At least for one night, the tournament format is back in mixed martial arts.
Scott Coker, who promoted numerous tournaments when he helped promote K-1 kickboxing shows, will stage a four-man tournament to determine the No. 1 challenger for the Strikeforce middleweight title on Nov. 16 at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
Coker said he has signed Joe Riggs (27-9) and Niko Vitale (24-7) to compete in the tournament and is working on landing two others.
In addition, the California Athletic Commission has required him to sign two alternates who can step in and compete in the final if one of the winners in the first round is unable to continue because of injury.
The prize, Coker hopes, will be a shot at the biggest name on the Strikeforce fighter roster, champion Frank Shamrock.
Shamrock, who has fought twice this year, hasn't agreed to fight the winner, Coker said. Shamrock has his eye on a 2008 fight with Renzo Gracie in what would be a rematch of a Feb. 10 match in which Shamrock was disqualified for kneeing a downed opponent in the head.
Shamrock also has asked Coker about making a fight between himself and Cung Le sometime next year. But Coker remains optimistic he can give the winner a chance to fight the biggest name in the Strikeforce stable for the title.
"It is my hope that the winner can fight Frank, and I've talked with him about that," Coker said.
Coker said Strikeforce plans to use the tournament format extensively going forward. He said he plans to have tournaments for the heavyweight and lightweight titles sometime in 2008.
Tournaments were popular in the early days of MMA but have been frowned on by state athletic commissions. Coker said he had been asking Armando Garcia, the executive officer of the California Athletic Commission, for permission to do a tournament for eight months before Garcia relented.
"They're very popular with the fans," Coker said. "It's a fantastic way for the fans to see who the champion is going to be or who is going to face the champion in the same night. And talking to some of the guys, I think they like the idea, too."
- Frank Shamrock