–Kenny Rice

There is this cloud that hovers over him. It’s a big cloud, for he is a big man. It just always hangs there, like the nimbostratus cloud that blocks the sun.  A dark, foreboding object that brings heavy storms. The one that follows him like a mean-spirited shadow is filled with the thunder and lightning of rumor, insinuation and doubt. These are incredibly ferocious obstacles to take on, even if he is 6’5’’ and somewhere in the neighborhood of 270 pounds.

Alistair Overeem isn’t oblivious to this, he is simply vague about any defense, any concrete evidence to once and for all end the guessing.  On Monday he faced an opponent as tough as any he has, the Nevada State Athletic Commission. He wasn’t there in person, but in essence testified via phone from his native Holland. Typically it still wasn’t all that clear after lengthy questions and answers. He had taken the required drug test, kind of. Not one through an accepted agency, rather one administered by his personal doctor.

The big man is finally stepping up into the world of big boy sports with the UFC, no more coddling, no scrambling to find a state for his rare U.S. appearances that isn’t as stringent in testing as combative sports powerhouse Nevada has always been. He rules Japan and Europe, there are no questions needed but he knows it is different in this state and this organization.

With this, the Commission had offered up the best thing anyone ever has to Overeem, a chance to squelch all those veiled accusations, the behind his back whispers, the wink-winks from foes who on talk shows dance as deftly as Jennifer Lopez around what they really want to say.

The NSAC has granted him a conditional license to fight Brock Lesnar in UFC 141. But here in the very real world of the big time, he must first be tested at an authorized clinic in the United Kingdom, which presumably at the time of this writing he has. Then he will be tested again when he comes back to the States in a few days. And there will be at least two more random tests at Overeem’s personal expense further along after his Lesnar fight.

It isn’t that Overeem is being singled out or punished, it is the way it works with Nevada and the UFC, rules, regulations and standards. His opponent has already complied and is ready to go, but this week there have been the rumors that replacements for Overeem are already being lined up. That “just in case something happens” that has become too common for a proven fighter of his caliber.

Always rumors. Ones that have grown like a virus since Overeem has grown, literally, from the middleweight who beat Vitor Belfort and lost to Mauricio Rua in the Pride tournament in 2005 to the oh-so-sizable factor he became in the heavyweight ranks less than two years later.

There is no clear-cut evidence of anything other than hard work to build a mammoth physique, and that is unfair to Overeem. While not exactly as in the court of law, he has been found speculative until proven otherwise by many fans and media. He’s just so darn huge, and strong and fast. Could all that be real? Could he have just out hustled and out trained his peers to be this way? Perhaps he has. Perhaps it is the horsemeat diet, which should be even more available now that President Obama is on board with equine cuisine shipped abroad.

But his often flippant attitude about seemingly everything, his conflicting explanations about pulling out of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament among them.  Plus subsequently leaving that group this year, has only pulled the cloud down more around his massive shoulders.

Even the Commission was surprised that he had left the U.S. without clearing up the mandatory test situation. He went home to see about his ailing mother, certainly noble and beyond reproach. No one can argue that. It’s just he was stealth like in departing. For a man of his size, he does seem to pop out of sight surprisingly easy.

Still there is no denying what a splendid talent he is, the only man to hold the Strikeforce, Dream and K-1 heavyweight titles simultaneously, an enormous feat of historic proportions in the combative sports world. His presence alone makes most opponents shudder. The UFC doesn’t roll the dice; they saw such a threatening striker that even his spat with their now partner Strikeforce wasn’t an issue in signing him to a deal.

Overeem is that good, and controversy never harms a ticket sale. But until all this is out of the way, and he is in the Octagon against former champ Lesnar, he remains the family’s wacky Uncle Ernie at Christmas time where the older kids explain to the younger siblings why he gets his own special bowl of eggnog. It is that way, and has been too long on planet Overeem.

He understood the MMA world wasn’t revolving around him when he finally signed the UFC contract. He had to know there would be more scrutiny about everything that he has previously been able to slide by like most everyone who stepped toe to toe with him in the ring.

If all these tests coming up are passed, no one has more right to boldly scream out, “I TOLD YOU SO”  than Overeem. It would be that moment of clarity that has been shaded deep gray. The one moment that can sweep away the cloud with a mighty gust, where all could focus only on Overeem and how good he can be in the UFC.


Watch Kenny Rice LIVE every Monday Night at 8 PM ET on Inside MMA on HDNet, and ask him questions on the Inside MMA Facebook Page or on our Twitter account.

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