(In hindsight, perhaps we shouldn’t have thought this guy was invincible. Photo courtesy of Sherdog.)
By Cage Potato Contributor Seth “Too Cool for Graduate School” Falvo
My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of tournaments. Ruined lipstick. This wasted cage. But most of all, I remember The Last Emperor. The man we called “Fedor“. Yes, it’s a clichéd way to start off an article in this Post-Fedor Apocalyptic Wasteland where betting on a doughy Russian guy to do something athletic all of a sudden seems illogical, but it’s too appropriate to pass up. After all, this is clearly the beginning of the end for Strikeforce. When you spend so much time and effort hyping a guy who loses in the first round of your tournament, you might as well quit while you still have something resembling your dignity. Didn’t you learn anything when the UFC hyped up Brock Lesnar as MMA’s next big thing, only to watch him get submitted by Frank Mir in his first fight with the organization? The UFC went bankrupt and Dana White was too embarrassed to ever leave his house again.
Oh wait…that didn’t happen.
Yes, everyone following an MMA pundit on Twitter knows how incredibly awesome Fedor has been. Yes, most of you who’ve followed Fedor’s career are probably done caring about the tournament now that Fedor vs. Overeem won’t happen any time soon. There’s only one problem: The fact that you’re even reading this means that you’re a member of a very small minority.
No, those aren’t typos in that study I linked to. That study conducted by Siena College found that “avid fans”, i.e. fans that include sports in their daily lives, make up only 16% of sports fans. The second most dedicated category of fans, “involved fans”, pretty much never surf the web for sports news. And before you even bring it up, it’s estimated that as much as 60% of a sporting event’s live gate comes from casual fans.
To put this into perspective: The average college basketball fan living in Lafayette knows that their Ragin’ Cajuns are riding a seven game win streak and might even know who their starting center is. Ask them if Kemba Walker should forgo his senior season for the NBA draft, or if the Long Island Blackbirds are going to be contenders or pretenders come March, you’ll get a blank stare. Just because they like college basketball doesn’t mean they’re going to rummage YouTube for videos of some obscure New York university playing basketball. Those trying to sell tickets to Cajuns games realize that these are the fans that they have to cater to.
It’s no different for MMA. We see this as the beginning of the end for Strikeforce because we were huddled around our computers, debating every minute detail during Saturday’s broadcast. We wouldn’t dare admit to not knowing how Igor is related to Rickson, and we can’t even begin to comprehend why anyone would care if Fedor wasn’t involved. But the majority of MMA fans don’t think like this. To them, being a fan means going to Dix “Almost Famous” Daiquiris with some friends to watch that Spider guy Charlie Murphy that jacked dude. Most of them didn’t know or care about Fedor’s pre-Strikeforce career, so his elimination from the tournament means next to nothing to them.
“That’s great, but how does this even remotely prove that Fedor’s loss was the best thing to happen to Strikeforce?” you’re probably asking. If Fedor won last night, Strikeforce would continue to try to sell the casual MMA fans on Fedor. And while Strikeforce may very well be a doomed promotion without Fedor, they would definitely be a doomed promotion with him.
We’ve vented on this before, but let’s say it again: Strikeforce doesn’t know how to tell a fighter you can sell the fans on from an unmarketable one, let alone know how to actually market its fighters. If Fedor did what we expected and ran through Antonio Silva, Strikeforce would have undoubtedly spent all of its time promoting Fedor and ignoring everyone else. Eventually, Strikeforce would then try to sell a PPV featuring Fedor vs. Overeem. To us, the types of people who check at least one MMA website on a daily basis, Fedor vs. Overeem sells itself. We’ve been watching these two on YouTube for years. Some of us even stayed up until 3 A.M. in order to watch live footage of them crushing cans in Japan. To everyone else, Strikeforce would be asking them to care about some chubby, stoic Russian guy who can’t even speak English fight some Dutchman who eats horses. It it’s free on Showtime, you might get a good turnout. If you’re asking casual fans to pay for it, good luck.
Now that Fedor is moving out of the picture, Strikeforce can maybe find out if Chad Griggs has some type of personality that the fans can like as much as his facial hair. Maybe Overeem’s brother has more than tattoos and neck cranks going for him. For that matter, since casual fans aren’t watching The Reem, maybe you can tell them how awesome your heavyweight champion (aka “that guy you were hoping Fedor would eventually disembowel”) is. Maybe, just maybe, Antonio Silva has some hobbies worth caring about outside of MMA. We’ll never know until Strikeforce shows us.
To most fans, Saturday provided a night of exciting, action-packed fights. That’s what most fans care about: fun fights with interesting fighters. Now that Strikeforce doesn’t have to make sure M-1 and Fedor are getting their props, they can sell us the idea that Saturday was an indication of things to come. And it will be here, in this blighted place, that we will learn to live again.