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My Thoughts On The News That Hell Is Freezing Over (Updated)

Posted by representingpuroresu on 07/29/2009

Who would’ve thought…now of course I refer to what is turning into a week (or two) that may never be forgotten in the history of MMA. One promotion folds and makes nice with their enemy, another promotion turns their biggest card ever into a rollercoaster and perhaps what we never thought would happen may be about to-Dana White cracks. Details and my take after the jump.

I must emphasize nothing is official on this and probably won’t be until Friday, but here’s what I refer to: Affliction stops promoting PPVs and is now an official clothing sponsor of UFC, Strikeforce’s 8/15 card nearly changes by the hour, and Dana White may be on the verge of signing Fedor Emelianenko. This isn’t done yet and, based on news conference schedules, may not be until Friday, when a UFC presser is planned for 2 PM ET. That being said, Fedor is to address the media today at 4 PM ET. Also on the Affliction side is a report that UFC also gets Affliction fighter contracts, and it’s resulted in one planned 8/1 fight-Ben Rothwell vs. Chase Gormley-moved to UFC. Look for that one at UFC 104. But if Fedor comes over, hell has frozen over. I know that Dana has always been a “Never Say Never” person, but in my eyes this represents a shift that would be a 7+ on the Richter scale. He’s been adamant it would never happen for a few reasons:
Money. The most a UFC fighter has ever made in one fight that I am aware of, and this is fight purse only and not disclosed and undisclosed bonuses, payouts, etc.: $500,000. And only Randy Couture & Chuck Liddell have gotten that (but Brock Lesnar may soon). Fedor’s management was reportedly demanding in the range of $1-2 million per fight. Is he worth 7 digits per fight? I would say yes. Can UFC afford that? If it’s a major card at a big enough venue (meaning anything not a UFN or TUF finale or almost any Vegas card), yes. Does UFC want to pay a guy that much? Likely not, especially when he’s never set foot in the Octagon.
Contract restrictions. UFC contracts reportedly are exclusive, meaning you can’t fight for anyone else without perhaps their express permission. Jeremy Horn was perhaps the one exception to this rule. They don’t want guys helping out rival promotions they’re competing with, and if you fight elsewhere and lose and/or get badly injured you’ve screwed UFC over. But in the case of Fedor it’s been a big sticking point because, as hardcore MMA fans know, Fedor also is a regular in combat sambo tournaments in his native Russia (in terms of sports being national sports or pasttimes or close to it, sambo is to the Russians what baseball is to Americans and Japanese).
Co-promotion. This is more on the terms of Fedor’s manager, who for the sake of not having to type out a hard to spell-and pronounce-name I will just call “The Fink”, who also reportedly has quite a stake in the M-1 Global promotion, which promotes their own events, M-1 Challenge, Adrenaline and had a stake in Affliction. M-1 Challenge, if you haven’t seen it, is the IFL but with a worldwide format. In its second go-around it’s doing quite well, gets great reviews, and has a US TV deal (HDNet). But of course UFC may like competition, just not working with them. Doesn’t sound bad on paper but UFC is risking losing money, sponsors and even their best fighters. You always gotta look out for yourself first and foremost, even ahead of the fans.
Now if Fedor does sign, and there’s no guarantee he will, his first fight is practically guaranteed to be against the UFC Heavyweight Champion. I’d say that won’t happen until December or January, so barring the unexpected that means Brock Lesnar. And it re-opens the door for the one-time dream match of Randy Couture vs. Fedor and potentially rematches from PRIDE with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop. So stay tuned, interesting times ahead.

The other big story has been Strikeforce. They were ready for their biggest card yet on 8/15 when, through largely nothing more than bad luck, it started to fall apart. Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson reportedly still has injury concerns but says he’ll still face Gilbert Melendez to unify the LW & Interim LW titles. A Welterweight Title fight fell apart when Joe Riggs took some medicine that didn’t like him back, so Nick Diaz may be without a fight, but he might still get a fight courtesy of Jay Hieron-who reportedly is on the verge of signing. Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem is still regretting a barroom brawl a few months back that’s caused his planned title defense to be postponed a second time. They’ve caught some breaks though-Affliction’s collapse got them not only their Light Heavyweight Champion-Renato Sobral-back in time for the event, but they also get his planned foe-Gegard Mousasi, who also has signed with them. Their 8/15 fight is now for the title (it was non-title on 8/1). But of course the biggest loser of all in this is Brett Rogers. No fight on 8/15. Originally many thought he’d earned his shot at Overeem after KO’ing Andrei Arlovski a couple months back. But SF shunned him for Fabricio Werdum. Affliction reportedly wanted him for the Fedor fight when Josh Barnett got busted for drugs. Even considering throwing $800,000 at him. SF said no. I’d like to know why he keeps getting screwed, I’d hate to think SF is playing the race card (Rogers is black). Only perhaps a matter of time before UFC comes calling, a big loss for SF-they just have issues with their champions as a whole. Let’s not even start on Middleweight Champion Cung Le, who has pulled a “La Roca” on SF. Caught the movie bug, he’ll likely never fight again. 8/15 could be make-or-break for them…but if they can pull off Gina vs. Santos without a hitch, they should be fine.

All things considered, it’s going to be quite the 2nd half of the year for MMA fans. Sit back, strap in, enjoy the ride.

UPDATE: According to M-1 Global, reports that Fedor will sign with UFC and it’ll be officially announced Friday are false. It’s an option but Fedor’s next fight likely won’t be in UFC. So if he comes to the Octagon, don’t expect it until at least 2010.

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