Paul Buentello has secured his release from Strikeforce and is negotiating a return to the Octagon, the former UFC heavyweight title contender told Sherdog.com.
Strikeforce President Scott Coker confirmed the news in an e-mail sent via company representative Mike Afromowitz.
“We offered Paul a six-figure contract to fight Fedor, but he turned it down,” Coker said. “His decision is understandable considering Fedor's level of skill but, at the same time, Paul didn't really fit into our plans. He's been a solid journeyman fighter and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”
Buentello said the UFC would honor his Affliction contract -- which has one fight left -- and that they are negotiating an extension as well.
At 27-10 overall, the "Head Hunter" has run up a 12-2 record over the past six years with his only defeats coming in title matches against Andrei Arlovski and Alistair Overeem. The 35-year-old Texan was 3-1 in his first stint in the UFC.
“I've never been one to get involved in the politics of the sport,” Buentello wrote to Sherdog.com in an e-mail. “I have made as little as $1 to fight the UFC champion and been paid as much as six figures to fight an up-and-coming fighter. I'm not insulted at being regarded as a journeyman fighter either since I started my career as one. Training in my garage with no training partners, I started off with a handful of losses. I always wondered what I could do given the chance to train full time, and through a lot of sacrifices and sponsors that took a shot on me, I'm happy with the result. I've lost two times in six years with those loses coming to champions. Am I a gatekeeper or a journeyman? Well, if I'm a gatekeeper, any organization I compete in is going to have a thin heavyweight division. I've never claimed to be the best in the sport. But to say I turned down Fedor because of his skill level is a slap in the face.”
Note: This article was updated with a quote from Buentello at 8:31 p.m. EST.