Strikeforce tourney fights pushed back

Updated: March 2, 2011, 6:48 AM ET
By Josh Gross | ESPN.com

Strikeforce has postponed World Grand Prix bouts pitting Alistair Overeem against Fabricio Werdum, and Josh Barnett versus Brett Rogers from April 9 to June 18, blaming a lack of promotion time and limited venue options.

"We just ran out of time," Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said Tuesday, referring to the second leg of its Heavyeight Tournament quarterfinal round. "I didn't find a venue that we thought would work for everybody, so we decided to move it."

The June 18 card will take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

"All good for us," said Martijn de Jong, Overeem's trainer. "Just a couple of weeks more preparation."

Rogers' trainer, Mike Reilly, said he was frustrated and called the decision "nuts."

"We're in a situation now where we have a good three-and-a-half to four months to promote the fight and do a great job of having a shot of driving the rating and driving attendance," Coker said.

On Feb. 12, in East Rutherford, N.J., the eight-fighter single-elimination event opener set ratings records for Strikeforce's broadcast partner, Showtime, hitting a peak of 1.1 million viewers during a main event between Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Silva.

Sergei Kharitonov also knocked out Andrei Arlovski to advance.

Silva's manager, Alex Davis, is exploring ways to keep his charge busy. He plans on asking Strikeforce to allow Silva to fight once between now and September.

"We can see Strikeforce's point at delaying the other side of the bracket, so they can promote, but it leaves 'Junior' without a fight until at least Sept., which is a long wait," Davis said. "For us it sucks. I gotta keep him in action. What I'll try to see if they'll let him fight in Japan. He's in the tournament so it wouldn't make any sense to have him fight in Strikeforce. We can't just wait this long."

The date change, which was first reported as a possibility by Sherdog.com on Feb. 21, pushes the tournament semifinals back to mid-September, with the finals penciled in for early December, Coker said.

"I would like to conclude it by the end of the year," said Coker, who was in the hospital after falling ill last week. "... I feel bad for the fighters but as a promoter I'm happy we have more time. I think with those heavyweights and the proper amount of time, we're really going to have our best shot of recreating the success we had in New Jersey."

Also fighting June 18 is former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal.

Coker said he plans to offer Gina Carano her first bout in almost two years. Carano has not competed since losing the Strikeforce 145-pound women's title to Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos in August 2009.

Josh Gross covers mixed martial arts for ESPN.com.