MOSCOW -- The RIA News building is located on Moscow's Garden Ring,
a short walk from Gorky Park (of the Scorpions’ “Winds of Change”
fame). Its conference hall was almost standing-room only Thursday
as Vadim Finkelshtein, head of M-1 Global and Fedor
Emelianenko's long-time manager and friend, somberly filled in
the assembled Russian media on the latest news from the U.S.
Flanked by Igor
Zayats (2008 Combat Sambo World Champion who is facing Lucio
Linhares at the Affliction “Trilogy” event) and of course
Fedor, Finkelshtein attempted to explain the CSAC ruling and the
Affliction/M-1 Global options in Josh
It's fair to say that the atmosphere didn't have much further to
fall, the disappointment so thick you could cut it with an
The news that Barnett, Fedor’s scheduled opponent, tested positive
for a banned substance and would not be licensed to fight had
circulated in the Russian state and commercial media Wednesday.
Instead of final questions prior to Fedor’s departure for the U.S.,
the previously planned news conference turned into people wishing
Fedor well, whomever he ends up facing.
The most noteworthy of these wishes was from a Moscow sports
magazine that had brought along a 150-kg strongman competition
athlete who, in the glare of flashbulbs, quickly rolled up, into a
tube, a standard kitchen frying pan and handed it to the amused
Fedor as a symbol of Russian strength and a somewhat unusual
While the opponent for Fedor has not yet been confirmed, there
appears to be two frontrunners. As previously reported, Vitor
Belfort has in principle agreed to the fight, pending final
negotiations. There is also, however, the possibility that Fedor
could face an undefeated Brett
Rogers, the man who most recently (and much more quickly than
Fedor) knocked out Andrei
“We personally entertain the idea of having Brett
Rogers step in since he knocked Andrei
Arlovski out,” Finkelshtein told M-1Global.com. “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
Rogers is signed with Strikeforce. Concerning the heavyweight,
Finkelshtein told Sherdog.com after the news conference that he is
in “urgent negotiations with Strikeforce at the moment, and if we
can agree, and if they [Strikeforce] release him, that's a fight
we'd like to see.”
After waiting for the multiple television and live radio interviews
to be concluded, I sat down with Fedor and discussed the situation
for some time. He was tanned, as always during Russia's sunbaked
summer, and sported a healing cut on the bridge of his nose that he
had received a week ago while sparring with his brother
“It's not broken or anything like that, just a scratch really,"
He was tired of answering questions. This notwithstanding -- Fedor
is the consummate professional when it comes to dealing with the
press -- and even though he was very diplomatic in his answers, he
came across as deeply disappointed.
“Josh is a great, strong fighter. I've always followed his fights
and liked him as a competitor and as a person. I was very prepared,
totally ready for a good, hard fight. But,” he said, pausing for a
few seconds, “what can you do? I am disappointed, though I'm glad
that after all I don't have to fight a friend.”
This was followed by genuine laughter, which is not something that
I've seen a lot of from the camp in the last day. Fedor was
optimistic about speaking to Barnett.
"We haven't had a chance to speak to him yet, though I really want
to,” he said. “And once we do speak, most probably we will not
discuss what has happened in the last day."
He said this with a concern that seemed directed at the well being
of Barnett, almost out of worry for him, rather than out of any
animosity, though nobody would have faulted Fedor for being angry
“For this fight, there was nothing external that was getting in the
way of training, except for small but uncomfortable injuries,”
Fedor said. “I had boils come up one after another, things like
that. The nose and etc. … In regard to Rogers, I think he is a very
serious opponent. I think he is very physically strong, and
possesses significant knockout power. And I think that taking this
into account, Andrei [Arlovski] was too quick to decide to stand
and trade with him, and missed a punch. And also I think, and this
is my personal opinion, that he was too quick to train and fight
again. No matter how good a sportsman he is, he sometimes misses
head punches and that means a concussion yet again, and I think he
took the fight too early. He should have had more time off to
Fedor was diplomatic when talking about whom he prefers to face out
of the two possibilities of Rogers or Belfort.
"I'm not in a situation where I can pick who I am fighting. I will
fight whoever they put in front of me," he said.
I thought that was too diplomatic; I wanted to know who was the
more interesting opponent for him.
“You know, I'm being really honest here,” he said. “I am equally
interested in a fight with either Belfort or Rogers. I've never
fought with either one. I used to watch Belfort fight, even before
I started competing. So there is a history there for me with him.
It is very interesting to me; he was a fighter who faced and beat a
lot of the greatest fighters in MMA at the time. Rogers is a
fighter who is tearing through the heavyweight division with 10
fights and 10 wins. And, I have to add, he beat Arlovski."
I also had to ask about the weight difference between him and
Belfort, who recently has been fighting at 185 pounds.
"To be honest, in terms of his speed at that weight, I honestly
don't know if being heavier is an advantage with a fighter who is
as fast as him at his current weight,” Fedor said. “I have always
found it harder to fight the lighter, faster guys, rather than the
really big, plodding heavy and super heavyweights. And Belfort has
always stood out in terms of his speed."
Long after the news conference was over, Fedor was still giving
interviews and taking photos with fans. He flies to the U.S. on
Friday to acclimate to local conditions.
As disappointed as he really is at the change of circumstances for
the Aug. 1 Affliction and M-1 Global event, he is taking things
more or less in stride. He also alluded to God, making an unusual
reference to the Russian Orthodox religion he has recently
strengthened his connection with.
"It's God's will,” he said, “and because of that, I know what has
happened is for the best.”