EA Sports has scored a major coup by signing Fedor Emelianenko, the world's top-ranked MMA heavyweight, to headline the upcoming EA Sports MMA.
Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White stirred the controversy pot earlier in July when he warned that any fighter who signed up to appear in EA Sports' mixed martial arts game wouldn't be welcome in the UFC. White was angry over EA's belated entry into the MMA game; the publisher had rejected overtures from the UFC prior to its deal with THQ but came roaring back to develop a title of its own when UFC 2009 Undisputed became a major hit.
White's threat kept UFC fighters in line but it obviously had little impact on one of the biggest names in MMA: The Last Emperor, Fedor Emelianenko, a Russian destruction machine with a professional record of 30-1 who's widely regarded as the top heavyweight fighter in the world. Emelianenko, the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts heavyweight champion, has joined fellow fighters Gegard Mousasi and Renato "Babalu" Sobral - no slouches themselves - as "the first in a long list of fighters" who will appear in EA Sports MMA.
"I have fought all over the world and I am excited to be in EA Sports MMA because this game is going to show the global appeal of mixed martial arts," Emelianenko said. "I know MMA fans have been wanting to play as me and pit me against any opponent. Now they will have their opportunity."
Despite his bluster, I doubt very much whether White would decline the opportunity to have Emelianenko compete in the UFC over this. His record speaks for itself, as do his last two fights, both against former UFC heavyweight champions: A first-round knockout of the well-regarded Andrei Arlovski and prior to that, a 37-second demolition of Tim Sylvia. A match between him and current UFC Heavyweight Champ Brock Lesnar would be far too lucrative to blow off over wounded pride.
But for now, Fedor is playing EA's game and EA Sports MMA just gained about 231 pounds of credibility. Emelianenko will appear at the upcoming Strikeforce fight on August 15 along with Mousasi and Sobral, who will square off for the Light Heavyweight Championship, and EA has promised that more big-name signings will be coming in the near future. EA Sports MMA is currently scheduled for release in 2010 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.