Fedor’s Strikeforce debut airs on CBS

Strikeforce makes its CBS debut with a live prime time event on Nov. 7, headlined by Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brett Rogers.

The match, which was at first slated for Showtime, is set for a 9-11 p.m. ET time slot. No site has been announced for the show. Chris DeBlasio of Showtime Sports expected a setting to be named imminently, once a contract with a venue is finalized.

It will be the first network prime time mixed martial arts broadcast since Oct. 4, 2008.

That event set the wheels in motion for the death of Elite XC, which had the prior CBS contract, when replacement fighter Seth Petruzelli knocked out Kimbo Slice in 14 seconds.

Strikeforce, however, is taking a different tact. Instead of building around someone like Slice, a well-known personality who delivered ratings but not a top fighter, they are going with the consensus top heavyweight fighter in the world.

Emelianenko (30-1, 1 no contest) has been generally considered the No. 1 heavyweight in the world since winning the heavyweight championship in the now-defunct PRIDE organization from current UFC star Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in 2003. He’s unbeaten in his last 27 fights, dating back to his only defeat, a loss on a fluke cut nine years ago.

Rogers (10-0) has knocked out every opponent he’s faced, eight in the first round, but the only name fighter he’s beaten was Andrei Arlovski.

Rogers knocked out the former UFC heavyweight champion in 22 seconds in his most recent fight in June. Rogers will go in with a significant size advantage, at 6-foot-5 and cutting to 265 pounds while Emelianenko is 6-0 and fights between 230-235 pounds.

Arlovski was also the most recent victim of Emelianenko, in a Jan. 24 fight in Anaheim, Calif., for the now-defunct Affliction promotion, winning by knockout in 3:14.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to bring the Strikeforce brand to CBS,” said Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker. “We are looking forward to briging MMA back to the network and 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.”

Sources close to the situation said this was not the beginning of a multi-fight contract with CBS, and at this point it is the only network show agreed to.

Elite XC produced three events on CBS in 2008, two of which were considered ratings successes, built around Slice and Gina Carano. A third, an attempt to build around fighters like Jake Shields and Robbie Lawler, was not a ratings winner.

With Emelianenko, his name recognition clearly trumps that of Shields and Lawler, but he’s unproven in terms of the kind of appeal to the casual sports fan that is needed when a show is on a major network in prime time. A big advantage is that by holding the event during football season, the network has a target audience to promote toward.

The date will be difficult for the brand leader, UFC, to counter, since UFC already has announced shows on Oct. 24 in Los Angeles on pay-per-view, Nov. 14 in Manchester, England on Spike TV, and Nov. 21 in Las Vegas on PPV.

The Strikeforce show, which will feature four live fights, will be produced by Showtime Sports, using the Showtime announcing crew of Gus Johnson, Frank Shamrock and Mauro Ranallo.

Dave Meltzer covers mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Send Dave a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Sep 17, 2009