The Impending Death of Strikeforce

Strikeforce pulled Alistair Overeem from its Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament on Monday. Photo by Dave Mandel for Sherdog.com

There's a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which Eric Idle meanders through a muddy peasant town collecting the bodies of the deceased. John Cleese enters frame with an elderly man dangling over his shoulder and proclaims, "Here's one." As Idle responds with the price of collection (nine pence, if you're wondering), the old man proclaims that he is, in fact, not dead, setting off a delightful minute of dialogue between Idle, Cleese, and the old man before Cleese convinces Idle to finish what nature has not with a swift whack to the back of the head.

Since Zuffa purchased it in March, the Strikeforce story has centered around the idea that they aren't quite dead, yet. Dana White laid the groundwork for this ruse when, after announcing the purchase, he declared that things would run "business as usual."

It was a proclamation only to be believed by the most naive of MMA fans, but let's run through Zuffa's whittling down of the company anyway. Most of the Strikeforce staff was let go in May. Coker was demoted to "Executive VP and General Manager." He was later reinstated as CEO, but his duties mostly include appearing at Strikeforce events as an empty figurehead. Welterweight champ Nick Diaz talked his way out of Strikeforce and into a title shot against Georges St. Pierre in the UFC. Nate Marquardt, despite White's assurances that Strikeforce would compete for talent as an independent company, has not and will not receive an offer from Strikeforce, a move all but guaranteed prior to March 12.

But while the writing's long been dry on the wall, it was Alistair Overeem's removal from Strikeforce's heavyweight tournament this week that provided the final blow to the idea that the promotion would survive past the spring of 2012.

If Overeem and White are to be believed, the former's removal from the tournament has nothing to do with contract squabbles or an early surge into the UFC, but, rather, a vacation, an injured toe, and a rigid schedule with Showtime. Overeem claims Strikeforce told him to prepare for a bout in either October or November. With that in mind, plus exiting the Fabricio Werdum fight with a broken toe, Overeem went on vacation and put off the start of his training camp until the start of August. Strikeforce then announced the second leg of the tournament for September 10. Overeem refused to fight on that date, believing it would not provide him enough time to prepare. Zuffa refused to move the date of the show, pulled Overeem, and inserted Daniel Cormier in his place.

But why is the September 10 date so firm? Overeem was originally scheduled to fight Werdum on April 9 before that bout -- along with the other tournament fight between Josh Barnett "alleged" wife beater Brett Rogers -- was moved to June 18. While it makes sense that Showtime and Zuffa would not want to delay the tournament any further, one would think that maintaining Overeem's participation would be a high priority, if only to maintain whatever integrity the tournament still holds, not to mention Overeem being the most interesting and marketable fighter left after Antonio Silva extinguished Fedor Emelianenko in February.

To remove Overeem without so much as a second thought indicates that it's of some importance to finish this tournament sometime around the 2012 calendar change. Why would that be important? Because Strikeforce's deal with Showtime runs up around February or March of next year. And that deal's expiration is only significant if Zuffa has no plans gives Showtime no reason to renew it.

The dead cart's coming around, and Dana White has Strikeforce hanging up on his shoulder. It may claim it's happy and alive and wanting to take a walk, but soon enough it'll feel a blunt strike to the back of its head, too.

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