Approximately 1,500 MMA fans swarmed the Roseland Ballroom in New York City yesterday afternoon for a special meet-and-greet with the participants from Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix. The action begins this Saturday at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, with two quarterfinal matches — Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Silva and Andrei Arlovski vs. Sergei Kharitonov — and three reserve matches, featuring Shane Del Rosario, Chad Griggs, and Valentijn Overeem. If you’re going to be there in person, please swing by the press pit to receive a complimentary fist-bump from BG.
We’ve collected some video highlights from yesterday’s festivities after the jump: First, all eight members of the heavyweight GP are introduced to the crowd by horrific YAMMA/Affliction vet Scott Ferrall. Then, Alistair Overeem talks to Ariel Helwani about his new love of American football, getting ducked by Fedor, and Dana White’s opinion that he’s not a top ten heavyweight. Finally, Fabricio Werdum shows off his special move for the tournament, and we have to admit, it’s pretty damn special. Check it out.
Fedor says his widely celebrated Glorious Sweater of Absolute Victory is now retired. Oh also, he still wants Alistair Overeem drug tested if they are to fight in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix.
It’s curious that whenever you see Fedor Emelianenko training, it always seems to be with younger, smaller, less skillful opponents and that he never seems to be going above 50% intensity. The fact that he’s talking about bringing in Shane Carwin to help him prepare for the later rounds of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix may be an indicator of the level of training partners he has to pick from in his gym since his brother Aleksander and Gegard Mousasi left the Red Devil team.
As you can see in the video above, Fedor had an OK training camp, but didn’t really seem to get pushed much in the clips we saw. It makes you wonder what kind of shape he would be in and whether or not he would have lost to Werdum if he had spent the last year training at, say, Xtreme Couture. They say when you’re the top dog in the gym, it’s time to find a new gym where you’re in the middle of the pack trying to work your way to the top.
(The photo above was paper-clipped to the front of M-1′s memo to tournament participants that drug testing will be mandatory for the GP. Subtle.)
When Dana White’s favorite Crazy Russian, Vadim Finkelstein speaks, the MMA world listens, mostly just because he usually has a lot of bizarre demands to make. In a recent interview the head of M-1 did with Russian sports news site Sports.ru, Finkelstein touched on a lot of topics including the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix, Fedor’s contract status and his recent statement he made about mandatory drug testing in the later rounds of the tournament.
Check out what Vad-Fink had to say after the jump.
Shane Carwin appeared on Comcast Sportsnet’s Fight Fix recently to expound on the tidbit revealed by Fedor Emelianenko during the Strikeforce conference call last week that he was planning on training with the former UFC interim heavyweight champ in the near future. According to Carwin, his management reached out to the former PRIDE heavyweight champion to try to set up a pairing between the heavyweight superpowers. Carwin explained that besides the obvious, the reason why he instigated talks with The Last Emperor’s camp were Fedor’s humility, faith in God and family values.
As far as his recovery from his neck injury, Carwin says that he is on track to get off the bench for a planned main event bout in June at UFC 131, but says that no opponent has been named as of the time of the interview.
Hopefully if he does ever end up training with Fedor for the bout, he records it so we can see how he fares.
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.
(Remember when Sergei Kharitonov sent Alistair Overeem‘s lifeless body through the ropes at K-1 Hero’s 10? No? Then you really need to watch these videos…)
In our excitement for Strikeforce’s potentially insane heavyweight tournament, one point seems to be getting lost in the narrative — namely, that these guys have already fought each other many, many times before. Five of the eight competitors (Werdum, Arlovski, Overeem, Emelianenko, Rogers) have previously faced at least three other fighters in the tournament field. Fabricio Werdum has actually fought everyone except Brett Rogers and Josh Barnett, and only Barnett himself has managed to go his entire career without bumping up against anybody else in this year’s bracket.
All told, there’s eleven twelve fights worth of shared history among the Strikeforce HWGP competitors, dating back over five years. To help you study for the quarterfinals next month, we’ve posted them all below in chronological order…
UPDATE: We originally forgot to include Fabricio Werdum’s decision win over Antonio Silva. So actually, there have been 12 previous meetings, not 11. The video has now been added.
(Sergei Kharitonov def. Fabricio Werdum via split decision; PRIDE 30, 10/23/05)
(Alistair Overeem def. Sergei Kharitonov via TKO, 5:13 of round 1; PRIDE 31, 2/26/06)