The UFC and Strikeforce had a joint conference call on Monday to formally announce Zuffa’s purchase of the San Jose based mixed martial arts promotion.
To say it was odd to hear Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta on the same call as Scott Coker is an understatement. Yet, the world of MMA is an ever-changing panorama of growth and expansion. And much like the animal kingdom and evolution, one thing must die to give birth to something bigger and greater.
And while Strikeforce is not dead, it has been overtaken, and will continue to operate “business as usual”, at least for the time being.
Highlights of today’s conference call:
Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment, who was a primary shareholder in Strikeforce, wanted to get back to their core business which was hockey, so they were looking to sell. Scott Coker wanted to remain in the MMA industry.
Strikeforce will continue to operate “business as usual” while they fulfill their contract with Showtime. Strikeforce has a 16-fight contract with Showtime that extends until 2014.
The Octagon will not be used in Strikeforce. The one immediate change will be that Strikeforce will now operate under the “unified rules” of MMA, which means elbows on a grounded opponent will now be legal.
Scott Coker said there are around 140 fighters currently under contract with Strikeforce.
Zuffa has not had a chance to sit down with Showtime yet, so whether or not the UFC could ever appear on Showtime, is not something that is being considered at this point.
Showtime controls the production of Strikeforce, which includes the on-air announcers. Although Zuffa may make suggestions, it is entirely up to Showtime whether or not to implement them.
Dana White said they are going through “growing pains” right now as they push to break through in new markets around the world such as Asia, Europe, etc. They needed a lot more fighters to fill cards and shows and this was the primary reason for the purchase.
Concerning guys like Paul Daley and Josh Barnett who are not on good terms with Dana White, the UFC President said those people will be dealing with Scott Coker on a day-to-day basis, and any of the other guys that don’t like him can deal with Lorenzo. So just because they don’t like each other doesn’t mean they can’t do business. White said they did business with Tito Ortiz for years even though they didn’t like each other.
“All you gotta do is have some big balls and some money behind you and you can get into the MMA business” -Dana White
The postponement of the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament had nothing to do with the Zuffa purchase. It has more to do with finding a suitable location.
Dana still feels the same about women’s MMA. He said, “That’s Scott’s [Coker] deal, not mine.” In other words, don’t expect to see women’s MMA in the UFC. On the other hand, as long as Strikeforce is around, women’s MMA still has a big platform to stage shows.
Because of this deal, the finals of the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament could possibly be on Pay-Per-View.
The UFC will no longer counter-program Strikeforce events, but fans can still expect replays of UFC Pay-Per-Views on Spike TV once in awhile.
If Strikeforce does any Pay-Per-View shows it will have to be done through Showtime Pay-Per-View.
Scott Coker does not own any equity in the UFC or Zuffa.
Scott Coker: “I think fans will get to see the fights they want to see and this will be good for mixed martial arts.”
Zuffa has nearly 4,000 fights in their video library with the addition of Strikeforce.
“I think that’s up to the fighters if the fighters got together and want to do a fighters union. The problem with that in the fight business is this really isn’t a team sport. I don’t think you’re going to see some of the guys who are making the really big money kick some of their money down to the guys who might never make it or might never be. But that isn’t up to us, it’s up to them.” -Dana White
Concerning promotional exclusivity, such as with fighters like Alistair Overeem, who in the past has been allowed to fight in K-1, it is “business as usual” and Coker will still handle those deals. Coker did clarify however that it has never just been “free reign” for the fighters. They always had to have prior approval and Strikeforce had first priority.
Upon request, ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) received a statement from M-1 the day after the Strikeforce sale was announced, that Fedor Emelianenko‘s contract was with Showtime, not Strikeforce, and the Strikeforce sale would have no effect on him. Coker refused to comment on this and would not get into the details of Fedor’s contract.
There had been rumors that other entities were interested in purchasing Strikeforce and this was a “defensive move” by Zuffa to purchase the company. Fertitta denied this was a “defensive maneuver” and said he was unaware of anyone else wanting to purchase Strikeforce.
Discussions between Zuffa and Strikeforce first began in mid-December. They took a break from discussion during the holidays and finalized the deal last Friday.