M-1 Global Eyes April U.S Debut

By Tim Leidecker Jan 21, 2008
While M-1 Global's U.S. debut has been very slow to get off the ground, preparations for another joint project -- this one in Holland -- are already running at full speed.

Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) and his manager, Vadim Finkelstein, were in Los Angeles over the weekend along with M-1 Global Vice President Apy Echteld. Officially the trio made the trip to California because Emelianenko is spearheading a large-scale advertising campaign for Affliction, a popular clothing company.

Finkelstein, however, made no secret of the fact that they were also planning to meet UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture (Pictures). On the agenda was Couture's health -- the 44 year old recently reinjured the arm he had broken in his last title defense against Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures) -- as well as the lawsuit between the fighter and Zuffa.

Obviously M-1 Global is working hard even in the early stages to make the multi-million dollar Couture-Emelianenko fight happen.

In the short-term, M-1 Global pushed back its U.S. debut from February to April. The promotion had the chance to book the United Center in Chicago for Feb. 16 but opted against it as fighter negotiations had not progressed accordingly. April 11 now appears to be the targeted date for either the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., or the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

Regardless of venue and date, Emelianenko is headlining the event. As for his opponent, Dutchman Semmy Schilt (Pictures) seems to have overtaken Pedro Rizzo (Pictures) and Jeff Monson (Pictures) in favor with Finkelstein and company. The three-time K-1 World Grand Prix champion made a successful comeback to MMA on Jan. 12 and will be in Moscow the second weekend in February to negotiate the details.

Despite his impressive merits, Schilt is virtually unknown stateside. In fact, an Emelianenko-Schilt fight could be pushed back for a show in Holland, where it would be a huge draw. Consequently, IFL star Ben Rothwell (Pictures), winner of 13 straight, is also in the raffle for a crack at the Russian.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, preparations for the first M-1 Global Challenge are in full swing.

Similar to the Yarennoka show in Japan on New Year's Eve, the event will be a joint venture with Slamm Events, one of the biggest kickboxing promoters in the Netherlands, to have a 20-bout mega show at the Topsportcentrum in Almere, 25 miles east of Amsterdam.

The crowd at the small but mighty 3,000-seat arena will be treated to the fourth edition of the highly popular Nederland vs. Thailand series in which the best kickboxers from Holland take on some of the biggest stars from the homeland of Muay Thai. In the main event, two-time K-1 World MAX champion Andy Souwer (Pictures) will square off against Lumpinee and WBC Muay Thai world champion Yodsaenklai Fairtex.

The marquee bout of the M-1 Challenge MMA portion of the card will feature Armenian Gegard Mousasi (Pictures) moving up in weight to fight experienced Dutch knockout artist Dave Dalgliesh in a light heavyweight contest.

Additionally, a rematch between Dutch bad boy Brian Lo-A-Njoe (Pictures) and Russian vale tudo regular Sergei Bytchkov is scheduled. In two all-Dutch duels, lightweights Oktay Karatas and Furdjel de Windt (Pictures) as well as Romano de los Reyes and Vincent Latoel will battle for 161-pound supremacy.

German fighter Cengiz Dana confirmed in an interview with groundandpound.de that he will also be part of the show. Submission master Ricardo Wondel, one of the primary ground fighters in Holland, has also been connected with M-1 Global.

Because preparations for Slamm IV are taking so much time, the M-1 Global Challenge Germany, originally scheduled for April, has been postponed to the second quarter of 2008.

Nonetheless, most of Germany's top fighters have already announced their support of the show. Currently in the front row for the five spots at 139, 161, 183, 205 and 205-plus pounds are grapplers Jesse-Björn Buckler (featherweight) and Franco de Leonardis (lightweight) and kickboxers Andi Asangarani (middleweight), Martin Vath (light heavyweight) and Marko Zschörner (heavyweight).

As there could be a preliminary qualification round before the first official event, the jury is still out on who will represent Germany.

Besides Team Holland and Team Germany, there will also be Russian, French, European, Japanese and American teams competing in M-1 Global Challenges around the world. Fighters who are impressive at those tryout shows will be drafted into the bigger events, where they will get a shot at established superstars.

The first "big show" is casting its shadow already. Just like in 2005 and 2006 with the Rotterdam Rumble and Pride & Honor events, Echteld is planning a big event at the 10,000-seat Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam. While the show doesn't have a name yet, it is rumored to take place on Oct. 4.
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