By Benjamin Bieker
While some Strikeforce fighters like Gilbert Melendez, Daniel Cormier, and Robbie Lawler already have matches lined up some of them are without an opponent or a debut date. So, as most fighters do, they have started to callout who they would like to fight first in their first UFC match. There is nothing like self promotion to feed a fire and to help drum up fan support for a future match.
First, Tim Kennedy was thrown the idea via a twitter follower that him and Chris Leben would make for a great matchup, and Kennedy responded that he is a big Leben fan and would welcome the bout. It would make sense in terms of an excitement factor, and in terms of where both of these fighters careers are currently at. While Kennedy has been more successful in the cage as of late, both are stuck way outside of the realm of a title shot. Leben has not been able to piece together a decent win streak since he was obliterated by Anderson Silva, and Kennedy lost both of his shots at the title in Strikeforce. So, when two guys are kept out of contender fights why not make fun ones for them? That is what the fans seem to want.
“I think Costa Philippou makes the most sense right now. He’s coming off a win, and I think he’s a good opponent. Let’s get it on at [UFC on FOX 7].”
Not only does Luke Rockhold have an opponent in mind he also has a date. Rockhold was the last middleweight champion of the now defunct Strikeforce promotion, and he seems to want to fast track himself to a title shot as soon as possible. With most other top contenders stuck in matches or injured, Rockhold has set his sites on the recent winner Philippou who is coming off a huge win over Tim Boetsch at UFC 155. That win has asserted Philippou into the title picture whether he wants it or not. Rockhold wants to take that momentum for himself, and no better place to do that than San Jose the former home of Strikeforce.
For Pat Healy, a UFC contract was not even a sure thing until he won his bout at the final Strikeforce card, but after he got that contract in his hands he is looking to prove to his new bosses the type of fighter he is. Healy has called out two of the toughest fighters at 155 who just fought a fight of the year contender at UFC 155. He wants to either take on Jim Miller or Joe Lauzon in his Octagon debut. That is a tall order for anyone, but in Healy’s words he just wants to test himself against fighters of that caliber.
Nothing wrong with wanting to get into the cage with the best. That is what all mixed martial artist should strive for. That is why the former Strikeforce fighters have started to call out opponents, because like WEC and PRIDE fighters before them they want to prove to the UFC fans that they are legitimate title contenders and fighters. It looks like the Strikeforce fighters are here to stay, and I doubt they would have it any other way.
What are your thoughts?