Josh Barnett Unconcerned with Diminished Strikeforce Grand Prix
Amid the hype and recrimination of the UFC’s heavyweight extravaganza on May 26, we’ve lost sight of a parallel event reaching its apotheosis a week before in San Jose, California.
That event is the final of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix, which will pit veteran Josh Barnett against rising star Daniel Cormier.
The sheen has definitely faded from this event, which Strikeforce once billed as the showcase of the best heavyweight fighters in the world. Most of those have either faded into obscurity or been subsumed by the UFC following the Zuffa purchase.
There will definitely be less interest in the final of this tournament, which once promised a tantalising showdown between Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem, or Fedor and Barnett, but delivered neither.
The Grand Prix is all the more diminished as Strikeforce’s heavyweight division itself has been disbanded and there doesn’t seem much hope for the future of the organisation itself.
Scott Coker could have made a good argument a year ago when he announced the grand prix and billed it as epitomising the heavyweight division in MMA. It had the legendary Fedor entering the tournament with only one defeat, but still with an unmatched aura in the whole of MMA. It had Overeem, fresh from his victory in the K1 tournament and considered by many as the best heavyweight in the world. The rest of the card, with Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva, Andrei Arlovski, Sergei Kharitonov, Brett Rogers and Barnett, were all solid names.
But the event began to lose its lustre quickly. Fedor was demolished by Antonio Silva, revealing how far out of his depth he really was in the modern heavyweight division. Overeem fought Werdum in a less-than-thrilling snooze-fest and quickly pulled out of the competition. He was replaced by the little-known Cormier, who KO’d Silva to power his way through to the final against Barnett.
All this has taken over a year to come to a conclusion, the final of which will now take place on May 19. That in itself has counted much against the “tournament.” As the likes of Werdum and Silva have found a new home among the elite of the UFC, Cormier and Barnett are left fighting for the scraps.
Of the two, it is only Cormier who will be guaranteed a spot in the UFC after the bout. Dana White hasn’t said so, but it is unlikely that the man who defeated Silva, now in the UFC, will be left in the cold with the likes of Kharitonov or Arlovski.
But for Barnett, who has had a turbulent relationship with White, he may need to win to get into the lucrative UFC tent.
There had been a hint at some easing of tensions between the two, and White has even said that he sees no reason for Barnett not to join the UFC if he wins the tournament, but Barnett, in an interview with MMA Fighting, seems ambivalent about their relationship.
“I don’t ever talk to the guy. I really don’t have a relationship like that,” Barnett said about White. “I don’t have any reason to believe, there isn’t any issues. It is what it is. I do what I do as a talent for the company. I do my part and I bring the best to the ring that I can bring and get the fans all jazzed up and he does his job and everything’s working hunky dory.”
Still, it will be a sign of how little ultimate value this tournament really has if Barnett, having reached the final, will join Fedor, Arlovski, Kharitonov and Rogers in the MMA wilderness.
But Barnett, doesn’t seem to care. When asked whether the UFC had stolen Strikeforce’s thunder with the all-heavyweight card on UFC 146, Barnett said,
“I guess you could make that comparison. Either way, watching a bunch of us fatties go out there and punch each other in the stomach for fun, I’m into it.”
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