CBS, Coker, Fighters React to Post-Fight Brawl

By Loretta Hunt Apr 18, 2010
A post-fight altercation following Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields’ unanimous decision victory over Dan Henderson shed a negative light on the promotion’s second live event on CBS Saturday night.

Flanked by CBS announcer Gus Johnson moments after his win, Shields was addressed by Jason "Mayhem" Miller, who stepped up to the microphone and requested a rematch with the champion mid-interview. Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, welterweight champion Nick Diaz, UFC lightweight Nate Diaz, and others in Shields’ camp intervened in what quickly broke out into an all-out brawl inside the cage. The live telecast broadcasted Miller, on the ground, taking punches and kicks from some members of Shields’ Cesar Gracie team before officials were able to pull them apart.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker had already exited the arena for the post-fight press conference when the cage erupted in chaos. When shown a picture taken cageside of the promotion’s two champions, Diaz and Shields, both grabbing at Miller with their fists cocked back, Coker was noticeably shaken.

Questions remain how Miller, who had won a middleweight bout against local fighter Tim Stout earlier that evening, was able to gain entry to the cage following Shields’ victory. Miller did not attend the post-fight press conference.

“I can tell you this,” said Coker. “None of my staff brought him in there.”

Coker said he’d review footage of the disruption before passing judgment on the Strikeforce fighters involved. Coker had already announced his intentions on Thursday to match Miller against Robbie Lawler at a June 16 show in Los Angeles; he told later that he’d have to reassess that bout.

“Obviously, there’s suspensions and there’s going to be sanctions, things like that that we can do, but I want to take a look at the footage,” he said. “Let’s see who threw the first punch or blow, because I didn’t see it.”

Coker said he’d envisioned the post-fight disruption looking like a previous outburst, also involving both Diaz brothers, which occurred in the wake of K.J. Noons victory over Yves Edwards at EliteXC “Return of the King” in June 2008.

“I’m hoping it’s nothing like that,” said Coker, “but it has no room in our sport because the sport is young. It has no room in any league…when this happens, it affects the entire sport.”

Melendez, who appeared to be the first fighter to intervene as Shields physically shrugged Miller away, apologized for his camp’s outburst during the post-fight press conference, then later approached CBS executives personally to reiterate his regretful actions.

“I hope CBS can forgive us for that because we love fighting and we want the whole world to see that,” Melendez said on the dais.

Melendez, who trains with Shields in San Francisco, Calif., explained his mindset and actions, which sparked the outburst.

“It was Jake’s moment,” said Melendez. “He’d just fought five rounds. He beat a living legend here and I just didn’t want anyone to steal his moment right there. What did (Miller) do that for? I just felt like he needed to give him some space.”

When asked if he felt the Cesar Gracie camp had crossed the line with its attack on Miller, Melendez was hesitant to find fault with his team.

“I don’t know,” said Melendez. “I’d have to plead the fifth on that one. That’s my family. Those are my boys and everything. Like we said, none of this would have happened if we had control of who got into the cage. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault, like with the fighters or anything. Maybe we should have had control of who got in the cage.”

Shields, who joined the post-fight conference last, said he wasn’t surprised by Miller’s behavior.

“He carries himself in a disrespectful way,” said Shields, who earned a five-round unanimous decision over Miller last November for the vacant middleweight crown. “It’s just his personality. We’ve been friends in the past. We’ve been enemies in the past.”

Kelly Kahl, senior executive vice president of CBS prime time, was expectedly let down by the episode.

“It isn’t something the sport needs and that aspect was disappointing,” said Kahl. “In the same vein, you see it in basketball, you see it in baseball, you see it in football. There’s a lot of emotion and things kind of happen, but it’s not something we want to see happen in the future.”

Kahl, who said he enjoyed the three title fights, would not speculate on what this incident would mean for the future of additional Strikeforce broadcasts on the network.

“We do the same thing we do after every show,” said Kahl. “We review it. We have a discussion. We look at the ratings and we assess.”
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