As the dust continues to settle from Strikeforce’s acquisition of 42 Pro Elite fighters, CEO Scott Coker is beginning the process of scheduling athletes for 16 plus events due in 2009.
Though Coker says most of Elite’s “top 12” fighters have given assurances they will fight for Strikeforce, it’s former welterweight champion, Jake Shields, is not yet committed to the San Jose-based promotion.
“We’re still in negotiations,” Shields’ manager and father, Jack Shields, told MMAInsider late Sunday night.
In a December interview with MMAWeekly, Shields repeatedly expressed his desire to free himself of his ProElite contract to fight for the UFC.
“I feel like it’s been the top show for a while, and I feel like most of the competition at my weight is in the UFC,” said Shields. “The guys I need to fight, like GSP, B.J. Penn, Jon Fitch, Diego Sanchez.”
As recently as January, UFC president Dana White confirmed his interest in the 30 year-old Jiu-Jitsu black belt.
If he were to return to Elite, Shields said he would want to re-negotiate his contract.
Coker hinted the same might be true for his acquisition of Shields’ ProElite deal.
“Out of all the conversations, everything has been positive, except for one athlete that’s I think maybe trying to use this as an opportunity to get a better deal,” Coker told MMAInsider.
“Just like with Randy’s deal, when he was in the situation with the UFC, to do a declaratory (ruling), it’s going to be another six months for these fighters, and then we’ll be forced to take them down that path, and the fighter’s not going to fight for six months, and the court will rule one way or another.
“My lawyers (who) have looked at the contracts say these are valid contracts, these are contracts that were not going be a problem to be assigned. Either it’s a legal resolution, or it’s a business resolution. I’m all about the business resolution. So if we can get these guys going, and put them back to work, then let’s do it.”
The elder Shields gave no timetable for a possible resolution to the impasse, but said he is committed to finding the best option for his son.
Now, the question appears to be whether Shields will continue their attempts to free himself from the now-Strikeforce contract, or serve its remainder to keep active and bide time for an eventual jump to the UFC.