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Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker Talks Heavyweights, Post-Fight Brawl

5/12/2010 10:00 AM ET By Michael David Smith

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker would like to move past the post-fight brawl that marred his promotion's last show, and on Saturday night in St. Louis, he'll promote a fight card that should go a long way toward doing that. The Heavy Artillery card, which will be televised on Showtime, features the long-awaited return of Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem (defending his belt against Brett Rogers) as well as a co-main event with heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Antonio Silva.

With two heavyweight fights in the top two spots, Coker said in an interview with MMAFighting.com that he thinks the heavyweight division is the premier division in Strikeforce. He also talked about the upcoming return of Fedor Emelianenko, and why that brawl on CBS disappointed him. The full interview is below.

Michael David Smith In May Alistair Overeem will fight Brett Rogers for the Strikeforce heavyweight title, in June Fedor Emelianenko will fight Fabricio Werdum and in July Brock Lesnar will fight Shane Carwin for the UFC heavyweight title. Which of those three fights do you think MMA fans will recognize as the sport's true heavyweight championship fight?
Scott Coker: Well, Alistair vs. Brett is for our title, I think Brett is definitely worthy of a title shot, we've been trying to put Alistair in a fight for the last 10 months, and to me, that's for the Strikeforce heavyweight belt and that's the fight that gets my vote. But I think the MMA community looks as Fedor as the No. 1 fighter in the world -- which he is -- and the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the history of MMA, so I would think Fedor is MMA fans' choice if they had a poll.

Is it bad for the sport that we don't have a generally recognized heavyweight champion of MMA? Isn't that one of the problems boxing has faced?
Boxing has the WBA, WBC, WBO champions, but in boxing the promoters are all willing to work together -- Golden Boy Promotions will work with Bob Arum or Gary Shaw, they all work together and hopefully you'll see those different champions fight. In our sport, unfortunately, that doesn't happen. Hopefully that will change and the big promotions will work together and these big fights will happen.

Do you think fans get the fights they want more in boxing or more in MMA?
Well, if Floyd Mayweather fights Manny Pacquiao I can answer that better, but in boxing, you do get to see the fights. In MMA right now we don't have that. Think about the matchups we could make if the UFC had an open-door policy. We could have Gilbert Melendez fighting B.J. Penn or Frankie Edgar. We could have Nick Diaz fighting Georges St. Pierre. We could have Jake Shields or Jacare fight Anderson Silva. We could have Gegard Mousasi or King Mo fight Lyoto Machida or Shogun Rua. At heavyweight, you could have Fedor or Alistair fight Brock Lesnar or Shane Carwin. Those are fights I'm sure the fans would like.

It's an outstanding relationship. We've had some hiccups, but we're moving forward.
-- Scott Coker on M-1 GlobalOvereem thinks Fedor is ducking him. Do you agree with that?
Well, I haven't heard everything that Alistair's management and Fedor's management have said to each other, but Fedor -- I'm sure -- will fight anybody. So if Alistair wins against Brett, and if Fedor wins against Fabricio, I'm sure M-1 and Strikeforce will have a dialogue about that.

What have Fedor and his people at M-1 been like to work with?
It's an outstanding relationship. We've had some hiccups, but we're moving forward. We're back on the same page and moving forward.

With a few weeks now to reflect on it, how do you assess your last CBS show?
The disappointing thing to me with the situation after the fight was that it took away from three great championship fights. Gilbert Melendez beat Shinya Aoki, the best jiu jitsu fighter to come out of Japan in years, and King Mo beat Gegard Mousasi. Were they barn-burner fights? No, but they were technically good fights that fans enjoy. So we had three championship fights and then we had that unfortunate incident after the fight. So we're working with the Tennessee Athletic Commission and those fighters will be suspended and fined.

Who do you blame for the brawl?
I don't want to point fingers. It's just an unfortunate situation. In all my years of promoting, it's never happened and it shouldn't happen again.

What's next for Dan Henderson?
More fights. Dan's a great fighter. I could see Dan going against Robbie Lawler, I think that would be a great fight. Jacare or Joey Villasenor would be great fights. If Nick Diaz wants to fight at 185 again, that would be a great fight. Dan is on vacation right now and then we'll have that conversation.

Is Jake Shields going to the UFC?
We're having a dialogue right now, and we'll see. We inherited his contract from ProElite, and we'll know probably in the next two or three months if we do another contract with him.

Where do Gegard Mousasi and King Mo go from here? There's not a lot of depth in the light heavyweight division outside the UFC.
I think our fight on May 15 between Feijao [Rafael Cavalcante] and Antwain Britt is going to be great, and we also have Roger Gracie fighting Kevin Randleman, so we have some good light heavyweights. But the fight King Mo really wants is he wants to fight Fedor. King Mo could fight at heavyweight and that would be an interesting fight. Dan Henderson vs. King Mo could also be interesting.

Would you say that you're making a concerted effort to build up the heavyweight division? You mention your light heavyweight champion possibly moving up to heavyweight, you've got four heavyweight fights on Saturday, you've got Fedor, you've got guys like Bobby Lashley and Shane Del Rosario. Is that division of particular importance to Strikeforce?
Yes. Everybody likes the heavyweights, and that's probably our premier division, but I wouldn't say it's more important than all the rest. Our heavyweight division is strong, and when you have a guy like Fedor, you want to get great fighters in the cage with him.

Is Lashley ducking Del Rosario?
Lashley and Del Rosario will probably both fight on our June 16 card and maybe we'll have the winners of their two fights fight each other after that.

Do you know who Lashley's next opponent is?
We've submitted a couple names for commission approval but without athletic commission approval we can't move forward.

Who's next for Gilbert Melendez?
I think he could fight a rematch with Tatsuya Kawajiri [Melendez beat Kawajiri by unanimous decision in 2006], I think he could fight JZ Cavalcante, maybe Vitor Ribeiro. I think maybe after another year he'll probably have a trilogy fight with Josh Thomson, and I think those are four good guys he could look forward to fighting.
In all my years of promoting, it's never happened and it shouldn't happen again.
-- Scott Coker on 'Mayhem'-Shields Brawl
Could Gilbert's next fight be in Japan?
That would be up to Gilbert and Dream. We're planning on him fighting for Strikeforce.

Will you add weight classes? Why not have bantamweight and featherweight champions?
Right now probably not because I like the way the divisions are shaping up, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't do a fight in those classes. Probably not a whole division right now though.

Strikeforce is the leader in women's MMA, but are you having trouble putting together big women's fights? We still haven't heard what's next for your top female fighter, Cris Cyborg.
She will be fighting in June and we should know her opponent soon.

Will it be Erin Toughill?
No. She let us know she will not be ready to fight until after July.

Do you think Gina Carano will ever fight again?
I think she will. I know she's a fighter at heart, and she'll want to come back at some point.

One last thing I want to ask you about: There's a Fake Scott Coker on Twitter. What do you make of that?
I saw that, and I thought it was pretty funny. For someone to take the time out of their day to tweet stuff as a fake Scott Coker, I think that's funny.
 
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