Fedor Emelianenko and the Rise and Fall of Strikeforce

Fedor Emelianenko helped put Strikeforce on the map. He may also have played a part in their downfall. Photo by Dave Mandel for Sherdog.com

Every promotion Fedor Emelianenko has fought for failed.

Rings died in 2002 due to pressures of Pride's ascent. Pride collapsed in 2007, its parts sold to the UFC. (And if Zach Arnold is to be believed, it was Fedor's participation on Antonio Inoki's Bom-Ba-Ye show in 2003 played a huge role in that.) BodogFIGHT used Emelianenko once before calling it quits after losing a reported $38 million. Affliction spent their way into a hole as well before California denied Josh Barnett a license, sending the T-shirt company crawling back to the UFC.

Strikeforce didn't go out of business -- though it's long-term future is in doubt -- but its primary investors, Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment (now Sharks Sports and Entertainment), made the decision to sell the company earlier this year. Rumors have explained the sale as SVSE not wanting to "take it to the next level" despite Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal reporting that the company expected to bring in $30 million in revenues this year. 

Former Strikeforce Director of Communications Mike Afromowitz spoke with Sherdog about the Strikeforce sale, including Fedor's role in it (emphasis mine):

I think it was a deal that made it very difficult to be profitable from. So getting Fedor from a branding perspective was huge, and that was a risk that was, at the time, necessary to take. That was the biggest acquisition we had made as a company. Right away, signing Fedor put our company, put Strikeforce, in that many more households. Just the name Strikeforce -- it got out there.
...
You know, what's funny is somebody said to me not too long ago, ‘You are never going to make money with Fedor.' He said that to me because he thought that he understood the mentality behind Fedor's management. He said, ‘You are never going to make money with them.' [He] said that straight out to me. There's a lot of different thoughts out there, and I think maybe it wasn't the right move, but everybody wanted it at the time. And when we did it, it sure felt good. But it could have been part of the undoing.
...
I think there was a bittersweet feeling amongst certain people in certain circles. He had a great career, but it was a tough deal to swallow -- the whole Fedor deal. Him losing two in a row ... maybe it was for the best, from a business standpoint of course. Co-promoting is tough; there's a lot of different interests at hand.

The signing of Emelianenko seems to be a case of "more money, more problems." It upgraded Strikeforce from successful regional promotion to budding national company. With that came the additional headaches of M-1 Global holding Strikeforce and Showtime hostage in between Emelianenko's fights. Fedor's prestige convinced CBS executives to put MMA on network television, but with increased exposure comes increased responsibility, and Afromowitz specifically pointed out Jason Miller for hurting the business.

I highly recommend checking out the full interview. Afromowitz deals on all facets of his time at Strikeforce, and this is the most revealing look at what led to their sale thus far.

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