Vadim Finkelchtein - MMA's New Villain
Wed, 2009-07-29 17:44 — chernobyl kid
As you've no doubt heard by now, promotional genius Vadim Finkelchtein has graciously thrown MMA fans everywhere a bone. He told M-1's website that the UFC will now get a chance to have the world's most sought-after heavyweight, his client, Fedor Emelianenko, compete within the confines of the Octagon. Well, kind of. According to Finkelchtein, a deal can happen "only within the framework of co-promotional efforts with M-1 Global." Um…okay.
Translation: A deal with the UFC will never, ever happen as long as Fedor is affiliated with M-1 and this delusional fool. Why is he delusional, you ask? Because there is absolutely no upside for the UFC in co-promoting with M-1. None. Zero. The one thing that co-promotion will get the UFC is Fedor himself. But under what conditions? They'll probably want non-exclusivity (no way,) they'll probably want the ability to compete in Sambo (more reasonable,) and even if they did concede to an exclusive contract, they wouldn't be okay with having to stay with Zuffa as long as Fedor was heavyweight champ, should he gain that distinction (another one where the UFC won't budge.) So where does that leave us? In the same place we were a year-and-a-half ago, when Fedor initially signed with M-1. Namely, Nowheresville.
M-1 and Finkelchtein already have a track record of failure when they co-promote with other companies. Just in the time since M-1 signed Emelianenko, they've partnered with three fight promotions, and all three are now defunct (BodogFight, Yarennoka, Affliction.) That doesn't even count the M-1 Global promotion itself (or at least the American branch thereof,) which would later become Adrenaline MMA. Don't remember what I'm talking about? Come to the wayback machine with me and let's revisit.
Back in October of 2007, M-1 Global was formed . This was the company formerly known as M-1 Mixfight Championship, owned at the time by—you guessed it—Vadim Finkelchtein. M-1 Mixfight had been putting on MMA events in Russia since 1997. But in October of '07, Finkelchtein sold the company to an enigmatic entity with no other connections to MMA (or sports in general for that matter,) named Sibling Entertainment Group. I've tried to figure out what it is that Sibling does, but their website is non-functional, and the best I can find is this nebulous description of the company from Businessweek. But anyway, back to October. It was at this time that the newly formed M-1 Global named Monte Cox, MMA agent and promoter extraordinaire, as CEO. This was it. This was to be the development that began the hype machine for Fedor in the US. But the same root cause that kept Fedor out of the UFC in 2007 reared its ugly head again and kept M-1 Global from ever promoting an event with Cox as CEO.
According to Cox himself, the American branch of M-1 and the European contingent had what he called "different philosophies. It's just the way that it is. For me, I'm not as concerned about all the glitz and the glamour of the show; I just want to have good fights and I want to make money. That was my goal." Anyone still having trouble believing Dana White when he says that Fedor's people are difficult to deal with? Their "philosophies" on promoting caused a rift in the company before they even staged an event. Of course, M-1 Global will now promote its first event under that banner (they've continued to promote as M-1 Mixfight, and yes, I'm as confused as you are) next month in California.
So where does that leave Fedor? What does he really want? White and the UFC officials have apparently never met with the man himself, having negotiated with his M-1 handlers on previous occasions. And when Fedor does talk publicly about his contract status, he doesn't say much outside of vague statements along the lines of the UFC's contracts being too restrictive. To me there are a few questions left concerning this whole situation, and the answers will determine whether Fedor will ever fight in the UFC:
1. What is important to Fedor?
If he thinks it's most important to go down as unquestionably the greatest heavyweight fighter of all time, he's got to fight in the UFC. It has to happen. Some may argue that it doesn't but to put it bluntly, they're wrong. A great fighter in his prime who essentially dodges most of the top ten fighters in the world cannot be considered the greatest ever. He may have had the most impressive run of any fighter in Pride, but that was a long time ago. If it's more important that he has flexibility, or to co-promote with M-1, the contract simply will not happen. And on that note, why do you need flexibility when you're fighting for the largest and most successful MMA promotion in the world? So that you can fight Hong Man Choi or Zulu on New Year's Eve in Japan? Give me a break. If the UFC were to land Fedor, that would be a sizeable inroads for them in Japan. Dana White already says he's going there, so if that's why Fedor wants flexibility (and again, that makes no sense,) that problem could be solved within the next couple of years.
2. What is his connection with M-1, and is he content to be Finkelchtein's puppet?
To be quite frank, I'd be surprised if Fedor has a written contract with M-1. At the time Cox left the organization, he said, "We spent well into six-figures of attorney fees trying to get the contract written, let alone signed." The signing never happened at that time, and Finkelchtein has stated publicly before that he doesn't believe in contracts. So what binds Fedor to M-1? Why is he content to let this guy make decisions for him that are in no way in his best financial interests? The only way it makes sense, and this is quite possible, is if Fedor has stakes in M-1 to where it's financially beneficial to him if the company makes money. Still, though. Fedor is a fighter, and not an executive. He should be looking to fight the best fighters and win. He shouldn't have anything to do with whether M-1 and the UFC co-promote an event in Russia, or whether his fellow Red Devil team members are signed to UFC contracts. It's ludicrous and outrageous that these are even considerations in talking about a contract for Emelianenko. So how long does he let it continue? Having seen how the last couple of years have played out, probably indefinitely.
So to me, the outlook on Fedor in the Octagon is not sunny at all; and that's bad for the fans, bad for the sport, and bad for Fedor's legacy. There's something to be said about the best fighters fighting each other not being dependant on who's promoting, but that's a discussion for another day. And besides that, the commentary is moot given the current climate. So as depressing as it sounds, it doesn't look like we're going to get much more than "what if?" when it comes to Fedor Emelianenko and how he'd fare consistently against the best in the world at this point in his career.
Tagged: On The Mat