Growing a monster

Solomon Hutcherson, top, pounds on Nabil Khatib during an HFC event in Edmonton in July. (Courtesy...

Solomon Hutcherson, top, pounds on Nabil Khatib during an HFC event in Edmonton in July. (Courtesy HCF)

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

, Last Updated: 7:31 PM ET

The formula couldn’t be any simpler.

Bring in top-ranked fighters, convince a television network to commit airtime and let the fans do the rest.

It’s a plan that’s seen the Ultimate Fighting Championship grow into a mega-million dollar monster.

Hardcore Championship Fighting CEO Keith Crawford hopes to do the same in the Great White North.

The Canadian fight club has been on a big-name signing binge of late.

Pride’s Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, former UFC veterans Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral and Joe Riggs have signed on. Negotiations are ongoing with former UFC heavyweight champ Vitor Belfort, Pride vet Ricardo Arona and Canadian John Alessio.

"We are the only Canadian promotion that is bringing in huge international names," says Crawford.

"We remain committed to promoting local talent, but I believe Canadians are educated in the sport and want to see the world’s best."

Crawford says his organization’s "go big or go home" philosophy has netted him some top fighters.

But the ultimate lure for scrappers to sign with the HCF is the guaranteed television exposure through the company’s broadcast deal with The Score.

"Free TV made the UFC," says Crawford, sounding a bit like UFC president Dana White minus the vulgarities,

"Without The Score we are just another promoter. With our exclusive deal we are Number One."

Top billing among Canadian fight clubs has allowed Crawford’s crew to sign Top 10 heavyweight Aleksander Emelianenko to headline the Oct. 19 card in Calgary where he will take on Dan Bobish. Aleksander’s brother Fedor — considered by most mixed-martial arts pundits the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world — will also be cageside and signing autographs.

Unlike the UFC, Crawford says his organization has cordial co-existence with other Canadian fight clubs.

"We have a very healthy working relationship with TKO (Quebec’s largest mixed-martial arts league) and King of the Cage," he says.

Crawford, himself a former kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter, says the explosion of the sport is a boon for the growing number of Canadian fighters looking to break into the game.

"The future of MMA is very bright," he says.

"It’s destined to become a prime sport very quickly."

jose.rodriguez@sunmedia.ca

FIGHT NOTES:

o There is no masking the bad blood between UFC heavyweight champ Randy Couture and president Dana White. Following the surprise resignation of the champ Thursday, there has been no shortage of venom spit back-and-forth between the two.

Couture says he tendered his resignation after learning the UFC failed to sign Fedor Emelianenko — the Pride heavyweight champion and Couture’s next obvious opponent.

Since, the 44-year-old champ has said there was much more to his decision to leave than the lost opportunity.

In an interview with sherdog.com, Couture says: "I'm tired of being taken advantage of, played as the nice guy and basically swimming against the current with the management of the UFC. I don't feel like I get the respect I deserve from the organization."

He also said UFC brass lied to him, saying he was the second-best paid fighter in the UFC behind Chuck Liddell. Couture claims he polled other fighters and maintains that isn’t true.

For his part, White says, should Randy ever decide to come out of retirement to, say, fight Emeianenko, the UFC still owns his rights. White said in a separate interview that Couture’s new Hollywood agent, who has him signing movie deals instead of fight contracts, has Couture’s ear at the moment and the ‘parasite’ is leading him down the wrong path.

It’ll be interesting to see where this one ends up.

Can you say, lawsuits?

  • The most sought-after heavyweight in the world has turned his nose up at the UFC. Reports say Fedor Emelianenko, the Pride Heavyweight champ who is undefeated in his last 24 fights, has agreed to a deal with Russian-based M-1 Mix-Fight Championship. No word yet on a first fight or opponent.

  • UFC president Dana White says if Alberta’s Jason McDonald wins his fight against Yushin Okami in Ohio next weekend, he may get a middleweight title shot.

  • Former UFC and Pride welterweight Nick Diaz has signed a long-term deal with EliteXC. Diaz, who still had two fights left in his contract, received a two year extension taking him well into 2009. Monetary details were not disclosed.

    For the latest in mixed-martial-arts news log on to The Scrapyard blog at www.calgarysun.com


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