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Scott Coker: Strikeforce champions are not leaving to fight for UFC


The relationship between Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Strikeforce has been puzzling.

Since Zuffa acquired Strikeforce in March 2011, many in the mixed martial arts (MMA) world predicted that it would not be long before the promotion was stripped of all its major talent and absorbed by the UFC, much in the same manner that Zuffa dealt with Pride FC and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).

It hasn't exactly gone down that way, yet the UFC has already stolen away some very key names in the Strikeforce organization such as Alistair Overeem, Nick Diaz, Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva, Dan Henderson and Jake Shields.

With that said, it's now July 2012 and Strikeforce is still alive and kicking. Its most recent offering, Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Kennedy," which took place in Portland, Ore., on July 14, 2012, did very well and offered fans an entertaining card of fights.

Strikeforce has also been able to hang on to such fighters as Gilbert Melendez, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett and Luke Rockhold. But how long will they continue to pine away on Showtime, when the bigger fights (and bigger money) of the Octagon continue to call their name?

Strikeforce Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Scott Coker sat down with AXS.TV's "Inside MMA" to try and enlighten us all on just what is going on with his company and its fighters:

Coker first commented on one of his newest additions, former UFC fighter Nate Marquardt, who -- after defeating Tyron Woodley -- is now the 170-pound champion after just one fight.

It was an impressive victory, but there aren't a ton of names to choose from for "The Great's" first title defense, thus causing some to wonder if he may be making a move back to the UFC.

Coker was unable to say who his next fight would be against, but he was firm on the fact that it will be with Strikeforce, and it will take place on Showtime:

"Well, you know what, that's something that Sean and I are going to talk about, today or tomorrow, but, believe me, if you look back at the title shots we've given our guys, they've all been tough. Our guys have been in some tough, tough match ups since we've been on Showtime, back in 2009, and that's gonna continue. Sean and I will have a phone call, and we're gonna figure out who's the next guy for Nate."

In response to all the rumblings and rumors about his fighters leaving for the greener pastures of the UFC, Coker didn't do a great job of clarifying things, but he believes that things are going to stay separate between the promotions, for now, anyway:

"Well, here's the situation. I think you guys know this, as well. We have a great contract with Showtime. They've been a great television partner with us, since 2009, and that's gonna continue. We feel really good about that relationship. We've had some amazing fights, amazing athletes and delivered some amazing ratings for that network, and they love it. They love MMA programming. When a network wants to support you, that's a great thing. So, we're gonna continue having the fighters that are fighting on Showtime, right now, continue fighting on Showtime, and the UFC is gonna continue running the fighters that they have in their league. For right now, it's gonna stay independent, but you never can say never, but for right now, that's how it's gonna run."

Coker went on to talk about a few of his fighters who have been most strongly rumored to be leaving for the UFC. As far as he's concerned, his title holders are going nowhere:

"Right now, speaking to the near future, everything's gonna stay put. Rockhold's our champion. Gilbert Melendez is our champion. Nate Marquardt's our champion. They're gonna keep fighting on Showtime, and they're gonna keep fighting for Strikeforce."

One fighter who definitely isn't leaving, who may have put himself in line for an eventual title shot with his dominant win over UFC veteran Keith Jardine, is Roger Gracie.

It was Gracie's first fight at middleweight and an impressive debut. Coker doesn't believe it merits him an immediate shot at the belt (which is now held by Luke Rockhold), but it definitely helps the cause:

"He definitely improved his stock, and I think I saw some real growth there. He's an amazing jiu-jitsu fighter, and if you close that gap on him, he's gonna take you down and submit you or control you. That's what he did. But it's the first time I've seen him do a little bit of stand up and some real good ground-and-pound. So, I think he's done real well. Whether he gets a title shot or not is not yet determined, but he definitely improved his stock."

Another fighter who had a good night at Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Kennedy" was Pat Healy, who won a decision victory against Mizuto Hirota. Healy has now won five in a row and is one of the few top fighters in the Strikeforce lightweight division who hasn't already fought to its champion, Gilbert Melendez.

Could he be next in line?

"I absolutely think that Pat Healy improved his stock. The fight's not put together yet, but that's something that we're gonna look to put together by the en of the year."

After winning the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix, with an impressive win over UFC and Pride FC veteran Josh Barnett, Daneil Cormier is a prospect who fans have been dying to see make it into the Octagon and take on some of the best of the best, something he simply is not going to get a chance to do in Strikeforce.

Unfortunately, it looks as though fans will have to wait. Coker stands by a statement he made last week that Cormier will be fighting on Sept. 29 in Sacramento, Calif., on Showtime.

It just sounds like they have absolutely no idea who his opponent will be:

"Daniel Cormier will be fighting on September 29th, on Showtime. It's going to be live from the ARCO Arena in Sacramento. But the opponent hasn't been determined. We'll probably have that figured out, probably by this week . But Daniel Cormier will be fighting on Showtime, on the 29th, in the ARCO Arena, in Sacramento."

For now, it seems as though this is the fate fight fans are tied to. Fans should not plan on seeing Melendez, Cormier, Rockhold or Marquardt in the UFC anytime soon -- unless, you know, one of them hurts his toe, gets fired by Strikeforce and then signed by the UFC.

Stranger things have happened.

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