("I’m thinking of a number between 1-20. First person to guess it gets to be Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix champion. No shit, we’ll give you a belt and everything." PicProps: Canvas Chronicle)
So, in a nutshell? Strikeforce held a conference call yesterday where it contradicted many of the things it just told us last week about its proposed heavyweight grand prix tournament. No, the title won’t be on the line. No, the fights (excepting the final) won’t be five rounds. Instead, the winner will become the Strikeforce tournament champion and will get a shot at Alistair Overeem’s belt after the grand prix wraps up … some time in like 2015. Unless Overeem himself wins the tournament. In that case, aside from The Reem having another hunk of gold to add to his collection and Strikeforce having zero title contenders left, we have no idea what happens next. From the sound of it, neither does Strikeforce.
Some other oddities in the tournament “rules” revealed yesterday: In the unlikely event of a draw, the promotion will call upon a fourth judge to break the tie. That’s cool, because draws suck. It’s also shitty, because the “fourth judge” will reportedly be appointed by Strikeforce, not an athletic commission and therefore stands to be even less trustworthy than the blind simpletons who normally score MMA fights. Also, in the very likely event that someone can’t continue in the tournament due to injury (or some other reason) a five-person “tournament committee” comprised of Strikeforce officials will handpick a replacement. If you think this concept is obviously rife with major conflicts of interests, well, you’re right. Don’t worry though, it will all sound very official. Kind of like in the ’80s when “Jack Tunney” used to be the “president” of the WWF.
Anyway, after the jump, some meditations on how all the things we told you in the above two paragraphs could potentially make this tournament go all fubar. We have questions, people. Tons of questions.
From the start, it never really made any sense to have the Strikeforce heavyweight championship on the line in each round of this tourney, but taking the belt out of the equation while leaving the champion in makes even less sense. Essentially the company is allowing its already absentee champ to put the title on ice for yet another year. It’s also hard to see how creating an additional, totally separate tournament belt will help matters. Like we said at the top, the tournament champion will assumedly get a future shot at the regular champion … unless the tournament champion and the regular champion are the same guy. That’s confusing, we know, but actually possibly less confusing then the alternative …
The alternative is this: Let’s say for the sake of argument that a scenario unfolds where Overeem loses to Fabricio Werdum, who in turn loses to Fedor, who then loses to Josh Barnett in the final. Then what? Do you give a title shot to the guy who beat the guy who beat the guy who beat the champ? What happens to the guy who beat the champ in the first place? Does he get a title shot too, maybe after? And if so, what’s the point of this tournament thing again?
Additionally, what if one of Strikeforce’s undesirable alternate fighters wins this thing? What if Chad Griggs gets boosted into the tournament final because Fedor busts his hand in the semis? If Griggs wins the tournament by beating Gian Villante and Werdum, does he get a shot at Overeem? Or in that case do we just sweep it under the rug and pretend like this whole “tournament champion” thing never happened? We’re guessing the latter.
Clearly though, the whole business about a “tournament committee” is Strikeforce’s safety valve in all this. If the grand prix starts heading south, if things aren’t going according to plan – if they’re “going Griggs,” you might say — the “tournament committee” can always step in and reshuffle the deck. Fedor and Overeem both lose in the first round? No problem. The “tournament committee” can just stick them back in there. Heck, maybe even in the finals, if that’s what it takes.
Do you think Strikeforce is above that? We don’t. Not after yesterday’s call, when Scott Coker made it clear that he’s just going to shrug his shoulders and say stuff like “well, that’s how they do it in Japan” every time he has to scramble the rules of his heavyweight GP. He’s right though, this is how they do it in Japan. In Japan, it’s a total clusterfuck and they do whatever it takes to engineer the outcome they desire.
Another thing about that conference call? The Pride comparisons continued to flow like wine. And you know what? Maybe that is appropriate here. Gotta say, a struggling MMA organization comparing itself to Pride is kind of like a struggling singer/songwriter comparing himself to Kurt Cobain. It’s cool for a while … until you get to the part at the end.