The rest of the conference call audio is after the jump.
-Talks for the purchase began in mid-December
-Strikeforce has "around 140" fighters under contract.
-Strikeforce's contract with Showtime has 16 more fights, last until 2014.
-Strikeforce will adopt Unified rules, now allowing for elbows on the ground.
-BUSINESS AS USUAL!!!
-Zuffa repeats how this all came together very fast, to the point where it almost comes across as them being unprepared for a conference of this sort. Of course, the official announcement had to be made, but I can't help but picture Dana and Lorenzo closing the deal, trading high fives and fist bumps as they jump for joy, and get so excited about this purchase, that they ran to go make the announcement.
Zuffa stands firm on their stance that Strikeforce will remain separate, but it's rather apparent that they're receptive to the idea of folding Strikeforce completely into the UFC once Strikeforce's contract with Showtime is up. Lorenzo Fertitta's chuckle after he gave his "we're open to anything" answer was telling, as if he was getting a kick of how him and Dana thought they'd be able work around this question that will surely be asked until the contract with Showtime is finally done. Regardless of what banner is flying, Zuffa is using Strikeforce to expand their reach world wide, putting on shows in markets that they're still trying to get a foot hold in.
Scott Coker and all those working at Strikeforce will stay on board to continue running the company. Although Dana White assures us that nothing's changing, and it's "business as usual", surely White and company have veto power as well as the ability to make whatever they want happen, happen. Lorenzo said it best, "We own Strikeforce." Strikeforce is no longer serving their own purpose, but Zuffa's purpose. Where they need them to go, they go, whatever fight they want to happen, will happen. I suspect they'll continue to put on most shows in the San Jose area due to the fan base they've created, but I'd love Zuffa push Strikeforce into the UK. Shame that this deal didn't get made before Paul Daley was set to face Nick Diaz April 9th, because this would be a major event to break into England with.
Also, don't be shocked when cut UFC fighters flock to Strikeforce. Now that the promotions aren't at war, going to Strikeforce won't hurt a fighter's relationship with their former employer, and it may actually be encouraged from here on out. If Strikeforce closes shop in the next few years, and judging by Zuffa's reaction to reporters posing the question of brand confusion, they will, I think it will be the beginning of a UFC feeder league. Breaking down a hypothetical feeder system is for another time, but I believe that Zuffa could take what Bellator is doing so well now, and do it even better - and make it profitable.
Doing Business With Ex-UFC Employees:
Two major Strikeforce names have been brought up as news of the purchase broke. First, Paul Daley, a former UFC fighter who was banned for taking a shot at Josh Koscheck after their fight had ended. Then there's Josh Barnett, who has a long history with Dana White, spawning from the early years of Zuffa owned UFC.
Paul Daley comments:
Business as usual, what if i dont wanna fight for DANA WHITE/ZUFFA?......Dana white bans me for life from the UFC, Then buys STRIKEFORCE, and thinks im still gonna be EASY and fight on one of the most anticipated fights of the year (vs Diaz)? Which will no doubt make ZUFFA/Dana White money. Daley vs Diaz still on?.....Someone better holla at my manager real quick.
Not sure what im gonna do right now, honestly...fight for the Strikeforce and be Strikeforce champ, put money in ZUFFA/Dana Whites pockets? Or fight here in the UK for BAMMA, who appreciate my brand, and have my loyal fans, family and media support me. For real.
Some humility could go a long way for the hard hitting Brit. He only has himself to blame for the situation he's in now, Dana White has plenty of imperfections, but he wasn't in the wrong when he penalized Daley for his actions. Had some fans had their way, he'd never fight again, let alone in the UFC.
In the conference call, Dana and Lorenzo were handled the issue as professionals. Dana said contracts would be honored, and if there's a problem between any fighter and himself, they can deal with Lorenzo. They're here to do business. Dana cited his eight years of working with Tito despite their public issues with one another.
Josh Barnett, unlike Daley, handled himself as a professional as well when he spoke with Sherdog about the deal:
"Things have changed," said the former UFC champion, "This is major and great things can come from it and I just want to be a part of that, and the way I can best do that is be the best fighter I can be."
"I’m not here to make this a personal vendetta or judgment with [Dana], especially in terms of business," said Barnett. "I know what I’ve got to do and I know what his position is in terms of being the president of the UFC, and that he has excelled at. He’s done a great job."
"If he hates me, he hates me; but if he sees the value in what I bring to the table as a fighter I think that will speak for itself," he said. "But you know what? I don’t hate Dana and I do business, and I’ll go out there and do the absolute best that I can do and if he happens to be my employer … literally, if Dana White has an office that I have to write into every day, because that’s the person I report to for my business, well that’s what I’ll do."
Barnett kills me with his failed steroid tests, yet I can't help respecting him for this stance. He has more of a reason to piss and moan than Daley, but instead took the high road. I suspect that this sort of attitude will also go over well with the Zuffa team.
I'm optimistic about how things will turn out as 2011 progresses. Depending on some Strikeforce fighter's contracts and status, we may see some talent get pulled into the UFC early on. Should the deal not have any strings attached, and the fighter is willing, I suspect that the UFC would gladly transfer them to their roster. They don't want to pull too much talent away because Strikeforce has to operate as it's own entity for the time being, but for the right fighters, it could happen. There's a wide variety of outcomes to this purchase, and a great deal of opportunity for the UFC to use Strikeforce as the tool they need to establish key elements that will take Zuffa into the next ten years as an evolving, growing, and highly profitable company.