When Strikeforce was bought out by Zuffa in one of the most unexpected, shocking moments of 2011, it sort of turned the MMA world on it's ear. There were rumblings and speculations that they were barely treading water, but the deal happened so fast, that many were taken completely by surprise.
After the purchase, amid a slew of contract red tape, the promotion was moved into a position to continue putting together events. The roster was slowly picked clean, and less than two years after the purchase, Strikeforce was mercifully put to bed, with all the talent either absorbed into the UFC or released from their contracts.
When you have less than stellar weight divisions, especially one that has been dominated by one man for multiple title defenses, one would think the idea would be to beef up that division, and allow it a little more depth. The UFC light heavyweight division isn't bad -- I'd like to make that crystal clear -- it doesn't suffer as much as the heavyweight division, but I would say that it's about on par with the middleweight division, where many feel the waters have become very shallow.
When the Strikeforce fighters were being evaluated for extraction, they grabbed up several athletes quickly from the 205 sector. Names like Gegard Mousasi, Rafael Cavalcante, Ovince St. Preux and Gian Villante were snapped up. As a matter of fact, almost all of the light heavies were nabbed to beef up the UFC roster.
There were a few stragglers left behind, though. Among that small handful was Virgil Zwicker. What was odd about that situation, is that you have a guy who was willing to toe the company line, and even fight at heavyweight, and also holds a win over St. Preux. I know some of you will say, 'But he was coming off a loss', however, a few Strikeforce guys were brought into the UFC fold that were coming off losses. KJ Noons and Nate Marquardt are examples of that trend.
That unfortunate oversight has been Bellator's gain, as Zwicker is now among their ranks, and will be fighting this Friday the 13th. My MMA Sentinel co-host, Iain Kidd and I interviewed 'Rez Dog' who detailed a story about a serious medical misdiagnosis, the hole it left in his wallet, and the lack of any financial support from Zuffa. He also has some strong opinions about Rampage and Tito Ortiz being at Bellator now. Here's what he had to say:
Strikeforce Doctor Misdiagnosing a Stroke & Not Paying for Follow Up Tests
Strikeforce gave me the opportunity to be the main event of a card, and they sent me to a doctor to go and do my medicals. Their doctor basically said that they found blood clots in my brain, so I actually had to spend thousands of dollars of my own money getting cleared. Strikeforce did not help me, and none of the Zuffa people helped me pay for anything, so I had to go spend $15,000 - $16,000 on about 20 different doctors and 15 different x-rays to prove to them that their doctor was wrong and there was nothing wrong with my brain.
They didn't help with anything. I had to go do every test, step by step, myself. I almost had to do celebrity golf tournaments just to bring in money for myself, because I was broke. An MRI costs anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000, and I had to do 15 of them just to get cleared, because they made the decision to send me to some broke doctor who had some old x-ray machine with diluted film rolls. It was one of the most frustrating things I've ever dealt with in my career.
A regular doctor couldn't clear me, only a university level doctor could clear me. I had to go to UCSD and stuff. It was a hard thing to deal with. It was a hard thing on my family. It felt like it was pretty much us versus the world. My health comes first, my kids' well-being comes first, me being a father comes first, so I was almost ready to hang up the gloves, but I knew at the time this can't be right.
I was not allowed to spar and I was not allowed to train. They told me I had suffered from a stroke in my sleep. I was scared for my life. I had to tell my wife and my kids... I didn't know what the outcome was going to be. The way they told it to me, I had suffered from a stroke and I had blood clots in my brain, and if they don't go in and remove them there's a possibility I might die. I had to sit out about 6 or 7 months before I could even get a fight. Then when I did get the fight, I had to do more tests for them, just because they didn't think I was capable of fighting.
It was one of the most frustrating and angry things I've ever dealt with. It was so discouraging to know that I'm working for somebody who doesn't appreciate me enough to help me get myself cleared, especially when it's their doctor who made the mistake.
It was nerve wracking. I did love the way they treated me during the fights. When I had a fight they were very professional. There are a lot of good people that they had working for them who had the utmost professionalism. It's just that some of it was really frustrating.
I was kind of disappointed when they hired Tito and Rampage. Not to take anything away from them and what they've done, but their time has come and passed. It's my time. It's the younger light heavyweights time. The one guy I've been looking at that has been in beast mode is King Mo. He's always been an extreme athlete. I've trained with him at team quest and he's a beast. To go against somebody like him would let me know where I'm at.
When it comes to Tito and Rampage... meh... I don't know how long they're going to be around. It doesn't really excite me to go against them. I mean, if the opportunity was given to me, I'd 100% jump on it and seize that moment. To me, the way it has been marketed is they have their own agenda for Tito and Rampage. I don't know if they're going to be protected, because it's almost like they're trying to just take a poke at the UFC. I'm not with all that. I'd much rather see them invest in some of the younger fighters they've signed. Tito and Rampage are coming out of retirement. Tito is on what, a four fight losing streak? Rampage is on a couple of fights losing streak. In my eyes, they're not the face of the 205lbs division.
You can follow Virgil via his Twitter account, @VirgilZwicker