The Weekly Wrap: Aug. 1 - Aug. 7

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By Jack Encarnacao Aug 8, 2009
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.

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The immediate future of the sport's top heavyweight came into focus this past week, as Strikeforce announced the signing of Fedor Emelianenko. The deal will see Strikeforce co-promote the Russian’s next three fights with the M-1 Global outfit -- the very structure that prevented the Ultimate Fighting Championship from signing Emelianenko in intensive negotiations last week. Strikeforce also announced it will be ramping up a talent-sharing alliance with the Dream organization, which will allow the promotion to expand its talent pool as Emelianenko is unveiled.

Emelianenko will make his Strikeforce debut in late October or November in a fight that will be broadcast on Showtime. An opponent has not been named, but Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum and Brett Rogers have constantly been referenced as the leading candidates. It looked for a time that Werdum, set to face Overeem on Aug. 15 before the Dutchman pulled out due to injury, may be taken off the card and be free to face Emelianenko. However, a report from MMAWeekly.com this week indicated Werdum would be facing Mike Kyle on the Aug. 15 undercard. Overeem is expected to be ready to defend his Strikeforce title come fall. Rogers does not have any bouts in the offing, and had been previously suggested to face Emelianenko on the Aug. 1 Affliction "Trilogy" card, the cancellation of which led to Emelianenko becoming a free agent.

Not many details of the Emelianenko/Strikeforce deal were disclosed, except that it is for three fights and for one year. The co-promotion with M-1 Global will manifest itself partly in the form of "Strikeforce/M-1" billing on promotional materials. M-1 executive Vadim Finkelstein said in a conference call that the deal would also give M-1 rights to market Emelianenko’s fights overseas, including on major television networks in Russia, Japan and South Korea, which would likely fetch handsome fees. Coker told Sherdog.com that the deal was complex because it involved foreign rights language, licensing rights language and sponsorship language, as well as terms governing domestic television and video game rights.

In an appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network's "Beatdown" show, Strikeforce Director of Communications Mike Afromowitz declined to specify how revenue would be split between Strikeforce and M-1. UFC President Dana White indicated last week that M-1 wanted half of the business generated by the Russian heavyweight's matches. By week’s end, White was calling the promotion “Strikefarce” and predicting Emelianenko would put the promotion out of business. In addition, Spike TV will re-air its five-part countdown of the best 100 fights in UFC history on Aug. 15, head-to-head with Strikeforce’s card.

While Showtime offers a slight leg-up in exposure for Emelianenko over the Affliction pay-per-views -- the biggest Showtime audience for an MMA card was around 500,000, and the last card in May drew 275,000 -- the acquisition could open the door to Strikeforce airing on CBS, a contract with whom the company acquired when it purchased the assets of Pro Elite earlier this year. Sherdog.com's Loretta Hunt reported that CBS is “anxious” to begin airing MMA again in primetime as early as January. The premiere EliteXC event on CBS in May 2007 drew an average of 4.85 million viewers, reaching heights of 6.51 million for a Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson vs. James Thompson main event. Coker said in a Thursday teleconference that the promotion’s first card available exclusively on pay-per-view would probably be in six to nine months.

There were several reports last week that CBS is involved in helping pay for Emelianenko's contract. The highest payday Strikeforce has paid out appears to be the $370,000 earned by Frank Shamrock for his April 11 fight against Nick Diaz, the headline bout of Strikeforce's debut on Showtime.

The Wrestling Observer reported that Emelianenko turned down an offer that would pay him $5 million for a fight that did 1.5 million buys on pay-per-view, a number UFC 100 is reported to have eclipsed. If an Emelianenko fight did 800,000 buys, he would receive a little over $3 million under the UFC offer, The Observer reported. M-1 CEO Joost Raimond told Sherdog.com last week that the UFC was offering less guaranteed money than Emelianenko received for his last Affliction fight. The final payout for that fight, combining the disclosed payday and a payout by M-1, was never disclosed. Emelianenko made $300,000 against Tim Sylvia and reportedly received $1.2 million on top of that as his cut of a payment Affliction made to M-1. Emelianenko said in a conference call that the UFC offer that is being reported on the Internet is different from the deal he was proposed. Emelianenko described the UFC’s offer as “really miserable.”

Strikeforce doubled up on announcements this week, as officials with the Dream organization called a press conference in Tokyo to announce a formal partnership with Strikeforce to exchange talent.

Strikeforce announced that Dream middleweight Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza would debut in the Strikeforce cage in the fall. Dream fighter Mitsuhiro Ishida’s replacing of an injured Josh Thomson on Aug. 15 against Gilbert Melendez was framed as the first instance of the talent exchange. Longtime Japanese referee Yuji Shimada will referee on the Aug. 15 Strikeforce card in San Jose, and promoter Keiichiro Sasahara said he would be attending the show to meet Fedor Emelianenko in an attempt to sign him to fight on New Year's Eve in Japan. Coker told ESPN.com’s “MMA Live” that potential fights the alliance will allow are Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Josh Thomson, Gilbert Melendez vs. Shinya Aoki, Robbie Lawler vs. Melvin Manhoef and Sergei Kharitonov vs. Alistair Overeem or Emelianenko.

As for M-1, it appears to be in flux. The promotion will move an Aug. 28 event called "Breakthrough" that was set for Los Angeles to an as-yet-unnamed new location, according to SI.com. The event was scheduled to feature Muhammed Lawal vs. Don Frye and air on HDNet.
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