In mid July the mixed martial arts world, still smoldering from the now legendary UFC 189, was set ablaze once again with the news that "The Last Emperor" Fedor Emelianenko, the stone-faced killer of yore, was negotiating with multiple promotions in anticipation of his return. Almost immediately fan speculation shifted to Bellator. In recent months MMA’s necromancer, Scott Coker, has made his focus resurrecting fights and fighters from one ortwo or even three eras ago, making Fedor feel like a natural fit. What’s more, The Double Fisted Icecream Cone-faced killer had recently been spotted at the prestigious, if not imperial, Dave and Buster’s, representing B-MMA as a "Brand Ambassador". For many fans, this felt like an open and shut case – except it isn’t. And Fedor isn't going anywhere near Bellator. This comeback is, and always was, about only one thing; fighting in the UFC. Ignoring specific statements made by Emelianenko for a moment (we will get to those) lets take a look at the MMA landscape in 2015. While under the Coker era, Bellator has continued to promote heavyweight fights in 2015 featuring fighters such as Justin Wren, Raphael Butler and Tony Johnson; however, it could be argued the #2 MMA organization have staged only one engaging and high level HW fight this entire year – Cheick Kongo vs Alexander Volkov – with the failed showcases for the ever gassed Bobby Lashley and Kimbo Slice oddities not withstanding. However, before B-MMA lures the best Russian HW champion-turned-politician of all time into the Bellator cage, they have to prove they can convince their current Russian champion turned politician to fight. Scott Coker has essentially put the HW division in cryostasis. They have yet to strip Vitaly Minakov of his title, despite him not having fought in over a year, while also letting top prospect Blagoi Ivanov walk to WSOF. With Bellator focusing more on their deeper divisions, signing Emelianenko means Bellator would have to significantly change their strategy and begin aggressively marketing whatever fighters they can lure away from the UFC’s table, or attempt to raise more retired names from the dead. As powerful a sorcerer as Coker is, there are limits to his power. There wouldn’t be many fights for Fedor that would generate big interest, even if the division was still intact, unless he is thrown in with a Kimbo, King Mo or Tito, which would require abandoning the strategies laid in place for them as well. Fedor is asking for "the strongest fighters possible" and if they still had Minakov, who is an undefeated killer and would make serious waves in the UFC, or Ivanov (the first man to beat Fedor – sorry Fabricio Werdum) Bellator could make a reasonable case that Fedor is fighting some of the best HW’s out there, but those fights wouldn’t be big sellers to the broad audience familiar only with the name and mystique of Fedor. On the other hand, fighters like Lashley, Tito, Kimbo et al would have name value, but fall well short of being "the strongest fighters". The best fights for him are in the UFC. So are the biggest. It is no coincidence Fedor has decided to return a month after Werdum won the title in Mexico City. He wants that rematch, and I believe he wants to secure his legacy. A legacy, which like it or not, is missing a tenure in the UFC, and it’s heavyweight championship. Now is the best time to strike. With Cain no longer looking invincible, and resurgent rivals like Crocop, Hunt, AA, Bigfoot and Mir waiting for him, looking at the roster of 35-40 year old lazarus HWs resurrected from losing streaks, suddenly the 38 year old Emelianenko (who went out on a win streak btw) doesn’t seem so washed up or out of place amongst said company. Another factor to consider is the current climate of Bellator in relation to Russian fighters. Two years ago Bellator was overflowing with excellent Russian fighters across many weight classes, but 2015 feels like 1989 before the collapse of the wall. The cozy relationship with Eastern Bloc fighters the promotion enjoyed under Rebney has all but turned Siberian and frozen over. The Coker administration sees the promotion dropping Russians faster than an 80s action movie. Does this trend extend to Fedor? Probably not, considering the past relationship with Coker and that "ambassador deal"(here is money to come to our show, play video games and smile for the camera), but it can’t help either. Bellator has lost its place as the go to spot for Russia’s best. But all of this talk ignores the real issue at hand. Bellator cannot afford Fedor Emelianenko. I mean…they can in a sense. They can afford to pay for a trip to Dave and Buster’s anyway, but not to fight inside their cage. Not even close. And this cannot be stressed enough – Viacom doesn’t matter. There is no chance Fedor’s asking price (likely in the millions per fight after points, bonuses, Reebok, etc.) could be monetized under the current Bellator model. Not with sponsor opportunities. Not with free tokens. Not with revamped reality shows. Nothing. Despite what many fans think, Viacom is not an endless source of Anderson Silva money for Bellator to bask in. Bellator, or any brand owned by a conglomerate, has to be profitable. Fedor wouldn’t bring enough ratings against anyone – even a fight against Kimbo – to justify the kind of cash he would need. Fedor’s contract was paid for by Showtime during the Strikeforce era, but that was the Strikeforce era – when Fedor was still the true MMA heavyweight champion. He isn’t that and doesn’t carry the same value he did then. For Viacom, there is no return on investment. This isn’t speculation either. The UFC’s offer is significantly more lucrative for a reason. I also don’t believe it is a coincidence Fedor made this decision public right after UFC 189. That event made it abundantly clear big time paydays are out there for the right kind of European star. I have heard talk from trustworthy sources that the UFC internally believed Lesnar vs Fedor would top UFC 100 in buys, and while those kinds of numbers are no longer realistic, no matter who he is matched up against, interest will be huge, and PPV’s will sell. The UFC is also aggressively expanding into Europe. They have a Polish champion and have signed many Eastern European fighters. They want to crack into the Russian market. Emelianenko is the key to doing this in the same way Cain is key in Mexico, Bisping in the UK, Anderson/Vitor in Brazil, GSP in Canada and McGregor in Ireland. This strategy is tried and true. The UFC needs local heroes and there are none more heroic than the stoic one. And if there is one thing Russians love, it's vodka. If there were a secondary thing, behind vodka, its tracksuits. It just so happens, Reebok makes tracksuits. Jedrzejczyk has a deal with Reebok Poland, and I'd expect Emelianenko to be marketing Reebok tracksuits to his countrymen in the same mode. As for the old obstacles? Those are long gone along with flip phones, dubstep, being cool, and your cable subscription – so 2009. The hard feelings seem to be a thing of the past. Now that Werdum is champion Dana has been talking the win over Fedor up. The "farce" business is gone. Co-Promotion? That is off the table. But even then, there is UFC fight pass for possible future distribution of M-1 events.This is 2015. Nothing we knew is the same. Dana White still runs the UFC. But this isn't the same UFC. This is 2015. Scott Coker still runs the number 2. But Spikeforce isn't Strikeforce, Spikeforce's heavyweights are not Strikeforce's heavyweights, 2015 Fedor isn't 2009 Fedor and Viacom isn't Showtime. Financially, the only promotion that makes sense for Fedor is the UFC. And the UFC is the only promotion that Fedor makes sense for. Excellent write-up by Emmery Myers.