Impending Strikeforce-UFC Merger?: Lingering Questions That Could Use Answers
A few weeks ago, the MMA world was beside itself following rumors that Strikeforce was imminently ceasing operations. Though the rumors never came to pass, the fact remains that Strikeforce's days are very, very numbered.
While UFC fans anxiously await the day their favorite organization adds some of the top talent still fighting in the California-based promotion...hold on a minute. There are still plenty of questions out there about how this will play out. Zuffa, for a variety of reasons, simply will not be able to (and likely would not want to) just dump about 100 new fighters into the promotion.
So as Scott Coker plans for his fast-approaching unemployment, what should fans be asking? What should media members be asking at UFC post-fight press conferences? What are the biggest uncertainties about the inevitable closing of Strikeforce?
Will Zuffa Actually Axe Strikeforce?
This question sounds a little counter-intuitive given the headline, but it is definitely worth asking. I wrote an entire slideshow about this subject earlier this year. The reasons are as follow:
Women's MMA is somewhat popular. The UFC needs a minor league. The UFC needs somewhere to stick slumping stars. Keeping Strikeforce helps hold competition down. You can add to that list “Zuffa could use entity free from Fox deal.”
All those things remain true today and really, it is still very possible that Strikeforce will persist in some form. With the Showtime-Zuffa negotiations well underway, it is possible that if Showtime takes a soft stance to afford Zuffa more control over Strikeforce.
If that is the case, we may see the UFC's sister promotion stick around, albeit without many of its hotter commodities.
What Becomes of Women's MMA?
Women's MMA has been a plain-and-simple roller coaster ride since it was first shown at EliteXC: Primetime on CBS.
When EliteXC died, people had no idea what would happen to Women's MMA. When Gina Carano lost to Cyborg Santos and transitioned to movies, people wondered if it could survive without her. When Cyborg Santos got busted for taking steroids, people said that was that.
In all likelihood, that is just some hardball negotiation tactics. Dana White is avidly against one-and-done contracts and you just cannot get around the lack of depth among women.
Unless the UFC decides to take on the entire Strikeforce women's roster (which is incredibly unlikely), what comes next is a total mystery. Outside Rousey, Miesha Tate and Cyborg Santos, there are essentially no marketable female fighters right now.
When the UFC is going to have loads of trouble just trying to find a place to put the men, it is hard to see where the ladies would fit.
Who Will the UFC Even Want?
When Zuffa bought out the WEC and proceeded to shut down every one of their weight classes over 155 lbs, they only took aboard a handful of fighters. While Strikeforce undeniably has some talent, it is unlikely that the UFC is going absorb the entire roster.
The UFC is obviously going to be delighted to add Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold and Daniel Cormier to the fold. Top light heavyweights like Gegard Mousasi, Rafael Cavalcante and Ovince St. Preux will also be welcome additions.
Various others who know their way around a win like Tyron Woodley, Ronaldo Souza and Tim Kennedy are probably safe. Ryan Couture and Roger Gracie would likely get offers on name value alone.
But what about middling lightweights such as Pat Healy and Jorge Gurgel? What about Kazuo Misaki, who has been around the block several times, but only recently joined Strikeforce? What about Mike Kyle, a fighter who has had numerous in-the-cage behavioral incidents and left the UFC a few years ago on less-than-amicable terms? The list goes on.
While Strikeforce has some assets the UFC would love to get their hands on, they have very few fighters that would be able to instantly be slotted into the main card of PPV events. Because of that, it will be interesting to see who the UFC brings aboard and who gets cut loose.
Will Showtime Interfere with UFC Acquisitions?
Remember back when Fedor Emelianenko was first in talks with Strikeforce? The thing about Fedor going to Strikeforce was that it was not just Fedor to Strikeforce.
Emelianenko joining Strikeforce was an elaborate deal that involved his management team, M-1 Global, Strikeforce and Showtime.
While Fedor is a special case, it is not unforeseeable that recent imports like Nate Marquardt may have a deal that brings Showtime into the equation. Just look at Spike TV and the now-defunct Dream FC to see how Zuffa's exes go about being dumped.
Showtime could very easily play the part of the jilted lover and make it a battle to every single fighter they have a hand on. In fact, it may have already started. If this is the case, Zuffa's tedious, frustrating relationship with Showtime could very well linger.
Make no mistake, this is purely hypothetical. There is no serious indication that any major Strikeforce fighter since Emelianenko has had a deal directly with Showtime, but it is most certainly something to keep an eye out for.
Really, How Good Is Gilbert Melendez?
This is a question that has lingered for a long while now.
Gilbert Melendez has been high up there on top-ten rankings for years now. The Cesar Gracie product trains with some of the best in the world in Jake Shields and the Diaz brothers. He has a solid wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu and boxing game.
Perhaps as importantly, he has never fought a top-ten lightweight.
Melendez, more or less, has been the face of Strikeforce for years now and, outside a couple forays into Japan, has fought exclusively for the California-based promotion since 2006.
He has consistently dominated the cans Strikeforce has thrown in front of him (outside a tough one against Josh Thomson back in May). This, naturally, has led to nothing but “what ifs” among Strikeforce's naysayers.
So, when Gilbert Melendez joins the UFC (and again, no Strikeforce fighter's job is more secure than his), how will he do against top lightweights such as Gray Maynard, Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone? Will he get into the title picture? Will he, possibly, win the belt?
Fans have had it thrust upon them that Gilbert Melendez is a top lightweight. Perhaps even THE top lightweight. Whether or not he can prove it will be one of the most interesting things to look forward to.
Will Showtime Stay in MMA Business?
Showtime really seems to want to make it work. After they successfully destroyed EliteXC, they did take a slightly measured approach when it came to Strikeforce. Granted, Strikeforce was still in very dire straits, even before the Zuffa buyout (after all, if things were going smoothly, they wouldn't have been so desperate to sell the brand).
That said, if Showtime is wanting to stay in the MMA business and loses Strikeforce, there are always going to be promotions, big or small, that will sign a TV deal without even reading the contract.
BAMMA, Titan FC, UCMMA, WSOF and RFA are all out there with enough fighters to put together something for TV. Showtime, if they are wanting to stay in the MMA business, could easily lure one of them down the same path walked by Strikeforce and EliteXC.
Will this go well? Probably not. Will it end well? No.
However, Showtime seems very willing to try and make a quick buck off of MMA. It is entirely possible they may let it ride and say “third time's the charm!”