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News Flash: UFC-Strikeforce Deal is Not Good for the Sport

(Fans may now choose between both kinds of music, country *and* western. Pic: MMAViewers.com)

It was almost like Dana White was shooting for some kind of bizarre performance art during his interview with Ariel Helwani on Saturday announcing Zuffa, LLC’s sudden acquisition of Strikeforce. It was as if the big bossman was trying to underscore what a huge moment this was for his company by assuring us again and again that it was actually no big deal. Instead of jumping up on the $5,000 coffee table and shaking his junk in our faces while yelling “Domino, motherfucker!” he played it cool – indifferent, even. White didn’t gloat, barely smiled and perhaps set some kind of personal record by conducting a 20-minute interview without really swearing at all. It was all pretty telling, in a roundabout kind of way.

If White’s very un-Dana demeanor didn’t clue you in to the fact his new “business as usual” catchphrase is total bullshit, well, you must be new to the sport. This is a dude who keeps a Styrofoam tombstone in his office bedecked with the names of his fallen enemies and over the weekend his company essentially sewed up total, indefinite control of the marketplace moving forward. Chances are, underneath it all he was pretty pumped. The Strikeforce deal may not give Zuffa a legal monopoly on our sport, but it sure looks like the company now has a practical one. So, maybe – just maybe – White’s “ah shucks” act and constant downplaying of this moment is a bit of strategery. Perhaps he’d like it very much if the rest of us would forget that this news is very, very good for him and his partners and very, very bad for almost everyone else.

Make no mistake, this is a great – fucking stupendous, really –  day for Zuffa. On the other hand it seems pretty obviously terrible for fighters, managers, sponsors, media, officials and ultimately, for fans. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the continued consolidation of power inside the UFC offices means fewer and fewer options for the people who actually have to worry about making a living in the sport.

When the UFC took possession of Strikeforce, it instantly made the already small MMA market a lot smaller. For athletes who wish to compete at the highest level, there is now really only one place to play. For people who want to advertise their products, there is essentially now only one cage worth stamping your logo on, if they’ll let you. If you’re an agent or manager, there is simply nobody else to negotiate with and nobody to get competing bids from. If a fighter gets cut from the UFC, now where does he/she go?

Answer: Nowhere, and fighters already know that. To find the evidence, one must look no further than the latest quotes from Josh Barnett. For years, Barnett vacillated between apathy and incredulity when the topic of a possible UFC return came up. Now that the company is the only game in town, he’s suddenly sounding a lot more complimentary. Dig it:

“This (sale) is major and great things can come from it and I just want to be a part of that and the way I can best do that is be the best fighter I can be … ,” Barnett told Sherdog this week. “If (White) hates me, he hates me … But you know what? I don’t hate Dana and I do business, and I’ll go out there and do the absolute best that I can do and if he happens to be my employer … literally, if Dana White has an office that I have to write into every day, because that’s the person I report to for my business, well that’s what I’ll do.”

Hmmm, that certainly sounds … desperate. Clearly, Barnett and his brethren understand what the rest of us knew from jumpstreet: That White can talk all day about Strikeforce continuing to operate independently, but it’s a sham. It can’t possibly make long-term sense for Zuffa to maintain two brands, especially when one of them just offers a slightly shittier version of the same product offered by its flagship company. That strategy didn’t work for the WEC, even when Zuffa could draw clear distinctions between the services offered by the two brands. Plus, if the money is coming from and going to the same place, Strikeforce’s alleged autonomy (for as long as it even lasts) is just a front anyway.

The UFC is drawing numerous comparisons this week to other leading sports brands like the NFL. That assessment however doesn’t quite fit. Where the NFL is a fairly loosely alligned group of owners who choose to affiliate under the same banner, the power enjoyed by the UFC is far more centralized. Where (up until last week) NFL players were protected by one of the nation’s most influential labor unions, MMA fighters have no such representation. Perhaps most importantly, where the NFL is ruled by clearly defined policy and regulation, the UFC is ruled by the sometimes crazy and vindictive whims of one man. Nobody is barred from playing in the NFL just because commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t like them. On the flipside, running afoul of Dana White can kill your career quicker than inking a 10-fight deal with Sengoku.

Brass tacks, the only thing “business as usual” about Zuffa, LLC buying Strikeforce is that even more roads now lead to White’s office. When the landscape of our sport is defined solely by one dude, that can’t possibly be good for the rest of us.

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RaginAsian- March 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm
You make it sound like Strikeforce was a good thing. And all I can see is Gus Johnson looking quite literally like an unwiped asshole.

Bottom line is Dana doesn't control the UFC. If he did, Fitch would still be sidelined over the video game bullshit. That's what level-headed Lorenzo's for.
ctownhood- March 15, 2011 at 7:47 am
As fans, this is GREAT. Not sure why everyone goes to the "competition is better for the sport" card. No one complains that there is no alternate pro football league stripping talent from the NFL. So why is MMA any different? Ultimately, as fans, we want to see the best fighters compete against each other. However, I can see a case for the fighters being upset with this.
Nintendong- March 15, 2011 at 6:28 am
I respect that this is an opinion piece, that being said I have some gripes.

As a long time boxing fan I WANT POWER CENTRALIZED. Look at the current state of boxing and you will see too many fingers in the pie has ruined a once prestigious sport. For MMA to ring true in the ears of todays short attention span public and survive its explosive growth, we need all the champions in one place.

Talk to any average joe on the street and ask them who Alistair Overeem is or who ANY of the Strikeforce champions are. Most of them wont know Strikeforce exists.

I for one think nothing but good things can come of this. If for no other reason than to clear out the hangers on at Strikeforce. Gus Johnson, Mauro Ranallo, Herschel Walker, Frank Shamrock all need to go the way of the buffalo.

The only thing I look forward to is the potential to get Pat Miletich is the commentator booth with Goldy and Rogan.
CrazyFish- March 15, 2011 at 5:43 am
@Bill Jackson So, how is it you compare the UFC and NFL saying, "Competition makes better shows. If there is only one show in town, what choice do you have"..Remind me of the NFL's competition again: the CFL? The NFL has absolute control of Professional American Rules Football do they not which a largely unsuccessful international sport. American kids who play the game aspire to make it to the one big show: the NFL. The same goes for MLB, NHL & the NBA. Non of the the above mentioned leagues paid players the kind of money the UFC is paying when those sports leagues were as young as the UFC. The UFC held its first competition in Denver, Colorado in 1993. Zuffa was founded in January 2001. In ten years Zuffa has taken a great sport and made it better: bringing it from bar rooms to arenas, from the dark to the light.
Dagnut- March 15, 2011 at 1:20 am
@ CCMAN So why did you label me a a communist? Anti American? Because I said your economy is failing?
You have no idea what your talking about read some history, China where already trading with the west..your spouting rubbish them being isolated and not being able to protect them selfs...It's impossible to debate with you all, you won't to do is throw around insults and label people anti american and communists...your like something from the 50's...I'm contracted by an american company, do business with Americans every single day.
Look for a BBC documentary called "the chinese are coming" you might learn something about developing capitalism in the western world
The Harvester- March 14, 2011 at 11:29 pm
I agree with RwilsonR's initial post.
This is a GOOD thing for the fans. I haven't heard one reasonable argument why this would be bad for the fans.

As for being better or worse for the fighters:
Top UFC fighters get paid great! Their shitty plugs that no one watches generally get 6-8 thousand to show. Plus their win bonuses, if they win. That's decent money to me, for someone NOBODY cares about YET.

I am confused by all this call for a union? If they start low-balling wages then maybe open your mouths. That hasn't happened. Didn't Dana just give both Kampman and Sanchez a $100,000 bonuses each for putting on a war!? Having the UFC become a big brand is good for the fighters because their marketability will increase. Look at what GSP is making in sponorship deals.

"I would rather the UFC split up into a bunch of competing organizations, so maybe perhaps the different groups would have to increase prize money in order to attract fighters. I am willing to give up the chance to see the best fighters compete against each other to see this happen. I would rather the fighters make more money, then compete against each other."
SEE HOW STUPID THAT SOUNDS IN REVERSE.
orlandomac- March 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm
Hey even though in this case I am not in favour of a union.. nor am I against them.

If the fighters choose to stand together then all power to them. I just don't think they ever will.

There are the haves and the have-nots.. and a couple of million dollars in fight purses and sponsorships or the potential for even better.. for the next 5 years work for a mid-range fighter is better than no millions.

Look at Dan Hendersona mid-range fighter at best getting 250k a fight before sponsors.. not to mention his gym.. and clothing line. This is all fueled from his fighting.. he complains about money all the time with his over-inflated self worth.. yet you think he would give up the last 4 or 5 million for principle?

How about Randy.. he has fallen down the ladder.. still has a string of gyms.. fight purses, satellite gyms, coaching and movie making.. you think he would still be making movies if he wasn't a hero tough guy?

How about all the Brazilian's that get paid 50 to 100 times more than middle class Brazilian's.. expect them to vote for a strike.. or make enough over the next couple of years to go home and never truly work again.

As for the anti-union talk.. unions have their place.. do they work everywhere, no.. but what all you high a mighty don't get is that American companies everywhere are exporting all their good paying jobs.

Prime example an inspection of an auto plant in that was a sister facility to our old plant.. the productivity/efficiency was ten points off, their labour costs were one tenth..

All the deaths in the company happened in Mexico because of the lack of safety equipment, and when you stepped into their parking lots there were almost no cars to be seen. Which means no one there can afford to buy the cars.

If the CEO Fat Pigs in North America keep on cutting corners to fatten their bonuses NOW.. there won't be anything for anyone in 20 years.. because the Indian's and Chinese who are draining all the jobs.. and are becoming the biggest consumers in the world.. will have no need for the US CEO Fat Pigs at the top to run their companies.

Problem is most CEO's ruin their companies for short-term bonuses and will never be around when the doors finally close from their stupidity.. the middle class are the ones losing now. There is no long range goal.. it is milk the cow till its dry then get a golden handshake.. for your efforts in destruction.

As for this case in particular it is the opposite if you haven't noticed like Microsoft the Fertitta's & Dana are in the business of creating millionaires. The vast majority of their employee's are American.. and enjoy their jobs.

Hey I know some of you Bankers, Brokers, and Consultants think you are immune but truth is they are starting to merge exchanges, as well as banks, the future is centralized.. with less fat arms milking money..

The way they are running our future here in North America times are only going to get worse for everyone at all levels.

Truth is companies that have more foreign involvement (parts/labour) should pay higher taxes so the incentive would be to Pay people here more. Also sales taxes of products produced in North America should be exempt or drastically reduced so even the consumer helps to feed the home fire.

This would benefit us all.. sorry for the length/rant...

UFC has done just that.
dranokills- March 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm
I don't see it as anything bad. Once a bunch of fanboys and haters wake the fuck up and realize UFC is the only game in town the faster it all falls into place. UFC need fighters, they need a lot of fighters. you play ball, you have a job, they pay you.
Stop worrying about other companys and learn to play the game. Until the day someone can buy out zuffa this is the reality of it. If fans and stupid fighters would just unclench their collective asscheeks and face hard cold truth, the faster we get more MMA, and more great fights.
I love that UFC bought strikefarce, it will be better until they decide to do away with it, and consolidate it all back into UFC.
Go Dana, GO Zuffa!
I am happy to know we wont see anymore 500K paydays for ex UFC fighters, and canbeating has been russian fuckheads like Fedor.
Hey Hendo, nice belt...how does 15k per fight sound? yeahhhhh nice.
Waxedpants- March 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm
Bellator is already in an ambitious growth phase ..... they will fill the niche strikeforce leaves , probably just take a couple years
Ballkick- March 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm
I am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that the purchase price of UFC gate admissions and PPV cost increases by 10% in the next few months.
Someone will be paying the 40 Million price tag, and history has proven it is usually the public footing the bill.
Too bad Zuffa hasn't tried lowering the price to reach a wider audience and more fans, thereby making more profit in the long run. I will be scouring the Net looking for more freestreams if the price goes up,....that much is sure.
ccman- March 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm
A. Capitalism is a very base form was not middle ages. That was characterized thru feudal systems which was the slavery light. True capitalism formed with industrialization. Calling the ufc a monopoly either means you do not quite get the definition or you think the leader of any industry equals monopoly. Actually, I will just say you are anti american and see typical american stereotypes in your words.. either way.
Europe dominated thru military technology and because china was existing in a state of isolationism mostly due to their inability to defend themselves. Every country around them was invading them at will and the warlords were not loyal to central leadership. Plus china had to cross deserts, mountains, or oceans to get anywhere close to anything they hadn't already conquered, lost, conquered, been conquered by (ffs, they built a wall visible from space to avoid the monguls). They had a tough time managing their own country to even consider looking elsewhere. Something to do with having a huge area of land mass. Something no european country had to contend with. Plus they never developed a navy.
As for unions: please note that it was a seperate post mr. Reading comprehension. Was your name attached?
Dagnut- March 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm
Who's talking about unions? It's about competition....while you guys are doling out business lessons why don't you explain how monopolies are good for business?
Why is it that every capitalist society has a competitions committee to regulate?
RwilsonR- March 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm
Too many people can't think beyond their simple emotional response to wanting the little guy to get paid? They don't get that it helps the little guy in the long run to have expansion in the industry. Unions hinder that. Unions have been nothing but awful for every industry they have touched. There isn't a single unionized industry that wouldn't be better off without that union in the long run. It is sometimes hard for those receiving union benefits to see that, since hidden opportunity costs aren't obvious. But there are many instances of direct comparison, and every single time it is the unionized workers who end up with the short end of the stick in the long run. Short term benefits for long term stagnation and decline is the constant result of unionization. Some industries that hold unique places, like the NFL, are able to succeed with a union, but that success is in spite of the union, not because of it. And ultimately it would be dramatically more successful for everyone involved if the union did not exist.
Dagnut- March 14, 2011 at 5:46 pm
@ CCMAN a liberal? college I'm way past college and have worked for myself for 5 years thanks for your input...what I've learned in life is when someone resorts to petty insults it's a clear measure of their intellect...instead of retorting and getting a interesting debate going you start labeling me a communist...I have to laugh..what the fuck has this got to do with politics? Socialists?
Why are you getting so angry and taking this so personally? is your life really that pathetic?
I said nothing about a union you fuckwit, and if you knew anything about business and capitalism you'd know that competition drives better prices and better products for the consumer...
If you knew about the start of capitalism in the middle ages and how Europe managed to dominate the globe with half the resources of the Chinese empire through competition between small states, drove ingenuity and business and trade.
If your look at your own failing economy, how small business through every town are failing through monopolization of nearly every industry...how the Chinese are taking over because they've finally coped on and allow companies to compete for business instead of it all being state sponsored monopolies.
Try channeling your anger into educating your self before speaking.
MMAINMYBLOOD- March 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm
Look at what the NFL has become today? This once mighty sport has turned into a yellow flagged orgy of excessive celebrations and premaddonas all over the field.. I cant stand to see it now when I would watch the same sport back in the seventies or even the eighties... it was a sport.. now the players have way too much control and the sport is suffering for it. This cannot happen to MMA if it does then what we like about it the most will be destroyed.. I like my sports fix organic and not canned. NFL NBA ... all canned bs.
MMAINMYBLOOD- March 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm
Just when I thought I couldn't agree with CCMAN more he posted this^
ccman- March 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm
As for a union, is there a boxers union? No? But I'm sure floyd "where the bitches at" mayweather is dying to give up a piece of his pie. Hate nfl\nba analogies? Fine. Boxing has been a 'sport' for how long? 130 ish years? Why no call for a union there? You fucking socialist asshats basically announce your resiliance towards working for others and desire to rape them for taking risks you are to chickenshit or stupid to do yourself calling for a union. Hello strikes, hello raised ticket\ppv prices. Hello more money for fighters you DO NOT EVEN CARE ABOUT.
My god I am sick of idiots.
MMAINMYBLOOD- March 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm
Honestly why is everyone up in arms about this? Its whats wrong with boxing is what DW is trying to avoid. Also I feel that Dana has a real legit reason not to want guys like Barnett Daley and Rodriguez around. I mean Daley was clearly out of line when he hit Koscheck (although I wanted him to do alot worse, I hate koscheck with a passion) In sports like nfl or mlb or even nba you do something like that and there are fines and suspensions maybe but not always banned... apparently you have to gamble to get that....but the nfl and mlb also invest allot more money than the ufc does. Thats because they are already established.. the Ufc is still working toward their goals they dont need garbage like that around hurting the sport so they dont put up with garbage like that ... good for them. Honestly a fighters union would be bad for the sport... just look how well its doing for the nfl with the players union.. and to say the owners are loosely affiliated... is off the mark if you dont know what I mean research before you post this crap. I personally dont see a problem with the buyout.. I wish all the best fighters would fight under the same banner... because then there would be no what ifs.. and fighters wouldnt duck and dodge each other. This very reason is why I hate boxings back office bullshit... they cant even get mayweather in the ring with pac? Really? At least if they were employed by the UFC if that happened DW would release pbf and then tell everyone why he was released end of story.
RwilsonR- March 14, 2011 at 4:36 pm
@ Hesh - I take your point about the ease of transitioning between jobs in other industries, and I don't think any analogy is completely apt given that this is a somewhat unique industry. I just think that a private company should be able to control their company without any outside interference or collusion. I also don't think there needs to be a balance of power. I don't have a balance of power with my company, nor do I deserve one. I am an employee, not an owner. If I want more power, I am free to undertake the effort to become self-employed.
I do completely agree with your final statement, though. I think this acquisition has been a few years in the making. Since Pride collapsed as the only real competitor, investors of various sorts have seen the money being earned by the UFC and thought they could throw their hats in the cage. That investment has been keeping various incarnations of "competitors" afloat for the last several years, and it was becoming clear that none of these new leagues were the goose laying the golden egg they were expected to be. A lot of the investment money has pulled out, leaving the UFC to finally absorb the remains. I think that transition period is now coming to an end, and this is the beginning of the next evolution of where this sport is headed.
ccman- March 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm
Things I learned today: by ccman
A. 90% of mma fans have never actually worked for themselves or run a business.
B. 90% of mma fans cannot do math. I have loosly broken down sf single show finances enough to not bother again. On my generous to sf numbers if they clear 3% a show they were lucky. Add in corp costs and taxes they lost their ass going national.
C. Dagnut is a communist and is a fanboy. Keep goin for your liberal arts degree if any college, business is over your head. Or camp out area 51 for your conspiracy fix.
D. Cp hates this buyout, mostly because as stated at the last sf. Event. Cp gets more love there. Allow the combo dw hate and behind the scenes ass kissing begin.
E. Way to many of you "real" fans have no knowledge of the history of this sport. You make rinse and repeat accusations from pride\wec buy days.
Hesh to Steel- March 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm
I'm more in the middle of the road in terms of my views on how this should work economically. RWilson, I don't like your analogy of the UFC to a corporation that doesn't require unionization because if you're unhappy at Goldman Sachs you can always try to get another job at JP Morgan or UBS, whatever. A fighter's union is a good thing because it allows for something resembling a balance of power. Things like fighter sponsorships shouldn't be AS controllable by the UFC as they are, from a fairness perspective. There is some benefit to having a union/fighter's association, at the very least it makes the organization look more legitimate. Apparently in a conference call today Dana said "A union is up to the fighters" and expressed some dubiousness as to whether the upper tier guys would go for it. If you got someone like GSP to organize the union there's no way he's be blacklisted, he's worth too much to the UFC.


One thing's for sure, it'll be interesting to watch it all unfold. Some of you say this is the end of MMA, but I think this is the beginning of the next level for this sport.
Nut Puncher 9000- March 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm
@aveach - Tell that to Vince Mcmahon's slightly shallower pockets after his XFL experience.
aveach1018- March 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm
I may get abused here but I believe this gives an excellent opportunity for someone with some deep pockets...I mean bigger pockets than Zuffa to come in and compete with the UFC...hey fighters are what make this sport not the Dana Whites of the world.
And a monopoly, like a tyrant can only last so long until the people or in this case, the fighters and the public demand an open market..we'll see.
RwilsonR- March 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm
Nut Puncher gets it. Despite what Michael Moore might wish for in his communist paradise, there is no right to a specific salary. Setting artificial salary levels based on what people "feel" they should make is a fast way to go out of business. Zuffa took the risk with their money, they deserve the reward. And a side effect of this is that fighters are given a place to ply their trade and get paid. That is the employees reward.
RwilsonR- March 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm
@ Dagnut - I have no idea whether or not SF was getting it together. The investors wanting to sell certainly doesn't indicate it was pulling in tons of cash. That also wasn't the only signal that SF was having some money troubles. Also, the fact that DanaWhite was interested in some specific assets that he could utilize in his existing and proven business model in a way that Strikeforce could not does not indicate to me any particular strength to the company. We may end up getting some answers as to all of the finances related to this deal, or we may not. But so far the indicators were that SF was certainly not pulling in tons of cash. I'd be surprised if they were able to break even, actually.
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