Is Fedor Emelianenko's Management "a Monster" That "Demands Blood"?
That's what Ben Fowlkes thinks:
M-1 Global is a monster not so easily appeased by token sacrifices. It demands blood, and in so doing has largely crippled what should be one of Strikeforce's most compelling attractions: its heavyweight division.
Strikeforce first acquired Emelianenko through a three-fight deal with M-1 Global in August of 2009. Since then, he's fought for the promotion once, which is exactly as many times as M-1 Global has insisted on renegotiating his contract in the same time span. If you're wondering what the point of a three-fight contract is if one party will insist on, in their own terms, "tweaking" the deal a third of the way through, you aren't alone.
The more we see M-1 Global's idea of co-promotion in action, the less appealing it looks. It's not enough to put their name on the door; they want to make sure everyone is forced to read it, too.
I've written before about the negative treatment that M-1 Global gets from the U.S. media and here we go again.
It is very clear that M-1 Global's somewhat eccentric approach to co-promotion has hurt Strikeforce. The first CBS show featuring Fedor met with mixed success, but promised big things for future shows. While Fedor failed to outperform Gina Carano or Kimbo Slice as a ratings draw on CBS, he did show a dramatic increase in viewship from the Jake Shields-Mayhem Miller fight that preceded him.
The table was set for a really strong follow up featuring Fedor on CBS and M-1 Global has apparently chosen to scotch it because they want more recognition for the M-1 brand. Not from Strikeforce, which met its terms, but from CBS and the reporting media.
This is an irrational and somewhat impossible requirement.
The fact that M-1 head honcho Vadim Finkelstein is publicly musing about Fedor signing with the UFC after their Strikeforce deal is done is also strange and makes me think that M-1 is playing a more complicated game than it appears on the surface.
I think the factor that hasn't really been discussed is this - beating Fabricio Werdum, the likely opponent for Fedor in April - does nothing for Fedor. It's a fight he's absolutely supposed to win. And while Fedor would be heavily favored to beat Werdum, there is a very real possibility that Werdum could win and that would not be a win for Fedor.
Throughout his career, he's been very carefully managed. They put off fighting Cro Cop as long as possible back in the PRIDE days and happily fought a string of less than worthy challengers before and after the end of PRIDE. It's hard to parse what M-1 is up to and whether they're just making a huge mistake out of delusions of grandeur or if they are working an angle to best serve Fedor's interest.
I also have a good deal of sympathy for the M-1 team because they are Russians dealing with major American corporations on American soil. They're far from home and, frankly, in historically enemy territory, navigating an alien culture and, presumably, trying to do their best for their fighter.
Personally, I'd like to see Fedor fight Werdum on the April card. I think that would have been the best outcome for Fedor, Strikeforce, CBS and MMA. But it won't be happening now.
Fowlkes goes on to say:
This is the point where I am forced to admit that when it comes to running an MMA promotion, a little bit of tyranny is sometimes a good thing. The UFC may adopt an iron-fisted approach to dealing with employees - just ask Jon Fitch what happens when you have the temerity to bristle at signing away all rights to your own likeness - but the UFC gets what the UFC wants. More often than not, that also means fans get the fights they want to see - and sooner rather than later.
Compare that with Strikeforce's heavyweight troubles. Between Emelianenko and current champ Alistair Overeem, they have two of the best big men in the sport. But what good does that do you if you can't even get them in the same room?
This is a separate and very complicated issue. I'm very much torn about the idea of the UFC being not just the biggest player in MMA world-wide, but the only player that really matters.
Competition was better for pro-wrestling than the effective WWE monopoly that has reigned for the past decade and I'd argue that the WWE itself was better off when they were locked in battle with the WCW than they have been as a troubled monopoly with flat growth, tons of bad press, and sole public liability for the string of disasters that have afflicted the sport entertainment world in recent years.
And unlike the scripted world of pro-wrestling, MMA is a hugely unpredictable individual sport. Even if the UFC manages to sign Fedor and become for a while the only player that matters at all in big-time MMA, it will be very hard to keep every champion in every division on lock down forever.