Fedor Emelianenko's next fight booked for Strikeforce in July

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Fedor Emelianenko retiring? Not nyet.

Despite a somber post-fight retirement speech following his Feb. 12 shellacking at the hands of Brazilian "Bigfoot" Antonio Silva, the past "Emperor" is likely to make a last-ditch effort to go out on a high note when he returns to the Strikeforce cage this summer.

July 2011, to be exact.

That's when the former WAMMA-Jamma is expected to compete against an opponent to be named. And whaddaya know, his planned participation comes not that long after Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix alternate Shane del Rosario expressed an interest in letting Emelianenko take his spot as a possible entrant in the ongoing tournament.

But would he have to take it by force?

Del Rosario earned his place in line by submitting Lavar Johnson at the "Fedor vs. Silva" event last month in New Jersey, but it's no secret that Strikeforce and M-1 Global have been trying to find a way to get its top ratings draw back into the fold.

From Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker (via Sherdog.com):

"Fedor's gonna fight sometime in July. It's probably toward the end of July or mid-July, but we have fights with Fedor that we're gonna honor and continue forward. We're gonna do the co-branding exercise that we do with M-1 every time we do fights with them. The opponent has not been chosen, but I think having Fedor involved close to the tournament as an alternate is definitely a possibility. You gotta perform. I think he did a good job against Silva, and that worked out the way he did, but he's still a competitive fighter that can compete at the highest level on any given Saturday night. I think this next one's gonna be very important. He's gonna have to perform."

Fedor Emelianenko is returning to Strikeforce, but against who?

The Showtime network has always maintained a certain level of creative control over the event broadcasts (and Emelianenko's contract) and it may want to get the most from its investment as possible, which means keeping him above water until he no longer proves to be ratings-worthy.

And that's a distinct possibility if the former PRIDE champion drops three straight.

That means a Del Rosario fight carries a certain amount of risk and may eventually give way to a different kind of opponent like Chad "Grave Digger" Griggs, who extended his 15 minutes of Lashley fame after playing spoiler against Gian Villante in his previous appearance for the San Jose-based promotion.

Unfortunately M-1 reps continue to shoot down rumors of a possible drop to light heavyweight for a Dan Henderson "superfight," but like we've learned time and time again, never say "never" in this sport.

Nothing is confirmed at this time, but if you're in charge of Strikeforce matchmaking, what's the best option for everyone involved (i.e. fans, promoters and Emelianenko)?

Let's hear your pick in the attached poll.

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