In my travels of listening to almost every interview I could get my hands on and keeping up with the news in the mixed martial arts world, I thought I would write a little rundown of the Fedor Emelianenko rumor mill. Right now, as everybody probably knows, he has all but confirmed that he has signed with Russian MMA promotion M-1 MixFight. The announcement will be made at Mark Ecko Enterprises offices on October 23rd in New York City.
After months of speculation as to where Fedor Emelianenko was going to sign, the news broke on TAGGRadio that Fedor had signed with a new Russian MMA organization. That new organization was later confirmed to be M-1, but it was now under new ownership. In the article by Loretta Hunt of Fight Network, it was stated that an undisclosed American entertainment company had bought M-1 Mixfight. Finkelstein, Fedor’s agent, was also part of the management of M-1, but was now going to be a consultant to the company. After the announcement of his signing, the UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture resigned his position with the company. He vacated his title spot, commentator duties, and his general position as ambassador to the UFC. In a press conference yesterday for UFC 77: Hostile Territory, White stated that Couture was still UFC Heavyweight Champion because he was still under contract to Dana White. Regardless, Randy Couture hasn’t announced a return to the UFC and all indications are that he won’t be fighting in the Octagon anytime soon.
The big question now is who has bought the M-1 organization and who will be bringing M-1 into the international scene as a new player in the MMA community? Since it has been pretty apparent that names have been thrown around and proven to be not in the hunt, let’s run through the latest rumors:
- Mark Cuban is not the buyer. It has been said by many journalists that have close sources to M-1 and Cuban that a purchase deal is not the case. Ed Fishman recently stated on FightOpinion Radio that Mark Cuban was more interested in obtaining a television deal with M-1 in order to broadcast their events on HDNet fights. It seems more inline with what Cuban should try to do, get his foot in the door, rather than run into the market guns ablazing and possibly risk doing something that will lose him money quickly.
- Ed Fishman is also out of the running. Again, his FightOpinion radio interview stated that he may be trying to work some kind of deal, but not as the purchaser of the company. Although Fishman has been in the MMA news as a potential suitor to the M-1 organization, he basically said he was in the MMA picture, but not as a buyer of Mixfight.
- The McMahon rumors are clearly one of the more outrageous ones. The founders of the WWE and Global Media could be looking to expand their company into mixed martial arts, a sport that has been taking fans away from pro-wrestling. Although this sounds like a possibility, I have heard from many sources that they are definitely not in the mix as far as potential buyers.
- The most interesting rumor has come from Frank Trigg at TAGGRadio. Throughout this entire deal, he has been spot on for once with most of his sources. He stated on his Thursday show with Gorgeous George Garcia that he thought with some certainty that the company that owned the Staples Center was most likely the buyer. Further research revealed that an entertainment giant named AEG owned the Center, along with many more venues and sports teams.
- View their website here. AEG owns venues such as the Staples Center, the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace, The Forum in L.A., home of the L.A. Kings, The Toyota Sports Center, The Home Depot Center, The O2 in London, and many others.
- They also have future investments in venues in Berlin, the Sprint Center in Kansas City, a stadium in New Jersey, and Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, Canada.
- AEG owns a number of sports franchises.
- Four European hockey clubs and also the Los Angeles Kings.
- MLS Soccer Teams: Chicago Fire, Los Angeles Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, and Chivas USA
- AEG produced some huge sporting events
- Regularly produce ESPN Boxing
- HBO Boxing: Lewis vs. Klitschko, Mosley vs. De La Hoya, Klitschko vs. Sanders World, Jones Jr. vs. Gonzalez, Tarver vs. Johnson, Hopkins vs. Eastman.
- Produce soccer matches for world renowned EPL soccer club, Chelsea FC.
- MLS, NBA, NHL All-Star Games
- ESPN X-Games, FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals, U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and 2002 Super Bowl Championships
- AEG produces concerts for big name popular music artists
- AEG also has numerous divisions inside their company, including merchandising franchises.
- The last rumor that I could touch on is Mark Ecko, the clothing designer who is hosting the press conference. Ecko’s Enterprises company has been known to produce press conferences and upscale parties for events, so it may seem as if they are just producing the event. To me, this seems like the case. You could make a case for Ecko himself. He has recently been in the news for buying Barry Bonds’s historic home run ball that passed Hank Aaron’s home run record.
- Ecko is the clothing designer that creates the lines that sport his name, ECKO. He also produces G-Unit clothing. He also owns his own production company, Mark Ecko Entertainment, but it mostly focuses on interactive entertainment as in computer video games and console games.
The most credible rumor has been Mark Hunt possibly fighting Fedor on a New Years Eve Japanese card. It’s possible that this could be on a K-1 Hero’s event. Hunt has been a free agent for quite some time and it would set up a rematch of their battle in which Hunt was actually impressive in smothering Fedor and getting close to submitting him. Another rumor was the Ricardo Arona rumor in which he was said to have signed with M-1. Arona later refuted the rumor and said he had not signed with anyone yet, but did seem to push the UFC as the place he wanted to go.
The ridiculous rumor of the week was the fight between Ken Shamrock and Fedor Emelianenko. This was one of the most absurd rumors that Shamrock refuted on TAGGRadio this last week. He did state he would love to fight Fedor, but as we all would probably say, Ken may bite off too much in that fight.
AEG is an interesting rumor because they own so many venues across the U.S. and have been moving into the European market. This could be a move for them to move into the Asian market as well. Adding MMA to their already extensive lineup of sports franchises is a bold step considering MMA’s huge growth over the last few years. With their big production values as well, we may see a return of PRIDE-like entrances and themes to their shows. Obviously, they will have huge money considering they were behind the signing of English soccer superstar, David Beckham.
Ecko is also intriguing considering he owns a production and entertainment company that generally has stuck to a certain genre, but never live events or sports. Ecko is known to be an avid sports fan, so it would be no surprise that he has become intrigued by MMA. He could potentially promote a new clothing line along side a MMA promotion as well. International sales along with international stars promoting his product. It’s a great idea as far as marketing a product along side a sport that has a history of using clothing as an advertising scheme.
With all of that said, we won’t know officially until Monday who has bought the organization. Sit back for a ride because once this is announced, the MMA communiy will be in a free fall of speculation and possibilities. Get ready for an exciting weekend with UFC 77 and the announcement on Monday of Fedor’s contract.