Fedor Emelianenko bout announced
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker discussed the fight, set to air July 30 on Showtime from Hoffman Estates, Ill., during a news conference at the MGM Grand.
Emelianenko's camp asked for a 216-220 pound cap, partly as a mechanism to ensure the 34-year-old Russian heavyweight great shows up in shape. Henderson, the current Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, said from the outset that he would agree to compete anywhere on the scale against the former Pride champion.
More important than negotiations over weight during the past several months was whether the bout would air on pay-per-view. Multiple sources confirmed that Emelianenko's $1.5 million purse combined with Henderson's $800,000 payday ensured the date was a money loser, but in the end pay-per-view was eschewed for a slot on Showtime, which has the option of renewing its television rights deal with the Strikeforce brand early next year.
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The summer bout marks the first time M-1 Global, Emelianenko's management and promotional company, will work in a joint venture with Zuffa, which bought Strikeforce in March. The promoters share a less than idyllic relationship after several contentious negotiations regarding Emelianenko's services.
In Emelianenko's most recent appearance in the cage, a punishing technical-knockout loss against Antonio Silva in February, the Russian appeared softer than usual around his midsection. He has since traveled to the Netherlands, where he worked on his fitness and technical striking skills.
Emelianenko is scheduled to do so again before meeting Henderson in the suburbs of Chicago.
"I can tell you what Dan [Henderson] told me, he told me I can fight [Emelianenko] at any weight, anytime, any place, just let me fight Fedor," Coker said. "So Dan's really the one who pushed to fight Fedor. He said I've always wanted to fight him, I think I can beat him, and so let's get it on."
Emelianenko has lost two in a row for the first time in his career. Henderson, 40, is 2-1 since signing with Strikeforce last year.
Both Emelianenko (31-3) and Henderson (27-8) are considered among mixed martial arts' most accomplished fighters. Based on the terms of Henderson's contract, the former two-division Pride champion was also owed a fight by the end of July or Strikeforce would be in violation their agreement, parties familiar with Henderson's deal confirmed.
A rumored but unconfirmed undercard could include Muhammed Lawal, a bout between former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael Cavalcante and Ovince St. Preux, as well as a welterweight tilt between Evangelista Santos and Tarec Saffiedine.
Josh Gross covers mixed martial arts for ESPN.com.
Chuck Mindenhall covers MMA for ESPN.com and is a features writer at FIGHT! magazine. He can be followed on Twitter at @ChuckMindenhall.