On April 17th, Stikeforce returns to network television with three highly compelling title fights.
We've got the potential crowning of a new No. 1 lightweight, a fight between two highly-talented, developing, light-heavyweight prospects, and a title fight featuring a fighter who was a part of a card that was seen by an estimated 16 million people.
The question still remains, will you tune in?
If this event had the three letter moniker of their competition, that thought would be laughable. However, Strikeforce still hasn't gained traction with consumers. Ticket sales for Strikeforce's first CBS show weren't good, and the merchandise sales were really poor.
Worse yet, many wonder if this will be Strikeforce's final CBS show if ratings don't hold around the 2.5 rating they garnered for it's first show. While I'm not a man who thinks a disaster is probable following it's event on Saturday, it certainly appears possible.
Beyond the CBS subterfuge, Strikeforce could feature three fighters who clearly have eyes on jumping ship.
Shinya Aoki has made no bones about wanting his day against BJ Penn, in the Octagon. Jake Shields is fighting the last fight of his current deal, and many say win, lose, or draw, ZUFFA will make him a firm offer—one Shields has said already he's unlikely to turn down. Also, prodigy Gegard Mousasi has severed ties with M-1, clearly eying a path to the UFC following the completion of his current Strikeforce/DREAM deal.
It makes a possible nightmare scenerio where all three win, ratings are poor, ticket and merchandise sales sputter again, all the more possible.
While it wouldn't destroy Strikeforce in one fell swoop like many detractors would fantasize, the damage done to both the sport and its brand would start a ripple effect that could shape a number of fighter's long-term goals inside the organization.
Strikeforce doesn't have the stars or brand recognition to absorb that kind of blow. So this event is crucial to maintaining the forward momentum of the company.
That inevitably ropes back to the question I asked in the title. Will we be watching?
With no Fedor, Kimbo, or Gina on the card, do we care? Either way, the fate of the sport on network television could hang in the balance.
We whine about the increasing number of companies moving to PPV. With Bellator and WEC planning permanent moves to PPV in the distant future, asking of it to move to network television like all other "mainstream" sports.
Yet, a silent majority of you will tune into a taped months-old PPV card on Spike, instead.
"Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often," were the words written by the great Mark Twain, and I whole-heartedly concur.