Check out this lengthy, 30-minute video interview of M-1 Global president and Russian MMA patriarch Vadim Finkelchtein by Groundandpound.de. If you can't watch, here's the gist of it:
M-1 raised a few eyebrows last year, when they started to let two armored men fight each other with blunt swords in the breaks of their events. The organization recently announced, they want to further develop this concept with an own format called "M-1 Medieval".
But it seems, die-hard fans of knight fighting will have to wait a little longer for that one. For now, M-1 is going to stick to single medieval fights during regular events, simply due to the lack of capable knights. Should the concept continue to receive a positive response by the audience, the plan is to move along with an own show eventually, featuring even title fights and champions. TV partners have reportedly already shown interest in the product.
Competing with UFC on Russian TV
At the beginning of 2015, the UFC finally managed to sign a broadcast partnership in Russia with state television company VGTRK, that includes Russia 2, one of the biggest free TV channels in Russia, as well as several smaller networks and online platforms where all the UFC content will be spread. Russia 2 also broadcasts Bellator and M-1 events.
However, Finkelchtein doesn't have any problem competing with the biggest organization in the world on his home network, he explains via an interpreter. "Russia 2 shows every M-1 event," he says. M-1 is gaining ratings of up to 1.5 million viewers on the network. However, "Russia 2 is not showing every UFC event," Finkelchtein adds. Smaller shows are being broadcasted on smaller channels.
The M-1 president also hints, that the ratings for the first UFC event on Russia 2, the UFC on FOX 14 show headlined by Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson, have been "very low". According to him, the reason behind this is, that regular fans in Russia "simply know M-1 better", since they have been in the market for the last 17 years. M-1 events are also shown during primetime, UFC live events are usually taking place at midnight, because of the time shift, what could also have a negative effect on the ratings.
At the end of the day, he says, the more MMA events there are on TV, the more popular the sport becomes - and this is good for M-1, too.
M-1 stars leaving for UFC
Well, he's honest: Finkelchtein says he's worried that his biggest stars could leave his organization for a successful career in the UFC, just like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rustam Khabilov and others already did. But he also explains that Russia has a very strong amateur scene with a huge talent pool that he can choose from when it comes to finding new athletes.
Finkelchtein is aware of the PED problem, but since there is no big sports commission or anti doping agency in Russia, M-1 doesn't test as much as the UFC does. They run a few tests themselves, on a "small, local" basis, mainly with contestants of championship fights.
Finkelchtein says, doping is a big problem, he just doesn't know how big of a problem it really is, yet. Nevertheless, he wants the sport to be clean, because he thinks PEDs are "dangerous". There is still a lot of work to do, he says - but they are "working on it".
UFC trying to buy M-1's media library
A couple of weeks ago, Finkelchtein revealed that the UFC tried to buy M-1' Global's media library for their own video-on-demand platform Fight Pass in 2014. The reason he didn't sell is that he doesn't want to sell his content in the first place, since he runs his own streaming platform M-1 Global TV, and that they simply didn't offer him "enough money".
Finkelchtein finished by promising, as long as he sees results of his work, he will continue with M-1: "Ich will keep doing this until the end."