After a night full of surprises at Strikeforce: Houston, MMAfighting’s Ariel Helwani spoke to Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker about the major talking points emerging from the show.
First off Coker was asked for his reaction to a number of his most marketable stars like Bobby Lashley and King Mo having lost.
“In the cage anything can happen, as you know, and to me it’s the better man should win,” he said diplomatically.
The head of Strikeforce then went on to note his surprise at how the Jacare Vs Tim Kennedy title fight panned out.
“If you were to say to me that Jacare was not going to try one submission in five rounds against Tim Kennedy I would never have believed it. And that’s what happened. He never went to the ground with him and Tim controlled him on the ground, took him down. Actually outstruck him on the stats. But, you know what, It was a close fight and it was a technical fight, but the fight went completely different than what I had thought.”
As for Bobby Lashley, Coker didn’t try to sugar-coat what was clearly a disappointing display by the former WWE wrestling star.
“Bobby Lashley, I think he has some soul searching to do,” he admitted, adding, “we’ll support him in what he wants to do.”
“I think with Lashley, the true test happened tonight. It’s sometimes good for a fighter to go out there, test himself. Maybe it doesn’t work out, then what’s he going to come back with? You know, how’s he going to come back? And that’s going to be the key, to see if he really wants to be an MMA fighter, how is he going to come back? That’s going to be up to him, because we facilitate these fights, but he’s going to have to have the desire to do that, and I hope he does because you know what, he has physical talent, he just has to put it all together.”
Looking at it objectively Coker believes that Lashley’s career is still in it’s formative stages after just six professional fights.
“he’s got a ways to go, obviously, right? I mean, let’s be honest, you know, where he’s at in his path as a martial arts fighter I think is in the beginning stages, you know, but does that mean he should stop? You know, he just have a lot of focus on him because of his WWE background and his collegiate wrestling background but mostly the WWE. So people have all these high expectations but to me I’ve always managed those expectations in my mind because he’s just, he only has what, a handful of fights. So, you know what, to me the true test of a martial arts fighter is the character and how he comes back and that’s going to be up to him.”
So what comes next for Lashley? Don’t rule out a fight with another former pro-wrestler looking to break into the MMA world – Dave Batista.
“Here’s the thing is that, you know what? I think that’d be a fun fight to watch and you know we don’t have a deal with Batista. We’re continuing dialogue but you know if we come to a deal, we’d love to promote that.”
Coker then moved on to give his thoughts on the controversial moments during the KJ Noons Vs Jorge Gurgel fight.
“I mean, what I saw when it happened, it was like bang bang, so he didn’t have time to stop and he got caught. And it’s up to the fighter to protect themselves as well, right? Protect themselves at all. But it wasn’t anything malicious, I mean KJ’s not a dirty fighter.”
Despite that he did have sympathy for Gurgel’s plight.
“I felt for him because obviously that had, you know, he got hurt and it effected his second round, but you know what? He didn’t want to use it as an excuse, right? And that’s, to me, that’s class and true martial arts spirit, you know?”
Noons now has back-to-back wins on his record since joining Strikeforce, and is currently on a six fight winning streak which apparently leaves him with plenty of options as to what comes next.
“I mean, that’s really going to be up to KJ. You know, we’re going to give him a choice. If he wants to fight Nick Diaz, let’s do it. If he wants to fight Gilbert, let’s do it.”
Moving on to discuss the much talked about Strikeforce 185lb tournament, Coker seemed surprisingly guarded over whether it would happen.
“Well, the thing is, you know, when we talk about that tournament, it’s, you know, all the stars have to align perfectly in order for that tournament to happen and so we’ll have to wait and see what happens, but the nice thing about the 185 pound weight class in Strikeforce is that it’s very deep, we have a lot of great fighters, and I look forward to you know stirring the pot, so of speak, and so you know I think we’ll have another announcement next week on that 185-pound weight class.”
The interview then moved on to the other major shock of the night as the highly touted King Mo lost his 205lb title to Rafael Feijao. Despite the Brazilian not being as instantly marketable as Lawal, Coker remained upbeat about the future for the new champion.
“I knew he was dangerous because he had the power and he had a good stand-up striking, a good stand-up. But so did Gegard Mousasi and then, you know, I think King Mo, you know, basically negated the stand-up by taking him down. So, I was surprised a little bit but you know what? We’re proud to have him as a champion and then that’s another division at 205 now we can just mix it up and let these guys all fight each other. It’s going to be fantastic.”
The interview ended with Coker admitting that he had been talking to Paul Heyman, one of the men credited with being a creative force behind pro-wrestling company ECW’s rise to prominence in the 90’s. Though the Strikeforce CEO was reluctant to go into detail it appears Heyman may come into the company in some capacity in the future, though nothing has been finalized yet.
Watch Helwani’s interview, plus an additional one with Sherdog.com below.