HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – For now, the Strikeforce heavyweight belt will collect dust on a shelf.
Following Alistair Overeem’s release from the organization this past week, Strikeforce officials are tight-lipped about what’s next for his vacated title and have announced no formal plans.
But not surprisingly, the organization’s heavyweight grand prix could play a factor in the ultimate decision.
Overeem won the title four years ago and had defended it just once. However, during his reign, the DREAM veteran and K-1 champion steadily rose in the heavyweight MMA ranks. In fact, he was the key cog in an eight-man heavyweight grand prix that kicked off earlier this year, and this past month, he topped Fabricio Werdum in an opening-round matchup to solidify his tourney-favorite status.
But Strikeforce officials booked the semifinals for Sept. 10, and citing a toe injury, Overeem said he wouldn’t be ready until October and bowed out of the final four. A few days later, he was axed from the roster completely.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker isn’t discussing the release in detail, nor are other officials. However, Overeem had just one fight remaining on his current deal, and sources told reporters discussions about his Strikeforce future weren’t exactly productive in recent weeks.
So with no current champ for what is arguably Strikeforce’s most prolific weight class, could a new one come from the grand prix’s final four? The field, of course, includes a solid group including Josh Barnett, Antonio Silva, Sergei Kharitonov and Overeem replacement fighter Daniel Cormier.
“Yeah, certainly,” Coker told reporters. “What we’re going to do is circle back in the offices next week, and then hopefully we’ll have an announcement as to how the next champion will be crowned.”
The tournament is expected to wrap in early 2012 with the grand-prix finale.