This Friday marks the beginning of a new era for M-1 Global. After years of putting on events all over the world, the promotion will finally make its debut on major pay television when their Norfolk, Va., M-1 Challenge event will be broadcast live on Showtime.
The show is set to feature some of the best fighters in the promotion, both American and international, including two title bouts.
M-1 Global Director of Operations Evgeni Kogan recently spoke to MMAWeekly.com about this historic event, as well as the recent reshaping of the MMA landscape and the future of his promotion.
MMAWeekly: Before we talk about M-1 Global’s Showtime debut, I’m curious to get your thoughts on the recent acquisition of Strikeforce by the UFC and what sort of impact might this have on the MMA landscape.
Evgeni Kogan: It’s incredible how fast the landscape can change in this sport. New opportunities are presented faster than one can keep up with. As for whether the purchase is good or bad for the sport, we’ll see the impacts over the next one to two years. For M-1 Global, it doesn’t really affect our plans.
MMAWeekly: To confirm previous reports, this deal will have no effect on M-1 Global’s relationship with Strikeforce or Showtime, correct?
Evgeni Kogan: Correct. The purchase has no affect on our relationship with Strikeforce or Showtime. We’ve enjoyed working together with Strikeforce in the past and look forward to working together with Strikeforce in the future.
Our position and day-to-day operations haven’t changed at all. Our promotion’s fighters are signed under the M-1 brand and we have a full slate of events we are currently executing.
Fedor (Emelianenko’s) contract is with Showtime Networks Inc. and as noted, he is happy fighting on Showtime/CBS. We hope that this continues to be a productive relationship which lasts for a long time. It’s business as usual for M-1 Global.
MMAWeekly: Give us your thoughts on having M-1 Global on Showtime and the effect it can have on the company.
Evgeni Kogan: There is no better market to seriously compete in than the U.S. and our televised events on Showtime will greatly impact our success in North America.
After our March 25 card, there will be three more Challenge events inside the U.S. and three more in Europe after the April 28 card in St. Petersburg, (Russia). With the established relationship with Showtime, giving the M-1 Challenge events a home here made excellent sense.
Ken Hershman has been vocal about having Showtime televise quality cards, which showcase top prospects and lesser-known international stars; the M-1 Challenge fits perfectly into this equation.
We are extremely happy about the venture between M-1 Global and Showtime. This is a premium network in North America and great home for the M-1 Challenge events. It’s a tremendous opportunity to introduce the M-1 promotion to our growing North American fan base and showcase our rising prospects.
Personally, I’m beyond excited and elected to (travel to the U.S. early) to do everything I can to make this event as successful as possible.
MMAWeekly: The card is set to feature some of the best international and American talent the promotion possesses. How important was it to feature such a diverse line-up of stars on this debut show?
Evgeni Kogan: Showcasing this array of talent is incredibly important. M-1 has some of Europe’s top fighters signed and having them featured on the Showtime telecast adds credibility to the caliber of athlete’s coming from overseas.
Artiom Damkovsky, Magomed Sultanakhmedov, and Alexander Sarnavskiy may not be names that the North American fans are used to hearing but after March 25, they’ll be hot topics in the forums. Vinny Magalhaes, Tyson Jeffries, and Jose Figueroa are all North American fighters M-1 is developing and they’re seizing their opportunities to build a following.
Tyson and Jose are also special since they’re direct products of the M-1 Selection tournament, which provides the proving ground for young fighters to succeed and grow. Now they’ve landed key spots on Showtime’s live broadcast. This is truly an amazing opportunity for all these fighters to shine.
MMAWeekly: What is the thing you want to most get across to new fans about M-1 Global with this broadcast?
Evgeni Kogan: We want to drive awareness that M-1 Global is a promoter of exciting and entertaining cards; cards where fighters aren’t afraid to leave everything on the canvas and finish. M-1 Global has been putting on shows since 1998 and we need to show the North American fan base why our events are exciting and why we’ve been around for 13 years.
MMAWeekly: Sounds exciting, Evgeni. Thanks for taking time out for us. Is there anything you want to say in conclusion?
Evgeni Kogan: Thank you as well, Mick. I really want to convey to our growing fan base that M-1 Global is listening to their feedback and implementing the necessary changes to become a major player in the sport. We’re out searching the world for the next superstars and will continue to put on exciting, entertaining events.
Through 2011 and beyond, M-1 cards will be some of the most exciting events that fans will watch either through our live streaming telecasts or network broadcasts on Showtime. The Challenge cards in (particular) will raise the bar in terms of expectations and we’re excited to begin introducing some of Europe’s top prospects to North America on March 25.