(Coker lays out Strikeforce’s Fedor plan for Cage Writer)
There’s something about hearing Scott Coker say that he plans to get Fedor Emelianenko on TV once or twice before giving him a shot at the Strikeforce heavyweight title that makes me cringe. It’s sort of like going on a picnic and declaring that nothing could possibly ruin this perfect day. You’re just begging to be attacked by fire ants and hornets before being washed away by a flash flood.
I can understand why Coker thinks Fedor is Strikeforce’s ticket to pay-per-view success, and why that trail needs to be blazed with one or even two instances of Fedor clubbing some warm piece of meat (no offense, Paul Buentello) on Showtime before fans are willing to cough up the cash to see him fight for a title. But there’s a troubling hypocrisy about that logic that is impossible to ignore.
For the first time in their history Strikeforce can (and you better believe they will) rightfully claim to have the best heavyweight in MMA. But at the same time they want to put him in a bout against someone who they freely acknowledge is not even the second best heavyweight in their organization, much less the world. And for what? So fans can see him knock someone out. So the people who don’t know what a bad man Fedor is can have a chance to find out for the price of a Showtime subscription.
Trouble is, things don’t work that way when you’re number one. No one cares if you beat number ten, regardless of how convincingly you do it. It’s a lose-lose proposition. If Fedor knocks out Brett Rogers or Sergei Kharitonov in the first minute of the first round, it only serves to prove that they didn’t belong in there with him. If it goes longer it makes you question how he’d do if he actually had to fight a top five opponent. Just imagine the fun Dana White would have if Fedor needed two rounds to beat Paul Buentello. He might bring back the video blogs just to laugh about it.
Obviously, Strikeforce’s problem is that they don’t have a ton of high-quality heavyweights for Fedor to fight, so they want to save the big fight for when it might make them more money. But if MMA history has taught us anything, it’s that the fight gods have a cruel sense of humor. Remember Cro Cop-Gabriel Gonzaga? They laughed so hard they nearly fell off their mountain after that one.
That’s not to say that Fedor is going to catch a hard right hand off a flying knee attempt against Brett Rogers, but it also doesn’t mean that a fight with Alistair Overeem would be any more of a draw after Fedor wins a couple of fights as an 8-1 favorite.
Instead, Strikeforce should be taking the exact opposite approach. Instead of building up Fedor with squash matches, let him fight for the title right away and then spend the next few months building up opponents. While it wouldn’t mean anything for Fedor to beat Kharitonov, it might mean something if Rogers did it.
They don’t need to sell Fedor at this point. He’s the one proven product that they have. It’s all the other guys who are the problem.