May 12, 2009

World champion submission grappler Roger Gracie and Strikeforce are close to finalizing the terms of a multi-fight contract, the promotion's CEO Scott Coker confirmed to Tuesday.

"Their lawyer is looking at a draft of what we're doing," Coker said, "but I think we're pretty much done." He declined to provide specifics of the pending deal.

Unbeaten in two mixed martial arts fights, the 27-year-old Gracie is arguably the top submission grappler competing today. In 2005 he captured the ADCC World Submission Wrestling Championships at 98 kilograms, as well as the tournament's prestigious open-weight division. In doing so, Gracie became the first competitor to win each of his eight bouts by submission.

His MMA debut came a year later and featured a first-round armbar against veteran Ron Waterman in Vancouver. Then in May of 2008, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Gracie finished aging Pancrase star Yuki Kondo, also in the opening period, this time via rear-naked choke in Tokyo.

Considering Gracie's level of experience, Coker said he plans on promoting the heavyweight in the Strikeforce Challenger series, which pits up-and-coming fighters and debuts Friday on Showtime, sometime this autumn against a to-be-determined opponent.

"We're going to see if we can create some awareness with him, see how he does fighting-wise, and take it from there," Coker said. "We're going to give him every opportunity to crossover into MMA. He's going to have plenty of time to see if he really likes to do it."

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