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Strikeforce Releases Heavyweight Champ Alistair Overeem

The gutting of Strikeforce continues. It was announced today that Strikeforce has cut Alistair Overeem. Yes, that Alistair Overeem…you know their heavyweight champion. The move comes a week after Overeem was dropped from the Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament.

According to the report, Overeem received a letter from the promotion informing him that he was being released. The promotion has opted to exercise their rights to drop the one remaining fight on Overeem’s deal. Thanks a lot champ, but your services are no longer needed.

This one was a shocker. It has been known for awhile that Overeem had one fight left on his Strikeforce contract. Wait a minute, you ask. Why would Strikeforce have booked him in a tournament with two fights left on his deal? Oh Scott Coker. Anyway, this makes the second time since buying Strikeforce that Zuffa has cut a current Strikeforce champion from his contract and left a belt vacant.

It is certainly a bizarre move. There is already a lot of speculation about Overeem going to the UFC. Many MMA analysts believe that this is the first step of a negotiation similar to the one between Zuffa and former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz. Zuffa terminated Diaz’s Strikeforce contract, making him a free agent, and immediately signed him to a UFC deal.

It would appear that one of the biggest issues that Zuffa has had since buying Strikeforce is dealing with Showtime. Strikeforce is under contract with Showtime, which makes it almost impossible for Zuffa to bring any Strikeforce contracted fighters into the UFC. This obviously precludes Zuffa from getting maximum impact out of contracts they are currently paying on several fighters.

With Fedor Emelianenko gone, Overeem was the favorite to win the Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament. He had a disappointing first round fight against Fabricio Werdum, but wound up advancing to the next round nonetheless. It was later revealed that Overeem fought on an injured toe and wanted more time to get healthy before advancing to the next round. Instead of waiting a month, Zuffa simply cut Overeem from the tournament. UFC president Dana White claimed it was a Showtime decision and since Showtime had the date locked in, the tournament would move on without Overeem.

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I immediately smelled a conspiracy when Overeem was cut from the tournament. If there is one thing we all know about Dana White it is that he doesn’t like to be told what to do. My hunch was that once Showtime put pressure on Strikeforce for the date, White simply gave in without the biggest draw in the tournament. My hunch was that White made this move to anger Showtime in hopes of Showtime negotiating to get out of its television deal, allowing the UFC to manage Strikeforce without any interference or influence elsewhere.

The irony here is that about a month or so ago, Overeem was the talk of Strikeforce. Most speculated that Overeem would roll through the tournament, Cain Velasquez, Brock Lesnar, the Incredible Hulk, the U.S. debt, etc. Even Dana White himself said a few months back that if Overeem was available he’d love to have him in the UFC. So cutting him from the one contract that Zuffa does have with Overeem doesn’t make much sense at all now does it?

As much as I’d like to see Overeem in the UFC, I think there is more to this than meets the eye. I think Zuffa were upset with recent comments Overeem made about the company trying to bully him into the September fight date. He also made waves recently about wanting to box professionally. I think this was their way of sending a message and trying to keep future disgruntled Strikeforce fighters in line.

So with no Diaz and Overeem, what does Strikeforce really have left? Fedor is their biggest ratings draw currently under contract, but he is surely done if he loses to Dan Henderson tomorrow. Henderson would probably be the company’s only other superstar and he is fighting the last fight on his contract tomorrow. The future is rather grim for Strikeforce at this point without their biggest draws moving forward.

Most expected Zuffa to run Strikeforce into the ground, but I don’t think anyone expected it less than five months into the deal. Enjoy Fedor vs. Henderson this Saturday night because Strikeforce will never be the same moving forward.

Job well done Zuffa!

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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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