Ultimate fighting and more with Steve Sievert
January 05, 2007
UFC to strengthen stable of fighters in 2007
UFC President Dana White is fond of saying the Ultimate Fighting Championship is taking over the world. He's only half joking.
White and his partners at Zuffa have been the masterminds behind the transformation of an underground, cult sport with a notorious reputation into a mainstream sports juggernaut.
To be fair, most of the rules changes that convinced U.S. athletic commissions to get back into the mixed martial arts business were already in place before Zuffa bought the brand in 2001 (no perpetuating the "Zuffa Myth" here). However, it's been under the Zuffa banner that the UFC has flourished and the organization closed out a blockbuster 2006 with a record-setting UFC 66.
With the UFC now firmly entrenched in America, White and Co. are taking the next steps to strengthen the action inside its trademark octagon. First up on the to-do list was signing one of the best heavyweights in world - Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic - to a major-league two-year, six-fight contract that instantly gives the promotion a champion-in-waiting.
The signing of Cro Cop shows that Zuffa is willing to reach for the checkbook to attract elite talent. The UFC boss wouldn't tip his hand, but hinted that other major signings are imminent and that could include Fedor Emalinenko, whose current short-term relationships with Pride and BodogFIGHT pretty much make him a free agent.
Let's hope Zuffa's willingness to show Cro Cop the money - the deal's valued at more than $1 million - trickles down to those fighters already in the promotion. Zuffa has a well-earned reputation for being less than generous when it comes to sharing the wealth with its hired hands. However, White says no one's complaining to him.
At this point, the UFC is basically printing money. UFC 66 alone will gross north of $40 million. With that kind of cash flow, shouldn't guys like Keith Jardine and Jason MacDonald be banking more than $14,000 and $10,000 (reported pursues at 66), respectively, for putting their lives on the line in the octagon?