As everyone in the world of mixed martial arts knows by now Fedor Emelianenko lost his quarterfinal round fight at the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament via doctor stoppage TKO to Antonio Silva.
After the fight, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker had the following to say, "There’s absolutely a possibility he could be a replacement,” Coker said at the post-fight press conference. “That’s the beauty of the tournament. You don’t know what could happen in the next leg of the tournament.
“As this tournament unwinds over the year, there could be an injury and you could see Fedor back in the tournament.”
Coker's statement did not mesh with the rules of the tournament which seem to say the only way that Fedor could be allowed back was if Silva could not fight in the semifinal round due to injury.
"If a fighter qualifies to advance in the tournament, but for any reason cannot advance (injury etc.), the Tournament Review Committee will select a fighter to advance in his place. This fighter will be chosen from a pool of fighters that include the previous opponent of the fighter who cannot advance and the winners of the reserve matches.”
While it makes sense for Strikeforce to bring Fedor back into the tournament on many fronts, to do so could have long lasting implications for the promotion.
Bringing Fedor back will ensure short term gain in terms of fan interest, ticket sales as well as media interest, but that short term gain may cause long term pain for the organization.
While some fans will surely appreciate Fedor's return, others will say that by not adhering to the rules of the tournament, the organization is making the Grand Prix a double elimination event for Fedor.
The move may even be viewed by some cynical fans as strictly a money grab and a way to promote Fedor.
Of larger concern to Strikeforce, is the morale of their younger and up and coming fighters.
Shane Del Rosario, Chad Griggs and Valentijn Overeem were victorious in their reserve matches and in their minds were probably viewing themselves as the first fighters to be chosen as alternates. To hear that they could be passed up for Fedor must have been disheartening.
With that in mind, if the insertion of Fedor back into the tournament became a reality, how would the morale of these fighters be effected? Or the morale of a fighter like Daniel Cormier who seems to be itching for a shot to make the jump from Challenger cards to main Strikeforce fight cards?
Will these fighters view Fedor jumping over them to take "their spot" in the tourney as an insult? Will the begin to question their loyalty to Strikeforce if the move does occur?
Should Fedor be slotted back into the tournament
Fedor will not be around for Strikeforce forever. Judging from his post-fight talk of retirement he may not be around for even one more fight. Strikeforce needs to establish strong relationships with its stable of young up and coming fighters. If they strain those relationships now, they will have a hard time holding on to some of these fighters when their contracts are up.
If these fighters feel unappreciated, they should jump ship instead of resigning, hurting Strikeforce's chances of growing and promoting "home grown" Strikeforce stars.
In the end, Strikeforce seriously needs to think through the long term effects of a move that will put Fedor back into a tournament he was eliminated from.