By Zach Arnold | January 20, 2007
Matt Lindland vs. Fedor Emelianenko – sounds a little strange maybe, but I can’t wait for this matchup. This is definitely two of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and should actually make quite a fairly competitive fight. But it does come from out of nowhere seemingly, but I’ve played connect the (imaginary) dots to conclude how this fight came about.
Frank Trigg was on MMA Weekly radio on December 05, 2006 (at 48:45 mark) and stated that Wanderlei Silva would defend his title against a big name opponent : “Let me tell you what, once I’m allowed to (say) the answer, you guy’s are gonna shit yourselves. It’s gonna be a great fight, it will be an epic battle. It will be worth the price of flying from the East Coast to Las Vegas, just to watch that one fight and go home.”
Thus the rumors started about Randy Couture being the one. Through various interviews Couture had made it known that he would come back to fight under the right circumstances, such as Wanderlei, CroCop, Fedor. While it seemed reasonable to believe Couture vs. Silva could actually happen, Couture would deny the rumor strongly and end the speculation.
Then Jeff Osborne was on Fight Opinion radio December 22, 2006 (at the 27:00 mark) and discussed how Bodog was investing a lot of money and planning to become a serious promotion in the business. Osborne stated, “Basically they’re trying to sign one of the biggest matches… They want to put Fedor against a very very prominent figure from the UFC, which I can’t name but …we’re all saying how are you going to make this money back and they’re like, ‘We don’t care, we just want to see the fight, make it happen’. They just don’t care.” It would be rather simple to decipher that Jeff was implying Randy Couture, stating prominent ‘figure’, not fighter; by saying figure, it would lead you to think it was someone within the organization that is not a current fighter, who would also be potentially a candidate for ‘one of the biggest matches’. Couture fits that description better than anyone.
It’s my theory that behind the scenes, at this point Randy was in negotiations with Bodog for the Fedor match. No doubt Randy’s current broadcasting talent contract includes clauses for potential fights in any organization and UFC came in with a counter offer. During Inside the UFC, on Spike, January 11, 2007, UFC annouced Couture would fight at UFC 68 against Tim Sylvia for the Heavyweight title. Seemingly from out of nowhere. There had been an issue over whom Tim Sylvia would next defend the title against, but Randy was not even a current fighter nor had he fought Heavyweight since 9/27/02. It would seem the UFC offer that particular matchup as a comeback fight both to help themselves (not having any legitimate contenders for the title) and persuade Randy to stay with the UFC (another accolade for the legend’s roster, win or lose).
Meanwhile Bodog’s backup of having Jeff Monson has fallen through. Monson accepted a fight against Wes Sims at Gracie Fighting Championship for 1/20/06, which was abruptly canceled. Now Monson has a title defense scheduled for Cage Warriors in England on 3/09/07 against Mario Neto. Bodog also has postponed the Russian event to a possible date of 4/07/07.
Enter Matt Lindland.
After Bodog’s failed negotiaions with Randy Couture, it’s believably possible that Couture suggested his teammate Matt Lindland as an opponent for Fedor. It would be acceptable for Bodog because they are still getting a world class athlete, with an established strong record and would inspire many headlines with the matchup of number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Fedor against number one Middleweight, and Olympic Silver medalist Lindland. The discussion of Lindland stepping up in weight would also make for an historic matchup, two great fighters who in all probability would never be able to face one another; this is a powerful move, not only one-upping other promoters but also giving confidence to the fighters that Bodog may be the one place to get those dream one-off matchups (this is one of EliteXC’s Gary Shaw’s big plans as well). With Bodog already postponing the event once, and not knowing the details of how many fighters were negotiated with, Lindland would appear to be an excellent choice.
Lindland is a true modern day MMA free agent and has taken great advantage of that. Consider for an unbiased moment what Matt has accomplished in his career. He is an Olympic Silver Medalist, fought his way through quality tough competition in the UFC, has had success in the Hawaiian promotion Rumble on the Rock, England’s Cage Rage, the first Gracie Fighting Championship, and has become very successful in the IFL, leading his team to the Finals in its debut attempt and impressively defeating legend Jeremy Horn (more definitively than even Chuck Liddell did). He also stepped up to Light Heavyweight to soundly beat Mike Van Arsdale (more impressively than Couture did) and had an incredible match with Quinton Jackson (I felt he deserved the decision; he even did better against Jackson than Liddell, who got KO’d). And now maybe Fedor.
While many fans seem to be confused in contemplating this particular matchup, it is necessary to remember the business environment for the many promotions vying for top talent currently. Between UFC, Pride, Bodog, K-1, IFL, Strikeforce, EliteXC, WEC, Cage Rage (UK), Cage Warriors etc., there are many companies with all of the top competition tightly locked up in contracts, most have exclusivity clauses. The marketplace for top level fighters is fierce right now and this is already becoming the most chaotic span of time in MMA history. UFC buys WFA and WEC, signs Mirko CroCop, Quinton Jackson, Heath Herring, Ryoto Machida, Urijah Faber etc. Pride possibly signs Brandon Vera and is planning several US shows. Bodog signs Fedor. EliteXC signs Frank Shamrock, Renzo Gracie, David Loiseau, Nick Diaz, etc. K-1 signs Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro (and tries to retire Sakuraba, sort of ). IFL signs the first broadcast (free) TV deal, becomes a publicly traded company, schedules a total of 18 shows in its first 17 months.
And it’s just January.