The long-rumored deal between former professional wrestler Dave Bautista and MMA promoter Strikeforce appears to be moving closer to completion.
According to Bautista -- who went by "Batista" during his World Wrestling Entertainment days -- at least one key point has been agreed upon, and while there are still other details needed to be worked out, he hopes to debut in the early spring of 2011.
"We're real close. We actually agreed on a number last week and we're sorting stuff out," Bautista told DC 101 in a Monday morning radio interview. "We should have a deal real soon. Hopefully I'll be fighting in March."
And in other Strikeforce news, Vadim Finkelchtein, the president of Fedor Emelianenko's management company M-1 Global tells MMA Junkie:
M-1 Global president Vadim Finkelchtein says he'll know as soon as today if Fedor Emelianenko's obligation to Strikeforce ends with his next fight.
The executive said his company "primarily" is negotiating with Strikeforce's broadcast partner, Showtime Networks, on a new deal that will keep the Russian heavyweight in the Strikeforce cage beyond the single fight remaining on his current contract.
That deal includes a new co-promotional agreement that could bring M-1 events to the premium-cable channel.
Finkelchtein said Emelianenko's next opponent is not a sticking point in talks.
Ah, the Strikeforce heavyweight division is like an inviting oasis that is always just one sand dune beyond the horizon. Despite the fact that they couldn't manage to book champ Alistair Overeem for a second title defense this year and didn't get high profile acquisitions Josh Barnett and Sergei Kharitonov a single fight, they're busily working to weigh themselves down with more high dollar heavyweights.
Bautista was one of the WWE's biggest draws for much of the last decade. As a fake wrestler he was a bigger draw than Brock Lesnar ever was and is a much bigger name than Bobby Lashley. But as a mixed martial artist, he's an utterly unknown commodity. No fighting experience whatsoever and he's well over 40 years old. Dave Bautista will be nothing but a high priced freak show attraction for Strikeforce.
But Strikeforce boss Scott Coker is desperate to get back on CBS. Here he is talking to Sherdog radio last week:
"I think the relationship is good," Coker said. "You guys know what happened in Nashville. We're going to revisit [the CBS relationship] in the beginning of the year. I think there are some other opportunities with CBS that we're working on -- let's say we're working on it together to do some other things. I think that probably, I don't know maybe in the beginning of the year, we'll have some things to announce. By no means is the relationship a bad relationship. It's just we're going to revisit it in the beginning of the year and take it from there."
Coker declined to say whether the relationship had to be repaired after the postfight scuffle.
"I can tell you this. One of the things that we want to make sure never happens again is the situation that happened in Nashville," he said. "I mean, that was terrible. It's not just bad for Strikeforce or for the sport in general because it affects everybody. It affects everybody in the industry. ... It was definitely something that needed to be fixed. We fixed it and we're moving forward."
To get back on CBS, Coker will need major ratings attractions. Dave Bautista will be that, even though the appeal will be closer to Fox's Celebrity Boxing than to true sport. At the same time, we should always take the words of a pro wrestler who is in negotiations with a great deal of salt. Bautista may very well be talking up his potential Strikeforce deal just for leverage with the WWE.
Whether Fedor Emelianenko remains quite as valuable to Strikeforce after his 69 second loss to Fabricio Werdum in June is another question entirely. Fedor drew strong numbers in November 2009 on CBS, but he is no longer the invincible Russian of myth who got feature coverage from The New York Times. Instead Fedor is just another fighter who speaks little English and is little known to casual fans.
But it is clear from reading Vadim Finkelchtein's words that the agony of negotiating with Fedor's people has not diminished in the least. If I was Scott Coker, I'd be more than happy to get one more fight out of Fedor and let him sail off into the sunset.
Listen to the Bautista interview with DC 101 in the full entry.