March 12th, 2011 will go down as the day mixed martial arts changed forever as Zuffa (UFC’s parent company) has bought out their last true direct rival in Strikeforce. Driving a rival-company into bankruptcy is one thing, but the Zuffa and UFC has made quite the habit out of completely buying out their rivals, seizing their assets and controlling their futures. Just like how he announced with PRIDE FC and WEC, Dana White has confirmed that UFC and Strikeforce will operate as two separate entities with their own management. One can truly wonder how long the two companies will be kept separate because if you look back into the history of Zuffa mergers are not only possible… they are inevitable.
On Saturday afternoon, it was announced that Strikeforce had been sold to the UFC family. Dana White said that Strikeforce would continue to air on Showtime for the time being as the contract between Strikeforce and Showtime doesn’t expire until 2013. According to Dave Meltzer, the demands of running a national promotion and financing such mega-deals as the one they struck with Fedor Emelianenko exhausted the patience of their backers. Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment had wanted a MMA league to run events in its HP Pavilion, not war with Dana White.
Unlike Strikeforce, PRIDE was an established organization with a prestigious history and a loyal international fan base. Alleged deals between the Japanese Yakuza and PRIDE caused the organization to lose almost all their financial backings. In the world of mixed martial arts, March 2007 was a lot like March 2011 as the impossible had happened: Zuffa and the UFC announced the purchase of PRIDE Fighting Championships. The original plan was for PRIDE to be the representative of Zuffa in Japan and for UFC to be the Zuffa representative of America. Every January, the best fighters from UFC and PRIDE would fight each other in a “Super Bowl type event” where dream matches would become a reality. That “plan” didn’t stick for long as Dana White folded PRIDE before even putting on an event under the Zuffa banner. White stated it would be near impossible to rebuild the company in Japan after the involvement of the Yakuza and simply sent the fighters from PRIDE to the UFC.
The situation with WEC was completely different. The idea was to keep WEC around as the sister company of UFC where smaller weight divisions would have their opportunity to show that they are just as exciting, if not more so, than the heavyweights of UFC. The blueprint was set and it was executed perfectly. After producing stars like Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo, it was announced that UFC would absorb WEC in a merger. The whole process was to make UFC stronger in the long run, as Dana’s aim is to put on as many fights as possible.
Even though Dana White announced that Strikeforce will stick around, the script is always being re-written. It made a lot of sense for Zuffa to want PRIDE and WEC to stick around after their buyouts; they had gimmicks the UFC didn’t have. PRIDE had the ring, stomps and head kicks while WEC had the lighter weight classes. In a business sense, running two different organizations pulling in two different demographics is more financially beneficial than simply merging them immediately. Strikeforce on the other hand wasn’t a different or unique product at all. Aside from the talented fighters, Strikeforce was a second-rate, less established UFC. Whoever watched Strikeforce, watched UFC. Whether Zuffa keeps Strikeforce around for four more years or folds their operations before the first Zuffa backed Strikeforce card, a merger between UFC and Strikeforce is inevitable.
Tags: Mixed Martial Arts, Strikeforce, UFC