As it turns out, Alistair Overeem will not fight Ricco Rodriguez at DREAM.15.
The Strikeforce heavyweight champion issued a statement today and stated he lost a desire to fight at the event when a title opportunity was taken off the table.
"I feel sorry for Rodriguez's camp if they still think the fight is on, and I apologize to my fans who have bought a ticket to see me compete," Overeem stated.
DREAM.15 takes place July 10 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, and airs live in the U.S. on HDNet. A lightweight title match between current champion Shinya Aoki and Tatsuya Kawajiri is expected to headline.
) first reported the bout this past Tuesday while citing sources close to the event who said official announcement of the match-up was forthcoming. One day later, Overeem trainer Martin de Jong said the fight was not likely to happen, though his camp had a meeting Saturday to determine whether the heavyweight would fight at the event.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez's manager, Ken Pavia, said he held a signed contract for the bout.
DREAM representatives said this past week that they expected the bout to go forward, though they did not make an official announcement.
Mike Kogan, DREAM's stateside representative, did not respond to requests for comment today.
Overeem, who in May defended his Strikeforce belt with a TKO of Brett Rogers at "Strikeforce St. Louis: Heavy Artillery," stated that he never agreed to the bout.
"After my Rogers fight, I decided to take time off and do media appearances – (the) MMA expo in Canada, E3 expo (and) Strikeforce events – and enjoy some time off with my family," Overeem stated. "I knew DREAM wanted me on the show, but I didn’t want to go back [into] training preparation. Then, they offered me a fight against Andrei Arlovski for the DREAM heavyweight title.
"As I have said on (numerous) occasions, fighting for a belt means something more, and I wanted that DREAM title so much that as a result, I agreed to lay off my media and holiday plans and went back into training."
That's when things went awry for the Dutch fighter.
"During my training I found out that Arlovski was not going to be my opponent, and [DREAM] changed opponents numerous times," Overeem stated. "I've heard names like Tim Sylvia and (Ikuhisa) Minowa come about. At one point, I received notice that they had found a opponent, but the DREAM heavyweight title was not on the line anymore.
"With all the changes and the title fight no longer a possibility, I immediately turned down the opportunity."
Overeem's victory over Rogers was his eighth professional fight (including MMA and kickboxing matches) in eight months. His sole loss came at the hands of Badr Hari, who knocked him out at the 2009 K-1 World Grand Prix Final this past December.
The champion did not say when he will fight again in DREAM.
According to Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, Overeem could face Fabricio Werdum or Fedor Emelianenko in his next stateside title defense. He said Werdum's recent upset of Emelianenko at June's "Strikeforce and M-1 Global: Fedor vs. Werdum" event did not necessarily guarantee the Brazilian a shot at Overeem.
Pavia was not immediately available for comment regarding Rodriguez's status on the July 10 event.