Photos: Esther Lin/STRIKEFORCE
Seven hours before the doors would open for the STRIKEFORCE Grand Prix Fan Experience Tuesday, a long line began to form outside the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. Once inside, the approximately 1,500 MMA fans who jammed the venue for the event were treated to a spectacular afternoon they will not soon forget. All eight fighters who will compete in the eagerly awaited STRIKEFORCE World Grand Prix — Heavyweight Tournament were in attendance and signed autographs, answered questions from emcee Scott Ferrall and posed for photos. There were ticket, T-shirt and STRIKEFORCE fight gear giveaways, fight videos shown on giant television screens, workouts in the cage and photo opportunities with The Rockstar Girls. Music was provided by special guest deejay, DJ Clue. The STRIKEFORCE World Grand Prix — Heavyweight Tournament begins this Saturday, Feb. 12, live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) with two quarterfinal fights from the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J. The first live, non-televised undercard bout starts at 7:30 p.m. ET.
In the main event, Fedor Emelianenko (31-2, 1 NC) returns to action against Antonio “Big Foot” Silva (15-2) in a STRIKEFORCE and M-1 GLOBAL co-promoted event. The opening quarterfinal will match former world champion Andrei Arlovski (15-8) against Russian star Sergei Kharitonov (16-4), the last fighter to defeat current STRIKEFORCE and DREAM Heavyweight World Champion Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem.
The other two quarterfinal matchups at a site and date to be announced are: Overeem (34-11, 1 NC) versus the only man to tap out Fedor, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1), and hard-hitting Brett “The Grim” Rogers (11-2) against Josh Barnett (29-5).
Dyami Arroyo of The Bronx was the first to show at 8:30 a.m. Despite cold, bitter, windy conditions, he kept his spot at the head of the line. “There was no way I was going to miss a chance to meet Fedor and the greatest heavyweights in the world,” he said. “As soon as I heard about this, I told my boss I was taking the day off.”
His buddy, Freddie Diaz, of Queens, says he called in sick. “I love STRIKEFORCE, but this is a dream-come-true for any MMA fan.”
Said Brooklyn’s Joe Doyle, who arrived a little after Arroyo and Diaz: “To get this kind of access to these kinds of fighters is unbelievable,” he said. “There was no way I wasn’t going to be here. I am really happy that STRIKEFORCE did something like this for us. No other MMA organizations do anything like this around here.”