The upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix may end up being the promotion’s biggest series of events to date. According to Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, it is the greatest heavyweight collection in MMA history.
A few weeks back, former linear No. 1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko said he believes the upcoming Strikeforce tournament rivals or surpasses the Pride Fighting Championships tournament he took part in some years ago.
With fighters like Emelianenko, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett and of course Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem all involved, it’s hard to argue that point.
“Pride had some amazing shows and they set the benchmark for tournaments. I know the UFC originally started back in ’93 with the tournament format, but that was a different era, a different time,” Coker said recently on MMAWeekly Radio.
“I’m not the type of guy to sit here and boasting about it, but when you look at it on paper, I think this is honestly the greatest heavyweight tournament in the history of mixed martial arts. I think there’s a good argument about that. That’s really my position on it.”
The tournament is stacked with several heavyweights in the Top 10, along with a few former Top 10 fighters as well.
One question many fans have asked about is how stacked one side of the tournament seems to be with Emelianenko, Overeem, and Werdum all sitting together. Coker believes that side of the tournament is set up for a couple of reasons.
First, the fans are guaranteed to see a fight they’ve been asking for with Overeem vs. Werdum in the first round, and second, the Strikeforce heavyweight champion flat out asked to face the Brazilian as soon as he possibly could.
“He came to me in Japan and said ‘I want fight Fabricio Werdum and I want to avenge that fight. I want to knock him out,” Coker said about Overeem.
Of course on the other side of the tournament discussion are comments from everyone including fans and media about the set up of the Grand Prix. From Overeem not defending his title to the right side of the bracket seemingly lighter on talent, Strikeforce has taken its fair share of criticism about the mega-tournament kicking off in February.
Does Strikeforce receive harsher criticism than the UFC, the biggest MMA organization in the world? Coker says he doesn’t want opinions on his promotion to be judged by anything other than the quality of the fights they’re putting on.
“This is what I say: Judge us by what’s inside the cage and we put on some amazing fights, put on some big fights, and I think the tournament’s going to be unbelievable,” said Coker. “Why be a critic? Why don’t you just sit back and enjoy it? Because it’s going to be unbelievable and you get to watch it on Showtime for free.”
Coker even talks to his good friends at the American Kickboxing Academy as they kick around the idea of who would win in a fight between Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem and UFC champion Cain Velasquez.
“I was sitting here with Javier Mendes and Bob Cook going ‘you know, if Fedor would take Cain and Alistair would take it to Cain’ and we had this big debate about AKA vs. Strikeforce,” Coker commented.
Fans may not get to see those particular match-ups, but they will see a lot of other great fights at the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix kicks off Feb. 12 in New Jersey.