It was widely speculated that Strikeforce would fold following the purchasing of the organization by Zuffa and the conclusion of their Showtime deal, but rumors of their demise were greatly exaggerated.
Strikeforce will be sticking around on Showtime and things will be “business as usual” moving forward.
What does this mean for the world of MMA? Well, I’m glad I asked myself.
PRO: More MMA. I’m never going to complain about more MMA on my television. Unless there’s a Taylor Swift concert in town, I’ll cancel my plans to watch any MMA event. And even if there is a Taylor Swift concert in town, I have a DVR to record the event. More MMA can be a bad thing because it makes lesser events feel even less important, but as a hardcore fan and someone who covers the sport, usually from the comfort of my own home, I’m always happy when there is fighting on my TV.
CON: Fighters will want to be in the UFC and will be moved to the UFC. No matter what Dana White says about, “Strikeforce fighters will stay in Strikeforce,” we all know he’s lying. Just like when he said, “business as usual,” and then poached champions Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem, and Nick Diaz from the organization. Fighters will be moved and they’ll want to be moved. Everyone sees UFC as the big time and they don’t want to be stuck on that second level. You really think Gilbert Melendez will stay in Strikeforce if he wins this weekend? Even if he does, he won’t be happy, because all the top lightweight talent is in the UFC. Muhammed Lawal has already expressed his interest in the UFC, as has Tim Kennedy. Dana says that Gilbert is, “very excited to stay in Strikeforce” and unless that means UFC will be sending over top talent like Clay Guida or Gray Maynard to fight Melendez, I think Dana and Gilbert might have different definitions of “excited.”
PRO: Women’s MMA has a home. Even though the talent pool isn’t all that deep, the women who compete in MMA are very talented and usually deliver exciting fights. Without Strikeforce, they would have been reduced to up-and-coming promotions or Bellator, if they decided to commit to higher women’s weight classes. With Strikeforce sticking around fighters like Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Cris Santos, and others will have a chance to showcase their skills in front of a larger audience. It also gives younger or mid-level female fighters a goal as they’ll see Strikeforce as the top promotion for female MMA.
CON: Strikeforce won’t have top fighters and their shows won’t seem all that important. The next major Strikeforce show (not the one this weekend) is headlined by a middleweight title fight between Luke Rockhold and Keith Jardine. You read that right. A relatively unknown Rockhold and UFC wash out Jardine will be headling a major Strikeforce event. Strikeforce shows are going to suffer from what I like to call “WEC Lightweight Syndrome.” Every time there was a big WEC lightweight fight, it never felt important because, since Zuffa owned WEC just like they own Strikeforce, we always figured the top lightweights were in the UFC and if guys like Donald Cerrone and Ben Henderson were really that good, they’d be in the UFC. Rockhold might be a good fighter, but until he’s beating the middleweights in the UFC, he’s never going to the respect that he may deserve.
PRO: Showtime is behind the promotion. If they weren’t behind them, I’m sure they wouldn’t have re-signed with them. They aired a video package on the last Strikeforce Challengers show that no one watched, highlighting some of the bright spots in the promotion, this weekend the lead-in to the event is a big boxing match between Andre Ward and Carl Froch, and preliminary fights will start airing on ShowtimeExtreme. Obviously they could do a better job promoting the organization, but as a premium network, they don’t really promote any of their shows or events on regular networks. It’s not like I see ads for Dexter or Homeland, two of Showtime’s highest rated shows, when I’m watching ESPN or even ads for Showtime Boxing events.
CON: Zuffa is not behind the promotion. We all know that any resources that Zuffa has is going towards the UFC. They’re not going to commit extra funds or man power to the organization. The Zuffa employees are already going to be working hard with the five million shows that UFC is planning on running next year, they’re just not going to be able to give a 100% effort to Strikeforce. Zuffa could do little things to make Strikeforce look important like secure a DVD deal for the organization or even purchasing ad time on networks, but they’re just not going to do that and until they do, no one should be naive enough to believe that Zuffa really committed to Strikeforce.
PRO: More opportunities for fighters to fight and get paid. Besides money mark promotions that are willing to pay guys like Ben Rothwell $250,000 to be a punching bag, Strikeforce is the second highest paying promotion out there. So with them around, it gives fighters more income and more chances to fight. UFC already has an over-crowded roster, and while I’d much rather see guys like Jason High, Tarec Saffiedine, and Josh Thomson in the UFC instead of all the TUF wash-outs they keep around, they don’t have room for every fighter in the world.
The overall theory here is that Strikeforce sticking around is good for fighters and fans, but doesn’t seem like a very smart business move.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding this deal. Dana sounded very excited about things during yesterday’s media call, but he then proceeded to give a bunch of half, non-committal answers when asked things like, “will we see UFC/Strikeforce cross-over fights?”
Stephen Espinoza, Scott Coker, and Dana all said, “Strikeforce will not be a secondary promotion,” but I have my doubts. Does anyone really think that UFC will lend Strikeforce some of their top stars or best fighters, unless those guys are fighting for a title? And lets just say that we get Guida vs. Melendez in 2012 for the Strikeforce lightweight title and Guida wins, doesn’t that pretty much prove that Strikeforce is secondary if a guy who has failed to secure a UFC lightweight title shot can win the Strikeforce belt? Or if Melendez wins and people speculate, “could Gilbert beat the UFC champion?” does anyone really think Melendez vs. the UFC champion will take place on a Strikeforce event?
Strikeforce is already eliminating their heavyweight division due to “lack of depth.” Less than a year ago we all argued whether or not Strikeforce had a better heavyweight division than the UFC. Now, by the middle of next year, they won’t even have a heavyweight division.
This is definitely a “wait and see” deal for Strikeforce, Showtime, and Zuffa, but as it stands, I’m pretty skeptical.