The UFC and Bellator are not the only United States MMA promotions making a run at Fedor Emelianenko. World Series of Fighting has thrown its hat in the ring as well.
WSOF executive vice president Ali Abdel-Aziz told MMAFighting.com that WSOF believes it has the resources to afford and lure the Russian legend.
"We're just making moves," Abdel-Aziz said. "We can afford Fedor. We can afford Brock Lesnar. We can afford whatever we want to afford. But somebody has to move the needle, and I think Fedor definitely moves the needle."
Emelianenko, 38, announced his return to MMA earlier this week to much fanfare. The former PRIDE and Strikeforce star will likely command a ton of money and also the right situation. Abdel-Aziz believes WSOF can offer him both things, including the willingness to work in conjunction with M-1, run by Emelianenko's manager Vadim Finkelchtein.
"If M-1 is interested in doing stuff with us, I'm open to do it," Abdel-Aziz said. "It's not only going to be World Series of Fighting. I think M-1 is an amazing promotion. They've been around for a long time. And I think if we want to go to Russia and do something with M-1 and Fedor is involved, some kind of co-promotion, I'm OK with that. I don't know if any other promotion would do that, but we are open."
Abdel-Aziz has deep ties in Russia and Eastern Europe. Recently, WSOF has signed multiple, talented Russian and Dagestani prospects. Also, WSOF heavyweight champion Blagoi Ivanov is Russian -- and owns a combat sambo victory over Emelianenko. Abdel-Aziz said WSOF would dangle that carrot to "The Last Emperor."
"I think maybe Fedor would like to get revenge, because I know sambo means so much to him," Abdel-Aziz said. "Even more than MMA. And now he can get revenge against our heavyweight champion. We'll give him a chance to get revenge and pay him top dollar."
WSOF will certainly be a heavy underdog. The UFC is a billion-dollar company and Bellator is backed by media conglomerate Viacom. There's also a chance Emelianenko just stays in Russia and fights for M-1. What WSOF does have is a broadcast partner in NBC willing to put big fights on network television. And Abdel-Aziz said in the coming weeks that WSOF will be shaking things up. There is more many in the coffers than people think, he said.
"We have such great partners and they entertain ideas," Abdel-Aziz said. "I think NBC would entertain the idea and I think bringing in someone like that can really move the needle. He's one of the guys that moves the needle, that we can write big checks for.
"We can compete with anybody. We can definitely compete with Bellator, we can compete with the UFC. It depends what Fedor wants to do. He can come here and be the biggest star, we can put him on NBC and NBC Sports. Or he can go to UFC or Bellator and be one of the guys."