Never say never
Apparently, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's door hasn't completely closed on notables Fedor Emelianenko and Gegard Mousasi.
Although the M-1 fighters are signed in the U.S. to Strikeforce and past negotiations with the UFC fell apart, UFC president Dana White said he recently reopened talks with M-1 Global boss Vadim Finkelstein.
White wouldn't elaborate on the nature of the discussions and said only they've taken place "more recently than you would think."
Finkelstein's recent Twitter message came a day after White confirmed the renewed talks.
White's update, which raised more than a few eyebrows, followed a simple question asking if Mousasi, the former DREAM middleweight champ and current Strikeforce light-heavyweight title-holder, would never be a UFC fighter.
"I wouldn't say he never would be," White said on Saturday. "It's not that I don't want to talk to M-1. I want to get this [expletive] done. I want him, and I want Fedor. I want to do it. And I never say never. They can call me right now, and we can start talking and figure this thing out. I'd love to get Mousasi in here. He should be. He deserves to be.
"I like [Mousasi] a lot. I'd love to get him in here and try him out with some of the other guys."
When pressed for details, White declined to elaborate but confirmed the talks have taken place recently.
While certainly good news for THE UFC fans who want the top fighters under the company's umbrella, it's certain to cause concern for Strikefore and broadcast partners Showtime and CBS, who have relied (and will continue to rely) heavily on the two stars. Both are expected to figure prominently into Strikeforce's 2010 plans with Emelianenko likely to contend for the organization's heavyweight belt and Mousasi expected to defend his title, which he recently took from Renato "Babalu" Sobral.
Emelianenko, the longtime PRIDE champion, recently competed for Affliction Entertainment, where he defeated ex-UFC champs Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski. After its promotional demise, Emelianenko and the UFC entered talks that soon sparked a war of words in the media. White said the fighter's demands (which included the caveat that Emelianenko's UFC fights must be co-promoted by M-1 Global) were outlandish, but he said he was willing to pay big for the fighter. (Finkelstein, though, later denied reports that the UFC had offered a contract worth $30 million.) However, the co-promoting demands eventually halted the negotiations.
The talks temporary broke down in July, and Emelianenko signed with Strikeforce the next month. The promotion then announced a network-TV deal with CBS, and Emelianenko headlined the first show with a knockout victory over Brett Rogers in November.
Emelianenko (31-1) and Mousasi (28-2-1) are both expected to fight again for Strikeforce in the spring.