Fedor and the UFC: New Hope or Wishful Thinking?Posted on June 23, 2010, 12:52 AM by Joey Santosus
Fedor Emelianenko, The Last Emperor, The P4P King of MMA, The WAMMA Champ. However you may know him, if you're a fan of MMA, you know him. Recently however, a man of such few words seems to have incited so many amongst the MMA community. While it could easily be words concerning his impressive record, his oft-debated status as pound for pound king, or his contributions to the history of MMA in general, in recent time, it has been none of the above. Instead, it has been the fighter's contract negotiations, or lack thereof, with the most popular and most successful MMA organization in current existence.
Though Emelianenko made his MMA debut for the Japanese RINGS organization, it was his June 2002 Pride debut that, for many, would lead to him cementing his legacy. Fedor would go on to defeat many capable opponents, such as Dutch fighter Semmy Schilt, heavyweight Heath Herring, and the heavily favored Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira before capturing Pride's Heavyweight Championship title at Pride 25 on March 16, 2003. After successfully defending the title on various occasions, Pride Fighting Championships was purchased by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta III.
Following the expiration of Emelianenko's contract with Pride, heavy speculation about the possibility of him fighting in the UFC began to swirl. With a public falling out between Fedor's manager, Vadim Finkelstein, and Bodog's Calvin Ayre, it seemed the only logical move.
To date, Dana White has expressed interest in "The Last Emperor" on numerous occasions, being quoted stating that the fighter had become the UFC President's "obsession." However, White has attributed Fedor's management team to be the primary barrier. Most recently, appearing on Sports Talk 790 The Ticket in South Florida on June 22, Dana explained, "Trust me, believe me, on my kids lives, I have flown to goofy parts of the world to go try to get this thing done. I have spent hours on the phone.." When asked by the show's host Dan LeBatard what offer he was most stunned that Fedor's people said "no that's not good enough either" in response to, White declined to discuss numbers, but did say, "I offered him more than anybody ever in his entire fight career has ever offered him or ever will..." He continued by referring to Emelianenko's management as "lunatics," declaring "They don't want to fight the best in the world, period! Its the only answer.."
On the other side of the matter, Vadim Finkelstein has cited difficult negotiations as the immediate issue. A central point of contention is Finkelstein's adamancy regarding the UFC working with his Russian M-1 promotion, as well as extending contractual offers to other members of the Red Devil Sport Club, and permitting Fedor to compete in combat sambo tournaments.
Currently, Emelianenko is approaching the end of a three fight contract with the nationally broadcast promotion Strikeforce. Coming off a hard fought victory over Brett Rogers, Fedor is scheduled to face Fabricio Werdum on June 26th. When asked about his future beyond his match with the two-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion, Fedor stated, "I don't want to look beyond my fight against Fabricio Werdum, if everything goes well, and I will feel alright, I will stay with Strikeforce. But I am considering retirement more and more often now." At the same media conference he went on to express his feelings on the UFC, "I'm not a fan of watching UFC fights. Compared to a lot of the commercials and promotion in anticipation of their fights, and compared to a lot of the shows I've seen, there seems to be a lot of negativity involved in their shows. So I'm just not a fan of watching their programs."
While it would seem all hope of the WAMMA Champion ever stepping foot in the UFC octagon has been lost, some have actually found renewed hope in light of recent events. While Dana White went on record stating that all negotiations with Emelianenko's management have came to a close, the Russian had conflicting statements:
"We are constantly negotiating, but only during recent time the Americans began to show some respect. The dialogue between us is completely different right now. They are more interested in our opinion.... All I can say is that Vadim Finkelstein is doing well in handling the situation."
Furthermore, when Fedor had previously been asked what fighters he is currently following that interest him, he answered, "Randy Couture interests me, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Shogun Rua. I also like UFC’s young fighters Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos… I think they are a very talented guys." All names mentioned being competitors under UFC contract.
While The UFC President's aforementioned comments clearly contradict Emelianenko's, Dana White has shown in the past that he is not opposed to telling "white lies" (pun-intended) for the sake of preserving discretion and surprising fans. In addition, some feel Fedor's "jab" at the UFC in reference to their events involving "negativity" was out of character for the man who has never been known for trash-talk and are considering the possibility that this remark may have been another attempt to distance himself from what could be, behind closed doors, favorable negotiations after all.
Is it the usual wishful thinking amongst fans that we have all become accustomed to or are they truly on to something? Is retirement on the horizon, or will we see more of the Russian heavyweight? In the end, only time will tell what is next for the MMA icon, until then we will all be watching and waiting in anticipation.