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Alistair Overeem Says Choosing UFC Led To Strikeforce Cut

The situation between Strikeforce and Alistair Overeem keeps getting weirder. Overeem told Inside MMA that his desire to go to the UFC & Zuffa wanting to keep him in Strikeforce to build the brand led to a contract impasse, which resulted in his release.

Overeem appeared on HD Net’s Inside MMA broadcast via satellite and gave his first interview following his Strikeforce release last week. For those who missed it, Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem was cut last week from parent company Zuffa. Overeem had one fight on his contract but could not fight due to injuries until October. After some harsh words in the press beween both parties, Zuffa exercised their right to cut Overeem with one fight left on his contract.

The first sign of discontent between Overeem and Zuffa came when Overeem told Ariel Helwani that he felt Strikeforce was trying to bully him into fighting in September. Overeem told Helwani that due to injuries, the short turnaround time wouldn’t properly allow him to train. Overeem expanded on that during the interview.

Before the cut there was some communication about the date (his next fight). I was promised personally by Scott (Coker) that the second round of the Strikeforce GP was going to be held in October. Well that all changed. I heard about two and a half weeks ago that they wanted to change the date to September 10. The reasons are known, I think because in October there were already some UFC events scheduled so they didn’t want to compete against their own show. So they rescheduled to September 10.

Well, my thing was that I had an injury. Injuries from the Werdum fight. They prevented me from training. I communicated to the management, my management, that the agreed date was October. They said, “No they changed it to September 10.” Well I said I wasn’t going to be ready on September 10 because I have these small injuries which prevent me from training now. But I’ll be good to go in about two weeks.

Basically then there were some threats from the Strikeforce side. “If you’re not going to compete on September 10 we’re going to cut you from the tournament. My first reaction was, “I’m not going to be fit to fight September 10 so then you’re going to have to continue the tournament without me.

We all knew that and while it seemed a little odd that Strikeforce would delay the tournament four months to get Josh Barnett a commission-friendly booking and not wait a month for Overeem, it was what it was. Injuries in tournaments happen and there weren’t many people who expected an injury-free Grand Prix. Yet I don’t think anybody expected what happened next.

The communication harshened a little bit. Like, if you don’t compete in the tournament you are going to be cut from Strikeforce entirely. That was really like a threat. I was, “Well then go ahead and cut me,” and well they went along and cut me.

Look, MMA in the United States today is Zuffa’s world and we are just living in it. However, I think there is a serious problem when you threaten to fire an injured fighter for not fighting. Additionally, he was promised (his side of the story) that he wouldn’t have to fight again until October and he was fine with that. It gets better.

I had to gather evidence and I had to know if the injury was really that bad where I couldn’t compete September 10. So I went up to the doctor and my rib was still hurting a little bit. He felt my rib, he sent me to the hospital to make a scan, a picture, x-ray (video is shown of the x-ray), and there it appeared my rib was broken. It was broken in a bad way, bad fracture. A normal rib fracture is like 4-6 weeks but this was in a certain area which would cost me another month to rehabilitate. That to me was definite proof that I couldn’t compete September 10 and it was not just a mind thing, “I’m not ready, I don’t feel good.” I had scientific, medical evidence to back that claim.

The strange thing is that Strikeforce, they cut me, as they threatened to do, they did it. But they didn’t ask me for any medical evidence. They were, I don’t know what they were thinking. Maybe they were thinking I was bluffing or something, I don’t know.

Overeem also says in the interview that Scott Coker knew he was injured going into the fight, and was promised the extra time off to heal. I believe his story and it once again shows the terrible mismanagement going on in Strikeforce right now. Coker is titled the CEO of the company but is in reality a figurehead with very little stroke. While he may very well have promised this to Overeem, his word means nothing at this point and the fighters need to go straight to Zuffa from here on out for answers.

Here is where the stories take a much different turn between Overeem and Strikeforce. According to a report by Dave Meltzer in his latest Wrestling Observer, Overeem’s management team Golden Glory relayed the message to Zuffa much differently.

Those in Zuffa when talking about how the negotiations were going down, said the injury talk was disingenuous because they were making demands and were agreeable of him to fight if the demands were met.

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Bas asks Overeem about this and Overeem disputes that story entirely.

Definitely not. The basic thing was that there was no negotiation except for the date. That was the only communication going.

Meltzer also goes on to report that a big issue in this was Overeem’s management team Golden Glory. Overeem had one fight left on his Strikeforce deal and had been in negotiations with Zuffa. According to Meltzer, Zuffa and Golden Glory were at an impasse because Golden Glory prefers to get paid from the promoter and then pay their fighters. Zuffa reportedly refuses to do business that way. In addition to cutting Overeem, StrikeZuffa cut three other Golden Glory fighters.

One of the fighters cut was former champion Marloes Coenen. Coenen immediately took to Twitter and tweeted a pictureof her check for her fight last weekend with Meisha Tate, which was paid to Coenen, not Golden Glory. So what the heck is exactly going on here?

Overeem breaks the case wide open later in the interview. Overeem discusses his negotiations for a new contract and let’s just say the Strikeforce champion’s take on the situation is much different than the one Dana White told reporters this week.

Strikeforce found out I only had one fight left on my contract. So they were like, “Hey wait a minute. If Alistair wins this fight (against Silva), he’ll be in the finals without a contract.” Which for us would be the golden situation because then you’re in the final of a tournament without a contract. There were some contract negotiations for an extension in Strikeforce. Basically what happened was that there were a lot of terms in there which we could not live with. One, was exclusively to fight for Strikeforce or basically I had to let K1 go. I had to let DREAM go. Even the possibility of fighting for the UFC. I am always a guy looking up, looking further, and yeah, the UFC is where the top guys are. That’s my ultimate goal, to become the UFC champion. Basically they wanted to keep me in Strikeforce.

Overeem says it is the competition in the UFC that interests him, not Strikeforce.

There are two people ranked currently above me and they are both in the UFC. So, of course I want to go to the UFC. I want to fight the top competition, these guys are there, but it’s not up to me. It’s up to, does the UFC want me? I’m willing to go to wherever the top guys are.

From what I understand, they wanted to keep me in Strikeforce to build the Strikeforce brand. For me, I want to go to where the top guys are and that is the UFC.

That is a whole new twist on this story if you ask me. At the end of the day this comes down to Zuffa wanting to keep Overeem in Strikeforce according to the former Strikeforce champion and not this whole issue of Golden Glory management. What is even stranger is just yesterday UFC president Dana White said he’d love to have Overeem in the UFC under one condition.

I would love to have Alistair Overeem in the heavyweight division,” White told The MMA Show. “If we can come to a deal and we can make this happen and we can pay Alistair Overeem his check when he fights and he can pay Golden Glory, then absolutely we can do a deal.

Wait a second, which is it? Overeem said that he wanted to go to the UFC yet Zuffa wanted to keep him on Strikeforce to build the brand while White is saying he’d love to have him in the UFC, under different management. Who is telling the truth here?

It is entirely conceivable that Golden Glory has withheld information from their client and did make demands, some of which he is unaware of, that prevented a deal from getting done. It is also entirely conceivable that Zuffa had a temper tantrum unable to get their way with Golden Glory and is doing everything they can to box them out of the MMA in the United States. My hunch is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Say what you will about Overeem and he certainly has his critics, but he would be a huge boost to the heavyweight division in the UFC. I could see why they would want to keep him in Strikeforce with everyone leaving, but he has more than paid his dues there. If the guy doesn’t want to fight in Strikeforce, make the UFC deal and get him into the octagon. Unlike the M1-Zuffa relationship, this doesn’t seem like it has hit the point of no return just yet.

Finally, I think Scott Coker has avoided a lot of embarrassment thanks to the Zuffa sale. The idea that Coker would book Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix with only two fights left on their deals is just mind boggling to me. How does any major MMA promoter do that in today’s MMA climate?

Check out the entire interview below from this Friday’s Inside MMA.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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