TORONTO - While the UFC is set to showcase two of its top heavyweights in Vancouver’s main event on Saturday night, the man many believe to be the No. 1 heavyweight in mixed martial arts is set to do battle in just over a week’s time in Dallas.
And while Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem (34-11-1) says his thoughts are firmly fixed on his June 18 main event with Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1), he did admit over the phone this week that he would be very interested in a unification bout with undefeated UFC title holder Cain Velasquez.
“If I win the (Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix) tournament, I personally — and I believe many fans are with me — would love to see the winner of the tournament go against the UFC heavyweight champion,” the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Overeem said.
There is no doubt the kickboxing and Muay Thai specialist will have his work cut out if he is to secure the Grand Prix crown, including getting past his 6-foot-4, 239-pound Brazilian opponent in Dallas. But if he can accomplish his goal, there is no reason to believe a Strikeforce-UFC heavyweight unification battle wouldn’t be tabled, especially now that the precedent has been set with UFC welterweight king Georges St. Pierre facing Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz at UFC 137.
Unifying the two titles “definitely is my plan, but let’s take it one step at a time. I’m taking this fight very seriously,” Overeem said.
As he should. The 30-year-old Dutchman was submitted by his smaller opponent, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist, back in 2006 under the Pride banner.
Since then, of course, the bruising Overeem has gone on to compile a pretty impressive resume, including winning the K-1 and Dream titles in December.
And Overeem promises things will be different this time.
“I’m just happy this fight is happening,” Overeem said. “You will see next Saturday how motivated I am. The difference between last time and this time is that you are going to see a way more aggressive Alistair Overeem. I’ll be looking for the knockout from the very first second.”
Werdum, for his part, thinks the time is just right for a victory.
“June is my month because I beat Fedor (Emelianenko), too,” the Brazilian said, referring to his upset over the MMA legend last year. “Overeem is very good standing and I am very good on the ground. Everyone knows this, it’s no secret. Overeem will be a big challenge, but I will show the world that I can beat him again.”
Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum will take place June 18 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The event’s main card airs live on Showtime, and the preliminary card airs on HDNet.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced this week that the promotion was hoping to finish up its heavyweight Grand Prix sometime this year but said it could be extended until 2012. “We’ll have an announcement probably in the next week or so, but we plan on early fall for the next tournament date,” Coker said. “If it carries over into 2012 and we can finish it within a calendar year that would still be sufficient.” … The UFC has announced that for the fourth consecutive event people who “like” the UFC on Facebook will be able to watch five preliminary bouts for UFC 131 in Vancouver on the social media. And now YouTube has gotten in on the act. The popular website has joined forces with the promotion to show the same fights. Those bouts include Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Mike Massenzio, Nick Ring vs. James Head, Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young, Joey Beltran vs. Aaron Rosa and Michihiro Omigawa vs. Darren Elkins. The final two preliminary bouts will be broadcast live on Spike TV … Fighter Kenny Florian will accomplish a rare feat when he takes to the octagon at UFC 131: He’ll compete in his fourth weight class. The 5-foot-10 Florian will drop down to 145 pounds to meet Brazilian Diego (The Gun) Nunes at Rogers Arena. Florian competed as a middleweight (185 pounds) on Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter before dropping down to welterweight (170) and then lightweight (155) … TMZ.com is reporting the former WWE superstar Batista is joining forces with Cesar Gracie to open an MMA training facility in Tampa, Fla.