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While His Management Negotiates, Fedor Emelianenko's Legacy Suffers

If I had one MMA-related wish to use in 2011, I'd wish for Fedor Emelianenko to fight at least half as often as his promotional team at M-1 Global renegotiates. If I had two wishes, I'd wish that one of those fights would be against someone who matters in the Strikeforce heavyweight division – Alistair Overeem or Fabricio Werdum, I'm not picky.

Alas, I have no wishes. Neither does Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, apparently. If he did, Emelianenko would likely be wrapping up the final fight in his three-fight deal with the promotion on January 29.

As it is, Coker couldn't get Emelianenko into a cage this January with anything less than a net and a tranquilizer gun.

It's the kind of thing that makes you wonder, if this is how Emelianenko is planning to spend the remaining years of his career, how will the MMA world remember him when it's all over?

Consider the latest round of negotiations between M-1 Global and Strikeforce. With the January 29 show approaching, reports circulated that Emelianenko would complete the final fight on his current contract in a bout against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva.

It wasn't exactly the fight fans were salivating over – Silva apparently earned a shot at one of the greatest heavyweights on the planet by decisioning Andrei Arlovski and then beating light heavyweight Mike Kyle – but hey, something's better than nothing. At least it's forward movement.

That is, until it got shot down with more talk about negotiating a new contract, more vague promises about "moving in the right direction," and more assurances that everyone involved just wants to get Fedor back in action as soon as possible.

If that's starting to sound depressingly familiar to you, you're not alone.

This past October M-1's Evgeni Kogan wrote on his Twitter: "Another day or two and we either have a deal for more fights, or just one to complete. Fedor wants to fight as soon as possible."

Again, that was in October. Now it's two months later and we're still hearing the same tired tune. There's still no deal for more fights and no date for when Fedor might strap on the gloves for a fight that fans only sort of want to see, and only then because it might bring us closer to a fight that's legitimately interesting.

As Fedor promotional strategies go, M-1 seems to have taken the worst possible approach. Coming off a shocking upset loss that did profound damage to their most valuable asset, you'd think they'd want to get him back in action as soon as possible. You'd think they'd want a win to erase that bitter memory. At least that way they could negotiate a new contract with a victory under their arms.

Instead they've chosen to drag their feet. They've decided that arranging a Fedor fight should never be any less complicated than coordinating a space shuttle launch. In the process, they've reminded us all that MMA can still go down the same frustrating path that boxing did.

The more M-1 Global makes us wait to see Fedor fight again, the more they damage his store of goodwill with MMA fans. Back in his Pride heyday, it was not unusual for him to fight three or four times a year. Now, twice is pushing it. Now they insist on having him fight a couple also-rans for every contender he'll deign to take on.

Imagine if M-1 managed Brock Lesnar. You think he ever would have gone from a fight with Shane Carwin to one with Cain Velasquez? Not on your life. Not unless he got to fight Cheick Kongo and maybe a middleweight or a freak show in between.

Since his last fight under the Pride banner, Fedor has competed just six times in the ensuing four years. Of those bouts, it's difficult to argue that more than two were against top contenders.

Such is the influence of M-1 Global on Fedor's career. Now that he's in his mid-thirties and likely closer to the end of his career than the beginning, it's hard not to think that his management team would much rather see him go out with a profitable whimper than a risky, but exciting bang.

That's fine from M-1's perspective. They'll make plenty of money, get their logo splashed all over every arena Fedor sets foot in, and maybe even get a sweet little TV spot for their M-1 Challenge events.

It's a good deal for them, considering Fedor is the only card they have to play. It's not such a good deal for the fans, who have spent the last year witnessing what happens when one fighter becomes a promotion unto himself and spends more time at the negotiating table than in the cage.

Not that Fedor seems to care, but that's the kind of thing fans tend to remember even after you've hung up the gloves.

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