Strikeforce Will Hold Middleweight Tournament After All

Last month, MMA Fighting first reported that Strikeforce had hoped for a one-night middleweight title tournament to be held at its Aug. 21 card in Houston, but the Texas commission's rules put a stop to that plan.

Instead, the promotion set a middleweight title fight for the same night between Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza to crown a champion in the division after Jake Shields vacated the belt by leaving for the UFC.

But Monday on The MMA Hour, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said the promotion will go through with a middleweight tournament after all – though whether it will be a one-night, four-man tourney or a two-event, eight-man bracket has not yet been decided.

"That is the plan, but it hasn't been finalized," Coker told MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani. "(The four-man vs. eight-man) is the part that has not been finalized because we have so many good fighters at 185 that we've been getting a lot of requests from our guys."

Strikeforce director of communications Mike Afromowitz confirmed to MMA Fighting on Wednesday that the tournament will take place – or at least begin – Oct. 9 in San Jose, Calif., at the HP Pavilion. The winner will become the No. 1 contender for the title that will be held by the Kennedy-Souza winner.

As MMA Fighting first reported, the original middleweight tournament plan was for a one-night, four-man event featuring Kennedy, Souza, Robbie Lawler and Matt Lindland. But the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation has MMA rules in place prohibiting elimination tournaments.

Other states' MMA rules regarding one-night tournaments are different. For example, Strikeforce is holding a one-night, four-woman tournament Friday in Phoenix to determine the No. 2 contender for Sarah Kaufman's 125-pound title. And in San Jose in November 2007, Strikeforce held a one-night, four-man middleweight tournament to crown Jorge Santiago its champ.

On Strikeforce's media call Monday for the Houston event, Coker said the promotion knew it needed a champion in the wake of Shields' exit, even though a tournament couldn't happen immediately.

"We thought that it would be in everybody's best interest to crown a champion," Coker said. "We also thought a tournament would be a fun way to create the next challenger for the winner between Jacare and Tim Kennedy. We thought we could do one or the other or both, and it turns out we can do both."

Presumably, Lawler and Lindland remain candidates for the tournament. Coker also mentioned Benji Radach, Kazuo Misaki and Melvin Manhoef as interested parties on The MMA Hour. Strikeforce's deep middleweight division also includes Dan Henderson, Cung Le, Scott Smith, Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Nick Diaz – though Coker hinted that a rumored bout between Miller and Diaz could happen this fall, and Henderson has indicated a desire to return to light heavyweight.

"Benji Radach just called and said he's ready to get back into the cage and he wants to be in the tournament," Coker said. "I know that (Kazuo) Misaki and Melvin Manhoef want to be in the tournament. So we're going through the process right now and we'll probably have an answer in a week."

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