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Strikeforce Trying To Lock Up Fedor Emelianenko With Champion’s Clause (Update II)

When Scott Coker suggested Fedor Emelianenko fight Alistair Overeem for the title next, it seemed like he lost his mind and totally forgot Fedor just lost to Fabricio Werdum. Well, maybe not, maybe there is a method to his madness. Turns out booking Fedor vs. Overeem is less about putting on a fight he’d “love to see” and more about ensuring Fedor can’t walk away from Strikeforce if he wins the last fight on his contract.

M-1 Global says it wants Fedor’s next fight to be a rematch with Fabricio Werdum, who beat Fedor on June 26. But Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has said that his preferred option for Fedor’s next fight is a bout with Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, and Strikeforce spokesman Mike Afromowitz told that a champion’s clause is going to be negotiated.

Although Coker has been derided by some of the MMA media for suggesting that Fedor should fight for the Strikeforce title after losing to Werdum, it actually could be a shrewd business move: If there’s a champion’s clause in effect, a Fedor-Overeem title fight would ensure either that Fedor stays with Strikeforce after becoming its champion, or that Fedor leaves Strikeforce on a two-fight losing streak. On the other hand, if Strikeforce books M-1 Global’s preferred option of Fedor-Werdum 2, Fedor could win the fight and then be free to leave the promotion.

That may make sense for Strikeforce — at the expense of whatever legitimacy they hope to retain with their heavyweight title — but they’re not going to get it without resistance from M-1. They want the rematch with Fabricio Werdum, and they’re pushing hard for it. Here’s Vadim Finkelchtein talking to, translated via Fighters Only.

“We are ready to fight against anyone, but everyone agrees that the most interesting fight right now is the rematch against Fabricio Werdum. We have one fight left on our contract, so if Strikeforce want to extend it, they should listen to our opinion,” Finkelstein said.

“Fedor will fight again sometime between October and November… the only thing fans want to see is Fedor vs Werdum II. Fabricio himself said that he would like to rematch Fedor in Russia. That would be great, but this fight will not happen in Russia.”

Assuming M-1 Global doesn’t fold in the meantime, it’s probably safe to say there’s going to be another lengthy behind the scenes battle between Strikeforce and M-1, and to be honest, I bet M-1 would let the contract expire before they’d agree to a champion’s clause. They’re not exactly the type of organization that likes to be locked into anything. After all, then they wouldn’t be free to negotiate with the UFC for the umpteenth time. Here’s what Vadim has to say about the possibility of that deal ever coming together.

I think yes. But not on the same terms they offered us before. We will not let ourselves to get owned. Fedor became so popular not inside the Octagon. So, long story short: 1. We would like to receive guaranteed payments. I know that if we agree for percents, they will cheat us. 2. Maybe not a co-promotion (like we offered before), but at least co-branding. 3. They also will have to permit Fedor participating in Sambo competitions, and during our last negotiations UFC were ready for that term.

Update: Dave Meltzer explains how CBS could play a significant role in negotiations between Strikeforce and M-1.

The single most important key for Strikeforce to establish itself long-term as a strong No. 2 organization is building a consistent relationship with CBS. Showtime may pay some bills, but because of its limited market penetration, the premium cable network is difficult to use as a vehicle to establish new stars, the lifeblood for any promotion. A big event on CBS can draw more than four million viewers; the same quality event on Showtime would be lucky to draw 600,000.

The difference between CBS’ success and failure has been the inclusion of a headliner with star power. With Gina Carano on an extended break, only Emelianenko has the same track record of success among Strikeforce’s current roster. And right now, there doesn’t appear to be anyone else who can take his place.

If CBS doesn’t participate, and it’s still unclear whether or not it will, Emelianenko and M-1’s leverage in this country will all but vanish. Strikeforce can put on quality, Showtime-caliber events and draw nearly the same audience without him. Emelianenko’s value is no longer worth breaking the bank. Strikeforce can lose him, and in the big picture, it won’t make a great deal of difference. But don’t count out Emelianenko’s UFC value after the loss, as plenty of name fighters have shown over and over that one loss doesn’t kill interest in stars. But his side has certainly lost plenty of leverage.

Meltzer added that despite what Dana White said last week, the UFC will still have serious interest in signing Fedor even if it’s only to keep him and Strikeforce off CBS.

Update 2: M-1’s Evgeni Kogan says they are open to all possibilities whether there be a contract extension or no extension. Surprisingly, a “champion’s clause” is not a deal breaker for them.

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