The Weekly Wrap: Feb. 7 - Feb. 13

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By Jack Encarnacao Feb 14, 2009
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.

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Several details emerged regarding how the Strikeforce promotion plans to usher in a new era with its Showtime and CBS television contracts.

The company announced a Frank Shamrock vs. Nick Diaz main event for the premiere Showtime offering, set for April 11 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The bout will be contested at a catch weight of 179 pounds. According to Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, the match was made as a play on the Shamrock vs. Gracie dynamic, which has proven lucrative for several promotions. Diaz is a proud longtime student of Cesar Gracie, whom Frank Shamrock knocked out at a Strikeforce event in March 2006. The fight helped the show draw the highest paid attendance in history for an MMA card in the United States.

The Diaz fight will mark Shamrock's first since his arm was shattered by a kick from Cung Le in a March 2008 clash. Shamrock has long been at the center of both Strikeforce and EliteXC, several assets of which Strikeforce purchased for $3 million in a sale announced last week. Shamrock signed a contract to fight on EliteXC’s first event in February 2007 while still bound to Strikeforce, so a compromise was reached where his matches with Phil Baroni and Le in the Strikeforce cage were broadcast on Showtime. As for Le, Strikeforce’s biggest homegrown star will not fight on April 11 due to an elbow injury. Strikeforce does expect him to fight twice in 2009, Coker told Sherdog.com. In addition to a previously announced fight between Benji Radach and Scott Smith, also expected to compete April 11 are Gilbert Melendez -- against either Mitsuhiro Ishida or Jorge Gurgel -- and possibly Karl James Noons -- in a fight against Josh Thomson that would unify two lightweight titles. Coker has a stated goal of unifying all Strikeforce and EliteXC belts.

As for the two biggest EliteXC draws, Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson and Gina Carano, the company is pursuing both avidly. Strikeforce has signed Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos to an exclusive four-fight contract and is talking to Carano about making the female super fight happen. As for Slice, Coker told ESPN.com’s “MMA Live” that Strikeforce will try to get the ratings draw into the cage “as soon as possible.” He said in separate interviews that Slice could be matched up with Bob Sapp, whose celebrity appeal in Japan had some parallels to Slice’s popularity in the U.S. The Kimbo Slice vs. Ken Shamrock fight that fell apart before EliteXC’s final event in October will not be put back together, according to Showtime executive Ken Hershman. Meanwhile, Bas Rutten told AOL Fanhouse that he no longer trains Slice, mostly because he was doing things in competition that Rutten coached him not to do. Rutten said he has not spoken to Slice since the October debacle that saw him knocked out in 14 seconds by Seth Petruzelli.

In an interesting side note, Pro Elite Inc. is not dissolving. Company CEO Chuck Champion told SI.com the company is now free of all debt and litigation as a result of the Strikeforce deal and will now focus on running the King of the Cage organization helmed by Terry Trebilcock. Pro Eite’s other MMA holdings -- Cage Rage, Icon Sport, Rumble World and Spirit MC -- will be evaluated. Icon founder T. Jay Thompson has apparently moved on, promoting a new event in Hawaii next month under the Kingdom MMA banner that will feature a Jason “Mayhem” Miller vs. Kala Hose main event.

Pro Elite retained television contracts with Fox Sports Net -- which still airs EliteXC highlight shows with advertisements for King of the Cage pay-per-views -- and a deal with television honcho Mark Burnett to produce a reality series. CBS/Showtime will remain a 20-percent shareholder in Pro Elite, Champion said, but the network will not own a part of Strikeforce, which is not a publicly traded company. Pro Elite has licensed the “ShoXC” brand to Strikeforce but has retained rights to the EliteXC name. There do not appear to be any plans for more events under the EliteXC banner.

Strikeforce will promote five main cards on Showtime this year and five lower-tier cards that will be reminiscent of -- and likely named -- ShoXC, featuring up-and-coming fighters in smaller venues. Coker indicated Strikeforce will look to Washington, Atlantic City and Connecticut casinos as venues for its 2009 events.
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