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Is Strikeforce All But Dead?

Eric Kowal
07 December 2011
The demise of Strikeforce - US Combat Sports

Strikeforce President Scott Coker has been reluctant to discuss the distant future of Strikeforce, however, MMA theorists and hardcore fans have been quick to draw a conclusion.

The theory is that now that the UFC parent company Zuffa owns Strikeforce and the contracts to its fighters, the organization will eventually be run to the ground. 

In the past UFC would dismantle their competition by strategically placing restrictions on sponsors, cross-promotion, and scheduling televised events the same night as a rival organization on another network.

A domino effect would then take over ultimately causing these organizations to go out of business. Affliction, Elite XC, and International Fight League (IFC) are just a few organizations that have felt the wrath of the UFC in one way or another.

While UFC President Dana White expressed a great deal of respect for Coker, he never really went after his organization with a personal vendetta until Strikeforce started gaining some momentum as a serious competitor.

The eventual purchase of Strikeforce by Zuffa put that momentum to a halt.  White states that the purchase of Strikeforce will not make any major shifts in the way either company conduct business.

“It’s business as usual,” White said.

But one has to wonder if White and the Fertitta brothers are in fact not trying to put a plague on their former rival then why not promote it a little better?  They certainly have the funding to do so.

Next weekend, Dec. 17, Strikeforce and Showtime present a lightweight title bout when Gilbert Melendez defends against challenger Jorge Masvidal.  It will be interesting to see the calculation of fans who tune in for this card seeing that there has been little to no mention of it anywhere.

While it’s hard to say what happens behind closed doors it’s probably safe to envision some turmoil between Coker and White, or at least a few harsh words being thrown around while talking about the future of Strikeforce.

How else can you really explain the poorly produced heavyweight Grand Prix tournament and the removal of Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem? Overeem was set to be in the semifinals of the tournament before the UFC snatched him up for a Dec. 30 bout against former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.

The excuse given by Strikeforce was that Overeem was pulled out of the tournament after refusing to accept a bout date for the second leg of the tournament in September.  The champion claimed that Strikeforce had originally told him to be ready for an October or November date.  Initial reports had talked about a toe “injury” that Overeem sustained in his fight with Fabricio Werdum.

Either excuse sounds reasonably lame to let your heavyweight champion walk away and go to another company who just so happens to be owned by the company that owns your company.  Following?

Strikeforce could have easily pushed Overeem’s bout to another date or simply just replaced him in the tournament.  The UFC implements interim titles all the time when fighters are injured.  Surely Strikeforce could have adapted a similar process?

Within one year, four champions including Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson and Alistair Overeem all walked away from Strikeforce and headed to the UFC. There was speculation that Melendez’s fight for next weekend might even be scrapped as they wanted him to make his presence known in their 155-pound division by vacating the Strikeforce belt.  As of press time, the fight is still scheduled.

With all these champions imitating Benedict Arnold it really sends a huge blow to Strikeforce’s credibility as a promotion. Still, Coker is fully optimistic about the future of Strikeforce and their partnership with Showtime.  Either that, or he’s putting on a good poker face.

“In the history of Strikeforce since the relationship with Showtime was developed, we put on, I think some of the best fights in the history of MMA” Coker said at a media conference call for next weekend’s title fight. “We’ve done our part to grow the sport, and that’s going to continue.  There’s still a lot of great fighters on the roster.  And we’re going to keep building these fighters.  We’re going to continue putting on great fights.  To me, that’s not going to change.  So everybody can tune into Showtime and watch in 2012, and we’re going to put on some amazing, amazing fights.”

If history is any sign of the future, Bellator should be very wary of what may come their way.

Last Modified:
07 December 2011

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