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Scott Coker explains reasoning for the Heavyweight GP tournament rules

By Zach Arnold | January 14, 2011

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On a conference call with the media yesterday, Scott Coker made some rules announcements for the upcoming 8-man Strikeforce Heavyweight GP tournament. In the week leading up to the conference call, Mr. Coker stated that he would like to see Alistair Overeem’s Heavyweight title be defended throughout the tournament. That would mean that tournament fights would have to be five rounders, not three rounders.

On Thursday, a decision was made that the tournament fights would be three round bouts and the finals would be a five-round fight. The winner will get a GP title and be the #1 contender to Alistair’s Heavyweight title. In other words, the GP title will be used in the sense as a champion’s clause to protect the title fight that will happen once the tournament is over.

Here is Mr. Coker’s explanation about the three round format to Josh Gross yesterday:

SCOTT COKER: “Yeah, you know what, the thing is, you know, Josh (Gross), in this tournament, everybody has to climb the same mountain and we just couldn’t put that together or we had to pick one way or the other. So, you know what, to make it simple, just like they do in Japan or when I was working for K-1 it was the same way that the tournament champion will stand on his own and we will have, you know, our Heavyweight champion and then the tournament champion. So, there was some confusing in the beginning, but I said all along unless we can’t, you know, get all the commissions on the same page, it would be a difficult thing to do and we just didn’t feel that it was fair for one person to fight five rounds, one person to fight three rounds, and then you know there’s the debate about well should the final fight which is five rounds be a title round and then what if, you know, somebody like Alistair wasn’t there. It just became very confusing, so we thought this would be a great way to launch a tournament and we’re very happy with it.”

JOSH GROSS: “Based on my conversations with regulators, there didn’t seem to be any issue in terms of five-round fights. Where did you run up against problems? I mean, what states or locales said that you couldn’t do that?”

SCOTT COKER: “Yeah, you know what, I mean I obviously don’t want to point out any commissions but as you know we’re going to be not just in shopping this fight in one or two locations but in about six different locations, so at this point because the time frame of launching our next fight we would have to have all those commissions on the same page and we just couldn’t do it in time, so there will be three round fights and we’re going to have our independent title holder.”

Here is what Josh had to say after the conference call about various commissions approving or disapproving of five round non-title fights:

Coker’s position that SF couldn’t make 5R fights for the tournament because it was too difficult with different regulators is ridiculous. California, N.J., Missouri, Tennessee told me 5R fights were fine by them. All said they had not been approached by Strikeforce re: it.

Some criticism Strikeforce receives is unfair, but not always. Sometimes they make no sense and come off as a small, disorganized shop. … As it plays out it’s clear to me this tournament showcases the best and worst of Strikeforce. … Hard to digest Coker’s assertion he couldn’t get 5Rs done when Strikeforce never approached New Jersey about it.

Nightmare scenario: The guy that beats Overeem doesn’t win the tournament.

Then, there are two other wrinkles that may or may not matter in the end that are just overkill. The first wrinkle is that if a tournament fight is scored a draw, there will be a 4th judge appointed by Strikeforce to basically pick a winner. However, that 4th judge will not be sanctioned by the athletic commissions and the commission will not change the result of the fight in the record books if it is a draw. Here’s Josh to explain it:

I saved this for last because it hurts my brain so. If needed, the 4th judge will score via “decimal system.” Can’t wait for a 10-9.3 round. 10-9.9 to 10-9.5: marginal advantage. 10-9.4 to 10-9 clear advantage. 10-8.9 to 10-8.5: dominant advantage. 10-8.4 to 10-8 overwhelming add.

The second wrinkle is that if an injury takes place during the tournament and one of the 8 tournament fighters needs to be substituted for, a United Nations-style panel will determine who becomes the substitute:

Just got the names of Strikeforce’s GP Review Committee: Joining Cory Schafer: Dale “Apollo” Cook, Al Wichgers, Guy Mezger & Steve Alley.

In the grand scheme of things, a lot of these happenings are absurdly grandiose bluster that hopefully won’t come into play. However, if they do, it is going to be very hard for the general public to take this tournament seriously given how many different factors are at stake here. As I noted in response to someone asking me why I am critical about this set-up, I said that the fighters are the last thing I’m worried about when it comes to mishaps in this tournament. It’s everything else that has fans concerned.

Tomas Rios says that a lot of the volume of criticism leveled at Strikeforce in general is unfair:

Those are all theoretical concerns however and could very well be remembered as cheap shots aimed at an organization that takes an undue amount of criticism. Blasting the UFC with relentless vitriol comes with consequences, namely a loss of access that can be crippling on a day-to-day basis for any MMA media outlet. Doing the same to Strikeforce is like jaywalking, the odds of getting run over aren’t high enough to keep anyone from doing it. The end result is a brutally ironic media environment that sees the UFC benefit from their Draconian policies while Strikeforce suffers for generally respecting the media’s role.

However, read the full article to get… the rest of the story.

Topics: Media, MMA, StrikeForce, Zach Arnold | 25 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

25 Responses to “Scott Coker explains reasoning for the Heavyweight GP tournament rules”

  1. Wolverine says:

    This decimal hurts my brain as well. Why can’t the 4th judge just pick the winner like in PRIDE/DREAM rules? or am I missing something?

  2. Dogbone says:

    At the end of the day & once this thing gets rolling most of us won’t really care or remember the rules non title fights or whatever else. The event in N.J. is a epic one & I for one can’t wait to see fedor vs silva. Once the first bracket is over & the semi finals began that when sh*ts gonna get real especially if fedor & reem or involved.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    1) The Tournament brackets now don’t make sense. It made sense if the title was on the line in each round. It doesn’t make sense if they are all just regular fights.

    2) The 4th judge situation….. If the fight is ruled a draw, it will still count as a draw on their record. But the 4th judge will decide who moves on. That judge will work for Strikeforce. Not joking on that one.

    3) For Scott Coker to just flat out lie to Josh Gross and the media like that is absurd. Gross is typically an anti-UFC guy. But when he gets so fed up with the lies and disorganization that he is speaking out about it, shows how bad it is from an organizational stand point.

    4) I think not having the title on the line does hurt the luster of the tournament a lot. It doesn’t make Overeem/Werdum feel as important.

    Lastly, it’s funny to see the Strikeforce fanboys come out after this announcement and try to justify this.

    “Well, PRIDE use to do it!!” – And it stunk when PRIDE did it. Nothing was worse then having Wanderlei Silva still be champion when Mauricio Rua was the real 205 champion. Japan tournaments have run into more problems then they were worth because of issues like this.

    Also, this is just another example of how unorganized Strikeforce is. They told fans one thing, even had ticket pre-sales based on that assumption…. And then go change it up on everybody. They just don’t know what they are doing and it shows.

    It doesn’t get much easier then putting Overeem/Werdum in a title fight and having the winner fight Fedor/Silva, also for the title. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the tournament or not. That’s what their fanbase wants to see. And they can’t even deliver the very basics of what they should be.

    Strikeforce reminds me of a beautiful woman who has a great personality and seems like the perfect girl to date. Yet when you enter the relationship, everything is about drama. The girl just can’t avoid drama to save her life. Which makes that beautiful girl so much more unattractive and somebody you will likely dump in the future.

  4. Steve4192 says:

    Let’s just get this out in the open.

    Vadim Finklestein is the ‘fourth judge’.

    Co-promotion bitches!

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Now that is funny!

      And all kidding aside, it wouldn’t shock me if a M-1 member was the 4th judge for the Fedor fights….

  5. The Gaijin says:

    As suspected, Coker et. al. has managed to turn a good idea into a total disaster before it’s even started. Where’s that guy that was chastizing us all for “being negative” before it started…

    I’m reminded of a little quote about “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” You just knew they couldn’t get this right to save themselves. Not having the title fights is stupid and the justification isn’t too great either…the winner fights Overeem? What if he wins it all? What if he loses first round? What are the chances he’ll stick around after the tourney is done to fight a 4th fight in a year?

    For what it’s worth, I’m not really sure why people are freaking out over the 4th judge. How many draws have we seen in North American mma since it’s re-birth? Two? It’s such a remote possibility that I’m not about to go bananas over that minor point when I’m watching them kick the tentpoles out of this tournament.

    • I’m rolling at these posts. What, you can’t enjoy the fights because, OMG, what if Overeem won? How does the tournament being 3 rounds or 5 change that? What if he leaves? Why do you care? ROFLMAO.

      • The Gaijin says:

        A. That wasn’t directed at you. It was at some Isaiah dude that was bursting a vein over the tournament.

        B. I never said I wasn’t going to enjoy the “fights”. But the tournament itself has now had quite a bit of the wind taken out of its sails. Coker came out and made all these claims and set out a rather grand scheme for the tournament, but once again illustrated that he cannot execute. Why would he make these announcements before he’d nailed it all down – why not wait until it was formalized? Now he calls into question everything else he’s claimed about the tournament and his ability to follow through on them because he couldn’t even make the small things work.

        Having every fight be 5 rounds would have been beyond retarded. But having the belt defended as the tournament went on would have gone a long, long way to cementing the credibility of their champion and the belt as the tournament winner would have went through three fights against SF’s top 8 HW’s to be the champ.

        If AO leaves on them after winning the tournament their even dumber than I thought…I could care less, but it just shows how little control Coker has over things if that happens.

        • Now he calls into question everything else he’s claimed about the tournament and his ability to follow through on them because he couldn’t even make the small things work.

          You’re getting worked up about minutae. Its like reading complaint articles about how this wasn’t a tournament but just a roadmap because the title was up for grabs and blah blah blah. Look, whatever fights are gonna happen will happen and the sun will rise the next day. And as I said before: What does it matter that there is no #1 contender if Overeem wins? Overeem being in the tournament from day one made that a possibility.

          If AO leaves on them after winning the tournament their even dumber than I thought…I could care less, but it just shows how little control Coker has over things if that happens.

          That’s Coker’s job to worry about, not mine or yours.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Outside of Nuclear War or some massive climate change… The sun will rise the next day…. So that is a pointless comment.

          The facts are simple….

          1) Strikeforce had a deal with the biggest TV station in American in CBS that they basically blew.

          2) Strikeforce had a deal with the biggest video game company in America, that had horrible sales.

          3) Strikeforce now has their “biggest” event ever in the Heavyweight Grand Prix…. And they are already showing signs that they can’t plan 2 weeks ahead.

          EVERYTHING this company touches turns to sh!t. These changes continue to show how incapable Scott Coker & Showtime are at running proper MMA events. Most of us called it. That things would start to break down. The first fight hasn’t even happened yet, and already Coker is going back on his word and lying to the media.

          They have turned a relatively decent idea into the following:

          1) Up to 3-Non Title fights in 2011. Even if Werdum beats Overeem, he is basically the champion. So when he fights next, it’s another non-title fight, and so on….

          2) A Heavyweight Title that is likely to not be defended now for 2 years. How can they expect the fans to take their organization seriously when their title belts have been rendered so meaningless by Strikeforce themselves.

          3) A complete mess once the tournament is over (if it ever finishes). It makes no sense to crown a #1 contender with a tournament that the champion is in. He either wins it and has no challengers left…. Or he doesn’t and the rematch feels stupid because it’s a paper belt by that point. Having the belt up for grabs each round made 100 times more sense.

        • Isaiah says:

          “A. That wasn’t directed at you. It was at some Isaiah dude that was bursting a vein over the tournament.”

          Um, this is what I said to you:

          “If the fights don’t happen, obviously, it’ll be disappointing. If they do happen, it’s great news for fight fans. But congratulations on your emotional detachment.”

          Yeah, really “bursting a vein” there. And this is seriously a non-issue.

        • Isaiah says:

          “That’s Coker’s job to worry about, not mine or yours.”

          That sums it up for me. I’m a fan of fighting. If SF goes broke and Coker jumps off a balcony, I don’t care, as long as the good fighters in the promotion find another promoter.

  6. BillR says:

    Scott Coker’s backtracking from making all GP fights 5 rounds to 3 with no title on the line reeks of Showtime/CBS involvement. Its more likely Showtime/CBS did not want to commit to cards full of five round fights with the potential huge time slot overrun if more than one fight goes to a decision. Its easy to say the TV execs don’t care about overruns, but the fact of the matter is they do.

    Gross flushed him out on it and he understandably sidestepped it as best he could.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I agree that Showtime is likely the one’s who decided the 3 round fights. But I don’t see how CBS factors into this equation at all.

      CBS is highly unlikely to run a Strikeforce card in the middle of the summer, which is when the semi-finals would be. And if Strikeforce does want to do PPV (which is a whole different discussion)…. Then why give away their biggest fight for free on CBS and then ask people to pay for a lesser fight in the finals on PPV? That just doesn’t make sense.

  7. Fightlinker says:

    “having the belt defended as the tournament went on would have gone a long, long way to cementing the credibility of their champion and the belt as the tournament winner would have went through three fights against SF’s top 8 HW’s to be the champ.”


  8. edub says:

    Couple points:

    – I do feel SF is getting kind of a bum rap for making this tournament. Before this tournament was announced I said on this site that a tournament would be a fun entertaining event, so I’m definately not going to backtrack now. So as a whole I think it’s great.

    – However, they’re are definately somethings that could hurt the tournament. What happens if Werdum subs Reem in the first of their fight, but gets hurt before the finals? I know Joachim Hansen beating Aoki felt anticlimactic back in 07 winning Dreams GP, so I think a reserve fighter or early loser winning would be the same here.

    Also why did Coker ever even bring up all tournament fights would be 5 rds, then not approach a single commision about it? It’s stuff like that along with the whole SF 4th judge scenario that make people wanna crap all over SF, when they really aren’t that big of a deal. Shit at least come out, and admit you were never going to look in the first place.

    • edub says:

      Forgot about the placement of fighters.

      The fact pretty much #s 1-4 being on the same side of the bracket make anyone else think that Coker’s main plan is just to get those four to fight, and that the end of the tournament could very well just get scrapped all together?

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Or he thought they would be title fights and didn’t plan ahead properly.

        Everything this guy touches turns out bad. For people who say it’s no big deal…. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Fights haven’t even started yet and there are issues. We all knew he doesn’t have his act together. This is just the start….

        This is the same promoter who averaged 225,000 viewers on a free Showtime weekend with a potential of 60 Million viewers. The guy can’t promote to save his life on the big stage….

        • Mr. Roadblock says:

          Exactly. If Fedor makes the finals you know M-1 is going to start up with its nonsense again.

        • Ed says:

          Actually, that last Challengers card was one of their highest-rated; the free preview viewers were not counted in the ratings, only Showtime subscribers were (re-read the MMAJunkie article).

        • Coyote says:

          Wrong this time 45.

          The numbers you have doesnt include the free preview. The challengers card a provén #Strikeforce have a solid fanbase, not big, but solid. Better than normal boxing shows, and sometimes mire cheaper.

  9. Dave says:

    Poor Scott Coker. He is like Michael Bluth, just trying to be a good guy but always messes up and almost marries a MRF.

  10. Mr. Roadblock says:

    The SF belt is meaningless as it is. But if it were on the line during the tourney it would gain a lot of respect for being up for grabs in 3 meaningful fights this year.

    The tourney isn’t a one night affair so Coker’s point about it being unfair is ridiculous. Title fights are always 5 rounds. Overeem should expect that each time he fights anyway. #1 contender fights (which are essentially what all of the other tourney bouts are) are 3 rounds already. What’s the big deal?

    Imagine this nightmare scenario for SF.

    Silva beats Fedor
    Werdum beats Overeem again

    Silva beats Werdum then loses in the finals to someone from the other half of the bracket.

    That SF belt would be about as meaningful as used toilet paper.

    • The Gaijin says:

      “The tourney isn’t a one night affair so Coker’s point about it being unfair is ridiculous. Title fights are always 5 rounds. Overeem should expect that each time he fights anyway. #1 contender fights (which are essentially what all of the other tourney bouts are) are 3 rounds already. What’s the big deal?”

      Ding! ding! ding!

      Exactly. How is it “unfair” that the championship fight is 5 rounds?!? They always are…I guess it’s unfair we’d expect the champion to fight championship fights.

  11. […] are puzzled by the rules surrounding the upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Rules, but here’s Scott Coker explaining the reasoning behind them, with some of the top MMA media questioning his […]


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