Fedor EmelianenkoLate last week, the big rumor surfaced that Randy Couture would be returning to the UFC. Only a few days later, it’s no longer a rumor, it’s official. Accompanying that rumor was another one—Fedor Emelianenko would step inside the Octagon for the first time in early 2009 to fight Couture. That rumor however, is still just that, a rumor.

So far, we’ve heard from the UFC and Randy Couture on the matter. Dana White claims they won’t get involved with Fedor until his contract with Affliction is up, which he estimates to be in January when he believes Affliction will be out of business. Now back in the UFC, Couture’s tune has changed regarding the fight. Before, Randy was chasing it to prove he was number one in the world. Now, Randy claims Fedor has to come to him to prove Fedor’s number one in the world. Funny how a potential $3 million changes everything.

Then, of course, there’s Josh Gross’ report that suggests “advanced negotiations” are taking place between the UFC and Fedor’s US representatives. I normally wouldn’t be putting as much credence into it if it weren’t coming from Gross or one of the other highly respected MMA journalists, but since it is, it’s at least worth considering that we aren’t hearing the whole story.

Who we haven’t heard from yet is Fedor and his management. But, thanks to Sergio Non of USA Today, we now have comments from the Russian’s side. Non was able to score an interview with Joost Raimond, who serves as M-1’s director of operations, and took full advantage of it, pressing for answers as to when, if ever, Fedor will sign to fight in the UFC.

First and foremost, Raimond confirmed rumors that Fedor is free and clear to fight Randy Couture anywhere, anytime.

Q: From what UFC says, it’s still trying to work things out with you guys. How much of a possibility is that at this point?

Raimond: Who knows? What that will do for a possible bout between Fedor and Randy, that’s very difficult to say at this point in time. The only thing I can say from our side is that we are open and willing to work with any organization to make that fight happen, and we’ve also expressed that to the UFC. Irrespective of who the organizaton is, we’re willing to work with anybody to do that.

The contracts that Fedor has at this point in time would allow for such a fight to take place, and specifically the Randy fight, so we’re free to make that happen if the opportunity presents itself.

UFC has said it wants to make this happen as well, but one of the things that Dana White kept saying on Thursday was “I don’t want to mess with anyone else’s contracts.” But it sounds like you’re saying that isn’t an issue because his contracts would let him fight in UFC.

No, and the UFC knows that. That’s not a secret and we’ve always been very open that the Randy-Fedor fight is something special. It’s not your ordinary contract fight, as far as any fight can be ordinary.

But we’ve made provisions in any and all contracts that refer to Fedor to allow that fight to take place, with any organization in conjunction or in coooperation with whoever. Contractually there’s not an issue. … so I don’t know Dana would be calling that out, because the UFC is well aware that we have that contractual possibility.

Very interesting. If Dana White was indeed telling the truth yesterday, it doesn’t sound like they have any intentions whatsoever to signing Fedor unless it’s to a long-term deal. If he wasn’t though, and there is some truth behind Gross’ report, Dana may have been just trying to shift the media’s focus away from the fight at least for the time being to keep any negotiations off the radar.

Raimond made it very clear though that any kind of multi-fight deal with the UFC is not in the cards for now. Maybe in the future, but only if the UFC removed certain demands from the contract they presented to Fedor last year.

But once his contract with Affliction runs out and once he fulfills his M-1 commitments, would he then be willing to do an exclusive deal with UFC?

At that point in time, just like everybody else, I’m not able to look into a crystal ball, but if there are no further contractual obligations, and our partnership with Affliction would allow it, and Fedor would still be fighting — I’m already calling out a lot of ifs — yeah, we’ll entertain anything, including a deal with the UFC.

And who knows, By that time, there might be other organizations who are very interesting to talk to.

But to answer your question, if all those ifs are not an issue, then at that point in time, we will entertain that discussion with the UFC, certainly. … (But) let me make it clear that at this point and also for the coming period, that’s just not in the game plan.

What’s the likelihood of the two sides overcoming their differences this time around, given that they couldn’t do it the last time they tried?

I was very much involved in the last time you’re referring to, and at that point in time, there were aspects in the UFC contract which just did not coincide with the way we see things and how we wanted to proceed.

If that exact same contract would come back on the table, I would still not see us get back together. If a possible contract would change on a number of very specific points, that could very much be entertained.

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I still seriously doubt that Fedor will ever step inside the Octagon. I keep coming back to the same questions. What has changed since last year? What’s in it for the UFC to sign Fedor for one fight? Why would either side back off on their demands for a long term deal? There’s no good answer to any of those questions. At least no answer that equals Fedor Emelianenko vs Randy Couture.