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Strikeforce in Japan: Why It'll Work and UFC Won't

  • Published in Kickboxing

(C) Dave Mandel/Sherdog.comThere have been rumors since the announcement of the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP that Strikeforce's head honcho Scott Coker had plans on running a leg of the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP in Japan, of all places. He wants this tournament to have a "global" feel to it, and running in a new market like Japan seems like a no-brainer.

I really haven't given this much thought, as it seemed like big plans with no follow-through. Especially after Coker had all of this big talk about running Cowboys Stadium in Texas, a feat that a Manny Pacquiao fight sold 50,000+ tickets to. A bit of insanity if you ask many, as UFC has yet to even approach such a large stadium. Japan, on the other hand, seems to be a very real possibility. On Tuesday night I spoke with MMA Torch about the announcement from the UFC in regards to their "Japanese expansion" and Jamie surprised me with a question about Strikeforce running Japan.

Honestly, Strikeforce has a much better chance of running Japan than the UFC does, this year next year or after. The logic behind this is very, very simple, but also very solid. The big thing is that to run in Japan, you have to be ready to make concessions and promote in Japan. UFC's expansion is, well, underwhelming. They have an obscure pay-TV network they run on and will now feature some mobile video services, but none of this is very interesting to fans in Japan. Without live shows, a broadcast television network and some star power the UFC has no real hopes. Their attitude of "all or nothing" will be their achilles heel in Japan.

Strikeforce, though, seem to know what it means to do business in Japan, and according to ESPN.com's Josh Gross, Scott Coker is planning to meet with Real Entertainment to discuss an April 9th event. When I spoke with MMA Torch, I explained that the only real way for Strikeforce to promote in Japan would be to work with another company, and with FEG's future uncertain, the DREAM partner company, Real Entertainment made perfect sense. Real has fighter contracts (most of the DREAM fighters), production staff, television partners, sponsors and a lot more.

If you take into account fighters like Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, Antonio Silva, Fabricio Werdum and Sergei Kharitonov, all of these fighters have established name value in Japan. For Fedor Emelianenko this would be a grand homecoming for him. For Alistair Overeem this would be the K-1 and DREAM Champion fighting in his home away from home turf. Also consider that Satoshi Ishii could have a Strikeforce contract by then and that Tatsuya Kawajiri just defeated Josh Thomson at Dynamite!!, so a possible bout between Kawajiri and Gilbert Melendez could be big for Japanese fans as well.

Strikeforce also seems to be considering working with Real Entertainment even more, says Gross. Real Entertainment is going to take some of those fighter contracts that they have and with Strikeforce's help, put on a Lightweight tournament, with our without DREAM. It looks like Strikeforce is taking Japan seriously and are willing to "play ball." Now, if it will pan out financially for them, that is another story for another day (or another site, like FightOpinion.com).

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Why You Should Support the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP

  • Published in Kickboxing

Fedor and Silva (C) M-1Tomorrow night marks the kickoff of one of the biggest tournaments in MMA history. That sounds like grandstanding, doesn't it? It sounds over-the-top and like a simple tournament is being made to sound bigger than it actually is. The only problem with that logic is that the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP is one of the biggest tournaments to happen on American soil in MMA, and is the biggest tournament to happen since PRIDE ran its last Grand Prix. Stay with me, because I've received a few complaints from LiverKick.com's faithful readers in regards to the Strikeforce coverage. No, Strikeforce is indeed not kickboxing or muay thai, but it is being covered for a very distinct reason; we care about the global fight scene, a lot.

Zuffa did something incredible when they took over the UFC and helped to rehabilitate the image of Mixed Martial Arts and worked to bring it into prominence in the United States. Along the way, something happened, though. UFC was expanding and growing, but it had nothing to do with Mixed Martial Arts and everything to do with UFC. UFC grew, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts became the afterthought. Every promotion that has popped up since the UFC's initial boom has been left in the dust, purchased by Zuffa or driven out of business. UFC grew, MMA died on the vine. The only promoter who was able to make a real impact and not drive his company into the dirt was Scott Coker with Stikeforce. Strikeforce began as a kickboxing promotion, with Scott serving as the head of K-1 USA beforehand. Scott knew what he was doing with kickboxing and still has strong ties to the industry.

Do you see where I'm headed yet? The global fight industry is what it is, we are seeing a once super power in Japan begin to wither and die, which no one really wants to see happen, outside of the UFC. The UFC is looking to take over the world, and picking over the scraps of the Japanese fight scene makes life a lot easier. The fight scene in the United States is sparse at best, boxing is holding strong for the big names, but for the smaller names the market is showing some serious cracks. Kickboxing and Muay Thai have some strong markets, but they are very much local and can't really compete on the global level.

The Strikeforce Heavyweight GP that begins this weekend has a big fight feel to it, something that even huge UFC events haven't had that past few years. UFC has put on big events, but not since UFC 100 have I personally felt the sort of buzz surrounding a show like this. A non-UFC show getting this kind of attention, praise ad hype is rare and quite honestly, it is up to Strikeforce to take advantage of this and the not only deliver but follow up on this initial show with more strong shows.

Strikeforce's success helps the global fight industry more than most people can imagine, how? UFC is in the business of promoting UFC, the brand. The fighters are almost inconsequential. UFC 100 was not a huge deal for the fighters, sure, Brock Lesnar was on the card and that helped immensely, but it was the allure of UFC's 100th numbered event. Strikeforce is selling shows around the fighters and the fights, which helps raise awareness of the sport itself, not just the promotion.

The over-arching point of this is that someone needs to break UFC's stranglehold on the market, it wasn't EliteXC, K-1 crashed and burned, so for right now the hope is that Strikeforce can at least try. For sports like kickboxing and muay thai to be taken more seriously, it also helps to have Sergei Kharitonov and Alistair Overeem involved in this tournament, with talk of their K-1 participation. Promotions like Strikeforce make viewers more aware of the fight world at large, as they do not have a self-contained empire to protect. Strikeforce will talk about UFC, PRIDE, K-1, It's Showtime, wherever their fighters came from and had success. The Strikeforce Heavyweight GP feels like a global affair. UFC events feature fighters from all over the world, but all of the action is contained within the UFC's own branded world that they built.

So tune in tomorrow night to watch Fedor Emelianenko square off with Antonio Silva, Andrei Arlovski go to war with Sergei Kharitonov. On top of that, there are three reserve bouts for the tournament, including Valentijn Overeem, Alistair's big brother, squaring off with K-1 legend Ray Sefo while prospects Shane Del Rosario and Lavar Johnson compete to see who is a reserve fighter.

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Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Predictions

  • Published in Kickboxing

Here at Liver Kick, we mostly focus on Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and Shootboxing. Spreading the good word of striking is our goal but the upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix is just too good to not cover. Not only does it contain many current kickboxing stars but it also harkens back to PRIDE and the way they ran tournaments which appeals to all of us who are fans of Japanese MMA.

So without further ado, here are my picks for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. As it could quickly get crazy considering every permutation involved with reserve fighters, I'll make my picks assuming all fighters stay healthy.

 

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Overeem Leads K-1 Presence at Strikeforce

  • Published in Kickboxing

 

Alistair OvereemI was debating discussing this story at all. I mean, yes it does involve K-1 Grand Prix champion Alistair Overeem, but there are so many places where the Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament is getting coverage that it seemed maybe unnecessary. Then this morning, Strikeforce added an extra fight to the tournament that really piqued my interest.

In an upcoming fight, Valentijn Overeem will face one of K-1’s favorite sons, Sugar Ray Sefo. The fight is not 100% confirmed yet, and it is unclear if it will be on the Feb. 12 card or a future date, or a prelim or main card fight.

Now, here’s the interesting thing from our end about this tournament. You have 8 names in the main draw, plus 4 more Heavyweights currently set to compete in fights on these shows. Of those 12, 3 are current, active K-1 fighters (Overeem, Sefo, Sergei Kharitonov) and one more (Andrei Arlovski) was very nearly in the 2010 Grand Prix. This tournament is a major event – the most prominent US tournament in MMA since Don Frye won the UFC Ultimate Ultimate way back in 1996. For the tournament to feature a significant K-1 presence is definitely a point worth discussing.

Much has been made of the Strikeforce/Dream partnership that has resulted in fights like Shinya Aoki v. Gilbert Melendez and Tatsuya Kawajiri v. Josh Thomson. But one aspect that has been largely overlooked previously is that Dream and K-1 are both part of FEG, so as Strikeforce works with Dream, they open the door to working with K-1. We are seeing that door crack open here in the tournament. Now, obviously the fighters we are seeing her are not K-1 exclusive fighters, and all have experience in MMA; most fans still view Overeem and Kharitonov as primarily MMA fighters trying their hand at K-1, while Sefo has been working on his fledgling MMA career for the past 2 years. But they are all fighters whose recent careers have been more marked by K-1 action than MMA, and who hold interest for K-1 fans.

Last year, there were vague rumblings of Strikeforce considering running some kickboxing fights in the US – remember that Strikeforce started in the kickboxing heavy California scene – but these plans never came to fruition. Since then, we have heard rumors of It’s Showtime making their US debut in 2011, though again, nothing is confirmed. With this tournament including some big players in the kickboxing scene (and right now, no one is bigger than Alistair Overeem), there definitely is potential to generate some stateside interest in kickboxing.

Will this tournament lead to Overeem v. Badr Hari here in America? No, but depending on how they promote Overeem, Kharitonov, and Sefo, it could lead to a significant number of MMA fans hearing an awful lot about K-1 and kickboxing throughout the course of the tournament. Much will be told by how the videos and commentary position these three fighters. If they focus on MMA, there will be little benefit for kickboxing. But if they talk up Overeem as the GP champ, Sefo as a K-1 legend, and Kharitonov as pursuing a kickboxing career, it will give kickboxing valuable exposure to the large US MMA audience. And as K-1 struggles at home, increased international exposure can only be a good thing.

Alistair Overeem faces Fabricio Werdum in the quarter-final round at a date yet to be determined. The winner moves on to the semi-finals to face either Fedor Emelianenko or Antonio Silva, who meet on February 12.

Sergei Kharitonov v. Andrei Arlovski is also set for February 12 with the winner meeting Josh Barnett or Brett Rogers in the other semi-final.

Ray Sefo v. Valentijn Overeem may be on Feb. 12, or may be at a later date. The other announced fight is a reserve fight on the Feb. 12 card between Shane Del Roasrio and Lavar Johnson.

No dates are yet set for the 2nd half of the quarter-finals, semi-finals, or finals.

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Photo of the Day Part Deux: Fedor Emelianenko Training With Ernesto Hoost

  • Published in Kickboxing

Fedor Emelianenko is known to be one of the greatest fighters of all time, if not the GOAT of MMA. There are a few out there who would argue against that, but two losses after ten years of dominance does not prove any sort of point as much as it shows degradation happens over the years in any high level athlete and unless they switch up their entire training things won't go according to plan. It looks like Fedor has decided to switch up his training and approach to MMA altogether as he is not handling his training on his own like he usually did in seclusion in Russia. It has been reported that Fedor has been training in the Netherlands, and now it comes out that he is training with none other than Mr. Perfect himself, Ernesto Hoost.

It looks like Fedor and a few friends called upon Ernesto Hoost to set up a training camp of sorts and MixFight.ru has the photos to prove it. For more photos, head over to MixFight. [source]

Ernesto Hoost

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Fedor Emelianenko is Training to Win the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP

  • Published in Kickboxing

The upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix has been garnering a lot of attention over the past few weeks, all leading up to February 12th where the tournament kicks off at a card headlined by none other than Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko squaring off with Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. The inclusion of Fedor Emelianenko automatically takes what was a great tournament and makes it legendary, with the stakes for winning the tournament being more than bragging rights, but instead to lay claim to being one of the top, if not the top Heavyweight in the MMA world.

With the show just a few weeks out, it means that Emelianenko's media duties have begun, with the Russian Heavyweight only speaking to select media outlets and remaining entrenched in an aura of mystique. A few years ago I argued that part of what makes Fedor so great is the fact that he doesn't train in a state-of-the-art MMA gym with a team of other top fighters, instead he chooses solitude and a simple life. You won't find Fedor on TMZ.com out partying or knocking out college football players in Texas, instead you see stories of him jogging with his priest and just learning about Twitter.

Our good friend, Jon Luther, caught up with Fedor to discuss the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP, and Fedor is in it to win it. I also really enjoy Fedor's take on being "number one." It just shows that fans care more about status than most fighters do. [source]

"I can’t wait to compete again. Silva is a great athlete who is skilled in many areas. He has proven to be a very worthy and dangerous opponent. My training camp has been very strong. I feel proud to be representing my country in the tournament. I’m training to win the tournament.”

Eight of the top heavyweights in the world will participate in the tournament, leading many to believe that the eventual tournament champion should be in the running for the title of best heavyweight alive. To Emelianenko, his opinion on the matter is irrelevant.

“The tournament participants are all highly skilled athletes. As for whether the winner should be considered number one in the world, it is not for me to say. That is something left to the media and to the fans.”

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Andrei Arlovski Talks Strikeforce Heavyweight GP Prep

  • Published in Kickboxing

Andrei ArlovskiThere are certain fighters that transcend the structured world of Martial Arts, and I consider Andrei Arlovski one of them. Arlovski began his career through Belarusian Sambo courses required for Police training. Arlovski showed a clear aptitude for Sambo and continued on, then adding kickboxing to his arsenal. Most of his career has been as a mixed martial artist, but Arlovski has worked in boxing as well and was set to make his K-1 debut in 2010 as a wild card in the Final 16 before an injury sidelined him at the last moment. He takes on Sergei Kharitonov, a fellow MMA fighter who kickboxes as well, having a mildly successful K-1 run. The two men clashing will be a stand up war and as a kickboxing fan, I can say it is one of the fights to watch in the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP. Arlovski is of course a former UFC Heavyweight Champion with a highlight reel of knockouts. His Affliction run was pounding out chubby guys before one chubby guy, Fedor Emelianenko hit him so hard that the will to live almost left Arlovski. Arlovski has not seen a victory since that day, losing to Brett Rogers and Antonio Silva in Strikeforce. To say there is a certain level of revenge and redemption that Arlovski can look forward to in this tournament is an understatement.

Watch Arlovski talk during the Strikeforce photo shoot about the tournament, his hopes and dreams and smashing. He has come a long way from; "I have very strong arm, can smash." We still love him for that line, though... Video after the break (it auto-plays, bad Strikeforce).

 

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The Last Emperor Fedor Emelianenko Falls to Antonio Silva in Strikeforce Heavyweight GP; Hints at Retirement

  • Published in Americas

Fedor/Silva (C) USATFedor is a name that is spoken amongst MMA fans as if he were royalty, his dominance in the sport has not been emulated, even slightly. So to say that him fighting in the US again is a big deal is an understatement, to say that him in the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP, well, it is even bigger. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva has sharpened his skill in Japan and EliteXC and two wins in Strikeforce.

In a way, the popularity of this tournament depends on Fedor Emelianenko moving forward in the tournament, but Antonio Silva is a tough opponent for any heavyweight in 2011.

The first round saw your standard Fedor action, where Fedor worked his quick hands and Silva's gameplan was to hold Fedor against the cage, using his size and strength to his advantage. The second round saw what many thought was the impossible happen, as Silva completely dominated Fedor on the ground. Ground and pound and a few near-choke attempts against Fedor. Fedor was able to persevere through most of the brutalizing and show us exactly what Fedor has done dozens of times before; tire out a bigger opponent before he makes his comeback.

Then one of th drawbacks to fighting in the United States hit us in between rounds; Fedor's right eye was swollen shut and the ringside doctors and ref, Dan Murgliotta decided that the eye was too bad for Fedor to continue, and called off the bout right after the third round. Bigfoot Silva has become the third man to hold a win over Fedor, and the second man to hold a win that fans will dispute for years.

Antonio Silva goes on to meet the winner of Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum, and the future for Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski are unknown after tonight. Fedor discusses retirement post-fight, and fans' hearts everywhere are breaking, while Dana White is smiling and saying, "that guy was never that good."

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Watch the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP Contenders Be Introduced in NYC

  • Published in Kickboxing

This weekend plays host to one of the most exciting heavyweight tournaments in history's opening round, as we get to see Fedor Emelianenko square off with Antonio Silva and Andrei Arlovski take on Sergei Kharitonov. As the time grows near, it is impossible to not be incredibly excited about it. While at LiverKick.com we pride ourselves on our kickboxing coverage, there is so much crossover within the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP we feel like it is a huge injustice to not get amped about it and tell you all about it. Ariel Helwani just posted up this incredible video of the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP fighters being introduced in NYC by Scott Ferrall (YAMMA represent!). Watch this and try not to drive yourself too crazy. [source]

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Strikeforce Releases Official Trailer for Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Silva

  • Published in Kickboxing

After weeks of awesome and mediocre fan trailers for the upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, Strikeforce and Showtime finally released an official trailer for the February 12th showdown between Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. The official trailer is short and to the point, while most of the fan-made ones tend to ramble on a bit. What is cool to think about is while Strikeforce tends to get lost in the shuffle unless the media is downright panning them, there is a ton of fan support for this upcoming tournament and shows that there really is a lot of buzz going around about this tournament. By all means, once all of the weird Coker and SF mishaps are said and done, it is an assembly of 8 of the best Heavyweights outside of UFC and should be great.

We get to watch Fedor Emelianeko, Antonio Silva, Andrei Arlovski, a former UFC Champion, and K-1 fighter Sergei Kharitonov in one show. [source]

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