The MMA world is still shook up from the unbelievable news that Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, acquired Strikeforce this past weekend. Coming completely from left field, fans all over were shocked to hear what happened and battle lines were drawn. You could tell who were the optimists and who were the pessimists within the community, as some fans harkened new glory days for the sport while others condemned Scott Coker for being a sell-out. There is no answer yet as to whether this is a blessing in disguise or another company devoured by the UFC War Machine, so it’s time for some rational thinking from this nerd.
Keep in mind, this article is filled with some forward-thinking statements that look at the long term effects of this acquisition, but those are the things we as fans have been hypothesizing for days now and it’s my turn to give a few thoughts on this. It’s been a few days since the announcement happened and we have many more facts now, so let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of this historic purchase!
- All the best fighters will be under one roof
The word “best” is a tough word to really define when it comes to skill. Even to this day, people still argue about who had better fighters, Pride FC or the UFC. But for argument’s sake, let’s say the most popular and most marketable fighters will potentially end up in the UFC if there is a merger. This means we will finally see dream matches like Alistair Overeem VS Brock Lesnar or Cain Velasquez, King Mo VS Quinton Jackson, Jacare VS Demian Maia, and whatever else you are dying to see. However, it’s not quite as easy as that, which I will get to in a bit.
-Unified Rules FINALLY in Strikeforce
Hard to believe that the little company from San Jose has been using their own custom rules for a long time. At the UFC/Strikeforce press conference on Monday, Lorenzo Fertitta revealed that from now on, Strikeforce would in fact pick up the unified rules of MMA, which meant that the biggest gripe many fans had about the company is now null and void. Fighters can now use elbows on the ground much like their UFC brothers, and this adds a new dimension to the game.
To read the bad and the ugly, hit the jump!
- No co-promotion
While eventually, the best fighters could be under one roof if the merger happens, in the meantime, we have a parent company with two of the top brands in MMA. However, White has already said that there will be no co-promoting between the two. In other words, we get no superfights like I mentioned a few paragraphs ago until Strikeforce is completely absorbed into the UFC. We also lose the chance of ever seeing Fedor Emelianenko fighting in the coveted octagon since there is no way M-1 Global will let “The Last Emperor” compete in the UFC unless their logo is somewhere on the canvas.
Is it possible this co-promotion concept could change down the line and actually occur? Yes, it is, but it would be difficult since it would endanger Zuffa’s brands to have one promotion look weaker than the other. Keep in mind, the UFC never bought the IFL, Elite XC or Pride FC library until after they were totally dead. Strikeforce was a viable option that had been doing very well, and Zuffa considered them direct competition and pounced on the chance to take them out and add them to their umbrella. So for now, it’s “business as usual”, or as I like to call it, separate but equal.
-Fighters who have bad relations with Dana White will be released
If there is one thing you don’t do in MMA, it’s piss off Dana White. Coker pounced on the big fighters that DW released, like Frank Shamrock, Josh Barnett, Paul Daley, Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland. Once Strikeforce runs through their final deals, and if this possible merger becomes a reality, these men will find themselves jobless once again. Strikeforce was their home while they were ostracized from the UFC, but if White ends up taking over both companies then they are essentially out of options. There only hope would be working in smaller shows, where they will never truly get tested and newer fans will never understand who they were or why they were so popular in the first place. Furthermore, the fighters will not receive the paydays they deserve in the small companies, and no good can come from that.
- Women’s MMA; A casualty of war
White has gone on record many times to say that he has no interest in promoting women’s MMA, and continues to have none. While Strikeforce will continue to put on matches with the ladies, the UFC will take no part in it and, going back to that merger, if the Strikeforce roster ends up part of the UFC roster, women’s MMA is jeopardized greatly. Female fighters already have a difficult time getting a payday anywhere near their male counterparts, and with no summit to reach will be forced to take in even smaller amounts for their hard work and financially, it might not be worth it for them.
Bellator FC continues to promote WMMA and there are several small promotions in Japan like Jewels that are purely women fights, but then there is a large gap between fighting in the bigger shows and the smaller ones. Too many younger female fighters will be catapulted to big leagues to be fed to veterans, and a very unbalanced situation could exist with the talent. General interest will dwindle and women’s fighting will go back to being a gimmick and not taken seriously, the way it should be.
The potential upside is that this could also create an open market for women’s talent and a company with the right investors could come in and promote all-women cards in the US. With no competition, they could become the UFC of WMMA, and unless White changed his policy this company would be left alone to grow or die out as it pleases.
- Smaller MMA shows begin to fade out
If Strikeforce is merged, who’s left? Bellator FC will become the default second best place to fight, but there is no way they can ever hope to compete with the UFC and will become a feeder to the UFC until they too are purchased. Keep in mind, Viacom owns Spike TV and MTV, and unless Zuffa plans on leveraging Strikeforce to get in good with Comcast and the NBC family of networks, they will want the time slot Bellator has for total dominance.
There is the potential that ProElite may rise up from the ashes as they were rumored to be the other interested buyer in Strikeforce, but so what? With their reputation, I don’t expect much from them and ProElite has been unsuccessfully trying to get their act together for some time now. This leaves us with the very small shows, and there are two types of those; the ones that are viable feeders for the big leagues, and the ones that are (no offense) the bush leagues. These shows can survive on a local level but they are already struggling in this economy and many fans just simply do not attend their own local MMA shows because they want to see “the best” and just don’t want to waste their time seeing local talent or rising stars, which is truly a sad thing since these grassroots shows built our sport. And as that comes into play, our final ugliness comes into play…
- “MMA” turns into “UFC”
With fans having nowhere to turn for mixed martial arts action, the UFC brand will dominate 100% finally. Zuffa owns over 4,000 fights from various tape libraries and it’s up to them if they want to share it/ sell it to fans or just keep it locked up in their vault to rot. Considering what they have done with the IFL, WFA, Pride FC and Pro Elite library (in other words, not much at all), what would stop them from throwing Strikeforce footage into the safe and throwing away the key?
As I wrote above, there are far too many fans who refuse to go to local shows, and if the demand for those fizzles out, so too will their businesses. Along with them, small MMA gear and apparel companies will also be forced to close, unable to exist on a comfortable level since they can not afford to sponsor UFC fighters. It will be natural selection, as only the strongest will survive and there will be no room for the little guys anymore.
One of the best things about MMA has been the accessibility of the sport and the fighters to new fans, and how anyone can step in and try to start a business, promotion, or even a blog about it, and if they keep at it become successful with very little invested in the beginning. If the UFC monopolizes the sport, there will be a very low glass-ceiling that will keep many people from ever attaining their dreams. It wasn’t that long ago when TapouT was running their business from a van, selling shirts they screened themselves in the parking lot of fights. With no room for the little guy, MMA will be replaced by a different three letters, and an entire history might be re-written by a casino owner and a jazzercise instructor.
Leave a comment if I missed any points you think are important, or if you agree or disagree with me!