Fedor Emelianenko | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Fedor Emelianenko has signed a four-fight deal with Strikeforce.
Emelianenko’s manager, M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelchtein, spoke exclusively with Sherdog.com on Tuesday regarding the former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight champion’s deal with the promotion.
“We were working on [the deal] for a long time. Even before his last fight, particularly when he had one fight left, everyone was interested in [continuing] the relationship [between M-1 Global and Strikeforce],” said Finkelchtein. “It was just a matter of making sure that everyone was happy. We got there, and I’m very thankful for it.”
Fedor’s last outing for Strikeforce resulted in the Russian’s first defeat in nearly a decade and only the second loss of his career, as he was submitted by underdog Fabricio Werdum in June. As Finkelchtein said, negotiations between M-1 Global and Strikeforce were ongoing even before that bout, and many fans have grown restless waiting for Emelianenko to compete again. Now that the deal is finally signed, however, many of its terms remain a mystery.
“Some of the details are confidential in nature,” said Finkelchtein. “What Fedor wanted was not out of the ordinary. It was just a matter of security and for him to feel like, if he performed the way to which he is accustomed, that certain things would [be] guaranteed. It was just a matter of both sides respecting each other.”
One aspect of the deal which Finkelchtein did reveal was the number of fights on Emelianenko’s new contract: four.
“The number of fights was never really an issue [in the negotiations]. A lot was written about Fedor considering retirement, and that was not true. As long as he had the strength and God gave him the health to perform, he wanted to continue,” said Finkelchtein. “The current deal has some ‘ifs’ and ‘whens,’ but it’s basically a four-fight deal.”
As reported by Sherdog.com earlier today, Strikeforce has made official its plans to hold an eight-man heavyweight tournament in 2011, with Emelianenko participating. The Russian’s first fight will be against former EliteXC heavyweight king Antonio Silva on Feb. 12 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.
Asked which party chose Silva as Emelianenko’s first opponent in the tournament, Finkelchtein responded that neither Strikeforce nor M-1 Global chose Silva specifically. Rather, the Brazilian just seemed to make sense, as he and “The Last Emperor” have not yet crossed paths.
“No one particular person called for [Silva as an opponent]. It just turned out that way logically. It’s a tournament featuring eight of the best heavyweight fighters in the world, and they’ve all proved themselves,” he said. “Some of them, Fedor has already met, and Silva is one he hasn't met before. Silva has proved himself, and the fans have said he is a credible opponent.”
As Emelianenko’s contract is for four fights, including his participation in the eight-man tournament, one could assume the Russian’s ideal result in 2011 would be winning three consecutive bouts in the tournament and then taking on Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem for the belt. Finkelchtein was quick to dismiss this notion.
“We don’t look at Alistair as some dangerous animal that we’re afraid of. If he meets Overeem in the tournament, then he meets Overeem in the tournament,” he said. “We didn’t do any planning regarding which opponents [Emelianenko] would fight when considering the deal.”
Indeed, if Emelianenko gets by Silva, he could conceivably face the Dutchman in the semifinals, provided Overeem defeats Werdum in their quarterfinal bout.
“I think Overeem’s manager was insinuating that we did not want to fight Overeem. Clearly, that is not the case. We have no objections in fighting him if they should meet in the next round,” said Finkelchtein. “As long as they are fighting in America, we are ready to fight him at any time.”
If Fedor goes on to win the tournament, he will have fought three times in 2011, a much higher work rate than the Russian has been used to in the last few years. When asked if he was concerned about the number of bouts Emelianenko may have to fight this year, Finkelchtein replied that the opposite was the case.
“I’m not concerned at all. I’m happy about the fact that Fedor could fight three fights in a year. At this point, any injuries he had are healed and there will hopefully be no more in the future. He’s in peak form,” Finkelchtein said. “Three fights is a good [number]. Once he knows who and when [he will fight], he can put together his usual training camp. In this tournament, our desire is for him to fight as often as possible.”