Ah, the Cold War. In pro wrestling, it gave us a zillion "Russian" bad guys who were never portrayed by actual Russians, and got their Russianhood via shaving their heads, growing some facial hair, and doing a bad accent. As far as anyone can tell, legitimate Russians first entered wrestling through Japan in the late '80s. Around the time of the USSR's fall, the Russians either became good guys, stuck around on the independent circuit, or changed gimmicks, while other countries were for evil foreigners such as Ludvig Borga, the evil Finnish environmentalist (Yes.). Portrayals of Russians in other genres of fiction changed, and in the real world, the general public started to embrace them over the next several years.
In the aughts, perception of Russia and other former Soviet nations changed for the worse. Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin and the election was riddled with fraud allegations. Meanwhile, to a generation of internet users, Russian businesses became synonymous with sketchiness thanks to websites like AllOfMP3, an online music store known for its low prices and flexibility in file quality/formats, was theoretically only legal in Russia but accessible worldwide. Its existence became a major world news story when the World Trade Organization refused to allow Russia to join if they didn't shut the site down.
Fedor Emelianenko became in MMA star in this climate. When Pride went under, the negotiations of M-1 Global (his promotional organization) became legendary. M-1 head Vadim Finkelstein was portrayed by some in the MMA media as a carnvial barker/ringmaster turned svengali, and some people laughed at him just because they thought he had a funny name. Regardless of how much money was thrown at him, Fedor would only fight for companies that would allow M-1 to participate as equal co-promoters, keeping him out of the UFC; leading to deals with Bodog, Affliction, and now Strike Force. Allegations of mob ties were thrown around, often without anything resembling proof other than suspicions becqause they're both Russian and shady. There are legitimate criticisms of M-1, which Leland Rolling is covering at Bloody Elbow, but too much of the time it seems like Finkelstein is being treated like a real life Boris Malenko, the sneaky, evil Russian manager who wears bad suits, and I don't know how widespread it would be if we were talking about an American-born fighter and his management, especially if the management didn't have a name that a lot of people seem to find wacky.
That said, who's to say it's not at least partially by design? Fedor is the star, and his reputation has to be protected. Finkelstein gets to play bad cop and takes the heat himself. In terms of a wrestling analogy it's like:
- John Laurinaiitis firing talent so Vince McMahon doesn't have to be the bad guy.
- Motoko Baba making the unpopular decisions in All Japan so her husband Shohei "Giant" Baba would retain his perception as an honest man who was too good for wrestling.