Generally speaking I like to try and look at news and happenings in the world of Mixed Martial Arts with a glass-is-half-full optimism. I'm far from a delusional idealist; I can and have been critical of Dana White and the UFC in the past and will call them on an obvious bias or attempt at revisionist history from the comfort of my armchair.
On the other hand though there's enough commentary already out there stirring up feelings of doom and gloom of the news of the Strikeforce buyout and I simply prefer to buck the trend. Maybe Strikeforce will end up stripped and gutted, maybe not - it's still all speculation at this point.
Before I look at the potential positives of the buyout I think some clarifications should be made. UFC did not buy Strikeforce, Zuffa did. Most in the media know this, but UFC gets more search engine hits then Zuffa - it's as simple as that.
Having said that we may find out another limited liability company (LLC) was created for the acquisition of Strikeforce just with the same usual suspects on board. When the ill fated Pride Fighting Championship was bought in 2007 it was done so by Lorenzo Fertitta externally to Zuffa and the assets were transferred to Pride FC Worldwide Holdings, LLC. Similarly when the World Fighting Alliance assets were purchased the year before in 2006, WFA Enterprises LLC was formed. In the simplest of terms it's a way of making sure all your eggs aren't in one basket so that if one goes rotten it doesn't ruin the rest. It would make sense then that the acquisition of Strikeforce occurred in a similar fashion and for that reason it's worth believing Dana White when he says that current Strikeforce contracts and even new ones hereon out will be honoured and kept as a separate entity to UFC for as long as Strikeforce is run as a promotion.
Also worth considering is that even if it did occur under the Zuffa LLC umbrella, Dana White for as vocal and visible as he is in this sport is still Mr 9%. Worries over whether Showtime and certain fighters can continue to do business with Strikeforce in light of this news are premature. Lorenzo Fertitta's calm, confident diplomacy combined with Scott Coker's existing rapport and networking will avoid a lot of the potential problems that could stem from Dana White's hot head. If it makes business sense deals will get done and grudges won't be harbored absent an instigator.
So with that out of the way, what things could we or are likely to expect in the coming months and can fighters benefit from this?
- Fighters will get paid - how much fighters deserve to get paid is an ongoing debate largely formed on speculation rather than a detailed examination of accounts. Some have said the acquisition will mean a freeze and low-balling of fighter wages and again this is speculation. What the Zuffa run UFC and WEC can say is they have never failed to pay a fighter what is owed to him and on time. 2010 was full of stories of Japanese MMA promotions and even the K-1 Kickboxing titan failing to pay a number of its fighters including K-1 Grand Prix Champion Alistair Overeem. These promotions may have offered more to get fighters to sign with them but what good is that if they end up paying nothing? Even outside of Japanese MMA a few stories of late or non-payment arose for fighters such as Tom Watson of BAMMA, and Karo Parisyan, Jeff Monson and Dennis Kang (to name a few) of short lived Australian upstart Impact FC. Strikeforce as far as we know have also never failed to pay talent but the acquisition should strengthen the security of a fighter contract in this regard.
- First negotiation rights for fighters UFC is interested in - When a Strikeforce fighter's contract is up UFC get first dibs if they're interested. This will include the current Strikeforce champions who may or may not have a champions clause. We could see some of the best fighters outside of the UFC finally get their chance to take on the best inside of it making for great fight match ups and significance to the history of the sport as a whole.Some critics will point out pay won't be competitive anymore and there won't be a bidding war for fighters to get paid the most they can, but the way I see it is pay offered will be realistic. For the great deals Dan Henderson, Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez got, if their pay was sustainable and Strikeforce was profitable there wouldn't be real reason for Strikeforce to be sold in the first place. For all we know Strikeforce may have found themselves heading in a similar direction to past promotions that have overspent and failed to recoup those outgoings just at a slower and more gradual rate. For fighters that have burnt bridges with the UFC it's up to them whether they want to re-build them or not. Paul Daley has since apologised several times after the attempted post fight sucker punch on Josh Koscheck, and despite what Dana White says about Daley this is the same man who has made amends with Tito Ortiz after declaring he was never getting back into the Tito Ortiz business, and he signed Gilbert Yvel in spite of his history assaulting referees - something far worse then what Daley was fired for. Never say Never when it comes to Dana White. As for Josh Barnett it's up to him but conversations and negotiations with Lorenzo Fertitta are more likely to happen and be productive. Besides Barnett still has to get his house in order with the California Athletic Commission before UFC would ever consider hiring him.
- Bridges may be mended and built with Showtime - for all the negative things Dana White has very publicly said about Showtime we know a lot of it is hot air and venting for failing to sign Fedor Emelianenko in 2009. But with the recent coup of Showtime signing away pound-for-pound Boxing great Manny Pacquiao from HBO Sports as well as Strikeforce doing agreeable numbers on the premium cable network there's a possibility for a shift in combat sports coverage dominance. As mentioned Lorenzo Fertitta and Scott Coker can deal with Showtime and the possibility of some UFC cards such as international shows and maybe an eventual PPV partnership is worth exploring. As good as Strikeforce does on Showtime a few UFC shows could crush making parent company CBS more likely to take notice and offer UFC an agreeable price and terms for a few network shows a year. Also while UFC may be holding out on Spike TV perhaps an offering of Strikeforce for Spike could be made boosting Strikeforce's profile. With Bellator signed to MTV2 there's not really any MMA content of interest Spike could have so it'll be interesting how things play out.
What positives do you see in this? What negatives do you see? Comment underneath.