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LA Times reports that Fedor Emelianenko and UFC are 'finalizing deal'

Almost one year to the day it held its first event on July 19, 2008, Affliction Entertainment folded its mixed martial arts division and returned to the UFC under an agreement that will allow the clothing brand to once again sponsor the world’s top promotion and the fighters under its umbrella.

Affliction indicated that an inability to find a worthy replacement for Josh Barnett — who tested positive for anabolic steroids and was denied a license to compete — led to the decision to cancel its "Trilogy" event, which was expected to take place from the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Aug. 1.

It was the straw that broke the camel's back for the critically acclaimed but far from profitable venture.

The end of Affliction MMA -- much like the end of Elite XC in 2008 -- left a coterie of fighters under contract who no longer have a place to call home.

And at the top of that list of unemployed combatants is perhaps the most prized asset in all of MMA: Former PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko.

Zuffa worked hard to bring the Russian on board after the collapse of Pride FC in 2007; however, talks broke down when the parties could not agree on an exclusive fight contract.

UFC President Dana White and M-1 Global spent the next two years pointing fingers, but a report from the LA Times earlier today suggests that whatever hangups preventing the two promotions from working together in the past may now be water under the bridge.

From the LA Times Web site:

"A long-awaited agreement between the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the man considered the world's best mixed martial arts fighter, Fedor Emelianenko, is expected to be announced by UFC President Dana White on Friday, a source with information about the negotiations told The Times today. The source, who asked not to be identified because he's not authorized to speak publicly about the dealings, called negotiations between the UFC and Fedor 'very civil' just days after Fedor's scheduled Affliction Trilogy fight Saturday against Josh Barnett was canceled."

The UFC has scheduled a press conference for July 31 to cover a bevy of formal announcements, including their new Affliction deal, among other things.

White has already gone on record to state that if acquired, Fedor's first fight would be for the UFC heavyweight championship, presumably against division kingpin Brock Lesnar.

If the signing of "The Last Emperor" is on Friday's docket, it could represent not just one of the biggest announcements in UFC history, but perhaps a whole new era in mixed martial arts.

However, nothing is official at this time. In fact, M-1 recently denied the LA Times report as "not accurate" in an article.

Stay tuned ... these next three days should tell the tale, hopefully, once and for all.

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