On Nov. 20, M-1 Global is bringing Fedor Emelianenko back to pay-per-view. He’s set to face former UFC heavyweight contender Jeff Monson in the headlining bout of the promotion’s latest offering, which takes place at the Olympic Arena in Moscow. The match-up is the main event of what actually reads as a strong card for the promotion.

But is pay-per-view the proper home for this event? The answer to that question might be “No.”

There are a number of reasons why this move goes against the best interests of M-1 Global, should they seek to build themselves as a household name in mixed martial arts in the United States.

Let’s start with the fighters.

Even at the height of his stardom, Fedor Emelianenko failed to establish himself as a strong pay-per-view commodity in the US. While diehard MMA fans long hailed “The Last Emperor” as a MMA god, the mainstream UFC fan base has failed to embrace him in the same manner. Now, with three recent defeats at the hands of Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson, Fedor cannot even lay claim to an aura of invincibility. He was released by Strikeforce, and had he been retained, he would have been considered no more than a mid-card or co-headlining fighter at this point.

Jeff Monson

His opponent, Jeff Monson, has made stops in the UFC and Strikeforce, but he is not a strong pay-per-view headlining draw by any means. While he has won nine of his last 10 outings, making him a legitimate foe for Fedor, many fans will most remember his last major fight, a loss to Daniel Cormier under the Strikeforce banner. Monson has only fought in major organizations four times since his departure from the UFC in 2006. And three of those four appearances came in Japan. Monson stacks up as a challenge for Emelianenko, but it would be a match-up that would appear, at best, as a co-headlining bout had it taken place on a Strikeforce card.

Beyond the two heavyweights at the top of the card, M-1 Global has booked a lightweight title fight between champion Jose Figueroa and Daniel Weichel. It’s another intriguing match-up, but outside of diehard MMA fans, can anybody honestly expect the average prospective pay-per-view purchasing MMA enthusiast to know these two names? Add on Mairbek Taisumov and Arthur Guseinov, two fighters who have ended fights in exciting fashion in the M-1 Challenge series but won’t likely ring a bell with many fans on US shores, and what you have is a card where UFC veteran Xavier Foupa-Pokam, who is currently riding a four-fight losing streak, is the third biggest name.

Next, we have to look at the timing. M-1 is holding its next M-1 Challenge event on Nov. 12 in Russia. While it might be available via internet stream, the event is not slated for a Showtime broadcast, which means it will provide minimal advertising for the upcoming pay-per-view. The last Showtime-aired M-1 Challenge event took place in mid-October, before the Emelianenko-Monson pay-per-view was officially announced. Rather than utilizing Showtime as a promotional tool for its upcoming pay-per-view, M-1 Global will head into the effort without such a valuable injection of hype for the event.

Also, there’s the timing of the pay-per-view itself. The event takes place in Moscow, which means that the live broadcast will air stateside at 7:30 a.m. ET. If that seems early, how will it feel for those who reside closer to the West Coast? Not only will fans be asked to shell out $30 for a live pay-per-view featuring a legend on the decline, but they have to set their alarm clocks to get up and watch it, possibly before the sun rises.

There’s a much better route that M-1 Global could take.

The promotion has been doing an excellent job building their product through M-1 Challenge events on Showtime. Arthur Guseinov’s highlight-reel stoppages, a big TKO from Vinny Magalhaes in October and action – outside of heavyweights Kenny Garner and Maxim Grishin – that is exciting and results in finishes has given M-1 some momentum. The promotion has started to build stars – Guseinov, Magalhaes, Figueroa and Taisumov, to name just a few – through its partnership with Showtime. But the key word there is “started.”

Arthur Guseinov has provided highlight reel finishes for M-1 (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

The organization needs to continue to build on its brand and grow its stars. There’s no better way to do this than to use its premier star fighter and a worthy opponent who also has a name familiar with UFC fans. Fans will be more likely to tune in to see Emelianenko and Monson than they would a card headlined by Magalhaes, Garner or Grishin. This is M-1 Global’s opportunity to put its banner – its banner alone, not alongside that of Strikeforce – on a major event on Showtime, HDNet or another more widely available outlet.

Emelianenko is already in decline with his recent defeats, but a win in front of as many eyes as possible would be great for both him and M-1 Global. And should “The Last Emperor” lose again, the lack of a $30 deterrent for MMA fans will give those fans exposure to what could be the next generation of M-1 Global stars.

While M-1 Global is looking to capitalize on the remaining star power of Fedor Emelianenko to bring in pay-per-view dollars, perhaps the wiser move for the promotion’s long-term future would be to capitalize on that star power in a much different way: To draw in fans on Showtime or a similar cable network and introduce them to the exciting up-and-comers that round out this card.

Top Photo: Fedor Emelianenko (Esther Lin/Strikeforce)

  • Ed J Pickle McNasty III

    In a word, no M-1 Global shouldn’t bother doing this thin on PPV. Nobody cares. Even people who avidly follow MMA are probably asking themselves, “When did M-1 Global get a Lightweight champion? Hmmmph, never heard of the guy.” Russia and other former Soviet provinces have produced some superb fighters. But after Vadim Fincklestein near criminal mismanagement of Fedor’s career, most MMA fans want nothing to do with M-1 Global.

    King of the Cage has champions too. Doesn’t mean they’re going to sell a ton of PPV’s. But if M-1 Global can run the PPV and make a profit then I say go for it.