You knew it was coming! Strikeforce MMA is closing shop. The promotion’s January event will be the last. Fighters will begin to migrate over to the UFC starting with a brand new UFC champion.
Dave Meltzer provided a detailed report on his F4Wonline.com podcast. According to Meltzer the move was seen as inevitable once Steven Espinoza took over as Showtime’s VP sports programming. Espinoza is a boxing guy and Meltzer speculates that rather than replace Strikeforce with a new MMA company, Espinoza could use the freed up money for boxing.
The writing has been on the wall for over a year, so much so that many in the MMA world were shocked when Showtime renewed their deal with Zuffa last year. Things really came to a head when Showtime cancelled a second consecutive event leaving many in the MMA world speculating when, not if the deal with Strikeforce would end.
The January 12 event is already shaping up to be one of the most stacked Strikeforce events in recent memory. Daniel Cormier is scheduled to fight on the show although no opponent has been named. Gilbert Melendez is scheduled to defend the Strikeforce lightweight title against Pat Healy. Luke Rockhold will defend his title against Lorenz Larkin, while Nate Marquardt and Tarec Saffiedine will fight for the vacated middleweight title.
Skeptics are pondering whether a mysterious illness or injury to the top fighters would pull them off the show, thus saving them for an upcoming UFC event. According to Meltzer’s report most of these fighters are desperate for a pay day and will likely show up to fight. It wouldn’t shock me to see Cormier not fight and be saved for a UFC event but I would expect everyone else to show up.
Strikeforce marks yet another promotional acquisition by the UFC’s parent company which ended with the company closing for good. Previous purchases of Pride FC and WEC ended the same, although WEC had a nice run after the acquisition. For all of the praise that the UFC gets for business, these have to go down as some of the worst business decisions in company history. The fact that they haven’t been able to keep any of these companies afloat is certainly a mark on the Fertittas and Dana White’s legacies.
So what’s next post-Strikeforce? I’d guess that all of the champions move over to the UFC. I think the window has closed on any real interest in Strikeforce vs. UFC fights which is a real shame. Those could have been some big events last year. A few notable names like Josh Barnett, Frank Shamrock, and Nate Marquardt are former UFC stars that all ended their relationships with the UFC on bad terms. My hunch is that Marquardt comes back, Shamrock does not, and Barnett makes a surprise return. Dana recently revealed how he tried to sign Fedor and Brock Lesnar. He needs star depth in the heavyweight division. I think he makes a play at least for Barnett, regardless of the past.
I just don’t see any real appeal in cross promotional fights right now. Luke Rockhold vs. Anderson Silva is an interesting fight because it presents a new challenger to Silva, but it isn’t anything that will excite casual fans. Melendez vs. Ben Henderson would be fun but it is unlikely he’d fight Nate Diaz, which begs to question whether Melendez changes divisions if Diaz wins the title. Marquardt/ Saffiedine vs. Georges St-Pierre or Carlos Condit isn’t thrilling anyone either. I think they really missed the boat last year by immediately signing Dan Henderson vs. Jon Jones, Frankie Edgar vs. Gilbert Melendez, Nick Diaz vs. Georges St-Pierre, and Alistair Overeem vs. Cain Velasquez in champion vs. champion fights. Ironically three of those fights
Meltzer also speculated that they could promote Rousey as soon as the UFC on FOX 6 show in January. He speculated that they could shoot Rousey vs. Cyborg to the main-event which would be a great way to promote the brand new women’s division in the UFC. He also pondered the idea of both coaching The Ultimate Fighter. I love that idea. The biggest problem with finding fighters for TUF these days is that anyone decent is fighting somewhere else. It would be easy to find a cast of hungry female fighters who brought the same kind of win or nothing passion to the show that the early season contestants brought. It is certainly an interesting idea.