Does Strikeforce Have Enough Force To Strike?

Jordan KatzCorrespondent IJune 9, 2009

After the completion of the second of two quality events this year, the up-and-coming mixed-martial-arts promotion Strikeforce should be pleased.

They are clearly the biggest threat to MMA’s most recognizable organization, the UFC. Their shows have gained viewership and lacked the false grandeur of previously failed promotions. Strikeforce contains several marketable fighters and the flexibility to co-promote with other vendors.

So as of right now, the organization is content with their standing amongst the competition.

Strikeforce’s most recent event presented stunning upsets, solid action and helped to establish new stars. By reducing over-the-top advertising, utilizing solid match making and avoiding “gimmick” fights, Strikeforce has thus far evaded the fate of its predecessor, Elite XC.

However, before the promotion can rejoice over their initial success, they first must establish a business plan that emphasizes the long term, not just the immediate future.

With another night of fights scheduled for August, which are being headlined by the highly anticipated bout between the Queen and Princess of women’s MMA, Gina Carano and Cristine Santos, the short term looks promising for Strikeforce. Yet, the question remains, where does the promotion go from there?

Despite the entertaining fights and quality production of the events, Strikefoce faces one major hurdle; a lack of depth within their talent pool.

With only a select few household names to throw at customers, Strikeforces’ options become limited. Gina Carano, Renato Sobral, Alistair Oveereem, Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, Robbie Lawler, Brett Rogers, a faded Frank Shamrock and a Hollywood-focused Cung Le round out the short list of elite fighters.

Even more damaging to the company is the fact that Diaz, Shields, Lawler, Shamrock and Le all fight within the same weight class. Diaz and Shields train out of the same camp and won’t fight one another, Le has been on a hiatus from fighting filming movies and Shamrock has lost much of his allure due to consecutive TKO losses.

For the time being, Strikeforce can use the revolving middleweight door and find some combination of match ups that work for another event or two. But, soon they will find themselves with a shortage of possible headliners.

The answer then, lies within their ability to co-promote. This tidbit is significant because it is one of the few advantages the company has over its rival, the UFC.

Clothing line turned fight promotion Affliction has amassed some big names in MMA. They have a number of high profile and high caliber fighters under non-exclusive contracts, including the legendary Fedor Emelianenko.

By cross-promoting their events, Strikeforce and Affliction would add much needed depth to their stable of fighters and more importantly, be able to put on star studded main events that could potentially challenge that of the UFC’s.

Ultimately, fight fans want to see an abundance of action and established stars. With the right matchmaking, the two promotions have the power to do just that if they host the events collectively. Strikeforce has a proven track record of effectively utilizing this strategy.

In April, Strikeforce pit Benji Radach against Scott Smith. Although neither fighters are world-class, the organization understood that the result of the fight would be dramatic. They were two strikers with great chins who tend to excite fans.

Their fight ended up being a back-and-forth slugfest that was arguably the fight of the year. That bout, along with the headlining Diaz/Shamrock scrap combined to formulate a recipe for success; great action and good headliners.

The fact remains that the UFC has the best fighters in the world. But, because of the amount of cards the organization hosts each year, “super fights” happen infrequently. Since Strikeforce produces events at a much slower rate, they have yet another opportunity to undermine the UFC.

If they focus on fewer events, but ones that are of a higher caliber, they may gain even more traction amongst fans who yearn for big fights.

It will no doubt be a difficult challenge for Strikeforce to remain successful and profitable, though not impossible. If they adhere to co-promotions, big fights and constant action they may just find a niche within the industry.

As of right now Strikeforce does not have the force to deliver a knockout strike. But, with continual improvement and savvy business decisions, that may not be the case down the road.