(Sometimes the metaphor is just … too perfect. PicProps: Showtime)
So … not to be overly cynical … but we find it pretty hard not to start snickering from the very first line of USA Today’s recent holiday weekend interview with the Strikeforce CEO, when the newspaper boldly (read: blandly) proclaims: Scott Coker is approaching 2011 with optimism.
Well yeah, no shit. We’d be stoked about the new year too if we’d just witnessed our MMA company spend much of 2010 looking like a scared stray dog trying to work its way across a busy four-lane highway during rush hour traffic. Just to recap, this year Strikeforce — among other fails — staged an enormous brawl on national television, watched its awesome-sounding middleweight tournament go tits up before it even got past the planning stages, gave its middleweight champ to the UFC, stood dumbfounded when Fedor Emelianenko fucking lost to Fab Werdum, gaped while two Brazilian dudes nobody has ever heard of captured gold in two different weight classes, showed a complete and total inability to book the right fights and continued to slap itself on the proverbial forehead while suffering the whims of its largely absentee heavyweight champion.
Somehow, the stray dog made it to the other side of the Interstate but frankly we’d rather hit our own dick with a hammer than endure a year like the one Strikeforce just had. So forgive us if we can’t quite take Coker at face value when he implies that 2011 is “about more than surviving” for his company. It’s actually all about surviving and as much as the boss promises a 33 percent increase in Strikeforce programming next year, we can’t help but notice that for the bulk of this interview Coker just sounds like a dude who is taking it one day at a time.
“I’m going to have another conversation in the beginning of the year with CBS, and basically re-engage to see what the temperature is for another show on broadcast television,” Coker says, feeding us the same vague line he’s been repeating for months, which makes us believe he hasn’t even talked to anybody from CBS since Jason Miller and the Scrap Pack turned Strikeforce’s last network broadcast into a Saturday night bar fight at Senior Froggy’s. But Coker digresses …
“Also, we are putting together a syndication show,” he says. “We will be having another television platform in the sense that there’ll be a Strikeforce syndication show out there, a half hour recap-type show, promoting basically the fights that happened, up-and-coming fights, and building some of our stars.”
OK, fine. But pretend you’re Dana White for a minute. We know, it’s awesome, right? Now, if you’re spending your days trying to land a slew of network deals which (you claim, at least) will put you in over a billion homes worldwide while you’re also rumored to be considering launching your own 24-hour network, aren’t you absolutely laughing your ass off that your biggest competitor is turning in quotes like that one? Look, if Strikeforce gets its little half hour, tape-delayed recap show on ESPN or CBS in primetime, that’s great. If it gets it on Fox Sports Net? Well, then Strikeforce is going to start looking a lot more like the IFL than anyone at the home office should be comfortable wiith.
Strikeforce will do 20 shows next year, Coker contends, though that seems inconceivable when you consider the trouble the company is having just nailing together a serviceable card for this weekend’s Showtime event. Said shows will include “a championship fight every month in the first two quarters of 2011.” Wait, a championship fight every month until July? We’ll believe that when we see it. As for the company’s specific plans for 2011? Well, when Coker talks about those he actually just ends up repeating all the same shit he said for much of this year. That can’t be good.
“Here’s what I think,” Coker says. “This heavyweight division is robust. There are so many great match-ups for a lot of these guys. I think Alistair Overeem should fight Fabricio Werdum. I think Alistair should fight (Antonio) “Bigfoot” Silva. I think he should fight Fedor. I think that Fedor has three or four or five fights in front of him. There’s Kharitonov out there now. These guys have some amazing fights ahead of them, and the one thing I will promise you, these guys will fight each other next year. I think by the end of the first quarter, you’ll see some big things happening with some of our big guys.”
C’mon, son. Didn’t you just tell us you were through guaranteeing us heavyweight fights that never materialize? The promises are nice but for our money, the time is long since over for hearing about what Coker thinks. The only thing that matters now is what he can acutally do. It’s time to start playing hardball with these one-fight-a-year schmos. What’s the worst that could happen? They bolt for the UFC? Newsflash, dudes: They’re going to do that anyway. Might as well squeeze some decent fights out of them while you can.
As for the increase in programming, USA Today rightly points out that it will mean more instances of Strikeforce going head-to-head with the UFC, like it will this weekend during the “TUF 12” live finale. Is Coker worried that fans will increasingly tune in to the action in the Octagon instead of his slightly shittier version of the same product? Of course he is, but he’s not about to admit that to us …
“I think that will be something that probably happens more often in the future,” he says. “But hey, there can be more than one football game on a Sunday afternoon, right? I think there’s plenty of room.”
(Insert nervous laughter …) Yeah, man. 2011. Can’t wait.