MMA superstar and the world’s universally recognized No. 1 heavyweight Fedor, Senior VP & GM, Sports & Event Programming, Showtime Networks, Ken Hershman, STRIKEFORCE Founder & CEO Scott Coker and President of M-1 Global, Vadim Finkelchtein participated in a conference call discuss the potentially game-changing announcement made earlier this week that the fervently sought-after Emelianenko had signed a historic, multi-fight agreement that will see him headline mega-events co-promoted by STRIKEFORCE and M-1 Global.
Fedor will make his premium television debut during the fall when his first fight under the new agreement airs live on SHOWTIME. Up until now, all his live fights had aired exclusively on pay-per-view in the United States.
What the participants had to say on Thursday’s call:
SCOTT COKER: “I’d like to welcome the greatest heavyweight fighter of all time in Mixed Martial Arts to Strikeforce/M1-Global in conjunction with SHOWTIME.”
KEN HERSHMAN: “This is an epic signing and an epic moment in Strikeforce’s young history with SHOWTIME. We can’t wait to feature Fedor on our network against the other top heavyweights out there in the world. We’re looking forward to a great relationship and this is the start of many great things to come.”
VADIM FINKELCHTEIN: “We’re very happy to finally determine (finalize) our great partnership with Strikeforce. Strikeforce is a company we’ve known for a long time and (it) has been our long-lasting wish to be united with them. We know that Strikeforce is a great company that also has a great TV platform with SHOWTIME. From that side, they have great potential. From our side, we have a great relationship with European and Japanese TV. Together, the two of us will make a great partnership.”
FEDOR EMELIANENKO: “I’m really very happy that we’ve found a great partner. I’m very happy to fight again and I will be happy to fight for all our fans.”
What does signing of M1 and Strikeforce mean?
COKER: “It’s not just the signing with Fedor, but also the partnership with M1. They have a lot of resources internationally. They have a lot of other good fighters. Now, with the conjunction with Strikeforce, we’re going to be able to put some sizeable ventures together and some fights that are going to be amazing. When you talk about Fedor, he is truly the greatest heavyweight MMA fighter in the history of MMA. When he was a free agent, everyone was after him. For us to land him and for him to fight on SHOWTIME, I feel like we won the lottery. `’
Fedor, who would you like to fight?
FEDOR: “I don’t know the name of the opponent yet, but I know for sure the fight will take place in the fall. I’ll be happy with any opponent that is offered by the organization.”
Scott, who do you think he should fight first?
COKER: “I think it’s a little premature and something that M1, myself and Ken Hershman will have to get on a call and figure out. It hasn’t been determined yet.”
What were the key reasons that you turned down the UFC and decided to sign with Strikeforce?
VADIM: “The advantage in making the deal with Strikeforce is really great because the UFC didn’t give us any chance to develop. The UFC wants Fedor to be a fighter only for the UFC. That’s all they offered us. They didn’t offer us anything else. Dana White stated that Fedor and M1 rejected a huge amount of money and decided to fight for nothing. But, that’s not true. Nothing special was offered to M1 and Fedor during the negotiations with UFC. When we made the deal with Strikeforce we had opportunities to show our fights in many other countries. But the UFC wouldn’t give us these opportunities.”
Fedor, a lot of fighters fight well into their 40s. Do you have that in mind to get set financially for the future?
FEDOR: “I don’t think that the age is important. I would like to develop MMA and I would like to also earn some money. If Strikeforce was able to offer the same (a better) deal as the UFC, why should we go to the UFC?”
Scott, can you respond to Dana (White’s) comments that Strikeforce has no money and that they’ll put you out of business?
COKER: “The comments that were just made a little bit ago were that we had no money, we’re Strikefarce? My response to that is of course he’s going to say that. He’s a promoter. He’s going to go out and say what he’s going to say. We’ve been in business a long time and we know how to operate a business. We’ve forged a relationship with Ken and SHOWTIME and M1. I feel very confident that we’re going to have some great, big shows with Fedor. ”
Are you surprised about his (White’s) comments?
COKER: “Under the current circumstances, is anybody surprised? I don’t think so.”
Vadim, when the Affliction show was cancelled, did you go to UFC first and then Strikeforce? Or did you shop around for the best option for you?
VADIM: “When he came to America, we already had a plan to meet with Lorenzo Ferttita and Dana White to hear the offers from the UFC. We wanted them (Fedor and UFC) to meet each other and we wanted also to listen to the offer.”
Scott, it has been written that Fedor might not get an immediate title shot. What is the thought process of that?
COKER: “I didn’t say that we would and I didn’t say that we wouldn’t. I think that our champion, Alistair Overeem, and the M1 champ, Fedor, would be a fantastic fight. That probably will happen at some point.
I have to circle back with everyone involved including SHOWTIME. We’ll make a decision and let everybody know.”
Do you have an update on Overeem?
COKER: “As of right now, no. I know he re-injured his hand, what was that two or three weeks ago? I’m sure he’ll be ready to fight in the fall.”
Ken, what is SHOWTIME’s approach to get the word out about Fedor?
HERSHMAN: “We’re actually beginning our planning now. We’re going to start with some pieces that we can market on SHOWTIME and across the Internet to start introducing Fedor. For us, Fedor is a sold commodity among the hard-core fans. Everyone recognizes him as the best fighter in the world. So, what we have to do is reach beyond the hard-core fan base and reach the casual fan and the regular, general sports fans and begin to generate some excitement out there. This is the most exciting fighter out there. Even if you’re not a hard-core Mixed Martial Arts fan, you’re still going to get a lot of excitement watching him do his thing in the cage. It’s a big task, but we’re up to it. We have some great support from our partners and we’ve got some exciting stuff to come.”
Fedor, can you respond to Dana’s comments that you don’t want to fight the best in the world and that you don’t give an (expletive) about the fans?
FEDOR: “The last two fights I had really great opponents.”
VADIM: “I wonder who Dana White considers to be the best fighters. The fighter that has their belt has a 4-1 record. Maybe these fighters have become the product of the great PR machine of the UFC.
Also, Brett Rogers is a very good opponent and a much better opponent for Fedor and for fans. He’s had 10 fights and no losses.”
Scott, do you have any plans on when you would like to do a PPV with Fedor?
COKER: “With Fedor, we have a great opportunity to have a heavyweight fighter at that level and really the hottest free agent on the market. We’ll probably enter the PPV business, but I think that’s probably going to be six to nine months away. In the meantime, we will sit down with Ken and everybody and talk about how we get there and what we need to do. But, the first fight will be live on SHOWTIME and everybody will be able to watch it for free on SHOWTIME.”
Scott, Strikeforce has had a financially prudent history. Can you reveal how this is possible for your organization to take on this financial burden?
COKER: “We’ve always been committed to getting the best fighters, and building our roster. With the partnerships with M1 we’re just continuing that vision. Fedor is a great opportunity. How often does that come along? How often does a free agent at that level come along? We talked to our partners, who are solid guys and the backbone behind Strikeforce. We made the decision with SHOWTIME and said `let’s go make this partnership and let’s go for it.’
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for everybody. If we thought is was going to be a situation where we were going to be losing money and going out of business, there would have been no way we would have done it. We created a formula that we thought worked for everybody. It’s really complicated and I can’t get into it. But, we’re going to be fine and it’s going to be great for the fans. It’s going to be free on SHOWTIME. I think it’s a win-win for everybody involved.”
How did the other companies he fought for not succeed?
COKER: “Here’s the thing. Those other companies, it wasn’t their core business. All those companies, their core business wasn’t the martial arts fight business. M1 has been around a long time and has been a very successful promotion. We’ve been around a long time. We’re going to be around a long time. M1 is going to be around a long time and SHOWTIME is going to be around a long time. It’s our core business. If people stick to their core competency, they’re going to be fine. That’s really the definition of why these companies went out of business.”
Fedor, do you feel that you know all the ins and outs to the business of M1 and where your money is going?
FEDOR: “I have full control of all my contracts and my career. I get financial reports all the time. All contracts and all important issues are discussed with me. Everything that I don’t like, Vadim tries to fix for me. I have full control of everything that is going on.”
Fedor, what did you learn from the decision to sign with Affliction instead of UFC?
FEDOR: “From my viewpoint, the UFC does not have the proper attitude to fighters. The UFC attitude towards fighters is not a good one. They don’t treat them like human beings. And I don’t like their policy. The offer that we got was one kind, and then on the Internet they published really different numbers. The offer they gave us was really miserable.”
Scott, will Strikeforce ever hold a grand prix tournament in the future?
COKER: “That’s a great question. It’s something we’ve talked about with SHOWTIME, but there are no definite plans right now. I like the format of the tournament, but we have no plans right now.”
If Fedor loses, does that affect your strategy?
COKER: “Every fighter at some point could possibly lose. In MMA, a fighter can lose. Fedor has consistently beaten everybody. If he loses, it can happen to everybody. Oscar De La Hoya lost. Muhammad Ali lost. All the great boxers have lost. In MMA, I don’t think it affects you as much as in other sports.”
Scott, what does being able to claim the No. 1 fighter in the world do for your company?
COKER: “Whoever he fights, it’s going to be a great fight for the fans and the fighters.”
Ken, can you explain how involved SHOWTIME was in the process?
HERSHMAN: “We were involved enough to lend support and to show everyone how much we valued Fedor. Beyond that, I really can’t say how involved we were. We’re really thrilled that this came together. I have to give props to Strikeforce for doing the heavy lifting.”
Do you think in general that M1 has been portrayed accurately in the press?
FEDOR: “There are a lot of people who take the side of the UFC and there a lot of people who take the side of M1. I think that if the numbers that were published on the Internet were real numbers, we would have signed with the UFC. All the numbers that were published were just rumors.”
VADIM: “I don’t think that M1’s interests are shown in the media in an accurate way. We are a very young organization and we don’t have a huge PR machine. Fedor was able to achieve the image that he has right now by fighting in a lot of different organizations. Fedor’s name outside of the U.S. is much bigger than the name of the UFC. If Fedor had come to the UFC, he’d make the UFC famous outside of the U.S. All the accusations that were made are false ones.”
Scott, was the fact that M1 has already broken into the global market a factor?
COKER: “They have already promoted fights all over the world. I think that’s when partnerships should happen. They brought a lot to the table, including Fedor, and we brought a lot to the table. I think we’re going to have a lot of great fights.”
Fedor, a lot of fight fans are angry that you’ve deprived them of a fight with Brock Lesnar. Does that bother you?
FEDOR: “I really feel sorry that the fight could not happen and I feel sorry for my fans. But, I think I also deserve some respect and I also think my personal interests should be taken into consideration.”
COKER: “We’re happy to have the M1 partnership and we’re happy to have Fedor aboard. Stay tuned, we’re going to have some great announcements in the future. A lot of people may say that they aren’t happy with Fedor now, but come fight time you know they’re all going to tune in.”
VADIM: “The contract with Strikeforce shows our big stage (just got bigger). Fedor managed to step into the hearts of a lot of Japanese people. With the Strikeforce partnership, Fedor will be able to step into the hearts of a lot of American people as well. M1 global is a company that makes a lot of deals, not only the deal with Strikeforce. We conduct a lot of championships all over the world. Just give us some time. When you think about Brock Lesnar, nobody knew him a year ago. Just give us some time and M1 Global and Strikeforce will be able to achieve our goals.”
FEDOR: “Thank you very much for the interesting questions. I would like to clear up all of the questions on the Internet. All the decisions regarding my fights are made by me, then Vadim makes the public announcement. I feel really sorry that my fans won’t be able to see the fight with Brock Lesnar in the near future. But, I know that they will be able to see other fights with great opponents. I would like to stress once again that besides my fans’ interests, there is my personal interests that the UFC didn’t want to meet.”