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Friday, July 29, 2011
Fedor versus Hendo and all its mystery

By Chuck Mindenhall

Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson
How they got here isn't important: What matters is what happens in the cage Saturday.
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- It’s immaterial at this point, because the fight is going down Saturday one way or another -- but the origins of Dan Henderson versus Fedor Emelianenko has conflicting reports.

Leading up to the fight, Henderson iterated (and then reiterated) that he didn’t necessarily ask for the fight, but he was more than happy to take it on the strength of fan enthusiasm. “I haven’t really wanted the fight,” he told ESPN.com last week. “It’s something that the media and the fans have been asking about since I signed with Strikeforce. It wasn’t me that was asking for this fight.”

At yesterday’s prefight news conference at Harry Caray’s in Chicago, Strikeforce executive Scott Coker had a different, particularly cheerful memory of how things went down when recounting for MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani.

“Actually it was simple,” he said. “Dan called me and said ‘look, I want to fight Fedor,’ and I said, ‘let’s do it.’ So I called up Steve Bash and said, ‘Steve, is this a fight Fedor would be interested in?’ and he said yeah, absolutely; it’d be an honor to fight him.’”

So did Hendo ask, or did Coker say 'humor me'? The answer closest the truth is: Yes. Realistically, nobody is bickering, even if the story’s not exactly straight, and nobody’s certain what ramifications this fight will have on either fighter’s career. (It could mean everything, and there’s a chance it could mean next to nothing -- that’s the fun of a “superfight”). Somehow the fight got put together, regardless of the ulterior.

But as both are former champions in Pride and were promotion-mates for all those glory years in Japan, the question could be asked of Fedor too. Was Dan Henderson ever on his radar for a superfight? Indeed, does he even have a radar?

“Well, I wouldn’t say I was a fan [of Henderson’s] but I definitely appreciated his career and liked following it,” Fedor told ESPN.com through his attorney, Bash. “To be honest with you though, I never thought that we’d fight together.”

Strange things happen over the course of long careers -- Randy Couture could have never foreseen fighting James Toney under unified MMA rules, and Ken Shamrock could have never foreseen fighting James Toney under … homemade MMA rules.

In prospect, a win and the 205-pound champ Henderson has negotiating power with Zuffa, and Fedor is forced to make a decision on whether to continue one or not. An Emelianenko victory restores a measure of the mystique he’s lost and probably seals the deal that we’ll see him fighting again. But that’s just one way of thinking.

Fedor himself doesn’t see this as a swan song regardless of outcome. When asked if he’d continue on after this weekend he made it sound obvious.

“Yeah, I think I’ll keep fighting,” he said. “Of course.”

At least that much is [probably] clear.