Fedor Emelianenko to Strikeforce, UFC Declares War, What Does It All Mean?

Picture_14_medium Well, the Fedor has hit the proverbial fan, or should I say the fans. There is debate as to whether or not this is a game changer. Michael David Smith says yes:

I've long believed that any MMA promotion wanting to compete with the UFC needed to do one of two things: Develop the best women's division in the sport, and sign Fedor Emelianenko.

Strikeforce and Showtime have now done both.

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Fedor is nowhere near as big a draw as UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, but the MMA media and hardcore fans consider Fedor, not Lesnar, the heavyweight champion of the world. The heavyweight champion is always relevant, and his presence in Strikeforce makes Strikeforce relevant.

But Smith recognizes that changing the game has its negative implications as well as its positive ones:

However, we don't yet know the financial terms of the deal between Strikeforce and M-1, and that means it's possible that Fedor will change the game for Strikeforce in another sense: He may have just blown up their business model.

M-1 Global's Jerry Millen is less nuanced:

"Look at what (Showtime and CBS) were able to do with a fighter like Kimbo Slice," Millen says. "Imagine what will happen once Fedor is exposed to the mainstream. Fedor could be 100,000 times bigger than a Kimbo Slice, because he's a true MMA fighter."

Jake Rossen asks two questions:

The first question: a percentage of what? Emelianenko's first bout will air on the cable network, and it's fairly obvious they have an eye on getting him network television exposure. (Showtime is owned by CBS.) Neither approach requires a NASA calculator to balance the books: Strikeforce has traditionally kept their spending manageable and their profits modest relative to the UFC monolith. Is the plan to "build" the 33-year-old athlete into a pay-per-view attraction, or hope they can manipulate his cult-status stateside profile into big ratings and ad dollars?

The second question: Does Emelianenko's reputation take a hit among casual fans who heard faint "Lesnar versus Fedor" noise and now wonder why that's not happening? Strikeforce has a few talented heavyweights who could keep Emelianenko busy for the next two years, but whether they're perceived as quality competition or consolations is another matter.

Josh Gross adds a bit more from the Fedor/M-1 perspective:

Critics panned Emelianenko's decision to turn down a big-money offer from the UFC, deriding him as purposely avoiding the best competition. But most misunderstood the parameters of his arrangement with M-1 and failed to recognize that his weight division is one of the few in MMA that features strong talent outside the UFC.

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In closing a deal with Emelianenko so soon after the UFC declined to co-promote with M-1, Strikeforce has undoubtedly put itself square in the Las Vegas promoter's crosshairs. Because it runs primarily off pay-per-view, however, Strikeforce isn't necessarily a direct competitor to the UFC, even if they clearly, now, are vying for the same fighters.

 

With moves like aligning with Emelianenko, there's little doubt that Strikeforce is actively working to establish its standing as a dominant MMA brand.

All indications are that UFC will lash out at Strikeforce in any way they can. If this fan post is accurate, Zuffa will use their acquisition of Affliction to hurt Strikeforce/M-1 as much as possible.

Personally I was rooting for Dana to make the deal and get Fedor in the Octagon while Brock Lesnar is still on the upswing and Fedor is untarnished. But I also understand that Fedor doesn't owe anyone anything and if he wants to sign for less money with an organization whose head that doesn't publicly insult him, that is up to Fedor.

The alliance with EA Sports is not to be underestimated. EA is the big dog in video games and they are clearly on the Fedor/Strikeforce side of the fence. When they put their marketing power behind Fedor, the UFC will have a much bigger competitor than they have ever faced before.

In closing, this from Fightlinker takes a pretty good perspective:

But in the end I’m happy with Fedor fighting anywhere, because it’s better than having to deal with the constant tidal waves of bullshit that roll across the MMA landscape whenever he’s a free agent. It’s hard not to feel a touch of concern for Strikeforce though … I get the feeling we’re supposed to be celebrating, but instead I feel like I just learned they might have the AIDS.

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