Former Strikeforce champion Marloes Coenen. Photo by Dave Mandel for Sherdog.com.
Strikeforce has released Valentijn Overeem and Marloes Coenen, while the UFC has released Jon Olav Einemo. The common ground between these three fighters? All are members of Golden Glory gym, and are training partners to former Strikeforce Heavywight champion Alistair Overeem. News of their releases was confirmed by Golden Glory head coach Martijn de Jong over Twitter.
This news comes just one week after Alistair Overeem was released by Zuffa. Overeem dropped out of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, citing injury and an inability to fight at 100% by the September 10 date. He then was announced for a show organized by United Glory (essentially the same company as Golden Glory) in October, and was promptly cut from Strikeforce.
While we don't know the exact details yet, it's hard to see these releases as anything other than Zuffa going after other Golden Glory fighters. While a justification could be made for cutting both Valentijn and Einemo, as both are late in their careers and coming off of losses, cutting Coenen is a big surprise. The former Strikeforce Women's Bantamweight champion just lost her title to Miesha Tate at last weekend's Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson show, and is considered one of the top women in MMA. Dana White has long been critical of women's MMA, and we are likely to see those divisions eliminated if Strikeforce is absorbed by the UFC, but the timing of her cut here, combined with those of Valntijn and Einemo, sends a clear message.
For those concerned about a Zuffa monopoly, this is exactly the reason for such concerns. This move reeks of Vince McMahon pro wrestling style vindictiveness, where employing the best fighters is secondary to settling personal grudges. It's an unfortunate move that does no service in the attempts to make the sport more mainstream.
With these releases, Sergei Kharitonov becomes the only Golden Glory fighter under the Zuffa banner. Kharitonov is currently scheduled to face Josh Barnett in the GP semi-finals, and is also scheduled for the October United Glory show. Keep an eye on his status with Zuffa in the coming months. Other Golden Glory names have been mentioned as possibly heading to Strikeforce at some time, including Gokhan Saki and Siyar Bahadurzada, but obviously I wouldn't expect that to happen any time soon.