Sunday, December 4, 2022

Update Makes Strikeforce HW Picture More Clear, But Raises Questions

By MATT BOONE
MMANEWS.COM Staff Writer

Fabricio Werdum recently revealed some of his future plans in a new interview with Brazilian website SuperLutas.com. The uncrowned WAMMA heavyweight champion mentioned in the interview that he intends on having surgery to repair damage he's been suffering from in his elbow, and that it's unlikely he'll enter a MMA cage with his work clothes on for the remainder of 2010.

Werdum told the Super Lutas website, “I will undergo a surgery on my elbow that I have put off for some time. We're in July and I only want to come back 100 percent recovered. I think it's hard to make it back this year due the physical therapy, conditioning and all else. Then I might just get back next year.”

Werdum is coming off perhaps the biggest upset in MMA history (as detailed in Matt Molgaard's recent “The 10 Greatest MMA Upsets Of All Time”) by submitting the long-time number one ranked heavyweight in the sport, Fedor Emelianenko, at the Strikeforce/M-1 Global: Fedor vs. Werdum event on June 26. Immediately following the loss, which was technically the first legitimate loss in Fedor's pro-MMA career, M-1 Global and other Fedor representatives were insistent on a rematch with Werdum as soon as humanly possible. If Werdum is definite on the surgery and recovery time, this pretty much ruins any chance Fedor's people had at seeing that goal fulfilled.

This news is the second wrench that was thrown into the plans M-1 Global had for their golden child, which is kind of ironic considering the reputation they have for being difficult to deal with in business. The other sticking point centered around Fedor's contract with Strikeforce expiring. “The Last Emporer” will have completed the requirements of his deal after his next fight with the promotion, whenever, and against whomever, that ends up being. That's where the unusual match against Alistair Overeem for the Strikeforce title, despite losing his last fight, comes into play.

Strikeforce utilizes a champion's clause in title fights that are promoted on their shows. The stipulation states that whoever leaves the fight as champion agrees before-hand to defend the title in Strikeforce. Given Fedor has one fight remaining on his current deal, if he fights Overeem in a title fight as his next match with the promotion, he would be under the terms of that stipulation. This basically gives Strikeforce insurance that Fedor wouldn't be able to devalue their world title by beating their champion and simply heading to another promotion.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker came out a week after Fedor's loss and tried to be somewhat subtle in breaking the news that a guy who just lost his last fight would get the next title shot at Overeem, with the guy who beat him (Werdum) being the actual prize for either Fedor or Overeem, who would then be world champion of the company. In trying to sell the idea to the public, Coker said the following in an interview less than a week after Werdum upset Fedor at the San Jose show. “My feeling is maybe Fedor should fight Alistair Overeem and whoever wins that fight gets to fight Fabricio Werdum. I would love to see that fight too, Alistair and Fedor, I would love to see that fight happen.” Wait, it gets better. Coker continued, “Here's the thing, we just saw Fedor fight Werdum; I'm not saying we couldn't do the rematch [Fedor vs. Werdum] first but I'm saying there are a couple options on the table. Until we sit down with M-1, we're just talking about different options and that [Fedor vs. Overeem] is one of the options.”

Notice the phrase “gets to fight Fabricio Werdum,” worded as if a fight against “the guy who beat the guy” is a bigger deal than his company's own world championship. Isn't that what this sport is supposed to be about? It's clearly not a top priority if you weigh north of 205 pounds and fight in San Jose as much as a UFC fighter competes in Las Vegas. Not in your bosses' eyes at least.

But good news: that's how everything is conveniently situated now anyways. Werdum chooses now, potentially the most lucrative period in his fighting career, to take a year off and finally get an operation that he himself stated in the aforementioned Super Lutas interview was something he “has put off for some time.” Seems like kind of an odd strategical career move for the Brazilian, doesn't it? Some might even call it a risky or dangerous career move, especially considering the timing and surrounding circumstances that intertwine with him based on the outcome of certain decisions he chooses to make.

That brings us to our next nugget of information provided once again by Scott Coker. Coker was on MMAWeekly Radio this week and announced that Strikeforce has signed Werdum to a long-term deal, ensuring his spot in the company for years to come. Coker stated the following during his interview with the popular MMA internet talk show:

“There's a lot of rumors, and there's a lot of haters out there all the time it seems like, but the reality is we're not going to do a deal where we're going to leave ourselves exposed. Fabricio Werdum is a Strikeforce fighter, and he will be for many years, and we look forward to having him be part of our roster.”

I assume it's just a coincidence that Werdum was just given long-term job security and announced his plans to take a year off and fix up some bumps and bruises after perhaps the most historical MMA victory ever, less than a week after the boss basically revealed his preference in giving Fedor a shot at Alistair Overeem and the heavyweight title instead of Werdum.

So as it turns out, the Werdum vs. Fedor fight in June was for a shot at the second highest prize in the company, the Strikeforce heavyweight title. The loser gets a crack at winning that silver medal, while the winner is guaranteed the gold — a leapfrog move in status over the title and the man who holds it. If Fedor vs. Overeem does go down as the next championship match, apparently they are vying for a future “shot” at Fabricio Werdum, a man who is apparently a walking title higher in status than the belt they'd incidentally fight for en route to a shot at the real thing.

Oh yeah, Coker also has interest in promoting former pro wrestlers Batista vs. Bobby Lashley, building an uncommon pay-per view deal around the potential match.

Okay, that last part was just for effect. I've explained in detail why a Batista-Lashley PPV show could be a smart and beneficial move for Strikeforce's business in a recent editorial piece. For the record, I also agree with the unusual series of events surrounding the company's heavyweight title picture right now too, as being a business first and a show second, doing whatever necessary to keep Fedor Emelianenkio in the fold long-term is simply more important for business than finding out “who the better man is” between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum, the rightful top two heavyweight fighters in the company. However, that's another story for another day. I don't think a lot of the MMA die-hard fans reading this right now can handle a lecture on the difference between top draws and top fighters in MMA. They've been put through enough already, even though every last one of them would be in front of a television set somewhere when and if both the “illegitimate” Batista-Lashley and the “unjust” Fedor-Overeem fights come to fruition.

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