With Media Focus on Nick Diaz and UFC, Strikeforce Fighters Battle for Attention

Mo LawalCINCINNATI -- He couldn't have been the only one who was thinking it, but "King" Mo Lawal was the first to say it at the Strikeforce pre-fight press conference on Thursday afternoon.

"I was hoping there would be more people out here, more media, more questions, but really I guess ya'll don't care about us that much," Lawal said. In his eyes, Saturday's Strikeforce event on Showtime looks to be a strong card that many fans will likely miss "because everybody's worried about other issues instead of the fights this weekend -- I'm just being real."

Looking around at the sparsely attended presser -- as well as at the frenzy of online attention being paid to the Nick Diaz fiasco in the UFC -- you have to admit that he has a point.

At least on paper, this may be one of the best Strikeforce cards in recent memory. But is anybody paying attention? And if not, is Zuffa, the parent company of both Strikeforce and the UFC, planning to do anything to change that?

"It's disappointing," said Josh Barnett, one of the four Grand Prix semifinalists on the card. "I'd really like it if we could get a little bit of back-up from the UFC on this. Just a blurb. I've talked to some of the fighters and the conversation has come up, why can't Dana [White] do one little video blog, one little piece saying, please come watch these fights because they're good fights? I don't know. Maybe he doesn't think they're good fights."

On some level, the drop-off is understandable. With Diaz bailing on this week's UFC 137 press conference and being pulled from the title fight with Georges St. Pierre, UFC president Dana White has had his share of fires to put out.

Then again, the UFC did schedule several media events during the same week as the Strikeforce Grand Prix, but all of them were to promote a UFC fight card that's still more than a month away. If you take that as an indicator of where Zuffa's priorities lie, it's not a good sign for Strikeforce.

As Lawal sees it, the lack of attention from both the media and Strikeforce's parent company is an insult to the heavyweights in the Grand Prix, as well as to "Jacare" Souza and Luke Rockhold, who will vie for the Strikeforce middleweight title at the U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday night.

"[Rockhold]'s fighting for a title, you got two fights in the heavyweight tournament. ...It's not to me, but it's a slap in the face to them," Lawal said.

Of course, calling out the Zuffa brass right now seems like a risky proposition, since it's still unclear what White and company plan to do with Strikeforce or its fighters. This is the same organization that just snatched a title shot away from Diaz for the kind of antics he used to regularly get away with in Strikeforce, after all.

Criticizing them could have its risks, though Lawal said he refuses to be swayed from calling it as he sees it, regardless of what happened to someone who simply failed to live up to his promotional responsibilities.

"I don't give a [expletive]," he said. "I'm going to speak my mind. What are they going to do, say 'Respect the organization or you're going to be out forever?' Get the [expletive] out of here with that [expletive]. I'm just keeping it real. Make sure you put that in there."

Diaz no-showing a press conference, however, that's a different story, Lawal said.

"I don't know what happened, but it's not like he was speaking his mind, saying 'I think this press conference is dumb.' He just didn't show up. Now, speaking out and telling the truth is a different story than not doing something that helps the fight. That's on Diaz. I think he's a hell of a fighter, but like I said, here we are talking about Diaz instead of this event."

As for Rockhold, he didn't expect to get much press for his middleweight title fight to begin with, he said. As he put it, "People don't know who I am. They're going to find out, though."

And sure, this weekend's event was being buried in the headlines by Diaz and other UFC news, but he's finding a way to stay optimistic.

"Yeah, it's being overshadowed, but at least it's overshadowed by Strikeforce guys," Rockhold said. "Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem -- at least we're being overshadowed by our own people."

But then, if this is all the attention even a stacked Strikeforce card can muster from fans and its own parent company, what does that say about the future for these fighters? If a former Strikeforce employee's antics garner more attention than actual fights by the current employees, how much longer until there is no Strikeforce at all? And what then?

"I don't want to jump to any conclusions here, but we might be looking at the end of something," said Rockhold. "We're going to have to perform and go out with a bang, and I think this is a good opportunity."

As for Lawal, he just shrugged when asked what lay ahead for himself and the other fighters on the Strikeforce roster.

"I have no idea," he said. "No one does. Do you?"

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