Editor's Note by SC: Not ten minutes after I posted this article, the Los Angeles Times reported that Fedor will be announced as signed by the UFC on Friday. This could be more real than I expected:
A long-awaited agreement between the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the man considered the world's best mixed martial arts fighter, Fedor Emelianenko, is expected to be announced by UFC President Dana White on Friday, a source with information about the negotiations told The Times today.
The source, who asked not to be identified because he's not authorized to speak publicly about the dealings, called negotiations between the UFC and Fedor "very civil" just days after Fedor's scheduled Affliction Trilogy fight Saturday against Josh Barnett was canceled.
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MMA superstar Fedor Emelianenko will hold a press conference on Wednesday in Anaheim to discuss his future in the wake of Affliction's death as an MMA fight promoter, and the cancellation of his proposed August superfight with Josh Barnett. If UFC signs Fedor -- who is considered the #1 heavyweight by everyone in the world except the UFC, officially -- and, say, puts him at UFC 103 against Brock Lesnar, then Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez will have a serious problem selling their fight. UFC 103 and Mayweather-Marquez both fall on September 19, and it would not remotely surprise me if Dana White tries to load up that card to embarrass Mayweather at the bank, which is really Mayweather's own fault for being so dumb lately.
This is all total "what if?" on my part admittedly, but Dana's that kind of "go for the jugular" promoter, which has been a part of what's made him so successful. Fedor is no lock to go to UFC no matter what, since his manager Vadim Finkelstein is (as Bloody Elbow puts it) something of a Russian Don King who is demanding that the world's biggest MMA promotion "co-promote" Fedor fights with M-1 Global. There have been other sticking points in past negotiations, too, including Fedor's genuine love of participating in sambo tournaments. I don't even actually expect a Fedor-UFC deal to get done, just as an observer, at least not right now.
But for the sake of argument: If Lesnar-Fedor went head-to-head with Mayweather-Marquez, the boxing show would get slaughtered. UFC is doing huge business these days, including a reported over 1.5 million buys for UFC 100 in July. If we assume Mayweather-Marquez might cut into their audience a tiny bit, a low-end estimate might be 850,000 buys for that show. Assuming UFC cut into the boxing PPV (which is more likely), who's going to buy the Mayweather show? The Mexican audience is an incredibly loyal PPV demographic, and Marquez currently stands as the king of the Mexican fighters, plus it's on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day, which will help. But there's only so many Mexican fans that are going to buy the show. The promotion relies heavily on them as it is.
This would be the test of Mayweather's drawing power to end all tests. If he could even compete with that hypothetical UFC show, it'd be huge at the bargaining table. If he can't, who's he going to blame? He's the star, he says, and he's the lead promoter, too. I wouldn't be stunned in this scenario to see Mayweather pull up with another injury. It's impossible to verify, but a lot of the swirling winds around the postponement that put them on September 19 said that tickets weren't moving too well and the buzz wasn't there, rather than the rib injury to Floyd that served as the official reasoning.
I'm starting to find the potential business of Mayweather-Marquez to be more intriguing than I am the fight itself, and I'm pretty interested in seeing JMM try to beat Floyd, personally. Mayweather has talked so big about being The Man at the box office. A lot of folks believe that it was Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton drawing the houses and the buys for Mayweather's two biggest fights, and they have their reasons to think that. Absolutely Oscar was the superstar that drew for the first fight; it was "The Golden Boy" trying to dethrone the unbeaten pound-for-pound king. But as much as I think Mayweather is overestimating his own star power, Floyd is surely a bigger star now than he was before then, and part of that is his own hard work building a character, essentially. HBO's "24/7" gave him opportunities he never had before, and he ran with them. Mayweather-Hatton was a feather in the cap for both of those fighters, I believe.
But now you have Marquez, a great fighter and a star, but not a mega star, and there are a lot of people that just think the fight either won't be very good or won't even be close, some of whom see this as Mayweather taking a "gimme" fight against a smaller man and ducking stiffer challenges like Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto.
A lot of times it's easy to make a fair guess at what kind of business a fight will do. The last two boxing megafights -- Oscar-Manny and Manny-Hatton -- weren't too hard. I was fairly close in my estimate for both fights' PPV business. But Mayweather-Marquez is a mystery right now, and a potentially huge UFC show (perhaps driven by Dana White going out of his way to grind an ax against Mayweather) could really throw it for a loop.