There are moments in time where you remember where you were and what you were doing at the exact moment news broke of a historic event -- For a majority of the world it’s the 9-11 bombings, for wrestling fans it’s the the purchase of WCW or the death’s of some of their fallen heroes and so on.
Saturday afternoon marked yet another one of those occasions as UFC President Dana White made the announcement that he changed the landscape of combat sports once again by purchasing Strikeforce.
Essentially Strikeforce are being placed in a position of becoming a sister promotion to the UFC much like WEC were for a number of years before they were merged with the UFC with Strikeforce founder & CEO Scott Coker remaining in charge on a day-to-day basis.
Before keyboard warriors could conjure up a thought of dream matches pitting George St-Pierre against Nick Diaz or Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza against Anderson Silva, White silenced them by proclaiming it will be “business as usual” for Strikeforce and the UFC.
From where I stand, there are two possibly ways I see this deal with the two going.
1. Feeder Promotion
In my opinion the best way to utilize Strikeforce is to essentially make them become what Florida Championship Wrestling is to World Wrestling Entertainment.
For those of you not in the know of the pro wrestling world, FCW works as a developmental territory for WWE to groom their talent to be up to scratch for their television debuts.
If Strikeforce were to be used as a feeder promotion this would be the perfect place for the combatants who aren’t good enough to fight for the worldwide leader in MMA to get some fights under their belt and work their way to the big show, similar to what Strikeforce are doing with their Challengers series.
In addition, what about the fighters who go on a losing streak but are still an asset to your organization? Take a guy like Martin Kampmann for instance, a top ten welterweight who to be frank has been robbed in his last two trips to the octagon alas with another loss would likely signal his release from the company.
If you had Strikeforce there you can send Kampmann down to San Jose to face some up and coming welterweight talent and work his way back to the UFC.
Also, we have to face facts that as the sports progresses some veterans aren’t going to beable to keep up -- On the current roster take someone like Tito Ortiz, whether you love him or hate him nobody can argue his importance to the sport. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was one of the first mixed martial artists to bridge the gap between the casual and hardcore MMA audience and became one of their only draws in their dark days.
Ortiz wishes to continue fighting and they have inked him on a large contract to do so but the issue is he hasn’t had his hand raised in victory since Ken Shamrock in 2007.
Bringing Ortiz to a feeder promotion would firstly be a good thing for their television numbers and secondly either allow him to get back to his winning ways and potentially battle some up an coming UFC light-heavyweights or be a nice name on a kids resume.
Then there’s the issue of women competing inside the octagon; both Dana White and Lorenzo Furtita have gone on record stating they have no interest in women competing inside the octagon because of lack of depth in the divisions.
Currently Strikeforce is the best place for women to compete and and have a number of skilled girls giving their all to impress the fans and be viewed as more than just eye candy but there aren’t enough top level females at the moment.
Many believe that under the Zuffa banner it could result in the women losing their opportunity to compete for Strikeforce however I feel while using Strikeforce as a feeder promotion they are able to get the best girls inked to contracts, make legitimate contenders and deep divisions then move them to the UFC when established.
The same goes with the flyweight division, the UFC President said they were interested in incorporating 125-lbs fighters into the company within the next 12 months.
With many flyweight’s not making large salaries the UFC could essentially cherry pick which fighters they want with very few locked under contracts then over 12 months time let the cream rise to the top of the division in a sense before making them an official part of the UFC roster.
Ultimately long term I feel that using Strikeforce in this way would be a real asset to their promotion especially since they’re looking to expand onto a larger scale over the next few years.
2. Broken Down Car Thats Sold For Parts
The most likely thing which will happen in all of this is Strikeforce will essentially become a broken down car that’s sold for parts.
Currently, Strikeforce have a long term deal with Showtime to broadcast ten major events in a year which is reportedly expected to run out in 2013 -- When the deal ends, so will Strikeforce.
Strikeforce have made some great strides recently on Showtime with the ultimate peak being 1.1 million viewers for the Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Silva quarter-final bout in the Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Now with the promotional backing from the UFC you could expect their numbers to rise above their usual ratings but not too much. UFC have worked for years to make their brand so strong that most casual viewers believe the sport is called UFC.
They had similar struggles while promoting WEC, despite the fact that WEC was consistently putting on better events than the UFC they would do a fraction of the number that UFC would do if they promoted the same event on the same network.
Over time every top ten fighter competing for Strikeforce will be folded into the UFC’s landscape -- White said in his press conference that when contracts with Strikeforce come to an end they are willing to negotiate to bring them over to the UFC.
Thus, everyone that the UFC officials are interested in will ultimately move over to their promotion.
By the time Strikeforce’s contract with Showtime expires the UFC would have taken the top names to bring them over for big money super-fights and will close their doors while picking and choosing which contracts to keep and move over.
Ultimately, Zuffa LLC are a company and they want to make money; Promoting events as Strikeforce events just isn’t as profitable as promoting events as UFC events.