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Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012

Full Contact Fighter’s “The Daily Takedown:” Why is the Hottest Star and Biggest MMA Fight in Strikeforce and Not UFC?

Strikeforce 135 pound women's champion Ronda Rousey

By Joshua Molina

For all of the people who believe the UFC is MMA and that the only brand that matters in MMA is the UFC, listen up.

It’s worth noting that the most talked-about fighter, storyline and dream match-up in MMA right now is NOT happening in the UFC, but in Strikeforce.

Through her dominance inside the cage, her girly looks and her trash-talking mouth, former Olympic bronze medalist Ronda Rousey has emerged as the sport’s biggest mainstream star since Chuck Liddell.

Now the MMA world is pining for a Rousey vs. Cris “Cyborg” Santos matchup. Like Rousey, Santos, in the 145 weight division, has crushed her opponents, paving the way for a dream match between the two fighters.

For years, Dana White, president of MMA’s biggest brand, the UFC has dumped all over women’s MMA, vowing never to promote women inside the Octagon. Watching the rise of Rousey, he’s changed his tune in recent weeks, jumping on the Rousey bandwagon and suggesting that women may now one day fight inside the Octagon.

Of course, Strikeforce is owned by Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, so it’s not likely that White is too concerned about Rousey’s rise as any threat to the UFC. Strikeforce’s success is now all under the UFC and Zuffa umbrella.

But how would this all look had the UFC not purchased Strikeforce in 2011? At the time Strikeforce was positioning itself as a legitimate threat to the UFC’s dominance of the sport. Before UFC on FOX, Strikeforce was promoting shows on CBS. Ratings were solid on cable’s Showtime. The sports best and brightest stars were fighting inside the Strikeforce Hexagon – Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem and Dan Henderson. All three of those champions, after the purchase of Strikeforce, were plucked with fat contracts into the UFC.

And although he left just before the purchase of Strikeforce, Jake Shields left Strikeforce to fight George St. Pierre and got one round away from upsetting Pierre, who at the time was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Strikeforce was developing a reputation as the sport’s other MMA promotion, the No. 2 brand on the rise and experiencing great buzz. With the great Fedor Emelianenko fighting under the Strikeforce banner, the company was looking to make a move to pay per view.

All of that is probably why, when the Silicon Valley investors who owned Strikeforce decided to sell, that the UFC swooped in and purchased the company. Many people are surprised that the UFC kept Strikeforce going, but the company has more or less been gutted since UFC took over. UFC poached much of the talent and is even on the verge of eliminating the heavyweight division. UFC does little more than the minimum to promote Strikeforce cards, even though some of the greatest fighters in the world still fight for Strikeforce (Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold, Daniel Cormier, Gegard Mousasi).

Even through all of that the Strikeforce brand still has value and the sport’s biggest star, Rousey, fights for Strikeforce. What would the MMA landscape look like today if Strikeforce remained a San Jose, California-based company?

As is the case with fighters, competition makes you better. Since the UFC purchased Strikeforce, the lack of competition seems like it has made both brands worse.

Speaking of the UFC… the lack of big promotion for the Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson fight is puzzling. Much of the pre-fight publicity up to now has centered on Jones’ Nike contract, Jones’ twitter war with Chael Sonnen, and Jones belief that Henderson presents a challenge, but not a problem for him.

The Jones vs. Henderson fight is an incredible story. Jones is one of the sport’s brightest rising stars against one of the sport’s biggest icons. The UFC gave up on Henderson three years ago – trashed him when he joined Strikeforce.

After a decision loss to Shields, Henderson crushed four straight opponents and now is vying for the UFC Light Heavyweight title. He will be 42 years old, fighting a 25-year-old phenom, when he steps inside the cage.

It’s a story of the modern-era MMA fighter in Jones, taking on the tough, old school fighter Henderson. Who wins in the battle of generations? It should be promoted like Hulk Hogan vs. John Cena or Muhammad Ali vs. Larry Holmes or Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning.

After a summer of big fights, the UFC, the supposed best MMA promotion in the world, feels as though it is running on fumes in the buildup of the Jones vs. Henderson fight. On the other hand, the hottest fighter and potential matchup in the world is in Strikeforce, a company that lacks promotion, name fighters and that likely won’t be around in two years.

Can you imagine where we would be if Strikeforce was independent from the UFC?

Contact reporter Joshua Molina at jmolina@fcfighter.com. Or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JoshuaMolinaMMA

posted by FCF Staff @ 2:34 pm
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