When the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix was announced back in January, it seemed inconceivable that the company could make it through its multi-event, year-long gala tournament with such a rouge’s gallery of participants intact.
Surely, Fedor Emelianenko – as he’s done before – would abruptly decide to renegotiate his contract midstream. Surely, Josh Barnett – as he’s done before – would fail a drug test or fail to get licensed by some athletic commission, likely just days before a scheduled event. Surely, Alistair Overeem – as he’s done before – would decide he wasn’t that interested in fighting regularly for Strikeforce. That he’d rather go have kickboxing fights in Japan or chase some other moneymaking scheme instead.
Score one for our early suspicions.
The culprit was Overeem this week, who announced that due to an injured toe – or hurt feelings – he’d be unable to make the promotion’s scheduled Sept. 10 date for his semifinal bout against Antonio Silva. Overeem was perturbed, he said, because he’d originally agreed to return in October or November and Strikeforce (and/or Showtime) had moved the date up without asking him. Or something like that.
Anyway, just 24 hours after he appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour radio show to voice his frustrations, Overeem was out, replaced by upstart prospect Daniel Cormier in bout now scheduled to go down in Cincinnati.
At first the potential seemed to be there for a major flap between Overeem and Zuffa, LLC., but UFC President Dana White moved quickly to say he thought it would blow over. With just one rumored fight left on Overeem’s Strikeforce deal, the whole thing has stirred rumors about what might happen to The Reem next.
He’s already made it clear he can take or leave Strikeforce, making it sound like he’d almost rather chase a fantastical boxing match with Wladimir Klitschko or just go back to K-1 now that the kickboxing promotion appears on the rise again. A more likely scenario? Overeem winds up in the UFC after – or maybe without – fulfilling that final fight on his SF deal. If they do run him out there for one more appearance in Scott Coker’s cage, I have no idea who they’ll book him against? The winner of the grand prix? Maybe, but that doesn’t do Strikeforce any favors if Overeem wins.
More immediately though, the sudden absence of Overeem leaves the Strikeforce grand prix in a tailspin. Of those three guys we mentioned at top, only Barnet still remains. How’s that for irony?
Emelianenko, as you probably know, was unexpectedly knocked out in the opening round by Antonio Silva and will now fight Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson in weirdo heavyweight superfight next weekend. If he loses, it could be curtains for the career of the man nearly universally lauded as the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
At the start, tournament organizers said the winner could lay legitimate claim to the world’s No. 1 heavyweight ranking, but now that the best matchup they can hope for is Barnett vs. Silva, I’m not sure that still flies. At this point, it looks like they’ll finish the damn thing, which might have been more than we could’ve hoped for at the start. But with Overeem and Fedor both gone, the whole tournament is starting to feel like much ado about nothing.