WOW! I think that was the reaction of MMA fans around the world when news broke Saturday that Zuffa had purchased Strikeforce. I found out ten minutes before Stephen Quadros and I went on the air with Clinch Gear Radio, and I think we both were in shock during the entire show. If the purchase price was indeed 40 million (as reported over the weekend) then the deal is a no brainer for Scott Coker and Strikeforce, but for some reason I still find myself saying why. Why would you sell right now when your promotion seems to be gaining serious momentum?
Strikeforce fans are excited about the Heavyweight Grand Prix, and the upcoming Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley fight should be a slugfest. I can ask why all day, but it doesn’t change anything. The deal is done. I’ve been asked over and over this weekend what I think and if it’s a good deal for MMA. Let me say again, I’ve been covering the sport day in and day out for less than a year. I wasn’t around when Zuffa purchased Pride, but even as a fan I knew that deal happened because Pride was broke and about to go under. That’s not the case with Strikeforce who has kept a low overhead and delivered solid ratings for Showtime. By all accounts, Strikeforce made a nice little profit last year. Maybe it was just too good a deal to pass on, and if so I understand. I might understand, but as a fan I don’t like the deal.
I don’t like it because you now have a monopoly, and that benefits nobody except the UFC. While the UFC wins, I can think of a hundred people who lose. It starts with the fighters themselves. When you have two top organizations, good fighters make money by the promoters bidding against each other. Jake Shields is the first guy that comes to mind. If the sale happened prior to Shields win over Dan Henderson, would his contract look the same as the one he signed when Dana White was obsessed with stealing him away from Coker? Maybe, but I doubt it. White can say that things will be business as usual, and he will still be bidding against Coker, but who really believes that.
I also wonder about guys that are trying to get to the next level. Guys like Mike Chandler in Bellator and Richie Whitson in MFC are two examples. Will these guys have a chance to fight on the big stage anytime soon, or will the log jam of talent from UFC, Strikeforce, and the former WEC keep them fighting on smaller cards? With two years remaining on its Showtime contract, Strikeforce isn’t expected to go away anytime soon, so maybe these concerns are jumping the gun.
Strikeforce does need help from a marketing stand point and Dana White is as good as anyone I have ever met. I have said over and over that Strikeforce needs a guy with the passion for the product like Dana has for the UFC.
If you are in Las Vegas the week of a UFC card, you see posters everywhere. They treat it like a major event, and it helps generate a buzz around town. Strikeforce gives the impression they’re almost embarrassed to be there. Walking around San Jose on fight day, there was zero promotion for the event. The UFC will change that, and that’s a good thing. I also think there are plenty of people who only watch UFC fights, and have missed big time performances from guys like Daley, Diaz and Henderson and the last couple of months because the fights didn’t happen on a UFC card.
That should change as White has softened his stance on “Super Fights”. Saturday, he was clear in saying there would be no co-promoting of fights, in other words, don’t plan on seeing Brock Lensar vs. Fedor any time soon. Monday on a conference call with the media, White said they will make the fights “the fans want to see”. That’s huge and could be a lot of fun. If you are going to keep Strikeforce separate through 2014, why not throw your own Super Bowl every year? Could you imagine a card with fights like…
Cain Velasquez vs. Alistair Overeem
Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua/ Jon Jones
Jacre vs. Anderson Silva
GSP vs. Nick Diaz
Gilbert Melendez vs. Frankie Edgar
It would be a huge event, and give credibility to Strikeforce (assuming some of their champs are able to win.) I am guessing fans would pay top dollar to be at the first “Super Bowl of MMA”. On the topic of ticket prices, I wonder how Strikeforce fans will react to higher ticket prices. Tickets for Strikeforce on April 9th range from $25-$200. Tickets for this weekend’s UFC 128 card in New Jersey range from $63-$503. That’s a big jump. Even the “Fight Night “cards (which can be seen for free on Spike) have a ticket range of $50-$250.
Answers to these should be available as soon as the UFC takes over. When that is has yet to be determined. Will we see Dana White’s fingerprints on the upcoming April 9th card, or will they just have minor tweaks? I also want to see what happens when certain contracts are up. Fedor, Daley, and Henderson have had issues with White, but so have Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz. The UFC has a track record of mending fences if it makes good business sense. Bottom line…the game has changed big time, did it change for the better? Only time will tell.