Less than a week after a representative for Fedor Emelianenko said the former world No. 1 heavyweight was "definitively" participating in Russia's Combat Sambo championship, Emelianenko apparently has had a change of heart.
The 34-year-old heavyweight withdrew from this weekend's event in St.
Petersburg, Russia, after conversations with his handlers about the potential cost of defying medical suspensions handed down by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board.
"Fedor is observing the [NJACB's] 90-day suspension, and will not compete at the Russian Combat Sambo champs over the weekend," M-1 Global director of operations Evgeni Kogan wrote ESPN.com in an e-mail early Friday morning, a reversal of what he said Tuesday.
NJACB counsel Nick Lembo confirmed to ESPN.com that M-1 Global informed him Thursday of Emelianenko's decision to not participate in the event.
Competing in the Combat Sambo tournament, a mixed-fighting event that allows grappling and striking, would have ignored the board's medical suspension that prohibited Emelianenko from taking strikes to the head.
He also is required to submit a CT scan of his head and facial bones before being cleared to fight. A scan taken in Russia is now under review by New Jersey officials, Lembo said. A source close to Emelianenko indicated the scan was normal. Lembo declined to comment on medical issues related to the fighter.
M-1 Global executives apparently did not understand the significance or parameters of New Jersey's suspensions, two sources close to the promotion said. The European group is said to have realized it was not in Emelianenko's best interest to compete this weekend after an exchange of e-mails between Lembo and M-1 officials.
Had Emelianenko fought, he faced a revocation of his license in New Jersey for one year and placement on a national registry that would have jeopardized his ability to receive a license to fight in North America in that same period.
Emelianenko was just two weeks removed from the worst beating of his career against Brazilian Antonio Silva, one that prompted a New Jersey-licensed physician to call a halt to the contest between rounds
2 and 3, when the Russian's right eye was swollen shut.
MMAJunkie.com first reported Thursday evening that Emelianenko would not participate in Combat Sambo.
Josh Gross covers mixed martial arts for ESPN.com.