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Co-Promoting In MMA

Keyboard warriors and media officiado’s have discussed for years the idea of two MMA organizations coming together for one evening to put their best talent against one another to really determine who the best combatants in the world are.

In this article I will look back into the history books to each of the organizations brave enough to share talent.


In 2002, Pride FC founder Nobuyuki Sakakibara put forward the idea to put on a super-event featuring the best MMA talent and the best kick boxing talent.
It materialized with the first Shockwave event – To say this was a big deal would be an understatement.

91,108 fans flocked to Tokyo National Stadium to witness the epic event which will ultimately be remembered for Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Bob Sapp’s war.
Shockwave 2002 was the beginning of the “super card” concept which to this day takes place in Japan with their annual Dynamite! Events.


The first co-promotion between two actual MMA organizations came when UFC President Dana White agreed to send some of his talent over to Japan.
This might raise a few eyebrows to a new comer to the sport so I will explain a bit of the back story.

Zuffa LLC had recently purchased the UFC and they were a business losing money at a rapid rate so in an attempt to create more buzz around some of their talent they sent them over to the #1 MMA organization.

White sent two of his biggest drawing cards over to Pride in Chuck Liddell and Ricco Rodriguez at Pride Total Elimination 2003.

Rodriguez would lose to the former Pride Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira while Liddell would be entered in the Middleweight Grand Prix.
The dream match of all dream matches at that stage was a clash between devastating strikers Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva and the idea was for the two of them to meet in the finals of the tournament.

However, Liddell would run into relative newcomer Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the Semi-Finals which would signal the end of his run in Pride.

Unfortunately, Pride never returned the favor by sending talent over to the United States to put on any big money matches – The only appearance of a Pride competitor was when Wanderlei Silva called out “The Iceman” to fight, but only if it happened in Pride.

Their bout would eventually happen years later in 2007 after Zuffa LLC purchased Pride FC with Liddell edging out Silva in one of the most exciting bouts in the history of the company.

FEG and Elite XC

Although only for one event, FEG the founders of K-1 who had recently dipped their feet into the world of MMA teamed with Elite XC to put on Dynamite! USA in 2007.
Due to FEG having issues obtaining a promoter’s license in the US and only got cleared with a temporary license merely eight days before the event.
Dynamite! USA was aired in two parts; the preliminary bouts were aired live on Showtime with the remaining six bouts taking place on pay-per-view.
The event will ultimately be remembered for the debut of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar but also featured the final installment of Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba.

Overall, FEG’s move into the US proved to be a less than successful event after forking out $1.4million on fighter salaries and the Japanese promoters haven’t tried to promote their since.

Elite XC and Strikeforce

Elite XC was founded in 2007 and wanted to open up shop with a bang so their acquired the first UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Frank Shamrock for their main event.
The only issue was Shamrock was under contract to Strikeforce and the two parties battled over the right to use him for their upcoming events.
Eventually, an out of court settlement was made so both promotions got to use Shamrock by co-promoting.

Elite XC went forward with their first event “EliteXC: Destiny” while Strikeforce hosted a Middleweight Championship bout between Shamrock and Phil Baroni.
Both organizations stated that they were open to working with the other in the future however they never co-promoted together again but Strikeforce did buy all their assets merely a few years later.

Elite XC and Affliction

Elite XC and Affliction briefly got into bed with each other for Elite XC’s final Event, “Heat”.

Affliction were having issues getting interest in their product following their first event and wanted to get more people knowing they’re around, their solution was getting on free to air television.

Affliction teamed with Elite XC for their final event hosting a bout between Andrei Arlovski and Roy Nelson.

Elite XC went out of business days after the conclusion of the show so the two never got the opportunity to team together again.

M-1 Global and Affliction

M-1 Global are the management team for former heavyweight kingpin Fedor Emelianenko. Thus, to host Emelianenko on your events you have to go through M-1 Global.
Affliction were an organization with more money than brains who threw large amounts of money at talent, particularly in the heavyweight division to compete on their events.

Affliction would host two events, both headlined by the Russian attraction Emelianenko and intended to host a third however a failed drug test from Josh Barnett would signal the end of the company.

M-1 Global and Strikeforce

As stated above, to use Fedor Emelianenko you must first go through his strict management.

Following the fall of Affliction, UFC President Dana White was interested in bringing in Emelianenko to see how he really matches up against the best heavyweights in the world.

White was willing to allow him to compete in Combat Sambo, wear M-1 logo’s on his shorts and everything else under the sun, expect co-promotion.
Ultimately, without co-promoting with M-1 Global the UFC was not able to seal the deal to get Emelianenko into his company.

However, Strikeforce founder and CEO Scott Coker was open to co-promoting as they had in the past with Elite XC so they were able to acquire the former Pride Heavyweight Champion.

Coker has hosted two events thus far featuring Emelianenko which has proved to be a big success with them bringing in above average ratings.

DREAM and Sengoku

For 2009’s year end event FEG chose to merge their DREAM organization with rival Japanese organization, World Victory Road’s Sengoku for one night only.
The event featured a colossal 18 bouts from the world of MMA and K-1 with a majority of the MMA fights being DREAM vs. Sengoku bouts with the main draw being Satoshi Ishii vs.Hidehiko Yoshida.

Dynamite! 2009 proved to be a relative success bringing in above normal ratings but still not as high as they would have wished.
Both companies have been open to co-promoting together since but financial difficulties on part of FEG could stop any hopes of that going forward.

Strikeforce and DREAM

Strikeforce and DREAM agreed to share talent in the latter period of 2009. Due to Scott Coker having a history as a K-1 promoter the two were able to come to terms very easily.

DREAM began sending talent over to Strikeforce at the beginning of 2010 with the likes of DREAM Welterweight Champion Marius Zaromskis and Lightweight Champion Shinya Aoki being sent over in the beginning.

Strikeforce has proven to better organization in their promotion vs. promotion battles with them coming out on top for the most part.
Although the two organizations are in completely different media markets they have proven to put on a successful partnership which will move forward in the future if FEG stay in business.

Recently, the co-promotion discussions have began following Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez calling out Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez.
It appears that Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker isn’t open to the two merging for a joined event following a relentless pursuit from Bellator founder Bjorn Rebney.
As we look back in the history books, it’s clear that co-promotion is something that typically works in favor of the number two organization while benefiting the higher ranked organization a lot less.

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