Opinion: The Fall of Strikeforce and UFC’s Virtual Monopoly
By Jesse Heitz
As was reported here at Full Contact Fighter earlier in the week, Strikeforce will officially cease to exist after its January 12th Marquardt vs. Saffiedine card. While all MMA fans can honestly say that it was beyond crystal clear that the Zuffa-owned Strikeforce was operating on borrowed time, it still feels strange to see the second largest promotion in the sport prepares to close its doors.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker described his promotion’s swan song by stating, “Since 2009, Showtime has been a great partner and we appreciate its support of Strikeforce and our athletes. For our final event, we’ve loaded the card with some outstanding fights. This is going to be a memorable night for the sport of mixed martial arts.”
Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Showtime Sports kept his remarks exceptionally professional stating, “We are proud of our association with Scott Coker and the entire Strikeforce team. From Gina Carano to Ronda Rousey, Fedor Emelianenko to Daniel Cormier, Nick Diaz to Gilbert Melendez, Showtime Sports and Strikeforce have built some of the biggest stars in the sport and have produced many of the most watched and most intriguing fights in the history of MMA. We look forward to another night of competitive and explosive Strikeforce fights on Showtime on January 12 in OKC.”
While their final card isn’t loaded with the sort of fireworks I had anticipated, it should prove to be an entertaining event nonetheless. Yet, it’s not the quality of the final Strikeforce card that necessarily concerns me; it’s the lack of any able-bodied “competitor” against UFC domination, or a promotion that can at least give the appearance of being a competitor. Strikeforce had given many of us hope in its early years following the Zuffa acquisition of Pride; that some organization could rise up and challenge the UFC. Such a challenge is good for both the sport and the fighters, and led to the always entertaining inter-promotional debates of whose fighters were better (similar to the fervent Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell debate of the early-to-mid 2000s).
Yet, now just like its predecessor Pride, Strikeforce has fallen, its fighters deemed worthwhile being absorbed by the UFC, the meat being picked from the bones before the promotion is even gone. Undoubtedly, the shift of talent into the UFC, which has certainly seen its talent pool depleted as of late, will make for some interesting matchups. Who wouldn’t want to see the likes of: Cormier, Woodley, Mousasi, Rockhold, “Jacare”, and even Barnett (although highly unlikely), make their way into the UFC ranks?
Perhaps there are inarguable benefits that will stem from the demise of Strikeforce. That under the helm of a new consolidated UFC, MMA will prosper in the mainstream. However, I am always reminded that what’s good for a company is not always what’s best for the consumer, that we as MMA fans arguably received the most bang for our buck when there were two dominating MMA promotions were vying for our patronage.