(Kickin’ asses, breakin’ hearts, and stealin’ robes from Courtyard Marriotts. Props: sports.sho.com)
Strikeforce distributed a press release yesterday evening announcing that Phil Baroni had been released by the organization, citing Baroni’s "one-sided defeat" at the hands of Joe Riggs in June, and the fact that he’s lost four of his last seven fights. (Kind of harsh, since he’s also won three of his last four.) Said Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker: "We wish Phil the best of luck and hope he can revive his career. If he can, maybe one day, he can return and fight for us." The news was surprising for a couple reasons. First, have you ever heard of Strikeforce releasing a big name due to poor performance? It’s not like their welterweight division is so deep that they can be picky, and Baroni is a draw whether he wins or loses. Also, the vaguely negative tone of the press release seemed out of character for Strikeforce. Did something else happen behind the scenes?
The answer: Yeah, maybe. Immediately after the press release hit our inboxes, it was reported that Baroni had verbally agreed to a new contract with the UFC. The New York Badass compiled a 3-5 record in the UFC as a middleweight from 2001-2005, and was released after taking four consecutive losses. During his recent stint as a welterweight, Baroni has yet to defeat a fighter who currently holds a winning record, which seems to imply that the UFC’s offer to Baroni had more to do with sticking a thumb in Strikeforce’s eye than acquiring a promising 170-pounder. It also gives more credence to yesterday’s wild speculation about an upcoming season of TUF featuring old guys. Call us crazy now, but you’ll see.
Still, when one door closes, another opens. Filling the NYBA’s void at Strikeforce will be 39-year old MMA legend Matt Lindland, best known for his 10-3 run in the UFC from 2000-2005 (which included two decision wins over Phil Baroni), and the nasty sponsor-related feud that followed. According to MMA Weekly, Lindland expects to make his Strikeforce debut in October — on the card that’s slated to be headlined by Fedor Emelianenko — and named Jake Shields, Robbie Lawler, and Cung Le as possible opponents. Lindland was formerly under contract with Affliction, most recently suffering a 37-second knockout loss to Vitor Belfort in January; unsurprisingly, the UFC made no effort to pick him up after Affliction went under.
In other Strikeforce news…
— According to co-host Gorgeous George on MMA Junkie Radio yesterday, Strikeforce is angling to set up a fight between Fedor Emelianenko and former UFC heavyweight champ/Celebrity Rehab castmember Ricco Rodriguez. Let’s all pray that this doesn’t happen.