Strikeforce Heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem has his next fight set, but surprisingly, it won't take place under the Zuffa banner. Overeem will compete in October at a United Glory event in Moscow. Details, including the exact date, opponent, and if it will be under MMA or K-1 rules, are not yet set - expect more news within the week.
Joining Overeem on the card will be Sergei Kharitonov, Siyar Bahadurzada, and Dion Staring. The show will feature the opening round of the second United Glory World Series of MMA and Kickboxing, a pair of tournaments the company launched last year. Bahadurzada and Gokhan Saki won the inaugural tournaments at the excellent World Series Finals show this May. It's unclear is any of the four announced names will be in the tournaments, or are only in non-tournament bouts. The 2011-2012 tournaments will continue in February, and wrap up May 2012.
The timing of this announcement is sure to turn a few heads, as earlier this month Overeem dropped out of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix while also taking some time to speak negatively about his new bosses at Zuffa. Speaking to Ariel Helwani at The MMA Hour, Overeem initially said he felt disrespected by Zuffa, that he had not agreed to the next Strikeforce GP date and would not fight on that date, and that he was willing to walk away from the company if that was what it came to. Mere hours later, Overeem was out of the tournament and replaced by Daniel Cormier. At the time, Dana White spoke in a uncharacteristically measured manner, saying it was unfortunate, but not blaming Overeem, though he later added that it was entirely Overeem's decision to drop out, and they did not pull him. Overeem cited a toe injury as a contributing factor in his leaving the tournament.
Overeem has had a tricky history with Strikeforce even prior to the Zuffa purchase. After winning the Heavyweight title in 2007, Overeem disappeared from the promotion for over two and a half years, finally returning in 2010. During that time away he had two Strikeforce return bouts planned, only to cancel due to injury. He also pursued his K-1 career and accepted other, non-Strikeforce MMA fights during that time, including fights for United Glory and Dream.
With only one fight left on his Strikeforce contract, Overeem is definitely not going to make any fans in the Zuffa offices with this move. Between open talks about leaving Strikeforce behind, trying his hand at boxing, and now taking a fight just a month after refusing to take part in the GP, Overeem is certainly not quietly going along with the new Strikeforce ownership. Don't expect Dana's next public comments on The Reem to be quite so calm.
United Glory is the promotional arm of the Golden Glory gym, home to Overeem and the other announced participants. Overeem has fought on United Glory events in the past, defeating Gary Goodridge in 2008 and Tony Sylvester in 2009. I wouldn't expect him to face a very tough challenge here, and if you want to engage in some wild speculation on an opponent, I'll point out that United Glory CEO Martijn de Jong reached out to Pedro Rizzo over twitter yesterday, asking the former UFC star to contact him.
In other United Glory news, the company also announced that they would be offering full refunds to anyone who purchased the May 2011 World Series Finals event streamed over YouTube. To claim the refund, fans need to fill out a brief survey on their experiences with the event. Here's de Jong's explanation:
It is our goal to maintain a line of communication with MMA fans by collecting their feedback regarding our product. We understand that many fans have busy schedules just like anyone else, so we are more than happy to offer a refund to anyone who purchased our online Pay-Per-View as an incentive for taking the time out of their day to tell us how they feel about the job we're doing to promote world-class Mixed Martial Arts fights to a global audience.
Very nice bit of customer service from United Glory here. Click here to take the online survey and qualify for your refund.