Recently, Bleacher Report published an article by Artie Cooper entitled Strikeforce Gets UFC to Tap: 10 Reasons It's the Hottest Company in MMA. As a whole, the article used some pretty weak arguments and examples to tout the supremacy of the San Jose-based MMA promotion.
Our very own Raul Rangel too the article to task the other day in an excellent post that can be found here. But, the whole argument did get me thinking.
One should not try to compare the UFC to Strikeforce as it is an unfair comparison. The UFC has taken great lengths to establish themselves as the brand name promotion globally. While Strikeforce is clearly in second place behind the Las Vegas-based juggernaut, they are sadly a distinct second.
But that is not an indictment of Strikeforce. The UFC is the 800-lbs gorilla in the room and it’s going to take a lot for their power to be usurped by a rival promotion. Still, that being said, there are a good number of things that Strikeforce does right, and should be lauded as such.
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Below, are just a few things that Strikeforce has got going for it that the UFC does not.
A Women’s Division
UFC head honcho Dana White has said over the years that he is not opposed to women MMA, just that there is not enough talent to justify creating divisions within the UFC. While there may not be enough talent to mirror all the UFC weight classes, there are more than enough upper echelon women fighters to create excitement in more than a few weight classes. Strikeforce should be praised for being one of the first to truly give women in MMA the props that they are due. Sure, having the most camera-friendly women fighter in existence in Gina Carano as your flagship superstar didn’t hurt matters. While Carano may have transitioned her career in the acting the fact remains that due in large part to Strikeforce’s foresight MMA fans can now say they are familiar with the talents of Chris Cyborg, Miesha Tate, and Marloes Coenen. Thanks in large part to Stirkforce’s legitimizing women’s MMA, other promotions have begun to incorporate female fighters and divisions. All of which is a very good thing for MMA as a whole.
A Farm Team
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The UFC has long heralded itself as the “major league” in terms of MMA. While some would argue that that is not just hyperbole but undeniable fact, the UFC has never tried to cultivate a fighter from the beginning of their career. Even the UFC’s attempt at highlighting up-and-coming fighters by way of The Ultimate Fighter, pales in comparison to Strikeforce’s Challengersseries. Similar to the way Showtime’s ShoBox series highlights fighters on the verge of making it so too does Strikeforce Challengersstrive to give the public a glimpse of future fighters on the cusp of making it to the big stage of a Strikeforce card. It’s a great concept, and while it’s clear that some of the fighters featured in the series will never achieve superstar success, the fact remains that it does give fighters on the verge and opportunity to be seen by the masses.
Ok, this may be a bit of a misnomer given that Stirkforce’s main television outlet is the premium cable subscription network Showtime which will set you back a couple of dollars each month. Of course, this is nowhere near the damage to your drinking budget that the UFC’s monthly PPV offerings take. Let’s face it, times are tough, and shelling out $50-60 a month for four to five fights can be a bit rough. So in terms of cost comparison, Strikeforce gives you bang for a considerably smaller buck. Plus, you can’t discount the CBS network deal that Strikeforce inked which would give you MMA on absolutely free TV. Though, it has to be stated that the CBS deal is shaky at best and their last offering was marred by the Jason Miller-Nick Diaz brawl. We shall see if CBS still wants to be in the MMA business soon enough.
Casual fight fans have long scoffed at the reverence awarded to Fedor Emelianenko. After all, they wonder, how great can he be if he doesn’t fight in the UFC? Ugh, that line of logic makes me want to crane-kick someone in the face. Despite Emerlianenko’s recent inactivity and his surprising loss to Fabricio Werdum, you cannot discount his catalogue or work which included titles won in Pride and RINGS or the fact that he was an absolute beast in MMA for nearly a decade. While his M-1 puppet masters prevented him from fighting in the UFC, Strikeforce was quick to hammer out a deal that brought “Fedor” to US television. While many still don’t know what all the fuss is about, most die-hard MMA fans recognize the genius in Strikeforce’s decision.
Much of the criticism levied at the UFC is the fact that they treat their fighters like indentured servants. Granted, the UFC is very strict about their talent competing in other promotions, let’s not overlook the fact that UFC pays their fighters very well. But, one thing that you have to admire about Strikeforce is that they do allow their fighters to stay active by competing in other promotions. So far this tactic hasn’t blown up in their face, and if anything helped make bigger stars out of some of their fighters (see Nick Diaz and Daniel Cormier).
Look, MMA needs Strikeforce just as it needs Bellator, King of the Cage, XFC, and all other promotions trying to make a buck of cage fighting. It’s undeniable that the UFC sits high atop the mountain in terms of money and brand recognition, but the efforts of rival promotions such as Strikeforce cannot be overlooked. After all, the more diversity in fight cards the better we all are as MMA fans.