Fedor Emelianenko is the reigning PRIDE Heavyweight Champion of the world. Actually, most believe that he’s also the best mixed martial arts fighter in the world – UFC, PRIDE, anywhere – right now. Thus, whenever he sneezes it’s likely to get some press.
However, his agreement to fight on the BodogFight card on March 3rd would seem to be a bit more than just a sneeze. More like a hernia.
For PRIDE, that is.
The move is of course causing all types of speculation. Why would Fedor Emelianenko make such a decision? Why would he even consider fighting somewhere other than PRIDE?
Here are some possible reasons.
The Russian Connection
Fedor Emelianenko was born in Luhansk, Ukraine and currently lives in Stary Oskol, Russia. Along with this, his homeland is very important to him. Important enough, in fact, to make sure that there was a clause in his PRIDE contract that would allow him to fight in his homeland of Russia, regardless of the organization putting on the show.
It just so happens that in March, BodogFight is putting on an event in St. Petersburg, Russia. This is of course what Fedor wanted: a fight in Russia. One fight. No big deal.
And if this is the case; if Fedor only wants one fight in his homeland, that’s the best case scenario that PRIDE could hope for.
Unfortunately, what had initially been viewed as a one fight deal could become more than that. According to Sherdog.com editor, Josh Gross, BodogFight wants to ink Fedor to a long term mixed martial arts contract, and their interest comes at the perfect time as Fedor has only one fight left on his PRIDE deal.
After Fedor’s New Year’s Eve match against Mark Hunt, the PRIDE champion is a free agent.
But that will only matter if Fedor Emelianenko truly has a desire to test the waters. It will only make a difference if this goes beyond simply getting a fight in Russia.
There is really no doubt that Fedor wanted to fight in his homeland ( the contract clause says it all ). Still, there could be a little bargaining going on here as well.
Fedor Emelianenko is no fool; and it’s likely that his agent isn’t, either. To lose their current heavyweight champion to an upstart mixed martial art organization would be a major blow to PRIDE.
Let’s repeat that – losing Fedor Emelianenko would be a major blow to the PRIDE organization.
Therefore, inking with another organization just a few months after his PRIDE contract expires, from a financial standpoint, could be viewed as an extremely intelligent move. If PRIDE was planning on low balling him in any way, that plan has likely been thrown out the window. The organization understands what Fedor means to them, and will likely do everything in their power to keep him.
So, in other words, fighting on the BodogFight card will likely serve to get Fedor more money.
BodogFight is an Up and Comer with a Lot of Money
If this is a major reason why Fedor decided to compete on BodogFight’s March 3rd card, PRIDE better start scrambling.
BodogFight is a collaboration between the Mixed Fighting Championship ( MFC ) and Calvin Ayre, founder of Bodog Entertainment. The MFC has been, in essence, trying to make MMA an international team sport by pitting one country against another for awhile now ( with the intent of a team concept ). Ayre is a savvy businessman and the money behind the operation. His Bodog Entertainment has their hands in sports gambling, casino gambling, and hosts of other things. He’s simply a very good businessman.
Together the two have been doing pretty well together. So well that they were able to ink a Gracie debut ( Roger Gracie submitted former PRIDE fighter, Ron Waterman, in their clash on the Bodog December card ).
Of course, Fedor Emelianenko represents the greatest coup on the planet.
Some Believe that PRIDE is in Trouble
Another thing PRIDE hopes isn’t playing much into Fedor Emelianenko’s decision making. Many people who watch mixed martial arts only casually may not be aware of the fact that the Japanese based Pride Fighting Championships recently lost their television deal ( Fuji TV ) in their home country.
So, in other words, even the Japanese need to buy PRIDE events on Pay Per View now, not just Americans.
Therefore, PRIDE’s decision to put on a show on American soil back in October wasn’t just about expansion in and of itself. They were likely also trying to make up for lost revenue in their homeland.
To part with Fedor Emelianenko – their marquee name – would really hurt their ability to compete with the UFC in America. Might even kill their chances, in fact.
Especially if the UFC is able to sign Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic, which word is they may be about to do.
But that story is for another day.
In sum, Fedor Emelianenko is considered the greatest fighter on the planet today by many. Thus, he is a major reason why many mixed martial arts aficionados believe that PRIDE is still the preeminent mixed martial arts organization on the planet. If he jumps ship, that may all end.
PRIDE is clearly hoping this is all about getting on one Russian card. If not, trouble is brewing.