UFC baffled by Emelianenko

After drawing a record 1.5 million-plus pay-per-view buys for last month’s landmark UFC 100 show, the UFC kicks off a new century of mixed martial arts cards in a new town with two intriguing marquee matchups.

UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva (left) and former light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin may be the headliners at UFC 101

PHILADELPHIA — After drawing a record 1.5 million-plus pay-per-view buys for last month’s landmark UFC 100 show, the UFC kicks off a new century of mixed martial arts cards in a new town with two intriguing marquee matchups.

The City of Brotherly Love is hosting the MMA juggernaut for the first time this week and the UFC made the most of the city’s past by holding its pre-fight news conference Thursday at the Independence Visitor Center, a stone’s throw from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the nation’s founders plotted their freedom.

Recent history was more the order of the day on the UFC front, however.

While the news conference focused on Saturday’s lightweight title fight between champion B.J. Penn and Kenny Florian and an eagerly awaited 205-pound showdown between middleweight title-holder Anderson Silva and former light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin, UFC president Dana White found himself talking Fedor when he was scrummed by reporters after.

Russian star Fedor Emelianenko opted to shun the UFC earlier this week to sign with Strikeforce, a modest promotion that has operated under the UFC radar in recent years.

White announced last Friday that negotiations with the Russian’s camp had broken down because they were insisting on co-promoting any fights Emelianenko was involved in. The UFC boss was in Abu Dhabi, scouting the United Arab Emirates for a future fight card, when news broke Monday that the Russian was joining Strikeforce.

Apart from a few expletive-laced texts, he had not reacted to the news until Thursday.

“Who’s he going to fight?” White asked. “Nobody . . . he’s going to fight nobodies and I just don’t understand it. I just don’t get it.”

The Strikeforce website lists 34 fighters, a number that only covers A to C of the UFC stable.

Available Strikeforce opponents for Emelianenko include champion Alistair Overeem, Brett (The Grim) Rogers and former UFC fighter Fabricio Werdum. Strikeforce is also partnering with Japan-based Dream so it can raid another organization.

But the top heavies — Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic, Cain Velasquez, Shane Carwin, Randy Couture — call the UFC home.

Because White was on the road, he never got to speak to Emelianenko in person. He had a representative in the room with the Russians while he and UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta were at the other end of the phone.

“If I was sitting on Fedor’s lap that deal wouldn’t have got done,” he said.

“Didn’t matter. The deal was not going to get done. We went in there to do a deal, they didn’t.”

White seemed genuinely baffled on why his multimillion-dollar offer (reports pegged it at a minimum of US$5 million a fight) was turned down.

“It’s definitely not about money, it’s definitely not about contracts. What’s it really about? I don’t know, I don’t get it.”

Strikeforce upped the ante Thursday by scheduling its news conference with Emelianenko at the exact same time as the UFC 101 news conference. It was a taste of its own medicine for the UFC, which used to do what it could to take the lustre off former rival Affliction’s shows by scheduling events or shows opposite them.

It appears Strikeforce can expect more of the same.

“They should have stayed the way they were,” White said ominously of Strikeforce.

“If you want to fight me, we’ll fight,” he added. “You know how that goes. And we know how it ends.”

NOTES: UFC president Dana White confirms that the landmark UFC 100 show July 11 in Las Vegas garnered an organization-record of 1.5 million-plus pay-per-view buys. And the UFC president says the 100 bump is still being felt more than a month later. “No doubt about it, 100 took us to a whole ’nother level. There was so much buzz and energy around that fight — and not just here but all over the world. It was big.” … White says there could be three UFC shows in Canada next year: Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. “We’re softening up a lot of the provinces up there,” he said. “We’re definitely going to Vancouver.”

Just Posted

Red Deer ‘champion’ helps hospital by sharing ongoing petition

It’s been about three years since many physicians at Red Deer Regional… Continue reading

Weaker pump prices help inflation cool to 1.7%, the lowest reading in a year

OTTAWA — The annual pace of inflation slowed considerably last month to… Continue reading

Salt Lake City bids for 2nd Olympics in changed climate

SALT LAKE CITY — When Salt Lake City pursued the Winter Olympics… Continue reading

‘Here is my home:’ Refugee whose fingers froze off finds hope in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG — Razak Iyal still wakes up in the middle of the… Continue reading

Trudeau sees 2019 election as choice between positive Liberals, divisive Tories

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau says he’s confident he’ll win re-election next fall… Continue reading

Alberta’s Sundial starts shipping to AGLC this week

Sundial’s Rocky View facility has received the green light from Health Canada… Continue reading

Maple Leafs among NHL teams facing cap crunches next year

There are questions Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock won’t touch with a… Continue reading

MacMaster holiday concert billed as dementia-inclusive

TORONTO — A holiday concert by fiddlers Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy… Continue reading

A journey through 2018’s top pop culture moments

And the top pop culture moments of 2018 are … Wait. WAS… Continue reading

Elon Musk unveils underground tunnel, offers rides to VIPs

LOS ANGELES — Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday,… Continue reading

Penny Marshall dead at 75, best known as TV’s Laverne and director of ‘Big,’ ‘A League of Their Own’

Bronx-born Penny Marshall, who found ’70s sitcom success on “Laverne and Shirley”… Continue reading

Chabot scores overtime winner to lift Senators over Predators 4-3

OTTAWA — Thomas Chabot saw an opening and he took it. And… Continue reading

Canadian Marielle Thompson earns World Cup ski cross bronze in season opener

AROSA, Switzerland — Canada’s Marielle Thompson captured bronze at the opening World… Continue reading

Canada doesn’t make Oscars short list for best foreign language film

LOS ANGELES — Canada is no longer in the running for best… Continue reading

Most Read