Alistair Overeem's stint as a Strikeforce Heavyweight is officially over according to a report by Ron Kruck aired on this week's installment of Inside MMA. The organization released the K-1 Kickboxing Champion and MMA superstar amidst his refusal to fight in September as part of the company's Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament. Overeem (35-11 in MMA, 10-4 in Kickboxing) did not take kindly to the way Strikeforce managment reacted to his reluctance to fight on their terms.
"I've had some threats of cutting me out of the tournament if I don't participate. I don't know if they're going to do it. Personally, I don't like to be threatened," Overeem told Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.Com on July 13th. "If people start talking like that then be my guest, but then I'm really not going to sing to their tune. For them to unilaterally declare, okay, [September 10] is going to be the second round, which I never agreed on, and then threaten me if I don't want it, it doesn't really show a lot of respect,"
Overeem had one fight left on his contract with the organization and was slated to face Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva if he agreed to the September bout. Instead, Overeem decided the tournament schedule would not allow him to properly train and also take the time to heal from a broken toe and other lingering injuries. The decision to refuse the September date created a whirlwind of controversy when Strikeforce talked about cutting Overeem.
Dana White even weighed in and seemed to side with Overeem, though White's stated repeatedly that he lets Strikeforce solve their own disputes under a "business as usual" strategy. One of the aspects that set Strikeforce apart from the Zuffa business model before the buyout was their open policy allowing their fighters to participate in rival promotions. Overeem's a real world traveler when it comes to fighting, and the arrangement proved to be perfect for him.
Apparently Overeem didn't anticipate there would be any exceptions to the "business as usual" rule when he took an October fight on a Russian card in lieu of waiting for Strikeforce to forgive and forget. Overeem's Golden Glory World Series opponent for October is not yet known, but speculation is rampant that he won't be battling any big name in the bout. Still, Strikeforce management obviously didn't appreciate Overeem snubbing them for a smaller promotion. The organization might also be trying to send a message that the Zuffa model of exclusive contract deals is going to start applying to Strikeforce fighters even if their contracts say otherwise.
MMA fans are salivating for the moment when Strikeforce is simply folded into the UFC, but the conditions of the buyout make a true merger of the leagues impossible at this point. Still, Dana White and the Zuffa brass have already pulled some strings and made a few tweaks that betray the real story behind the "business as usual" myth. White's penchant for refusing to tolerate fighters going against the grain and publicly criticizing management appears to be one aspect of Zuffa's operations Strikeforce formally adopted with the release of Overeem.
The chances of Overeem winding up back under Zuffa's banner seem pretty slim at this point. Fighting in different leagues and promotions is important to the Dutch heavyweight, and he's also talked about wanting to try boxing. Though he might make a fantastic addition to the UFC heavyweight division, Zuffa is not in the habit of taking castaways back into the company fold. These realities make it much more of a smart financial move for Overeem to cross over to boxing.