Latest on Fedor's Negotiations with the UFC

September 16, 2007

Zach Arnold of FightOpinion reports:

According to the M-1 office, Finkelstein and UFC negotiated terms of a contract that would allow the PRIDE Heavyweight champion to fight in the Octagon. M-1 claims that the negotiations were a success and that the parties agreed to what the terms of the UFC contract would be. However, M-1 claims that when UFC sent the contract to their office, the terms of the deal were ‘absolutely different’ than what had been negotiated and that management did not agree on what was stated in the contract. This is why, according to M-1, Fedor has not signed a contract with UFC.

One thing to keep in mind is that Fedor has a lot of handlers, both in Russia and in the United States. Reportedly this has significantly complicated the negotiations.

5 New Reality Shows in Development

September 15, 2007

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Ultimate Fighter should be very proud. Five new MMA related reality shows are in development:

1) UFC Lifestyles – the UFC’s version of cribs, reportedly part of the $100 million dollar contract in the works between Spike and the UFC.

2) Quinton Jackson – Rampage’s management is pitching a reality show following the colorful champ reportedly with interest from MTV, A&E, and Spike.

3) American Fighter – Rich Franklin hosted reality show focusing on people fighting back against the odds. Pilot episode features a man learning to walk again after an ATV accident.

4) Frank Shamrock’s School of Hard Knocks – Mark Burnett production, believed to be something similar to the Contender.

5) BET MMA Project – concept similar to IFL/TUF (team based) with celebrity “owners.”

Arm Chair Booking: UFC 76

September 15, 2007

Two important Light Heavyweight matches headline UFC 76 as Chuck Liddell faces Keith Jardine and Shogun Rua makes his octagon debut against Forrest Griffin. It will be very interesting to see how this pay-per-view draws. Reactions to the the Liddell-Jardine match have ranged from why to who cares, while there is some buzz for Rua-Griffin.

On paper, Liddell v. Griffin, Rua v. Jardine looks like it would have been a stronger lineup. Liddell-Griffin was the original plan heading into Spring ’07 before Keith Jardine derailed the Forrest Griffin band wagon. That upset left the UFC scrambling for a challenger at 205 leading to the expedited purchase of the WFA and what many thought was a premature rematch of Liddell-Jackson (Hindsight being 20/20, that worked out well for the UFC). While each have lost some of their luster since then, Liddell-Griffin still has great marque value (certainly better than Liddell-Jardine) and would almost certainly have delivered a stronger buyrate. Furthermore, from a business perspective the match-up is a win-win since both Liddell and Griffin are draws, the same can’t be said for Jardine. A Jardine upset of Liddell would be disastrous for near term business.

The only way the actual match-ups make sense is if Liddell is being protected heading into a December match-up with Wanderlei Silva and a potential rematch with Rampage. While I think Forrest is a better fighter than Jardine, I’m not convinced Jardine is a safer fight for the former champ, since if Jardine has demonstrated anything its knockout power, just ask Forrest Griffin. The odds of Jardine catching Chuck seem alot higher than Forrest grinding out a decision.

UFC 75: 5.6 Million Viewers Can't Be Wrong

September 15, 2007

Don’t tell Sherdog’s Mike Sloan and Danny Acosta, but 5.6 million viewers tuned in to watch “A Battle They Didn’t Build” and a “Long Awaited Unification [that] Happened Too Soon.” The overall telecast drew a 3.1 rating with an average of 4.7 million viewers, including beating everything on TV in the coveted 18-34 and 18-49 male demographic. Click here for the full Spike press release.

Quinton Jackson may be on the verge of establishing himself as the top draw in the sport. Provided Chuck Liddell can make it through Keith Jardine and Wanderlei Silva, Jackson-Liddell III in the spring of ’08 looks like it might shatter all kinds of records.

Latest on UFC's Negotiations with Fedor

September 11, 2007

Dave Meltzer reports in this week’s Wrestling Observer that the UFC’s offer to Fedor Emelianeko is around $1.5 million per fight. The current highest downside guarantee in the company reportedly belongs to Mirko Cro Cop at $350,000 per fight. The biggest stars like Liddell and Couture have $250,000 downside guarantees but reportedly make around $1 million per fight thanks to pay-per-view bonuses. UFC is offering the best money, much higher than K-1 or EliteXC. Mark Cuban’s HDNet fights has also made a late push.

The major sticking points between Fedor and the UFC are reportedly:

1)Exclusivity – the UFC refuses to allow Fedor to fight in Russia, not even in sambo tournaments.

2)Team Red Devil – the UFC won’t cut Fedor’s management in on its international market and won’t take Fedor’s teammates as a package deal.

3) Control – Fedor’s team wants to have more control over who Fedor’s opponents are. One guy they reportedly want no part of: Tim Sylvia.

4) Contract not guaranteed – As with all the UFC’s contracts, they always have the option of cutting the fighter and terminating the contract. Like all UFC contracts, the contract also features a champion’s clause which gives the UFC the right to book the champion’s next fight. For example, if Fedor won the UFC Heavyweight title in the last fight on his contract the UFC would have the right to book his next fight without renegotiating.

From my perspective, it looks like Fedor needs the UFC a lot more than the UFC needs Fedor. Fedor’s name means absolutely nothing in the U.S. right now, and I’m not convinced he will become a mega draw even with the UFC marketing machine behind him. He doesn’t have the look that draws in America, he doesn’t have a colorful personality, and he doesn’t speak english. The UFC will continue doing big business with or without Fedor.

For Fedor the UFC offers the greatest potential financial payday and is his only chance to truly establish himself as the best heavyweight in the world. He’ll never be worth more to the UFC than he is right now. A title unification bout between Fedor and Couture would do huge business as basically a real life Rocky IV.

Title Picture Following UFC 75

September 11, 2007

HEAVYWEIGHT

It had looked like the UFC was building toward Cro Cop v. Antonio Nogueira for an eventual shot at the Heavyweight title. There had been some talk of a quick turn around for Cro Cop to get this fight on the November show that is still without a main event. Cro Cop’s loss to Cheick Kongo erases that match as well as any potential rehabilitation of his drawing power. With such a high downside guarantee, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cro Cop cut.

Nogueira v. Andre Arlovski in November for a shot at the heavyweight title would make a lot of sense. Arlovski was supposed to be next in line for a title shot following his win over Fabricio Werdum at UFC 70. He was subsequently stripped of that shot by Dana White as punishment for not trying to finish the fight. However, Arlovski only has one fight left on his UFC deal which means there is zero chance he’ll get a prime spot before signing a new deal. Former champion Tim Sylvia and the undefeated Brandon Vera (back from exile after changing management and signing a new deal) would also appear to be logical candidates for the spot, however, they are strongly rumored to be facing each other on the October show.

Given all this, Kongo v. Nogueira looks very likely for later this year, however, that fight lacks the luster to be any kind of draw. Randy Couture won’t be available to defend the title until Super Bowl weekend (due to his arm injury and role in a movie), so it looks like Randy v. Sylvia/Vera in February, with Nogueira being groomed for a shot in the late spring/early summer. Ofcourse this is all subject to change should the UFC sign Fedor Emelianenko.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (205 lbs)

Rampage over Henderson was good for business. The UFC could really use a little stability on top after year that has already saw five title changes with one more looming (as a result of Sean Sherk’s positive). Jackson is a marketable, albeit little known, fighter who has the rub of having beat arguably the sports biggest star, Chuck Liddell, twice, the last by knockout in a fight that received the biggest main stream publicity of any MMA fight in history.

From here it looks like they’re building towards Jackson v. the winner of the much anticipated Liddell-Wanderlei Silva fight in December. Of course that is subject to Liddell dismissing Keith Jardine at UFC 76. Shogun Rua looks to be the next in line for a title push, getting the rub of one of the company’s biggest stars in his debut fight against Forrest Griffin. Exciting Houston Alexander v. the winner of Rua-Griffin looks like a logical next step building towards a Rua title shot next spring.

MIDDLEWEIGHT (185 lbs)

Henderson’s loss at 205 puts the reigning Pride Middleweight Champion squarely into title contention at 185. Dana White has said that he’d want Henderson to fight once in the division before stepping up to unify the belts. That looks like the logical direction to go after the Anderson Silva-Rich Franklin rematch in October. After that it’s pretty slim in pickings in the company’s weakest weight class.

WELTERWEIGHT (170 lbs)

This is widely considered the company’s most crowded division, but thanks to a string of contender fights the title picture is pretty clear. Matt Serra will defend against Matt Hughes in December (although some have suggested that there is an outside chance of this fight getting bumped up to November to fill the void). From there, best case scenario, Hughes regains the title and defends against George St. Pierre in Canada next spring. Worst case scenario, Sera retains and worse still they can’t get a date in Montreal.

From there the title picture opens back up. A Jon Fitch win over Diego Sanchez at UFC 76 would probably move him to the front of the line for the next shot after GSP.

LIGHTWEIGHT (155 lbs)

This division is in limbo pending the outcome of Sean Sherk’s appeal of his steroid suspension. The only thing we know is that BJ Penn is the number one contender to the title and will most likely be fighting someone for the belt in November. Assuming Sherk’s appeal is denied and he is stripped of the title, from there things get complicated. Joe Stevenson suffered a broken jaw in his last fight, likely dropping him from consideration for the spot opposite Penn. The Kenny Florian-Din Thomas winner at next week’s UFN is a possibility on a tight turn around. From there it’s hard to get a handle on this division. It’s full of talent, but there is very little separation and no real stars outside of Penn and Sherk.

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