Thursday, April 5, 2007

Emelianenko says Pride deal not final

By Sam Caplan

Fedor Emelianenko, the reigning Pride heavyweight champion, told CBS on Thursday that a contract extension he reportedly signed with Pride late last year was not officially completed.

"The (Pride) contract hasn't been concluded," Emelianenko said through a representative of Bodog Fight, which will promote Emelianenko's next fight against Matt Lindland on April 14.

On March 27, Lorenzo Fertitta -- co-owner of UFC with his brother Frank -- had reached a deal to purchase Pride Fighting Championships, in a move that brought the world's most successful MMA promotions together under the same umbrella.

Since the announcement, speculation has swirled about which Pride fighters would remain on the roster for the change in ownership, including champion Emelianenko.

Emelianenko's comment to CBS SportsLine contradicted what UFC president Dana White said at a press conference last Tuesday. White, when asked about Emelianenko, indicated that he was locked in with Pride.

"He is signed with Pride," White said.

Rumors recently circulated that a long-term deal with Bodog Fight could be on the horizon, sending Emelianenko's status into a state of confusion. Emelianenko has a one-fight contract with Bodog Fight for a bout that was believed to have been negotiated soon after his last Pride deal expired.

"We're still figuring out all the details of that deal," White said last week. "We'll do everything we can to keep the Pride heavyweight champion intact."

Emelianenko is considered by many to be the sport's top pound-for-pound fighter. According to Emelianenko, an agreement with Pride was in place at one point but never finalized.

"Yes, we have agreement with Pride, but I and (agent) Vadim Finkelshtain have not come to terms with them," Emelianenko said.

Emelianenko's younger brother, Aleksander, will also be fighting on the April 14 card against Eric Pele. The elder Emelianenko addressed rumors of a rift with his brother.

"There was no rift between me and my brother," Emelianenko said. "We just see each other rarer than before. Aleksander made his choices and paddles his own canoe."


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