Russian MMA star Fedor Emelianenko signs to fight in Strikeforce

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Unable to come to terms with the UFC, Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko has signed a multi-fight agreement with Strikeforce.
The mixed martial arts star will make his debut for the organization in the fall.
The deal calls for co-promotions between Strikeforce and M-1 Global, Emelianenko's management company. That was a sticking point with the UFC, which refused to hand over a piece of its promotion to the Russian's camp.
"I am looking forward to going back to work and fighting at the highest level," the 33-year-old Emelianenko said in a statement Monday.
"Strikeforce is a top-fight promotion that houses some of the greatest fighters in the world. I am prepared to fight any of them."
Emelianenko's fighting options at Strikeforce appear limited, however. Brett (The Grim) Rogers would be a natural, given his lightning-fast knockout of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski last time out.
But the pickings appear slim elsewhere in the Strikeforce cupboard.
Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem had to drop out of an Aug. 15 card against former UFC fighter Fabricio Werdum with a hand injury. Other Strikeforce heavies include 35-year-old Paul Buentello and 37-year-old Kevin Randleman, a former UFC champion who fought as a light-heavyweight last time out and who has already been beaten by the Russian.
It cannot compete with the big man talent pool in the UFC, which currently has Brock Lesnar at the top of a heavyweight heap that features Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Frank Mir, Cain Velasquez, Shane Carwin., Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic, Cheick Kongo and Randy Couture.
Still the presence of Emelianenko adds to Strikeforce's lustre and may help lure heavyweights in search of a high-profile, albeit one-off, payday.
Strikeforce, based out of San Jose, Calif., has made the most out of a small stable of fighters and managed to co-exist with the UFC because it has not tried to compete directly with MMA's elite organization. As a result, UFC president Dana White has spoken highly of the outfit. It will be interesting to see if things change in the wake of Emelianenko's signing.
White was exasperated in a conference call Friday when he detailed efforts to sign the Russian.
"Trust me when I tell you we did everything to make this deal happen. Everything," he said. "We didn't hold back on anything. We gave everything. It's insanity to turn down a deal like this."
But he said there was no deal as long as co-promotion was on the table. Strikeforce was willing to accept that condition, however.
"We are very pleased that we found a reliable partner and I feel that Strikeforce and M-1 can support each other on many things." said Vadim Finkelchtein, president of M-1 Global.
White had been willing to match Emelianenko against Lesnar immediately with the UFC title on the line.
Emelianenko (30-1 with one no contest) was slated to fight last Saturday in Anaheim, Calif. But the Affliction show collapsed after his opponent, Josh (The Babyfaced Assassin) Barnett tested positive for steroids. Affliction, a clothing company, subsequently pulled the plug on its fight promotion business.
The Russian had fought on Affliction's first two cards, making short work of former UFC champions Arlovski and Tim Sylvia.
Strikeforce live shows air on Showtime and HDNet in the U.S. and on pay-per-view in Canada. It also has TV deals to show material on NBC and The Score, in Canada
The move to Strikeforce means a debut in the cage for Emelianenko, whose previous contests have been in a ring.
Emelianenko is an iconic figure for MMA fans. But some have been frustrated in recent years by the former Pride champion's choice of opponents.
Still he has everyman appeal. The six-foot 233-pounder looks more like a truck driver than an elite athlete but hits like a sledgehammer and has dangerous submission skills.

Geographic location: Strikeforce, San Jose, Calif., Canada Anaheim, Calif. U.S.

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