Strikeforce CEO Coker, main event fighters ready to put on show for first-ever Vegas event

There’s no way that Scott Coker could have ever imagine four months ago that he would be promoting a summer event in Las Vegas.

But Friday night at the Palms that’s exactly what the CEO of one-time UFC rival, Strikeforce, will be doing when the former San Jose, Calif.-based MMA promotional company holds its first-ever Vegas event, Strikeforce Challengers 17, at The Pearl Theatre.

“Yeah it’s ironic,” said a smiling Coker, of being in Vegas because of UFC parent company Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce in March and the promotion’s subsequent decision to stage all its second-tier Challengers events in Sin City. “But let’s face it, Vegas is definitely the fight capital of the world and we’re excited to be here for the first-ever Strikeforce event.

“Before I got into MMA I did K-1 fights at the Bellagio. Working in Vegas, working with the (Nevada State Athletic) Commission and the fight community in Vegas has always been a good time.”

Strikeforce Challengers 17, which airs on Showtime at 11 p.m. PST, could offer an equally good time, considering that main event fighters Roger Bowling and Bobby Voelker are squaring off in a trilogy bout.

The two welterweights have met twice in the last 14 months with 29-year-old Ohio native Bowling (9-1 MMA), winning a controversial decision in their first bout when the fight was stopped in the third-round because of an eye poke.

The 23-year-old Voelker (23-7), a Kansas City, Kan. native, avenged the loss with a second-round stoppage of Bowling at Strikeforce Challengers 11 in Fresno, Calif., last October.

“The trilogy, I’m pumped for it. For me to be on the main event of the first event for Strikeforce in Vegas, I have the most respect in the world,” said Voelker, who promised not only to put on a good show for the first Vegas card, but also another victory.

“I’m gonna show why Roger and I are the main event. You always think (you’re gonna know what each other is gonna do), but that’s when you go back to the drawing board and you never know what each one of us is going to bring new to the fight.”

In other action, former LSU fullback Shawn Jordan (10-2), a late replacement for the injured Lavar Johnson, will take on heavyweight Devin Cole (18-9-1) in the co-main event.

Former Strikeforce women’s welterweight champion Sarah Kaufman (13-1) tries to get one step closer towards gaining back her title when she takes on Liz Carmouche (5-1). Both fighters only loss came at the hands of current champ Marloes Coenen.