Coker: Relationship with M-1 Global strong, Emelianenko news "in a couple days"
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."
Coker declines comment on title talk, says Overeem vs. Rogers news might provide surprise
While the California-based Strikeforce organization has spent the past year building its roster of athletes, one of the most burning questions on MMA fans' minds regarding the promotion has been, "When will heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem return?"
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker confirmed on Thursday's edition of ESPN.com's "MMA Live" that Overeem's (32-11 MMA, 2-0 SF) return will indeed be on the promotion's as-yet-unannounced May event (believed to take place in St. Louis) in a fight with power-puncher Brett Rogers (10-1 MMA, 2-1 SF) as had been previously reported, but one simple question remains: Will the "Demolition Man's" title be on the line?
Coker refused to answer that question when he recently spoke with MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com), but he did say that fans could expect some surprises in forthcoming news.
"We're going to make an announcement next week, so I don't want to say anything about [the title implications of the fight], but it might be something that people are not expecting," Coker said.
SF: 4/17 Event Has "Some Fluidity", Though Future UFC Conflicts Unavoidable
New fans of MMA are tasked with learning a daunting list of jargon when first approaching the sport, but in recent years, a new term has made its way to the fighting lexicon: counter-programming. With UFC now reportedly set to go head-to-head with "Strikeforce: Nashville" on April 17 according to report from The Wrestling Observer, Strikeforce executives may be looking at a little retaliation of their own. The recently announced "Strikeforce: Nashville" show may end up going head-to-head with the UFC's sister promotion, the WEC, on that company's first-ever pay-per-view event, "WEC 48: Aldo vs. Faber," on April 24. SI.com's Josh Gross recently posted a report on his Twitter account that Strikeforce "had the option" of changing dates, and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker confirmed an adjustment was a possibility. UFC hasn't officially announced that it would be adding an April 17 card to its already loaded Spring schedule, but Coker said Strikeforce and its broadcast partner, CBS, are currently considering a date change. "It hasn't been decided yet," Coker said. "I think we're meeting probably Monday. But for now, everything is going to be locked and loaded for the 17th."
Vadim Finkelstein clears the air on Mousasi leaving M1 and Fedor's contract negotiations
If you can sit there and pretend like the name 'Vadim Finkelstein' doesn't sound like some end boss on Castlevania, then you need to reevaluate your childhood. A few weeks ago, Gegard Mousasi left M-1 Global due to reasons that are still unknown (or entirely too complicated to comprehend). Fedor's recent contract negations has led conspiracy theorists to develop complex scenarios in which M-1 Global would take over the Strikeforce brand in international markets. In a recent interview, Vadim Finkelstein of M-1 Global clears the air on what exactly is going on with Fedor, Mousasi and M-1 Global.
"The problem isn't there. The fight will take place. We're planning on showing the bout in over 100 countries. For all of that to go smoothly we had to postpone the event. Unfortunately I do not know the date yet. It's most likely going to be in early May. The bout is also postponed because of some other contract issues. Obviously there are always disagreements and technical questions, but everybody deals with those."
Fedor's a professional; he needs to know the specific date in order to come out in perfect condition. When he finds out that exact date he will start gathering the camp so that he may come out at his peak. He never stops training though, he always stays in shape.
Mousasi has never had a contract with M-1. If that was the case, he would not have been able to simply leave the organization. Where did he go? He still has his contracts with Strikeforce and Dream. M-1 was helping him grow. Mousasi has always been friends with us and Fedor and in return we were helping him go forward. His action was a surprise to me. I plan on meeting with him next week and finding out what's wrong. We used to say that Mousasi is an M-1 fighter, because he was starting in our organization. I'm sure that on our M-1 Challenge and M-1 Selection tournament he will not be the only fighter of that level.
Shinya Aoki Will Take Off His Tights, Submit Gilbert Melendez & Restore PRIDE's Heyday To Dream
In recent comments posted by DREAM, DREAM LW Champion Shinya Aoki discussed his fight with SF LW Champion Gilbert Melendez, plans to bring the belt back to Japan, and even fighting without his famed "stretchy pants". "Yes, I will have to take off my tights. I think the prospect of being able to see my bare legs is attractive, so I want the fans to come all the way to the US for it." As for the pending defense of DREAM Lightweight title against Tatsuya Kawajiri, he expressed his eagerness and assured the fans that he will not defect from DREAM to fight overseas.
Strikeforce Fighters to Appear on 'NCIS: L.A.'
Synergy was the word of the day when Strikeforce lightweight champion Gil Melendez, former titleholders Josh Thomson and Cung Le, and others joined the cast of CBS’s “NCIS: Los Angeles,” shooting this week in Hollywood, Calif.
“NCIS: Los Angeles” stars Chris O’Donnell and L.L. Cool J as agents with the Navy’s crime investigative service. In this episode, Cool J goes undercover as an MMA fighter to investigate the death of a Marine tied to the sport.
Strikeforce fighters Dan Henderson, Frank Shamrock and K.J. Noons also guest-starred as themselves, assisting Cool J for his cage debut against Eric Christian Olsen (“Fired Up!” “Dumb and Dumberer.”) Referee “Big” John McCarthy “officiated” the former rap star’s emphatic turn in the cage.
The episode airs on Tuesday, April 6 at 9:00 p.m. EST/PST on CBS, while Strikeforce returns to CBS’s “Saturday Night Fights” on April 17.
"Strikeforce: Nashville" on CBS officially announced for April 17
Strikeforce's second trip to network television is finally a done deal.
CBS on Tuesday officially announced its broadcast of "Strikeforce: Nashville," which takes place April 17 at Bridgestone Arena (formerly known as the Sommet Center) in Nashville, Tenn., airs live at 9 p.m. ET (tape delayed on the West Coast).
Strikeforce and CBS officials told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) the broadcast will run approximately two hours with apparent room to run over the allotted time if needed.
The San Jose, Calif.-based promotion is aiming high for the event's main card with no less than three title fights scheduled for the televised portion of the evening.
In the main draw, middleweight champion Jake Shields (24-4-1 MMA, 2-0 SF) makes his second title defense when he meets top-tier import Dan Henderson (25-7 MMA, 0-0 SF).
After serving most of his career at welterweight, Shields bulked up to defeat Robbie Lawler this past June for the promotion's first-ever middleweight belt; he then successfully defended the belt against Jason "Mayhem" Miller on CBS' initial Strikeforce broadcast in November 2009. Henderson, a former UFC light heavyweight contender, has fought in the middleweight and light heavyweight classes. The former two-title PRIDE champion made a highly publicized split from the UFC this past December.
"It's been a long time trying to put this fight together, and I'm super excited to have a main event on CBS against such a great fighter," Shields said. "I've fought a lot of tough fighters, but he's probably the toughest fight of my life. I'm up for the challenge."
Light heavyweight champ Gegard Mousasi (28-2-1 MMA, 2-0 SF) makes his first title defense when he takes on budding rival Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal (6-0 MMA, 1-0 SF).
Mousasi, a former DREAM middleweight champion, signed with Strikeforce this past July and immediately made good on his hype when he defeated Renato "Babalu" Sobral's in 60 seconds to take the promotion's 205-pound belt. Lawal, a former collegiate wrestling standout, earned his stripes in Japan's Sengoku event series before he migrated to Strikeforce this past October. Two months later, he knocked out UFC veteran Mike Whitehead in a litle more than three minutes at "Strikeforce: Evolution."
Additionally, the recently re-crowned lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez (17-2 MMA, 7-1 SF) faces DREAM lightweight title-holder Shinya Aoki (23-4 MMA, 0-0 SF) in a long rumored match-up.
Melendez, a longtime Strikeforce fighter, won the promotion's first-ever 155-pound title against UFC standout Clay Guida in June 2006. He went on to defend the title once before a hard-fought decision loss to Josh Thomson two years later at "Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson." This past April, he took the interim 155-pound belt with Thomson sidelined due to persistent injuries and unified the title eight months later in a pitch-perfect rematch with Thomson.
Aoki, long considered one of the world's best lightweights and MMA grapplers, will make his U.S. debut on the heels of a three-fight win streak. The Japanese star drew controversy in his most recent performance when he broke Sengoku lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota's arm and taunted him afterward at K-1 "Dynamite!! 2009" this past New Year's Eve.
The broadcast team for "Strikeforce: Nashville" includes veteran play-by-play commentator Gus Johnson, former UFC champion Frank Shamrock, and color analyst Mauro Renallo.
"When you have one event with three championship fights and this many top-ranked athletes, it's more than just a great card; it's a big night for MMA," Kelly Kahl, Senior Executive Vice President, Primetime, CBS Television stated. "Audiences are going to see a great range of mixed-martial-arts skills, styles and talent on one broadcast."
"We are excited about returning to CBS Primetime with a card featuring some of the top mixed-martial-arts fighters in the world, including three title fights and the Strikeforce debut of MMA legend Dan Henderson," Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker added in a prepared statement. "CBS has shown a tremendous commitment to furthering the sport of MMA on network television, and we appreciate the home they have given Strikeforce to deliver world-class cards for MMA fans everywhere."
CBS Hoping for Herschel; 3 Title Fights Could Cause Problems
If things go right for Strikeforce and CBS over the next six weeks, their April 17 MMA show will feature Herschel Walker returning to the cage in addition to a lightweight title fight of Gilbert Melendez vs. Shinya Aoki, a light heavyweight title fight of Gegard Mousasi vs. Muhammed Lawal and a main event of Jake Shields vs. Dan Henderson for the middleweight title.
But while CBS wants Walker on the card, it's no sure thing that he'll participate. And as great as those other three fights are for hard-core MMA fans, there are potential problems with having three title fights on one card.
One CBS source said he was "hoping but not holding [his] breath" that Walker would fight on the April 17 card in Nashville.
Walker's MMA debut in January was well-received and drew Strikeforce more mainstream media attention than it has ever had before, and although he's a newcomer to MMA, Walker would be the most famous fighter ever to participate in a CBS card. That's why the network would love to have him.
But Walker is a busy man with other interests, and he might not have the time and inclination to devote the next six weeks of his life to getting ready to fight on that card. There are also concerns about finding the right opponent for Walker. CBS, Strikeforce and Walker himself all want his next opponent to be a step up from the guy he beat in January, Greg Nagy, but no one wants him to take so big a step that he gets beaten badly by a better, more experienced opponent. Jose Canseco has said he wants to fight Walker, but Strikeforce insists that won't happen.
The Walker issue aside, another source expressed concern about the possibility of having three five-round title fights on one card. Broadcasting live MMA is always a tricky endeavor because the length of fights is unpredictable, but on this card, officials are particularly concerned about the possibility that all three title fights could go the full five rounds, making it nearly impossible to fit them all into a two-hour show. Or, conversely, CBS might allot more time for the Strikeforce broadcast -- but then all three fights could end in the first round, and CBS would find itself scrambling to fill time.
The bottom line is that while the next Strikeforce CBS card looks very promising, there are still a lot of issues that the promotion and the network need to get ironed out by April 17.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Shinya Aoki could be third title fight on April 17 Strikeforce-CBS card
With Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields meeting Dan Henderson in the headliner and light heavyweight title-holder Gegard Mousasi expected to meet Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal on the same card, Strikeforce's April 17 return to CBS airwaves is likely to have a third title fight.
That's if a lightweight fight between Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez (17-2 MMA, 7-1 SF) and Shinya Aoki (23-4 MMA, 0-0 SF), first reported by SI.com's Josh Gross, is finalized for the card.
Although subsequent reports have suggested the fight is signed, sources close to Melendez's camp told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) on Tuesday night they have not received bout agreements but plan to accept the matchup.
Champ Alistair Overeem confirms May 15 Strikeforce fight with Brett Rogers
Alistair Overeem (32-11 MMA, 2-0 SF) wants American fans to get ready. There are no more obstacles in the way of his American MMA career; Strikeforce is the priority for 2010.
In an exclusive interview with MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) today, the Strikeforce heavyweight champion said he is likely to meet Brett Rogers (10-1 MMA, 2-1 SF) in a non-title fight on an as-yet-unannounced card set for May 15 in St. Louis, Mo.
Although Strikeforce has not placed an event permit request to the Missouri State Athletic Commission, all signs point to a second trip to the 22,000-seat Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
The promotion made its first visit there this past June for "Strikeforce: Shields vs. Lawler."
Overeem announced the Rogers fight earlier today on his Twitter account but clarified that the matchup is not confirmed. He also added that a rumored appearance at DREAM.13 against Neil Grove or Josh Barnett is also unconfirmed.
"I'll know this week," he said.
Keeping up with the Dutch fighter's schedule has proven a difficult task for American fans. Overeem was slated to face Rogers at "Strikeforce: Shields vs. Lawler" in 2009 before he injured his hand in an Amsterdam nightclub brawl and suffered severe complications, which he said shelved him for a follow-up appearance two months later against Fabricio Werdum at "Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg."
Just 11 days after the proposed Werdum fight, Overeem entered the 2009 K-1 Grand Prix and made two appearances for the kickboxing promotion before he lost to Badr Hari in the tournament's semifinals. Along the way, he picked up two MMA wins (via submission over Tony Sylvester and James Thompson) before he defeated Kazuyuki Fujita in his most recent appearance at the Dec. 31 "Dynamite!! 2009" event in Japan.
Overeem has not defended his title since November 2007, when he won the vacant belt by defeating Paul Buentello at "Strikeforce: Four Men Enter, One Man Survives."
Overeem's manager, Bas Boon, said his fighter made far more money competing for K-1 and assured American fans he will return in April or May. Boon, though, would not confirm the Rogers bout.
Meanwhile, Overeem said he hopes to fight in the 2010 K-1 Grand Prix but that Strikeforce obligations come first.
"If I can do K-1 after these fights or in between, that's OK, but if not, then I will go for Strikeforce," he said. "It's been too long. Last year was a good year in K-1, but this year, I want to fight in MMA."
The chance of a long-rumored fight with Fedor Emelianenko appears to be a longshot. Emelianenko will not appear on Strikeforce's second CBS-televised event, which is set for April 17 in Nashville, Tenn., and he is currently in a contract dispute with the San Jose, Calif.-based promotion. He is rumored to be fighting on the May 15 card against an unnamed opponent.
While Overeem counts the top-ranked Russian among his targets stateside, there is too much red tape between them.
"Fedor doesn't want to fight," Overeem said. "His manager doesn't want to fight. That's basically the message I'm getting out of all of this. The management said, 'Yeah, we want to fight Alistair, but first, Alistair must fight somebody else.' Basically, you need two parties to agree on a fight. Otherwise it's not going to happen.
"And now, I don't know what is going to happen because I think [Fedor] might want to leave Strikeforce. I'm not really occupied with the situation; I'm just focused on myself and my training."
Overeem was more than happy, though, to take on Rogers, who has called him out on several occasions and demanded he defend his title or give up the belt.
"He's an excellent opponent," Overeem said. "I'm looking forward to [smacking] his face and his loud mouth. I'm really happy that Strikeforce came with this fight so now we can settle things once and for all."
Rogers manager, Mike Reilly, declined to comment on a potential fight between Rogers and Overeem.
"I don't think it's going to be for the title because [Brett] lost to Fedor," Overeem said. "He’s coming off a loss, so I don't think they're going to put it for the title, but it's up to the promotion."
Rogers fights for the first time since his November loss to Emelianenko at Strikeforce's first CBS-televised event. The TKO defeat snapped his 10-fight win streak (all of the wins came via stoppage due to strikes), which included Strikeforce victories over Abongo Humphrey and Andrei Arlovski.
After a long absence, Overeem intends to prove his critics wrong and make his mark once again in the U.S.
"If people take the time to look what the situation is, there's no secrets; there's no strange stuff going on," he said. "I can look you in the face and answer your questions. Then they'll see that things turn out the way they turn out.
"There are no obstacles for me."
Arlovski Signs with Strikeforce *Update* meets Antonio Silva May 15 in St. Louis
Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (15-7 MMA, 0-1 SF) has signed a multi-fight, 16-month deal with Strikeforce and is expected to fight former EliteXC title-holder Antonio Silva (13-2 MMA, 0-1 SF) at the organization's May 15 event in St Louis, Mo.
Arlovski announced the deal on his official Web site.
The Silva fight, first reported by Sherdog.com, was and later confirmed to MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) by a source close to the Brazilian who said the fight will be part of the night's Showtime-televised main card.
Strikeforce, of course, hosts its next major show on April 17 when middleweight champ Jake Shields takes on recent signee Dan Henderson in a CBS-televised main event.
Arlovski fights for the first time since Strikeforce's initial St. Louis show, which took place in June 2009. There, he suffered a 22-second TKO loss to Brett Rogers, which followed a first-round knockout to Fedor Emelianenko at "Affliction: Day of Reckoning" six months prior.
Prior to the back-to-back losses, the former UFC superstar had posted five consecutive wins and reemerged as one of the world's top-five heavyweight fighters.
He can get his career back on track against Silva, whose six-fight win streak recently came to an end with a close but unanimous decision loss to Fabricio Werdum at Strikeforce's November 2009 debut on CBS. Silva posted the win streak with now-defunct EliteXC promotion (where he defeated Justin Eilers for the title) and World Victory Road's Japanese-based Sengoku event series.
A source close to the fighter told MMAjunkie.com Silva was also under consideration for a fight with Rogers.
Main Bouts (On Showtime):
-Sarah Kaufman def. Takayo Hashi by Unanimous Decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45), R5
-Trevor Prangley vs. Karl Amoussou ruled a Technical Draw (Accidental Foul) at 4:14, R1
-Luke Rockhold def. Paul Bradley by TKO (Strikes) at 2:24, R1
-Tarec Saffiedine def. James Terry by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), R3
-Yancy Medeiros def. Raul Castillo by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), R3
Emelianenko to Strikeforce champ Overeem: Test clean or we won't fight
Fedor Emelianenko's manager says his fighter will only face Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem after Overeem proves he isn't taking performance enhancers commonly banned from competition.
Overeem has said he wants to face Emelianenko this year. But Overeem first has to pass drug tests adminstered by a third party, Emelianenko's manager, Apy Echtfeld, told mixfight.nl, a Dutch site about mixed martial arts.
SF On CBS April 17, But No Fedor
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker on Thursday confirmed recent speculation that his fight promotion would land in Nashville, Tenn., on April 17. Aside from the date and location, he was rather elusive. No fights were revealed despite expectations of SF Middleweight Champion Jake Shields vs. Dan Henderson for the title on the event, but there was confirmation of no Fedor Emelianenko on the event-he's rumored to face Fabricio Werdum in May. Also no word on TV for the April event but it's expected to be CBS, although it could wind up being Showtime.
M-1: Fedor Emelianenko fighting Fabricio Werdum in May, off planned April CBS card
After weeks of doubt about the fighter's once-expected participation, Fedor Emelianenko will not, in fact, fight in April during Strikeforce's return to CBS airwaves.
According to a report from MMAFighting.com, M-1 officials today said at M-1 Selection Eastern European press conference that Emelianenko will fight Fabricio Werdum – but not until May.
Strikeforce officials have not confirmed plans for the April show, but as MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) reported on Wednesday, it could move to Showtime (or be delayed altogether) now that Emelianenko won't be involved.