Overeem signs with UFC, will debut vs. Lesnar

Alistair Overeem is looking forward to spending his first New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas.

It will be a working holiday.

Overeem, generally considered one of the world’s top five mixed martial arts heavyweights, agreed to a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Tuesday and will debut against former UFC champion Brock Lesnar at the MGM Grand on Dec. 30.

The winner will take on whomever emerges with the belt from the Nov. 12 heavyweight title bout between Junior dos Santos and champion Cain Velasquez.

“I’m happy to finally be here, and I’m happy to fight Brock,” Overeem said. “He’s a big name and a very exciting fighter, and I view myself the same way. It’s going to be great.”

Overeem, who was the Strikeforce heavyweight champion, became a free agent last month in the midst of a disagreement between his management company, Golden Glory, and Zuffa, the parent company of both the UFC and Strikeforce.

Those issues have apparently been resolved, clearing the way for Overeem to finally sign with the UFC, where he hoped to land throughout the process despite the organization’s frosty relationship with his management.

“You never know in the fight world. That’s why I focus on myself. Make sure you win. Make sure you fight exciting,” he said. “Of course it was a little bit shaky at times between Golden Glory and UFC, but everything has worked out.”

Overeem has been a bit of a nomad throughout his career, competing in several organizations around the world simultaneously and even winning the K-1 World Grand Prix kickboxing title in December.

All that changes now as his deal with the UFC is exclusive.

“I will be fighting solely for the UFC now,” he said.

Lesnar will return from more than a year away from the cage as he has been dealing with a recurrence of diverticulitis. He underwent surgery in May to have a piece of his large intestine removed.

The five-round fight will headline a rare Friday night UFC pay-per-view card to avoid what would be a New Year’s Eve show.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.

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