The Mirko Filipovic vs. Fedor Emelianenko Heavyweight Championship match, as anticipated as the Middleweight Grand Prix, has been delayed due to an injury sustained by Fedor. However, Dream Stage Entertainment announced the replacement match at a press conference on October 16th. Mirko, undefeated in the last 2 years, will go head-to-head with the former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. This will be a showdown between extreme striking and extreme grappling.

"To put it plainly, Fedor is out. However, we have an opponent who is about as tough as Fedor lined up." PRIDE General Manager Nobuhiko Takada continued, "Mirko's opponent will be Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira." Takada explained at the conference that Fedor has broken a bone in his right hand. "Don't you want to find out which is the strongest, striking or grappling?" And just as Takada said, this match lacks nothing in comparison to a possible Mirko/Fedor fight.

This match will be for the PRIDE FC Interim Heavyweight Championship. Fedor, will put the true Championship on the line at PRIDE 27, schedule for February 1, 2004 at Osaka Castle Hall. Although, it's possible that another extension will be possible, depending on Fedor's recovery. Mirko, coming off a lighting-fast win over Dos Caras Jr., verified that he is in top condition and ready to battle, "I don't just want to fight Fedor. I want to fight whoever has the belt." Mirko's motivation doesn't seem to have dropped at all with the change of opponent. Not to mention that Nogueira, the former Champion, wants to be known as the strongest in the world. Although it's for an Interim title, there's not mistaking that beating his new opponent would give Mirko his so-desired title of the world's strongest and most-complete fighter.

Nogueira also has a lot on the line in this match, Takada said. "We got an OK from Nogueira's side after only 2 replies." Nogueira lost the belt to Fedor in February of this year and wasn't able to perform like he wanted in his comeback match against Rico Rodriguez in August. Although it looked like he might be on his way out, Nogueira has take a step forward on the road back to Fedor. This is a rare, and unexpected, chance for him and Nogueira doesn't plan on letting it slip through his fingers. In fact, before his fight Fedor, Mirko was the opponent that Nogueira himself wanted the most.

Nogueira gained the PRIDE Heavyweight Championship title in his 3rd PRIDE match, after defeating the PRIDE GP 2000 Champion, Mark Coleman, by submission. It's a natural progression that Mirko face Nogueira in his quest for the Championship.




Fedor injured his right hand in his August fight with Gary Goodridge. However, he started training hard in the end of August for his upcoming bout with Mirko. Despite his training menu being designed so as not cause much stress to his hand, it became clear on November 15th that the base of his right thumb was broken.

He received extensive treatment by the only 2 Russian Presidential doctors in Moscow but it became necessary to put a cast on the hand on November 25th. It would take at least 2 weeks before the cast could be removed and Fedor won't be able to resume training until December at the earliest but January being better. Despite his prognosis, Fedor still wanted to fight Fedor in November. The opinion of both the official doctor and DSE was that he should not fight until he is completely healed, so that neither side would have any doubts over the result.