Josh Gross
Tuesday July 28th, 2009

Weeks don't get busier -- or nuttier -- than this last one.

A rematch between Dan Henderson and Rich Franklin was announced, even though no one clamored for it; a Lithuanian, Marius Zaromskis, captured a major MMA tournament belt for the first time; Strikeforce lost out on two title fights as its marquee card looms; Kimo Leopoldo lent credibility to wooden crosses as important tools in resurrections; Tito Ortiz appears headed back to the UFC; Josh Barnett tested positive for steroids, ruining a fight with Fedor Emelianenko; Oh, and Affliction folded.

If I missed anything, sorry. There's just not enough time in the day.

And w all this news out there, SI.com's MMA readers weren't short on opinion or questions.

There's so much to digest after last week, but there's only one question on my mind now: Does [Affliction folding] mean Fedor finally has no other option but to fight in the UFC? Is now the time to get this done? -- Alex M., Tallahassee, Fla.

It's the "moment of truth" if you pay attention to what Fedor's manager, Vadim Finkelchtein, has to say.

While the timeline might be sped up, circumstances between UFC and Fedor haven't changed all that much. Publicly, this is a battle over co-promotion. Fedor and his team say a deal to put the Russian in the UFC is possible "only within the framework of co-promotional efforts with M-1 Global."

The problem with that is, somewhere along the way, UFC soured on the idea of working with other promoters. It took some digging, but I found a quote offered by UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta prior to UFC 31 in May of 2001 when he described Zuffa's vision for the growth of MMA:

"We believe that there is certainly enough room for everybody to be successful in this sport, and for this sport to grow and evolve, you need to have organizations work with each other as opposed to trying to break each other down."

For a time, the UFC operated with this mindset. It lent Chuck Liddell to Pride three weeks after he knocked out Kevin Randleman at UFC 31. Liddell also participated in Pride's historic light heavyweight grand prix in 2003. His presence, made possible by cooperation between promoters, helped contribute to an amazing tournament.

But the UFC's eagerness and willingness to co-promote deteriorated after it felt burned by Pride, which never returned the favor by sending any of its fighters -- Kazayuki Fujita, Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva were all discussed -- into the Octagon. As simple as co-promotion sounds, we're talking about jumping through enough hoops to force a Border Collie into a nap.

So my feeling is unless Fedor backs away from his requirement that M-1 Global and UFC operate as boxing promoters might by coming together to produce a fight, I don't think we'll see the Russian in the UFC right now.

As far as other options, Strikeforce remains a definite possibility, as does a scenario where he fights on M-1 Global-produced cards. The issue there, however, is pay-per-view. Strikeforce hasn't shown it can successfully sell a card to a paying audience. M-1 suffers from a lack of brand awareness and depth. Without PPV one has to wonder how enough money can be generated to pay Emelianenko the kind of purses he's grown accustomed to over the years.

The summer of MMA has turned into the UFC's showcasing why they are No. 1. All of their champions will have fought within a 120-day period, plus most of the top five in the respective divisions have had showcase fights. What does the Affliction/UFC partnership mean besides the obvious? Is it just another sponsorship deal, or will these affect the fighters we'll see fighting in the Octagon? -- "Big" Al Preston, Camarillo, Calif.

For the most part, I don't think we'll see a huge influx of fighters into the UFC. Some will matriculate, but UFC matchmaker Joe Silva already has nearly 200 fighters under contract to promote. It has been a bit of a struggle to make sure they all receive enough fights to fulfill the terms of their respective deals. Adding another 20 or so athletes, regardless of how good they are, could be a problem.

I believe Vitor Belfort, who thus far is the only fighter I've found who's signed a worldwide exclusive deal with Affliction (a deal, as I understand, that could be transferred to another promoter), will end up back in the UFC. It's a game of wait-and-see for everyone else, who if they're not already, should be free and clear to negotiate Sept. 1.

Do you believe that it is, at this point, a necessity that Fedor tries to come to the UFC in order to retain his legendary status? He does not have very many fights left in his career, and the older he gets, the harder it will be for him to face a menacing opponent such as Lesnar. Forget about Sengoku, and Dream. Without Pride, Japan is nothing. I feel that he needs a big win against another top-10 heavyweight. If not he will fall under the old-school criticism of his opponents being cupcakes, and him not being a legit competitor. -- Thor, Champaign, Ill.

Let's not forget that Fedor's coming off two wins against top-10 former UFC champions. So a lot of those concerns have been addressed recently.

I haven't been shy in saying Fedor won't need the UFC to validate his career. But nothing is static in MMA and recent events have me questioning his motives relative to other fighters.

If world-class champions, the best of the best, like Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva can sign exclusive deals with the UFC, what makes Emelianenko so special that he can dictate terms that would change how the UFC does business?

Do you think that Barnett felt he could avoid certain repercussions, including the drug tests, due to his close personal relationship with Tom Atencio? While Barnett lost in this situation, it is the fans who lose the most not getting to see the No. 1 guy fight the No. 2 guy. -- Jeremy, San Jose, Calif.

Atencio, like any promoter, doesn't have control over drug testing. That's up to the regulators. And even if that did enter Barnett's head, he didn't help himself any by failing to reveal to Atencio and Affliction that the California Commission administered a drug test to him on June 25. I talked to Atencio briefly on Monday and he said Barnett never mentioned it to him. Had Barnett done so, a replacement could probably have been lined up and advertising geared towards selling the pay-per-view might have been changed in time. All speculation really.

As far as the fans, you're spot on. We should be getting ready for a tremendous heavyweight bout. Now I'm not sure we'll ever see Fedor fight Barnett. And I don't know if anyone wants it at this point. Much of the appeal disappeared when Barnett, who has maintained his innocence, was popped again.

Now that it's all said and done, was Affliction's experiment as a fight promoter good or bad for MMA? -- Felix P., Philadelphia

Hit and miss.

Fans witnessed two fights between Emelianenko and UFC champs they might not have seen otherwise. Belfort was resurrected at 185 pounds. Some fighters got hefty paydays. But Affliction also bowed out of two events, putting several mixed martial artists in the position of having worked through training camps without getting paid to fight. That is unacceptable, and that is what separates the UFC from everyone else. When a fighter signs with the UFC, they know that terms of the deal will be fulfilled. They can count on that.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.