The stakes have officially been raised.
During today's Strikeforce: "Los Angeles" media call, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced that the winner of June 16th's 195-pound catch weight fight between Renato "Babalu" Sobral and "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler will receive a title shot.
More specifically, with a win, "Babalu" will get a shot at King Mo's light heavyweight belt while Lawler would get a chance to take on Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza for middleweight gold. Coker made the announcement with hardly a mention of Jake Shields' status with the promotion, seemingly admitting that his time has come to an end with Strikeforce, as is widely believed to be the case.
Renato's title shot, should he defeat Robbie, isn't such a sure thing. Sobral and Lawal are currently training partners as well as friends, of course meaning that "Babalu" holds no interest in taking on the newly crowned champion. "Babalu's" manager was also on the call, and while he wouldn't completely rule a fight with King Mo out, he did say, "It's not a fight we're interested in pursuing, but if it's what the fans want to see, we'll try to work it out."
"Babalu's" manager went on to add, "I'll tell you the fights we want right now, Dan Henderson and Gegard Mousasi." Of course, Mousasi and Henderson are both coming off defeats to King Mo and Jake Shields respectively, so a loss against Lawler wouldn't appear to damper Sobral's chances or getting either one of those bouts, even though Mousasi already holds a convincing win over Renato.
Lawler was last seen making a "Marvelous" comeback against Melvin Manhoef at Strikeforce: "Miami" earlier this year. Despite eating a dozen leg kicks that left him with a serious limp, the hard-hitting Lawler found the Dutchman's sweet spot and put him to bed in the latter part of round one.
He may need that power (along with the ability to stay on his feet) to get past the crafty Brazilian.
Sobral actually held the promotion's light heavyweight title until he got turned inside out by Gegard Mousasi at Strikeforce: "Carano vs. Cyborg" last August. That defeat snapped a five-fight win streak for the former UFC standout and it will be interesting to see his performance at 195-pounds.