Some news surfaced today that Mark Cuban had confirmed that he was in discussions regarding a possible business deal with the M-1 MixFight Championship, the promotion that signed Fedor Emelianenko earlier this week. Many fans are taking this news as an indication that he is the possible purchaser of the M-1 MixFight promotion from the news that an “American Entertainment Company” had purchased the company. Other sources around the Internet are claiming that Mark Cuban is not the purchaser of the company. To be perfectly honest, Cuban is more than likely not going to be pushing his stake into MMA this quickly, especially when HDNet Fights just held its first event in the history of the promotion. What interests me the most is the possible business deal that could come from Cuban’s end. Will Cuban be able to produce some kind of co-promotional events with M-1? Will HDNet Fights become an international partner with M-1 and help M-1 step into the U.S. Market? More importantly, can HDNet and M-1 bring Josh Barnett and Randy Couture in to create two of the most anticipated matchups in the history of MMA? Let’s find out.
Major players looking to help each other?
There isn’t much known about M-1 MixFight at this point. We know that there will be an announcement regarding Fedor Emelianenko’s contract on October 23rd in New York City. We don’t know if the buyers will be revealed, but there are rumors circulating that the new purchasers have hired a notable MMA name to help promote the organization and be the face of the organization. For the new owners, there are a number of promotions that will be looking to strike deals with them because of the legacy of Fedor. A lot of fans may not agree, but people will still buy pay-per-views to see arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
What potential is there for a deal that will bring M-1 some U.S. market exposure and another promotion some international flavor that will not only increase their talent pool, but will also help in grabbing up MMA fans to see the event? Since the reports have been that a major backer is in the mix with M-1, my feeling is that M-1 is looking to begin a major push internationally. Being based in Russia also has many perks. M-1 has access to some of the better talent coming out of Asia and the eastern block countries. Also having a presence in an area that has some ties to some big MMA crowds such as that in Japan is a major plus. Russian MMA is only in its infancy though. Fedor’s status in the MMA world will help promote MMA in Russia and hopefully bring some respectful status to it as the Russian public has not accepted MMA like the U.S. has.
With that said, a possible co-promotion with a U.S. based promotion seems to be a brilliant move by M-1. They will not only get their name in the spotlight, something they have been wanting for a long time, but will also be able to show that their fighters can compete in with U.S. fighters. This was the debate with PRIDE vs. UFC, could those fighters compete with the UFC? The bigger picture will be the financial benefits.
Fedor Emelianenko has been said to be a non-drawing fighter in the past. The BodogFIGHT card featuring Fedor vs. Lindland didn’t draw much more than a normal card. Bodog hasn’t been successful in selling their cards very well though. In a U.S. market, MMA is a bit bigger and a good marketing strategy could potentially make some record sales.
The main organization in line right now is HDNet Fights. The article mentioned above states that Cuban is trying to work a deal. They are a brand new organization looking to draw fans to watch their fights, looking to expand HDNet and add more subscribers, and also wanting to be significant in the MMA market. What a better deal than to bring Fedor to the United States in a co-promotional event. Along with bringing Fedor, we will see some of the better Russian prospects in MMA up against some solid American fighters in a cage. It benefits their MMA program, exposure, and legitimizes HDNet Fights as an organization to be reckoned with.
Will someone else be able to produce?
The bigger question in a HDNet and M-1 partnership will be whether or not M-1 management can lure some of the free agent heavyweights that the world of MMA has long been wanting to see fight Fedor Emelianenko. Josh Barnett has been out of action since December 31st of last year, when he lost a decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Barnett only has 5 losses to his record, 3 of those to Mirko “Crocop” Filipovic. His catch wrestling is world renowned as some of the best grappling skills by anyone in his weight class… except for possibly Fedor Emelianenko. The much anticipated battle between these two competitors will be a big draw for hardcore MMA fans and could be promoted well enough to bring in some casual fans.
The fight that everyone has been wanting to see for quite some time pits the legendary UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture against Fedor Emelianenko. We won’t get into details about styles and who would eventually win the bout, that’s for another time. We will get into the fact that this fight is the most anticipated fight in MMA right now. Amazingly, Couture wants this fight so badly that he ended up leaving the UFC because Dana White was unable to swing a deal to bring Fedor to the UFC. With Couture heading into free agency after 9 more months, could Cuban work a deal and bring him to HDNet and eventually set up the battle between the two legends?
The answer is Yes. Finances aren’t even an issue. In a previous article, I chronicled Mark Cuban’s rise to riches and the amount of money he has to bankroll that kind of deal is nothing compared to the net worth he has accumulated. Mark Cuban also will have the knowledge of what Dana White did wrong when dealing with Fedor’s representation. He could throw money into a co-promotion, help get both HDNet and M-1’s name exposure, and only sign Fedor and Barnett to one fight deals. That would enable those fighters to do what they want, something that was argued over during Fedor’s negotiations. With that said, Cuban is in an unique position to give the fans what they want in a small amount of time of being in the market of MMA. It could be a very exciting year in 2008.