In the latest outburst of incompetence from the Strikeforce office, Scott Coker has announced that the World Heavyweight Grand Prix will no longer be continuing on April 9th as advertised extensively throughout the Fedor vs. Silva broadcast. Instead Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers and the eagerly anticipated clash between triple crown champion (Dream, K-1 GP and Strikeforce) Alistair Overeem and lineal heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum will now take place on June 18th in Dallas, Texas.
The obvious conclusion to draw is that the plan to take the event to Japan fell through due to the continuing implosion of Coker’s allies Fighting Entertainment Group and that they could not find any venue on April 9th in a state that would license serial drug test failure Josh Barnett. That the second stage will now take place in Texas, a state that would sanction a world title featuring a blind, one-armed chimp with a 0-50 record would seemingly confirm that theory. As would the fact that the April 9th event is now scheduled to take place in California, the very state whose commission is waiting for Barnett to show up to a re-licensing hearing after they banned him for failing a drug test in the lead up to his match against Fedor in 2009.
Strikeforce were repeatedly warned that Barnett’s participation would put them in the unenviable position of commission shopping and not being able to run their premiere tournament in their home state. For their plan to find a sympathetic commission to fall apart at the first hurdle is simply a case of everyone else’s foresight being 20/20. It is quite simply bizarre for Strikeforce to complicate the already difficult task of delivering a tournament for the sake of involving Barnett; a man with zero name value to the casual fan, who hasn’t defeated a ranked opponent since 2006 and has a long history of being unreliable.
Coker had an alternative explanation saying that with the delay they have “now given ourselves the proper amount of time to promote in one of the country’s biggest markets”. So yes to build on the momentum the tournament gained from Fedor’s shock defeat in February the plan is to delay the second set of matches for two months. Antonio Silva has never been hotter but now he won’t fight for at least seven months after his famous victory over Fedor. So much for striking the iron while its hot!
The truth is that the delay damages the Grand Prix by creating a vaccuum between the sets of opening round fixtures. Fedor/Silva will be a distant memory by the time it’s determined who will face the winner. Not only that but by taking over four months to complete the opening round the promotion is rolling dice as to whether it will be able to hold the semi-finals before the end of the year and there’s absolutely no chance that the final will take place before 2012. Should anyone suffer even the slightest injury on June 18th then Strikeforce may only be able to complete the first round of the Grand Prix this year, even the Super Six was able to complete two rounds in its first twelve months!
It also incredibly unfair on the fighters involved in the tournament to give the semi-finalists dramatically different amounts of time to prepare as if the semi-finals were held in September the winners on June 18th would have had only three months to prepare, whereas Silva and Sergei Kharitonov would have been out of action since February. That raises questions of limited time to recover from their opening match for the June quarter-finalists and the possibility of ring rust for those that last fought on February 12th.
Organising a tournament like this was always going to be difficult but Strikeforce’s decision to delay the next set of quarter-finals has only made it harder. Its squandered the buzz that came from the successful first event of the tournament, has greatly complicated the schedule and compromised the ability of the fighters to perform at their best. Once again MMA’s second organization comes off as being simply second rate.