Strikeforce, M-1 Deal Close; Fedor Back in June

By Loretta Hunt Mar 9, 2010
Strikeforce and M-1 Global are in the final stages of signing off on a revised deal that will see the two organizations co-promote additional events together in the U.S. in 2010.

When finalized, the re-bolstered business relationship will also signal the return of Fedor Emelianenko, the world’s No. 1-ranked heavyweight and M-1 represented fighter, to the Strikeforce cage as early as June, both organizations told Sherdog.com over the weekend.

“I think June, July is realistic (for Emelianenko’s return),” said Evgeni Kogan, M-1 Global’s Director of Operations. “It’s not 100 percent. Don’t take this as a fight announcement, but I think during the summer.”

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said Monday that a June event headlined by Emelianenko was entirely possible. Emelianenko is expected to face Fabricio Werdum, a former top-five UFC heavyweight who earned a victory over Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva last November.

M-1 Global, a promotional and management company based out of Holland and Russia, approached Strikeforce at least two months ago to revise a three-event contract they’d signed with the American promotion in August. The two organizations held a successful event together last November outside Chicago that featured Emelianenko as the main attraction. The event was televised live on CBS to over four million viewers and also had international distribution.

“We were renegotiating. I think we’re pretty much at the end of that road,” said Kogan. “After the CBS show, we thought that the terms needed a little bit tweaking -- nothing major, just a little bit of tweaking. So, we had a round of negotiations with Strikeforce. Everything went positively. We’re pretty much at the end.”

Among M-1’s concerns in the re-negotiations, said Kogan, was the company’s ability to market its brand through the partnership.

“Obviously, we are much more than the management company for Fedor,” said Kogan. “For us, it’s really important that the M-1 Global brand is acknowledged on these co-promotion events. As much as the partners made a lot of effort to acknowledge the co-branding, the media basically picked up on the fact that it was Strikeforce and kind of forgot about everything else, which wasn’t the most ideal for us.”

Kogan wouldn’t elaborate on other provisions re-tooled in the newest round of talks, though multiple sources have told Sherdog.com that monetary specifics of the deal were at least broached.

Kogan, who left one of the top four law and business accounting firms in Europe to join M-1 Global this year, said the organization hasn’t communicated with the UFC during this time, as was rumored after the re-negotiations were first reported on Feb. 26 by Sherdog.com.

“There is no truth to that. No one met with the UFC,” said Kogan. “We have been re-checking the contract with Strikeforce, but there has been no negotiations with anyone else.”

Kogan also questioned reports which suggested that M-1 Global’s president, Vadim Finkelchstein, stated that Strikeforce had somehow not upheld or violated their obligations of the joint agreement.

“I’m not aware who with M-1 would have made such a statement,” said Kogan. “As far as I know, Vadim didn’t make statements like that.”

Reports that M-1 Global has undergone a recent personnel re-structuring were also coupled with Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi’s decision to end his five-year relationship with the organization. Mousasi, viewed as M-1’s second most-talented fighter behind Emelianenko, was never signed to M-1 Global, though he was represented by one of its executives, Apy Echteld, until recently.

“There’s no interior struggles (within M-1),” said Kogan. “The president is and has always been Vadim. The investors remain the same and the staff hasn’t changed other than myself coming on. Again, it’s just more tweaking.”

M-1 Global has mapped out an ambitious 2010 schedule, which will likely include its co-promoted events with Strikeforce, as well as its own internationally-cast “Challenge” and “Selection” shows throughout Europe and the U.S. The “Selection” events, which are streaming live on Sherdog.com, audition fighters to fill the geographic “Challenge” teams, who meet later in a round-robin tournament format.

“Everyone else is still onboard -- nothing else, in that respect, has changed,” said Kogan. “We’re working less with Jerry (Millen) than we were. Jerry is producing the Challenge shows for us, but not the Selection events.”

Emelianenko, the crown jewel of M-1’s fighter management efforts, was rumored to have re-injured his left hand in a Sambo competition a few weeks ago, though Kogan said those reports are false. Emelianenko is healed from his November bout against Brett Rogers and is back in full-time training, said Kogan. The M-1 rep said the national sambo champion didn’t re-agitate the hand he broke in the Rogers’ bout, but instead voluntarily withdrew from the tournament so he wouldn’t have to face his brother Aleksander, who was also competing.

“(M-1 teammate) Kirill (Sidelnikov) won one of the titles and Aleksander won the other, so (Fedor) was just helping him get through the tournament,” said Kogan. “They said they would never fight each other.”
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