Over the course of the day, it has been rumoured that the M-1 promotion out of Russia, which has recently been purchased by an (apparently) as-yet-unknown American individual or corporation, has signed four major MMA names, all of whom are Top 10 fighters in their respective divisions.
The final PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko has signed, putting an end to talks with the UFC to set up a Fedor/Couture superfight. While some will, at first, see this as a negative for Fedor, that is truly not the case, as will be explained with the next signing. It his, however, a massive blow to the UFC, as the only top contender to Couture's title - unless Kongo racks up at least two more solid wins - is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Former top PRIDE Heavyweight contender Josh Barnett has also been said to have signed with M-1. This sets up the superfight that fans never got to see in PRIDE, with Barnett, the #3 ranked Heavyweight, and Emelianenko, the #1 ranked Heavyweight, seemingly poised to do battle very soon. This would be a tremendous signing for M-1.
Former top PRIDE Middleweight (205 pounds) contender, and finalist in the 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix, Ricardo Arona has also apparently signed with M-1. It should be noted that Arona and Fedor have fought once before, with Emelianenko winning by decision. Arona is very large for 205, and could definitely fight at Heavyweight, so a rematch with Fedor is by no means out of the question.
Lastly, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou has also been reported as signing with M-1. A total unknown until PRIDE 33 and 34, where he knocked out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona in succession, Sokoudjou has vaulted to the middle of the Top 10 Light Heavyweights in the world. A rematch with Arona, or a match with any other Top 20 fighter at 205, would undoubtedly be an extremely exciting matchup.
Overall, this is, by far, the most important and significant talent acquisitions in years, excluding the UFC's takeover of PRIDE.
If M-1 ever affiliated with K-1 HERO's, and the American owner(s) of M-1 secured a North American television deal, the UFC would be in very, very big trouble. K-1 HERO's Featherweights, Lightweights and Middleweights (~167 pounds) make most of the UFC's Lightweights and Welterweights look like amateurs, while M-1's Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight divisions have all of the potential to compete with (and exceed) the UFC's comparable divisions.
Ricardo Arona released a statement today saying that he hadn't yet signed with M-1, but was interested in possibly doing so to set up a rematch with Fedor Emelianenko.
He also commented on the recent losses that Shogun and Cro Cop suffered, saying that Shogun may have been injured, but if he performs like that again, he needs to re-evaluate his entire training regimen. Regarding Cro Cop, he said, quite accurately, that if Cro Cop loses again, he's finished.
It's highly likely that Arona will, indeed, officially sign with M-1 in the near future, as the UFC has refused to sign him because he's "boring" and other, smaller companies have not offered him acceptable deals.
If Arona moved to heavyweight and defeated Emelianenko, he'd move from the #10 Light Heavyweight to the mid-ranges of the Top 10 Heavyweights.