One more failed Trump business venture, one more tie to Russia.
It was June 5, 2008 and Trump had called a news conference at Trump Tower to announce a new venture into the business of mixed martial arts—a blood-spattering blend of boxing, wrestling and karate often fought in a caged octagon.
In that world, Fedor Emelianenko was king. Fedor, as everyone called him, was a heavyweight champion who made his name in his native Russia, cracking ribs in places like Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg and Moscow. He had never killed anyone, despite Trump’s quip in an interview that summer. But he was known for his devastating blows, including a nasty punch dubbed “the Russian hook.” And his fans included his country’s president, Putin, a black belt in karate who watched Fedor battle from front-row seats and sat with him at dinners and sports events.
The mixed martial arts company Fedor fought for was called Affliction Entertainment. They were new on the scene of this brutal sport, and Donald Trump had inked a deal with them, in order to host pay-per-view events in the United States, as well as to do a reality TV show in Russia.
After only two events, which both did poorly and after the reality show never materialized, Affliction closed shop, losing millions for those who were invested in the business.
If we weren’t being constantly bombarded by Trump’s wild eyed supporters and their claims that his business acumen was all the qualifications needed for the presidency, there’d be no need to keep pointing out his myriad failures in business. In fact, if it wasn’t for hotels, golf courses, and gambling, the man would likely be in utter ruin, and even those venues come with controversy.
And if his supporters didn’t likewise make him out to be a straight shooter and an honest man (*I just threw up a little bit in my mouth*), there’d be no need to remind them of the troublesome connections lurking in his circle.
Trump’s involvement with this company should raise some questions, at the very least.
It is also another example of Trump’s colorful history with wealthy or prominent Russians. Trump not only teamed up with Fedor, but with the fighter’s St. Petersburg-based promoter, Vadim Finkelchtein, whose management company was a partner in the venture and who attended three press events at Trump Tower. At one point, Trump’s plans for the partnership included a visit to Russia.
Trump is actually honored on the New Jersey State Martial Arts Hall of Fame website as “Visionary” because of his promotion of mixed martial arts in the United States during a time when politicians like John McCain were calling it, “human cock fighting” and condemning it for its brutal nature.
Trump, for his part, seemed captivated by the brutality. An appearance on Howard Stern’s radio show in 2008 saw Trump gushing over the sport, and over his new associate, Fedor.
“It’s sort of like, you just — somebody dies!” Trump told radio host Howard Stern in July 2008. “I’ve never seen anything like it. And it’s terrible … It’s the gladiator. It’s not like, ‘Oh, how are the judges voting?’ OK? It’s like, you know, somebody just — succumbs.”
While Trump saw a chance to make money from his association with Fedor, he also delighted in his association with the fearsome Slavic warrior. “I’m looking at this Russian, Fedor, with a face like you don’t want to touch,” Trump told Stern. “His neck is like, I think it’s 28 inches!”
The sport is certainly more popular now than it was eight years ago, so in that respect, with his ability to tap into the violent and destructive nature in people, then yes, perhaps Trump was a visionary.
Adding to Fedor’s mystique was his friendship with Putin, who enhanced his own sportsman’s image through numerous public appearances alongside the storied fighter. (One memorable 2007 dinner also featured the kick boxer and action star Jean-Claude Van Damme, along with Putin’s friend and political ally, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.) When Putin ran for president in 2012, Fedor campaigned for him. Soon after, Putin named Fedor — who spent two years as a firefighter in the Russian military — to a presidential sports and fitness council. And when Fedor announced a comeback last year after three years of retirement, he said Putin called to wish him luck.
By the summer of 2009, Fedor was suing Affliction and the company was shot.
None of this directly ties Trump to Putin, at least, not by itself.
It does, however, become one more troubling puzzle piece to a larger picture.
And it shows that Trump the businessman may not always show the best business sense.