Today, Strikeforce announced via press release that they have signed the hottest commodity in the sport, Fedor Emelianenko.
With the signing of Emelianenko, as well as his training partner Gegard Mousasi last week, Strikeforce is well on their way to evening the playing field and taking a bite out of the monopoly-like status UFC currently has over the sport in North America.
Unfortunately, the UFC and Emelianenko negotiations fell apart when they could not agree upon co-promotion. The UFC has declared on numerous occasions that it is not interested in co-promotion, and M-1 has stated that wherever Fedor fights it must be co-promoted as an M-1 event.
Luckily for Strikeforce, this was not a problem. Strikeforce is known for their willingness to co-promote with promotions such as Bodog Fight as well as Elite XC to bring the fans the bouts they want to see between the promotions best talents.
So what does this mean for Strikeforce?
In one fell swoop, Strikeforce signed the top middleweight/light heavyweight prospect in the sport in Gegard Mousasi and now has signed one of, it not the greatest fighter, in mixed martial arts history in Fedor Emelianenko. In doing so, Strikeforce has taken itself from contender to a direct threat to the UFC.
The eyes and ears of the MMA world are now on Strikeforce to see what they do with their new-found talent and how they will expand as a company now that they have Fedor and Elite XC’s deal with CBS.
To properly promote and use the marketing machine that is Fedor Emelianenko, Strikeforce will need to get their product on CBS, plain and simple. Showtime is not a big enough platform for Emelianenko to be a smart business venture for Strikeforce.
Although the exact details of the contract were not announced, it is safe to say that Fedor required a pretty penny. With the revenue the company will bring in on Showtime, it would likely be an unsuccessful business venture.
Not only does CBS provide a much larger platform for Emelianenko to showcase his abilities, but it also provides Strikeforce with a much better opportunity to make this a successful investment.
What does this mean for Fedor?
Every move that Fedor Emelianenko makes that is not signing a contract with the UFC garner’s mass criticism from MMA fans, and this move will likely prove to be no different. The best heavyweight fighters are in the UFC and until Emelianenko gets into the octagon with Brock Lesnar or Randy Couture he will continue to be criticized.
The move to Strikeforce will do nothing to denounce his protesters. Some fans will argue that with a 30-1 record there is no one else who even comes close to Fedor in terms of greatness, however, UFC fan’s would rebuttal with the fact that until he steps into the octagon against the best the UFC has to offer, he can never truly be the best.
So what exactly does this move mean for Fedor? It means that although he will be facing top 10 talent, he will continue to be criticized. Until he enters the octagon, some people will never be able to accept Fedor as a great heavyweight.
So who are his possible opponents?
Well, some are obvious. Strikeforce heavyweight champion Allister Overeem comes to mind as a possible first choice. Both men were large parts of Pride’s success, however, their paths never crossed in the promotion. Overeem has been out of competition since winning the Strikeforce title in late 2007 and fighting Fedor would be a tough fight to come back to.
We also have recently released UFC and Pride veteran Fabricio Werdum. This ground specialist is coming off of a devastating ear wiggling knockout loss to Junior Dos Santos and was looking forward to a title fight against Overeem on August 15.
However, Overeem injured his hand in a bar fight and was pulled from the card. Werdum may want to put together a few victories before getting in the cage with Emelianenko as this is not an overly appealing fight to fans right now.
Next up is Brett Rogers. This powerful undefeated knockout artist is coming off of a 22 second defeat of former UFC Heavyweight Champion and recent Fedor victim Andrei Arlovski. With less than 10 professional fights, Rogers would be rather inexperienced to step into a cage against the Emelianenko but with the victory over Arlovski and many other impressive victories it could certainly be a compelling fight.
The last heavyweight under Strikeforce contract that could be an interesting fight is Antonio “Big Foot” Silva. Although currently suspended for failing a performance enhancing drug test, he could have the well-rounded abilities to test Fedor upon his return.
Like Rogers, Silva is a relatively inexperienced fighter and on top of this does not have any selling power in North America. He would need a few more victories before presenting a Pay Per View worthy adversary for Emelianenko.
Following the demise of Affliction there are some heavyweights currently without contracts that could be interesting adversaries to Fedor.
Paul Buentello has been on a roll as of late and had a very impressive performance against Fedor protégé Kirill Sidelnikov. With the victory over Sidelnikov, Strikeforce would have a beautiful story already made to build off of for a potential fight between the two.
Buentello has the punching ability to make the stand-up an uncomfortable place for Fedor and enough experience to make it an exciting fight.
In conclusion, this is a CBS or bust deal for Scott Coker. If they cannot get Fedor on CBS instead of Showtime, the contract he is getting paid will be for not and Coker and crew could be the next victims of the “Fedor Curse.”