("I hear Dothan, Alabama is beautiful this time of year." PicProps: SB Nation )
Strikeforce appears on the verge of a solution to its Josh Barnett problem on Friday, as at least one internet report contends the company is close to a deal to take the heavyweight grand prix. MMA-Japan.com – a site affiliated with the good folks at Middle Easy – published the four-line story alleging that Strikeforce will partner with Real Entertainment and “possibly M-1 (Global)” to stage a show on April 10 that will go down in “the afternoon hours (in Japan) in order to be shown live in the United States.” The story cites no sources and just states all of the above as fact, but since the boys at the Easy usually know their shit, we figure it’s worth repeating.
Obviously, rumors that Strikeforce is eyeing an international venue for this leg of the GP have been percolating for a few weeks. If true, it’ll mark the first time one of America’s two “major” MMA promotions has ventured to Japan since UFC 29 back in 2000. It also means the company will have found a temporary way around Barnett’s ongoing legal issues. In addition, the April show is expected to include Alistair Overeem’s opening round bout against Fabricio Werdum and staging it overseas would save The Reem from having to “pass” any more of those "independent drug tests." That’s what you call a “two birds, one stone” approach, kids.
After his public shaming in front of the California State Athletic Commission in December, Barnett recently withdrew his application to be relicensed in the Golden State altogether. That was actually probably a smart move, since it deprives the CSAC the opportunity to scold him anymore at its February meeting. Since he’s no longer on Cali’s agenda at all, it also means other states could potentially license him without worrying about stepping on the CSAC’s toes. Pretty slick, right? Still, you also have to wonder what it all means for any kind of long-term(ish) commitment Strikeforce might want to make to Barnett. Seems like kind of a drag if it has to keep finding hole-in-the-wall venues that will let him fight, even if they are places where he feels more comfortable.
The potential move to Japan additionally means Strikeforce could be getting in bed with even more shady promotional partners. Let’s not forget that Real Entertainment was founded by a group of former Pride execs suspected of having ties to certain fraternal organizations in that country. And we don’t mean the Elks Club. So, go ahead and toss Real on the list with M-1 Global and Showtime as "partners" who could potentially make Scott Coker’s life a living hell.
Granted, it’d be cool to see Strikeforce pull this off. With draws like Barnett and Overeem on the card maybe they could fill a decent-sized arena and do sort of a throwback show with over-the-top production values and all that. But seriously, at what cost? What if, as we expect, Barnett and Overeem both advance to the semifinals? Then where do you go? Seems like a lot of trouble just to even get these guys in the cage.