One of the most attractive benefits for fighters signing with
Strikeforce at the moment is the promotion’s open-door policy
regarding non-exclusive contracts with the Japanese market.
Newly acquired Strikeforce fighters like Antonio
Silva and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal have either active contracts
or relations with promotions in Japan.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has taken a surprisingly fighter
friendly stance when it comes to contract exclusivity, as other
promotions, like the UFC, continue to demand it.
“The fighters want to fight and the promoters want to promote,”
said Coker during a teleconference call Wednesday touting
Strikeforce’s middleweight championship bout between Jake Shields
and Jason “Mayhem” Miller, which takes place Nov. 7 at the Sears
Centre Arena in Hoffmann Estates, Ill.
However, Strikeforce’s leniency has created issues with at least
one of its champions. After two false starts this year, wayward
heavyweight champion Alistair
Overeem is not expected back in the Strikeforce cage until late
February or early March, said Coker.
Overeem, who won the title in November 2007 and then cited a hand
injury for two proposed defenses this year, instead fought for K-1
in Japan on Sept. 26 and is expected to return for the promotion’s
tournament finals on Dec. 5. He’s also reportedly squeezing in
another MMA bout on Oct. 17 in Amsterdam.
Barring a rare draw, Shields or Miller will be crowned middleweight
champion when the pair meet on Nov. 7, and Coker said the
promotion, slated to host 16-20 events in 2010, is taking at least
some precautions to ensure its champions don’t become
“In our case, with some of the other fighters, we had some issues,
but we’ve gone in and tried to clean that up and we’re moving
forward now… From my point of view, I’d think the champion would
fight at least twice a year and defend the belt,” said Coker.
“That’s kind of the policy we’re discussing with some of the
champions that we currently have.”
Coker declined to comment if this stipulation has or will transfer
into the contracts the fighters sign.
Strikeforce’s closest U.S. comparison, the UFC, has its champions
–- all exclusive to the promotion -- fight an average of two to
three bouts in a year.
Shields, who hasn’t shown strong interest in fighting overseas or
elsewhere, said he’s fine with the request.
“I like to fight often, so for me it would be no issue,” said
Shields. “My dad handles my contract so I don’t know how it is
right now, but I love to fight, so fighting twice a year would be
the bare –- I would want to fight a very bare minimum of that.”
The outspoken Miller, who’s fought four times in Japan since 2008
and gained a following there, wasn’t as committal.
“I think I can drive up some ticket sales and some viewership here
on TV in the United States… but I’m not closing off Dream anytime
soon,” said Miller. “I really enjoy fighting there and what
In Miller’s favor, Strikeforce and Dream have a public,
fighter-exchange alliance, though that did not seem to help the
U.S. promotion in its recent dealings with Overeem.
Allowing fighters the luxury of taking bouts with other promotions
certainly keeps the athlete happy, but drawing the line with
champions –- who risk, at the least, scheduling conflicts and, at
the most, injuries while moonlighting elsewhere –- might be better
for the promotion’s bottom line.
UFC pay-per-views with non-title headliners regularly sell less
than title fetes. Fans want the familiarity that comes with title
bouts. They want champions challenged and tested, vindicated or
In other notes:
• Besides selective non-exclusivity, Coker says he has a loose
policy when it comes to sponsorship.
“We’re not restrictive in any way, unless the networks (Showtime
and CBS) don’t allow it,” said Coker. “That’s kind of a business we
leave to the fighters and they do their own thing. It’s not
something we put in the agreement. Our policy is let them go do
what they do and if they get sponsorships, great, then it’s better
• Shields, a lifelong welterweight entering his second 185-pound
bout for a title, voiced his concerns in trying to keep on the
“Ultimately, I’m still not a huge 185-pounder,” said Shields. “If
it was up to me, I’d fight at both weights, but it depends on what
happens, if my teammate Nick (Diaz) tries to take the belt below or
• Coker wouldn’t name a contender for the middleweight title
following Nov. 7, though the promoter mentioned Tim Kennedy
and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
• Combating recent Internet chatter that CBS has done little to
promote the Nov. 7 “Fedor vs. Rogers” card, Coker reminded all that
CBS has its own timetable in securing the casual fan outside the
hardcore fanbase. In addition, Coker pointed out that CBS ran promo
ads during both NFL and college football games last weekend,
including the No. 1 most-watched game Saturday night between
Florida and LSU. That game netted 10 million viewers.
• Questioning took an unconventional turn when USA Today’s Beau
Dure asked about Miller’s impending Nov. 7 fight entrance. Miller
and Coker assured Dure that the fighter will get to do “his thing,”
(which usually includes props and other entertaining flare) while
Shields said he might get in on the action too.
“Maybe I’ll have to come up with something to top Jason,” said