"This simply isn't going to happen and not just because of the money. UFC has learned the main lesson of boxing's decline: You need to give people the fights they want to see. That can't be done when every fighter is a promotion unto himself, able to avoid taking on an opponent if he doesn't like the terms or his chances. To allow Emelianenko to co-promote with UFC would just be to encourage Lesnar, St-Pierre, Silva, and anyone else who wants more money and more control to hold out for the same rights. And that would be crippling to a nascent sporting cartel.
Another lesson learned from boxing's fall is to maintain a small fleet of champions. Boxing has about 70 major championships in 14 weight classes; UFC has five champions in five weight classes, and in four of them, the champ is unquestionably the best in the world at his weight. This monopoly on legitimacy, earned as UFC rose from being one of many promotions to become something more like the NBA of MMA, is arguably UFC's most important asset.
Emelianenko's absence won't harm UFC at the box office—aside from perhaps 100,000 hard-core fans who use his name as a sort of Masonic handshake, not many people know who he is, and several companies have gone out of business while trying to promote him in America. Refusing to play ball with the Russian will also preserve Dana White's company-man system. But in a broader sense—the one in which the company is perceived as the only major league in MMA—it hurts not to have the world's best. The legend of the real world champion, and the idea that UFC's top heavyweight's claim to the title is hardly undisputed, smells a bit of boxing's alphabet soup.
More importantly, UFC's failure to sign Emelianenko is a sign of what lays ahead as MMA continues to grow as a sport and as fighters become ever more famous. For right now, the sport's champions may be happy to fight on commission, but they won't always be—fighters who draw like Mike Tyson are going to want to be paid like Mike Tyson, and rightly so. The heavyweight champion probably won't be the last fighter to complain about UFC's policy, and he won't be the last one who's able to do something about it. As for the champ himself? His Strikeforce deal will be up in about a year, and then we'll get to do this all over again."
There are some misinterpretations of how key elements of the sport operate, but there are two takeaways here. Whether this actually helps Emelianenko become a ratings or PPV draw in the long run is questionable, but he has the ability to capture the attention of big print or digital media. Positioning him outside of the UFC only raises his influence and specter as it draws in the might of the Zuffa organization to bring attention to the mysterious Russian.
Second, Marchman's contention that the eventual drawing power/celebrity appeal that MMA fighters and champions could one day reach might prove problematic for the UFC and for making important fights. large scale fights happen is a salient one. One promotion with operational control has the freedom and resources to make matters simultaneously amazing, meaningful, difficult for some and rewarding for fans. When that power is less centralized, that's when negotiations and the interplay of parties gets interesting.