Strikeforce Shifts Gears: Overeem’s Belt Safe, Tourney Fights Three Rounds

January 13, 2011

Strikeforce, on a media conference call on Thursday, formalized plans for its eight-man Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament.

Company CEO Scott Coker, in an initial interview with MMAWeekly.com last week, had hoped to make all bouts in the tournament five five-minute rounds with heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem’s belt at risk throughout the tournament.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker

“The goal is to have Alistair put up his belt against Fabricio Werdum. If Werdum wins, then he will have to put up the belt, but at the end, you will have one champion,” Coker said.

That was the goal, but Coker also said that they had to make sure that their plans worked in conjunction with the state athletic commissions that will oversee the multi-event tournament. The various rounds of the tournament will be split amongst separate events in various locations.

Of chief concern to Strikeforce was the number of rounds for each of the bouts if the title were at risk through the tournament.

“We’re working with the athletic commissions because of the round issue,” Coker told MMAWeekly.com. Most commissions deem title fights five-round bouts; non-title fights are typically three rounds.

That proved to be the point where Strikeforce shifted gears and decided not to put Overeem’s title on the line in the Grand Prix.

“We just didn’t feel like it would be fair for one fight to be three rounds, one fight to be five rounds,” Coker said on Thursday.

He pointed out that, over the course of the tournament, Strikeforce could end up working with as many as six different commissions.

“We would have to have all those commissions on the same page and we just couldn’t do it,” he added.

So the tournament is set to be three five-minute rounds per fight up until the final bout, which will be a five-round championship fight.

If any fight is ruled a draw, there will be a fourth judge that will determine which fighter should continue on in the tournament. As well, if a fighter cannot continue on in the tournament due to injury or other circumstances, a five-person Strikeforce committee, headed up by Strikeforce rules director Cory Schafer, will determine a replacement from reserve bout winners and eliminated tournament fighters.

The winner of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix will be the tournament champion and challenge Overeem for the Strikeforce heavyweight title. If Overeem makes it through the tournament, then his belt will be on the line in final with the winner declared both the Strikeforce heavyweight champion and Grand Prix tournament champion.