Two days after Fedor Emelianenko suffered his second consecutive loss and said in his post-fight interview that it might be time to walk away, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said he expects Fedor to return rather than retire.
And Coker already has an opponent for Fedor in mind: The loser of the April 9 bout between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum.
"If the fighter doesn't want to fight you're not gonna want him to fight," Coker told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. "If the fighter doesn't want to fight the promoter doesn't make him fight. And if he wants to retire then it's time to walk away. But I don't think that's the case ... and I think the loser of Overeem and Werdum, that would be a great fight for Fedor."
A Fedor-Werdum rematch has been discussed since the night in June when Werdum shocked the MMA world and submitted Fedor. And a Fedor-Overeem fight has been viewed since Fedor first signed with the promotion as the biggest fight Strikeforce could put together. So it's easy to see why Strikeforce would be eager to book either of those bouts.
But there are questions about how that would work, and those questions go beyond whether Fedor wants to fight anymore. One thing that's not clear is whether an Overeem-Fedor fight would be for Overeem's Strikeforce heavyweight title. The Overeem-Werdum tournament fight is a non-title match, which means that Overeem would still be the champion if he loses to Werdum. Coker has previously said that if Overeem didn't win the tournament, it would be the tournament winner who would fight Overeem for the Strikeforce heavyweight title. Coker may have changed his mind now that Fedor has been bounced out of the tournament.
It's also not clear where the Overeem-Werdum fight will take place. Coker said he expects to know soon.
"We don't have anything to announce today," Coker said of the venue for the April 9 card. "There's nothing solid, nothing guaranteed."
No matter what happens with the Werdum-Overeem fight, however, Coker seems excited not only about the prospect of the winner fighting Antonio Silva in the tournament semifinals, but also about the prospect of the loser fighting Fedor, whom Coker said will return to the cage, despite comments suggesting otherwise.
"I'm sure he wasn't feeling good and he said, 'Hey, is this really worth it?'" Coker said of Fedor's post-fight interview. "But I have no doubt he will be back."
And when he is back, either Overeem or Werdum is likely to face him next.