Saturday, April 23, 2011

How Zuffa's Acquisition of Strikeforce is already benefiting MMA fans

There were many questions and expectations that came from the media and MMA fans when Zuffa (the parent company of the UFC) purchased Strikeforce. There were questions about how Strikeforce would be operated, how long they would stay with Showtime, the potential for Strikeforce and UFC fighters to compete against each other, etc. Although UFC President Dana White claimed it would be "business as usual" for the two MMA promotions, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker confirmed there will be potential "super fights" between fighters from each promotion. We saw UFC media people involved in the Strikeforce event earlier this month. Also, Dana White went to the event with a Strikeforce shirt on! It is certainly a new world in MMA.

Unlike when Zuffa purchased PRIDE and WEC, Strikeforce already had a strong US following and was seen by MMA fans here in North America as a "rival" of the UFC before the purchase. PRIDE was considered by some in Japan as big as the NFL is in the US. WEC was a small, yet successful organization that was seen as the place in North America to go for top level Featherweight and Bantamweight fighters. Eventually, both WEC and PRIDE fighters were absorbed into the UFC. This will probably happen at some point with Strikeforce, but there are still contracts that must be honored. There is the broadcasting agreement with Showtime and unique contracts with fighters such as Fedor Emelianenko (M-1, his agent, has a promotional agreement with Strikeforce and Showtime) and Nick Diaz (who has a clause allowing him to compete as a professional boxer). Also, there is still good money to be made with Strikeforce because of Scott Coker's relationships with CBS and Japan.

The way MMA fans are benefiting from this business transaction is that there is more top level MMA events that do not have conflicting schedules. Fans do not have to choose between Strikeforce and UFC anymore. Strikeforce has had a history of being abit disorganized with their event scheduling and setting up fights. Now with Zuffa as their parent company, it appears Strikeforce is operating more efficiently, which means more great fights for the fans.

A recent example of this is the announcement that Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Dan Henderson will be fighting Fedor Emelianenko this summer. In the past, such big fights would be rumored for months and nailing down the date would appear difficult. This is not a reflection of Scott Coker as we now know, but a reflection of how Strikeforce was operating with limited personnel and resources. Coker is only one man being pulled in many directions. Now with the help of Zuffa's established infrastructure, Strikeforce can operate at full strength in a similar way to how the UFC efficiently operates.

Whether it is Strikeforce Lightweight Champion talking publicly about him potentially fighting the UFC Lightweight belt holder or Jason "Mayhem" Miller suddenly coming to the UFC because his contract "had expired" with Strikeforce, fans are going to get to see the fights they want, which is more money for Zuffa, UFC and Strikeforce. Also, fighters get more exposure which leads to more ways for them to make money outside the octagon. There are rumors that there will come a day when the UFC has its own television network (similar to what the NFL has with the NFL network). Dana White wasn't kidding when he said he wants to make MMA the biggest sport in the world. In the end, this is a real win-win for everyone involved.

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