The Ultimate Fighting Championship is still abuzz with positive energy from the signing of a monumental network television deal with FOX. Since the announcement of the unprecedented contract’s particulars, the dominant MMA league’s moved forward to sign new deals with multiple existing fighters. Some of these mixed martial artists now have more job security than ever, signing for multiple fights with the organization. The UFC brass might have made their best move when they finally nailed down one of the biggest free agents in the business by signing Heavyweight Alistair Overeem.
Overeem, a veteran of the sport with some dynamic experience and talent, will face Brock Lesnar on December 30th on a Las Vegas based pay-per-view card. The fight will determine who will face the winner of a November title bout featuring Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. That contest will be the main event of a November 12 slate of fights still being lined up for the UFC’s debut on FOX. Matching Overeem with Lesnar puts the rumors of the former WWE superstar’s possible retirement to rest and gives him a viable opponent for his first fight back in the Octagon. The bout also gives Overeem a chance to prove he can hang with one of the toughest heavyweights on the planet after spending so many years in smaller leagues and backing out of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix early due to injury concerns.
The fight gives fans a shot to witness two of the most muscle bound men in the sport slug it out in the cage. Lesnar is far less experienced than “The Reem” at this stage in his career, but his freakish physique evens his odds in most cases. Against Overeem, he’ll finally face someone with a similar body type who will bring the fight to him. If Lesnar can beat Overeem, the win will quash doubts about his health and convince fans he can succeed in a sport he is still relatively new to. A win for Overeem will help cement his legacy as one of the best all-around heavyweight mixed martial artists in the world. It may also help generate far more interest in the UFC overseas since Overeem’s fan base is fairly intense in Europe and Asia.
Though the finances behind the Overeem deal aren’t a matter of public record, early reports indicate that Overeem turned down an immediate title shot to take the Lesnar fight. That arrangement would have resulted in his UFC debut taking place sometime next year instead of setting him up to help end one of the UFC’s most productive years ever with a really big bang. The eagerness to make an earlier first appearance is either indicative of his intense competitive drive or a hint that he’s anticipating a huge pay day for his UFC debut. Either way, the addition of Overeem is a smart business move for Zuffa since the signing will likely keep Overeem from participating in other leagues and competitions like K-1, which he is the current champion of. Keeping the popular heavyweight on board with Strikeforce would have kept the door open for a non-exclusive arrangement allowing him to fight in competing leagues. Instead of “business as usual” ruling the day, Zuffa’s releasing and re-acquiring Overeem under a different banner could mark a trend for how the UFC will deal with wanting to move Strikeforce’s best fighters over to the UFC once their contracts run out.
The numbers behind the FOX deal also have not been made public, but the final tally was likely well over 100 million. That’s a ton of new capital coming into the UFC. It’s about time White and Lorenzo Fertitta started giving some of that cash to the guys who shed the real blood, sweat, and tears to bring the Zuffa executives to the pinnacle they now stand on. As kingpins of the biggest and best MMA league on the planet, their most talented combatants should benefit most. They ought to be making the kind of “stupid money” James Toney demanded only to flop around on the mat like a beached whale against Randy Couture after White finally inked the famously brash boxer to a six-figure, one-fight contract.
The move to sign Overeem also takes yet another MMA fighter off the boxing market since the heavyweight phenom entertained the idea of getting a pugilism career going before signing with the UFC this week. Zuffa brass seems to be duplicating the same tactics they used to keep Nick Diaz from entering “The Sweet Science.” Giving the outspoken and ornery fighter a lucrative title shot against Georges St. Pierre recently backfired when Diaz went MIA and missed three scheduled appearances to promote the fight scheduled for UFC 137. Dana White promptly fired Diaz and replaced him with Carlos Condit this week. Since character was always such an issue with Diaz, it was a puzzling decision to allow him an immediate title shot in the UFC in the first place. Perhaps the principals of the top dog MMA league are really worried that better pay days might lure more MMA fighters to boxing if some significant examples are set with bigger names than Kimbo Slice.
Overeem may not be as audacious or as adverse to authority as Diaz can be, but he made it known during the issues he experienced with Strikeforce that he did not like being threatened. It will be interesting to see how the Dutch fighter deals with his restrictive new contract and how he handles being under new management. He constantly talked about wanting to fight the best mixed martial artists in the world before coming on board with the UFC, and now he finally gets that chance. All early indications seem to be pointing to the possibility that he could have a long, profitable, and prolific run with the UFC if his dominant recent history continues to be repeated.
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