LAS VEGAS – The superfight between Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson, which has been rumored since shortly after Henderson won the Strikeforce light heavyweight title in March, is official.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced Saturday the main event for a July 30 card at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill., a northwest suburb of Chicago. Emelianenko, a heavyweight, and Henderson, currently a light heavyweight, will fight at a catch weight of 220 pounds on the Showtime-broadcast card.
Coker said the fight is one Henderson has wanted for a long time, and was willing to move up in weight to face Emelianenko.
"Dan told me, 'I'll fight him at any weight, any time, any place. Just let me fight Fedor,' " Coker said. "So Dan's really the one that pushed to fight Fedor. He said, 'I've always wanted to fight him, I think I can beat him, so let's get it on.' But then the managers get involved, and consultants get involved, and they start talking to (Emelianenko manager) Vadim (Finkelstein), and that's the weight that everybody agreed on. Fedor's a heavyweight, so to ask him to drop to 205 is really quite a drop. But Dan was more than willing to come up."
The promotion last hosted an event at the Sears Centre in November 2009 – Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers. In that main event, Emelianenko beat Brett Rogers by second-round TKO.
After a loss to Jake Shields in his Strikeforce debut, Henderson knocked out Renato "Babalu" Sobral last December, then won the light heavyweight tittle with a third-round TKO of Rafael Cavalcante in Columbus, Ohio, in March.
Emelianenko, regarded by many as the best mixed martial arts fighter in history, went nearly 10 years without a loss before tapping out to a triangle-armbar combination against Fabricio Werdum last June. He followed that up with a TKO loss to Antonio Silva in February when the cageside doctor stopped the fight after the second round when Emelianenko was having trouble seeing.
Coker said the promotion considered several major U.S. markets for the fight before settling on a return to the Chicago area.
"Chicago's a great city for sports and MMA," Coker said. "When we were identifying the market for Fedor, obviously you have to think about the New York area. You have to think about Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. And Chicago, with the Russian community there, we thought was a natural fit. Dan Henderson, he's loved everywhere in this country. So we thought that fight made a lot of sense in Chicago."
Coker also announced Saturday that after the June 24 Strikeforce Challengers show in Kent, Wash., all future Challengers shows will take place at The Pearl at The Palms in Las Vegas. Strikeforce previously steered clear of Las Vegas shows because of the Zuffa's heavy presence there. But after Zuffa purchased Strikeforce earlier this year, the doors were opened. The first Challengers show in Las Vegas will take place July 22 with a main event featuring Bobby Voelker vs. Roger Bowling – a trilogy grudge rematch.
And at the June 18 Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum card in Dallas, which airs live on Showtime, Strikeforce will tread more new ground with a preliminary card airing live on HDNet. HDNet's "Inside MMA" weekly show will air the event's weigh-ins live on June 17. Coker said the HDNet deal, for now, is just for the Dallas event – which features the two remaining quarterfinals of the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament, plus the return of Gina Carano, who Coker confirmed will face Sarah D'Alelio.