UFC President Dana White has been criticized for the promotionâ€™s all-bases-covered, iron-clad contracts that prevent UFC fighters from fighting in any other promotion. But, White has an advantage over promotions that donâ€™t follow suit. When White wants a fight, he gets the fight if the fighters he wants matched up are under contract.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is dealing with the fallout from not following the UFCâ€™s model and offering fighters more lenient contractual terms.
â€śI can tell you this,â€ť Coker told MMA Junkie Thursday about negotiations with Fighters.com top-ranked heavyweight â€śThe Last Emperorâ€ť Fedor Emelianenko (31-1), â€śweâ€™ve been having really good dialogue with M-1 Global and [M-1 Global president] Vadim Finkelchtein, and I think weâ€™re in the final stages of buttoning everything up to make [a fight] again. I think weâ€™ll have an announcement soon on that, but I feel very confident weâ€™ll be promoting Fedor here in the near future.â€ť
Sounds great, but what are Coker and Finkelchtein talking about? Donâ€™t they already have a contract?
Coker explained to MMA Junkie, â€śWhen I dealt with companies in Japan, itâ€™s the same thing. 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 thereâ€™s some differences, and thereâ€™s some things that we needed to button up.â€ť
Renegotiating with a fighter after every fight is an additional hurdle the UFC doesnâ€™t have. White says fight and you fight, with wiggle room allowed for injuries, preparation time, personal issues, etc. But, if youâ€™re a healthy UFC fighter and youâ€™re offered a fight, you fight, sometimes on very short notice.
Emelianenko and his management are notoriously difficult to deal with, which is at least half the reason Emelianenko isnâ€™t fighting in the UFC.
Also on Cokerâ€™s plate is convincing Strikeforce heavyweight champion â€śDemolition Manâ€ť Alistair Overeem (30-11) to return to the promotion to defend his title, or not.
Coker told MMA Junkie, â€śWeâ€™re going to make an announcement next week, so I donâ€™t want to say anything about [the title implications of the fight between Overeem and sixth-ranked â€śGrimâ€ť Brett Rogers (10-1)], but it might be something that people are not expecting.â€ť
Hell, Overeem actually fighting might be something that people are not expecting given his preference to take weaker matchups in nations where heâ€™s more popular. And, I donâ€™t begrudge him that. MMA is a business.
However, Cokerâ€™s hassles with Emelianenko and Overeem are additional problems Strikeforce has to deal with that the UFC doesnâ€™t. And, it doesnâ€™t just affect the behind the scenes portion of the business. I know when the UFC announces a matchup Iâ€™m going to see that fight on the announced date unless thereâ€™s an injury. Following Strikeforce is like a Hitchcock film: twists and turns and surprise endings, which isnâ€™t necessarily what I want in an MMA promotion.