Strikeforce delays Heavyweight Grand Prix until June

March 2, 2011

Strikeforce confirmed rumors that the much hyped Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament has been delayed until June 18th. The April 9th Strikeforce show will now feature Nick Diaz v. Paul Dailey according to MMA Junkie.

Grumblings about the delay grew as Strikeforce had not announced a site for the April 9th event. Scott Coker was deflected questions about the April card on The MMA Hour in mid-February and stated that announcement would be imminent.

Via Josh Gross at ESPN today:

“We just ran out of time,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said Tuesday, referring to the second leg of its Heavyweight Tournament quarterfinal round. “I didn’t find a venue that we thought would work for everybody, so we decided to move it.”

Does everybody refer to somebody (i.e., Josh Barnett)? Obviously, Strikeforce and Scott Coker are being criticized for this major gaffe.

Zach Arnold starts it off with a post on 2/23 prior to the official delay:

The more the story progresses about what the hell is happening for the promotion’s Heavyweight GP tournament, the less seemingly anyone knows. I often wonder if the reason for that is because the power brokers & decision makers themselves don’t know what’s going on. Which, in essence, is kind of the bizarre prism that has been created fairly or unfairly in the media that Strikeforce has some success despite of its own actions.

When the promotion decided to book a year-long ‘tournament’ as the main theme for 2011, they had to realize that everything needed to set up for the year. That means the arena bookings, the matches, and everything logistical.

The fact that Strikeforce still doesn’t reportedly have a venue booked for April 9th for the rest of the first round is absurd. The idea that Sherdog’s report on this has not been disputed yet by the promotion is curious. All of this chaos is also completely unfair to fighters who have training camps and are trying to peak at the right time

Bloody Elbow opines:

The real damage this has done is not to Strikeforce’s relationships with fans as much as it is to its TV partners and to the fighters.

Showtime can’t be happy with post-poning the second installment of the tournament after advertising April 9th heavily on the Fedor vs Silva broadcast.

Even worse, the fighters who were in mid-camp preparing for fights in early April now have to recalibrate their training schedules to peak in early June. Not to mention they won’t get paid for another 60 days and extending their camps will mean paying their trainers, coaches and sparring partners almost double the amount for a normal camp. For someone like Brett Rogers I imagine that’s a pretty big deal.

Arnold pulls no punches in yesterday’s post:

…the fact that Scott Coker really did push all of his chips to try to run the April 9th date in Japan is absurd. Yes, I predicted that Strikeforce would try to run some if not all of Barnett’s fights in Japan, but you would have to be a clueless idiot in 2011 to try to run that market — especially if you are a foreigner. What it goes to show you is what a mark Scott Coker is when it comes to Japan to ignore all the realities that were facing him and to proceed ahead as if he was running into a brick wall just for the fun of it. I’m not angry at Mr. Coker, I’m just embarrassed for him at this point.

Unfortunately, the story of Strikeforce on Showtime has more or less been about inconsistency or incompetency. Scott Coker rolls the dice on Fedor and ends up watching Fedor lose to both Fabricio Werdum and Bigfoot Silva. Then, instead of putting over the two guys who won, he focuses on saving Fedor’s career in interview after interview after interview. Now, he gambled on Japan (again) just like he did last year, only on a bigger scale this year, and predictably failed.

Payout Perspective:

For those looking at this with a glass half-full optimism, the April 9th in San Diego is decent on paper with two title fights. Still, the fact remains that Strikeforce failed to execute on its promise of a Heavyweight Grand Prix. Yes, it is only a slight delay, but the handling of the situation was poor. You could chalk this up to the possibility that Strikeforce was trying to place the card in Japan. But, there should have been a backup plan in the states. As Arnold pointed out in his post on 3/1, there will be no way that the tournament will be done by 2011. Moreover, this delay hurts the organization’s credibility and trust with all of its stakeholders (fans, tv partners and fighters). It also shows that the UFC is a far superior organization when it comes down to being organized.

As an aside, I would not be surprised that Dana White looks to put together a card in Japan in the near future just to show Strikeforce it can be done.



20 Responses to “Strikeforce delays Heavyweight Grand Prix until June”

  1. Machiel Van on March 2nd, 2011 12:48 PM

    Thanks for the article, Jason.

  2. Machiel Van on March 2nd, 2011 1:00 PM

    This definitely shows a complete failure by Strikeforce’s management. I mean, for all that Strikeforce’s top fighters talk about not wanting to be locked into exclusive contracts and the possibility of better pay, this is the price. It’s just really disappointing and mind-boggling that this event couldn’t have gone through as planned. The only plausible reason is Josh Barnett. I want to believe that Strikeforce was merely fooled by Barnett; that he claimed his license issue would be taken care of in time and they just fool-heartedly trusted them, but it’s difficult to believe that that’s the whole story here. Coker is a business man who has promoted fights for years and years (kickboxing before MMA). Things like this make me seriously question his acumen, heck even his common sense. Any U.S. fight promoter is extremely naive to think that they could (or even should) attempt to have a successful MMA event in the Japanese market. He’s worked with organizations like DREAM so you’d think he’d of learned that or some of his Japanese “partners” could’ve dropped the hint.

  3. Machiel Van on March 2nd, 2011 1:07 PM

    This will really kill the momentum from the February show. This is especially apparent because almost NO ONE is talking about the Mar. 5 show that occurs in three days. All of the current buzz is negative coverage of this GP delay, and that will only last so long, definitely not until June 18. And SERIOUSLY Coker, June 18? Seven days after a heavyweight fight that is arguably much more important? UFC 131 will suck up all the buzz, save for the few days before the event. I mean, talk about “needing enough time to promote,” that event will have an hour on non-premium TV EVERY week leading up to it, good luck overshadowing Lesnar vs Dos Santos on TUF with Strikeforce’s traditional sparseness of promotional material in the next twelve weeks. They needed this first round to be done before UFC 131 to fully capitalize on the potential media coverage. Just… facepalm.

  4. Machiel Van on March 2nd, 2011 1:09 PM

    PS that last line was the tops 🙂

  5. Machiel Van on March 2nd, 2011 1:10 PM

    Clarification: the last line in the article, not my ranting comment.

  6. Matt C. on March 2nd, 2011 1:35 PM

    Comparing the UFC to Strikeforce is hardly ever a fair comparison but when pointing out what Strikeforce did wrong in this case it’s easy to point at what the UFC is doing as an example. So as an example look how far ahead the UFC announced their plans to go to Brazil. They had a big press conference there announcing it months in advance and I’m guessing another big press will happen when they got the main event and other main card fights locked in. Also there is rumors now of a Sweden UFC card late in the year. Rumors of a possible Japan UFC card late in the year. These early rumors show that if those cards come to fruition the UFC has been planning them for months and months. Not like Strikeforce trying to throw together a card in Japan within a couple months. The chances of pulling off a very successful event without any drama goes way up when you do the proper planning ahead of time. Throwing things together last minute means something usually always gets overlooked and that means things will never run perfect doing it that way.

  7. jv on March 2nd, 2011 2:04 PM

    Is this disappointing? Yes. Is it hard on the fighters? Yes. Is it the end of all existence as so many are claiming? No.

    The big missing piece for me is exactly what kind of arrangements were they trying to put together in Japan? If there was enough at stake and things looked promising enough it may have been worth the risk. We just don’t know enough about what was in play. But I will agree they should have been farther down the road on plan ‘B’.

    We also don’t know what part SHO played in the decisions. We do know that Coker can’t change the dates with out blessing, so SHO had to be aware of what was going on. Also if MMA wasn’t banned from SHO for the entire month of May so boxing can reign supreme this wouldn’t be any where near as big of an issue.

  8. Diego on March 2nd, 2011 3:33 PM

    I’m not sure how much of this is that they wanted to run it in Japan and how much it is that Plan A (wherever that might have been) fell through, and the only places they could go on short notice were places Barnett can’t get licensed.

    Zack A. is claiming that Scott put all his chips on Japan, but I’m not sure where that information comes from. My understanding is that they were looking at several places and Japan was one of them. I think people are fixating on this Japan thing, but if SF were looking at anyplace (say Chicago) and it happened to fall through – which does happen from time to time – then with Barnett on the card they would be limited in their backup options.

    I’m disappointed in the delay because I was looking forward to those fights, but it’s not the end of the world. The Super6 on Showtime suffered worse delays (and outright cancellations) than this and no one in the boxing media freaked out like MMA fans are doing. These things happen.

    This is the first casualty of a tournament most predicted would be DOA. I’m sure there will be more. In the meantime we have a good card this weekend, a good card in April and a good card in June. Not bad for #2.

    And yes, I feel bad mostly for the fighters who see their paychecks pushed back.

  9. Jason Cruz on March 2nd, 2011 4:15 PM

    MV: Thanks

    Matt C: I agree. Does anyone recall that the UFC was heading to Abu Dhabi this spring and that fell through. Yet, nothing was lost since the planning was so far ahead of the event. SF should have known that if Barnett was in the HW GP, there may be some issues with finding a venue to do his fights. Plan B should have been drawn up much sooner and it mystifies me that Coker is quoted as saying that they just ran out of time.

  10. Diana on March 2nd, 2011 8:03 PM

    I think it’s unfair to judge when we don’t know all the details. For all we know, the chance the HWGP potentially airing on CBS caused the delay. Would everyone be as upset if say, one of the participants, Reem or Fabricio, was injured & forced to sit-out? The fights are coming, we know that. Can it be done before the end of year? Possibly. But I’ll take what they’re giving me happily, thank you. That stacked supercard is worth me waiting 2 months.

    And enough with comparing Ufc to SF. You can’t compare a veteran promotion to a one not even a full 5 years old. The fact that the media puts it in the same category shows, they’re doing something right. So STFU & enjoy INGRATES!!! MMA

  11. Nick on March 2nd, 2011 8:40 PM

    Coming out of the New Jersey show, I was really impressed with the promotion of the April 9 show. They were smart and just promoted the fights and date, not the venue. Now it has been flushed down the toilet. I don’t buy for a second that a huge portion of the 1m+ watching Fedor were hardcore Sherdog types, so they probably don’t even know about the date change. Also, this really has to be hard on the fighters. There are plenty of locations in the US where they could have held the event w/ Barnett on it, but they just chose to delay it. It may very well have been to late, but there is absolutely no reason why there wasn’t a plan B in case Japan fell through. This just appears to be straigth up incompetence to the fans watching at home. That may be an oversimplification of the situation, but most fans just want to see fights, they don’t care why its not on, just that it isn’t.

  12. BrainSmasher on March 2nd, 2011 9:03 PM

    This is the second screw up involving a tournament. The first never happening after being promised. I said many times on here tournaments are a bad idea and a tool for someone with no talent or a big org in desperation. They are head aches and they never come off as planned. Once you announce a tournament people want to see it play out. But there is to many injuries and replacements in real MMA. On a random fight card its not that big of a deal to have someone pull out. If its a fighter in a tournament if is a huge deal. There is no upside. The only upside with SF tournament was it would going to maybe back some fighters and SF into a corner and maybe get fights that should have been but weren’t put on. But that is a flaw in SF not a asset of a tournament.

    Also this is the second fighter SF has gambled their entire promotion and credibility on. Fedor being the first and now Barnett. They keep putting all the elverage in the hands of the fighters and soon all the fighters will be out of a job when SF goes belly up. They cant make Overeem fight who he is supposed to in a timely manner, the same with Fedor, now they have to hide from every state sanction body and disappoint fans just to use a has been like Barnett.

  13. mmaguru on March 3rd, 2011 7:04 AM

    I think we are making too much noise about this. No one in the industry really believed SF could pull off such a tournament without going through issues. Barnett was a discussion point from day one where most seen the problems that were going to arise with his licensing.

    At the end of day, this was never a true tournament but more or less a way for StrikeForce to build some title contenders and keep their HW fighters busy and committed so as to fight more in 2011 (particularly Fedor and Overeem). My advice for Coker is to do away with the concept and make the Overeem vs Werdum fight for the title in June. Whatever interest in the tournament that was there after the first round will be an afterthought by June.

  14. Machiel Van on March 3rd, 2011 8:20 AM

    While Strikeforce and the UFC are completely different promotions in terms of size, resources and reach, it is fair to compare they way they schedule events. There is no reason that Strikeforce couldn’t have handled this better. If there was even any suspicion that Barnett’s licence would be an issue, the venue in Dallas should have been reserved in advance in the first place. Remember, you can book more than one venue at a time, especially a long time out from an event. I don’t understand why they would insist on having an event in California when it is one of the three LEAST likely states that Barnett would be licensed (the others being Nevada and New Jersey). What was the benefit?

    To clarify, I don’t really compare Strikeforce to the UFC, that’s like apples to oranges and Strikeforce usually does well with the resources they have, but when they fail there’s just no rhyme or reason to it, and as a fan it’s frustrating. However my argument was that if they really did delay the event “in order to have proper time to promote it,” their timing is just horrible considering TUF and UFC 131. April 9 is 3 weeks before UFC 129 and two weeks after UFC fight Night : Seattle (same night as Bellator 38), so the event will be the only major MMA card during that small window, perfect time to garner the maximum amount of media buzz. I’m not saying the event will be successful, I’m just saying the timing is far less than ideal and it didn’t have to be this way. Assuming none of the participants are injured, the semifinals of the GP will be marred by speculation about the fighters’ respective rest periods (approx. 3 months vs 7 months) or cage rust.

    Guru, I would not be making so much noise about this had Coker not made a ton of noise about it. Enough said.

  15. Machiel Van on March 3rd, 2011 8:22 AM

    above: *not saying the event WON’t be successful*

  16. mmaguru on March 3rd, 2011 9:29 AM

    agreed Machiel Van, never thought of it from that angle. I just figured Coker was promoting his brand.

  17. mmaguru on March 3rd, 2011 9:45 AM

    What’s interesting about this and based on the UFC and Showtime schedule it does not appear we will get a major SF card between April 9 and the June 18th show. That’s over a 2 month period without a major card. We may get a few challenger events, but I don’t think this is good for SF if they can’t keep in the public eye month over month.

  18. jv on March 3rd, 2011 10:27 AM

    There is no denying that Strikeforce got the short end of the stick when Arum signed on the dotted line for SHO. The big shame is that if they had gotten round two out of the way at the end of March or the April 9 event then the round 1 winners would all be resting up over that period and would be ready to go when the SF embargo ended.

  19. jv on March 3rd, 2011 10:29 AM

    Sorry I need to learn to proof read. If they had gotten the round one guys out of the way. They would be good to go with round two when the embargo was lifted.

  20. Machiel Van on March 3rd, 2011 3:38 PM

    You can’t argue that “we shouldn’t judge them because we don’t know all the details” when the company gives us no concrete information regarding their decisions (Sorry but “we just ran out of time” doesn’t cut it when they’ve put so much effort into setting up the tournament and had already established dates for the first round events). Naturally lack of information (and a complete lack of response to the press’s allegations) causes speculation to enter into the equation, and I won’t apologize for any of it until they tell me different. Where’s the statements from Strikeforce?

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