It appears the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix has been a big hit with fans. Several reporters noted that today’s “fan experience” was easily Strikeforce’s most successful fan event thus far. MMA Fighting’s Mike Chiappetta is reporting that roughly 2,000 fans visited the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan to meet the eight tournament participants, and judging by the pictures (below) the Roseland certainly was packed. The fan excitement is expected to carry over to Saturday’s event in New Jersey too. Word is Strikeforce is expecting somewhere between 12,000 – 15,000 spectators to fill the IZOD Center based on ticket pre-sale numbers.
The fighters seem excited about the event too. Alistair Overeem reiterated how much he loves tournaments and expects the winner to be crowned the #1 heavyweight in MMA.
“I love tournaments,” said Alistair Overeem, the man who holds the belt for now. “Tournaments decide who’s No. 1. This tournament will decide who the No. 1 heavyweight in MMA is, no doubt.”
Fabricio Werdum played to the crowd, calling Overeem his “bitch.”
“Alistair Overeem is my son, my bitch,” he said to a roar, before quickly pulling back, saying, “It’s a joke.”
Fedor says he doesn’t feel any different than normal coming off the first legitimate loss of his career.
“I actually feel the same as before,” Emelianenko said through his interpreter “I’m not worried, nervous or any of that.”
Antonio Silva stressed that Saturday is the final to him.
“Fedor is No. 1,” he said through his interpreter. “I didn’t come here to play. I trained hard, and he’s not going to go over me. Right now I am only thinking about Fedor. I am facing this fight like it is the final.”
If today’s event was any indication Fedor’s popularity hasn’t waned since his suffering his first defeat. Chiappetta noted that Fedor drew the loudest cheers from the crowd, while Ariel Helwani tweeted that “NYC is Fedor country. Wow.”
If you made it the meet and greet today, let us know how it was. In the meantime, check out more of Anil Melwani’s pics of today’s festivities at MMA.us, Esther Lin’s pics on Strikeforce’s Facebook fan page and Ariel Helwani’s interviews with Alistair Overeem, Andrei Arlovski and Valentijn Overeem below. (Yes, I noticed the similarities in their names, and yes, it is pretty funny/crazy.) GP intro video via MMA Fighting.