MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko and former heavyweight world champion Antonio “Big Foot” Silva participated in an international media conference call on Thursday to discuss the upcoming, highly anticipated STRIKEFORCE World Grand Prix – Heavyweight Tournament that begins on Saturday, Feb. 12, at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J., live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).
Also participating on the call were STRIKEFORCE CEO Scott Coker, SHOWTIME Sports Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Hershman and M-1 Global Co-Founder Vadim Finkelchtein.
In the main event, Fedor (31-2, 1 NC) will take on Silva (15-2) in a STRIKEFORCE and M-1 GLOBAL co-promoted event. The co-feature will match former world champion Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski (15-8) against Sergei Kharitonov (16-4), the last man to defeat STRIKEFORCE Heavyweight World Champion Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem, in the first of two quarterfinal fights in the three-stage, single-elimination tournament on Feb. 12.
The famed Fedor, 34, of Stary Oskol, Russia, will be making his first start since it was announced that STRIKEFORCE and M-1 GLOBAL, in association with SHOWTIME, had signed a new, multi-year agreement to co-promote events headlined by the MMA legend.
What the fighters and the executives had to say Thursday:
“Tickets for our event go on sale to the public tomorrow (Friday) at 10 a.m. Our pre-sale started yesterday and it was the largest pre-sale of any Fedor fight to date so we’re very excited about that.
“I’d like to thank Ken Hershman and all the guys at SHOWTIME. This is something we talked about three or four months ago and he gave us the green light to do it and it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. So I thank him and SHOWITME for believing in this event.
“There was some confusion on the rules and regulations so I just wanted to clarify. All quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be scheduled for three, five-minute rounds and the tournament final will be five, five-minute rounds for the STRIKEFORCE World Grand Prix Championship. Any fight that ends in a draw, an independent fourth judge will determine the winner and who advances based on the fighters overall performance in the fight. If a fighter qualifies to advance in the tournament but for whatever reason cannot continue to fight in the tournament, we are forming a five-person tournament review committee who will select a fighter to advance in his place. This fighter will come from a pool of fighters which will include previous opponents and winners of reserve matches.
“The review committee will be headed by STRIKEFORCE rules committee director Cory Schaefer, who has been with us since the beginning. The winner of the final match will be crowned STRIKEFORCE World Grand Prix Champion and will have the opportunity to fight for the STRIKEFORCE World Championship belt at that time.
“The tournament format in martial arts fighting has been around for a long time. I’ve (seen) a lot of tournaments in my day and I always thought this would be a fun tournament to (do) with all these great fighters. We took a look at the SHOWTIME boxing format and saw what they’ve done. It’s going to be a good ride and we hope everyone enjoys it.
“It’s an exciting time and we’ve been well received. We had the fighters in (New York City) this week and you can just feel the energy. Everybody’s just real excited and pumped to put these fights on.”
“Scott said it great. We’re thrilled to extend out agreement with M-1 Global and Fedor and we think it is going to be a real fruitful relationship for a long time to come. We’re even more thrilled that Fedor has agreed to jump into this tournament because having the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world as part of this collection took it to another level and we’re very proud of that.
“We’ve prided ourselves on putting on the best fights and if you look at this lineup that holds true. I thank Scott because I know through our Super Six (World Boxing Classic) how tough these things can be to put together. I can’t wait for the first set of fights.
“Scott has had to do a lot hard work on this as far as getting the fighters to come together. I think if you look at the lineup you have to extrapolate out that these are the eight top heavyweights in the world and that nothing would be easy getting them to agree on this. And Scott did this in a very quick amount of time.
“I think MMA is an important component to what we do at SHOWTIME. The sports offering has brought a new audience to SHOWTIME and it’s been successful beyond our original plans. I would label MMA as a very core part of our sports offering and I think the programming for all of SHOWTIME has been off the charts. We’re proud of the results we’ve delivered. I look back at how great the programming has been to date and then I look at the schedule for 2011 and it’s off the charts how great the schedule has been. This tournament is spectacular and a key component to what we’re doing and we could not be more excited about it. If you’re a sports fan, now is the time to subscribe to SHOWTIME.”
“I am very happy that we have a new deal and that we can now move forward on this with SHOWTIME and STRIKEFORCE. We are very, very happy that Fedor has reached a new deal and will fight more often than he has in the past. In my opinion this heavyweight tournament is a wonderful idea and a first for us being in the U.S. with the best heavyweights in the world. MMA fans will get more this year than they’ve ever hoped for.”
“Nothing has changed for me (since the loss). I train just as I’ve trained before. It just so happened that I had made an error in the previous fight so in training I have just worked on trying not to make that same mistake again. For me nothing has changed inside of me and I still have the same beliefs. I just want to train harder for the next fight.
“I feel very good about participating in this tournament. I feel very proud to be part of the eight who have been chosen and I feel proud to be representing my country in the tournament. I’m training to win the tournament. I’m training hard and whatever happens after that is up to God but I’m training hard and I look forward to performing.
“I’m ready and prepared to step into the cage against Fabricio (Werdum) at any time. It’s something that I’d very much like to do. In regard to Antonio, he’s a very tough opponent, a very dangerous opponent. We’ve never fought before so I’m very happy that we’re getting the opportunity to fight. We’ve seen each other in locker rooms and he’s always been very cordial and a nice person. He’s very qualified and I think it’s going to be a great fight. I really don’t think that I should be fighting anyone else and I’m just going to fight whoever they want me to fight.”
How does this compare to the Pride Tournament you participated in?
“I believe that this tournament has assembled enough quality fighters and some of the strongest and most interesting heavyweight fighters in the world so I think that in no way is this tournament any less than the ones I competed for with Pride. I believe it’s just as good, if not better.
“I don’t think that the years I spent in Pride can give me any type of advantage or dictate how I will perform in this tournament. Certainly experience in this tournament is something that is valuable. Nevertheless, I have to train very hard for this fight and we’ll see what happens.
“I’m probably going to train in Russia. I’m more comfortable there and I like to be close to my family. It’s likely I’ll probably stay in Russia. But I wouldn’t mind training somewhere else and with someone like Shane Carwin, who is a good fighter. But most likely I’ll stay in Russia.
“Many times people have sized me up and tried to say what my strengths and weaknesses are but if they say they’ve found what my biggest weakness is then let them take advantage of it.”
Why do you train in the remote mountain areas?
“Firstly when I train in the mountains in remote areas I train in the high altitude where it’s very cold — even near freezing. It just makes the entire training process that much more difficult, which I believe is beneficial because if I can get through it then I’ll be that much better for it. Another reason I do it is because nobody bothers me. All I do up there is train, eat and sleep. And all I need to concentrate on is the entire process of my training regimen without any distractions. I believe that’s what allows me to be in maximum shape leading up to a fight.”
ANTONIO “BIG FOOT” SILVA
“I am very happy to be fighting Fedor, who people still consider the No. 1 heavyweight in the world. Fedor is a legend and to be a legend you have to beat a legend. And I’m ready to be the best heavyweight in the world.
“Fedor is the best so this is the top of the food chain. For me, this is the final and I will give it all I have to make this happen. This is my dream and I’m going to beat the legend and I’m going to be a legend.
“I think Fedor is a complete fighter and he’s very well-rounded. It’s tough to determine how this fight will go. I think I will do more stand up in this fight. If it goes to the ground then it does. One thing I have in my mind is that Werdum showed to the world that Fedor’s main weakness is on the ground. But he’s a complete fighter and I’m going to follow where the fight goes.
“Everyone has been saying that I can be the man to beat Fedor in the future. And now I know in my mind that I can beat him. I know this is the right time and that God has given me this time and that I can beat the great Fedor.”