Would a UFC-Strikeforce Merger Hurt the Sport?

Jordy McElroy@https://twitter.com/JordyMcElroyCorrespondent IJune 15, 2011

The dream of every MMA fan is to see the best fights possible.

In every professional sport, we get to see the best in the world compete against one another on a consistent basis.

Unfortunately for MMA, there has always been a line in the sand when it comes to delivering fans the dream matchups they want to see.

While the UFC boasts the biggest stable of upper-echelon talent, there are a multitude of organizations around the world that harbor world-class fighters.

A prime example is the San Jose based Strikeforce promotion, which rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the highly ridiculed EliteXC organization.

There are a plethora of major names in the promotion including Fedor Emelianenko, Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem and Gilbert Melendez.

Fans have dreamed about seeing these guys paired with marquee UFC names for surefire MMA blockbusters.

Earlier this year, the UFC took a giant step in making these dream matchups a reality when Zuffa purchased Strikeforce.

The reaction from the news was reminiscent of Zuffa's purchase of Pride in March 2007. Since the announcement, fans eagerly wait as UFC president Dana White works hard to deliver the fights they want to see.

On Oct. 29, the first superfight between the two promotions will occur when UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre defends his title against Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz, who had to relinquish his belt to challenge GSP.

This fight marks the beginning of something special, and fans have every right to be excited for the future. There is nothing wrong with acquiring UFC-ready talent like Diaz, but a full-on merger between the UFC and Strikeforce has its downfalls.

What would happen to women's MMA?

Since the February 2007 tussle between Gina Carano and Julie Kedzie, women's MMA has grown considerably, and fans have generally accepted the ladies as viable competitors in the sport.

With Carano serving as the face of women's MMA, the sport has introduced a multitude of other stars including Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, Marloes Coenen, Sarah Kaufman and Miesha Tate.

The championship bout between Carano and Santos even served as the headliner on a major Strikeforce card in August 2009.

If a merger takes place, it could mean the end of women's MMA in the mainstream spotlight. It isn't that White and the UFC aren't interested, but the amount of quality talent in women's MMA simply isn't there yet.

It's been nearly a year since Santos' last title defense, and Strikeforce is still searching for an opponent.

Women's MMA is a growing project, and it will take time to bolster divisions. If you look at things from the other side of the spectrum, the opportunity to fight for the UFC and make more money could encourage more women to get involved in the sport.

Along with the uncertainty of women's MMA, a merger could make it harder to distribute the spotlight amongst superstars and rising contenders.

With the addition of the featherweight and bantamweight divisions, UFC cards are consistently stacked. Fans used to wait around for maybe two or three big cards per year, but the influx of talent acquired from the WEC has generated an abundance of main-card worthy matchups.

With only five fights guaranteed to make it on pay-per-view, it's tough to showcase every fighter. The UFC has done a tremendous job of turning to various outlets like Facebook and YouTube to stream the undercard of live events.

According to White, the UFC is close to adding a flyweight division. This is an entire division featuring a new stable of talent. If you add in the vast amount of talent from the Strikeforce roster, could the current UFC setup handle this amount of potential stars?

There could possibly be talk about extending the pay-per-view bouts or putting on more shows, but this decision would certainly require some major changes.

What about the entertaining talent that can't cut it in the UFC?

The mantra for the UFC is usually three strikes and you're out. As the divisions continue to grow, we could see fighters cut after one or two losses.

There is a multitude of entertaining talent that may not be able to cut it in the UFC. Diaz was a great example.

Towards the end of his UFC tenure, he lost three straight to Diego Sanchez, Sean Sherk and Joe Riggs. Diaz used the EliteXC and Strikeforce promotions to build a name for himself.

He is now one of the biggest stars in the sport, and his success outside the UFC earned him the opportunity to challenge for a world title.

A true fan of the sport enjoys watching quality fights wherever they can be found. As are many others, Diaz is a quality fighter that garnered interest outside the UFC.

Why waste these guys?

As a fan, it's great to have another medium to get your fill of the sport. If a fighter is cut from the UFC or a deal goes awry, people can still watch their favorite fighters compete in another mainstream promotion. A merger would kill that option for fans.

There are plenty of things the UFC could do to avoid spreading the sport too thin. The promotion could introduce a minor league similar to the Strikeforce Challengers series, or Strikeforce could be left intact as a smaller promotion under the Zuffa umbrella.

As for now, White is firm in his statement that the promotions will continue to work as separate entities.

How long will that last?

Only time will tell.


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