Former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem (35-11) didn't stay unemployed for long. Less than two months after bowing out of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix and receiving his walking papers from the promotion's owners, UFC parent company Zuffa LLC, the 31-year-old Dutch has been signed to an exclusive, multi-fight contract with the UFC.
The industry giant announced today that Overeem is set to fight former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar on Dec. 30 at UFC 141, which takes place Dec. 30 in Las Vegas.
Lesnar fights for the first time since losing his title to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121. A second bout with diverticulitis delayed his comeback at UFC 131, and a corrective surgery in May put him on the path to recovery.
The winner of the end-of-year fight is expected to meet the winner of the upcoming title bout between champ Velasquez and challenger Junior Dos Santos at UFC on FOX 1, which takes place Nov. 12 in Anaheim, Calif.
SI.com caught up with Overeem in Las Vegas as he prepared to board a plane to Los Angeles for the premiere of the MMA-themed movie Warrior.
SI.com: What was today like for you? This is obviously a huge day in your life.
Overeem: It's a huge day. Basically, we had it in the office, we spoke in private. It was a good meeting. From there we went on to discuss the details, which we agreed on in the contract. Signed the contract. I had a photo op; I have a Twitter of the UFC office. It was nice. Nice people, very motivated people, good at what they're doing as we've seen in the past. Overall, it was a pleasant experience.
SI.com: Did the deal come together quickly? Or is it something that had been in the works for a little while?
Overeem: It had been in the works for the last couple of weeks. And, of course, some of the details, I didn't want to shout it from the roof before it was signed. So I was just being relaxed about it. Because for me, there is no deal until you've got a signed deal, and basically we signed, and both announced.
SI.com: Considering what had happened with Strikeforce, was it odd for you getting in an office with these guys and meeting them for the first time? Was it what you expected or different?
Overeem: It was completely different. I think in the overall Strikeforce thing, there were a couple of factors which created the standoff in the first place. After that standoff, obviously I got cut, some of my team members got cut. A dialogue was slowly reopened, common ground was found, and basically we resolved our differences. It was a slow process, but a very natural process. It was a positive experience.
SI.com: A lot of people felt the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix was going to crown the best heavyweight in the world. The promotion got purchased and things changed a lot. Now you're fighting Brock Lesnar, one of the most popular fighters in the UFC and a former champion. Do you feel like things worked out for the best?
Overeem: Well, it appears so. Even though I was injured, I couldn't participate in the Strikeforce GP, which was my goal -- to win that belt. Now it appears I'm suddenly on the bigger stage going for another belt. So, it appears so that it worked out for the best. I'm very happy. I'm going to step everything up a notch to show the fans a great fight.
SI.com: You were offered a title fight against the winner of Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos. Why did you turn that fight down?
Overeem: That is because if I would have accepted that fight, it would have taken a while before I could enter the octagon. Because Cain and Dos Santos are fighting Nov. 12. After that, they'll probably need recovery time, so let's say November plus six months. It would already be May. I'm a fighter. I like to be active, so basically I requested a fight before. Some names came rolling, [including] Brock's name. He was interested, and that's how the ball started rolling.
SI.com: What were your thoughts about fighting Brock in your first fight in the UFC?
Overeem: I think Brock is a very strong, big guy. But I'm going to work hard for this fight, and I promise all my fans -- I'm going to smash him. Destroy him. And I promise also that it's not going to go to a decision. It's going to be a knockout. Somebody's going to get smashed, and it's not going to be me.
SI.com: Is it safe to say he's going to try to take you down and avoid your striking?
Overeem: I don't know what he's going to do, but it doesn't matter. I only focus on myself. Of course, you look a little bit at your opponent's background, but it's important not to get too focused on that, too carried away on that. I'm going to make sure I'm 120 percent, and we're going to destroy him.
SI.com: Who do you lean on at Golden Glory to prepare for really strong wrestlers?
Overeem: Well, I never really talk about my training. But rest assured, I'll be having enough guys come over, and we're going to be ready.
SI.com: I think you were going to go to Bulgaria before and train. Is that something you might do for this camp?
Overeem: That has not been decided yet. I'm not sure where I'm going to do my camp yet.
SI.com: Is the UFC a move for you that's going to make you a household name in the states?
Overeem: A lot of people are telling me that. For me, I'm not really occupied with that. This did feel like the logical next step. I was no longer with Strikeforce. The Japan market has been on the decline for the last couple of years. Basically, I already won the K-1 title. Then you can defend your title going to the next (K-1) grand prix, but I believe that would be in 2012. So basically, this is the next challenge. The UFC belt. It's the biggest promotion out there, and the biggest with a leap. I think everybody's dream is not only to fight, but to excel. Become the champion of the biggest promotion, and that's my next goal.