Mirko Cro Cop will try one more time to make a splash in the increasing crowded UFC heavyweight division at he steps back into the Octagon this Saturday at UFC 99 after a 3 fight absence. What is particularly unique about this last minute deal between Cro Cop and the UFC is, according to Dana White, no paperwork was actually signed and that the deal was basically completed over the phone. Even more interesting is the fact that Cro Cop signed a 1 fight deal with the UFC, which is very rare and something they try to avoid at all costs.
The UFC has gone on record saying they won’t do 1 fight deals, except in very unique situations. They want their fighters locked up long term and do not make them available to other organizations. It’s a sound business policy that has enabled them to become the run away winner as best Mixed Martial Arts Organization in the world. By a significant margin.
This same policy has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the quest for the UFC and Fedor Emelianenko to be able to come together and work out a deal. Fedor’s team wants the UFC to allow Fedor to compete in Combat Sambo, which is a form of martial arts fighting that uses protective equipment and one which Fedor is a world champion and National Hero because of it.
The UFC counters that Fedor cannot compete in Combat Sambo since they need him to be ready to fight in the cage, when the UFC decides. Simply put – Fedor works for the UFC. Not the other way around.
Another significant issue to the Emelianenko camp, as they claim, is a certain clause in the UFC contract that stipulates if Fedor would become champion, he is under contract with them for as long as he lay claim to the belt.
The UFC counters that indeed that is a stipulation in their contract called the “Champions Clause”. But it is simply there to mitigate the risk of a fighter winning the title, then quitting the UFC and leaving the organization without champion.
Last week, as Fedor was touring the Western states promoting his upcoming Affliction III fight with Josh Barnett, his management went on record saying that they would like a one fight deal with the UFC to fight their champion, either Frank Mir or Brock Lesnar.Let’s ignore the fact that Fedor was openly campaigning for a fight in the UFC while promoting his upcoming match for a different organization and focus on the idea of a one fight deal.
Fedor would like to fight the UFC champion. It doesn’t make much sense for the UFC to allow Fedor to fight their champion, win the title and then leave the organization. But could they set up a fight with their champion with no title on the line? When Royce Gracie came back to the UFC in 2006 to fight then champion Matt Hughes, this fight had no title implications since it was at a catch weight. Could the same be done for Emelianenko? This is unlikely since everyone will expect Fedor to get an immediate title shot.
In the very same week that Cro Cop was offered a one fight deal, the UFC will have to reject Fedor’s very unofficial request. Cro cop isn’t fighting for a title, so the “champions clause” matters not in this case. Fedor, on the other hand would be fighting for the title immediately and would likely win it in his very first fight. The UFC knows this. They aren’t stupid. They haven’t made millions of dollars by making bad business decisions. Cro Cop gets a one fight deal but Mr. Emelianenko, you sir may not.
What does the one fight deal with Cro Cop tell us? Well, it shows some flexibility on the UFC’s part, something they usually lack. It shows that if they want Cro Cop on the Germany card to sell more tickets (and quickly) then they will make it happen. And if they want Fedor bad enough, they will make that happen too.
It’s unclear if the same type of deal can be made with Fedor, but the UFC clearly wants the Russian on their team. If both sides are willing to make some additional concessions and the UFC can continue to loosen up on some of their policies for unique circumstances, then we may see him in the cage sooner than we think.
It’s unlikely that the Cro Cop one fight deal will lead to a one fight deal for Emelianenko, but the flexibility that the UFC is showing could lead to more dialogue between the two parties and go a long way. A long way to finally seeing the greatest heavyweight fighter in the history of MMA inside the greatest MMA organization in history.