When it became apparent that Strikeforce's second show on network television would be held without the presence of heavyweight superstar Fedor Emelianenko, numerous theories were put together by a variety of MMA observers.
All of them seemed to spell certain doom for the partnership between Strikeforce and M-1 Global, the company that represents Emelianenko and of which he is a partial owner.
But Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that the relationship with M-1 Global is still in fine shape, and he said he's in the final stages of negotiations for Emelianenko's next Strikeforce co-promoted fight.
"I can tell you this: we've been having really good dialogue with M-1 Global and (M-1 Global president) Vadim Finkelchtein, and I think we're in the final stages of buttoning everything up to make that happen again," Coker said. "I think we'll have an announcement soon on that, but I feel very confident we'll be promoting Fedor here in the near future."
Rumors have run rampant that the business ties between the Strikeforce and M-1 Global have soured since the two companies co-promoted this past November's "Fedor vs. Rogers" event.
Coker admitted there were a few items that needed to be addressed, but he felt the situation was anything but critical.
"When I dealt with companies in Japan (during my time with K-1), it's the same thing," Coker said. "You have cultural differences, and you have expectations. When expectations and the cultural differences meet with the cultural differences here and the expectations of an American company, sometimes there's some differences, and there's some things that we needed to button up.
"We're at the 11th hour of getting this done, and I think in a couple of days we'll have something to announce."
While it's certainly too late to work out a potential late addition to April 17's "Strikeforce: Nashville" show, Coker said he doesn't expect Emelianenko to stay out of commission for too long.
"It depends how long it takes to button everything up, but I would say sometime in the later part of the second quarter or beginning part of the third quarter, you'll see Fedor back in the cage fighting on a co-promotion between Strikeforce and M-1 Global," Coker said. "Depending on how long it takes to button things up – I mean, he's going to need what, 60 or 70 days to get ready – that will determine when he fights."
And when Emelianenko does return, Coker said it won't necessarily be on CBS.
"The rumors that I hear about 'he has to fight on CBS' are absolutely untrue," Coker said. "We have a good relationship with Showtime. Eventually, Fedor will be in the pay-per-view business with M-1 and Strikeforce and CBS and Showtime collectively contributing. There's not a certain media partner that he has to fight on. That's never been part of his contract, so that's all just speculation and rumors."
So it appears Strikeforce may be involved in another Emelianenko fight sooner rather than later. And perhaps most importantly for those vested in the future of the California-based promotion, Coker said the financial success of Strikeforce does not rest on the shoulders of "The Last Emperor."
"Our company is not built off of one athlete," Coker said. "Our company, we have some amazing athletes on our roster now, and we've got some of the best fighters in the world. I think they can compete against anybody. Fedor is an amazing athlete. I've followed his career for many years. Fedor is Fedor, and he's an amazing asset, but our company is not built financially off of just one guy.
"Believe me, my guys are very smart about building a model that works for us and works for M-1 Global. I think that we're at that point where that had to be looked at. We looked at it. We're not going to put all of our eggs into one basket and roll the dice with one guy. We're built for longevity. This is not a sprint; this is going to be a long-distance race."
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