Well the suspense is over. Strikeforce has parted ways with Fedor Emelianenko after he posted a 1-3 record with the promotion, losing to Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson in three straight fights.
UFC President Dana White told the press today that Strikeforce was cutting Fedor. The UFC acquired Strikeforce in the spring of 2010.
M-1 Global responded that Zuffa never had a contract with Fedor, that his deal is with Showtime. That deal was struck last fall after Strikeforce and M-1 struggled to come to terms following Fedor's first loss to Fabricio Werdum in June, 2010.
"M-1 is moving forward with M-1 Challenges as we have been the whole year," M-1 Director of Global Operations Evgeni Kogan told MMA Nation's Jonathan Snowden. "We are also going to be moving forward with Fedor's future."
It's unknown if M-1 Global is talking to Golden Glory, but a potential Fedor Emelianenko vs Alistair Overeem bout is now the biggest possible fight outside of Zuffa's purview.
"It is totally fair to say that contract issues were not unexpected following the Fedor v Hendo fight," Kogan told MMA Nation. "However we feel that there is more unfinished business (should Fedor decide that he'd like to continue fighting) and Showtime has been a great partner for Fedor and for M-1. We will do everything that we can to continue that relationship and grow it, both for us as a promotion and Fedor as a fighter."
As for whether Fedor will retire, M-1's Evgeni Kogan commented yesterday: "Usually, Fedor deals with such decisions without unnecessary comments from other people"
"As soon as he makes his choice, he will let Vadim Finkelstein know, who will share the news with the whole team. But overall it is he who shall make such decisions, and in this case, I still can not say. I do not know what he will decide. "
"I think that the M-1 has evolved as an organization this year, we held tournaments in the U.S. and Russia, and I hope that the media and fans have a clear understanding of the separate activities of M-1, which has traditionally been considered first and foremost a team responsible for the management of Fedor , and M-1 Global as an independent organization. So I can say that the M-1 as an organization does not make any official statements about Fedor's future."
Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer (subscription required) wrote:
Emelianenko and his camp really have no leverage as far as being able to sign for that kind of a money figure now. He is still very popular and has some drawing power. The show did a 1.7 rating, the sixth highest rating for an MMA event on Showtime, with 571,000 viewers on average, and with Emelianenko vs. Henderson peaking at 778,000 viewers. Those are good numbers, but not far off what Herschel Walker drew at a far lower cost, and significantly behind what Emelianenko drew in his previous fight (2.1 rating; 741,000 viewers, peak of 1.1 million) against the lesser-known Antonio Silva in February.
Fedor being free from any obligations with Strikeforce gives M-1 Global a much more compelling headliner for any future Showtime events.
Their first Showtime event, M-1 Global Challenge 24 Damkovsky vs. Figueroa drew 189,000 viewers in on March 25, 2011. They had to use Patrick Bennett vs. Kenny Garner as headliners for July 9th's M-1 Global Challenge 26. when Guram Gugenishvili, the fighter heavily touted as the next big thing (#1 heavyweight on Bloody Elbow's world scouting report) got injured before the event and the Bennett vs Garner rematch was booked in its place.
That event did 161,000 viewers for Showtime on July 8th, a 14.8% decrease. Their next Showtime event will be in October. It remains to be seen what a potential Fedor Emelianenko vs. Alistair Overeem bout could realistically pull on a network with a proven MMA subscriber base, but without backing from the world's leading fight promoter.
It's very unlikely that M-1 could afford Fedor and Overeem on their own. The Strikeforce: Fedor vs Henderson tab came to over $2.3 million and did 571,000 viewers.
It's also not outside the realm of possibility that the UFC could make Fedor an offer, possibly one he won't be in a position to refuse as they're the only MMA promoter in the world right now making the kind of money to pay for Fedor.
Meltzer had more thoughts on Fedor in the UFC:
Emelianenko has no Strikeforce fight worth the money he's making. He's only worth it if he can headline a PPV show, which means UFC. But UFC is a big problem because even there, who can he headline against with three losses in a row. Maybe Frank Mir would be worth it. Without a doubt from a purely one-night financial basis, Brock Lesnar having his comeback fight early next year against Emelianenko would be a big draw where Emelianenko would probably (not definitely but I'd bet on it) be worth what he's getting. But if you're a matchmaker in UFC, to me, Lesnar vs. Emelianenko makes no sense because it's not a win-win. Emelianenko's three straight losses mean he's not going to be getting a title shot any time soon. Lesnar, with one win, can get a title shot since he hasn't lost since dropping the title, plus he's the guy the public will pay to see in a title match. However, if you put Lesnar against someone that could cost him his title shot, it would be better to be a guy like Mir, If Mir beats Lesnar, you've created a viable top contender while eliminating a top contender, but that's the law of the jungle. If Mir beats Lesnar, he can reasonably get the next shot, as he'll have had consecutive wins over Mirko Cro Cop, Roy Nelson and Lesnar. With Emelianenko you are risking the biggest money fight possible (Lesnar challenging for the belt), and the loss of a contender without building a contender. So even if you argue for the night, Lesnar vs. Emelianenko makes more sense and people would want to see it more, long-term booking would say Lesnar needs to face someone in the position of being able to get the next shot, even if it'll draw less money on the night.