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Can Strikeforce Survive in a Post-Merger World? (Yes. Here’s How.)

("Trust me, everything at Strikeforce is just fine. Say, anybody else hear those violins?"

In the wake of yesterday’s merger between the UFC and the WEC, Strikeforce’s quest to carve out an equal space in the MMA world just got even more unlikely. But if you’re Scott Coker, this is no time to despair. It’s time to fight harder — and finally fix the slew of problems that have been dragging you down. So here’s what you do…

No more "Challengers" cards until further notice
The bottom line is, your roster isn’t deep enough to pull it off, and nobody gives a fuck. We just came off of a Challengers event that was headlined — I said headlined — by Roger Bowling vs. Bobby Voelker. For God’s sake, the next Raging Wolf card is more stacked. Strikeforce should abandon their minor-league series, and stick all those prospects onto the prelims of their larger Showtime cards (more on that next). If that means fewer events, so be it. Sure, you want to develop your brand by holding regular shows around the country, but just as importantly, you want to associate your brand with excellence and excitement. And let’s be honest, Strikeforce can’t be turning a profit on those Challengers cards anyway.

Get your television production together
You know how the UFC airs preliminary card matches during their PPV and cable events to fill time? It’s a win for everybody involved: The viewers get more fights, and prelim fighters have the opportunity to get broadcast exposure if they put on great performances (and if time allows). Showtime has yet to figure out this technology, occasionally leading to four-fight cards that end abruptly in under two hours. Right now, there is absolutely no incentive for a fighter to take a prelim match for Strikeforce; you won’t be seen on TV, and the money still sucks. If you want to build up prospects, stack the dark matches with talent — not no-name local fighters, as has been the trend — and let the public see them if they perform well. Again, quarantining these guys into their own Friday-night third-tier fight series that nobody cares about is not the way to do it.

Fire Stephen Quadros’s makeup artist
It just needed to be said.

Hire a steady stable of ring girls
As I understand it, Strikeforce outsources their ring girl hiring to Rockstar, which means that the eye-candy changes from show to show. I’ve learned first-hand that not even the Strikeforce media relations team has any idea who these girls are, which makes it hard when you want to do a Hot Potato post about Girl on the Right. Through their superior promotional skills, the UFC has made us care more about a Mexican-American model named Arianny than 90% of Strikeforce’s fighter roster. The idea is so simple that it’s astounding Strikeforce hasn’t done it yet: Hire the three hottest chicks you can find, and tell fans their names. Send them on promotional appearances, put them in magazines, and make them part of the show. And you guys were onto something with the body paint.

Get on basic cable
It’s tough because the UFC has already put hotels on Spike and Versus. What about G4, or SyFy, or the SPEED Channel, or Fuse…? I know, none of those seem like an ideal fit for an MMA show, but Strikeforce has to find a way to get new, weekly content to fans who don’t want to shell out the extra money for Showtime, especially now that their CBS partnership is a big question mark. I’m not talking about fight-compilation shows, like they used to have late-nights on NBC. They need their own Ultimate Fighter or Tapout — building home-grown stars through the magic of television — with the occasional live event. The Showtime-or-nothing distribution system that Strikeforce currently has in place guarantees that most people won’t be able to watch their events.

Don’t keep any fighter who you can’t control
If one of your stars has a personal management team so large it requires offices around the world, that’s a red flag. Basically, Strikeforce’s inability to secure fights for Fedor EmelianenkoAlistair Overeem, and even Nick Diaz is embarrassing and makes them look weak. These fighters are your employees; they should be fighting the opponents you give them, on your timetable, not just when it’s convenient for them. Learn the phrase "exclusive contract" and cut ties with any fighter who doesn’t want to play ball. You don’t need the headaches.

Work with Bellator
And by "work with" I mean "merge with." Instead of Bjorn Rebney and Scott Coker squabbling over inter-promotional matchups that will probably never happen due to logistics, the two leagues should just bite the bullet and join forces. Swallowing up Bellator’s fighters helps Strikeforce’s roster problem. Taking Bellator’s Fox Sports Net contract — as flawed as it is — temporarily solves their basic cable problem. With the UFC hulking up after the WEC merger, there’s simply no room for two organizations trying to compete for the scraps. As a single entity, Strikeforce and Bellator may even be able strong enough to put on the occasional pay-per-view show, which has to be the end financial goal for any MMA organization. We’ll call the new promotion… BELLAFORCE! Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea.

Well that’s a good start, at least. If you guys have any more helpful suggestions, please let us know in the comments section…


Cagepotato Comments

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WalksInTheDarkness- November 18, 2010 at 5:24 pm
@ MoTropolis

It's called football by the rest of the world and soccer by Yankees. There are a load of massive European leagues that come together every year to see who's team is best.

It's amazing that a country that believes in freedom of business is so closed minded when it comes to wanting monopolies in sports. Listening to American commentators mentioning that the San Francisco Giants were the champions of the world made me sick. There are other baseball teams out there in this big wide world. They may be worse but the Giants have never played and beaten them so the Giants can't possibly be world champions.
gomer316- October 30, 2010 at 7:24 pm
I agree with all of your points. I was at a Challengers card in Everett, Wa. there was barely anyone in the crowd. Mostly family of the fighters, and the card wasn't that great.
Kuch- October 30, 2010 at 1:05 am
While good suggestions, many articles have already outlined each and every idea posted here. I don’t know if Scott Coker is stupid or just powerless, but he doesn’t appear to have the ability to run Strikeforce like a competitive promotion. I think his desperate attempts to play keep-up with the UFC has forced him to make a lot of bad deals (Fedor/CBS) and give away a lot of control, which has screwed him from the point of trying to put on fights fans will pay to see. The future bookings in his heavyweight division are so obvious; the failure to make those fights tells me he’s probably powerless to do so.
Get Off Me- October 29, 2010 at 7:24 pm
You misunderstood my comment then.
I simply wanted to point out that Strikeforce Challengers is exciting to watch and to me is associated with excellenceand excitement in MMA as a result. I hear you about local promotions being exciting, but Strikeforce is not a regional show.

"The UFC getting bigger will make Strikeforce get bigger?"
Your words not mine. I simply said that the UFC merger will only help Strikeforce.
I won't go into a long winded explanation, but perhaps something as simple as the famous Monday night Wars in pro wrestling is a good example...or even the company that owns Alamo and National car growth due to rise in demand will increase chance over prosperity.
MMA is becoming more and more popular everyday, the UFC is the driving force of this, Strikeforce has benefited from the UFC already.
Jubbie- October 29, 2010 at 5:27 pm
I don't see the farm system thing working. It'd be like the NFL wanting to merge with NCAA football for prospects. There's already a system in place that basically pumps out prospects for free. The UFC will just grab whoever they think is legitimate once their contracts run out with Strikeforce (Shields) without spending a dime on Strikeforce's operating costs.
Over77- October 29, 2010 at 12:54 pm
random Strikeforce girls > Chandella aka Danny Glover
Mr_Misanthropy- October 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm
@ BG

That about sums it up. The thing that has been so aggravating about Strikeforce to me is that there is a lot of potential there, they have all the pieces, they just consistently demonstrate a level of managerial incompetence that boggles the mind. If you resign yourself to the inevitable, however, sometimes watching a train wreck can be almost as much fun as watching a rocket launch.
mynameisalsoben- October 29, 2010 at 11:19 am
Great article. A few other ideas:

The announcers! Strikeforce has infamously shitty announcers, which is ironic since they have the talents of Pat Miletich at their disposal but rarely ever use him. While Quadros isn't perfect, he's a step up over Ranallo and definitely Gus Johnson. Just have Quadros/Miletich as your announcing team and be done with it.

Stop letting Showtime pick your fights and basically run everything.

Use social media! And just promote the fights better. For being such a high profile organization, it's pretty stunning the lack of promotion they do for their fights.

And allow elbows for Christ's sake.

stidge- October 29, 2010 at 10:43 am
Allowing their fighters to fight in dream, K1 and other organizations is a disaster. It pulls them away from fights that could be occuring in strikeforce shows and also opens those fighters up to injuries sustained in other organizations, effectively putting those fighters on hold for more strikeforce fights. Makes no sense at all to for them to have such loose control over their most marketable talent.
Titos Head- October 29, 2010 at 10:21 am
Kill the F*king announcers! Like nails on a chalkboard those guys
Lysol- October 29, 2010 at 10:08 am
Get Off Me Says:
Fri, 10/29/2010 - 09:45
Voelker v. Bowling was an awesome fight, i'd put it up against any UFC 120 fight.
Strikeforce this and that, bottomline, the cards do not suck, the fighters do not suck, just look how Shields got all this respect from Dana, walking onto the roster, having a loser snoozer of fight and now he's the no.1 contender.
The UFC merger is a great thing, should have happened a little while ago, but I do not see how this puts Strikeforce in jeopardy in anyway. If anything this will help Strikeforce as MMA exposure overall will grow, if the UFC get's bigger it's only because MMA is getting bigger.
Coker is doing just fine, Strikeforce is doing just fine(excluding production) and the next card will be a good one.


You completely missed the point.

Voelker v. Bowling probably was a good fight, just like hundreds of amateur organizations put on good fights. It doesn't matter when no one knows or cares about either of those guys. It's downright impossible to market a fight by going "Hey, you've never heard of these guys and have no reason to care about them fighting each other, but please watch them fight because I got a mortgage to pay".

The UFC getting bigger will make Strikeforce get bigger? Just like the NFL getting bigger made the USFL prosper? Like how the expansion of the NBA made the ABA a separate but equal promotion? Oh wait, in both cases the smaller organization went bankrupt because of bad business tactics and a lack of publicity. The same thing will happen to Strikeforce if they don't smarten up and make some changes.
Lysol- October 29, 2010 at 10:02 am
Um, they don't need to hire a new announcer, they already have PAT MILETICH. How about giving him more assignments? He's one of the best broadcasters in the business, so naturally, Strikeforce does everything they can to...keep him quiet.
Get Off Me- October 29, 2010 at 9:45 am
Voelker v. Bowling was an awesome fight, i'd put it up against any UFC 120 fight.
Strikeforce this and that, bottomline, the cards do not suck, the fighters do not suck, just look how Shields got all this respect from Dana, walking onto the roster, having a loser snoozer of fight and now he's the no.1 contender.
The UFC merger is a great thing, should have happened a little while ago, but I do not see how this puts Strikeforce in jeopardy in anyway. If anything this will help Strikeforce as MMA exposure overall will grow, if the UFC get's bigger it's only because MMA is getting bigger.
Coker is doing just fine, Strikeforce is doing just fine(excluding production) and the next card will be a good one.
RwilsonR- October 29, 2010 at 9:34 am
Totally agree with their frustrating inability to control their talent. Make these assholes fight often, and fight the top challengers.
djp1988- October 29, 2010 at 9:24 am
So, basically, Strikeforce needs to not be Strikeforce to survive.
Sakuraba3900- October 29, 2010 at 9:16 am
What about a whacky MMA mascot that has short clips in between fights that are about his crazy adventures with his dorky untrained sidekick. They can get in all kinds of trouble, chase around bad guys and save people in distress all while having a great time and teaching us the benefits of being a good citizen in our community.

What? I mean they are in fucking desperate needs right now. Besides they used to show zombie cage fighters in between matches so my idea isnt so far fetched.
MoTropolis- October 29, 2010 at 8:51 am
"Strikeforce's quest to carve out an equal space in the MMA"

Will never happen. Name one other sport where two organizations have equal footing. If you are a pro football player, the ultimate goal is to make it to the NFL. If you are a baseball player, you strive to get into the MLB. UFC is the big show for MMA, and I dont see it changing. All the other organizations act as farms, for up and comers to prove themselves or for previously big league guys to prove themselves again after hitting a rough patch. Thats the most a Scott Coker can hope for.
PortlandMMA- October 29, 2010 at 8:50 am
Militich is an awesome announcer too, they need him on all there cards instead of Shamrock. Everything Shamrock says is about him and how it relates to what is happening instead of just analyzing whats going on.
Fedor Penn- October 29, 2010 at 8:44 am

Ballkick- October 29, 2010 at 8:40 am
I have met Bas a couple of times and think the man is a PR man's wet dream,....he should start up his own organization and put both Bellator and Strikeforce outta business.
Jugger- October 29, 2010 at 8:39 am
Bellator needs to avoid Strikeforce like the plague.

Two things I want to comment on that I hate about Strikeforce:

1) They build up names instead of fights.
Fedor! Fedor! Fedor! Doh!
Hendo! Hendo! Hendo! Doh!

Imagine if the UFC had done a Primetime episode but spend 90% of the time talking about Brock! Brock! Brock! They didn't because they wanted to sell the fight, not the fighter. That way, when C.V. won, they could say, "See, we told you the fight would be awesome."

2) Horrible Commentators (Esp. Mauro and Shamrock. I can live with Quadros)
Mauro is impossible to take seriously. Shamrock's ego is a constant hindrance. These guys are the middle-men between the product and the consumer. Failure in this department is unacceptable. Find some decent commentators! They don't have to be "names"... but if you need a name: would somebody please hire Pat Miletich to a full-time commentating job!?!

As far as the ring girls go - bleh.

Unless some big changes come, I see Strikeforce plateauing where they are.

Bellator, on the hand, is going places. Bjorn Rebney is doing everything right in my opinion.
SgT.SauceD- October 29, 2010 at 8:32 am
Please, Strikeforce, PLEASE stop announcing your fighters TWICE before every fight. It's retarded. They announce they're name when they're walking to the cage and then they announce it AGAIN when they're IN the cage... also get rid of that little shit jimmy lennon jr.
GroundFighterMMA- October 29, 2010 at 8:24 am
Hire Bas Rutten. Let him do whatever he wants.
PortlandMMA- October 29, 2010 at 8:23 am
@ knucklesamitch

Because 99 percent of Strikeforce cards are in California and the fine people that make up the CSAC are a bunch of fucking idiots.
jimbonics- October 29, 2010 at 8:21 am
"and everything they say is fucking stupid."

Thank You.

Ditch Frank Shamrock, stifle Mauro's shtick a bit, and get Bas Rutten for fucks sake. I'd rather listen to baby rabbits being skinned alive than the current Strikeforce commentary.