(No, Overeem will not be fighting…but enough about that. Have have you all seen our new hex-shaped cage. I call it the Sexagon.)
In a bizarre move, DREAM Executive Producer Keiichi Sasahara addressed the media today in an attempt to quell the rumors regarding Alistair Overeem dropping out of the event, but refused to discuss the reason for the Dutch fighter’s withdrawal, effectively doing little more than fuelling further speculation.
MMAFighting has the transcription of Sasahara’s prepared statement.
"Towards the end of the negotiations, because of reasons that I am not able to tell you, although the two fighters agreed to fight, it happened that these fighters could not fight. It’s not because of money, but if the reasons are something that I cannot tell you then you might be able to guess what they would be. Because of that, we are not able to have these two fighters fight.
We really wanted Alistair [Overeem] to fight. Today, unfortunately it is not happening so we will only have seven fights. I have to apologize to the fans who have been looking forward to seeing Alistair fight in Japan. I’m sorry."
How is DREAM the last to know that the fight isn’t happening when Overeem told them last weekend he was out?
Are they having issues with their iPhone 4 reception and they didn’t get his message until today?
Here’s Sasahara’s convoluted explanation of what happened:
"I just want to you explain to you the background of this. Alistair was supposed to fight Andrei Arlovski and they actually both agreed, we were ready to make an official announcement and then of course then the contractual agreement needed to be signed by both fighters. However towards the end of the negotiations, because of reasons that I am not able to tell you, although the two fighters agreed to fight, it happened that these fighters could not fight. It’s not because of money, but if the reasons are something that I cannot tell you then you might be able to guess what they would be. Because of that, we are not able to have these two fighters fight."
So we’re supposed to guess why Overeem wouldn’t fight Arlovski? That’s cool. I wish more MMA promotions would feed us news in riddle form. It would spice up MMA journalism a bit and make us reporters work for our leads.
But that still doesn’t tell us what happened with Ricco Rodriguez. According to Ricco’s management who had contacted DREAM to find out if the news of Alistair bowing out of the show was true, as of Tuesday when he got on the plane to Japan, they were told that he was still fighting Overeem.
Overeem mentioned in his statement to Ariel Helwani earlier this week that Arlovski was offered, but he rejected the fight when he was told that it would not be for the DREAM heavyweight title and that he was told the replacement would be Rodriguez, but he stressed that he never agreed to any of the opponents the organization offered.
My guess is that since neither Overeem or Arlovski would (or could, because of their respective Strikeforce commitments) sign long-term deals with the Japanese promotion, prompting DREAM officials to try to play hardball with them. Obviously they didn’t anticipate Overeem taking his ball and going home, cancelling the game completely.
According to Sasahara, when he threatened to pull out of the event, DREAM tried to accomodate him by finding him another opponent, but apparently Ricco Rodriguez wasn’t a suitable caliber of fighter for "The Demolition Man."
"So Alistair was supposed to fight at DREAM.15 and we were trying to find new fighters or other fighters for Alistair. We offered the Alistair fight to many different fighters, but Alistair was motivated to Arlovski. Arlovski is not an easy fighter to find a replacement for. And again, we were not able to find a replacement. Alistair was supposed to fight Arlovski and we didn’t know who was going to be the winner. The winner was then supposed to fight at DREAM.16 in September for the heavyweight championship. But that scenario is now gone. We need to think about whether we will have the championships anyway. Maybe we will move to plan B. In any case, we would like to plan some other fighters for Alistair in the future."
Hey, he’s no Brett Rogers, but what did Overeem expect on such short notice?
Seriously, though. I’ve gained some respect for Overeem for not taking an easy bout and the large paycheck that undoubtedly goes along with it.
It may be wishful thinking, but Sasahara is hopeful the fight will still happen down the road.
"I think there is a possibility [that the fight will happen in the future]. You know, these two fighters, personally agreed [to fight]. But that didn’t happen. Of course we want these two fighters to fight in the future, it would be a great fight. However when we think about fighter’s feelings, they might not want to think about it for a while so maybe we should give them some time."
No word on who Arlovski and Rodriguez will be fighting, if they will square off against each other, or if they have both been dropped from the card entirely.