Strikeforce on Monday surprised the mixed martial arts world when it announced that it had "signed a historic, multi-fight agreement that will see Fedor Emelianenko headline mega-evens co-promoted by the world championship promotions Strikeforce and M-1 Global."
Fedor will debut for Strikeforce this Fall when the first fight under the contract puts him on Showtime, which is also a bit of a surprise. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker had previously commented that if his company were able to sign Fedor, it would probably necessitate and immediate move to pay-per-view. All of Fedor's previous fights in the U.S. have been on pay-per-view.
"I am looking forward to going back to work and fighting at the highest level," said the 33-year-old Emelianenko in a statement issued by Strikeforce. "Strikeforce is a top fight promotion that houses some of the greatest fighters in the world. I am prepared to fight any of them."
"We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with M-1 Global and Fedor," added Strikeforce Founder and CEO Scott Coker, a martial arts fight promoter of over 25 years. "Fedor has been the reigning king of MMA's 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."
While most everyone in the mixed martial arts world had been focused on talks between Fedor and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, as the days passed, it became more and more evident that the chasm between Fedor's management team at M-1 Global and UFC was too wide to bridge.
It appears that most demands were negotiable and much progress had been made from when the two sides first met two years ago, but there was one sticking point that neither side appeared willing to budge on, that being co-promotion.
"We didn't hold back on anything... we gave everything," UFC President Dana White said on Friday about the negotiations with M-1 Global. "There is no compromise on the co-promotion."
"I am not a person who came into the business two years ago and started working it because I saw that was good business. I started in MMA in 1997. I invested a lot of money and a lot of effort and energy into the development of that sport," said M-1 Global President and Fedor manager Vadim Finkelchtein.
"Today we've got enough energy and finance to be able to develop that sport. That's why I cannot understand the policy of the UFC. The UFC won't be able to control the whole world. Let's work together."
White was just as steadfast in defending his position for the UFC to not co-promote events, "Why the hell would I let anybody come in and co-promote with us? This thing that we built... the Fertittas risked all of their money, all the things that we've done and busted our ass over the 10 years that we've been in this business, and these guys (are) gonna walk in and say, 'yeah, we're gonna be in business with you guys.'
"It's like Brett Favre negotiating with one of the football teams and saying, yeah, I'm gonna be your 50-percent partner. It's like, what?"
In the end, it was enough to keep the two sides apart and provide an opportunity for Strikeforce, who partners with Showtime and has options to air on CBS, to swoop in and seal the deal with the world's No. 1 ranked heavyweight fighter.
"With the addition of Fedor and Strikeforce's new relationship with M-1 Global, Showtime is now the home of the best pound-for-pound male and female fighters in the world," said Ken Hershman, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Showtime Sports.
"We are better positioned now than ever before to deliver on our promise to televise the top fighters in mixed martial arts today."