We’re going to try to do an almost daily “On This Day in MMA History” series starting with this appropriate first installment that features one of the sports most popular and successful fighters, former Pride welterweight and middleweight and current Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson.
14 years ago today “Hendo” made his MMA debut in Brazil against Crezio de Souza in the opening round of the Brazil Open ’97 lightweight (176lbs and below) tournament. Henderson’s bracket of the one-day grand prix also featured Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons, while the heavyweight side featured Kevin Randleman and Tom Erickson.
Currently 1-2 in his Strikeforce campaign, Fedor stands at the crossroads of his career, after suffering a devastating defeat against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva earlier this year. The thirty-four year old Russian announced his retirement, but later changed his mind and declared that he would continue fighting. Here’s some of the most important quotes from the Russian media over the past weeks, with Fedor Emelianenko talking about what could be the biggest fight of his illustrious MMA career…
Now that contracts have been signed and announcements have been made, we can officially start looking forward to seeing Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson go at it later this summer. Sure, there’s no title on the line, and sure, there’s not much of anything on the line other than bragging rights, but according to a memo sent out to all MMA media and bloggers back in 2003, we are required to be excited anytime Fedor is set to fight, even if there are exactly zero fights announced for the rest of the card.
The promo trailer is a tried and true tool used to raise excitement for future matches, and it’s one tool that amateurs — by which we mean unpaid fans — usually outshine the pros. This is because, just like Mom’s cooking and anything that is still produced by hand, it’s made with love. Watch this video of Fedor and Henderson during their respective ups and downs over the past decade, and tell us you can’t feel the love. It’s that fuzzy feeling you get when the music syncs up just right and you feel tempted to jump up and fist pump.
Whatever you do, don’t jump out of your seat and fist pump at work! Everyone in the cubicle farm will see you, and you’re supposed to be working extra hard to make up for slacking off since last Wednesday. Just watch quietly and feel the love. Sure, it may feel like you’re just watching Fedor knock Brett Rogers’ face sideways, but believe us: it’s love.
This is a big fight for everyone involved. Following two consecutive stoppage losses to Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva, Fedor’s unbeatable mystique has been shattered. With Strikeforce’s top heavyweights competing in the Grand Prix Tournament from which he was exiled, this bout gives Fedor a shot at a meaningful win against a highly respected legend. After all the talk of his possible retirement from the sport, a victory here would prove that Fedor is still very relevant in the MMA landscape.
This morning, MMA Junkie reported that Strikeforce has penciled in July 30th for a major Showtime-televised event, which would put their plans for a pay-per-view event on the back-burner for now. According to the report, the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois (just outside of Chicago), has surfaced as a possible venue, and Fedor Emelianenko vs. Dan Henderson was named as a potential headliner. Scott Coker and Lorenzo Fertitta are currently working to arrange the matchup, while Dana White is doing his best not to meddle. (Said Dana last week at a UFC 129 press-conference: “Lorenzo’s working on it. Me getting anywhere near that thing? You’ll never see that fight.”)
According to SBNation’s Jonathan Snowden, sources from both camps are now saying that the fight is on for 7/30 at the Sears Centre. Josh Gross adds that the bout will be at heavyweight. No official word from Strikeforce yet; we’ll update you when we know more. The Sears Centre was the site of Emelianenko’s last victory, against Brett Rogers back in November 2009. Since then, he’s suffered back-to-back stoppage losses against Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva. Henderson last competed in March, when he defeated Rafael Cavalcante for the Strikeforce light-heavyweight title.
(“What, that bright light? It shines down on us from heaven. Come see how it feels, Scott. Nice, right?”)
Despite everybody’s continued claims that things have never been better inside Strikeforce, we know the UFC has already taken over the company’s relations with the media and begun poaching its biggest stars. Now, it seems UFC executives are also neck deep in Strikeforce’s business, reportedly working (at least for the time being) to make sure the smaller fight promotion’s top remaining draws are happy. That’s the word out of Toronto on Thursday, where multiple reports say Dana White will meet with Strikeforce welterweight champ Nick Diaz after UFC 129 and that co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta is already seeing to the task of making the proposed superfight between Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson become a reality.
First and foremost, White seems understandably concerned with Diaz’s apparent designs on bolting MMA for boxing. As quickly as plans to have the Stockton bad boy fight Fernando Vargas fell apart a couple weeks back, new reports surfaced saying former super middleweight champion Jeff Lacy might be interested. Perhaps most interestingly, White said this week Diaz’s contract actually does allow for such foolishness – which is another good example of why UFC people need to be up in SF’s business – but he’s obviously not crazy about the idea.
(If you ever wondered exactly how far you are from Fedor, this app has your answer.)
I don’t know how we missed out on this announcement last week, but apparently a company has just released a new Fedor Emelianenko iPhone application to allow fans to keep up with what the Russian heavyweight is up to, you know, just in case you haven’t quite figured out how to use Google.
When Dan Henderson tweeted a link to the above video interview with his boys at Clinch Gear Radio earlier today and promised it contained the “real deal” about his potential fight with Fedor Emelianenko, we didn’t exactly expect a bombshell. Didn’t get one, either, as Hendo and Co. spend most of the 10:45 talking about the Zuffa, LLC acquisition of Strikeforce and his light heavyweight title victory over Rafael Feijao. When the topic does finally turn to the rumored superfight with Emelianenko, Henderson says he’d be all for it, with one sort of surprising caveat: He says he wouldn’t take the fight if it is offered to him at 220-pounds.
Nope, as if to confirm his status as an all-around badass, Hendo sounds like he wants no part of such made-up nonsense, he’ll take Fedor at heavyweight or not at all. Watch the vid if you don’t believe us. “It would be an honor to fight him and if I did fight him, there would be no catchweight,” Henderson says. “I don’t do those at all. If I’m going to fight him at his weight, I’m going to fight him at his weight … I wouldn’t take the fight if it was at a catchweight.”
During a recent interview with the Russian sports news website MixFight.ru, M-1 Global president and the manager of Fedor Emelianenko, Vadim Finkelstein spoke a bit more about his thoughts on the recent acquisition of Strikeforce by Forza LLC, an offshoot of the UFC’s parent company Zuffa LLC. According to the man often referred to by Dana White as one of the “crazy Russian,” he is one of a growing number of people who aren’t buying the UFC president’s claims that in spite of the purchase, things will be business as usual for both promotions.
“The news of the acquisition of Strikeforce by Zuffa caught me so off guard that I initially did not believe it when I got the call from our partners telling us about it, but the next day the deal was reported on both of their official websites. What are my impressions? First of all, I do not believe that Strikeforce will somehow maintains its independence from the UFC and the organizations will continue to work as they did before. I do not believe that they will fight for the fighters’ best interests. I think that the fate of Strikeforce is quite predictable and will be a repeat the fate of other organizations that the UFC purchased.”
In spite of the fact that both former PRIDE champions are from completely different weight classes, it looks like a proposed bout between Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson and former pound-for-pound king Fedor Emelianenko has been agreed to in principle by both fighters.
According to a report by MMAFighting that cites Henderson’s manager Aaron Crecy as well as “a source with knowledge of the situation” and an unnamed rep from M-1 Global, Hendo and “The Last Emperor” have both said they would accept the fight if offered.