Strikeforce Strategies: Why Hasn't Strikeforce Died Yet?

Tommy MessanoContributor ISeptember 11, 2009

San Jose, CA -- Hailing from San Jose, CA in the heart of Silicon Valley is where MMA's consensus No. 2 promotion Strikeforce calls home. Innovative thinking and venture capitalist deals permeate the northern California air in and around the offices of Strikeforce.

Strikeforce's MMA branch has been around since 2006 when they became the first MMA promotion to hold an event inside California boarders following the legalization of MMA in the golden state.

Since Strikeforce has opened up shop a countless number of MMA promotions have fallen by the wayside. The World Fighting Alliance, Bodog Fight, International Fight League, Pride Fighting Championship, EliteXC, K-1 Heroes, and Affliction are just a few of the MMA companies no longer running fight cards.

From fiscal irresponsible to the inability to create their own stars that MMA fans would pay to see on a consistent basis are two of the main reasons so many MMA start-ups die on the vine.

Strikeforce has done a lot of things right over the past three years.

The company, around as a kickboxing organization since 1985, has slowly increased the number of MMA cards it has promoted since they ran four in 2006.

2007- 4
2008- 8
2009- 7-9

Aided by a steady television presence Strikeforce fights have aired on NBC late night, HDNet, and Showtime.

Though largely a regional promotion with 17 of its first 22 events taking place in California, in 2009 Strikeforce has slowly began to make waves on the national scene.

In February 2009, Strikeforce acquired the video library as well as select fighter contracts from the defunct Pro Elite Inc. (owners of the EliteXC fight brand). The promotion also signed a three year broadcast rights agreement with the premium cable company Showtime, for up to 16 events per a year, with the option to produce four of those events on CBS at the national network's discretion.

August was a huge month for Strikeforce as the promotion set a new MMA ratings record for Showtime with their broadcast of Carano vs. Cyborg event on Aug. 15. The telecast was the highest rated MMA event in the history of Showtime.

Many industry insiders were surprised by the news that Strikeforce, not the UFC, had signed the number ranked heavyweight fighter in MMA Fedor Emelianenko in early August.

Strikeforce for better or worse is now on the UFC's radar. UFC has already begun to launch subtle and not so subtle shots at its closest competitor. Counter programming, Public Relations campaigns and notable free agent signings have all been made by UFC with Strikeforce in mind.

In the quest for acquiring talent is where the two leading promotions have taken a different approach as of late. While the UFC has added what you would call MMA veterans with name recognition such as: Phil Baroni, Vladimir Matyushenko, and Frank Trigg. Strikeforce has shifted its focus to stock piling young MMA prospects.

Bloodyelbow.com has compiled full list of the latest signings by Strikeforce. The argument could be made that middleweight Zak Cummings, welterweight Paul Bradley and lightweight Bryan Travers are the top American born MMA prospects at their respective weight classes: 185-155 lbs.

A surprising move by Strikeforce over the past three plus years is the fact that the company has never chased downed any of the fighters occupying the lower weight classes. From featherweight down to flyweight, Strikeforce has stood on the sidelines and let the Zuffa owned WEC and Japanese promotions control all the MMA talent below 145 pounds.

Scouting and locking in young MMA prospects is the easy part. Promoting them and making them relevant in the eyes of the average MMA will be Strikeforce's next challenge moving forward as a MMA promotion.

A few simple yes or no questions can be used as a simple gage to measure Strikeforce's health for 2010 and beyond as a MMA promotion:

Will Strikeforce get one of their events on CBS?

Will Gina Carano continue to shift her focus to interests outside of the cage?

Will Strikeforce continue to use women's MMA as a way to differentiate them from the UFC?

Can Strikeforce and Dream co-exist while pushing their own agendas?

Can Strikeforce create stars out of their MMA prospects?

Will Fedor Emelianenko re-sign with Strikeforce after his three fight deal is complete?

The next several months will tell us if Strikeforce will be a long-term number two presence in the MMA game or if they will fade back into just a strong regional entity. There are many reasons why Strikeforce is one of the last big money promotions left standing, now they just have to continue give us grounds to believe that  they will still be upright three years from now.

This article originally appeared at Uniting Locals Through MMA

Tommy Messano is the editor-in-chief of www.ultmma.com . His MMA articles have appeared on www.sherdog.com , www.wcl.com , Fight Ground Magazine and www.espn.com

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