The MMA world is buzzing this weekend, as former PRIDE Fighting Championship stars collide, live on PPV.
Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua? Well, yeah, those guys are fighting too. But we're here to talk about the other fight that fits the above description (well, aside from the buzzing part). Live on Sunday, it's M-1 Challenge Fedor vs. Monson, from the shadows of The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.
It's pretty amazing to look back at the MMA landscape a scant two years ago. The mighty Fedor Emelianenko, in his Strikeforce debut, was coming off an impressive knockout of Brett Rogers, live on national network TV on CBS.
Two years and three consecutive Fedor losses later, Strikeforce exists in name only under the Zuffa umbrella. And the once-mighty Fedor is fighting on a PPV show that starts roughly six hours after Henderson & Rua will exit the cage in San Jose, at the yawn-inducing start time of 7:30 a.m. Eastern.
If I had told you two years ago that 730 days later, home grown Strikeforce star Cung Le would be fighting for the UFC, in San Jose no less (the former unofficial home of Strikeforce, and to complete the symmetry, the site of Fabricio Werdum's shocking upset that sent Fedor into his current three-fight tailspin), while Fedor was fighting in obscurity in Russia on a show that will surely bomb on PPV, you would have thought I had drunk too much vodka.
With that said, Fedor is no stranger to bombing on PPV. His first two PPV outings, against Mark Coleman for PRIDE and Matt Lindland for Bodog Fight, were huge money losers that contributed to the demise of both promotions.
Affliction tied their hitch to Fedor, and although his fights against former UFC champions Andre Arlovski and Tim Sylvia did better than the PRIDE or Bodog efforts, neither were considered PPV successes (and Affliction ultimately suffered the same fate as PRIDE and Bodog, bowing out of the fight promotion business and selling off whatever assets remained to Zuffa).
To be fair, those four fights were badly promoted, with little to no national television exposure for those groups.
Fedor was a good ratings draw for Strikeforce, and would have likely produced far better on PPV while with Strikeforce than with the other groups, due to Strikeforce's network exposure on CBS and Showtime, and Strikeforce being an overall stronger promotion than PRIDE in its dying days, Bodog, or Affliction.
But Strikeforce was (wisely) not in the PPV business.
But much like the previous attempts to showcase Fedor on PPV, Sunday's show has had virtually no promotion. M-1 Global does have a television deal with Showtime, but they have not aired a show on the network since the Fedor fight was announced.
Unless you are the hardest of the hardcore MMA fan variety, it is highly unlikely you have any clue that Fedor is even fighting this weekend, let alone on PPV. This show has a very good chance to be the biggest PPV bust in MMA history.
Where does the once-mighty Fedor go from here?
I'm not so sure the book is closed when it comes to the UFC. While Dana White has taken great pleasure in the demise of Fedor, he would likely still be open to doing business if the sides were able to agree on a deal. And with Fedor now possessing virtually no leverage, if he is truly interested in reviving his career, it will have to be on UFC's terms.
The concessions White was willing to make three years ago, not to mention the amount of money being offered, are out the window.
But first, Fedor has to get by Jeff Monson.
Monson, the 15-year veteran, is no pushover. After having his eight-fight win streak snapped at the hands of hot up-and-comer Daniel Cormier, Monson bounced back with a round one submission win over Paul Taylor.
Monson is 43-12, with 27 submission victories, and is very hard to knock out (he has only been stopped twice in 55 fights). He fought for the UFC Heavyweight Title at UFC 65 (a five-round decision loss to Tim Sylvia). Many people expected Fedor to find a weak "get right" fight after being dropped by Zuffa, but Monson is a live opponent.
The rest of the card features a variety of international names, the likes of which even hardcores will struggle to recognize, and will be a challenge to pronounce for even the most skilled of linguists. Good luck to the commentary team.
Arthur Guseinov takes on Xavier Foupa-Fokam. An M-1 regular, Guseinov (9-2) has a loss to former UFC fighter Luigi Fioravanti on his resume. Foupa-Fokam (21-16), known as "Professor X", is a former UFC and BAMMA veteran.
Mairbek "Beckan" Taisumov (15-3) faces Joshua Thorpe (11-6) in a welterweight tilt. Thorpe is 1-2 for M-1 and has also lost to Hermes Franca. He will be a significant underdog here.
Alexander Yakovlev (12-3) will face the top Spanish prospect known simply as "Juanma" (Juan Manuel Suarez), who comes in at 8-0 and is a name to watch.
Rounding out the undercard are two names familiar to regular M-1 viewers on Showtime, as Jose Figueroa (10-4) faces off with German Daniel Weichel (27-7).
The show is $29.99 on DirecTV and most major cable providers (with replays throughout the day), and will be offered in HD.