Fedor Emelianenko announced his return to MMA last week and there has been rampant speculation as to where he'll end up.
Will it be the UFC? Or Bellator, which has a business relationship with Emelianenko already? Even World Series of Fighting has thrown its hat in the ring. There's also the possibility Emelianenko stays home in Russia and competes for M-1.
On a personal level, though, Vadim Finkelchtein, Emelianenko's former longtime manager, would be pleased to see "The Last Emperor" in a cage with the best fighters in the world, he told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
And that means the UFC.
"Of course, I would like him to fight for me," said Finkelchtein, who also runs M-1, through a translator. "And M-1, by the way, does have great fighters that match UFC fighters. But I understand fans want to see him and me, as a friend, would like to see him fight the best people in the UFC as well."
Emelianenko, 38, has not fought since beating Pedro Rizzo on June 21, 2012 for M-1. He hasn't competed in the United States since being knocked out by Dan Henderson in 2011 for Strikeforce. Finkelchtein said, given the layoff, that Emelianenko would need somewhere between four or six months to get back into fighting shape.
Finkelchtein is not currently Emelianenko's manager, but he said he still does advise him. As far as he is aware, Emelianenko has not gotten an offer from the UFC as of yet.
"As of now, none," Finkelchtein said. "But he's hoping it's going to come in soon. The announcement is terribly fresh. Fedor hopes that the offer from the UFC, that it's on its way."
Bellator MMA president Scott Coker has an excellent relationship with Emelianenko, dating back to their time working together with Strikeforce. Emelianenko has been to two Bellator events in the U.S. this year as a brand ambassador. Finkelchtein is also unsure if an offer has come in from Coker.
"I would imagine that just like any self-respecting promotion that Bellator is interested, but I do not know for sure," he said.
The UFC almost succeeded in luring Emelianenko out of retirement in 2012 for a megafight with Brock Lesnar at Cowboys Stadium in Texas. UFC president Dana White has told the story on multiple occasions. Finkelchtein confirmed its validity for the most part.
"It's partially true," Finkelchtein said. "I did speak to Lorenzo and me, personally, I wanted this fight to happen, but Fedor refused."
White and Emelianenko have had negative things to say about each other in the media over the years. But Finkelchtein told MMAFighting.com last week in an email correspondence that past issues would not preclude Emelianenko from going to the UFC. And, for that matter, Emelianenko's good relationship with Bellator is not guarantee he signs there.
"I think that doesn't matter at all," Finkelchtein said. "And you know, Fedor is not in a bad relationship with Dana White or anyone else."
One of the big things preventing Emelianenko signing with the UFC in the past was Finkelchtein's insistence that any organization that got into a deal with Emelianenko must do a co-promotion with M-1 when Emelianenko fought. Strikeforce was willing to do it; the UFC never was. Finkelchtein said that is not on the table this time around.
"There is absolutely no talk of co-promotion," Finkelchtein said. "It's not an issue."
Finkelchtein further opened the door for the UFC signing Emelianenko on Monday.
"Fedor is a free agent and he's absolutely interested in fighting for a contract with the UFC," Finkelchtein said. "It all depends on the deal he's offered."
Last week, White addressed the Emelianenko reports on the FOX Sports 1 post-fight show after UFC Fight Night: Mir vs. Duffee, giving his standard response: "We'll see what happens."