Strikeforce to Champions: Ready to Defend?

Written by Tom Ngo
October 17th, 2009

The race is heating up for MMA supremacy and Strikeforce is putting their champions on high alert. Although the normally laid-back organization doesn’t demand much from its fighters, outside of spectacular performances of course, they are now being forced to defend their titles a couple times a year.

“From my point of view, I’d think the champion would fight at least twice a year and defend the belt,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker stated. “That’s kind of the policy we’re discussing with some of the champions that we currently have.”

It’s not as though Strikeforce is cracking the whip, most fighters compete every three-to-four months anyway, so they are just asking that their champions – which include lightweight title holders Josh Thomson and interim-champ Gilbert Melendez, newly minted 205-pound king Gegard Mousasi and heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem – give them half their activity every 12 months.

Considering that Strikeforce generously allows their fighters to seek employment in other organizations, allowing them the luxury of double-dipping in revenue and exposure, the least their Alpha Dogs can do is prove their mettle every six months inside their cage.

“In our case, with some of the other fighters, we had some issues, but we’ve gone in and tried to clean that up and we’re moving forward now,” Coker added.

Of primary concern are the injuries that Thomson and Overeem have suffered since capturing their respective titles. Thomson has suffered a few setbacks while recovering from a broken leg he suffered in April; and hasn’t defended his belt since capturing it in June 2008, hence Melendez’ interim title.

Overeem became the top dog when he kneed Paul Buentello to death in late 2007. Although he has fought four times since that 2ndRound TKO, it hasn’t been for Strikeforce. He remains on the mend from a broken hand he suffered in a night club spat in May.

The company’s middleweight crown will be up for grabs at “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers” on November 7th when former EliteXC welterweight champ Jake Shields takes on Jason “Mayhem” Miller in the night’s co-main event.

If Shields is able to capture his second significant belt on the CBS broadcast, he claims that he wouldn’t have any issues defending it as many times as Coker wishes.

“I like to fight often, so for me it would be no issue,” Shields said of being an active champion. “My dad handles my contract so I don’t know how it is right now, but I love to fight.”

Strikeforce is well aware they are going up against MMA’s monopoly in the UFC, so they know they need to consistently put on box-office shows if they intend to compete, specifically on CBS, and the best way to do that is to have 5Round action-packed championship bouts.

The war has begun, hopefully Strikeforce’s elite soldiers are ready.

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