The Fedor problem
UPDATE: Since this entry was posted, Fedor Emelianenko has signed a contract with Strikeforce. Read the AP story here.
After a crazy week in MMA, I thought it would be a foregone conclusion that Fedor Emelianenko would be in the UFC. It makes perfect sense. Affliction is a goner and his biggest payday is in the UFC. Also, for a guy that isn’t very popular in the U.S., joining forces with the UFC marketing machine would’ve made him an insanely wealthy man as opposed to comfortably wealthy. The UFC made a number of concessions to bring Fedor into the fold and he foolishly turned them down, unwilling to accept any deal that doesn’t include a co-promotion with M-1 (a ludicrous demand).
The problem is the UFC needs Fedor now more than ever. Brock Lesnar is well on his way to becoming the top dog in the sport (especially since his road to defend his title is much easier than it is for Georges St. Pierre, currently the biggest name in the sport). The UFC’s heavyweight division isn’t overly deep. Lesnar realistically has only two foes on the horizon. The winner of the Cain Velasquez-Shane Carwin fight and the winner of the Randy Couture-Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira bout. As Lesnar continues to win, his publicity and press will only increase and it’s pretty impressive already. His post-fight antics after UFC 100 weren’t very classy but they worked wonders in getting him on the radars of casual sports fans. Lesnar's star will only get bigger but it’s hard for MMA fans to get behind him when the best heavyweight in the world doesn’t even get a crack at him.
This has a boxing feel to it, where the top two guys won’t get to face each other because they are with different promotions and because of politics. UFC president Dana White prides himself on putting together the fights the fans want to see so I'm betting this has to annoy him to no end.
Fedor isn’t worth the money the UFC is throwing at him. He’s not a pay-per-view draw and he certainly doesn’t deserve the biggest contract in the company. So if he’s not willing to play ball with the UFC’s latest offer, there’s not much more the UFC can or should do. The blame lies with Fedor and his idiotic management.
Lesnar will still have some big fights and big challenges but from a fan perspective, it stinks to know that the biggest fight in the heavyweight division is one that won’t happen for some time.
Let's face it, the UFC heavyweight division isn't even that interesting. It's not nearly as deep as the welterweight or light heavyweight divisions, but those champions and contenders aren't given the respect their due. St. Pierre should be the main event in every show he's on.