Can CBS, Strikeforce, and Fedor Emelianenko Elevate Mixed Martial Arts?

Todd JacksonSenior Analyst INovember 5, 2009

In the forward progress made by mixed martial arts, there has been one constant that relentlessly drove the sport forward.  That constant is evolution. 

Evolution is within the nature of all things.  In MMA it is displayed significantly by the rapid ascension of the sport from questionable to highly lucrative in under two decades.

The sport has evolved in so many ways from what it once was.  Many important changes have been made, or forced in some cases, and progress and improvement were gained.  One staple of the sport that has not fluctuated much at all has been the delivery in which fight fans are brought their beloved MMA.

Since the very beginning the success of MMA has rested primarily on the shoulders of pay per view numbers.  For most of the sports history, the only way one could experience MMA was live, PPV, or once a DVD (VHS for you old timers) was released. 

Then Zuffa and Spike TV partnered up to bring MMA into the living rooms of fight fans on cable TV.  With the highly succesful Ultimate Fighter series, Spike and Zuffa have done an impressive job of educating an entire demographic who have developed an affinity for the sport.  Without some of the events that transpired on Spike TV, some believe the sport may be much different today. 

Events like the first Ultimate Fighter Finale snagged many fans who may have never bought a PPV if they had not been mesmerized by the blistering fight they witnessed.  It left many wanting more, people were hooked by something they might have missed if it cost $45 bucks.   

MMA is a lot like your favorite restaurant.  Once upon a time you didn't know it was there, but now that you've been, you just can't wait to go back.  Many fans didn't know MMA before Forrest Griffin fought Stephan Bonnar.  Once they saw them fight, they couldn't wait for the next event.

Now many years later, another potentially high impact event is upon MMA.  Saturday November 7th, CBS will broadcast live on network television a Strikeforce event featuring one of the most recognized figures in the sport.  Fedor Emelianenko will face off with Brett Rogers live on free TV.

This is not a PPV, this is not $65 a month cable, if you have an antenna, you can catch this fight.  Many people will tune in to watch this fight simply because it is free.  There is an entire demographic of fight fans who can't afford to buy a PPV every month, but they follow the sport regardless.  CBS and Strikeforce are offering this to them for nothing.

What a reward.

This may very well be one of the most important moments in the history of the sport.  There is always someone declaring this or that event the biggest in the history of the UFC, but honestly this is bigger than the UFC.  This event could change the face of MMA if the dice roll right.

That is a very bold statement considering the story history tells.  This is not the first time an MMA event was held live on CBS.  EliteXC tried their hand in impressing the sport upon casual viewers and sadly they failed handily.  Strikeforce has something they didn't have and that is Fedor.  EliteXC pinned their hopes on Kimbo Slice, a fighter with little MMA background, and his inexperience eventually cost them.   

There are no garauntees in this sport, there is never a sure thing.  That said, it is rare that Fedor Emelianenko leaves a fight without his hand raised leaving the crowd in awe of what he has just accomplished. 

Strikeforce is not banking completely on Fedor to carry them, but he is quite capable of doing so regardless.  Especially if he is successful in his typical exciting fashion live on CBS.  Not to discredit or look past his very dangerous and game opponent Rogers, just to say, he is sure to bring a fight in that cage with him.  If he has a typical showing—win, lose, or draw—he and Rogers can change this sport. 

If CBS and Strikeforce can land the triple sevens and bring a war between Rogers and Emelianenko into living rooms everywhere for free, they will have procured an entire new audience that more than likely would never have spent a dime to watch the sport otherwise. 

People talk about Griffin versus Bonnar as a pivotal moment in the sport, and the UFC made that happen and offered it to the world.  Now Strikeforce has positioned itself to truly impact the world of MMA and leave its mark. 

Strikeforce has given themselves a strong opportunity to announce the presence of MMA to the world with authority, and they picked the best man for the job.  If succesful, this opens many doors and poses many questions about the future of MMA.

If Strikeforce and CBS can land the viewers interest and promise future events of a similar caliber, the sky is the limit.

It might compel the UFC to reconsider some of its approach in delivery.  Perhaps pursue their own avenue of getting the UFC to more viewers with their own major network deal. 

If Strikeforce can set the tone with their relationship with CBS, perhaps other stations would soften their stance on MMA. 

Overall, the possibilities are endless, the outcomes are many, and the impact of the event may ripple in many ways.  These are but a few points that can be made. 

What is most exciting regardless is the potential.  The potential of watching MMA evolve yet again, and further prove its value in the sporting world.  Widespread acceptance is long overdue, and this could push MMA one step closer to earning the credit it deserves as a world-class sport.