Former Pride FC champion Fedor Emelianenko spent years atop pound-for-pound rankings — an especially impressive and rare feat for heavyweights. Unfortunately, most Western MMA fans never got to see Fedor fight because he never made the transition to the UFC after the American promotion purchased Pride, like many other fighters from the Japanese organization.
The Russian fighter retired three years ago, on a three-fight win streak, and has largely insisted that he’s content outside of competition since that time. However, Fedor recently announced his intention to return to fighting.
Would he choose to continue to fight abroad, or perhaps join up with U.S. promotions who have leadership that he’s already worked with in the past? In previous negotiations, the UFC and Fedor’s management/promoter only reached impasses.
However, in a recent interview with Submission Radio, Fedor’s manager Vadim Finkelchtein seemed to send some important signals that many of the obstacles that once kept Fedor out of the UFC have fallen away. One issue often publicly stated by Fedor for his not signing with the UFC was allegedly (though not hard to believe) that the promotion’s president Dana White didn’t treat him with enough respect.
Finkelchtein seemed to suggest all that rhetoric is water under the bridge now, however. "Dana talked a lot. [He] talked a lot about Fedor, about Vadim, and he talked bad," he said.
"But Fedor understands that it all was just PR. He’s not in a bad relations with Dana and he doesn’t feel anything bad about him."
So, there’s that. More importantly, however, the M-1 Global promoter also seemed to suggest that perhaps their previous modus operandi of requiring "co-promotion" with any organization that signed his client Fedor is no longer a requirement. If so, that could bode well for the UFC’s chances of signing Fedor, if they want him, because they do not co-promote as such.
"Well, when it comes to M-1, we are not really intersted in any kind of co-promotion," he said.
"M-1 is a self-contained, European promotion … M-1 doesn’t really need any co-promotion."
Finkelchtein went on to say that he was no longer going to try and actively shop his M-1 promotion to the UFC, as he had before. "It was a completely different situation then. We had some financial problems then. And now I’m not going to sell M-1 to anywhere because we are growing and developing," he continued.
Finkelchtein also said that the UFC’s new apparel-partner Reebok is interested in signing Fedor, so he doesn’t imagine the fight-week uniform restrictions that went into place this month for UFC athletes would be an impediment to the fighter joining the UFC. "I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s going to be a big problem because I think Reebok is interested in Fedor as well as the UFC," he said.
"I think if they really want this they will find some ways."
Fedor’s manager — who has admittedly been campaigning for his cash-cow to return to fighting for as long as he’s been away — insited that Emelianenko has only benefited from his time away from competition. Fedor may not have been competing in public, but his manager said that he’s been training hard, non-stop.
"Before he decided to retire, Fedor was working hard, training and fighting a lot during his whole career, and he was tired, both physically and mentally. So he decided himself [that] it was time to stop. And that was a common decision, and I was doing my best to make him come back. Now he decided to come back, but he never stopped training," he said.
"He always gave master-classes, always had sparring, and so on. So his physical form is very good now. He didn’t lose anything. All he needs now is some time to get ready, to get prepared, because I see fire in his eyes. He is ready mentally to fight. All he needs is to take some training and he will be able to beat any fighters and the strongest fighters in the world … He didn’t miss anything. He has trained constantly and been self-active. Furthermore, he had never used any kind of doping. All of his power and all of his strength was gained by the hard work only. So this vacation only even benefited him because he didn’t have all that condition downfall that its users typically experience when they stop using it."
Though Fedor’s team is keeping their options open for a new home for the fighter, it is worth noting that his manager no-longer sees any particular reason that they wouldn’t sign with the UFC.
"Well I think UFC have a big chance to sign Fedor. It depends on what offer they will make," he concluded.
"If Dana would not only talk, but do some things [and] make a good offer to Fedor, they have a big chance."