The 25-Million Viewer Man: Fedor Emelianenko Bigger Than the UFC?
M-1 Global and Strikeforce announced Monday that Fighters.com Heavyweight Champion ‚ÄúLast Emperor‚ÄĚ Fedor Emelianenko‚Äôs (31-1) second round knockout of fifth-ranked ‚ÄúGrim‚ÄĚ Brett Rogers (10-1) was viewed by over 25 million homes across the world November 7.
The promotional partners previously confirmed that 5.46 million Americans tuned into the fight on CBS.
CBS Senior Executive Vice President Kelly Kahl said, ‚ÄúCBS was proud to be the U.S. broadcaster in a fight seen by millions domestically and by millions more around the world. Strikeforce and M-1 Global put together a great card, showcasing some of the best fighters in the world. Our ad sales for the fight were strong, especially for advertisers that target young men ‚ÄĒ a group with a growing appetite for MMA.‚ÄĚ
M-1 Global and Strikeforce claim an additional 16 million viewers watched the fight on Channel 1 in Emelianenko‚Äôs native Russia. The fight was also broadcast in South Korea, China, Latin America, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ukraine, Finland, Africa, Turkey, Israel, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Malta, according to the promotions.
‚ÄúWe are extremely happy with the preliminary broadcast reports,‚ÄĚ said M-1 Global CEO Joost Raimond. ‚ÄúThe demographics of these numbers were very promising as our network broadcasting partners in the U.S., Russia, and Korea reach an enormous audience alone. Coupled with a dozen other countries and our successful internet stream in Japan and other territories, all early accounts and indications tell us that ‚ÄėFedor vs. Rogers‚Äô delivered worldwide more than any other MMA show in the history of the sport.‚ÄĚ
If true, the numbers put up by Emelianenko‚Äôs Strikeforce debut prove M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelstein‚Äôs repeated claims that Emelianenko is bigger than the UFC outside of the North American market.
Fighters.com‚Äôs sources indicate that the international broadcasts were a substantial hurdle to negotiating a deal for Emelianenko to fight in the UFC. M-1 Global has cultivated markets across the world with it‚Äôs traveling M-1 Challenge team tournament series and Emelianenko is an established sports superstar in Russia, Japan, and South Korea. The UFC doesn‚Äôt have broadcast deals in many of the markets Emelianenko is most popular.
Sources close to the negotiations between M-1 Global and the UFC have indicated to Fighters.com that M-1 Global wanted to utilize it‚Äôs existing broadcast deals in markets outside of North America to broadcast Emelianenko‚Äôs UFC fights. UFC President Dana White‚Äôs stubborness about controlling all aspects of the UFC broadcast is documented and might have resulted in failed negotiations with HBO, as well as failed negotiations to put Emelianenko in the Octagon versus second-ranked UFC champion Brock Lesnar (4-1).
Though it was certainly White‚Äôs guarded management of the UFC that made MMA a profitable sport across North American in the last four years, critics must now question whether White‚Äôs continued insistence on total control is leaving the UFC behind, or at least leaving a lot of money and opportunities on the table.
M-1 Global and Strikeforce seem more than happy and capable of picking up that money and those opportunities. And, with over five million viewers being introduced to Emelianenko in November, the biggest MMA star outside of North America could be poised to become bigger than the UFC in North America too.