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Fedor has had little or no financial impact on the North American MMA scene

By Zach Arnold | June 30, 2010

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From Sherdog radio last Monday, it’s mostly a psychoanalysis of Fedor fans and why they are so depressed that their guy lost. It’s actually very accurate, although the discussion about Fedor having no impact on the North American MMA scene in terms of UFC making money is like taking a match, lighting your favorite Fedor fan on fire, and then pouring a container of gasoline on them instead of putting the fire out with water.

I think the most interesting question to come out of this discussion is just how exactly does Fedor ‘reinvent’ himself… or does he stay constant with what he is and just continue plugging away? Some fighters who are great are also stars because they’re charismatic. Some fighters who are stars win a lot and some who remain stars don’t always win but people still cheer them on. And then, there’s that category of athlete where they have to win and win all the time to keep any sort of fan attention because the winning is what defines them and nothing else.

The best example of this that I can bring up is Tim Duncan. Automatically, the first words that comes out of the mouths of so many fans when talking about Tim Duncan is not “The Big Fundamental” or NBA champion, but ‘boring’. He’s labeled as ‘the boring guy’ who only shows emotion whenever a foul gets called on him and whines like the biggest baby in the world and acts as if he’s never committed a foul in his life. Other than that, you rarely ever see any emotion out of him. Even though he’s been on the biggest stage in his sport, people largely don’t see him as an important star or emotionally invest themselves into cheering for him outside of San Antonio.

(Tim, ironically, is a big UFC fan. Hi Tim.)

With Fedor, he’s a star first and foremost because he was a winner and he was not aligned with Zuffa. He was the anti-UFC guy. And as you will read in the radio passage transcribed below, Fedor in many ways represented the exact same qualities that PRIDE did for fans of the organization who absolutely hated what Zuffa stood for. After all, Fedor was the gaijin ace for the organization. Fedor and PRIDE are forever joined at the hip in MMA history. It can never be whitewashed.

That’s what I was trying to say when I said after the loss last Saturday that I felt like I was watching the true end of the PRIDE era when Fedor lost to Fabricio Werdum.

JACK ENCARNACAO: “He represented, it was a bonus that he wasn’t associated with the UFC and a lot of people feel smarty-pants about saying the best fighter in the world wasn’t in the UFC but at the same time he was the only bastion out there of a guy who seemed truly, truly unbeatable in a sport where we all say all the time that anyone can lose and it was going to happen and all that. All those lead sentences we write after someone we never thought would lose does lose, the truth of the matter is that Fedor was always the exception. Fedor was always the example of the untouchable and that has been, he’s in the category now with everybody else. A guy who is really, really good. Really, really dominant but eventually got beat, got caught, and you know proved not invincible and I think that’s difficult for people to process because he was the safe example that you could always go to of someone ‘yeah, but FEDOR, he dominates.’ ”

(SNIP)

TJ DE SANTIS: “I had to enlist my cousin as a helper of removing [a] tree. Came over and he was wearing a Tapout shirt. His first Tapout shirt. I asked him, hey, what did you think about the Fedor fight? He then said, who’s Fedor? I then asked him to name four fighters. He named four fighters, all in the UFC.”

JACK ENCARNACAO: “Yeah. Who were the four, might I ask?”

TJ DE SANTIS: “Actually, I guess one is not in the UFC any more, he’s named Kimbo. Chuck Liddell. Randy Couture. Brock Lesnar.”

JACK ENCARNACAO: “Makes sense to me. There’s a reality check for y’all. I mean, the ratings are in for Showtime, the CBS fight with Brett Rogers did a huge amount to familiarize Fedor with the fans. I mean, the reaction he got, he didn’t sell out HP Pavilion. He didn’t do as well as Frank Shamrock and Cesar Gracie did or as well as Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg did for that matter but he did, it was very clear from the crowd reactions whenever they showed him on the screen that they were there to see Fedor.”

TJ DE SANTIS: “But I just bring that point, Jack and Lutfi you can chime in on this as well… I bring that up because some people are getting crazy about this might be the fall of MMA. That’s real over the top.”

LUTFI SARIAHMED: “Who’s saying that? What was MMA before hand? This has been what MMA has been for a while now. I mean, Fedor was just like Jack said, Fedor was that guy that people felt smart about because they could say he was the best fighter.”

TJ DE SANTIS: “So many people, though, Lutfi, I think if you get too close… not too close to the situation because I mean proximity to the M-1 Global group and stuff is very hard for a lot of people, but if you get too wrapped up in the hype around Fedor and you become this ultimate fanboy, you sort of just start believing that Fedor is everything that is good and right in MMA. I’m surprised how many people think that way. I mean it’s not just an isolated incident. A lot of people are talking about this and it’s just like yeah, the sun will come up tomorrow, UFC 116’s going to happen on Saturday and more than likely it’s going to crown a new #1 Heavyweight in the MMA world and people just need to mellow out. A lot of people need to sit down, take a deep breath, and realize that everything’s going to be OK.”

JACK ENCARNACAO: “Yeah, needless to say, I mean maybe I haven’t been reading the forums closely enough but I haven’t heard that expressed, that level of despair.”

TJ DE SANTIS: “I got a couple of e-mails like that that were just beyond belief.”

JACK ENCARNACAO: “Well, you know, those people need to get a grip. I mean… Basically, I mean MMA… Mixed Martial Arts in America, right now, the way it works, the way it functions, the way it makes and generate money would be exactly the same had Fedor never fought once in his life.”

LUTFI SARIAHMED: “Yeah. I mean, great fighter, but in terms of how MMA stands here in North America, he’s had very little impact on it.”

JACK ENCARNACAO: “Yeah, so, you know, the fact that we all have an industry to buzz about and an industry to blog about and an industry to feel passionate about… you know is completely separated from the fact that Fedor has represented the unbeatable. And you know what? The fact that people are reacting this way to Fedor’s loss tells me that at the end of the day, hardcore fans and I assume those people are hardcore fans as well as deep, deep Fedor fans, are in this game to get, to hitch their wagon to someone that they feel represents them or their aspirations for the sport in some big or small way. Someone who and that person has to be dominant, that person cannot be someone who wins some and loses someone. That person has to be someone who they can always ascribe their name to as constantly winning. And it was just a huge bonus that he wasn’t associated with the UFC, that he was considered somewhat underground, that he did you know [bulldoze] through former UFC champions the second he started developing his full-time career fighting Stateside. He had all that cred going for him, too, as far as not needing to be associated with Zuffa to still be considered the best but it’s clear that fans, many more than you would realize until something like this happens, are watching MMA because they’re waiting for someone to come along that they can hitch on to as the greatest and share in his successes every time out. It’s an emotional investment. You know we think…. we think people value objective reporting, objective discussion of this sport and they don’t. They don’t want to have it. They want their favorites to win and the people that they don’t like to lose and well, let’s talk pro-wrestling if we’re going to go too far down that road because it’s the same thing.”

Topics: M-1, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

8 Responses to “Fedor has had little or no financial impact on the North American MMA scene”

  1. Brock Lesnar Fan says:

    I think what these guys are hitting on is not a particularly new concept or in anyway exclusive to martial arts. Life sucks for a lot of people, and to be able to live vicariously through something greater outside themselves, whether it’s a MMA fighter, a sports team, or a celebrity, provides a much needed release from their own perceived shortcomings in life. Obviously the more emotionally invested the attachment, the bigger the ‘come down’ when the chosen object falls from grace.

    With Fedor you have a guy that has created an almost cult like status about himself among his fans, a status almost entirely supported by the fact, as you mention Zach, that he is the one true exception within a sea of talented but beatable fighters. Obviously when he lost for the first time, that myth was going to come crashing down hard for his fans.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    He has had a NEGATIVE business effect on North American MMA. 2 organizations went under with him. Another one isn’t doing so well.

    What is happening now is exactly why you don’t book MMa like boxing. And why you don’t make a huge deal about being undefeated. Everybody loses. You need to promote them based on something in their character not their unbeaten streak.

    Plus, most of his fans thought they were better then everbody else because they believed the #1 fighter was outside of the UFC and only they knew it. Same as Ribg of Honor fans who just want to be part of a niche group to feel more important.

    • Oh Yeah says:

      The UFC has had some of their bigger successes with 1 fight cards like 91 and 114.

      I enjoy a quality card up and down, but the buyrates seem to indicate that the main event is by far the main determinant of success. The solid undercard of Aldo/Faber wasn’t pushed very hard though the show did well.

  3. Dave says:

    I think people really sleep on the fact that Fedor was a symbol more than he was a fighter. He meant a lot to people for a very important reason and it has more to do with symbolism and inspiration than it does fickle fans who don’t condone losses.

  4. Jonathan says:

    So Fedor loses one fight and suddenly he is a worthless fighter? All you guys are pathetic UFC fanboys. You guys rank Lesnar as the number one heavyweight even though he has a total of five (5) fights in his total “career” and his last fight was at UFC 100.

    Can someone justify this to me?

  5. Ted says:

    Yeah but the guys at UFC are all on steroids. UFC welterweight, Dennis Hallman claims 50% of MMA fighters are on steroids. Royce Gracie took steroids, Sean Sherk, Hermes Franca, Stephan Bonnar etc etc. You could also perform like them if you were on roids they triple your strength and stamina. I’m pretty sure Brock has used steroids in the past too based on his ex career and size etc. Its difficult to say who is the better athlete in today’s world.

  6. GassedOut says:

    There are some people acting as if (a) this is the first time Fedor lost (not so, he lost in 2002 by doctor stoppage, and it’s still a loss) and (b) that somehow the world has ended because Fedor lost. You have to be honest about the facts:

    1) Fedor is a great fighter, perhaps the greatest ever if his record means anything.

    2) Fedor is not the only fighter out there who is capable of winning a fight. Werdum is a very game opponent, and he proved he has what it takes to hang.

    3) Any fighter on any given day can be beaten. You just have to figure out how, form a game plan, and then stick to it in the ring/cage.

    4) Fedor may now be suffering from the same thing Randy Couture is – age. It’s inevitable that it takes its effect at some point. Is this that point? I don’t know, maybe.

    5) Because of his record, Fedor Emelianenko’s name will be remembered forever (or until someone surpasses that awesome W/L record of his, which I suspect will stand for some time).

    And that’s just off the top of my head. If I actually thought about it, I’m sure I could think of more. The question of the article though is how has he impacted MMA here in North America?

    I find it hard to think that he’s had a negative impact as 45 Huddle has suggested. I’ve always thought that more exposure of the sport and it’s stars (I realize there are some that think Fedor was no star) has always been good for the sport. Think of it in these terms: Where were you when Werdum beat Fedor? Where were you when history was made? And how can history being made be bad for MMA?

    Just thinking as I type.

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