Frank Mir Explains How Fedor Emelianenko’s Lack of Drawing Power is Self-Inflicted
No one will ever dispute that Fedor Emelianenko is one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time.
Unfortunately for all the accolades he earned while largely competing overseas in Japan, Emelianenko’s gaudy winning streak and long list of Hall of Fame victims still didn’t end up making him much of a draw in the United States when it came to pay-per-view.
While Emelianenko was part of several fights that drew very good numbers on television and cable through broadcasts on CBS and Showtime, that never translated into pay-per-views where the biggest stars in combat sports live and breathe.
Emelianenko headlined two separate cards for the now defunct Affliction brand that only pulled in 190,000 combined buys. Emelianenko was also part of Bellator’s most recent pay-per-view effort in New York City that reportedly pulled between 90,000 and 130,000 buys in total.
According to former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, who faces Emelianenko at Bellator 198 on Saturday night, the Russian’s biggest problem drawing an audience on pay-per-view in the United States was probably his own fault.
Mir says that Emelianenko never engaging with fans, doing many interviews or at the very least giving people a reason to pay to watch him fight backfired when it came time to demand more money from various promotions — including the UFC.
“The thing that really shot him in the foot and I know that the UFC was probably interested in signing him. What shot him in the foot was that he fought Andrei Arlovski” Mir explained when talking about Emelianenko’s fight with Affliction in 2009. “He fights a fight over here [in the United States] in Affliction and guess what? They got to see what he pulled and it wasn’t impressive. So they’re like ‘you’re not worth the several million that you’re asking for, you can’t sell out a card, no one wants to watch you fight’.
“Because you don’t do interviews, people aren’t interested in it. Whatever the case may be, he’s not Conor McGregor, he’s not Brock Lesnar.”
Mir has shared two separate pay-per-views with Lesnar, who is one of the biggest draws in the history of the sport with his fame largely built on his time as a professional wrestler in WWE. Regardless of where his drawing power came from, Lesnar always seemed to embrace it when he was with the UFC and that only led to even bigger audiences being willing to pay to see him fight.
“Brock has nowhere the accolades and accomplishments that Fedor has but I guarantee right now if you were going to tell me you get pay-per-view buys who do you want to fight? I’d fight Brock even if they had to pull him off his death bed,” Mir said. “Brock knows how to sell a fight. People are interested in watching him fight.
“No one cares about watching Fedor.”
Mir gave an example of Emelianenko shooting himself in the foot when it came time to promote the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Earlier this year, Mir says that all of the competitors were flown out to a Bellator event under the guise that they would face off during the show to hype up their fights in the Grand Prix. Mir claims that everybody showed up for an early rehearsal to understand how the whole production would work but Emelianenko was nowhere to be found.
It’s incidents like that where Mir says that Emelianenko has no one to blame but himself why he wasn’t a bigger star on top of being called one of the greatest of all time.
“It’s self-inflicted. That’s Fedor. He doesn’t want to do interviews. In January when Bellator had their card with Chael [Sonnen] and Quinton [Jackson] and they were asking all the heavyweights, everybody in the Grand Prix, we had to do that whole walkout. Well me, Ryan Bader, King Mo, [Matt] Mitrione, all showed up to the rehearsals because we knew that’s part of us being fighters. Fedor didn’t show up,” Mir revealed.
“That just shows you the mindset. Then he stepped on the wrong spot, he didn’t know where to stand because he wouldn’t come to the rehearsals because ‘I’m a fighter, I get paid to fight’. No, you don’t. Yes, you’re a fighter. There’s only one Conor, one Chael, we don’t all have to be that guy. I’m not that guy. But you still have to open that door and give people a reason to watch you fight.”
Mir says championships and insiders raving about a fighter still don’t get people interested enough to put down their hard earned money to watch an event.
It takes constant engagement from the athletes, which is why Mir has been working diligently to promote Saturday night’s card ahead of his fight with Emelianenko because he wants people to watch.
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“There’s only one athlete I know that can be a complete dick to his fans and get away with it and that’s Brock. But he has that star power. He could probably sell tickets to him going to the bathroom. He has it,” Mir said when referencing Lesnar. “I don’t have it. Fedor doesn’t have it so you have to go out there and do the work. Answer phone calls, do interviews, put yourself out there so people go ‘I want to watch this guy fight’. Whether you want to see me get my face punched in or you want to see me take someone’s arm off, I need you to be interested in me.
“If you’re not interested in me, how do I go to Bellator and say ‘this is how much I want for the fight’. They’re like no, you’re not worth it.”