Scott Coker emerged this afternoon to confirm what has been rumored for weeks — the second half of Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix quarterfinal bouts have been postponed. Instead of the previously announced April 9 date, Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum and Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers will take place on June 18 in Dallas, Texas.
“The overwhelming success in New Jersey set the bar high,” Coker today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) in a prepared statement. “With a record pre-sale for Strikeforce tickets and a record viewership on Showtime, we’ve now given ourselves the proper amount of time to promote in one of the country’s biggest markets.”
Coker confirmed that Strikeforce will still run a show on April 9 in California (Josh Gross is hearing San Diego), and it will be headlined by a title fight between welterweight champ Nick Diaz and Paul Daley. In the co-main event, Gilbert Melendez defends his lightweight title against Tatsuya Kawajiri. MMA Junkie is hearing Gegard Mousasi will make his return against Mike Kyle in a light heavyweight bout, and Coker told Gross that Shinya Aoki will fight on the card as well, though he may not make the Showtime broadcast. KJ Noons recently told MMA Weekly he expects to fight on April 9 in a lightweight bout, but even if that’s true, it won’t be against Shinya Aoki. Gross is hearing Aoki will fight a grappler.
Scott Coker also mentioned to Josh Gross that Gina Carano could return to action on the June 18 card in Dallas.
I’m glad Strikeforce got this all straightened out, but it has killed some of the excitement for the grand prix, for me at least. Four months between the quarterfinals and the semifinals would be understandable. Four months between the first and second pairs of quarterfinal bouts is inexcusable.
Update: Fans aren’t the only ones pissed about the delay. Brett Rogers’ trainer Mike Reilly told ESPN’s Josh Gross the move is “nuts.” Alistair Overeem’s trainer, Martijn de Jong, says they don’t mind, it gives them more time to prepare. Here’s Scott Coker explaining why they pushed the tournament.
“We just ran out of time,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said Tuesday, referring to the second leg of its Heavyeight Tournament quarterfinal round. “I didn’t find a venue that we thought would work for everybody, so we decided to move it.”
“We’re in a situation now where we have a good three-and-a-half to four months to promote the fight and do a great job of having a shot of driving the rating and driving attendance,” Coker said.
“I would like to conclude it by the end of the year,” said Coker, who was in the hospital after falling ill last week. “… I feel bad for the fighters but as a promoter I’m happy we have more time. I think with those heavyweights and the proper amount of time, we’re really going to have our best shot of recreating the success we had in New Jersey.”
As for the April 9 show, MMA Weekly adds that in addition to Shinya Aoki, Hiroyuki Takaya is also expected to fight on the card. Word is some of the prelims may air on HDNet. The show may air live in Japan too on SkyPerfect TV, but there is no actual deal in place yet with either network.
Update: You can add Antonio Silva’s camp to the list of people upset with the delay.
“We can see Strikeforce’s point at delaying the other side of the bracket, so they can promote, but it leaves ‘Junior’ without a fight until at least Sept., which is a long wait,” Davis said. “For us it sucks. I gotta keep him in action. What I’ll try to see if they’ll let him fight in Japan. He’s in the tournament so it wouldn’t make any sense to have him fight in Strikeforce. We can’t just wait this long.”
On another note, King Mo is also expected to fight on the June 18 card.
Update: The April 9 card will take place at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California.
Update: MMA Junkie reports that Strikeforce will fill the gaps in the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation’s drug-testing protocols by conducting their own independent testing on the HWGP participants when they visit Dallas on June 18.
Several fighters appearing on an upcoming fight card slated for June 18 at American Airlines Center in Dallas will be tested for drugs of abuse and performance-enhancers drugs, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker confirmed to MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) via email.
Those included in the extra testing are all four of the participants scheduled to compete in the second quarterfinal round of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix, which kicked off Feb. 12 and resumes at the June event.
The CEO did not specify whether the testing will take place before or after the event, though he confirmed that tournament competitor Josh Barnett will be required to pass a pre-fight drug test before he’s allowed to fight.