The Return of Fedor Emelianenko
Well, it’s an overcast Monday morning in St. Louis as I write this, and oh yeah--the great Fedor Emelianenko is returning to MMA. The 38-year-old, 34-4 “Last Emperor”, a powerhouse who has only tapped out once, is now the object of a bidding war between the UFC, Bellator MMA, and even the World Series of Fighting. The Pride and Strikeforce veteran hasn’t fought for any of the three promotions before, but he does have a history with the UFC in spite of never having set foot in the Octagon.
A pairing of Fedor and Brock Lesnar got axed in 2009 after Emelianenko’s former manager, Vadim Finkelchtein wanted the UFC to co-promote with M-1 Global, which he owns. In addition to the immediate title shot, the originally alleged six fight deal was reported to be worth $30 million. As the now discontinued sports site FanHouse reported through an anonymous source close to the negotiations, the deal was actually “three fights with a guarantee of less than $2 million per fight.”
First off, the turning down of a co-promotion agreement makes perfect sense. If there were ever to be a joint effort with another organization, the two might play nice for that event and then go off on their own. Afterwards, the end of co-promotion would mean competition for the UFC. Why would the UFC ever play a role in putting eyes on a rival product?
In the words of Stan Lee, “‘Nuff said.”
Secondly, the largest single fighter payday according to UFC President Dana White and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, was $5 million for one event. The fighter was not disclosed. It should also be noted the highest total gate for one event remains $12 million+ (UFC 129: St. Pierre vs. Shields) with 55,000+ attending. Simply put, to bow to the demands of one fighter or their management team when they are of a certain magnitude would mean bankruptcy.
Emelianenko earned $1.3 million in a 26-second win against Tim Silvia at Affliction: Banned, which is nearly one third of the total fighter payroll of $3,321,000. He did only make $300,000 compared to Andrei Arlovski’s $1.5 million losing effort at Affliction: Day of Reckoning, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why these were the only cards put on by the clothing company, even with them being backed by Donald Trump. Four of Trump's other businesses may have also gone bankrupt, but even so, his present day net worth is $4 billion.
Let me make this perfectly clear: I want Fedor in the Octagon as much as anyone else!
Finkelchtein said the following on where his his client may land and the past issue with White:
“...It depends on which offer will be the best. He doesn't have any specific preferences. But, I am sure U.S., Japan, Russia and other countries will be happy to welcome Fedor. Fedor doesn't have any contracts with any promotions. Nothing bounds him. So I think that would be stupid not to be in negotiations with different MMA organizations. He has time, he has a wide choice so he can choose the contract with the best conditions for him.”
Co-promoting is apparently off the table and the deal could go through, but Elias Cepeda of Fox Sports wrote this morning (7/20/15), “One issue often publicly stated by Fedor for his not signing with the UFC was the allegedly (though not hard to believe) allegations that the promotion's president Dana White didn't treat him with enough respect.
Finkelchtein seemed to suggest all that rhetoric is water under the bridge now, however. "Dana talked a lot. [He] talked a lot about Fedor, about Vadim, and he talked bad," he said. "But Fedor understands that it all was just PR. He's not in a bad relations with Dana and he doesn't feel anything bad about him."
On M-1: "Well, when it comes to M-1, we are not really interested in any kind of co-promotion," he said."M-1 is a self-contained, European promotion...M-1 doesn't really need any co-promotion."Finkelchtein went on to say that he was no longer going to try and actively shop his M-1 promotion to the UFC, as he had, before. "It was a completely different situation then. We had some financial problems then. And now I'm not going to sell M-1 to anywhere because we are growing and developing," he continued.
Former Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker is now the head of Bellator MMA, and he and Fedor seem to have no ill history on record. I still think that could be a factor even though it’s been said that his past dealings with Bellator, which included an appearance and autograph session at Bellator 138: Unfinished Business in St. Louis, won’t affect who he signs with. Personally, I don’t buy it. However, I am hopeful.
As far as signing with the world’s leading MMA promotion is concerned, I’ll believe it when I see Fedor throw his first punch in a pair of UFC gloves.