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Five Ounces of Pain

MMA on Tap

Sunday, January 20, 2008


LOS ANGELES – On an unmarked soundstage Friday, just behind the railroad tracks running through the outskirts of Burbank, a clothing company did something no fight promoter has been able to yet. Mixed martial arts’ two greatest legends, Randy Couture and Fedor Emelianenko, met eye-to-eye and stared each other down, and though it was only for a television commercial, the electricity in the air was palpable.

The six-time UFC champion and former PRIDE Fighting Championship heavyweight kingpin were just two of the notables that congregated to shoot the advertisement for the popular Affliction line, an upscale clothing brand that has exploded in popularity and can be seen on the backs of a score of red-carpet celebrities.

UFC interim welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and light heavyweight king Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, boxing stars Zab Judah and “Sugar” Shane Mosley, as well as Cleveland Indians outfielder David Delucci, 2007 National League Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun, Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson, 6-time Triple Crown surfing champion Sunny Garcia, Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine and Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler all stepped in front of the cameras for the company that launched only two and a half years ago.

However, it was the Couture-Emelianenko staredown that brought the room to a standstill. The soft-spoken pair struggled to keep their trademark smiles hidden throughout the shoot, then sat and spoke for minutes. Couture invited Emelianenko to Las Vegas for a fantasy camp he was leading at his gym on Saturday. The former military firefighter extended his home in Russia to Couture.

“For me, it’s important I want to be his friend,” said Emelianenko. “For me, fight[ing] is just a sport. After the fight, we stay friends.”

Though Couture and Emelianenko exchanged phone numbers, the rest of the world wants to see them trade fists. Both ranked among the sport’s top talent, a bout between the two could reach the anticipation levels of the legendary Muhammad Ali-George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in 1974.

The 31-year-old Emelianenko is undefeated in 24 fights (including a no contest against former PRIDE champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in 2004). Couture, 13 years the Russian Sambo champion’s senior, has chiseled his name into the history book’s pages by conquering more than a handful of bouts he was never meant to win.

“It has the potential to change the landscape of the sport,” said Couture.

Getting life to imitate art will have its challenges.


Emelianenko, who will fight for the M-1 Global promotion in the U.S. as early as April, is as patient as Couture. Emelianenko’s representatives, Vadim Finkelstein and Apy Echteld, met with UFC president Dana White last summer but opted not to sign with the organization because, among other concerns, it restricted their client’s ability to compete in Sambo events in his downtime.

A national representative for Sambo in his homeland, Emelianenko committed to the M-1 Global promotion in October. White retracted statements that Emelianenko was the world’s top fighter shortly afterwards.

“What happened to Randy is not surprising to us,” Emelianenko said through a translator on Saturday. “We experienced what it means to leave the UFC and how it goes.”

Couture reiterated Friday that he will not violate his two UFC contracts until their clocks run out; the non-compete clause on his employment agreement ends in October.

“As much as I appreciate what the UFC has done, it’s the fans that come first,” said Couture. “It’s what the fans want. It’s my goal to make this fight happen in the future for the fans.”

1 comment:

  1. Does Couture think the fans are dummies? He could have stayed with the UFC and Fedor could have signed on with the only organization that is going to give him truly talented opposition. Pair of fucking divas...


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