Yes, Virginia, there is another real mixed martial arts promotion, and its name is Strikeforce. It exists as certainly as Dana White uses the f-bomb and refuses to co-promote exist. Alas, how dreary would the world be without another MMA promotion?
Scott Coker, CEO of Strikeforce, has made known its existence as more than a regional SoCal fight promotion. Where other challengers to the Fertitta-White Empire have failed, epically, Coker and company seem to have their gameplan strategically in order to become the other standalone MMA promotion based in the US.
By developing the fight game in their own unique way Strikeforce seems to have the ability, fortitude, and business-savvyness to succeed as the other premiere brand of mixed martial arts.
So what sets Strikeforce apart from those left in the dust? How can it ever compete with the UFC for sponsors, fans, viewers? The world may never know, or will it?
As many may already know, this week Strikeforce landed the golden goose, Fedor Emelianenko, as talks between Fedor’s management, M-1 Global, and the UFC broke down.
The main reason: Zuffa, LLC’s unwillingness to let M-1 Global co-promote. It seems apparent that Scott Coker realizes that Fedor will not be relevant forever. And the only way to have him fight in an American organization while his title as king of the heavyweights remains relevant is to partner with M-1. Kudos to Coker.
Secondly, Strikeforce has not, as of yet, proverbially blown their load on an unsure prospect. While the Fedor signing could certainly work against them (he could lose to an underrated opponent) Emelianenko is no Kimbo Slice (no diss Mr. Ferguson, I’m pulling for you in TUF 10).
EliteXC made the folly of pinning their entire financial fortune (and network TV deal) on Kevin Ferguson, a guy who had only four fights under his belt and a questionable skill set to boot.
Strikeforce has been able to successfully land a deal on Showtime networks, providing a good, solid outlet for their program. They intend to build upon and grow that relationship further by showing the first two Fedor fights on the network.
For the third fight, Coker could possibly take it to pay per view. And if he and his executives are smart and care about MMA and its fans, which it certainly appears so, they won’t charge $49.95 plus taxes and applicable fees to watch it (set it at $25 skins and your buyrates would be through the roof!).
It is a concern, however, that Strikeforce’s heavyweight division is not all that “deep.” But with their willingness for non-exclusive contracts, and the fact that there are more heavyweights outside of those in the UFC’s big boy division that may want to challenge “The Last Emperor,” who is to say they can’t get some bigger names to face the Russian machine.
Yet still, Strikeforce has also been more progressive in other areas that the UFC has not. In a week, they will present the first ever women’s title fight that will go five rounds, of five minutes apiece. They are affording an equal opportunity in the fight game. That’s progressive thinking.
They also have yet to hold sponsors hostage for $200k a year, affording smaller, startup brands the ability to gain exposure. This also benefits the fighters, as more sponsors equal more money. And without fighters, you have no product.
No product equals no revenue.
Can Strikeforce and Scott Coker be the choice alternative to the UFC and its brand of “our way or the highway”, bottom line-only business? Will Strikeforce be the forward thinking and moving brand that defines what MMA is in society in years to come?
Will Scott Coker have the business and humanitarian skills to create comprehensive fighter salary, benefits, and insurance plans? Only time will tell, but so far, so good.