Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Announced
World championship Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promotions STRIKEFORCE and M-1 GLOBAL, in association with premium television network SHOWTIME have signed a new, multi-year agreement to co-promote events headlined by the MMA legend Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko (31-2, 1 NC).
In addition, STRIKEFORCE has assembled eight of the world’s top ranked heavyweights to compete in the STRIKEFORCE World Grand Prix – Heavyweight Tournament, a three-stage, single-elimination tournament that will take place over several events in 2011. The first two quarterfinal fights begin on Saturday, Feb. 12, live on SHOWTIME from the IZOD Center in E. Rutherford, N.J. In the main event, the 34-year-old Emelianenko will face the towering Antonio “Big Foot” Silva (15-2) in a STRIKEFORCE and M-1 GLOBAL co-promoted event. Co-featured on Feb. 12, former world champion Andrei Arlovski (15-8) will face Sergei Kharitonov (16-4), the last man to defeat current STRIKEFORCE Heavyweight World Champion Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem.
The other two quarterfinal matchups are as follows: Overeem (34-11, 1 NC) will face the only man to tap out Fedor, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1), while the heavy-handed Brett “The Grim” Rogers (11-2) will meet a hungry Josh Barnett (29-5). The location and date for these quarterfinal tournament fights are to be announced.
“We are thrilled to have come to a long-term agreement with Fedor and M-1 GLOBAL,” said STRIKEFORCE CEO Scott Coker. “To have the greatest MMA fighter of all-time put his legacy on the line in a single-elimination tournament will truly captivate MMA fans worldwide. STRIKEFORCE is home to the best heavyweight division in the world; the athlete who runs the gauntlet in a tournament such as this would have to be considered the best heavyweight fighter in the world.”
“I’m very pleased to be working with SHOWTIME and STRIKEFORCE and Mr. Coker and Mr. Hershman personally. Thanks to their interest and efforts, we’ve created what will go down in history as MMA’s greatest heavyweight tournament of all time,” said Vadim Finkelchtein, co-founder of M-1 Global. “M-1, STRIKEFORCE and SHOWTIME have built a partnership committed to the future growth of MMA—a sport where organizations represent a working collaborative that enable the best fighters in the world to fight each other. This agreement benefits everyone, especially the fans who’ll see Fedor in action more often.
“With SHOWTIME’s significance in the U.S. and M-1’s development of the European and Asian MMA markets, the cooperation will also deliver a global roster of talented fighters to viewers,” Finkelchtein continued. “During the coming year, we’ll be showcasing spectacular Grand Prix events using the same M-1 Selection tournament format, a series of events generating enthusiastic spectator interest keeping fans glued to their screens.”
“I can’t think of a better way to start 2011 than with this major announcement,” said Ken Hershman, Executive Vice President and General Manager of SHOWTIME Sports®. “Fedor is universally known to sports fans throughout the world and it is an honor to continue our work with M-1 GLOBAL and STRIKEFORCE in presenting this legendary fighter to SHOWTIME subscribers.
“SHOWTIME has enjoyed great success with its two most recent boxing tournaments—the Super Six World Boxing Classic and The Bantamweight Tournament,” Hershman continued. “And now, with the breadth of talent in the STRIKEFORCE heavyweight division, we have the privilege of staging one of the biggest tournaments in the history of this growing sport. With the STRIKEFORCE World Grand Prix’s single-elimination format and the biggest names in the sport today, this tournament is something that no sports fan will want to miss.”
“I have been training very hard since my last fight and can’t wait to get back in the cage,” said the 6-foot, 235-pound Emelianenko, who hails from Stary Oskol, Russia and is promoted by M-1 GLOBAL. “STRIKEFORCE has assembled a roster filled with the best heavyweights in the world and, together with M-1 GLOBAL, we have the opportunity to fight the best in a great tournament format.”
Fedor’s unprecedented, record-setting run of 28 professional MMA bouts without a defeat has prompted many MMA enthusiasts to label Fedor as the greatest of all time. Since his career began 10 years ago, Fedor has faced and defeated many rival superstars and champions of this era including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Andrei Arlovski and Mark “The Hammer” Coleman.
In what ranks among the most watched MMA fights in the United States, Fedor made his live primetime network television debut on Nov. 7, 2009 on CBS, when he defeated unbeaten rising star Brett Rogers in a STRIKEFORCE and M-1 GLOBAL co-promoted event. Despite a difficult first round in which he sustained a deep cut above his eye, Fedor turned the tide early in the second round with one vicious right-hand punch and finished Rogers shortly after.
Then, on June 26, 2010, Fedor suffered a stunning upset at the hands of Werdum, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., in one of the most watched MMA bouts on SHOWTIME. Werdum, who has defeated a host of top rivals including Overeem, Silva and Brandon “The Truth” Vera, trapped Fedor’s arm in a triangle armbar that forced Fedor to tap out at the 1:09 mark of the opening round.
Fedor has only one other official loss on his record, the result of a doctor stoppage due to a cut he sustained seconds into a matchup with Japan’s Tsuyoshi Kosaka on Dec. 22, 2000. Fedor avenged the TKO loss with his own first-round TKO of Kosaka at a PRIDE Fighting Championships event in Japan on April 3, 2005.