At this moment M-1, Strikeforce, and Showtime are in discussions about Fedor’s future. The deal may hinge on Showtime signing a long-term commitment to air M-1’s Challengers series. If we ever needed another reminder of the barnacle that is M-1, here it is: using their one asset (Fedor) to hold a promotion hostage so they can milk it for all that they can. In this case it’s so they’ll broadcast cards featuring fighters no one in the US is even remotely interested in.
And yet I find myself cheering for them to succeed. OK, maybe not with all their co-promotion shenanigans, but I do want them to succeed in their efforts at being a viable promotion. Why you ask?
Three countries currently dominate the elite level of MMA: United States, Brazil, and Japan. Combined they provide over 80% of the talent for all the weight classes on the SBNation Consensus top 25 mma rankings. Japan, the worst of them, has over 20 fighters on these lists. No other country, outside these three, has even 10. This should come as no surprise, since these three also have the strongest amateur foundations to build on. No other country has anywhere near the domestic interest nor infrastructure to compete – except for one glaring exception: Russia and it’s neighboring states. Be aware that:
- In the last Judo World Championships, the former USSR states took home a total of 8 of the 64 medals. Only Japan, in which Judo is the national sport, did better.
- Four of the 16 finalist for this year’s K-1 Max championships are from the former Soviet states.
- In boxing, 7 of the major belts are held by Russians. That doesn’t include the many German boxers that emigrated from those states.
- In wrestling, the martial art that has proven to be the best base to start with, 34 of the 84 male medals given out at the last World Championships were handed to wrestlers from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and the other states of the former USSR. In comparison, the US walked away with 2.
- Outside of a handful of medals, Russia and its neighbors dominated the Sambo World Championships.
This is why I have always secretly cheered for M-1's success, not because I appreciate the work Finkelstein, Kogan and (before departing) Millen have done in putting together the fights we fans have asked for or treating fighters with a greater respect and dignity than other promotions (because they haven failed in both counts). No, it’s for my own selfish desires to see the rich talent of this region finally tapped, something Zuffa, FEG, or any other non-Russian promotion will fail to achieve.
I am now going to take a shower.