by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
When former middleweight champion Jake Shields’ exit from Strikeforce seemed imminent, the promotion immediately began talking about a way to crown a new titleholder. The possibility of a tournament was brought up right away.

Arguably the promotion’s deepest weight class, the middleweight division is home to some of Strikeforce’s top fighters.

Speaking on Monday, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker explained why the promotion decided to have a title fight between Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on their Aug. 21 show as opposed to a four or eight-man tournament to declare a new champion.

“We talked internally and we decided it would be in everybody’s best interest to crown a champion, but when saying that, we also felt that a tournament would be a fun way to create the next challenger for the winner between Jacare and Tim Kennedy,” Coker said. “We said we could do one, do the other, or we could do both, and it turns out we’re going to be able to do both.”

Crowning a new titleholder will help wash away thoughts of Shields leaving the promotion as its champion, and the tournament will look to declare a new top contender later this year.

Coker confirmed the tournament will happen in 2010, but the format is undecided.

“The winner of the tournament will fight the winner of Jacare/Tim Kennedy,” Coker stated.

Names for the tournament could include any number of middleweights in the promotion right now including Robbie Lawler, Joey Villasenor, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, and Matt Lindland. The promotion has yet to determine whether it will be a four or eight-man field and whether or not it will take place on a single night or over multiple nights.

Two names that will likely not participate in the tournament will be former Pride champion Dan Henderson, who is likely to go back up to 205 pounds for his next fight, and former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le, who has already stated he doesn’t see himself participating in the tournament when it happens.

A report from MMAJunkie.com stated that Strikeforce has targeted an Oct. 9 date for the tournament to kick off in its hometown of San Jose, Calif.

According to sources speaking with MMAWeekly.com, several fighters are interested in putting their names in the hat for a shot in the tournament, but nothing has been finalized as to who will get a spot.