Despite the hopes and dreams of all mixed martial arts fans around the world, UFC President Dana White announced today that although he has tried his damnedest, he has still not been able to sign free agent heavyweight fighter Fedor Emelianenko to a UFC contract.
If the reports are true, White’s offer to Fedor’s camp was apparently quite substantial (or as White himself put it, “insane”) — a guaranteed six fight / $30 million deal (including an immediate title shot against UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar), an agreement that would allow Fedor to also compete in Russian Sambo events when he’s not fighting in the Octagon, and perhaps most shocking of all, the UFC would even provide Fedor’s management team, M-1 Global, with a portion of all pay-per-view revenues.
But apparently that wasn’t good enough, because Vadim Finkelchtein, the head honcho of M-1 Global (a rinky-dink MMA league based in Russia), is demanding that any fight card featuring Fedor must be co-promoted under a joint UFC / M-1 banner. Finkelchtein obviously doesn’t care about what the fans or the fighters want (which is a Fedor vs. Lesnar superfight to determine who is truly the best heavyweight in the world). Instead, he only cares about leeching off of the UFC’s established brand in hope of gaining some sort of foothold in the North American market for M-1 Global. And as we all know, Dana White will never allow that to happen, which means Fedor will continue to fight freak shows and UFC castaways like Tim Sylvia until the day he retires.
A lot of people have compared Fedor Emelianenko to the character Ivan Drago in Rocky IV — the ultra-dominant Russian athlete that can murder people in the ring with his bare hands (although to be fair, former Pride fighter Sergei Kharitonov looked a lot more like Drago than Fedor ever did). Only now do we see even more parallels to that film — the ultra-dominant Russian athlete that is constantly getting jerked around by a posse of managers and politicians, and the fact that Lesnar, in the Rocky Balboa role, would probably have to drop the UFC title and travel to Russia in order to make such a fight a reality.
In my opinion, Fedor should continue to emulate Ivan Drago’s character arc by standing up for himself and becoming his own man (savage beating of Apollo Creed is optional, of course). Much like how Drago got fed up of taking orders from the Commies and being used a pawn in his country’s Cold War ambitions, Fedor needs to nut up, grab Finkelchtein by the throat, and announce to the whole world, “I fight to win! For me! For me!”
Then, once he tosses the M-1 Global trash aside, he does the right thing and takes Dana White’s offer, battles Brock Lesnar in the biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history, and finally proves once and for all that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts.
Or he could continue to damage his legacy by hiding behind a two-bit, small-time MMA promoter until the end of his career. It’s his call.
Would Fedor love to fight in the UFC and challenge himself against the best of the best? Most likely, yes. He is a fighter and a warrior, after all. But until he can separate himself from Finkelchtein and get a manager that actually cares about the progress of his fighter’s career (and not the bottom line of his own company), that day will never come, despite the hopes and dreams of all mixed martial arts fans around the world.