The Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Rogers" media conference call took place today, and while neither of the participants in the night’s main attraction (Fedor Emelianenko or Brett "The Grim" Rogers) was featured, main card fighters Jake Shields and Jason "Mayhem" Miller were on hand to help promote the event, along with Strikeforce Founder and CEO, Scott Coker.
The co-promotion between Strikeforce and M-1 Global gets underway from the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009, airing live on CBS starting at 9 p.m. ET.
While not the main event, Shields (23-4-1) and Miller (22-6) will face off for the Strikeforce middleweight title, which was recently vacated by Cung Le so that he could pursue an acting career.
Although he’s a natural welterweight, Shields made his promotional debut in June with a first-round submission victory over middleweight "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler. It was his twelfth straight victory.
He cited as reasons for the move up in weight that the 185-pound division is the promotion’s "most stacked division" and that his friend and training partner, Nick Diaz, is already in line for the vacant welterweight title. Despite this, Shields admitted, "If it were up to me, I’d fight at both weights."
With 13 submission victories of his own, Miller is host of MTV’s smash-hit reality series Bully Beatdown and is one of MMA’s biggest personalities. When asked about what he expects from the production, Miller admitted, "You know me, I’m borderline gay with my showmanship flare."
Clearly, he feels comfortable in the spotlight.
Regarding his spokesperson duties, Miller said, "If people don’t know about this fight, it’s not my fault. I’m Twittering, Facebooking, MySpacing, and doing anything I can to get the word out … I might as well be spray-painting it on some walls."
Shields, who has appeared on Miller’s show, Bully Beatdown, admitted that he harbors no ill-will toward "Mayhem," stating that "it’s business" and that he looks forward to the stylistic match up between two "great grapplers."
Miller agreed, although he said he’s not above manufacturing some drama if it will help sell tickets. "I fought my dad so many times, and we’re still friends, we’re cool."
While the event marks the CBS network debut for Miller, Shields has appeared twice on the network, both under the Elite XC banner. In fact, in many ways the Strikeforce card will pick up where the Elite XC promotion left off, after having aired three broadcasts, each in 2008, before ceasing operations in October of that year.
Coker expressed satisfaction with the network’s promotion thus far of the event, despite criticism from Sherdog’s Loretta Hunt that the network might have been "slow" to promote the card. Coker pointed to spots aired during CBS broadcasts of NFL and SEC football games, calling them "amazing."
Hunt also pressed Coker about the nature of fighter contracts — especially for Strikeforce champions — and whether or not he will pursue exclusive deals with champions to avoid future problems with fighters who refuse to defend their titles, as we’ve seen with former middleweight champion Cung Le and current heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, who hasn’t fought for the promotion since 2007.
Although he was unwilling to get into specifics because each contract is unique and confidential, Coker did say that they were "working to clean it up" and that he expects Overeem to defend his Strikeforce title "early next year." "From my point of view," Coker said, "the champion would fight at least twice a year."
Regarding exclusivity, Miller said that he wants to continue pursuing fights in the U.S. through the Strikeforce promotion, but not at the expense of fighting in Japan under the DREAM banner, under which he is now 1-1 (with 1 no contest).
When asked where he was when he first learned he’d be fighting on CBS, Miller joked, "Is this like one of those ‘Where were you when you found out President Kennedy was shot?’ (questions) because I can’t answer that, I don’t know. I can’t say, ‘I was sipping on a coconut and I dropped the coconut when I found out this thing was going to go down.’"
Shields took a more serious tone, saying that, although it’s not his first fight on CBS, he still feels just as excited about it, saying his upcoming title fight against Miller is "the most important fight of my life."
In his closing remarks, Miller pointed (if only for a moment) toward the network debut of Fedor Emelianenko as the reason to watch the upcoming CBS card, stating that he’s been waiting for quite some time to watch Fedor on free television. "I’ll be excited to be watching in the front row … with my brand new Strikeforce belt."
In addition to Emelianenko (30-1) vs. Rogers (10-0) and Miller vs. Shields, the Strikeforce event will also feature a heavyweight matchup between Fabricio Werdum (12-4-1) and Antonio "Junior" Silva (13-1), as well as light heavyweight Gegard "The Dreamcatcher" Mousasi (26-2-1) vs. an as-of-yet unnamed opponent.