Source: Fighters Only



MARCH 20TH 2012

Rumours about Fedor joining the UFC crop up with considerable regularity, but always come to nothing. Negotiations have been underway several times with both sides blaming the other when they fail.

UFC president Dana White calls Fedor’s management ‘crazy’ for their insistence on co-promoting any events featuring Fedor, while Fedor’s management have proffered various reasons over the years as to why a UFC contract was never acceptable to them.

A Mexican (or at least, Russian) standoff has persisted ever since the demise of Pride FC but recently it seems both sides have thawed a little. Fedor’s management in particular seem to have moderated their tone and their demands.

Five signs that Fedor and the UFC could be about to make a deal happen:

1. Fedor’s name used to be mud in Zuffa circles but of late he has been getting a lot of mention on broadcasts. This is very often a precursor to someone’s arrival in the UFC. The only caveat is that the mentions have largely related to his losses - this could be an attempt to devalue his bargaining position with the UFC, or make him seem a less attractive asset if he does fight elsewhere.

According to the message-board chatter, some fans think that it might be because the UFC simply thinks Fedor is no longer a threat or an asset to rival promotions and so they feel free to mention him. It is plausible, but I don’t think its the most likely explanation.

2. All co-promotion demands have now been dropped. This was the major stalling point for the UFC side of negotiations. There was no way they were ever going to agree to co-promote with anyone, let alone a company that runs a rival promotion. That was at the peak of Fedor’s career - once he lost three in a row, the very notion became a joke and M-1 has finally seen the light and dropped it.

The UFC had agreed to allow Fedor to sport M-1 logos on his shorts, apparel and cage-side banner if he signed for them. That alone was a massive concession which was without precedent. If M-1 do manage to sign Fedor to the UFC, they are likely to rue the day they turned the original offers down as the UFC is unlikely to offer them anywhere near such liberties again. There likely won't even be a plate of biscuits on the table during the next meeting.

3. M-1 executives say that a UFC deal is the direction that they are hoping to move in. Most recently one of their European office responded to a fan enquiry on this subject with “Wait and see.” Truth be told, they are not only wide open to a UFC deal, they badly want one. There is very little real money to be made in MMA these days unless under the UFC banner.

Singapore’s One FC or the Indian show SFL could conceivably come up with a one-off decent payday but for the kind of money Fedor is used to, on a consistent basis, the UFC is the only place to be. And despite his slide in form and status, he would probably still benefit from his Pride FC days, if the UFC’s treatment of Mirko CroCop or Rampage Jackson is anything to go by. UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta was a huge fan of Pride and takes a personal interest in the big-name veterans of the promotion, giving them a leeway that few others get.

4. The UFC is first and foremost a pay-per-view company, selling sports-entertainment. As such, storylines are a big part of matchmaking and a good storyline greatly benefits PPV sales. Shows such as Primetime are used to tell, or create, a story between fighters and thus generate interest in the bout among potential customers. Fedor slots very neatly into this model.

He has the Pride FC history, the aura of mystique, the exoticism of being from a tiny backwater in the traditional enemy Russia, an impressive video-reel and a history with some fighters currently on the UFC heavyweight roster. Most recently he has been talking about his desire to rematch Fabricio Werdum, who in 2008 became the first fighter to legitimately defeat him and who presaged his slide into an 0-3 run.

Werdum had an excellent performance against Roy Nelson recently, demonstrating massively improved striking skills and a crowd-pleasing style which had not previously been his hallmark. If he can carry that forward, he will slot into the contender picture well.

If Fedor wants the rematch and the UFC thinks Werdum is the likely winner, it must surely be attractive to them. They get to build Werdum into a legitimate contender via a very sellable rematch. And as they own the Pride FC and Strikeforce video libraries, they can document most of the careers of both fighters and make for a very compelling pre-fight build-up.

5. The UFC returned to Japan recently and staged a successful event with a card that featured a mix of new talent and former Pride FC figures. Chief among those was Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, but as he is apparently taking free of his contract after his next UFC match the company might want to replace him with a legend of similar stature for the Japanese/Far East market. Enter Fedor.

There is also a dearth of Russian talent on the UFC roster at present and while that isn’t a huge hole in their game - Russia is hardly awash with PPV buyers - it is a gap that it would not hurt to fill. Aside from Russia, Fedor enjoys popularity in South Korea and various eastern European and former soviet states. Multiple media-attention birds could be killed with one stone by signing a Slav of such stature.

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