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Strikeforce’s Future Undecided as UFC Takes Total Control

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The UFC’s quest for total domination within the MMA world took a giant step closer to realization with the purchasing of Strikeforce – rumored to be for $40million – the other day. But, really, what does the UFC plan to do with its former rival? The UFC was the major force anyway, so is buying Strikeforce just a way to kill off any competition? Or will the UFC allow Strikeforce to operate as a separate entity?

Well, Dana White, the UFC president, has insisted that Strikeforce will remain detached from his mixed martial arts organization, but also hinted that his leading fighters could well face the best Strikeforce has to offer in the not-too-distant future.

That’s all very exciting, but does this secondary plan not remind you of what has happened to boxing? How many different belts can be won for any single weight division for pugilists? Let’s see – we have the WBO, WBC, WBA, WBF, WBU, IBF, IBA, IBC, IBO, IBU and WPBF. That’s 11 in total  – and 10 too many.

MMA should not go down this path. Certainly, White has previously been unwilling to cross-promote and, although fans are eager to see the big names of both organizations fight, it should only happen under a single banner.

Essentially, either unite the organizations or allow them to remain self-governing and as independent as possible. A halfway house will result in a watered down product, although Strikeforce spokesman Mike Afromowitz has stated it will be “business as usual” for the companies.

It’s pretty obvious the UFC has still to make a definite decision on how to progress with Strikeforce, with White saying he “wouldn’t rule anything out”, but stressing that he wants to “put on the best fights that the fans want to see”. That’s what everyone wants, of course, so a complete integration is the only possible solution.

However, for now, Strikeforce – with veteran chief executive officer Scott Coker still in charge – is to carry on signing its own fighters and will remain on subscription channel Showtime through 2014.

Strikeforce also has promotions scheduled over the next few months throughout the United States. That TV deal and planned events would suggest that no amalgamation is forthcoming, unfortunately.

However, the UFC might use Strikeforce to penetrate global markets after Lorenzo Fertitta, the chairman of Zuffa – the sports promotion company that controls both organizations – admitted that “we’re not fulfilling what the demand is…going to London one time a year, we’re kind of shortchanging that market”.

Fertitta sees the benefits of Strikeforce as a way to have “more fighters, more options…the ability to have a stronger presence in a meaningful way”, primarily throughout Europe and Asia.

This is an interesting development as it may be that Zuffa promotes the UFC as the North American arm of MMA while utilizing Strikeforce as the overseas promotion. That could work. But the crossover of fighters is still a problem – as might be White’s relations with former UFC members – including Dan Henderson, Josh Barnett and Paul Daley – who quit his organization, and not always on the best of terms.

White has also criticized Coker and once referred to the promotion as “Strikefarce”, but he maintains that Strikeforce’s leading fighters should not be concerned as “Scott Coker is the guy who’s going to be running the day-to-day” business, before adding that fighters are “never going to have to deal with me, so it’s not a big deal”.

That might be true now, but what of the future when the UFC absorbs Strikeforce? It’s going to happen – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise as this exciting sport garners more fans and bigger bucks. The UFC brand is already thought to be worth anything from $1billion to $2billion, depending on who is quoted.

Remember World Extreme Cagefighting, the World Fighting Alliance and Pride Fighting Championships? Yes, they have all been incorporated into the UFC. So how will certain fighters fare under White once Strikeforce ceases to operate? There could be a few internal fights over the next few years. But it’s very rare that purchases of rival companies run completely smoothly.

However, White remains thoroughly optimistic right now, believing that “it’s a great day for the fans” as the UFC pushes into new markets, adding that “we need more fighters” to grow the sport.

This latest deal, as well as the vagueness of Strikeforce’s prospects, has left more questions to be answered. However, it seems no one is quite sure what the future holds – least of White, Coker and Fertitta.