2009 Best MMA Promotion: Strikeforce Makes a Run, but UFC Stays on Top

Erik FontanezCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2009


For MMA fans, 2009 offered a number of outlets to watch great mixed martial arts competition. 

Although Strikeforce made incredible leaps and bounds during the year, the UFC has to remain the top promotion in the sport.

Whatever the general public thinks of Dana White does not really matter anymore.  The outspoken UFC president has taken the Zuffa owned promotion and put the personal work into it making sure, not only the die-hard fans, but everyone knows what the UFC is and how entertaining it can be.

The sport is where it is at now thanks to the UFC, it’s talented roster of fighters and the people behind the scenes.

It’s difficult to argue against the MMA juggernaut when they were able to put on their 100th show and break over five million in pay-per-view buys in the process. This kind of longevity is not seen everyday in the business.  Just look at what happened to Affliction

What Dana White labeled “the t-shirt guys” tried to put on shows the quality of the UFC and did so, however, bankruptcy ultimately consumed whatever money they made off of just two events.

Stirkeforce is nibbling at the toes of their promotional counterpart in the sense that they have gone from local show to national giant in the matter of months and are close behind.  The San Jose-based organization may have some great things planned for 2010, but in 2009 they could not produce the combination of content and quality that the UFC has been able to put together.

Fights like BJ Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre II have the epic impact going into fight night where it overshadows any other MMA news coming off the wire.  Only the UFC has the ability to put two of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the same cage. Although they acquired, arguably, the best Heavyweight ever in Fedor Emelianenko, Strikeforce struggles to put their champion, Alistair Overeem, in the same cage as the Russian.

Two champions in one fight versus one champion refusing to compete?  Edge: UFC.

Let’s not consider fighters for a moment.  Let’s take a look at the year as a whole.

The UFC has managed to put together 15 UFC numbered events, three UFC Fight Nights, and two Ultimate Fighter finales.  This consistency is remarkable beyond just MMA.  In a time where the economy is at it’s worst in years, the UFC continues to grow and prosper without a hint of let up.

In other sports, entire teams are filing for bankruptcy.  The Phoenix Coyotes filed Chapter 11 in May due to a lack of income from their product.  That being said, who puts a hockey team in the desert?!  Come on, really?!

With so many events put together in a 12-month span, the UFC solidifies itself as a pinnacle of business success.  Strikeforce will, perhaps one day, produce several quality shows in the span of a year, but it was the UFC that opened every opportunity for spectatorship in ‘09.

Monthly consistency versus here and there enjoyment?  Advantage: UFC

Last, and most certainly not least, the fighters themselves have put in the most physical effort to ensure the UFC stays the top promotion in all of MMA.

As simple as can be, the UFC roster is the most talented in the world.  BJ Penn, Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva and a host of others lead the way to mainstream success for the Las Vegas-based promotion. 

Anytime these names come up as ones headlining a UFC card, a frenzy begins.  Others, like Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua, make headlines after a controversial fight in Los Angeles only to make way for one of the most anticipated rematches in the sport’s history.

When you talk of, pound for pound, best in the world, each of the UFC’s five divisions offer at least one candidate. 

Not only are all five divisions strong, but the light heavyweight division stands out as beacon weight class in mixed martial arts.  As 2009 has shown us, the light-heavyweight title can change hands in the matter of one fight. 

Three champions in one year and it is not because the previous champion was a joke. Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans then Lyoto Machida; all quality 205-pounders who gained the title and have been beaten up defending it due to the Mariana Trench like depth of the division...The Mariana Trench is the deepest on the planet, for those who didn't catch that.

I mention Lyoto Machida as one who has been beaten up, but never lost the title.  His clash with Shogun was a fight that was etched in all of our minds, and we continue to talk about it to this date, two months post fight.

The recent signing of Dan Henderson added some additional weight to the Strikeforce roster, but it does not put them over the top.  The potential for Strikeforce to make tremendous things happen has not been around since the Fertita brothers purchased the UFC in 2002, but they have yet to carry the division-by-division mojo that the UFC did this year and years prior.

Stacked against each other, division for division, the UFC out-weighs Strikeforce.  Look to see Scott Coker and Co. gain a few pounds of power and muscle in 2010.

The UFC is still the upper echelon of mixed martial arts organizations.  Bottom to top, the promotion stands firm as the leader in revenue, fighters, shows and mainstream success.  This, however, will not slow down the meteoric rise of Strikeforce.  As long as the people behind the scenes are smart with the money and the fighters continue to perform at the rate they have been on, Strikeforce may soon be considered the top dog. 

2009 was the beginning of a great rivalry between the UFC and Strikeforce, but Dana and the Fertitas remain on the peak of the MMA promotional mountain.