MMA, he has seemed almost indifferent about his MMA career stating that it is not his most important of his activities.
Recently in an interview with Sherdog.com, Fedor was finally asked up front, “Will you ever sign a contract that is (exclusive)? Do you have to have an M-1 Global co-promotion to be happy with the contract?” and Fedor got a bit more specific about his relationship, “ My contract with M-1 Global is valid for 3 more fights, and at the moment I am completely happy with this very contract. When it finishes, we’ll see.”
Knowing this, I am seeing an opening for Fedor to be signed with the UFC potentially in a years time if he stays active and has those 3 fights one after another. However, who knows if Dana White will be able to find a way around this issue since they are still in talks with each other and Dana has left the door wide open for Fedor.
On a media conference call Friday at 2pm ET, Dana spoke about the dealings with Fedor and where he stands, “I’ve said many times that my job as a promoter and as the President of this company is to bring the fans not only the best fights in the world, but the best fighters in the world, and more importantly, the fights the fans want to see,” said White. “We came to the table willing to give up just about anything except co-promotion. I guarantee that he will not be offered another deal like this in mixed martial arts. For whatever reason, they did not want to sign a deal with the UFC.” White continued, “I was so confident this was gonna happen. I went into this thing with the attitude that we’re gonna make it happen. The fans really want to see this fight (Brock Lesnar vs Fedor), I want to see how good this guy really is against the best in the world. So let’s do this thing. It didn’t happen. But if they want to make a deal, they can call me right now and we can do it.”
Since Finkelchtein represents M-1 and he will likely be glued to Fedor’s side over the next few days until we reach a conclusion, there may be a way to make this situation work without co-promotion. I, for one, don’t want to see Fedor vanish to Japan or fight for Strikeforce where he has little Pay-Per-View potential, and little to prove. The proving grounds for Fedor are in the UFC now and if he want’s to silence all his critics and doubters, he’s going to have to end up in Dana Whites world.
It seems everybody wants to get the deal done, so stay tuned to FiveOuncesOfPain to hear the latest developments on Fedor’s final destination, along with the many other free-agents being acquired at this time.