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Strikeforce Boss Scott Coker: UFC Has a Good Business, So Do We

Of all the smaller mixed martial arts promotions that have come and gone through the years of the Ultimate Fighting Championship dominating MMA, only one has been generally given favorable reviews from UFC President Dana White.

That one was Strikeforce, run by Scott Coker. But this week, when Coker and Strikeforce acquired the services of top-ranked heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko shortly after he spurned the UFC's offer, White ripped Strikeforce as having made a fatal mistake.

In an interview with FanHouse on Friday, Coker responded to those comments and said he thinks highly of the UFC's business, but that he is confident he made a wise decision by signing Fedor. The interview is below.

'The MMA Hour' Podcast: Fedor to Strikeforce, more

Michael David Smith: How does it feel to be Dana White's newest enemy?
Scott Coker: (Laughs) Well, I was a little surprised. I don't really even know how to respond to that. They have a great business. We have a good business, and we're going to do our own business. We've got big fights coming up next Saturday, we'll focus on that and on Fedor and just move forward.

Let me address with you a few of Dana's specific comments. First, he said, "They have no money" and Fedor will put you out of business. Have you guys extended yourselves too far to sign Fedor?
I can't talk about the deal, but we're comfortable. We're backed by the company that owns the San Jose Sharks, Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment. We have strong partners. I know sometimes those comments come rolling off the tongue, but if we couldn't do a deal that would work for everybody, including our partners, M-1, we wouldn't do it. It's not like we just said, "Oh, there's Fedor, I'm a fan of Fedor, let's do it."

When I sat down with Vadim Finkelchtein and the M-1 guys, when they were in town for the Affliction fight that didn't happen, they said they had other offers including the UFC, and I said that was fine. I wasn't privy to their conversations with the UFC, but for whatever reason it didn't work out, and they came to us, and it worked out and Fedor will do his thing.

Dana White also said Strikeforce has "no fighters" and he said Fedor's opponents will be "nobodies." Can you assure MMA fans that you're going to put Fedor in the cage with top-notch opponents?
Yes. You're an MMA guy. You know that when Brett Rogers knocked out Andrei Arlovski, he legitimized himself. You know that Alistair Overeem is a great fighter. You know that Fedor has the challenge of fighting in a cage for the first time. Fedor is M-1's champion and Alistair is Strikeforce's champion, and when that fight happens, that will be great. I'd put Alistair up there with anybody, and him and Fedor is going to be a great fight. I look forward to the day when our champion and M-1's champion get in the cage together.

When will Fedor's first Strikeforce fight be, and will it definitely be a title fight? You mentioned that he's M-1's champion. Does that mean he could be in a five-round title fight even if it's not against Overeem?
That's still being negotiated with M-1. But he has agreed to fight, and agreed to fight in the cage -- I was wondering if he'd say he wanted to fight in the ring after seeing how guys like Mirko Cro Cop struggled in the cage. But we'll see about the number of rounds and the opponent in October.

Will Fedor's debut definitely be in October?
October or by mid-November, for sure. And it'll be free with your Showtime subscription, so you don't have to pay $44.95 or $54.95.

Dana calls you guys "a small-town show," and "a little regional show with no one in it." And he said "they should have stayed where they were." Is there some truth to that? Would you be better off staying more regional and not spending the money to get such a well-known international fighter as Fedor?
To say Strikeforce on Showtime is regional, that's just not accurate. It's just propaganda. People say what they say. We're just going to move forward. We've been putting on some amazing fights in our four months with Showtime, and we're going to keep getting better. Four or five people were bidding on Fedor's services, and for us to get him, I feel like we hit the lottery.

I know some boxing promoters were interested in signing Fedor, as was the UFC. How did you get him?
I think the biggest thing for M-1 is that they wanted to do a co-promotion, and we were happy to do that, just as we've done co-promotions with other MMA promoters in the past, and just as Oscar De La Hoya and Bob Arum will co-promote a boxing fight.

I will say, it happened quicker than I thought. We talked to them in California, and they told me maybe they'd get back to me in a week, maybe 10 days, maybe two weeks. And then they called me Sunday and said, "Let's go." We got it done Sunday night around midnight.

Do you think the UFC will compete head-to-head with you? Will there be a live UFC show on Spike, or a re-airing of UFC 100 or something, at the same time that you have Fedor's debut on Strikeforce?
They've done that before to our Showtime program, so would that surprise me? No. But you'd have to ask them. I really don't know.

Can you clear up what's going on with your August 15 light heavyweight fight, Gegard Mousasi vs. Babalu Sobral, the fight you picked up from the Affliction show? There have been rumors that the UFC is trying to take legal action to stop that fight from happening. Is there any truth to that?
No. When Affliction sold their business to UFC, or whatever they did -- I'm not sure what the structure was -- they signed over the contracts. But Mousasi never had a contract with Affliction. They only had a bout agreement with Mousasi for that one fight. We've had an agreement for a while now for Mousasi to fight with Strikeforce. And here's another thing I don't understand: Mousasi has a contract with Dream, and a prior commitment to fight with Dream. With the policy that the UFC has, how are they going to let him do that? We're open to that, and that means fans will get to see the best MMA, and fights that wouldn't happen otherwise.

A longer interview with Coker, in which he discusses Strikeforce's plans going forward and the August 15 fight between Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg, will run next week at FanHouse. Follow my MMA Twitter page for updates.

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