I'm writing this article from work. It's a lazy Friday here at my job, and with the manager out in the field, I knew that I would be able to get away with closely monitoring the UFC news conference that Dana White was holding at 11am PDT. I was constantly updating several sites, looking for what many others were holding out hope for; a signed contract between Fedor Emilianenko and the UFC.
I've really been reading every possible story I could find on this hot topic in the days preceding the hyped-up news conference. I certainly didn't believe the LA Times article (really, who at that company actually follows MMA?) from a few days ago that claimed that Fedor and the UFC were finalizing details on a contract. In fact, I had serious doubts leading into today that anything would get done at all. I guess I was right.
So, who can we blame for this?
There's a few suspects we can point fingers to; Dana White, Fedor's management team (Vadim Finkelchtein in particular), Fedor himself, Michael Jackson's doctor, Osama Bin Laden, and Santa Claus. Most people will point their fingers at Dana and Vadim, depending on what side of the fence they stand on, but I offer up a different view. I say that we should blame Fedor himself.
I know some of you are already preparing a nasty comment, but please hear me out.
I certainly don't think you can blame Dana White here. The UFC conceded every aspect of the negotiations with the exception of agreeing to a co-promote with M-1. M-1 doesn't have anywhere near the clout that the UFC currently has. One simply has to look at the buy rates.
The last three events that Fedor headlined here in the states (PRIDE 32 in 2006, Affliction 1 in 2008 and Affliction 2) combined didn't do 300,000 PPV buys. UFC 100 alone did 1.5 million buys. There's no reason that Dana White should essentially hand over half of the company just for one heavyweight fighter, regardless of how good that fighter may be.
Dana White offered Fedor what is rumored to be a $30 million contract as well as conceding to let Fedor compete in sambo events and let him promote M-1 on his clothing. That is a staggering offer considering the UFC's history of contract negotiations. There's simply no other fighter in the world that would get such an offer from the UFC.
At the same token, I don't necessarily think that Vadim can be faulted here either. Fedor is the only bargaining chip that M-1 has in negotiations with the UFC, and as a businessman, you have to try to get as much as you can out of any deal. The writing is on the wall for M-1; they will either have to stay small-time like Strikeforce in order to make ends meet, or they go the way of Affliction and spend lavishly until the investors get tired of losing millions.
This is how this entire situation becomes Fedor's fault. During today's news conference Dana White stated that Fedor didn't want to fight the best fighters in the world. Normally, I would just shrug this off as "Dana being Dana", but this time there's some truth to that statement.
Fedor will not make the kind of money that the UFC offered anywhere else in the world. All Fedor had to do was put his foot down (preferably not someone's throat while outside of the ring) and tell Vadim to get it done, and that clearly didn't happen.
Fedor nation will surely burn me at the stake for this next paragraph, but I don't see anyway around it. If Fedor and his management team don't let go of the idea of co-promotion between the UFC and M-1, his reputation will take a serious hit.
There's no one left for him to fight anywhere in the world (unless you want to count 'roided-up Josh Barnett). It's clearly obvious that beyond Fedor, the next six to eight best heavyweights in the world reside in the UFC (in no particular order: Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Randy Couture, Minotauro, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, Cheick Kongo, Cro Cop, etc.)
At some point I would hope that someone is able to get into Fedor's circle and talk some sense into him. It's simple for Fedor; sign the UFC contract, become filthy rich, and have the chance to beat Brock Lesnar and secure his place as the greatest heavyweight of the world, and of all-time.