The worlds best heavyweight mixed martial artist has a new American promotional home. Following Afflictions announcement that they were ending MMA promotional activities, Fedor Emelianenko negotiated with several groups–including the UFC–before signing a multifight deal to compete for the Strikeforce promotion. Terms of the arrangement were not made public, but the promotion indicated that Fedor would make his Strikeforce debut this October.
Strikeforce agreed to give Fedor a non-exclusive contract, which allows him to compete simultaneously in Japan and elsewhere. Furthermore, they agreed to co-promote events with M-1 Global. M-1 Global is owned by Fedors manager Vadim Finkelchtein and the fighter also has an equity stake. These were the sticking points in Fedors negotiations with the UFC, and with Strikeforce not having an issue with non-exclusivity or co-promotion a deal was quickly brokered.
Fedor expressed his thoughts after the contract signing was announced:
I am looking forward to going back to work and fighting at the highest level. STRIKEFORCE is a top fight promotion that houses some of the greatest fighters in the world. I am prepared to fight any of them.
Emelianenko’s manager, Vadim Finkelchtein observed:
“I am very happy and excited about the upcoming collaboration with Strikeforce. We are very pleased that we found a reliable partner and I feel that Strikeforce and M-1 can support each other on many things. This will create big opportunities for both parties to test their fighters against worthy opponents.”
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker added his comments:
“We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with M-1 Global and Fedor. Fedor has been the reigning king of MMAs heavyweight division for quite some time now so being able to work with M-1 and Fedor will substantially increase the level of competition amongst the athletes in this weight class.”
The UFC’s Dana White quickly responded with an obscenity laced statement suggesting that Fedor was choosing to fight “nobodys” for no money by signing with Strikeforce, but thats simply an attempt to put the best spin possible on it for his sycophants in the media. The reality is that with Fedor’s stake in M-1 Global the financial terms of the deal are likely as favorable with Strikeforce as with the UFC.
More significantly, Strikeforce has much better television exposure at this point than the #1 US MMA promotion. Strikeforce has a relationship with premium cable giant Showtime, as well as CBS TV. This same exposure made Kimbo Slice the biggest star in MMA, and Fedor has the talent to back up the hype. From the media exposure perspective alone, Fedor made a good call.
Whites hysterical comments about the quality of opposition simply aren’t true either. Obviously the biggest fight available in the US for Fedor right now would be with UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, but once you get past him the talent pool in the promotion becomes iffy at best. A fight with Randy Couture would do big business, but there’s no guarantee how much longer The Natural will continue his career. The UFC has a couple of talented fighters with wrestling backgrounds in Cain Velasquez and Shane Carwin, but neither man is ready for a fight against Fedor. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira remains among the best heavyweights in the world, but Fedor has already beaten him three times during their time in the Japanese MMA organization PRIDE.
Strikeforce has several intriguing fights immediately available for Fedor. The Strikeforce heavyweight belt is currently held by Alistair Overeem, whom mutual opponent Mirko Cro Cop suggests is the one man in the sport capable of defeating Fedor. Fabricio Werdum is a talented veteran of the UFC and PRIDE and may figure into the mix some point as well.
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