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Future Shock: Six Possible Outcomes of Zuffa’s Strikeforce Purchase

(“…on the bright side, me and Vadim were offered high-paying jobs as ‘consultants.’ So don’t worry about us, guys, we’ll be fine.”)

Saturday’s announcement that Zuffa purchased Strikeforce represented such a monumental shift in the MMA landscape that it was hard to process all at once. There are so many ways that this thing could play out, it’s almost useless to speculate about what might happen. Then again, what else are we going to do? Here are the possible effects that the Strikeforce buyout will (maybe) produce in the coming months, years, and decades…

Strikeforce will go the way of the WEC
When Zuffa bought the WEC in December 2006, they also vowed to keep “business as usual.” And for four years, they did; the WEC existed as a separate entity, and their consistently entertaining cards and smaller fighters were beloved by MMA fans. Eventually, Zuffa decided that the WEC had gone as far as it could as a promotion, and absorbed their featherweight and bantamweight divisions. A similar arc is highly likely for Strikeforce. Zuffa will keep the promotion running for a while because fans appreciate its fighters and entertainment-based matchmaking, but when Strikeforce’s contracts with its fighters and Showtime run out, the UFC will cherry-pick the best talent for its own roster and disband the operation.

The UFC will become the only brand in MMA
50 years from now, MMA fans will think of Strikeforce and PRIDE the same way we think of the ABA for basketball or the AFL for football — temporary competitors to the major leagues that had to be swallowed up for the sport to enter its unified, modern period. Some fans and fighters seem to be nervous about what a “monopoly” might mean for MMA. And maybe for good reason. If you’re a fighter like Josh Barnett or Paul Daley who’s on a permanent UFC blacklist, your career options just took a hit, especially with the firing an employee over bullshit more difficult to do. (And there’s always the potential of a complete meltdown like we just saw take place in football.) But they’re an inevitability in any major sports league. The fact that MMA is an individual sport means that fighters wouldn’t hold any free-agency power whatsoever within the UFC; you can’t just fly off to a different city’s team when your contract ends. The UFC’s employees will need more of their rights guaranteed through collective bargaining.

Bellator will become the #2 MMA league in the world, by default
Weird, right? Don’t get me wrong, the gulf between 1 and 2 is enormous and will stay that way. But right now, there isn’t another league outside of the UFC/Strikeforce conglomerate that is on basic cable, signing well-known fighters, and scheduling future events. And right now, Bjorn Rebney has no interest in selling his baby. I don’t see Bellator growing much larger than the mid-size player it is now, but it’ll be interesting to see what moves they make if Strikeforce ceases to exist. Will they pick up the fighters that the UFC refuses to do business with? Will they take over Strikeforce’s Showtime contract? Will Bellator, in effect, become Strikeforce? And when all is said and done, will Bellator be the only promotion that hosts women’s divisions?

Fedor Emelianenko will never fight again
Dana White has no interest in dealing with M-1 Global or covering Fedor’s price tag, especially now that he’s been “exposed” in his last two fights. There’s a chance that Emelianenko will get in one more match before Strikeforce’s doors are shuttered for good, but that would rely on a number of factors coming together. For example, it’s hard to imagine that Fedor has enough motivation left at this point to drop to light-heavyweight for the first time in his career and fight Dan Henderson. And in the short term, Scott Coker doesn’t really need him as a heavyweight, unless there are multiple injuries in his heavyweight tournament (which now seems even less likely to reach a conclusion.) After the dissolution of Strikeforce, M-1 will try to convince Fedor to fight nobodies in Europe for a fraction of the pay. You know, like his brother. Fedor will choose retirement over such an existence.

Scott Coker will have the last laugh
I try to think of where Scott Coker will be in ten years, and I’m reminded of the last scene in Casino — Ace Rothstein in big-ass geriatric glasses, back to doing what made him successful in the first place, but now in relative obscurity. He thinks fondly of the Wild West boom period of his industry, before it all went Disney-fied.

Scott Coker came up promoting kickboxing shows, and then regional MMA shows, and he always managed to turn a profit by being smart and not getting emotional. It seems that he cashed out of Strikeforce (or was pressured to cash out by his partners) right when the storm-clouds began to form on the horizon. The number of men who got into the MMA promotion business and left with their dignity and wallets intact can be counted on one hand. Scott Coker will be one of them. And that’s that.


Cagepotato Comments

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ccman- March 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm
A. Ufc has become synonomous with mma. Its called brand labeling. Kinda like all copiers were called xerox for decades.
B. Good.
C. 9 out of 28 owners have a vote? Democracy? Do please look up the term. Its the richest getting a figurehead. Ill take an owner who cares about fans over a stern or goodenel (sp) everytime.
D. I have been to events on stockholm, krakow, budapest, la ceiba, san jose (costa rica), san paulo, rio, prague, brataslava, london, brieghton, munich, moscow, need I go on? Need us cities? Also done business in most of the same. Take it from an 'American elitist', shits corrupt.
E. Yes. It is not my 'belief' that matters. Its the fucking law. No more than don king could regulate no hitting tyson back can the ufc change the rules once sanctioned. Its called racketeering. Federal law.

Why am I irritated? I see a buy up talent we can't afford, not promote them, have shitty shows based on mismatching opponents like build a boxer 101, and pray organization get a solid backer BEFORE they embarress the sport further. Every 'wow' knockout you see I see another oreiley highlight to block expansion. For every guy twitching on the canvas goosebump moment for you I see felony fight level legitamacy. I REALLY did buy ufc 1 on ppv. I REALLY got the freak show side of it, and I REALLY am sick of promotions looking for sensational not substance.
Hint: if you have 5 pro fights end early on the same card via brutal knockout, zero upsets, you basically had fixed mismatched fights. No thank you.
Peppered 2 Death- March 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm
I do not think there is a way in hell that the NFL wont be on tv's on sunday this fall. So I dont think there is really anything there to look at. I am not saying that I wouldnt enjoy the hell out of some live UFC/Strikeforce action every week, I just dont think that is what Dana had in mind when making this purchase. It was probably purchased for pennies on the dollar and figured it was about time to pull the trigger on the deal.

I hate to compare it to the WWE purchasing WCW, but WCW made its mark by bringing over big names of guys a little over the hill at big contracts that enticed these guys to go to the smaller show in town. Eventually those costs catch up with you and you get sold because you arent making money anymore. I am not say it was as extreme as WCW being sold for under 5 million dollars but I believe there is a slight comparison.
Dagnut- March 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm
@ CCman
A) Show me anywhere on the posters it Says MMA??? show me any reference to it.
B)IT's a mute point anyway I agree with you there
C)They are elected by the team owners, no one controlling interest
D)Thats just your elitist American attitude how many shows have you been to outside the US? You'd do well to remember how much talent comes from Brazil as well.
E)They can't change the rules to the sport? you really believe that sh!t?? That's fine you choose to believe that I don't.
It's an difference of opinion I don't usually rant on here, but I feel pretty strongly about this. Its completely relevant to the the article so why is it pissing you off so much?
Do you really expect there would be no one voicing concern over this?
thor5734- March 14, 2011 at 11:18 am
LOL well I didnt read all the posts but great minds think a like ;-)
Shifty-Eyed Dog- March 14, 2011 at 10:35 am
@Thor5734 - wow... that sounds strangely familiar.. Oh yeah, I said the exact same thing 22 posts earlier!

@Vera - of course no one will buy 4-5 PPV's a month. But you could easily run free shows 3 weeks a month (lower-tier fights like we see on Fight Nights, UFC on Versus, Strikeforce Contenders, etc) and then bring out the big title fights or most popular fights for the monthly PPV like the last weekend of each month or something.
MMAINMYBLOOD- March 14, 2011 at 10:05 am
Well as I said so long ago... the bastards at M1 are now ...hmmm four for four.. everyone (Pride, Bodog, Strikeforce, Affliction) they have partnered with were either bought out or had to close their doors.. anyone else sense a trend here? I hope they never work with the UFC.
nickyroose- March 14, 2011 at 10:04 am
I think Boxing is now dying because of the corruption of the belt system. While I am not yet sure how I feel about this, I can say with certainty while 3 belts in the 80s did not prevent it from being popular, it did not help. I was a fan in the eighties and hated it. Agree with CC for most points.

..... I find a duck's opinion of me is very much influenced by whether or not I have bread.
darciesdaddy- March 14, 2011 at 9:59 am
I think the UFC should buy KFC.
ccman- March 14, 2011 at 9:41 am
Is anyone else sick to death of anything UFC is bad people?
ccman- March 14, 2011 at 9:39 am
Dear Dagnet/nut, whatever.
A. seriously? you do not see marketing MMA anywhere in the UFC's marketing strategy? WHAT ELSE DO THEY MARKET?
B. The UFC will have nothing to do with why MMA will not make the olympics, the olympics safety/amatuer requirements will hinder it. MMA is too blood red for them and who really wants to watch MMA in those goofy boxing masks? Plus the scoreboard thing they like in combat sports would be interesting on how to apply to MMA.
C. where do you people keep getting 'democratically elected commissioners" from? in all 3 major sports the commissioner is elected by 7-9 of the most powerful owners, the small market guys are never included. that equals democracy like pre-civil war democracy, you vote if can afford it.
D. I wouldn't touch these regional shows either if i was the UFC. i would only watch them for potntial talent. they are fly by the seat of their pants organizations, and to many are scams. went to one few weeks ago with Sparrow, 25.00 general, 50 for first 4 rows. and really bad production. in places like england and Brazil they also tend to have organized crime ties, in central europe they are guaranteed to be tied. It would cost more to keep them from ripping them off than they could possibly make.
E. We have unified rules because of the UFC. they have also been fighting for judging and tweeks to the rules for years. Big John wrote a whole new set of rules and the UFC actually (shockingly) publically backed some of the changes. Athletic Commissions do not like 2 things, working, and spending money. The UFC as a promoter can not pay for the changes, only lobby for them. it would be illegal. same as they can not pay for Judge training. Hell herb Deans ref schools are an independent organization, because working under Zuffa would be illegal. Just because amatuer shows can't read well enough to actually understand them is not the UFC's fault. therefore it falls on the commissions, and seeing as they are cutting money on drug tests? the odds of them spending money to make changes seems unlikely.
jimbonics- March 14, 2011 at 9:20 am
UFC has been dominating the sport since... forever, and it's still referred to as MMA.
You have to realize, even if the UFC gobbles up MFC and Bellator, etc., there will still be MMA everywhere in the world. UFC could cease to exist tomorrow and there will still be MMA everywhere in the world.
Given it's a worldly sport, as is soccer and boxing, I don't think its chances at the Olympics are helped or hindered by the UFC.
But, as you say, it's hypothetical bullshit anyway. I think it'll make it to the Olympics someday, though.
Dagnut- March 14, 2011 at 9:14 am
@ Jimbonics... because if UFC are dominating the sport it won't be called MMA any more..I'm not suggesting professional fighters go to the Olympics, I'm saying the struggle to get the sport legitimized will be hampered by Dana White and the commercial interests of zuffa....anyway that's all hypothetical bullsh!t.
thor5734- March 14, 2011 at 9:06 am
Think about it?


So if a sport that attracts male viewers could somehow fill that HUGE gap left from a lack of NFL footall, perhaps having weekly fights on Sunday and Mondays??????

To do that you would need a HUGE roster of fighter to do weekly shows and still do PPV's.

Buying Strikeforce is the logical step for this. Dana and the Fertitas are hedging their bets just in case football is a no go. Plus the networks can't backdoor them and get a different promotion like already happened with strikeforce.

They step in to fill that gap, every network would fight over who gets to air UFC fights, especially if they are the only game in town, which they were anyways but now with owning Strikeforce there are no other options. And they would be able to do deals based upon what THEY want as opposed the what the networks want which has always been a sticking point.

Think about it what will America watch if there's no Football? Soccer????? No one in this country cares about Soccer and the NBA and NHL aren't much better ratings wise. It's baseball and football folks and if there is no football????? Imagine the oppurtunity it would be for the UFC?

Dana and the Fertittas must be drooling at the possibilities.
portland mma- March 14, 2011 at 9:03 am
@ jimbonics

“My sister wanted to be an actress, but she never made it. She does live in a trailer. She got half way. She’s an actress, she just never gets called to the set.”
jimbonics- March 14, 2011 at 8:52 am
What does the UFC have to do with MMA in the Olympics? Again, I'm not pointing to the 2012 Games or anything. I talking like maybe 40 years from now, more or less.
There are unified rules now, something that didn't exist 10 years ago.
This sport is still in its relative infancy. Whether or not MMA ever gets to the Olympics will not have a lot to do with the UFC. UFC fighters are professional, Oylmpic athletes are amateurs (until the whole Dream Team bullshit).
Dagnut- March 14, 2011 at 8:45 am
@ I can't because it won't be seen as a sport...I don't see MMA anywhere in the UFC's current promotion strategies..we would it change?
Dan white is always blathering on about "the sport of MMA" so why doesn't he recognise it and make it official? why- because he can't trade mark it and make it unique to UFC. He has made no attempts to legitimise the sports, set up standardised amateur rules, set up any independent commissions to look at getting our own judging and scoring systems...NOTHING... they care about the brand UFC not the sport
irish brawler- March 14, 2011 at 8:39 am
remember when dana white was suprisingly complimentary of the heavyweight tourney awhile ago? this suddenly makes sense...
ReX13- March 14, 2011 at 8:33 am
When someone hands you a flier, it's like they're saying, "Here, *you* throw this away."
jimbonics- March 14, 2011 at 8:28 am
Boxing has been around for a looooong fucking time man.
And there are plenty or Martial Arts in the Olympics. You can't envision a future where MMA is one day and Olympic competition?
Dagnut- March 14, 2011 at 8:21 am
I see a few flaws with your logic in comparing the UFC to the NBA, NFL and MBL...they are for all intents and purposes American one else really give a fcuk about them outside the states( I'm a huge NBA fan, I'm not saying everybody).
So with less chances for international fighters it's going to be a lot more difficult for fighters to break through...yes there will still be local promotions but less opportunities.
If zuffa were serious about growing the sport I would of welcomed expansions into other countries...have the "minor leagues" in UK and Brazil..eastern Europe, Japan..the opportunities there for promotion and international rivalry fights is HUGE...if your serious about expanding a sport you invest at the grass routes...not gobble up your rivals and roll into town with a show charging crazy ticket prices.
The second thing is all those organisations are administered by democratically elected officials..can you see Zuffa setting something like this a board of ex fighters?
People say different belts ruined boxing...this is completely untrue...there where 3 major belts in the 80's and boxing was never could follow all 3 belts and look forward to a unifying bout.
Boxing is also represented at an amateur level in the think MMA will ever get that opportunity now it's basically represent by one commercial interest?
elpistolero45- March 14, 2011 at 8:21 am
I had a parrot. The parrot talked, but it did not say "I'm hungry," so it died.
ccman- March 14, 2011 at 8:10 am
Fedor needs to go the way of the soccer kick. He is not getting back in the tourn with the ufc around. The second his contract is up he is gone, and if he loses he can be cut along with m1. I'm sure just doing that makes the price of admission worth it for zuffa. M1 folds without the cash cow paying the bills, and everyone else has left them.
jimbonics- March 14, 2011 at 7:51 am
I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.
portland mma- March 14, 2011 at 7:49 am
Really good article. I hope your wrong about Fedor though, they should just let him smash some scrub so he can retire in dignity. Glass Joe Arlovksi sounds good.
RearNakedSpoon- March 14, 2011 at 7:36 am
If UFC becomes the official organisation of MMA will they change their name? "Ultimate Fighting Championship" for all of the good Zuffa has done for MMA doesn't portray a professional sports organisation.

International Mixed Martial Arts Championship....IMMAC....nope thats already taken by a feminine hair removal product.