Recently, the internet MMA rumor mill has been abuzz with talks that pound for pound great Fedor Emelianenko would soon walk away from his current employer, Strikeforce. The rumors began when Strikeforce announced the lineup for it’s next show on CBS (to be held in Nashville, TN on April 17) and Fedor’s name was noticeably absent (he was expected to take on Fabricio Werdum in Strikeforce’s next show). Adding even more fuel to the rumor was Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker’s recent appearance on ESPN’s MMA Live where he announced that the promotion’s hard-to-pin-down heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem would make his long overdue return in an as-yet-unannounced May show against Brett Rogers in a fight that may or may not be for the belt. This is the same Brett Rogers who succumbed to a technical knockout loss to top Strikeforce heavyweight contender Fedor Emelianenko in his last outing. The fact that it would be Rogers facing the champ instead of Emelianenko seemed to be sure evidence that Fedor was on his way out the door.
In hopes to shed some light on this mess, MMAFighting.com contacted Emelianenko’s management team and Strikeforce co-promoters, M-1 Global. Representatives for M-1 issued a multi-pronged statement addressing the rumors. They assured that the only reason Emelianenko is absent from the April card is because he needs more time to recover from the hand injury he sustained in his fight with Rogers, and that he would not be able to get in a full training camp before the fight because of the injury. According to M-1, the rescheduling of a bout with Emelianenko’s original opponent, Fabricio Werdum, for Strikeforce’s May show is currently being negotiated and that all is well between the two promotions. M-1 also dished that Fedor is considering fighting in Japan later this year (whether that will be in DREAM using that promotions talent-loaning agreement with Strikeforce is unclear). M-1 also confirmed that, despite some internet rumblings, Fedor will not see the inside of the Octagon anytime soon.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker spoke with MMAJunkie and presented his side of the supposed dispute. Coker says that his company has “been having really good dialogue with M-1 Global and [Fedor’s manager] Vadim Finkelchtein, and I think we’re in the final stages of buttoning everything up to make [a Fedor fight] happen again. I think we’ll have an announcement soon on that, but I feel very confident we’ll be promoting Fedor here in the near future.”
Coker says that he expects to have Fedor “back in the cage” by “sometime in the later part of the second quarter or beginning part of the third quarter [of this year].” He says that it will depend on Fedor’s readiness and recovery from his hand injury.
Coker, however, was not so quick to say that things were running smoothly between Strikeforce and M-1. He cited that any friction between the two companies is a result of “cultural differences.” Deemed by UFC president Dana White as “crazy Russians”, Emelianenko’s management team is infamous for being eccentric and difficult to deal with, at least by U.S. standards.
“When expectations and the cultural differences meet with the cultural differences here and the expectations of an American company, sometimes there’s some differences, and there’s some things that we needed to button up,” said Coker. “We’re at the 11th hour of getting this done, and I think in a couple of days we’ll have something to announce.”
So there you have it: statements released by both sides involved in the dispute that sort of clear things up. Although we are probably safe to assume that, at least for his next fight, Fedor will still be in Strikeforce; it is still unclear when he will fight, and against whom. Since the fall of Pride FC, it seems as though the enigmatic Russian’s status with any promotion is in constant flux. While seeing Emelianenko in the UFC is most fans’ ultimate hope for the heavyweight great, Strikeforce IS the next best thing and it would be a shame if Fedor left the promotion and ended up finishing his career out in small shows against irrelevant opponents.