Fedor Emelianenko got back on the winning track in Russia in the wee hours of Sunday morning when he defeated Jeff Monson in a somewhat unremarkable fight, but an appearance at the show by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would attract media interest worldwide.
Putin, a martial arts practitioner himself, watched the fight live and then stepped into the ring post-fight to congratulate the heavyweight star on his victory, only to be met with a shower of boo’s from the 22,000 Russian fans at the arena.
That caught the attention of the international media, with the likes of the BBC, The New York Times and many others pointing to the public disapproval shown to Putin as a sign that his bid to become the Russian president again in 2012 was doomed to failure.
For their part Putin’s representatives insist that the fans were in fact booing Monson as he left the ring following a lackluster performance.
Whether that true or not the damage may already have been done and the YouTube clip of the incident has already been viewed over a million times.
For Fedor the whole incident may be seen as an embarassment, particularly given that he has dabbled in the political scene in Russia himself.
On the other hand his management M-1 Global who hosted the event may see this as unexpected but welcome PR, shedding the spotlight on a show that, from an overseas perspective at least, had until this point gone largely unnoticed.