Update: Strikeforce Adds Shamrock-Diaz, More

By Loretta Hunt Feb 10, 2009
Frank Shamrock will fight Nick Diaz at Strikeforce’s April 11 event on Showtime.

The bout, which Strikeforce and Showtime announced Tuesday, will be contested at a catch-weight of 179 pounds.

The outspoken Shamrock is coming off a loss to Cung Le in a March 2008 Strikeforce event. His arm was broken by Le’s kicks in the entertaining 15-minute match. Before that defeat, Shamrock choked out Phil Baroni in a June 2007 Strikeforce main event.

Diaz, who is perhaps even more outspoken than Shamrock, has won three straight. Most recently he stopped Thomas Denny in a July 2008 EliteXC bout.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker also said Tuesday that Cung Le will not fight on the April 11 show due to an elbow injury. However, Coker expects Le to fight twice for Strikeforce in 2009, and he expects one of those fights to be a rematch with Shamrock.

A middleweight matchup between Benji Radach and Scott Smith has already been confirmed for April.

Also discussed in a teleconference call hosted by Strikeforce and Showtime on Tuesday:

• Lightweight standout Gilbert Melendez is also expected to compete on April 11. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said Melendez could rematch Mitsuhiro Ishida, who handed the American his first career loss at Yarennoka’s New Year’s Eve event in 2007. Ishida made a victorious Strikeforce debut in September. UFC veteran Jorge Gurgel, who signed with Strikeforce last December, is also under consideration to take on Melendez.

• Strikeforce aims to promote five live “championship-level” events and five up-and-comer spotlight events on Showtime in 2009. Showtime plans the full 16-fight schedule in 2010. Any CBS events scheduled will be separate from this number. Showtime would not comment further regarding proposed CBS events.

• Strikeforce’s next event is being planned for May in Washington. A return to Tacoma is a possibility. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said talks for an East Coast event -- particularly for Atlantic City or a Connecticut casino -- are underway as well.

• Coker continues to reach out to the camp of the 42 fighters whose contracts were acquired last week during a select assets purchase deal with Pro Elite. Coker said the promotion plans to give fighters proposed yearly schedules so fighters have a “general” idea of the dates they will be fighting for the promotion. Coker said all of the 42 fighters should be contacted by late Wednesday.

• Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson is among the 21 or so athletes that have already been contacted. Ferguson’s attorney was reached on Monday, said Coker, and told the promotion wants to get the fighter back in the cage “as soon as possible.” Coker said talks of a fight between Ferguson and former K-1 star Bob Sapp is still in the hypothetical stage.

• Strikeforce is open to co-promotion efforts, like its past collaborations with EliteXC in 2008. “When organizations get together that have compelling matchups that are relevant and work out in the end for both parties and the fighters, I feel like, ‘Why wouldn’t we?’ said Coker.

• EliteXC champions will be offered the opportunity to fight for Strikeforce titles (i.e. Josh Thomson vs. KJ Noons, Cung Le vs. Robbie Lawler), hopefully within the year.

• Strikeforce is taking a firmer stance with certain athletes’ contracts regarding exclusivity. “In the past, if we had a fighter under contract but couldn’t keep him busy, we’d let him fight here or there,” said Coker, “but based on the schedule, I think we’re going to be very busy.” Coker said the policy could loosen later.

• Though its next headliner will be held at a catch weight, Strikeforce plans to uphold the traditional weight classes already utilized in the sport (155, 170, 185, 205, up to 265, over 265). After his 179-pound against Shamrock, Diaz plans to return to the welterweight division. Coker said future catch weight bouts would be reserved for “special” occasions.

• Strikeforce CEO Coker said phone calls have been placed to secure the first title defense from heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem within the next few months. Overeem (29-11) last competed for Strikeforce in November 2007, where he was awarded the heavyweight title for an impressive second-victory from strikes over Paul Buentello. Overeem, who’s fought at light heavyweight for a majority of his career, is currently enjoying a resurgence in Japan with the Dream promotion as a full-blown heavyweight.

• Showtime plans to keep a production schedule similar to their EliteXC and ShoXC events. Frank Shamrock and Gus Johnson, who anchored the CBS “Saturday Night Fight” events, have already been mentioned for commentating duties.

• Though the Strikeforce-Showtime deal is not exclusive, Ken Hershman, Showtime’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sports and Event Programming, said the pay premium channel isn’t looking to branch out with other promotions at this time. “When we’re in with a partner, we’re in with a partner, said Hershman. “We feel that we’re going to be doing a lot with Scott [Coker]. I don’t feel we have the capacity or the desire to do anything with anyone else.” Hershman said Coker would be included in any other discussions of MMA opportunities that arise with the network.

• Showtime’s Hershman firmly said that there would be no further conversations about re-scheduling a proposed bout between Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock. The main event attraction was cancelled the morning of the Oct. 4 EliteXC event after Shamrock sustained a cut in warm-ups.

Note: This article was updated at 5:30 p.m. EST with additional info.
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