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UFC Officially Announces Strikeforce Acquisition, Josh Barnett Changes Tune About UFC & Dana White (Update: Overeem)

The UFC officially announced the Strikeforce acquisition earlier this morning. Nothing new was really learned. It was basically the same information with a little PR polish, but nonetheless, here are the official statements from Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta and Scott Coker.

“We have worked hard to make mixed martial arts the fastest growing sport in the world,” UFC President Dana White said. “We’ve spent countless hours getting this sport regulated and taking the Octagon® all over the world. Acquiring the Strikeforce assets allows us to continue to develop this sport into a global force.”

“We intend to operate Strikeforce as a separate business much like we did with the WEC for many years,” Lorenzo Fertitta, Chairman and CEO of Zuffa, said. “We look forward to working with Scott Coker, and the entire Strikeforce and Showtime teams to continue to provide quality content for mixed martial arts fans.

“We’ve long admired Scott Coker and the Strikeforce business he launched and developed,” Fertitta continued. “We feel that together with Scott, we can continue to build both Strikeforce and the UFC.”

“This is an important day for the sport of mixed martial arts,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said. “We are excited to work with Lorenzo Fertitta, Frank Fertitta, Dana White and everyone at the UFC on the quest to make MMA the biggest sport in the world. Fans can continue to expect quality Strikeforce shows and we look forward to giving our athletes an even broader platform on which to perform.”

The news took pretty much everyone by surprise on Saturday, especially the fighters who will be most affected by the change. As you would expect, there have been mixed reactions coming out of the Strikeforce stable.

Dan Henderson isn’t sure that Zuffa owning all of major league MMA is necessarily good for the sport and Paul Daley made it crystal clear that he’s not a fan of the deal. Nick Diaz’s manager/trainer Cesar Gracie is taking a “wait and see” approach, but obviously concerned about the situation.

Other Strikeforce fighters such as Josh Thomson, KJ Noons and Antonio Silva, however, think it’s great news and they’re really excited about the prospect of fighting for the sport’s top organization. Todd Duffee, who was rumored to be fired from the UFC for being difficult to work with behind the scenes, listed 11 positives about the deal on the UG, although he specifically noted he wasn’t doing it to get back in the UFC’s good graces.

Then you have Josh Barnett, who has notoriously bucked the system and blasted Dana White in the media for years. Interestingly, his tune has changed quite a bit in the past 48 hours. From Sherdog:

“Things have changed. This is major and great things can come from it and I just want to be a part of that, and the way I can best do that is be the best fighter I can be… I’m not here to make this a personal vendetta or judgment with [Dana], especially in terms of business. I know what I’ve got to do and I know what his position is in terms of being the president of the UFC, and that he has excelled at. He’s done a great job… If he hates me, he hates me; but if he sees the value in what I bring to the table as a fighter I think that will speak for itself. But you know what? I don’t hate Dana and I do business, and I’ll go out there and do the absolute best that I can do and if he happens to be my employer … literally, if Dana White has an office that I have to write into every day, because that’s the person I report to for my business, well that’s what I’ll do… There is a part of me that absolutely wishes that things between myself and the UFC had worked out differently… Dana likes to go out there and crush, kill, pillage, whatever; and let’s face it, that’s kind of my M.O.. As much as I may have ever had difficulty with Dana at the end of the day there is a part of me that absolutely vibes with what he is does. Whether he wants to think about it or not, here and now, no bulls**t, Dana White is pretty f–king metal and I am a metal dude … we’ll at least have that sort of respect that can’t be overlooked.”

Oh my.

Josh is right about one thing, times are definitely changing. The UFC has always been a “you’re either with us or against us” type of organization, and Josh Barnett has always been against them. For that reason, I don’t expect this pseudo-apology to be met with anything more than a chuckle at UFC corporate headquarters. With Japanese MMA essentially imploding and Strikeforce under Zuffa ownership, Josh Barnett’s future in this sport does not look especially bright.

Update: Alistair Overeem added his two cents on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani earlier today.

“I was shocked when I read it, but I’m very excited,” Overeem told Helwani. “It’s a very big upset in the MMA world, and the fighting world in general. But yeah, my first thought was, I’m excited. … It was a very big surprise to me and to everybody. The gentlemen did a very good job of keeping the big secret. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t see it coming at all.”

“It depends. I’m a positive guy. I see things through a positive lens. It can be really, really the best thing [that] ever happened to the sport, if it’s used positive, and I see that happening. If it’s used negative, then it’s going to be a downfall. But I don’t see that happening. I see this as a good thing, a good development, so I see the sport growing.

“We’re going to have to wait and see how it works out,” Overeem continued. “The fans are going to get to see the fights that are most appealing to them. I think this is what the sport needs to grow, because the sport has grown rapidly, but it’s still not there yet. It still needs to grow bigger. I think [UFC president] Dana [White] wants this and I know I want this as well. We want the fights to be worldwide known. We want everybody worldwide to talk about these fights, like in the old days with Muhammad Ali and [Mike] Tyson, and we’re not there yet. To get there, there’s still some work to be done and I think Dana’s working on that.”

Of course, the big question with Alistair is what this deal means for his kickboxing career. If Strikeforce eventually dissolves into the UFC, and most seem to think it will, then Overeem will presumably have to make a choice between kickboxing and MMA.

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