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Fedor Emelianenko May Receive Strikeforce Title Shot in Debut After All

Earlier this week, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said that he would like to "build" to a title fight between current Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem and the organization's newest big man, Fedor Emelianenko.

"[Fedor] and Alistair Overeem should be an amazing fight, and people that haven't seen Alistair, you know, he's an amazing fighter," said Coker. "I think we should do a couple of fights and build that one up, and then let their champion fight our champion, and let's see what happens. We're hoping that Alistair will be ready to fight in the Fall, and we can put him on one of the cards with Fedor, and not fight against each other but fight against someone else, and let's build that fight up."

After hearing these comments, some MMA fans and pundits were left wondering why arguably the best fighter in the world would not receive an immediate title shot when Strikeforce newcomers Fabricio Werdum and Jay Hieron, for example, were granted title shots in their debuts. However, on Thursday's conference call, Coker seemed more open to the idea of Emelianenko challenging for the title right away.

"I didn't say that we would; I didn't say that we wouldn't," Coker said. "I think that our champion, Alistair Overeem, and M-1's champion, Fedor, would be a fantastic fight, and that probably will happen at some point. But like I said, this deal went down so fast, and before you know it, we're on this conference call. So I have to circle back with everyone involved, including Showtime, and then we'll make a decision and let you guys know."

Coker added that he was "sure" Overeem, who has been forced to withdraw from two scheduled title defenses due to an infected hand suffered in a nightclub brawl in Amsterdam earlier this year, would "be ready to fight in the fall."

No word on when Emelianenko will make his Strikeforce debut, but it's also expected to be in the fall. Coker said that an announcement could come as early as Friday.

Interestingly enough, when M-1 Global president Vadim Finkelchtein responded to UFC president Dana White's recent comments to Cage Writer about Emelianenko not wanting "to fight the best and doesn't give a [expletive] about the fans," Finkelchtein implied that Brett Rogers -- not Brock Lesnar or even Overeem -- would be the most attractive opponent for Emelianenko.

"Whom does Dana White consider to be the best fighters?" he said. "The fighter which has their record 4-1? ... Maybe this is the fighter which became the product of the great PR machine of the UFC. Brett Rogers is a very good opponent -- a much better opponent for Fedor."

The biggest winner in the Emelianenko sweepstakes may be Showtime, as the premium cable network can now boast that they are the home to the best heavyweight fighter in mixed martial arts. Showtime's senior vice president and general manager of sports and event programming, Ken Hershman, said that the network will get to work early on spreading the word about Emelianenko, who despite his status as one of the best fighters in the world, isn't as popular as some of the UFC's stars due to, among other things, his quite demeanor and the fact that he rarely speaks in English.

"We're actually beginning our planning now," Hershman said. "We're going to be starting with just some teases that we can market on Showtime and across the Internet to begin introducing Fedor. For us, Fedor is a sold commodity among the hardcore fans; they all know him, obviously. Everyone recognizes him as the best fighter in the world. So, what we have to do is reach out beyond the hardcore fan base and reach the casual fans and the regular general sports fans, and begin to generate excitement. I mean, this is the most exciting fighter out there, and even if you're not a hardcore mixed martial arts fan, you're still going to get a lot of excitement watching him do his thing in the cage. So, it's a big task, but we're up to it, and we have some great support from our partners, and look for some great stuff to come."

Check out the audio from Thursday's Strikeforce/M-1 Global conference call below.

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