How Big of a Role did Showtime Play in Contract Negotiations Between Strikeforce and Fedor?

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Alongside news of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, word of Fedor Emelianenko's contract extension with the promotion has been released as well. Josh Gross has an excellent piece covering the story at ESPN, a few things stand out though:

Completing arduous contract talks between Emelianenko's promoter, M-1 Global, Strikeforce and Showtime that kept the Russian out of action for the second half of 2010, the 34-year-old fighter signed a four-event extension with Showtime and Strikeforce just before the new year, his manager Vadim Finkelstein confirmed to ESPN.com.

"The deal took so long and there was so much beating of the deal that I think at one point I was numb to the whole thing ...," Finkelstien said.

"I think early on there was a little doubt in my mind [that we could complete an extension with M-1 and Emelianenko]," Coker said. "But over the last two months I started feeling really good about it. We had to wait, but a fighter like Fedor is worth it."

Several sources close to the talks told ESPN.com that Showtime took the lead in negotiations, though Hershman said that characterization wasn't accurate.

"This is just three parties coming together trying to work a deal that made sense for everyone," said the Showtime Sports boss. "This wasn't us leading anything. I do think we've had a lot of experience with talent at that level working with [Mike] Tyson and [Evander] Holyfield, and some of the other guys we've worked with over the years. We hoped to bring that to the table and use that experience to make sure everybody comes away feeling pretty good about the process. I think in this case they did and we certainly did."

It's immediately apparent that Showtime has played a pivotal role in these negotiations, with an announcement expected to come from Showtime and M-1 Global soon regarding M-1 events airing on Showtime.  Of course none of the parties involved will say who had to take the reigns in the negotiations, but judging from some of the results in this outcome, and what some people are saying, Showtime is the one who got this deal done.  

The relationship between Strikeforce and Showtime is a two edged sword.  On one hand, Strikeforce has a partner that can go in and make big deals like this one.  Showtime has used it's channel as a bargaining chip here, now going to show M-1 events, giving M-1 a very solid platform here in North America.  On the other hand, we see some power removed from the promoter, the brand taking a backseat while Showtime handles production and now a portion of big negotiations. 

This is why Dana White and the UFC have been so adamant in their stance while speaking with networks about potential deals.  Their way has always worked for them, and bringing in a third party would only cause problems in their case.  Strikeforce's partnership with Showtime isn't a bad thing, it works for them, but depending on who they work with, the relationship can be abused.  M-1 has yanked their chain ever since they signed Fedor Emelianenko, wanting to co-promote, renegotiate, sign multiple fighters just to have Fedor himself, and now have their own events aired on Showtime.  

Here's Scott Coker discussing Fedor's resigning with Mike Chiapetta at MMA Fighting:

Fedor & M-1 have renegotiated after each of your first two fights with him. Does this new deal with him cover the entire scope of the tournament?

Yes, it covers the tournament and even further. No more renegotiation. The beauty of the deal, and I can't get into the details of the contract, but it's multi-fight and multi-year. Fedor will be doing co-promotion with Strikeforce, M-1 and Showtime for many years to come.

So you can't say how many fights this adds to his deal?

I can't talk about the details of the contract.

Do you think you have him locked up for the rest of his career, or is that too far-reaching?

I think it's very possible.

Could it really be that Strikeforce and Showtime have finally appeased M-1 Global?  I would like to think so.  Having events aired on Showtime is likely something M-1 has had their eye on for quite some time, with MMA Payout catching wind of the talks back in late September.  It's not hard to fathom that M-1 had been looking for a TV deal since the beginning of Fedor's relationship with Strikeforce.  So, have we truly arrived at a point in Fedor's career where M-1 is pleased, and Fedor will fight consistently for the rest of his career?  As I said...I would like to think so...but I do not.  M-1 is going to take, take, and take until Strikeforce, Showtime, or both of them are fed up with it.  

Whether or not Fedor makes it through this tournament without M-1 holding him back for some sort of "renegotiation" will be a good indicator of what the future holds for these promoters, and the fighters they deal with.  My biggest hope for this tournament is to see Fedor go through it without any interference by his management.  M-1 Global has their priorities, which is completely understandable, but as a fight fan, I just want to see Fedor fight before it's too late, and he makes the decision to retire.  

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