Category Archives: M-1

In A Posh Manhattan Loft, Fedor Meets the U.S. Media

A strange thing happened last night. Through some twist of fate, I found myself sitting in fashion designer Marc Ecko’s posh 23rd Street loft, surrounded by other members of the MMA media, sitting just a few feet from Fedor Emelianenko.

Now that I think about it, strange doesn’t quite explain the situation. Bizarre is a little better, or even surreal. Look to your right and there’s Jerry Millen with Frank Trigg. On the left, there’s Elite XC’s Gary Shaw and the IFL’s Gareb Shamus. And right in front, of course, Fedor sits smiling in his stylish suit and blue tie, calmly enjoying a warm reception from the adoring media.

I wasn’t expecting to end my Monday evening this way. But that morning I’d heard about a press conference to announce Fedor’s future with the M-1 Global organization, and I quickly scrambled to secure myself an invite.

The theme of the press conference, it turned out, was that M-1 would be an “open company” that would allow Fedor to fight champions from other organizations, and make it profitable for those champions to fight Fedor, whether it happened in M-1 or not. In case anyone missed this, M-1 executives rephrased and repeated it several times.

M-1, which has had a storm of rumors surrounding its recent purchase, turns out now to be owned by entertainment group Sibling Sports, LLC. If you’ve never heard of Sibling Sports, you aren’t alone. They’re a newly formed subsidiary of Sibling Entertainment, a company that produces Broadway shows. So why were we having this press conference in Marc Ecko’s office?

“He’s a friend,” said Sibling president and CEO Mitchell Maxwell.

Maxwell is something of an entertainment mogul, one of the guys who seems like he was born in a Brooks Brothers suit and who off-handedly mentions meetings he had in Sardinia, where he and someone else agreed to meet later in Amsterdam to talk further. He also admits to knowing next to nothing about MMA except that his company has signed the best fighter in the world, and he only knows that because enough people have told him.

One of those people is Monte Cox, the well-known agent to MMA stars like Tim Sylvia and Sean Sherk and Ben Rothwell and dozens of others, particularly those from the Miletich camp. Cox is now the CEO of M-1 Global, which was previously owned and operated by Fedor’s manager Vadim Finkelchtein (who was also present at the event).

Cox has put, by his own estimation, sixty or more fighters in the UFC as an agent. But now that he’s the head of a competing organization, he’ll naturally step down as a fighter representative, right? Wrong. If his fighters are dealing with M-1, Cox said, he’d step aside. But he plans to continue to represent fighters in other organizations.

“I haven’t really thought about it too much,” he said, when asked if this was a conflict of interest. “I guess we’ll see how it goes.”

Because I like to assume the best about people, I interpreted this as a deft dodge by Cox. He couldn’t possibly expect me to believe he hadn’t thought about the potential conflict his new position would create. It’s practically a text book definition of the term “conflict of interest”.

The star of this show was obviously Fedor, who spoke sparingly through an interpreter. He spoke of his respect for Randy Couture, as a person and a fighter, and said what an honor it would be to fight him. When asked about accusations that he had dodged a fight with then-UFC champion Tim Sylvia back when Pride and the UFC were trying to work out fighter exchanges, Fedor smiled and said simply, “I have never avoided any fighter.”

I was surprised how charismatic Fedor was while saying so little. He often deferred to his manager or gave very simple, short answers. When asked why he didn’t sign with the UFC he initially avoided a direct answer before finally saying, “I think the contract wasn’t that great, to tell you softly.”

Despite the repeated references to him as the “number one fighter in the world” by Cox and Maxwell, Emelianenko commented near the end of the press conference that he didn’t consider himself number one because he hadn’t faced enough competition.

M-1’s hook, aside from having Fedor, seems to be their pledge to be open and “global”. When asked if there were any restrictions in Fedor’s contract about where he could fight and under what circumstances, Maxwell said, “No. That’s the short answer.”

Matt Kaplan from Five Ounces of Pain, who was sitting next to me, whispered in my ear, “Yeah, but what’s the long answer?”

That’s what I’m wondering. M-1 seems to have a lot of great ideas about how the MMA world should work, but I have to question how they’ll be implemented. Do they really expect the UFC to share their open attitude? When I asked both Cox and Maxwell about this, as well as about where they were licensed to hold events, who else might fight in them, and how MMA fans would be able to watch them, they claimed they didn’t know yet because their company was still so new.

And yet, they said several times that they expected to have Fedor fight in February. That’s going to require some quick moving on their part to get everything in place. Maxwell said he wasn’t worried, because although he’d only seen his first MMA match on DVD about ten weeks earlier, he knew that everybody wanted to be alligned with the best, and that’s Fedor.

I politely pointed out that in fighting, having the best only means something if you have a credible opponent for him to face. Here Maxwell floated some names that he said “have been tossed around” as potential opponents for Fedor, including Josh Barnett and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.

“We’re not going to have him fight tomato cans,” Maxwell added.

That’s reassuring. But plenty of companies begin with big announcements and swanky media receptions only to have the open bar dry up a few months down the road. I’ll be anxious to see what M-1 does to make MMA more of an open and global venture. Their first acquisition is a good one, but one man won’t make an organization. Even if it’s Fedor.

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Filed under Fedor Emelianenko, M-1, MMA, Sports, UFC

Arona Denies M-1 Contract Rumors, Says He May Sign in December

Ricardo Arona is denying widespread rumors that he has signed with the M-1 organization to fight Fedor Emelianenko in December, according to an MMANews.con translation of an article in Tatame magazine.  While he doesn’t rule out the possibility that he may sign in the coming months, he doesn’t seem intent on that contract being with M-1, which Arona apparently knows as little about as the rest of us:

 “I have not signed anything with M-1. I’ve heard rumors about it but no offer to fight against Fedor. To be honest I never heard of this event. I’ve gotten a few offers from the U.S., Canada and Japan, but I’m still weighing in my options before I sign. I’ll probably have a contract to fight in December.”

And the rumor mill spins on.  Trying to figure out which fighter has signed with which organization is starting to feel uncomfortably like speculating on which celebrities are pregnant.  All I know is if paparazzi photos surface showing Arona driving around in a new car, wearing an expensive fur coat, he’s definitely signed with someone.  Either that or he’s begun a successful rap career.  I’d be happy about both options, really.

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Filed under M-1, MMA, Ricardo Arona, Sports

Arona Signs With M-1, Could Fight Fedor First

Update: No, he didn’t. Read this.

According to MMA-Europe.net, former Pride fighter Ricardo Arona has signed a four-fight deal with the M-1 organization. The report claims his debut will come in December, and his opponent may be Fedor Emelianenko.

According to “Vale Tudo News”, Brazilian ace Ricardo Arona (13-5-0) announced that he has signed a four fight deal with Russian organization M-1. The opponent(s), due to contractual issues, weren’t revealed. Arona said that he is now focused in his debut, in December. When asked if the first fight would be with Fedor Emilianenko (26-1-0), Ricardo Arona smiled and kept his silence.

While a smiling, silent Arona does not necessarily make for official confirmation, it seems at least possible that an Arona-Fedor showdown will headline a December card. That’s a tough return to the ring for Arona, who last saw action in April when he was knocked out by Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. Once a promising Brazilian Top Team prospect, Arona has struggled recently, losing three of his last four fights.

A second life with M-1 may be just what Arona needs to get his career back on track, but debuting against the bigger, more experienced Emelianenko won’t be easy. The two met once before back in 2000 for the Rings organization, with Emelianenko winning a unanimous decision. No doubt both are very different fighters now (it was only the third fight for both men), but Arona has struggled with the stand-up game while Emelianenko is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the MMA world.

If nothing else, this move signals what may be the start of an aggressive attempt by M-1 to corral some of the top talent left in limbo after Zuffa’s purchase of Pride. It might also provide an alternative to UFC fighters looking to entertain other options after their current contracts expire, as former Pride champion Dan Henderson has indicated he might do.

In a recent interview Henderson claimed many fighters were unhappy with the money offered to them by the UFC, and he suggested that it was related to the UFC losing money on events in Ireland and overpaying on the purchase of Pride. Henderson didn’t offer any hard evidence for this claim, and it would seem that the UFC is in as strong a financial position as ever, but the mere fact that a top fighter is publicly voicing his displeasure with his current contract should be enough to get organizations like M-1 interested.

No one knows exactly how much M-1 has to spend, but if they’re willing to shell out the cash they could lure a number of UFC fighters into their stable. Then it’s just a question of what they’ll do with them, and when.

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Filed under Dan Henderson, Fedor Emelianenko, M-1, MMA, Ricardo Arona, Sports, UFC

Randy Couture Leaves UFC

According to a shocking report by the Fight Network, Randy Couture has resigned from the UFC in a letter to Dana White, citing the organization’s inability to sign Fedor Emelianenko as a contributing factor in his decision:

“I appreciate this opportunity the sport of MMA and the UFC has given me,” the UFC Hall-of-Famer said. “However, I’m tired of swimming upstream at this stage with the management of the UFC. It only makes sense at this point in my career to fight Fedor Emelianenko, and since he’s now signed with another organization, I feel like it’s time to resign and focus on my other endeavors.”

The announcement comes while Couture is in South Africa filming “The Scorpion King – Rise of the Akkadian”, in which he reportedly has a starring role.

While I sincerely hope he isn’t walking away from MMA for an acting career (particularly one that hinges on the success of another Scorpion King movie), it is somewhat understandable that he might feel there are not enough mountains left to climb in the UFC at this point.

There are plenty of opportunities for Couture to make money without having his bones broken, and at forty-four you have to think that even Couture can’t have too many more fights in him.

That being said, the announcement has to be a major shock and a disappointment to the UFC. They could not hope for a better spokesman and ambassador than Couture, who also appeared from time to time as a very competent on-air commentator.

Now one can’t help but wonder whether M-1 will attempt to entice him into a big money fight with Fedor. Whatever undisclosed American company that bought the organization will certainly need deep pockets to make it happen, but it’s the kind of move that could instantly put them on the map.

Read the full article here.

Update: read the expanded explanations and accusations from both sides here

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Filed under Fedor Emelianenko, M-1, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC, Uncategorized

Fedor Signs With M-1, So Now What?

The Fight Network is reporting that Fedor Emelianenko has committed to the M-1 organization, which was until recently owned by Vadim Finkelstein, Fedor’s longtime friend and manager. Now M-1 has apparently been sold to an unnamed American company with plenty of cash to throw around in the interest of expanding the organization’s reach, and Emelianenko is their first big score.

I’m not sure what this means for Fedor except that we won’t get to see him fight Randy Couture any time soon. The UFC insists on exclusive contracts, which was reportedly one of the obstacles to getting the deal done with Fedor in the first place. He wanted the freedom to compete in Russian Sambo tournaments back home, the UFC didn’t want to risk it, and now Fedor is signing with a company that will still be run in large part by his own manager.

I’d be lying if I said I weren’t more than a little disappointed. It sounds like this American company probably bought M-1 in part because they could get Fedor in a kind of package deal, but having a great fighter means nothing if you don’t have anyone for him to fight. Of course they’ll dig up someone, but if it isn’t a top ten heavyweight (and depending on whose rankings you use, at least seven or eight of them are in the UFC) then it’s hard for the match to seem legitimately competitive.

You can’t fault Fedor for wanting to do what’s best for his pocketbook and those of his friends, but it’s still a letdown. The big question now is what will M-1, under its new American ownership, do with their new star in their new organization? Whatever it is, I hope it ends up on TV somewhere. Just like I hope the name Mark Coleman isn’t involved.

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Filed under Fedor Emelianenko, M-1, Mark Coleman, MMA, Sports, UFC