M-1 Challenge and UFC have not always had the best relationship and a partnership between the two seemed very unlikely. It has caught most by surprise that M-1 Challenge has announced the partnership with UFC in hopes to promote and establish a footprint in Russia. M-1 Challenge announced “UFC Russia” which enables M-1 Challenge champions to earn UFC contracts. M-1 Global tweeted out announcing the big partnership stating, “M-1 Challenge champions will get a unique opportunity to sign contracts with the @ufc M-1 Global is going to be a partner of UFC Russia taking care of finding Russian athletes and preparing them for the fights.”
“We are looking forward to further cooperation with the UFC and the (Russia-China Investment Fund) working on developing young Russian talent, and this will benefit our sports very much,” stated M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelchtein, “MMA is a very popular kind of sports, and cooperation of the UFC, investment fund, and M-1 Global can take MMA in Russia to new level. Competition in M-1 Global is going to be even tougher, and that means we are going to see even more excellent and spectacular fights.”
Though M-1 has come forward and announced the partnership with UFC, UFC officials have not made any kind of announcement about the deal themselves. There have been no comments on the subject besides a short comment in a press release. UFC, almost a decade ago, attempted to purchase M-1 Global when there was a high demand to see Fedor Emelianenko and Brock Lesnar as well as other top names in the UFC heavyweight division. The co-promotion never followed through and M-1 decided to co-promote with Strikeforce instead. Then, in 2013 M-1 offered a co-promotion within the two and again there was no deal between the two. Five years later, and they have finally agreed on a way to co-promote.
“This partnership will be a tremendous boost to the sport of MMA in Russia and the CIS,” UFC Senior Vice President of International and Content David Shaw stated. “We’re excited to collaborate with (RCIF CEO) Kirill Dmitriev and his team to grow UFC’s brand in these key markets and serve the millions of MMA fans in this part of the world.”
The UFC has officially scheduled the first UFC Fight Night 136 on September 15th, 2018 in Russia. M-1 Challenge continued to tweet stating, “M-1 Global is going to be a partner taking care of finding Russian athletes and preparing them for the fights. M-1 Challenge champions will get a unique opportunity to sign contracts with the UFC.” The event will take place at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow, hoping to feature many Russian fighters that the UFC has recently added to their roster. The card for the night is reportedly featuring a heavyweight fight between Alexey Oleynik and Mark Hunt, although this has yet to be confirmed by the UFC.