Martin de Jong never saw it coming. Early Monday morning the Golden Glory head coach woke up to a disturbing e-mail from camp manager Bas Boon explaining that three of his fighters -- former Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion Marloes Coenen, Strikeforce heavyweight Valentijn Overeem, and UFC heavyweight Jon Olav Einemo -- had been abruptly cut by Zuffa.
"This is a big blow for us," de Jong said later in an interview with MMAJunkie.com. "I feel it's kind of unfair to the fighters. They train hard. They put on exciting performances."
The explanation given to Golden Glory was that the cuts were a direct result of the fighters' recent losses. Yet the brash and unexpected nature in which the news was handed down lends credence to de Jong's speculation of a deeper ulterior motive.
"Of course, they can cut them because they lost, but do you cut Alistair Overeem, who was very eager to fight in the (Strikeforce heavyweight) grand prix, and who got major injuries?" de Jong asked. "Einemo just received a 'Fight of the Night' bonus in his last UFC appearance. Coenen ... two times (has) been the Strikeforce champion. And before Miesha beat her, I think they were even (on the scorecards) or [favoring] Marloes."
While the situation remains mired in uncertainty, many believe the cuts were a result of the public conflict between Golden Glory representative Alistair Overeem and Zuffa. De Jong is unable to verify the idea.
As for Overeem, the 31-year-old Pride veteran was stripped of Strikeforce's heavyweight title and released from the organization last week. Since then he has reportedly been focused on rehabilitating various injuries while preparing for a bout on United Glory's October card in Moscow. Though, de Jong still holds out hope that Zuffa will reconsider their decision regarding the Dutchman.
"For me, I hope the management can still work something out with Zuffa," he said. "I think Alistair needs to fight the best fighters in the world, and I think right now there's only two people ranked above him: Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. Alistair only wants to be the best. It's a pity."
At this point Golden Glory still has one last stake under the Zuffa umbrella -- Strikeforce heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov. The Russian remains alive in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix and is scheduled to face Josh Barnett on September 10th. Yet, should Kharitonov lose, his time may be next, and Golden Glory's door to the United States fight scene would be unequivocally slammed shut.
"For me, it doesn't make sense," de Jong lamented. "I was just thinking, 'Is this the future of MMA?'"