As we reported earlier, Strikeforce has finally locked down the services of Russian MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko after months of frustrating back-and-forth negotiations. Emelianenko’s manager, M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelchtein, told Sherdog.com today that the new deal is for four fights.
“We were working on [the deal] for a long time. Even before his last fight, particularly when he had one fight left, everyone was interested in [continuing] the relationship [between M-1 Global and Strikeforce],” Finkelchtein told Sherdog. “It was just a matter of making sure that everyone was happy. We got there, and I’m very thankful for it.
“What Fedor wanted was not out of the ordinary. It was just a matter of security and for him to feel like, if he performed the way to which he is accustomed, that certain things would [be] guaranteed. It was just a matter of both sides respecting each other.”
Emelianenko has been out of action since taking what most consider to be his first legitimate loss: a first round submission defeat to Fabricio Werdum dating back to June 26th of last year. Following that loss, Emelianenko’s management company, M-1 Global, sought to rework the current details of “The Last Emperor’s” contract.
“A lot was written about Fedor considering retirement, and that was not true,” said Finkelchtein. “As long as he had the strength and God gave him the health to perform, he wanted to continue. The current deal has some ‘ifs’ and ‘whens,’ but it’s basically a four-fight deal.”
Emelianenko will return to action against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva this February 12th at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Their bout will act as part of Strikeforce’s planned heavyweight tournament, which is expected to pit Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem against Werdum, Andrei Arlovski against Sergei Kharitonov, and Brett Rogers against Josh Barnett. Finkelchtein noted that they had not picked Silva as an opponent.
“No one particular person called for [Silva as an opponent]. It just turned out that way logically. It’s a tournament featuring eight of the best heavyweight fighters in the world, and they’ve all proved themselves,” he said. “Some of them, Fedor has already met, and Silva is one he hasn’t met before. Silva has proved himself, and the fans have said he is a credible opponent.”
“I have been training very hard since my last fight and can’t wait to get back in the cage,” said the 6-foot, 235-pound Emelianenko. “STRIKEFORCE has assembled a roster filled with the best heavyweights in the world and, together with M-1 GLOBAL, we have the opportunity to fight the best in a great tournament format.”
Fedor’s unprecedented, record-setting run of 28 professional MMA bouts without a defeat had prompted many MMA enthusiasts to label Fedor as the greatest of all time. Since his career began 10 years ago, Fedor has faced and defeated many rival superstars and champions of this era including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Andrei Arlovski and Mark “The Hammer” Coleman.
The streak ended at the hands of Werdum, who trapped Fedor’s arm in a triangle armbar that forced Fedor to tap out at the 1:09 mark of the opening round.
Fedor has only one other official loss on his record, the result of a doctor stoppage due to a cut he sustained seconds into a matchup with Japan’s Tsuyoshi Kosaka on Dec. 22, 2000. Fedor avenged the TKO loss with his own first-round TKO of Kosaka at a PRIDE Fighting Championships event in Japan on April 3, 2005.
The Strikeforce World Grand Prix: Heavyweight Tournament quarterfinals begin Feb. 12, and will air live on SHOWTIME.
Thanks to Mark Wayne for contributing to this article.