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Thursday, July 30, 2009
Thoughts on Fedor/UFC Negotiations
by Ivan Trembow

I continue to be amazed by the fact that in the eyes of the "clapping seals" who must be proud to put forth the UFC’s agenda on any given issue, Fedor Emelianenko's entire legitimacy as a fighter is riding on whether or not he accepts whatever it is that the UFC is offering him.

News flash: Even if Fedor retired from MMA tomorrow and never fought again, he would go down in history as the fighter who was the #1 heavyweight in the world for six straight years (from 2003 to 2009), and arguably the greatest fighter in MMA's history up to this point (of course, as with any G.O.A.T. in any sport, there's no assurance that another athlete wouldn't eventually replace him in that position).

But don’t tell that to the "clapping seals." To them, one successful title defense can prompt questions of who can possibly stop a UFC champion, while Fedor is both illegitimate and irrelevant if he doesn’t sign with the UFC... and he's not just illegitimate and irrelevant in 2009, but it also means that the last six years never happened.

Of course, if every fighter's legitimacy and relevance as a fighter is determined by whether or not they accept whatever it is that the UFC is offering them, that adds a tremendous amount of leverage to the UFC's side and takes a tremendous amount of leverage away from the side of all fighters. That's a big part of the reason why the UFC and its surrogates tend to portray it as though any fighter, even Fedor, is irrelevant if he doesn't accept whatever it is that the UFC is offering.

Yesterday, the UFC leaked out inflated contract numbers through one of their friends in the media (the Carmichael Dave Show), claiming that Fedor was offered $5 million per fight for six fights. The Pavlovian response to the UFC's leak of inflated dollar figures has worked far better than the UFC could have possibly hoped. One little leak and now it's being regarded almost everywhere as the undeniable truth. Wow, that was easy.

Inflated dollar figures are the easiest thing in the world to leak out in an effort to put pressure on the other side, because of the obligatory, "OMG, he turned down that much money!" response, which is exactly the response that the UFC's leak has produced on a massive scale.

In fact, dollar figures have never been a major factor in holding up the UFC/Fedor negotiations. In 2007, the UFC offered a guarantee of $1.5 million per fight, and Fedor's side was understandably happy with that figure. It wasn't the money that held up the deal, and I'd be shocked if that's what is holding up the deal now. There are more important things than dollar figures, such as not having the standard UFC contractual clause that auto-renews the contract for life if you're a champion. Leaking out such an inflated dollar figure is very transparent on Zuffa's part.

Regarding the champion's clause in UFC contracts, it renews one year at a time, and does it so indefinitely, until the champion loses the title. If it expired after just 12 months, Randy Couture would have been a free agent in August 2008. Rob Maysey, who has written more about UFC contracts than anyone, confirms regarding the champion's clause that the "UFC version, as drafted, keeps renewing."

Here's more information from someone who (unlike Carmichael Dave) actually is a credible source, the author of what is widely regarded as the best book about MMA (Jonathan Snowden): The guarantee per fight offered by the UFC was less than the guarantee per fight in the Affliction contract (roughly $1.5 million). But don't let that stop anyone from spreading misinformation. Zach Arnold wrote a very good article about this here.

If Fedor ever wanted to fight the champion's clause in court as Randy Couture did for a year before giving up, there would be a solid 18-to-24 months from the time that the lawsuit was filed to the trial date, and even then, there is no guarantee that he’d win in a Nevada court system with judges like the Xyience/Bergeron case judge who got elected with campaign money from UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta (that is not a secret, a rumor, or a conspiracy theory, as the judge publicly thanked the Fertittas on his web site for their contributions to his election campaign).

There are currently more highly-ranked heavyweight fighters in the UFC than there are outside of the UFC, but let’s not act like there are NO highly-ranked heavyweight fighters outside of the UFC. Even with Josh Barnett out of the picture, other top-15-ranked heavyweights who are not in the UFC include Brett Rogers, Alistair Overeem, Jeff Monson, Fabricio Werdum, and Andrei Arlovski, only one of whom Fedor has already beaten (Arlovski).

That's a stronger heavyweight division than the UFC had a few years ago (a UFC heavyweight division that Dana White now says completely sucked), but it’s still not as good as the UFC's current heavyweight division. Randy Couture, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Mirko Cro Cop are all closer to the end than they are to their primes, and Fedor beat Nogueira and Cro Cop in their primes, but Brock Lesnar beating the Shane Carwin/Cain Velasquez winner would indeed be another big achievement and I would look forward to that fight.

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