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Strikeforce increases drug testing

Mixed martial artists participating in the Strikeforce World Grand Prix: Heavyweight Tournament will be screened for drugs throughout the multi-date event, promotions CEO Scott Coker told ESPN.com Friday.

Fighters competing in strong regulatory jurisdictions like New Jersey, which hosts a pair of tournament bouts on Feb. 12 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, fall under those local standards, Coker said.

The full card will undergo urinalysis for "street drugs, testable performance enhancers, and masking agents," according to Nick Lembo, legal counsel for the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. Lembo called it a "very fair assumption that the main card competitors, the tournament fighters, are going to be selected" for blood testing, as well.

In places "where testing is limited," Coker said Strikeforce would provide additional examinations "like in St. Louis," where in May, 2010, Strikeforce augmented Missouri's drug checking with its own. And if the tournament travels to a locale that lacks regulatory oversight, such as Japan, the promotion would take it upon itself to "test each athlete."

The news comes three days after a news conference in Moscow where M-1 Global co-founder Vadim Finkelstein, promoter and manager of heavyweight great Fedor Emelianenko, spoke in favor of "strict drug testing" for a field that includes two participants with a performance-enhancing-drug past, including the Russian's first-round opponent, Antonio Silva, and three-time offender, Josh Barnett.

Finkelstein did not go so far as to advocate for Olympic-style drug testing -- which is what boxer Floyd Mayweather demanded during failed negotiations with Manny Pacquiao last year.

"Our organization paid a heavy price after the cancellation of the fight between Josh Barnett and Fedor," Finkelstein said Tuesday, according to translated reports. "We did a lot of promotion for this fight, which in the end did not take place. That's why as a promoter and manager, I don't want this to happen ever again."

Emelianenko was scheduled to fight Barnett in August of 2009, but a random drug screening by the California State Athletic Commission prior to the bout came back positive for anabolic steroids and the American was forced out of the Affliction Entertainment/M-1 promoted main event, leading to Affliction's demise as a MMA promoter and an active lawsuit between the parties involved.

Evgeni Kogan, director of operations for the Russian-based promotion and management company, told ESPN.com that M-1 will "abide by the [drug testing] guidelines established with our partners."

"Fedor is not using any kind of substance to enhance his performance, and will be ready for any kind of testing," Finkelstein said earlier in the week.

Barnett texted that he would "fully oblige and cooperate" if that's what Emelianenko wanted. First, Barnett must obtain a license to fight in the U.S., if Strikeforce plans to promote him here. Coker said Barnett deserves licensure even as he faces unresolved issues with the CSAC over the positive test in 2009, and should not have a problem receiving one based on discussions with unspecified regulators.

Martijn de Jong, chief trainer for Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem -- whose participation in the May 2010 Strikeforce card in St. Louis, his first stateside-fight in two and a half years, was the driving force behind all fighters getting tested by the promotion that evening -- e-mailed that the musclebound Dutch fighter would respect all decisions from athletic commissions and "play by the rules, just like anybody else."

Emelianenko and Overeem would meet in the semifinals following opening-round wins.

The tournament, slated to air on Showtime, is tentatively expected to finish sometime around October. Venues and dates -- save the Feb. 12 card -- have not been announced.

Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN. ESPN.com's Franklin McNeil contributed to this report.