Strikeforce, CBS reach deal for Fedor's debut

2009-09-17T15:40:00Z Strikeforce, CBS reach deal for Fedor's debutMATT ERICKSON, matt.erickson@nwi.com, (219) 933-3275 nwitimes.com
September 17, 2009 3:40 pm  • 

Strikeforce announced today that it will be back on CBS, in prime time, on Nov. 7.

And as expected, the company will showcase its newly signed poster boy, Fedor Emelianenko, widely considered the world's best fighter, in a heavyweight bout with Brett Rogers.

This will be the first time Fedor will fight in front of a broadcast television audience. His previous fights have all been overseas or on pay-per-view.

CBS previously has shown MMA in prime time with broadcasts of the now-defunct EliteXC.

Strikeforce said in a press release Thursday that the telecast would feature four fights starting at 8 p.m. Central time on Nov. 7, a Saturday.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship, the dominant promotion in the MMA world, already has two fights scheduled for November -- UFC 105 on Nov. 14 in Manchester, England, that will be shown for free on Spike TV, and UFC 106, a pay-per-view on Nov. 21. In past similar instances, the UFC has offered counter-programming to its competition, typically for free on Spike. It is not yet known if the UFC will attempt a similar strategy on Nov. 7, but at one point company president Dana White said he would attempt to offer a third show in November that would be neither on pay-per-view or on Spike. That set off speculation that the UFC was working toward a TV deal of its own, but that has yet to happen.

The Strikeforce debut for Fedor, regardless of what the UFC might do to counter-program it, could prove to be very successful, even beyond hardcore MMA fans. The UFC attempted to sign Fedor, but when negotiations broke down, he signed with Strikeforce. MMA fans have been anxiously waiting for his debut.

"There's no question this is a sport that is fast becoming a force in popularity and as a business," Kelly Kahl, Senior Executive Vice President, Prime Time, CBS Television, said in a press release. "We're excited to be the platform that will enable millions more to see the athlete regarded as the very best in his sport. The No. 1 heavyweight on the most-watched network has a very nice ring to it."

Fedor is 30-1 and hasn't lost in nearly nine years. That lone loss was merely a technicality when he was cut and it was ruled a loss instead of a no-contest because of a tournament format. Rogers is 10-0 and is coming off a quick dismantling of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in St. Louis in June.

So Strikeforce and CEO Scott Coker know a good thing when they see one.

"It's an honor to have the opportunity to bring the Strikeforce brand to CBS," Coker said. "We are looking forward to bringing MMA back to the network and to having the world's No. 1 heavyweight -- Fedor -- compete for the first time on live network television against one of America's most promising young, undefeated stars -- Brett Rogers."

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