I've been talking with other journalists and analysts in the sport about how Strikeforce should be and isn't promoting Fedor properly. During these talks, our own Michael Rome had an interesting idea: why not use the UFC's popularity against itself? In other words, promote Fedor by having the cavalcade of UFC fighters who've given endorsements in the past about the Russian and his abilities rather than other MMA journalists no one knows. It's a smart idea. Use their existing appeal and cosigning to give the recommendations about Fedor real heft and gravity. Joe Rogan and BJ Penn do so here and here, respectively.
But why stop there? I also believe Strikeforce can use the failed negotiations between Emelianenko/M-1 with the UFC this past summer to demonstrate their clout as a real competitor to Zuffa. And as you can see, the press is naturally drawn to the storyline of that now famous rift:
Emelianenko is one of the few big names in MMA to operate outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Many of his critics believe he cannot be the true No. 1 unless he fights the best competition, which they say reside in the UFC. In 2006, after the UFC bought Pride FC, where Emelianenko was the heavyweight champion, many of its fighters signed with the UFC, but not him.
For years, fans have clamored to have the UFC sign him and it almost happened in August. Emelianenko became a free agent after Affliction got out of the fight promotion business.
Emelianenko's management company, M-1 Global, held talks with the UFC. Huge salary numbers were tossed around, but the main issue was co-promotion. M-1 wanted to co-promote Emelianenko's fights with the UFC. The UFC has never done that and said they never will. The talks deadlocked.
Strikeforce was willing to accept M-1's co-promotion terms. It already has a co-promotion deal with DREAM, a Japanese MMA company. So it was Strikeforce that signed Emelianenko to a four-fight contract.
UFC president Dana White was furious with Emelianenko, M-1, and Strikeforce. Fans were teased by the tantalizing thought of a match with Emelianenko against the UFC's dominating heavyweight Brock Lesnar. But this week Emelianenko didn't seem to worry about fan backlash.
''I think it would be good if they would understand that I could not sign a one-sided contract with the UFC,'' Emelianenko said. ''Vadim [Finkelchtein], my manager he considered that we deserve a little bit more.''
If you can't beat the UFC, use them. It won't solve all of your problems, but it's far better than swimming upstream. MMA is the UFC's show. One might as well borrow some of their glow.