March 12, 2011
Matter of time before White breaks up Strikeforce
By NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency
TORONTO - In a bombshell announcement from the MMA boardrooms, UFC parent company, Zuffa, LLC, has purchased its rival Strikeforce.
UFC president Dana White broke the news Saturday afternoon in an interview with MMAFighting.com.
Prior to the deal, Strikeforce was the UFC’s largest competitor in North America and currently houses such top fighters as Fedor (The Last Emperor) Emelianenko, Dan (Hendo) Henderson, Alistair (Demolition Man) Overeem, Nick Diaz and Fabricio (Vai Cavalo) Werdum.
But if you think you’ll be seeing those athletes in the octagon any time soon, you may be disappointed.
The San Jose-based MMA organization will operate as a separate entity for the time being and will go ahead with all planned fight cards.
“Strikeforce is going to continue to run business as usual,” White said in the interview.
“There are contracts in place; they’re on Showtime. Strikeforce pulls good ratings for Showtime; I think Showtime’s happy with them. All those contracts will be honoured. These guys will remain Strikeforce fighters.
“Could guys from the UFC leave and end up in Strikeforce? Absolutely.”
White has made it clear he intends to take the UFC to a global stage.
The company has held shows in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and is scheduled to hold fight cards in Brazil and Sweden by the end of the year.
With its biggest North American competitor out of the way — and Japanese MMA promotions Sengoku Raiden Championship and DREAM, as well as kickboxing organization K-1, all circling the drain — this is a huge step towards making that plan a reality.
On the flip side, it also means less variety for MMA fans, many of whom feel that healthy competition helps to better the sport by offering fighters more options on where to earn a living and ply their trade.
White said purchasing Strikeforce was necessary for the UFC to continue to grow.
“As we go out and (continue to expand), we need more fights,” White said.
“Let’s face facts. Strikeforce is a brand that fans have come to like and enjoy the fights that they’re putting on. So it made sense to us. Our job is to put on the big fights that fans want to see, and as we continue to travel, we have to put on the right fights in these other countries.”
Though White maintains Strikeforce will continue to operate independently, there’s no way he plans to keep it alive any longer than he needs to.
Once all of Strikeforce’s contractual obligations are taken care of, it’s likely the company will be killed off and all the best parts will be moved to the UFC.
After all, White is not so much in the MMA business as he is in the UFC business.
When it reaches this point, it will be interesting to see what happens to the fighters and staff who downright despise White and vice versa.
This includes Henderson, Josh (The Babyfaced Assassin) Barnett, Paul (Semtex) Daley, as well as announcers Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich.
White has already said in previous interviews that both Daley and Barnett will never be allowed back in the UFC.
White fired Daley for his post-fight sucker punch on Josh (Kos) Koscheck at UFC 113 last year, while Barnett left the organization after testing positive for steroids following his heavyweight-championship victory over Randy (The Natural) Couture at UFC 36 on March 22, 2002.
Since Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan cover off announcing duties for the UFC, the likelihood of Shamrock and Miletich working for White are slim.
Henderson sits in a bit of a grey area. He left the UFC for Strikeforce after failing to negotiate a new contract, citing financial differences as well feeling disrespected by White.
Though he remains a tremendous competitor, having just knocked out Rafael (Feijao) Cavalcante to capture the Strikeforce light-heavyweight championship earlier this month, he’s also 40 years old and his time left in the sport is limited.
But never say never.
If White can make up with Tito (The Huntington Beach Bad Boy) Ortiz, he can probably mend the fence with anyone.
Beyond the instances of pure hate, there’s also the tricky situations involving Diaz and Emelianenko.
White has always said he’s a fan of Diaz as a fighter, but that the Strikeforce welterweight kingpin needs to “play the game” more.
This means doing interviews and making public appearances when asked, but also acting professionally.
At UFC 57 on Feb. 4, 2006, Diaz lost a unanimous decision Joe (Diesel) Riggs. The two were taken to hospital for observation, where Diaz confronted Riggs and punched him in the face.
A brawl erupted and the two had to separated by police. This is obviously the sort of bad press White looks to avoid.
For Emelianenko to ever step foot in the octagon, he would need to lose his management team, Russia-based MMA organization M-1 Global.
White has tried numerous times in the past to sign the fighter once considered the top heavyweight in the world. However, M-1 is determined to sign a deal for co-promotion, wherein all events featuring Emelianenko also carry the M-1 brand logo, as well.
White addressed the issue on a July 2009 conference call after negotiations with Emelianenko fell through.
“We’ve got this guy, some people say he’s the best heavyweight in the world, so give us half of your business,” White said, mocking M-1.
“That s--- might work in Russia, but not here.”
For now, we’ll have to see how everything plays out. Strikeforce is still promoting shows, including its upcoming April 9 event headlined by a welterweight title fight between Diaz and Daley.
However, as MMA continues to grow as a sport, space for competition with the UFC continues to shrivel.