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.