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MMA conspiracy theories: Why Alistair Overeem was removed from the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix

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The official stance taken by UFC President Dana White is that Alistair Overeem was removed from the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix tournament because he has a toe injury.

Fair enough.

Overeem himself mostly echoed that stance on a recent appearance on The Fight Show with Mauro Ranallo when he said:

"But my training camp is going to start Aug. 1. I'm flying in some sparring partners and my trainers are coming back from the Marloes Coenen fight. So my training camp is going to start Aug. 1 and if I looked into the Sept. 10 date -- one week before you stop training and you fly to the states and do the medicals and do all the stuff -- that gives me exactly four and a half weeks, one month of good preparation. In the shape my body is in now, I still have some small aches here and there. That is too short a time to prepare for an opponent the likes of the level of Antonio Silva."

That's a fair stance and any logical thinking brain would have trouble coming up with a solid argument against it. However, it seems almost odd that a simple toe injury would keep "The Demolition Man," of all people, from doing what he loves.

Yes, he would have been taking on an opponent that is not to be taken lightly. Antonio Silva is a big man with heavy hands and the skill-set to give "The Reem" problems in multiple facets of the game.

But this is the same Overeem that had no problem fighting in five K-1 matches (three on the same night) and two mixed martial arts bouts in 2010. 

The dude is active when he wants to be.

It seems obvious there is much more to consider, which is why the conspiracy theorists had a field day when news broke that Overeem had been removed from the grand prix.

Let's examine a couple, shall we?

Conspiracy theory 1 -- Overeem was removed because the powers that be didn't want to risk his losing in the grand prix and spoiling a superfight against the UFC heavyweight champion.

This is plausible at worst but terribly short-sighted at best. For starters, how many folks are currently clamoring for a "superfight" between Overeem and the UFC heavyweight champion? 10? 20?

This situation is entirely different from that of Nick Diaz in that Georges St. Pierre ran out of challengers and Diaz was in the right place at the right time with the right piece of gold wrapped around his waist. Nothing more, nothing less.

The same does not apply for the UFC heavyweight division ... not even close, actually. You know how many title defenses Cain Velasquez has had since he took the title away from Brock Lesnar? Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.

Velasquez (nor Overeem, for that matter) is not a dominant champion ... yet. Therefore, let's throw this one out the window.

Conspiracy theory 2 -- Overeem was removed because the UFC is getting ready to bring him over to their active roster.

Again, plausible, but the timing makes absolutely zero sense and why kill all of his credibility just to steal him away from Strikeforce? Zuffa now owns both entities, which means for the remainder of time they keep Strikeforce alive, at the very least, they want it to make money. Stealing the heavyweight champion and obliterating a tournament fight fans had a vested interest in is not the way to do that.

And don't tell me this tournament isn't completely blown without Overeem. It is.

And, again, why take him now? The UFC heavyweight division is largely booked and the pecking order is mostly determined. Unless White has some secret information about Brock Lesnar's recovery and wants to bring him back to the Octagon against Overeem in a monster fight, this move would make little sense.


Conspiracy theory 3 -- Overeem rejected fighting on Sept. 10 because it wouldn't give him time enough to cycle off steroids.

This isn't even worth dignifying with a response. Moving on.

Conspiracy theory 4 -- Overeem is making a power play against both Strikeforce and UFC by leveraging the final fight on his contract against his perceived boxing aspirations.

This explanation has carried a lot of weight in larger circles thanks to Diaz making a similar play to earn himself a title shot against Georges St. Pierre and, presumably, a boatload of money in the process.

But again, for reasons stated earlier, acquiescing to Diaz's demands was essentially a necessity. He had leverage because St. Pierre wasn't moving up to fight Anderson Silva and there is currently no other credible challenger to the UFC welterweight title.

This is not even close to the case in the heavyweight division.

Velasquez won't even defend his title, against Junior dos Santos, until Nov. 19. That's a full four months away from now. Too much can go wrong and there are far too many variables for Overeem to attempt to make a power play at pushing his way into the UFC heavyweight title picture at this stage. 

Not to mention, threatening to go to boxing wouldn't be the fastest way to get his wish, if that was, in fact, the case. The quickest route to that would have been to go through the grand prix.

Safe to say, this one is a fail as well.

Conspiracy theory 5 -- Dana White is making a power play against Showtime because they wouldn't budge from the Sept. 10 date as the continuation of the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament.

I certainly wouldn't put it past White and company to make a move like such but it doesn't make much sense for either side.

For as often as you hear pundits shout from the rooftops that Strikeforce is a sitting duck just waiting to be picked off once its contract with Showtime runs out, you just as often hear White dispel that by explaining how great it's been to work with the premium cable television channel.

Yes, he could be blowing smoke, but to what point and purpose? You don't think if there were problems White wouldn't outright say it? Exactly.

Sabotaging your own product is not good business.

Now that we've debunked every major conspiracy theory, that takes us back to the toe injury and whether or not that's the sole reason for Overeem's removal from the grand prix.

The answer is yes ... and no.

Later in the previously mentioned interview with Ranallo, Overeem gets passionate when speaking on the changed landscape in MMA now that UFC has purchased Strikeforce.

The insight he gives provides the answer we're searching for:

"I don't really think it's going to impact my future. Like I said, I'm a fighter and I'm willing to fight a lot but things have changed. I mean, if you look at the American market, the American market is the main market in MMA right now; why do the UFC champions only fight two times a year? Because if you lose it haunts you and it haunts you big time. You don't want to lose. And furthermore, there is a UFC policy, if you lose two times -- and Strikeforce is adopting that policy -- if you lose two times you can be cut. It's the end of your career. So, for me, now, to be 110-percent for a fight is a priority. And basically, I've done that in the last four fights. I've previously before, in the Pride days, I've had a couple fights in which I wasn't 100-percent. And I'm still haunted by that today. Like for example the Werdum fight, the first fight. I wasn't 100-percent going into that fight, people are still talking about that today. So, for me, now, to be 110-percent is a priority. There are not going to be any excuses why I lost the fight because I'm always going to make sure I'm 110-percent and if people cannot accept that, that's not my problem; that's their problem."

Right off the bat, second sentence, he outright says he's willing to fight a lot, which he has proven time and again throughout his combat career. He then goes on to give a perfectly acceptable reason why he's choosing not to do so with the current climate in MMA.

Job security.

There are injuries in all sports and no fighter will ever walk inside the cage at 100-percent. We know that. Hell, that's the case in any aspect of life. As I sit here typing this, I do so with a sprained ankle courtesy of not paying attention to potholes while walking the dog.

These things happen in dog walking.

Back on point, though, Overeem understands he must keep his value at its highest and his ability to do that decreases significantly if he is not operating at the absolute best capacity possible.

Consider this: If you rewind back to Overeem's final days in Pride, he lost four consecutive fights, to Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Ricardo Arona and Mauricio Rua.

If he did that today, in either Strikeforce or UFC, would he survive the firing squad?

No. Hell no. In fact, he would have never made it to the fourth fight, and quite possibly not even the third.

Which is precisely why it makes all the sense in the world for him to forgo risking his current standing -- on a seven fight win streak and having not lost since 2007 -- due to an injury that would prevent him from operating at full capacity.

This could very well explain the reason we've seen so many fighters pull out with injuries in this recent doomsday stretch we've been riding out with the UFC. Sure, it could be the accident insurance they all enjoy now. But it could just as easily be attributed to the fact that they don't want to lose their spot because they were too proud -- or too pressured -- not to pull out of a fight.

Hell, if you're an important enough prospect with an undefeated record to protect, Dana White just might do it for you.

There you have it, Maniacs.

The reason Alistair Overeem pulled out of the heavyweight grand prix was because he wanted to make the smart business decision for his still booming career.

Can you blame him?

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