If there’s one thing that UFC President Dana White is particularly good at, its not making the same mistake twice. After dealing with Nick Diaz and the contractual squabbles caused by him threatening to compete in a boxing match, Dana White is not going to give in to someone else angling for more. And don’t kid yourself: that was exactly what Alistair Overeem was doing when he refused to face Antonio Silva on September 10th.
While it would be ludicrous to doubt that he’d fake an injury to not fight, something he said to Ariel Helwani sticks out that makes this feel more like a contract ploy than a true concern about being ready to fight at near 100%.
“The thing is, there’s other promotions. There’s other stuff I can do. K-1’s going to come back. There’s some good reports on that. There’s some other promotions in the world that would love to have me fight. So for me, the respect thing is definitely a factor and it’s definitely important.”
This isn’t the talk of a man badly wanting to be in the Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix but can’t because of an injury. One of the downsides of the Strikeforce contracts allowing fights outside of the organization is that long term fight-planning goes out the window if a fighter can pick and choose when and where he fights. It’s a plus for fighters but it gives promoters little leverage to get a highly valued and compensated employee under their banner if they don’t have exclusive access.
And like Nick Diaz back in the spring that’s what Overeem has right now: leverage.
During the prelude to the tournament he said and did all the right things, including wanting to prove he’s the best heavyweight in the world by winning the Grand Prix and so setting up a big money PPV showdown with the winner of Junior Dos Santos-Cain Velasquez in 2012; but what he’s currently saying doesn’t match up. Saying that he’s going to fight in October, it’s just a matter of whom, is different than saying I need a month because of an injury. Look at the rhetoric of his former opponent, Bigfoot Silva, and you see a guy who wants to be in this tournament due to the credibility that will come from winning it.
“I don’t care who they put against me,” Silva today told MMAjunkie.com through his manager and interpreter, Alex Davis. “If Overeem doesn’t want to fight because his toe is hurt, then get me King Kong. Get Josh Barnett and Sergei Kharitonov both. I’ll fight them both at the same time.”
“I’m very frustrated and disappointed that someone who is considered one of the best fighters in the world would basically withdraw from the competition and refuse to fight me. Overeem is a great guy, but I don’t really like what he’s doing right now as a fighter. Either way, I don’t pick my opponents. I would have much rather Cain Velasquez stepped in for Overeem because I want to prove I’m the best heavyweight in the world. But I’m not taking Cormier lightly, either. I’ll continue to train just as hard as if I was still facing Overeem.”
That’s a guy who wants anyone in his path and wants to prove his mettle.
One can see why they postponed the Barnett-Rogers fight alongside Werdum-Overeem, if only because a participant dropping out early would make the tournament feel like a farce going in. There’s a reason why alternates are available, so that an injury doesn’t force a tournament postponement of epic proportions, and one imagines that White and the UFC have enough pull to be able to get the card postponed a month with Showtime if they absolutely had to. But they didn’t. Why? Because it’s the only move they had that didn’t give Overeem any sort of leverage over them that other fighters could exploit in the future.
This is a power play as Overeem is exercising the only leverage he has because of a contract the UFC inherited. This as old-fashioned a power-play as it gets, and Dana White has a short memory for things like this. The last time someone wanted to do this to them Nick Diaz got a shiny new contract and a big time fight against the undisputed king of the welterweight division to walk away from a boxing match with Jeff Lacy. It’s no surprise that Alistair Overeem is even raising the possibility of him fighting the Klitschko brothers at some point. But unfortunately for the Reem, Dana White isn’t quite ready to bend to someone else so thoroughly again.
Tags: Alistair Overeem, Antonio Silva, daniel cormier, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, Mixed Martial Arts, Sergei Kharitonov, Showtime, Strikeforce, strikeforce heavyweight world grand prix