Strikeforce announced today that former PRIDE FC Heavyweight Champion and Affliction MMA headliner Fedor Emelianenko (30-1) has signed a multi-fight contract with the San Jose-based mixed martial arts promotion under a special co-promotion agreement with M-1 Global.
"The Last Emperor" was in cruise control under the Affliction MMA banner after back-to-back wins over former UFC Heavyweight Champions Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski.
He was in line for a WAMMA title defense against Josh Barnett at the Aug. 1 'Trilogy' event until "The Babyface Assassin" got popped for steroids in a random pre-fight drug test.
The financially unstable promotion closed up shop shortly thereafter, leaving Emelianenko (once again) the hottest free agent in mixed martial arts.
The Russian gladiator was first up for grabs following the collapse of Pride FC in 2007. The UFC lobbied hard to bring the Sambo champion on board however, talks broke down when the parties could not agree on an exclusive fight contract, eventually leading him to Affliction under his terms.
It was those terms that once again failed to bring him to the Octagon despite the financial efforts of Zuffa, who went on record with a guarantee that he would never see a deal as lucrative as the one they offered.
In the end, co-promotion was apparently more important than cash, as Strikeforce brings M-1 Global into a partnership similar to the one it had with the now-defunct Elite XC back in 2008.
From Vadim Finkelchtein, President of M-1 Global:
"I am very happy and excited about the upcoming collaboration with Strikeforce. We are very pleased that we found a reliable partner and I feel that Strikeforce and M-1 can support each other on many things. This will create big opportunities for both parties to test their fighters against worthy opponents."
Strikeforce currently has a heavyweight roster that's comprised of potential opponents like Brett Rogers, Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem.
"I am looking forward to going back to work and fighting at the highest level. Strikeforce is a top fight promotion that houses some of the greatest fighters in the world. I am prepared to fight any of them."
Most of the mixed martial arts community is presumably anxious to hear Zuffa's reaction after their intense negotiations with M-1 Global that ended with incredulous frustration.
In the meantime, fans can look forward to finally seeing the Stary Oskol native make his much anticipated debut inside a cage. It's worth noting that Brett Rogers was holding out for an October fight when first approached as a fill-in for Josh Barnett.
With Emelianenko's debut penciled in for Fall 2009, perhaps that's a match we'll get to see after all.