Should Fedor Emelianenko join the UFC?

Jake WestContributor IJuly 24, 2009

NEW YORK - JANUARY 20:  Fedor Vladimirovich Emelianenko, heavyweight mixed martial artist and current World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts heavyweight champion rings the NASDAQ opening bell at NASDAQ in Times Square on January 20, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Joe Corrigan/Getty Images)

Fedor Emelianenko should join the UFC because Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brock Lesnar must happen.

Lesnar wants the fight. Fedor wants the fight. The UFC want the fight. The fans want the fight.

The sport needs this fight and it needs Fedor to win. It needs the fight because it will propel MMA into the mainstream. And it needs Fedor to win because it needs to prove that the martial arts in mixed martial arts means something, and that you have to be more than a giant wrestler with 5 fights to be a true MMA Champion.

What is stopping it from happening now that Affliction has gone bust? The UFC has already indicated it will give ground on Fedor's participation in Sambo, which was a stumbling block for Fedor, but his other problems with their contract remain. 

It is unclear at the moment whether Affliction's contract has been bought out by the UFC, but if it was, it gives them Fedor's next fight, so they could make Brock vs. Fedor happen. However, the risk of Fedor walking off with their belt would make them insist on a Champion's clause, which is one of Fedor's biggest problems with the UFC contract.

The first question Fedor needs to ask himself now is how many more fights he wants. Only he might know, but what is certain is that the best place to get the fights he wants is the UFC.

We already know they offered him more money than anyone else, so the second question he needs to ask himself is why the prospect of defending the UFC belt for huge amounts of money until he retires is so irksome? I can't think of an answer, and I think that if he looks at it in this way, that he won't find one either.

There are other problems like their owneship of his image rights and the exclusivity clause, but these are less significant (depending on the exact terms of the UFC contract of course), because what Fedor cares about is fights, not who they are for, and the image rights issue is just a question of money, and working out the detail to the satisfaction of both parties.

What I think is causing a problem here is that Fedor is an honourable character who wants to do right by his friends in M1 Global, but this is perhaps a time for those friends to think about what is best for Fedor and the sport.

Jeremy Botter on Inside Fights quoted Fedor's brother Alexander recently as saying: “You can deal with UFC, I know that they have flexible contract system. All these talks about “strict” contract terms with signing with UFC, come ONLY from Vadim Finkelstein, who wants to push his owns business projects through Fedor’s fights”

If this is true, and Finkelstein has tried to use Fedor as leverage to further the ambitions of M1 over what is best for Fedor, perhaps he needs to consider that UFC money, rather than asking the UFC to alter their business model, is the way forward, because without the UFC, Fedor is going to spend the rest of his career scratching for mostly inferior fights with inferior promotions, and he deserves better than that, and what has just happened to him with Affliction.


On the UFC side, perhaps they need to consider that Russia is a growing economy, and a potential source of new fans and fighters. There is not even a snowballs hope in Hell of the UFC getting anywhere in Russia without a positive relationship with a Russian company. Perhaps the UFC could agree to co-promotional fights in Russia with M1-Global using Red Devil fighters on the card, thus meeting two of M1 Global's demands?

The only other term Fedor has mentioned that he really doesn't like is that if he loses, the UFC can just kick him out. Fans would protest that it was just one loss in a near perfect record, but Fedor must fear that the UFC would use it as propaganda against him for the rest of his career.

The only way around this one is that Fedor should insist on a clause that gives him a guanteed rematch in the event of a loss or at least a guanteed chance to fight for a rematch 

The biggest problem the UFC have with Fedor is that Fedor doesn't want to be exclusive to the UFC. I'm afraid I agree with the UFC on this one. They cannot have their champion flitting all over the world making other promotions huge amounts of money off the back of their marketing and reputation as the pre-eminent promotion or risk their champion losing to a fighter outside their organization who could then hold them to ransom. It is ludicrous to ask such a thing because it could seriously damage the UFC brand. The UFC may allow exhibition bouts like the one Fedor did with Aoki, but they would want something out of any deal, and they would insist on the outcome of this exhibition being predetermined i.e. their champion 'wins'. 

There are rumours that Fedor is talking to Strikeforce, but I hope that if this is true, it comes to nothing, because Fedor must see how significant the Lesnar fight is right now, and that if he doesn't seize this moment, it might not come again, not for him or for the sport of MMA.