Josh Gross
Tuesday June 16th, 2009

No matter who wins, who loses and who leaves the UFC, most of us are still stuck on one scenerio: Fedor Emelianenko signing with the leading organization.

It only seems fitting that the sport's top heavyweight would ink a deal with it's top promotion. Right? Well, don't be so sure.

And while we're on the topic of breaking down the possible futures of fighters, we might as well touch on "Cro Cop," Tim Sylvia and one Dream star that seems to be falling.

You had questions. I have answers.

How likely is the UFC to negotiate a deal with Fedor, especially since it's rumored that his management wants a one-fight deal? If he does sign a one-fight deal and Mir is the champ, will that be seen as a mega-fight, like Fedor-Lesnar would be? -- Benjamin Sterner, Tucson, Ariz.

Even before UFC 99 last Saturday in Cologne, Germany, I thought it was unlikely that the UFC would agree with Fedor Emelianenko on a one-and-done appearance. The promotion isn't interested in risking the relevancy of a title by giving Emelianenko an opportunity to defeat their champion without the safety net of a long-term contract -- though it could be argued that the UFC heavyweight title's stature is already minimized because Fedor hasn't fought for the belt.

As much as Dana White says he'd love to promote Fedor, the UFC president can't seem to find a good enough reason to change the way he does business to get it done. Why? Well, it's not as if the Russian is a major pay-per-view attraction. Even in Japan, industry insiders question how much Emelianenko drives ratings. Sure, there's a certain prestige that comes with having him on a card, but in terms of pure business, results have been more miss than hit thus far. I imagine that would change if Fedor ever joined forces with the UFC. It will take concessions on both fronts for the best heavyweight in MMA to fight in the Octagon -- and a one-fight demand is probably something Fedor and his M-1 team will need to forget if they're serious.

At this point, Emelianenko has enough opponents outside the UFC to get away with not joining the organization. If he defeats Josh Barnett at Affliction's "Trilogy" on Aug. 1, then we're looking at the likes of Alistair Overeem, Brett Rogers and a few others that Fedor's camp could justify fighting.

No one, of course, would help make for a bigger bout than UFC champ Brock Lesnar. A win over Frank Mir would vault Lesnar into the top five heavyweights in MMA, perhaps as high as No. 2 depending on what happens between Fedor and Barnett. The same is true of Mir, though he doesn't possess the promotional heft that Lesnar brings into fights. Still, an Emelianenko-Mir fight in the UFC would sell just fine.

Either way, the Lesnar-Mir winner will likely get Shane Carwin next. Another six months to a year and Cain Velasquez could be ready. The UFC can feature promotable fights in the division without Fedor, and for now, that's all that seems to matter. Until the public and media get so amped up over seeing the UFC champion fight Fedor that White feels real pressure to get it done, don't expect it.

Is "Cro Cop" really leaving the UFC? What happened? -- Ryan Samson, New York

Seems so.

According to several sources I spoke with, Mirko Filipovic is close to finalizing a three-fight deal with Real Entertainment, the production company that runs Dream events for FEG. We can get deep into the weeds with this stuff, but the bottom line is the Croatian is more valuable to Japanese promoters than he is to anyone else. Cro Cop's agent, Ken Imai, has longstanding ties to the old Pride executives who populate Real Entertainment, and all signs point toward Filipovic ending his career in front of the large, quiet crowds in Saitama, Japan.

Did Monte Cox ruin Tim Sylvia's career? He just got knocked out by an old man in nine seconds! -- John, Merced, Calif.

No, I don't think so. Cox, a veteran manager/promoter, helped the former UFC heavyweight champion get the biggest fight of his life against Emelianenko. And both he and his fighter made a lot of money. Yes, Sylvia lost badly and things haven't gone right since. But at least he took a risk to fight the best in the world, and you have to give him credit for that.

Should he have taken the fight against Ray Mercer? Well, obviously not, considering the result. But fighters rise and fall all the time. Give him a couple wins -- assuming he's interested in getting in shape -- and it wouldn't surprise me to see Sylvia in big fights again before he walks away from the game.

I want to call what I saw from Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto "ring rust" because I still saw those explosive ingredients. I'm also wondering what the fallout will be for Dream now that it has a tournament without its superstar or a top-10-ranked fighter (arguably). -- Tony, San Diego

Kid did look rusty at Dream 9 on May 26, but credit goes to Joe Warren. That's one cocky dude, whose inexperience is actually a benefit. He doesn't know what it's like to get hurt, and he walks in the ring without fear. I'm most impressed with his will and ability to put together combinations in the clinch.

I think Kid has plenty left, and this loss can go a long way towards revitalizing his career, assuming he stays healthy. His departure will probably weaken the tournament semis and finals, though his fight with Warren brought in very strong ratings and energized executives inside Tokyo Broadcasting Systems to remain supportive of MMA. (The message was amplified when Hideo Tokoro's exciting clash against Abel Cullum drew the second-highest rating on the card while a "fight" between Hong Man Choi and Jose Canseco did next to nothing.) If that trend holds, the semis and finals should do nice business for Dream, even without Kid to carry the card.

Do you see a day when MMA rises to the prominence of, say, basketball or hockey? What do you think of the idea of having individual cities sponsor MMA fighters to go up against fighters in other cities, like having the Broncos of Denver take on the Cowboys of Dallas? Is that doable? -- Bryan Hiett, Fort Worth, Texas

By its very nature, MMA is a niche sport. It will always be. And while the public's tastes may ebb and flow, I don't see MMA competing on a long-term basis with more traditional sports. Fighters who can captivate the public will emerge, and the sport will rise and fall based on their popularity.

As far as cities sponsoring fighters, I guess you didn't catch the IFL.

I do think you have a point, though. I was struck by the reception Georges St. Pierre received in Montreal. I think a kid like Eddie Alvarez could consistently carry cards in Philadelphia. B.J. Penn is probably the only fighter who can sell tickets in Hawaii. We've seen what Urijah Faber does in Sacramento. So, yes, certain fighters will always be associated with the cities, states and countries from which they hail. Promoters are smart to take advantage of that.

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