Fedor Emelianenko file photo | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
It looks like Fedor Emelianenko will make his return to the Strikeforce cage in February against former EliteXC heavyweight champion Antonio Silva.
Sherdog.com learned of the matchup Friday afternoon, speaking with sources close to the proposed bout. Negotiations between Strikeforce and Fedor's management, M-1 Global, have been ongoing since the former top-ranked heavyweight was submitted in shocking fashion by heavy underdog Fabricio Werdum in June.
Officially, there has been no word from either Strikeforce or M-1 regarding the bout. Sherdog.com could not confirm whether the deal has been inked, but both sides have reportedly agreed in principle to the Silva-Emelianenko matchup. Though the bout was originally rumored to be a part of Strikeforce's Jan. 29 card, it now appears that February will be the month in which Emelianenko makes his return. Further details regarding the Russian's contract are unknown at this time, but M-1 is pushing for Fedor to fight sooner rather than later.
The proposed bout with Silva has come out of compromise, as M-1 has made no secret about its desire for an Emelianenko-Werdum rematch. For Strikeforce, however, the Werdum rematch is unattractive. Of the limited list of possible opponents other than Werdum, “Bigfoot” was the name M-1 reportedly chose.
According to Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, however, Emelinenko has not yet signed a contract.
"You know how these things are, they go back and forth. We send them documents; they send them back... They want changes; we want changes. I'm just trying to get the lawyers to hurry and finish it up so we can make some great fights,” said Coker. "It's hard to talk about opponents. Normally, you talk to someone about opponents only after you have a contract with somebody. We're working through the final stages of the deal. We are not there yet. I wish we were."
If it were up to Coker, however, Emelianenko would step into the cage in January against the Strikeforce heavyweight champion.
"From my perspective, I'd like [Fedor] to fight Alistair Overeem on [Jan. 29], but that won't happen [laughs]," he said. "It's been a very challenging process, but there's light at the end of the tunnel. We're at the very end stage of this process and I'm sure you can understand that I have a confidentiality provision in this agreement. I can't really talk about this contract at all."
It's still unclear just where the Fedor-Silva bout will fit into the promotion's heavyweight landscape. Rumors have circulated regarding Strikeforce putting on a heavyweight tournament in 2011. Whether the aforementioned February tussle will be a part of that tournament is still unknown, but it seems unlikely that such a high-profile bout would take place in the first round.
On Silva's end, the Brazilian says he's ready, willing and able to take on “The Last Emperor” or anybody else Strikeforce puts in front of him. Be it in January or February, "Junior" just wants to fight.
"We don't have a bout agreement in place or anything like that, but that's been the plan for a while now. Junior's attitude is that whoever turns up in front of him, he's fighting. We don't exactly [know] the status of the negotiations between Strikeforce and M-1, but [Silva is] preparing for Fedor. Junior makes it clear that he'll fight anybody," said Silva's manager Alex Davis.
“For us and for Strikeforce, that's the fight we want. And for Fedor, I think he's agreed to it,” said Davis. “But the only thing that's keeping the fight from being established are whatever their negotiations are with M-1.Yeah, I want Junior to fight Fedor. But about M-1, it's just beyond our control.”
Though Coker could not talk extensively about the Fedor-Silva contract for obvious reasons, the Strikeforce head did speak definitively regarding the future of the mammoth Brazilian.
"I can tell you [Silva] will be fighting in a relatively short amount of time here. If Fedor doesn't work out, we'll just move forward and have [Junior] fight someone else. But I'd like to wrap this thing up with M-1 as fast as possible."
Tony Loiseleur contributed to this report.