Interesting article on Sherdog today by Jason Probst about Afflliction's dependence on Fedor. He makes a point I hadn't considered, its not just that Fedor is the top dog in MMA -- with Brock Lesnar on the horizon -- but there's the possibility that an unchallenged, utterly dominant heavyweight MMA champ can fill the vacuum left by boxing not having crowned a true king since Lennox Lewis retired:
(The heavyweight belt is) still the biggest prize in sports, and despite MMA’s booming growth, the UFC hasn’t been able to grab that kind of recognition with a heavyweight for an extended period of time since it became mainstream.
...the prize is there for the taking. It’s not going to be assumed Saturday night, regardless of what happens, but with the emergence of Brock Lesnar in the UFC (who’ll have to fight Frank Mir to settle who owns the UFC belt), a Lesnar-Fedor fight down the road might be so big that everyone involved has to blink and let the cash cow happen.
The hard truth of it is that boxing, which has been ripe for the taking for years, still hasn’t consolidated its mess of belts to produce a successor to Lennox Lewis. That five-year gap in lineage between recognized heavyweight champions is the longest in the sport’s history since John L. Sullivan started the chain in 1885.
Boxing has always had the heavyweight champion and the attendant spoils of ownership. Whether it was the memorable bouts waged between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier or the Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson rivalry, the sport could always fall back on the massive booster shot of heavyweight bucks to give itself a surge (illegal bites notwithstanding).
Boxing’s biggest prize is ready to be taken, if only someone will emerge with the badass quotient and requisite big-stage fury and permanently tip the scales so that when the subject of who is the heavyweight champ comes up around the water cooler, the geek in Accounts Receivable will name someone in MMA.
This is an excellent analysis by Probst and the kind of obvious point that I'm too dumb to see until someone points it out to me. Fedor, despite his seeming lack of promotional bluster, is eminently marketable simply by virtue of being such an utter badass.
However, Fedor's best years might very well be behind him and there is a new crop of bigger, more athletic fighters surging up in the heavyweight division. It will be very interesting to see if Fedor can claim that prize or if someone else will.
It would be some interesting karma if Arlovski ended up spoiling Fedor's shot at massive mainstream American acceptance since it was Arlovski's inability to put away Tim Sylvia that prevented the UFC from having a charismatic heavyweight champion during its initial boom years.