Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker Bullish on Tourney, Showtime Future

Daniel Cormier

Heavyweight finals could happen by March

When Zuffa announced its purchase of Strikeforce earlier this year, questions immediately rose to the surface about the UFC rival’s future.

Would Strikeforce ultimately be folded into the UFC, the way the WEC was? Would it just go away all together, with the fighters becoming free agents? Or maybe a combination of the two? And what of Strikeforce’s TV deal with Showtime, which ends early in 2012?

Tuesday, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said he’s hopeful the promotion will soldier on into 2012, and was hopeful there will be a resolution not only to a new deal with Showtime, but to Strikeforce’s ongoing heavyweight tournament.

“There’s nothing to announce (about a new Showtime deal), but I’m optimistic at this point,” Coker told media members on a conference call for the promotion’s next event Saturday in San Diego. “It’s something we’ll just have to wait and see, but I think things are going well and we’ll have something to announce shortly. But right now, there’s nothing official.”

Zuffa and UFC president Dana White said earlier this fall that he had entered the negotiations phase with Strikeforce and Showtime – perhaps signaling a renewed urgency to keep Strikeforce as a separate promotion under the Zuffa umbrella.

Coker also said Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament, which began in February, could see its conclusion sometime within the first three months of 2012 – with March as a target. The promotion kicked off the grand prix in February with Antonio Silva upsetting Fedor Emelianenko and Sergei Kharitonov beating Andrei Arlovski. But the next pair of quarterfinal fights didn’t take place until June, with Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett advancing to the semifinals.

But the very next month, Overeem, then the Strikeforce heavyweight champion, was cut loose by Zuffa. Daniel Cormier was inserted into the semifinals in his place. (And Overeem would later return to Zuffa, signing with the UFC.) In September, Barnett and Cormier advanced to the finals – but Cormier broke his hand in his knockout win against Silva, putting him on the shelf.

But Coker was optimistic the tournament will see its conclusion in the first part of the year, even though that could mean a grand prix that stretched on for upwards of 13 months.

“I still predict that it’ll happen in late first quarter,” Coker said. “We’d like to get the fight done before the end of the first quarter. (March) is kind of the month we’re shooting for. Again, we’re monitoring Daniel Cormier’s recovery from his broken hand. I talked to (Cormier trainer) Bob Cook a couple days ago, and Daniel is supposed to go to the doctor sometime within the week. We’ll see how the hand’s healing up on a week-by-week basis. But the target is the first quarter, and hopefully March.”

Strikeforce’s next show on Showtime is Dec. 17, a return to San Diego with a headlining lightweight championship bout between Gilbert Melendez and Jorge Masvidal. Coker said a rumored Jan. 7 show on Showtime, which would feature a middleweight title fight between Luke Rockhold and Keith Jardine, is not yet finalized enough to be made official by the promotion.