Scott Coker on Diaz, Shamrock, Cyborg, Carano, Kimbo and More

On Saturday night, Strikeforce put on its first MMA show of 2009, and on Sunday night Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker talked to me about how he thinks the first show went and where he sees Strikeforce going in 2009.

Among the topics we discussed were the success of Nick Diaz, the future of Frank Shamrock, the weight of Cris Cyborg (and her likely future fight with Gina Carano), as well as the possibility that big names in MMA including Kimbo Slice, Tito Ortiz, Royce Gracie and Fedor Emelianenko could fight in the Strikeforce cage. The full interview is below.

Michael David Smith: What is your assessment of how the show went?
Scott Coker: I thought it was a successful event, very well attended, and it had the feeling of a big-time fight, and not just a local show. It had all the makings of a big, championship fight.

Let's start with your main event. What's next for Nick Diaz after his big win?
Nick will have a lot of choices of opponents. I think some of the guys we like to fight Nick are guys like Phil Baroni, maybe Joe Riggs in a rematch, maybe Nick Thompson, Paul Daley. We're going to keep him busy. Maybe even Cung Le.

When will we see Nick again?
I haven't sat down and talked to him or Cesar Gracie, but I would bet he wants to fight in the next three or four months.

Is Frank Shamrock done?
Boy, I haven't really talked to Frank, but I'll definitely sit down with him this week and go over the plan. It was hard for me to watch that last night.

Do you think he should keep fighting?
That's a tough question. I don't think you judge a fighter on one fight. It's something that the fighter has to decide. If Frank were to tell me, "I think I'm retiring. I'm done. I'm all finished," we would fully support it.

That sounds like you're not too enthusiastic about the idea of him continuing to fight.
That's something I want Frank to decide, but there are a lot of young, up and coming guys who are killers. What you're seeing with Frank is nothing new, it happens with the legends in every sport. It happens in boxing, it happens in basketball, it happens in football.

Let's go to Cris Cyborg. She weighed in at 152 pounds after signing a contract to fight at 145. Why was 145 the contracted weight for that fight?
When we talked to Cris that's the weight she agreed to fight at. She said she's comfortable at 145, and when we booked Akano that's the weight we told her she'd be fighting at.

Strikeforce Photos

    Frank Shamrock, center, is helped by his corner after losing to Nick Diaz in a Strikeforce mixed martial arts fight on Saturday, April 11, 2009, in San Jose, Calif. Diaz won by knockout in the second round.

    Jeff Chiu, AP

    Nick Diaz makes his way to the cage at the Strikeforce show on Saturday, April 11, 2009, in San Jose, Calif.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Frank Shamrock punches Nick Diaz during their match at the Strikeforce show on Saturday, April 11, 2009, in San Jose, Calif.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Nick Diaz grapples with Frank Shamrock during their match at the Strikeforce show on Saturday, April 11, 2009, in San Jose, Calif.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Nick Diaz, right, kicks Frank Shamrock in a Strikeforce mixed martial arts fight on Saturday, April 11, 2009, in San Jose, Calif. Diaz won by knockout in the second round.

    Jeff Chiu, AP

    Nick Diaz, top, punches Frank Shamrock during a Strikeforce mixed martial arts fight on Saturday, April 11, 2009, in San Jose, Calif. Diaz won by knockout in the second round.

    Jeff Chiu, AP

    Nick Diaz punches Frank Shamrock during their match in the Strikeforce show on Saturday, April 11, 2009, in San Jose, Calif.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Nick Diaz, top, punches Frank Shamrock in a Strikeforce mixed martial arts event on Saturday, April 11, 2009, in San Jose, Calif. Diaz won by knockout in the second round.

    Jeff Chiu, AP

    Nick Diaz punches Frank Shamrock during their match at the Strikeforce show on Saturday, April 11, 2009, in San Jose, Calif.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Actor Mickey Rourke holds up his phone before Nick Diaz faced Frank Shamrock in a Strikeforce mixed martial arts event on Saturday, April 11, 2009, in San Jose, Calif.

    Jeff Chiu, AP



Would you describe it as unprofessional not to come in at the weight she agreed to?
Well, whether it's her or another male fighter or in boxing or anything with a weight class, the reason you have weight classes is to make weight. Do I see it as being unprofessional? Absolutely. In this kind of competition, there's no way that's going to be acceptable.

Gus Johnson said on the broadcast that Cyborg was out of shape, but I don't think she was out of shape -- she was 152 pounds of solid muscle and washboard abs. I just think she's too big to fight at 145.
Yeah, Cyborg has never missed weight before, is what she told me. And she told me it would never happen again.

I had heard she did miss weight once before in her career. Is that not true?
The coach was telling me she's never missed weight.

Was it safe for Hitomi Akano to be in the cage with a much bigger opponent?
I think so. You're talking about a world-class athlete. The commission that regulates fighting in California approved the fight. I feel comfortable with that.

So you don't regret booking that fight?
You know, the perfect case scenario would be Cyborg weighing 145 and Akano weighing 145. But this happened and we tried to make the best of it.

When will we see Cyborg vs. Gina Carano?
Hopefully August, maybe September.

Any updates on Gina's contract status?
There's dialogue with her manager and her agent. Hopefully we'll have an announcement in about 10 days.

Carano has missed weight in the past, too. What weight will Carano vs. Cyborg be at, 160 or 170?
I think we'll have to put it in the contract so that there are written penalties if they don't make weight.

Would you consider just doing that fight as an openweight fight with no limit?
I don't think the state athletic commissions would allow that. We're governed by the rules and regulations of the state athletic commissions.

Will Cyborg-Carano be a main event?
It could be. It would be worthy.

How many rounds would it be and how many minutes per round?
I think the women are fighting three-minute rounds, and I think as a title fight it would be five three-minute rounds.

I've always thought women should fight five-minute rounds, and Mauro Ranallo said on the Showtime broadcast that women should fight five-minute rounds. Do you agree?
I don't think it should be different. At the end of the day the state commission will decide and we will comply.

Will Alistair Overeem fight on June 6?
We're trying to work it out. It's not guaranteed, but we'll try to put it together.

Who would his opponent be?
That hasn't been determined yet.

Did you just sign Fabricio Werdum?
Yeah, but that's not a fight necessarily we feel we'd have to do first.

Frankly, aside from Fabricio Werdum I'm not sure you have any heavyweights who could give Alistair much of a test.

Well, there are some other free agents out there, and guys fighting with other companies who aren't exclusive. So we'll explore those options before we make the announcement of who he's fighting.

What is your relationship with Affliction?
It's good. Tom (Atencio, the Affliction promoter) was there last night. We get along with everybody. We don't really have people who won't work with us.

A fight I would love to see is Alistair against Fedor Emelianenko. Is there any chance that fight could happen in Strikeforce?

I'm not saying that it will, it's not signed or anything like that, but I definitely think that's a possibility in the future. As Fedor continues his growth in America, at some point I think he and Alistair should fight. If there's an opportunity on Fedor's side, we'd love to.

Do you think Brett Rogers is ready for an opponent like Alistair Overeem or Fabricio Werdum?
That would be a really tough challenge. Brett needs some more fights, let's put it that way.

Can you get a big crowd for your show in St. Louis on June 6 like the 15,000 you had Saturday in San Jose?
I don't think we're going to do that kind of crowd in St. Louis, but we'll have a good crowd. Any time you get 10,000 people, that's a real victory. For us to hit 15,000 shows that everybody was working their butts off.

Tito Ortiz was there last night. Will you sign him?
We have a dialogue with Tito. There's nothing signed but he's one of the hottest free agents on the market. We'll have serious dialogue but nothing is signed yet.

Royce Gracie was there as well. Any chance we'll see him in Strikeforce?
I don't think so. I'm sure he would fight again but I'm not sure he fits our business model.

What do you mean?
Well, what he got paid the last time he fought, he's up there with Fedor in the $1.5 million to $2 million range. I'm not saying these fighters don't deserve it but right now that doesn't work in the promoter's favor to even break even. I don't think we would do that.

You've signed Kevin Randleman. When will we see him?
Maybe June.

Where are negotiations with Kimbo Slice?
They're ongoing. We both have a feeling now that we want to work together. We have some tiny details to work out to see if we can come to an understanding that makes it worth it for everybody.

What will your May show be like?
That's the first fight on our Challengers Series. These fights will feature guys like Billy Evangelista, who's 10-0, fighting Mike Aina. Also Kim Couture will fight Meisha Tate, which is quite a challenge for Kim.

I think Meisha Tate is a very tough challenge for Kim Couture.
Yeah, Kim wants to test herself as a martial arts fighter and we're going to give her that opportunity.

We've talked about a lot of the fighters we'll see individually, but collectively, what's your sense -- now that you have a fight under your belt in 2009 -- for what kind of year Strikeforce is going to have?
You'll see a lot of big fights, a lot of great Top 10 fighters, great production values and we'll be putting on fights frequently.

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