EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Although the MMA legend hinted at retirement following a second-round TKO loss to Antonio Silva, Fedor Emelianenko's fighting career may not be over.
Both Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker and Emelianenko's agent, M-1 Global president Vadim Finkelchtein, want the 34-year-old to continue.
And Coker could dangle an intriguing opportunity should Emelianenko wish to continue fighting: first dibs on any alternate spots that open in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix.
Emelianenko (31-3 MMA, 1-2 SF) and Silva (16-2 MMA, 3-1 SF) headlined Saturday's Showtime-televised "Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva" event at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J. After a close first round, Silva unloaded a brutal ground-and-pound assault in the second. With the Russian's right eye swollen shut, the cageside physician halted the bout after before the start of the third round, which resulted in Emelianenko's second consecutive defeat since a legendary decade-long win streak.
The bout was part of the opening round of Strikeforce's eight-man, season-long heavyweight tournament. And though three tourney-reserve bouts populated Saturday's main card, any available alternate spots instead could go to Emelianenko.
"There's absolutely a possibility he could be a replacement," Coker told MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps | MMAjunkie.com
) after the show. "That's the beauty of the tournament. You don't know what could happen in the next leg of the tournament. As this tournament unwinds over the year, there could be an injury, and you could see Fedor back in the tournament."
Decisions about injury replacements ultimately will be made by a Strikeforce committee, as Coker previously announced. And though Shane Del Rosario, Chad Griggs and Valentijn Overeem all won reserve bouts at Saturday's show, Emelianenko could cut to the front of the line.
Emelianenko undoubtedly would be the biggest draw of the four. But Coker said there would be other reasons for the selection. Namely, that Silva vs. Emelianenko was cut short by an injury.
"It was a tough fight out there," Coker said. "Like Alistair (Overeem) said, Fedor always comes back in the third round. But he didn't get a chance today. (With) the stoppage today, I don't think Fedor could see. He may have even had an orbital fracture, but safety comes first. He'll have another day."
Regardless, Coker said he and Emelianenko, who recently signed a new multi-fight deal with Strikeforce, have plenty of bouts ahead. Neither he nor Finkelchtein appeared to take Emelianenko's retirement talk seriously.
"You know how that goes," Coker said. "Guys get very emotional after fights. We'll see."
Finkelchtein, who said the doctor's stoppage was "the right decision," thinks Emelianenko may have just been emotional when he mentioned the possibility of retiring.
"I think Fedor was just upset," he said. "That decision, of course, belongs to Fedor. But I think I know him well, and I think he's full so full of strength. I think he will continue."
Emelianenko, arguably the greatest heavyweight in MMA history and one of the sport's most accomplished fighters, suffered a June loss to Fabricio Werdum, which snapped a staggering 27-fight win streak. The former PRIDE champion now has suffered consecutive defeats.