Coker on Fedor Deal

By Loretta Hunt Aug 4, 2009
If a line has been drawn in the sand between the promotion that most thought deserved Fedor Emelianenko and the promotion that actually got him, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker certainly doesn’t see it.

“Why would one fighter create a war?” asked Coker, after announcing Monday that he’d secured the services of the most sought-after fighter in the sport for three fights over one year. “I don’t think this will escalate like the fans like to gossip (it will).”

Emelianenko will debut for Strikeforce on Showtime in late October or November, said Coker, who agreed to a trio of co-promoted events with M-1 Global, which manages and promotes the 32-year-old heavyweight.

Similar provisions for co-promotion were laid out by M-1 during a four-day negotiation period with the UFC last week. However, the UFC said it could agree to all major terms but the co-promotion, which opened the door for Strikeforce.

If there was any doubt of Strikeforce’s No. 2 status as a viable promotion behind the UFC, housing the world’s No. 1 heavyweight should put that doubt to rest. Some believe the signing will also squash the good will between the two organizations, which have publicly shared their admiration for one another -- uncharacteristic in the promotional rat race.

In reality, the two promotions have not stepped on each other’s profit margins much yet. The UFC has cornered the pay-per-view market with the aid of well-placed and nurtured cable TV programming. Strikeforce has held six events to date on Showtime, a premium pay subscription channel, and has no immediate plans for a pay-per-view foray.

The Emelianenko acquisition could help change that, though. In addition, CBS (which is part of the Viacom family along with Showtime) is anxious to begin re-airing the sport in primetime as early as January to garner the promising ratings it got with Gina Carano and Kimbo Slice at the helm in 2008.

Coker, who communicates regularly with UFC President Dana White, remains optimistic of the relationship.

“I would hate to think this would be the catalyst for this to escalate,” said Coker. “To me, I’m still of the feeling that everything’s going to be OK. We’re running our business the way we’re running it and they’re going to continue with their successful business. I guess they say only time will tell.”

As for the deal itself, Coker was short on the details surrounding his agreement with M-1.

“The compensation package was very complex,” said Coker. “As you can imagine with Fedor, there’s foreign rights issues, licensing rights issues, sponsorship issues, domestic television issues, the (video) games –- there are a lot of things that are going to make up the piece of pies because with Fedor, there’s international revenue stream that come into play rather quickly.”

At first, Coker became a practitioner of co-promotion out of necessity. Litigation filed against Pro Elite in 2007 over the use of Frank Shamrock (Strikeforce claimed they had a contract with the fighter first) led to two co-promoted events, which aired on Showtime.

“We’re comfortable doing (co-promotion), and let’s face it –- Fedor is the greatest heavyweight in the world and he has been for some time,” said Coker. “How often does a free agent like that come on the market?”

Coker likened the partnership to Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya teaming up to promote the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight.

“They work out who’s going to be the front guy, who works out the venue deals, who works out the production, and then they go and do a co-promotion,” said Coker. “This happens every month in boxing.”
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