The never ending soap opera known as Strikeforce continues with a new twist in the Alistair Overeem mystery. A couple of weeks after saying he was cut by the company, Overeem now says he is still with Strikeforce and is in a negotiating period with Zuffa with hopes of getting a UFC deal done.
This is certainly a strange story that just gets weirder by the week. It all started a few weeks ago when Overeem told the media that Zuffa were bullying him into taking a September fight with Antonio Silva. Zuffa responded by not only pulling Overeem from the Heavyweight Grand Prix, but allegedly cutting him entirely from Strikeforce. Now Overeem claims that cooler heads have prevailed and the two parties are working diligently on getting him into the UFC.
The story got muddier when Dana White told reporters that the whole thing came down to issues with Overeem’s management company, Golden Glory. White said that Golden Glory demands that promoters pay them, who in turn then pay the fighters. White said that Zuffa will only pay fighters directly. Where it gets weird is that not only have Golden Glory and its fighters disputed those claims by White, one of Golden Glory’s fighters went on Twitter and posted a canceled check from Zuffa paid directly to her.
In an interview with MMA Bay, Overeem now claims that he is technically not cut by Strikeforce but instead in an exclusive 120 day negotiating period with Zuffa for a UFC deal. UFC president Dana White confirmed the claim about negotiating but said that Zuffa and Overeem were far apart on a deal.
“We are not even close to a deal with allistar but we are working on it.”
White was responding to the news in the MMA Underground forum. The original post in the forum speculates that Overeem will make his debut at UFC 140 or the New Year’s weekend event. The headline fights for UFC 140 should be announced in two weeks, so we’ll know one way or the other about Overeem appearing at UFC 140 shortly.
If and that is a big if, Overeem fights at either UFC 140 or the New Year’s show, it would take the UFC heavyweight title fight off of the table. Overeem has been more than vocal about wanting to immediately fight for the UFC heavyweight championship. Obviously that is where the money is with Overeem. Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos will be fighting at UFC 139 in November, theoretically taking the winner out of the equation until February at the earliest. Would Overeem really sit out until February? On the flip side, fighting at UFC 140 would put Overeem and the Velasquez-JDS winner on the same schedule for their next fights.
So is he cut or is he still with Strikeforce? It would appear to me that technically he is with Strikeforce, but cannot fight during this 120 day negotiation period. Now whether he fights in Strikeforce again or not if a UFC deal can’t be made is another story. The 120 day negotiation period could also be a ploy by Zuffa to keep Overeem away from M1 or any other MMA company aspiring to promote bigger shows.
It is clear that Overeem wants to fight in the UFC. Overeem has had a reputation for years of avoiding the best fighters in MMA. At this point it appears that Overeem is practically begging to get into the UFC. If this issue with Golden Glory and how they pay their fighters is not true, than what exactly is the problem here?
One hunch could be Brock Lesnar. All of the early reports seem to indicate that Lesnar is recovering well from surgery. However, I have seen or heard nothing about Lesnar getting back into full time training. Maybe the UFC is waiting to see what Lesnar’s status is with the company before they open their checkbooks for Overeem?
If Lesnar doesn’t come back, where does that leave the UFC heavyweight division? Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, and who else? Frank Mir and Shane Carwin are on the downside of their MMA careers. Are Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione really the next blockbuster heavyweights? There are no other superstar heavyweights that would draw the kind of money Overeem would in a UFC heavyweight championship match. There is a lot of talent there, but nobody with any real significant value.
In the end I think it would be foolish to let Alistair Ovreem walk away from Zuffa altogether. I can’t comprehend the reluctance to sign him to a UFC deal unless his demands are more outrageous than we know, and they could be. The guy I see on television and in interviews is practically begging to be there. If that truly is his goal, I can’t imagine he’d be too cute with the negotiations.
I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Alistair Overeem fights in the UFC in 2012. Again, just a hunch but I think the fact that this thing is still alive tells you that both sides are ready to make something happen.
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