Don’t hold your breath on Fedor Emelianenko and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) coming to terms on a contract anytime soon unless a major stumbling block is somehow surmounted.
After a wild week in mixed martial arts that saw one promotion fold entirely, several fighters wondering when their next paycheck will come, and enough press conferences to make you want to unplug your phone, the UFC isn’t any closer to signing the most feared heavyweight fighter in the world, Fedor Emelianenko.
And it’s not for lack of trying.
UFC president Dana White today recounted how he went in to recent negotiations with representatives for Emelianenko fully confident that the deal would get done.
"I was so confident this was going to happen," White said. "I went into this thing with the attitude ‘We’re going to make it happen, we’re going to make this thing happen.’ The fans really want to see this fight, I want to see how good this guy really is against the best in the world. And it didn’t happen."
White and the UFC have struggled to sign the Russian heavyweight for years, often expressing their frustration publicly. While speculation on why a deal couldn’t be reached in the past centered on everything from money to the UFC’s exclusive contracts forbidding the WAMMA champion from competing in his beloved sambo tournaments, White confirmed that he pulled out all the stops for this most recent deal, which he called "amazing."
"I literally did everything," White said before rattling off several of the obstacles that had existed in the past but are now not holding up the deal. "He got offered a fucking ass-load of money. A ton of money, everything that he wanted, he can go fight in sambo every fucking Thursday night if he wants to, he can do everything he wanted to do. And we showed him nothing but respect … I put my money where my mouth was, laid everything out and tried to make this thing happen, and they’re coming up with unrealistic shit."
Therein lies the rub.
The "unrealistic" demands include what Emelianenko’s manager, M-1 Global co-owner and president Vadim Finkelchtein, referred to during his own press conference held on Wednesday afternoon — that any deal to sign Fedor must include a co-promotion deal with M-1 Global, of which Emelianenko is partial owner.
White is adamant that the UFC will never co-promote with any organization, least of all with one that he sees as a bit fly-by-night.
"How are they going to come in and help us co-promote?" White asked. "It’s basically them coming in saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got this guy, and some people say he might be the best heavyweight in the world, so for that we want half your business.’ Yeah okay. That shit probably works in Russia (laughs). Not here."
White did say that if M-1 ever decides to pull the co-promotion sticking point off the table, he would welcome further negotiations. In fact, he said his offer still stands.
"We haven’t pulled anything back. We have an offer out to Fedor," White said. "They can call me right now, they can call me tomorrow, they can call me next month. I’m ready to roll. I’m ready to make this deal. The fans want to see this fight. It’s my job to make this fight happen. It’s what I do for a living, so I’m trying."
White thinks Emelianenko’s management’s refusal to come to terms on this deal shows "insanity." And when asked, White seemed to express a genuine confusion for what the big Russian must be thinking — for why doesn’t seem to want to fight in the UFC.
"I don’t know what the reasoning is," White said. "I’ve heard lots of different reasons on why he doesn’t — that he doesn’t like fighting with elbows, he doesn’t like this, he doesn’t like that. I don’t know what the answer is. The bottom line is, I think for the fans or any of the media to seriously call this guy the best in the world, let alone pound-for-pound, is fucking insanity when he won’t give you the fights the fans want to see."
Despite dishing out insults to Emelianenko and his management in the past, White insisted that during these recent negotiations, he was the consummate professional — the "nicest Dana ever." He and partner Lorenzo Fertitta went in ready to do whatever was necessary to sign Emelianenko, but that, in the end, the demand for a UFC/M-1 co-promotion was simply too much.
"We’ve done deals with the best fighters in the world over the last 10 years. There’s absolutely no reason why Fedor shouldn’t be fighting in the UFC right now."
Apparently, and unfortunately, there is.