Scott Coker. Photo by Esther Lin/AllElbows.com.
It seems that Scott Coker is channeling his inner Dana White.
Strikeforce’s head honcho isn’t primarily known for talking bad about anyone. It’s precisely why Coker’s San Jose-based promotion has become one of the most respected businesses in mixed martial arts. But with the UFC eager to steal away any and all above-average talent from the Strikeforce ranks, it’s been Coker who has shown more of an aggressive side in recent weeks.
Coker’s questionable comments started coming last month, when fan-favorite Phil Baroni opted not to negotiate a new deal with Strikeforce and headed to his former home of the UFC, where he spent four years of his career from 2001-2005. In return, Coker took a subtle dig at Baroni’s recent struggles, which saw the Long Island native drop a unanimous decision to Joe Riggs on June 6, snapping a three-fight win streak.
“We wish Phil the best of luck and hope he can revive his career,” Coker said in a press release sent out the day of Baroni’s release. “If he can, maybe one day, he can return and fight for us.”
Now, Coker’s latest victim is Paul Buentello, who has negotiated his release from Strikeforce and appears to likely be headed back to the UFC, where he fought for the UFC heavyweight title against Andrei Arlovski at UFC 55 almost four years ago. In an email sent to Sherdog.com, Coker confirmed Buentello’s release and gave some bold details as to why the two sides parted ways.
“We offered Paul a six-figure contract to fight Fedor, but he turned it down,” Coker said to Sherdog.com. “His decision is understandable considering Fedor’s level of skill but, at the same time, Paul didn’t really fit into our plans. He’s been a solid journeyman fighter and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”
So in a sense, Coker is claiming that Buentello turned down a fight against Fedor because he’s afraid of him? I don’t think so. One look at the list of opponents Buentello has faced over the years - Alistair Overeem, Andrei Arlovski, Ricco Rodriguez to name a few - and one can easily see that’s not the case.
From what he said in response, Buentello doesn’t seem like he cared much about Coker’s comments. It’s a different story with me. As much as Coker’s arrogance irks me, it only pisses me off more that he’s beginning to throw away the opportunity he has with Strikeforce.
I’m a firm believer that this sport will thrive with two powerful competing brands. The years of constant competition between the UFC and PRIDE were some of the best times we’ve had so far in MMA. Now imagine what that would be like with the mainstream coverage the sport gets these days.
Coker continuing to send out press releases with these kind of comments is only going to result in burned bridges. That’s not a very smart idea. Baroni and Buentello were released from the UFC before and chances are, they’ll likely be given walking papers again in the future. With the UFC ready to raid Strikeforce’s roster with every chance they get, Coker would be smart to leave the door open to whomever he can.