Opinion: The Shakeup at Zuffa
By Jesse Heitz
Strange events are taking place in the MMA world. More specifically, Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC and Strikeforce, is in the process of quite an incredible shakeup. TMZ of all places (perhaps not too outlandish as I believe Ronda Rousey has “hosted” an episode or two) was the first to report that Ronda Rousey has been transferred to the UFC, making her the first female fighter in UFC history, as well as the Women’s Division 135 pound Champion. Another large story is that Strikeforce is set to air its last show in January before it closes its doors for good.
It was not all that long ago that UFC President, Dana White, flat out denied that women’s MMA would ever take place within the confines of The Octagon, ostensibly as long as he was still captaining the ship. Then after, Rousey started hyper-extending her opponents’ elbows on a regular basis, and helped to post some of the best ratings in Strikeforce history, the tune quickly changed and he was “warming up to it”. Now it appears that women’s MMA has taken a step closer to the mainstream in earnest.
My only concern is that rather than have a tournament to decide who gets to hold the world title, Rousey has, as reported, been given the UFC Title without a fight. I for one, being an old Pride Grand Prix and original UFC tournament fan, love the idea of a new title being decided by tournament. Otherwise, women’s MMA coming to the UFC is certainly a great thing—at long last fully legitimizing women’s MMA. At its most basic level, it should give fans quite a thrill.
On the count of Strikeforce’s impending demise, this is not much of a surprise. I think many fight fans actually figured that Strikeforce would have been closed down and its talent absorbed by the UFC shortly after Zuffa purchased it several years ago. We were certainly all privy to the spectacle of the two organizations’ fighters shifting from promotion to promotion. We also knew that given the gargantuan troubles and failures Strikeforce has suffered through over the last year, that its days were numbered, something I talked about at length in a previous piece.
My colleague Joshua Molina recently wrote an article that argued that the UFC was set to face a talent shortage in early 2013. Perhaps, that was the motivation for the closure of Strikeforce, and the inevitable acquisition of its roster.
Either way, Strikeforce is set to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. What seems to be its last card appears to be one of its best in a long time. The January 12th card will feature three title fights. A Middleweight Championship bout between Luke Rockhold and Lorenz Larkin, a Welterweight Championship bout between Nate Marquardt and Tarec Saffiedine, and a Lightweight Championship bout between Gilbert Melendez and Pat Healy. Add in a heavyweight bout between Daniel Cormier and Dion Staring, and so far you have a pretty stacked card.
One question I have regarding both of these stories is whether Rousey’s exodus to the UFC is simply a harbinger of the roster shift to come, or whether it was an entirely independent decision. Either way, both events lead to a stronger product from the UFC, something every fan can agree is a well-deserved.