It's always fun basing columns off assumptions.
How's this sound?
Great champions need perfect foils, and Lesnar -- fresh off wins over
Bottom line, assuming assumptions play out, this is a fight that has to happen. It's bigger than organizational brands. It's bigger than belts. It's the kind of fight that would truly lift MMA into the mainstream. It's bigger than UFC 100. Much. Why? Because it serves the purpose of confirming the world's best heavyweight. It's the essence of what MMA should represent as sport.
Otherwise, what's the point of all this?
However, at the moment, the way things continue to shake out, it doesn't appear likely to get done. After losing out on a fight between Emelianenko and Couture, I haven't picked up on much that suggests negotiations between the UFC and Emelianenko's management would yield anything different than the animosity brought about by earlier talks.
The Russian is an equity stakeholder in M-1, meaning where he goes, so does the St. Petersburg-based promotional company. That's as big an issue in keeping Fedor outside the the Octagon as anything else.
With one fight remaining on a deal that gives Affliction Entertainment rights to partner with M-1 and promote Emelianenko throughout North America, the UFC is expected to throw buckets of cash Fedor's way if he handles
The hope is, of course, that magic happens. That the money is right. That terms work for both sides. That
Yet here's the disconnect: while mixed martial arts needs this fight, the UFC seems to believe it doesn't.
Yeah, the UFC doesn't. Just last week, Fertitta told the
It's a sad day if selling pay-per-view trumps dominance in competition as the practical measure of a fighter's relevancy. Something tells me the ultra-competitive Lesnar recognizes the relevancy of a victory that would instantly give the UFC king credibility as MMA's true world champion.
In Emelianenko, MMA has a big man who may very well be the best fighter ever to participate in his sport. Which boxers fit that bill?
So where's the negative for UFC in a one-off fight?
The concern stems from potential damage to the UFC brand should Fedor whoop on the company's champion, and then depart as soon as he arrived. (Of course, that's worse-case scenario. Lesnar could actually beat him.) For gamblers like Fertitta and White, it would be another roll of the dice -- though not as high stakes as one might think considering the kind of revenue Emelianenko-Lesnar would generate at the gate and off TV.
But let's say Fedor and the UFC agree to a one-fight deal, he dominates and remains free to compete where he wants. The UFC, in my mind, would have earned a tremendous amount of goodwill for taking whatever steps were necessary to make the fight a reality. For all the talk of becoming a global brand, making fights of this caliber should be the real mandate of the top promoter in MMA. And with so many quality fighters under contract, no one would be foolish enough to think UFC couldn't keep on trucking even if Emelianenko did his thing and left.
In the end, what would be worse for the UFC's reputation: Fedor defeating Lesnar and leaving, or being the entity that got in the way of MMA's biggest fight?
As assumptions go, I'd pick the latter.