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Avoiding a Catastrophe: Why the NOT signing of Fedor is the best thing the UFC could do

FedorThis week’s mixed martial arts landscape has been dominated by the negotiations between the UFC and Fedor Emelianenko’s management M-1 Global. This is not the first time the UFC has tried to obtain Emelianenko, but it was the first time that actually securing him seemed plausible.

No longer did M-1 demand that UFC had to sign all of Fedor’s Red Devils teammates; the UFC was okay with Fedor fighting in his Combat Sambo tournaments, the UFC is okay with M-1 advertising on Fedor, and a great payday, all previous sticking points for the signing.

In the end, none of this seemed to matter as M-1 continues to refuse to allow Fedor to go to the UFC without the rights to co-promote his fights, an unrealistic request that Dana White and the Fertitas wisely refused to give in to. While I, much like the rest of the MMA world, long to see Randy Couture vs. Fedor, and to a smaller extent Brock vs. Fedor, I have to say that M-1’s refusal to sign a contract with the UFC is probably the best thing that could happen to the UFC in the long run, but not for the reasons many think.

According to nationally syndicated radio host Charmichael Dave, Fedor and M-1 were offered the following:

*Six-fight, $30 Million dollar contract (M-1 has since stated that the offer was closer to $2 million dollars a fight)

*Immediate title shot against Brock Lesnar

*M-1 would receive a cut of the Lesnar vs. Fedor PPV in addition to Fedor’s purse.

*Fedor could wear any M-1 merchandise he wanted to.

*Emelianenko could fight in Combat Sambo.

Why anyone would refuse this contract is beyond me. However, in the end this contract was great for Fedor but bad for the rest of MMA. I am one of the biggest supporters of a fighter’s union, namely because I am fully aware of the disparity between fighters and promoters but the simple fact is that if this contract had been signed it would have spelled the end for many small time promotion companies, and potentially the larger Strikeforce and UFC, much like MLB, the NBA, and the NFL. Once the contract was signed the question would immediately arise regarding how much a fighter is worth in comparison to Fedor. Once this issue comes up, then comes the cut in profits, which was ultimately the main contributor in the death of Affliction MMA.

Take for example, UFC 100 reportedly had 1.72 million buys. 1.72 million buys at $50 a buy equates to upwards of $85 million dollars. With salaries making up less than 2% of that cost, Zuffa Inc. has figured out how to become one of the most profitable promotions of any sport in the world. But if we take a look at what a main card fighter makes comparable to what his worth is (at least in my opinion) before the signing of Fedor (the amount they did make at UFC 100) and what they would have made after the signing of Emelianenko (hypothetically what they would have been paid at UFC 100). Observe the difference that it would have had on the profit.

{Note: these numbers include any post fight or win bonuses with the exception of the $100,000 Fight bonuses.}

Pre Fedor: Brock Lesnar earned $400,000 Post Fedor: $4 million

Lesnar is the biggest draw in MMA right now. Whether you love him or hate him, 99% of everyone who purchased UFC 100 will cite Lesnar as their reason. Add to the fact that he is the champion who has beat Heath Herring and Randy Couture, I feel he does deserve the right to command that kind of money when compared to Fedor.

Pre: Frank Mir earned $45,000 Post: $1.5 Million

Mir is a great fighter who knows how to sell himself and PPV’s. While he may not draw in the viewers as Lesnar does, he is a former champion, the only man to ever finish Nog and the only man to make Brock tap. Regardless of how he performed at UFC 100 there is still room here for a rubber match if he loses and a big build up if he wins.

Pre: GSP earned $400,000 Post: $4 Million

GSP is without a doubt one of the easiest fighters to justify this kind of money. He is the sole reason that the UFC sells the PPV’s and shows they do in Canada. The man has beaten some of the biggest names in the UFC, is always game for a great fight and capable of going up in class to fight other big name fighters such as Anderson Silva.

Pre: Thiago Alves earned $60,000 Post: $500,000

His defeat of Matt Hughes puts him at this amount. Alves does not sell PPV’s but is a worthy fighter who is trying to build up his popularity. The fact that he did show up overweight against Hughes makes him an untrustworthy fighter that cannot be depended on for the million dollar salaries.

Pre: Dan Henderson earned $250,000 Post: $4 million

Hendo is every bit worth the four and possibly five million as Fedor, or anyone else in MMA. Fedor has held the two weight class titles consecutively and has the best chance at beating Silva. Hendo, while not the most charismatic fighter, does sell PPV’s.

Pre: Michael Bisping earned $150,000 Post: $350,000

I am sorry but Bisping hasn’t defeated anyone to warrant me paying him anything more than $350,000, and truth be told if it wasn’t for his ability to sell PPV’s in the UK I would keep him at the $150-250k level.

Pre: Akiyama earned $60,000 Post: $60,000

To most of the American MMA audience it is “Aki-who?”. Enough said.

Pre: Alan Belcher earned $19,000 Post: 75,000

Belcher is a mid card fighter who can hit the upper card at any given point. While he is not a headliner yet, he is not too far from it. Belcher is much like a back-up quarterback you pay good money for even though you may never use him. It’s when you need him to put on a hell of a show it is worth the money.

Pre: Jon Fitch earned $90,000 Post:$200,000

Fitch just came off a loss to GSP but gave a hell of a performance and is nowhere near even the middle level for a fighter. Fitch is still a top level fighter who deserves top level money as he can challenge for the title at any moment.

Looking only at these fighters who comprised the main card of UFC 100, we see that the pre-Fedor signing was $1,474,000 or 1.73% percent of the $85 million dollar take. Once the massive Fedor contract is signed that number jumps with just these guys to $14,685,000 or 17.27%. This means that before Emelianenko opens the floodgates of egos and demands, the UFC would have save over $13 million by not signing him.

This is just one PPV. We still have five more PPV’s before Fedor’s contract is fulfilled, by which time we will have to add more fighters to this list of big money. So while my logic may be simply hypothetical and the numbers based on my opinion, over the course of six PPV’s, the UFC will be out an additional $78 million.

Before everyone starts jumping the gun on the “Well these guys are already under contract”; I am aware of that, but once those contracts end, where do you think the beginning of the new negotiations will start. Do you think Rampage, Couture, Lesnar, Liddell, Franklin, Silva, GSP or any of the other big names will settle for $250,000-400,000 a fight knowing that Fedor is pulling in $6 million or even the $2 million that M-1 claims they were offered? Of course not. This will trickle down to the smaller promotional groups as time progresses.

That is why in the end, while we may not get the fights we want to see and Dana may not get to prove that he is the greatest Promoter in ANY sport, we do get to preserve the fights we do get and hopefully see some of that money put to better usage, such as insurance for the fighters.

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