The Fedor Emelianenko Strikeforce era is officially over. UFC president Dana White informed the media on Thursday that Zuffa has cut Fedor from Strikeforce and isn’t interested in negotiating a new deal with M1 Global.
I guess God’s will is not for Fedor not to fight in Strikeforce anymore. The news came in the middle of a UFC 133 press conference. Fedor essentially became a free agent on Sunday morning after losing his third fight in a row. According to MMA reporter Ariel Helwani, Fedor’s contract expired with the Henderson fight.
“… And for the record, Fedor had one fight left on his SF/Showtime deal. Hope that clears that up.”
I know that Fedor lost three in a row, but this move essentially kills Strikeforce. With all due respect to the rest of the fighters in the company, it’s over. In a matter of a few months Zuffa has gotten rid of all of the top draws in the company. Nick Diaz, Fedor, Alistair Overeem, and Dan Henderson are done with the company. Zuffa has managed the Strikeforce championships worse than Strikeforce did before the merger which almost seems impossible. In a matter of a few months Strikeforce is now left with two vacant titles (three is you take into consideration that Henderson is not technically under contract), one big draw, and a complete mess on the bottom.
It didn’t have to be this way. The Nick Diaz situation was a difficult one because he really had the company by the neck. However, the Golden Glory situation did not have to happen. They had Alistair Overeem under contract and didn’t need to cut him. The Fedor situation is rough one. I can see arguments on both sides. However, just giving up without even a negotiation just sounds utterly ridiculous to me.
I can’t say I completely blame Zuffa. The co-promotional deal that M1 and Strikeforce had would never work in a renegotiation. But I wonder if this lack of interest in Fedor is more personal than business and if it is personal, it is very unfair to Showtime and the other fighters in Strikeforce. Yes he lost three in a row, but he still would have been a ratings draw for the company. I wouldn’t have any problem at all with them telling him to walk under the current contract, but I can’t imagine there was much negotiating in five days.
So where does this leave Fedor? MMA in the United States is at a real turning point. There really aren’t any options as it stands today for someone like Fedor, yet you have a big demand in the United States to see him fight. Zuffa for better or worse can lock out a fighter or management team without worrying about competition. Compound the lack of competition with a dip in business this year and you have a situation that could reach a boiling point in the next one-two years for the UFC and the sport as a whole in this country.
The boys over at the Bloody Elbow blog made a great point about the poor timing of the announcement. With the UFC struggling to sell tickets to UFC 133 on Saturday night, they are drawing attention off of the show by making that announcement today. The only advantage to making that announcement today is whatever glee and personal satisfaction Dana White would get being the first to break the news as opposed to M1 presenting the story as if Fedor and M1 have no interest in negotiating. And if so, who cares? I can’t see any reason they couldn’t have waited until sometime next week to make the announcement.
Then again, there is nothing Zuffa is doing these days in regards to Strikeforce that surprises me anymore.
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