M-1 Global owner and president Vadim Finkelchtein and M-1 Global fighter Fedor Emelianenko were both on hand for a special press conference with the Russian media on Thursday in Moscow.
The press event was originally scheduled as a way to respond to a myriad of media requests that have been made in anticipation of Fedor’s fight next Saturday in Anaheim, Calif. during Affliction and M-1 “Trilogy.”
There has been a even greater level of interest in Fedor’s fight from the Russian public, thanks in large part to a recent agreement with Channel One in Russia. Channel One is the largest public station in the country and will be televising Fedor’s fight on a tape delay basis.
However, the previously scheduled press conference took on additional meaning in light of the California State Athletic Commission’s announcement on Wednesday that it will not license Josh Barnett to fight after he allegedly tested positive for anabolic steroids.
Finkelchtein and Fedor both fielded questions from the media regarding the recent turn of events and as expected, both were disappointed upon learning of the development.
“I feel disappointed about this situation,” said Fedor, before adding, “But I will fight anyone who Affliction puts in front of me. I know a lot of fans waited for this fight to happen and I am sorry for them. I can’t do much about it now but I am in good shape, my training has been good and continues to go well.”
Despite reports claiming that former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort has been signed to fight Fedor, both Finkelchtein and Fedor expressed uncertainty with who the WAMMA heavyweight champion will be facing next Saturday. However, Finkelchtein believes there will soon be some resolution regarding the matter.
“By the end of the evening we expect to officially announce who’ll be the replacement for Barnett,” began Finkelchtein. “Vitor Belfort agreed [to the fight in] principle.”
And while Fedor’s camp considers Belfort a suitable replacement, Finkelchtein issued some comments that left the impression that perhaps he is not the number one choice.
“We personally entertain the idea of having Brett Rogers step in since he knocked Andrei Arlovski out,” he said. “But if there is any problem with Rogers, then it’s pretty safe to say it’s going to be Belfort. However, we are well aware of the fact that fans don’t consider Vitor Belfort to be a suitable replacement, according to a recent Sherdog poll.”
Finkelchtein later brought up Rogers again as the fighter they are most interested in fighting.
“Everyone in the world now wants to see the fight of Fedor, not Barnett,” he said. “People want to see Fedor fight. Belfort can make heavyweight but the fans don’t want this fight. Fedor isn’t seeking an easy fight. If logistics weren’t an issue, we’d like to see Fedor fight against Brett Rogers. Fans want it (and) so do we.”
Regardless of who ends up fighting Fedor, the opponent will be vastly different from Barnett. Despite that fact, Fedor sounded unphased when asked if there was a sense of urgency to prepare for a new opponent.
“No, the main routine is over now,” the former PRIDE heavyweight champion responded. “From now on it all about accuracy, precision and execution. There was no specific manner to prepare for the planned bout with Josh Barnett. It’s all the same: standup and ground game… Undoubtedly, it’s better to know the name of your opponent long before the fight though.”
While Fedor remains under a management contract with M-1 for the forseeable future, his U.S. promotional rights currently held by Affliction will expire immediately after “Trilogy.” Naturally, the Russian media had questions about Fedor’s future plans in the U.S. and whether they might include the UFC.
“We are open to any offer,” said Finkelchtein. “The issue really is with the UFC, not with us. We are ready to fight the UFC champions.”
“Just remember the scandal when we founded M-1 Global,” he stated. “Randy Couture left the UFC in order to get the opportunity of fighting Fedor. Then the UFC sidelined him and litigation ensued. We want to negotiate and cooperate with the UFC but it seems as though they are not ready.”
White also once again renewed his negative campaign against Fedor during a recent radio interview in Las Vegas. To which Fedor simply responded by saying “I fought the ex-UFC champions and I have been rather successful against them.”
Finkelchtein also addressed White’s most recent comments aimed at questioning Fedor’s legacy by raising his own concerns about the UFC.
“The UFC’s roster is occupied by a vast majority of American athletes,” he began. “Not every single best fighter is under their banner. So don’t believe the hype. There is no real international diversity that’s anywhere close to what we’re doing with our M-1 Challenge concept.”
In response to the growth of the M-1 Challenge and recent unconfirmed reports that M-1 could be debuting a new fight series, Finkelchtein indicated that M-1 Global will continue to move forward in the months and years that lay ahead.
“We need to keep building the structure and scouting and signing new talent,” he said. “Our utmost aspiration is to follow in PRIDE’s footsteps by gathering all of the best fighters from around the world. At no time have we ever regretted that. We believe that we’re capable of achieving that.”