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Will 2011 be the Year Strikeforce Creates a Superstar?

Any mixed martial arts promotion not named Ultimate Fighting Championship is fighting an uphill battle in the sporting world, no matter who the financial backers are, what TV deal you get, or what you have your fights in (RIP YAMMA Pit).  Even if a promotion manages to grab the attention of mainstream media, they run the risk of being mistaken for the UFC, just check out this quote from the Dallas Morning News regarding Herschel Walker's upcoming fight at this weekend's Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg show:

"I've told everyone that at 50 I might try football again to show people I can do that," Walker said on Monday during a conference call to promote his upcoming UFC fight. "I want to be the George Foreman of football, come back and do that one more time."

Separating your promotion from the UFC, and lower tier promotions, is a tricky task indeed, but there's something that Strikeforce lacks that could do just that, and that's a superstar.  No, Cung Le and Gina Carano don't cut it.  I'm talking a SUPERstar, a legit athletic force in the sport paired with a personality that grabs the attention of anyone that sees and hears them, followed by a powerful promotion push that results in the creation of a star.  Strikeforce has dropped the ball consistently when it comes to creating their own stars.  King Mo comes to mind when looking back at missed opportunities for Strikeforce, particularly when they failed to show Mo's entrance on CBS, an over the top affair featuring a robe, crown, and dancers leading him down the ramp to the cage.  One of the most unique entrances in the sport today, and the masses were clueless to it even happening.

So, will 2011 be the year Strikeforce creates a superstar?  Time will tell, but I most definitely believe they have an opportunity to, and much sooner rather than later.  Check out my prediction for who will rise above the rest after the jump

Earlier this month, on the 20th, Strikeforce held a conference call for Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg. Typically, you can expect some sort of outrageous comment or event to happen on these calls (even more so if M-1 Global is involved) and this one didn't let us down. Welterweight champion Nick Diaz, after getting on the call late, showed up, and hijacked the call. Here's a taste of what his rant included:

 I never said I wouldn't fight Miller because of weight. If I'm going to throw my whole year off, I want to get paid in full.

Tell Miller to get his ass in shape and make 170 or 175 pounds. Or someone can "pay me a couple f***ing million dollars" to move up.

 I'm over here driving a f***ing Honda because my s***'s breaking down. F*** all you, mother f***ers.

Josh Koscheck took an ass whooping in a fight I cornered. The UFC gave him easy fights. I didn't get easy fights in the UFC.

We got this guy who doesn't even fight. He drinks in a bar. And we took him to fight Josh Koscheck.

So when you tell me these guys are the best fighters in the world, it's a f***ing joke.

People think GSP is better than me, it's bulls***. He just fought Josh Koscheck. I just told you about him.

Right now, what do you want? You got them ranked above me.

Nick Diaz was dropping BOMBS in this conference call. He made the UFC his enemy, the media his enemy, top ranked fighters his enemy...when faced at such a disadvantage being under the Strikeforce banner, one must promote yourself heartily, and Diaz did just that.

Diaz isn't just a flamboyant personality though, he's one of the best welterweights in mixed martial arts today, riding an eight fight win streak since mid 2008.  His volume punching is awe inspiring, and he's got a slick ground game to back it up.  Diaz is the total package, and I sincerely hope that Strikeforce begins to push him as such.  There's also a wealth of fights for Diaz to take this year that could elevate him to superstar levels.  Assuming he gets through Cyborg Saturday night, he has Paul Daley, Tyron Woodley, Jason Miller, and a rubber match with KJ Noons on his radar.  

If I was Scott Coker, I'd be sure to pay a visit to Diaz's locker room before the fight with Cyborg and let him know that he's more than welcome to "speak his mind" on the microphone should he be victorious and retain his title.  Get nice and loud, let the world know that you could handle the weak UFC welterweights, that you are the baddest fighter on the planet, that you're going to go home, light up a blunt, and wake up the next morning to continue chasing dollar signs.  Go wild.  This kind of attitude has propelled UFC fighters to new levels, but the UFC embraces it.  If Strikeforce will do the same for Diaz, they can create their first superstar.

Even if Nick Diaz isn't the one, Strikeforce has Christiane Santos, Gilbert Melendez, and the winner of their heavyweight grand prix who could all transcend the rest of the pack.  Strikeforce simply needs to get their fighters out there, keep the cameras rolling, and start pushing their fighters as the best on the planet.  If they do that, it's only a matter of time before faces and names can be identified with the Strikeforce brand.