Fedor Emelianenko, until a month ago regarded almost unanimously as the best heavyweight in the world, is beginning negotiations with Strikeforce to decide who his next opponent will be. Fedor and his management company, M-1 Global, have made it clear that they would like a rematch with Fabricio Werdum, who submitted Emelianenko in the first round at Strikeforce:Los Angeles in June. Werdum himself has said he would love to fight Fedor again, possibly in Russia. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has different ideas.
“It’s not Fabricio Werdum,” Coker said. “He already beat Fedor. To me, it’s only been a month since since they fought. We saw the Werdum fight already.”
Werdum’s camp has denied rumors that he will be sidelined with an elbow injury until 2011. Manager Richard Wilner has said that if surgery is required, it will be minor and Werdum could fight again in 2010 if the opponent is right.
If a rematch isn’t in Strikeforce’s plans, then what is? Coker has said he would like to see Fedor take on Alistair Overeem, a fight that Overeem has pushed for since last year. Emelianenko’s contract with Strikeforce runs for one more fight, but if he wins the title it would automatically invoke a “Champion Clause”, which would make it harder for him to leave the organization. Coker has said that the matchup has nothing to do with trying to milk another fight out of his deal, saying that the fight would not have to necessarily be for Overeem’s title. “If Fedor is on his last fight with us, we wouldn’t make it a title fight with Overeem. But why shouldn’t that fight happen anyway?”
Coker made it clear that Overeem would not be the only option. “It could be Antonio “Big Foot” Silva or maybe Sergei Kharitonov.” Silva is coming off a destruction of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovsky in June. He also holds wins over Ricco Rodriguez and Tom Erickson. Kharitonov’s last fight was a submission loss to Jeff Monson in April of 2009. His resume is anchored by wins over Overeem, Werdum and Murilo “Ninja” Rua.
M-1 Global has repeatedly insisted that a Werdum rematch is the only fight Fedor is interested in. To that Coker responded “I just don’t think they’ll have a choice.”
This could be the beginning of the end of Emelianenko’s relationship with Strikeforce. The fact that his ten year win streak was snapped may put him in less of a powerful negotiating position than he was in last year when he was a free agent. The UFC would love to get their hands on him, even though a matchup with Brock Lesnar has probably lost a little of the luster that it would have had if Emelianenko had not last to Werdum. Strikeforce has “first rights to negotiate” any offer if the two parties cannot agree on an extension.
This could be the opportunity most of the world has been waiting for: A chance to see Fedor matched up against the best in the world. Hopefully his management doesn’t stand in the way yet again.