M-1 on Fedor's Return: Ball in Strikeforceâ€™s Court
M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelchstein told Sherdog.com on Tuesday that it was Strikeforce who was delaying a renegotiation process between the two promotions that would greenlight the return of the worldâ€™s No. 1 heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko, to the Strikeforce cage.
Sherdog.com had reported March 9 that both promotions were nearing the closure of a revised co-promotional agreement to hold additional events together in the U.S., following their inaugural Nov. 7 venture Strikeforce M-1 Global â€śFedor vs. Rogers,â€ť which aired live on CBS to four million viewers.
M-1 Global, a promotional and management company based out of Holland and Russia, approached Strikeforce in late December or early January to revise the three-event contract theyâ€™d signed with the American promotion last August. Part of that deal included the participation of the nearly unblemished Emelianenko, who has been coveted and courted by every major fight promotion, including the UFC.
However, as of late April, the two parties have appeared to have come to an impasse. M-1â€™s reps insisted Tuesday that any burden in the stalled deal didnâ€™t lie with them.
â€śIn the renegotiations, weâ€™re not asking for anything new at all that wasnâ€™t already there in our original agreement,â€ť said Finkelchstein through the translation of Evgeni Kogan, M-1 Globalâ€™s director of operations. â€śWeâ€™re not looking for anything additional to that.
â€śThere are certain clauses in that agreement which havenâ€™t been lived up to,â€ť continued Finkelchstein. â€śIn one of these clauses was co-promotion, and given that M-1 spent a significantly larger amount of money on the first show than did Strikeforce, we would like to see something along the lines of a number of M-1 fighters fighting on the M-1 Strikeforce show, the main show, the undercard, etc.â€ť
Finkelchstein said M-1 fighter participation was one of the terms in the original agreement that wasnâ€™t fulfilled. Finkelchstein also shot down Internet rumors that M-1â€™s newest demands were monetary in nature.
â€śItâ€™s been written on the Internet that M-1 is trying to re-negotiate for more money,â€ť said Finkelchstein. â€śThis is not the case. â€¦ Weâ€™re asking for changes to language in the contract in a way, which makes it necessary to adhere to the original agreement.â€ť
In March, M-1 Global laid blame for their dissatisfaction with the Nov. 7 event mostly with the media, and not their U.S. partners. When asked Tuesday if M-1 Global now believed Strikeforce to be in breach of the co-promotional contract, Finkelchstein again pointed to the lengthy renegotiation period.
â€śAgain, it is not us who is stretching this process out. Itâ€™s the other sideâ€¦,â€ť said Finkelchstein. â€śNo, we donâ€™t, at this point, consider Strikeforce to be in breach of the terms. â€¦ Certain things were not done that could have been done. A lot of excuses were made as to why they werenâ€™t done.â€ť
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker declined to comment specifically on M-1â€™s remarks, and said that negotiations are ongoing. Coker said that it is Strikeforceâ€™s policy to not negotiate in the media.
â€śWe look forward to the fight on June 26 with Fedor along with our joint-venture partners, M-1, pursuant to our agreement with them,â€ť Coker told Sherdog.com through a representative.
Emelianenko, who knocked out Brett Rogers in the second round at Strikeforce M-1 Globalâ€™s â€śFedor vs. Rogersâ€ť on Nov. 7 outside Chicago, was first said to be making his promotional return against former UFC contender Fabricio Werdum on April 17 in Nashville, Tenn. But when a new agreement was not reached, Strikeforceâ€™s Coker voiced his intentions to reschedule the bout on a yet-to-be-announced card on June 26 at the HP Pavilion on San Jose, Calif.
â€śFrom our point of view, weâ€™re waiting for the decision of, primarily, Scott (Coker) and Strikeforce, but also that of Showtime, and basically delivering in the relationship, going forward, that which was promised to us in the first place,â€ť said Finkelchstein.
Asked to clarify Showtimeâ€™s involvement, if any, in the renegotiations, Finkelchstein would only say that the cable network, which regularly airs Strikeforce events, had â€śan interestâ€ť in the talks between the two promotions, and that specifics of the contract could not be discussed due to the nature of the agreement.
Finkelchstein stated that the 33-year-old Emelianenko would have been able to participate in Strikeforce â€śNashvilleâ€ť last Saturday, and said the June 26 date was possible for the revered heavyweight.
â€śBasically, everythingâ€™s possible. This (decision) doesnâ€™t depend on us at all,â€ť said Finkelchstein. â€śThe ball is in their court. Fedor is in good shape. Heâ€™s constantly training to keep his form up. He needs around a month and a half warning before a potential fight and heâ€™ll be able to fight. So the 26th of June is not a problem.â€ť
Finkelchstein said that, at this point, there was no deadline Strikeforce would need to make to ensure Emelianenko is prepared for the June 26 show.
â€śPeak-level training begins about five to six weeks out,â€ť said Finkelchstein, â€śbut that depends on how (Emelianenko) has been training (beforehand).â€ť
Finkelchstein said Emelianenko was anxious to fight again soon.
â€śFedor is frustrated. Heâ€™s upset that he hasnâ€™t been given the ability to fight,â€ť said Finkelchstein. â€śAgain, the (delay) to make the fight happen, hasnâ€™t been on us. Itâ€™s been on the other side. Because of their refusal to agree on giving us what was promised in the (contract) signed, the fight hasnâ€™t happened.â€ť
Finkelchstein also addressed persistent rumblings that M-1 officials have been secretly meeting and negotiating with the UFC for the last two months behind closed doors.
â€śNeither myself nor the M-1 company is in negotiations whatsoever with the UFC,â€ť said Finkelchstein. â€śThereâ€™s nothing going on between us and the UFC, except that (UFC President) Dana (Whiteâ€™s) obvious interest in Fedor from all of the interviews which heâ€™s done, is making rather a splash. Of course, we hear about it in Russia all of the time.â€ť
Finkelchstein reiterated their goal to come to a swift resolution with Strikeforce.
â€śWe are continuing negotiations in good faith with Strikeforce,â€ť said Finkelchstein. â€śWeâ€™re not asking for anything other than what we were promised initially. â€¦ What we want is simply a 50-50 (relationship). We donâ€™t want a repeat of the November 7 show, which for all intents and purposes looked like a Strikeforce show. We want to be 50-50 partners. We want this to be a proper fully fledged co-promotion.â€ť