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Japan Still Possible for Strikeforce Grand Prix Date

NEW YORK -- With its anticipated Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament just days away from beginning, Strikeforce and its emboldened CEO Scott Coker are still entertaining the possibility of hosting its April event in Japan.

After a press conference for Saturday's show to be held at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Coker said he planned to continue working to make the Japan event a reality, though time is running short.

"I think I'm going to give it one more week, and then if not, we'll make an arrangement here," Coker said.

Coker, who put the odds of a Japan event as "50/50," also discussed states that could possibly hold the event if Japan falls through.

Saying he had 8-10 state commissions who would welcome Josh Barnett to fight pending a passed drug test, Coker named Georgia, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma as possible destinations for the first-round event that would host Barnett against Brett Rogers and Alistair Overeem against Fabricio Werdum.

Barnett remains unlicensed in the US coming off a failed drug test prior to a scheduled Affliction event in August 2009.

It seems clear that Coker's preference is to stage the event in Japan, where Overeem and Barnett are big stars from their time in PRIDE. One issue complicating the proceedings is that the venue that Strikeforce would like to run -- the Saitama Super Arena -- is unavailable.

Coker reiterated his belief that the tournament would eventually crown the world's No. 1 heavyweight.

"Look at this group of guys on the stage," he said, "This is an impressive group of fighters, you can't deny it. I feel Strikeforce has the best heavyweight division in the world. Not just the best heavyweights, but proven heavyweights."

As for the semifinal round, Coker said he would like to start it around 60-90 days after the April event, making June or July the target date. He said that advancing fighters would be given every chance to continue on in the tournament should they suffer a minor injury, and that the organization would be willing to wait 6-8 weeks before calling in an alternate to replace anyone in the tournament field.

According to MMA linesmaker Nick Kalikas, heavyweight champion Overeem has overtaken Fedor Emelianenko as the betting favorite to win the tournament.

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