by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
Dream Stage Entertainment has announced on its Japanese web site that Fedor Emelianenko has been forced to withdraw from the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix, and his replacement will be none other than “The Axe Murderer,” Wanderlei Silva.
Dream Stage had hoped that Fedor would be ready to fight in time for the second round of the Grand Prix when it takes place on July 1st, but the surgery to repair Fedor’s severely damaged hand has a very long recovery process. Fedor’s doctor stated that the metal plate in Fedor’s hand would not be ready to be surgically removed until June at the earliest, which would make it impossible for Fedor to fight on July 1st.
Pride Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva will now get the first-round bye that was originally given to Fedor as the Heavyweight Champion, and will complete what is arguably the best “final eight” in any tournament in the history of MMA. The eight quarter-finalists are Wanderlei Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Cro Cop, Mark Hunt, Hidehiko Yoshida, Josh Barnett, Kazuyuki Fujita, and Fabricio Werdum. The quarter-final match-ups will be announced in the coming weeks.
The announcement that Silva will be competing in the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix brings to an end, at least temporarily, a contract dispute between Silva and DSE that had lasted for several months. Silva’s contract with DSE expired after his split decision victory over Ricardo Arona on New Year’s Eve, and he had been working out the terms of a new contract with DSE ever since. There was also considerable interest in Wanderlei Silva as a free agent from the rest of the MMA community at large, but it’s not known if the UFC in particular ever seriously pursued Silva with the kind of money that it would take to sign him.
The Wrestling Observer reported a few weeks before the first round of the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix that DSE wanted to make the match-up of Wanderlei Silva vs. Mark Coleman for the first round, and that Silva and Coleman agreed to fight each other, provided that they could each come to financial terms on their respective Pride contracts.
Silva didn’t reach a financial agreement with DSE on his contract, so the fight never happened. As for Coleman, DSE President Nobuyuki Sakakibara inexplicably said at a press conference that he could have chosen Mark Coleman or Zulu, Jr. to fight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the first round of the tournament, and he said that he made the decision to go with Zulu, Jr. instead of Coleman because, “Zulu, Jr. is like the Brazilian Bob Sapp.”
While the fact that Silva is participating in the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix means that he is no longer a free agent at this moment, that may or may not be the case a few months from now. The specific terms of Silva’s contract, such as how many fights are on his new Pride contract, were not disclosed by DSE.
If Silva’s new contract is a long-term deal, then he’ll be staying with Pride for the forseeable future. If it’s just a contract for Silva to participate in the Open Weight Grand Prix and nothing more, then he could be right back to being a highly sought free agent a few months from now.