Zuffa Officials Meet With Showtime, Paul Daley Expected to Fight April 9

21 de March de 2011

UFC president Dana White

The changing climate in the world of MMA took another step towards the future on Saturday night when Strikeforce advertisements aired during the UFC 128 pay-per-view broadcast.

When Zuffa purchased the second largest MMA organization, everybody knew the crossover appeal would happen sooner rather than later, but it still caught a few people off guard when it happened.

In addition to the advertisements about the upcoming Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley event, middleweight Jason “Mayhem” Miller took over the UFC Twitter account during the pay-per-view to give his thoughts on the show, while Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson sat in the front row for the action.

When asked if there would be more of those types of things happening between the two promotions, UFC president Dana White answered ‘yeah.’ The top man at the UFC will not, however, be attending the next major Strikeforce show saying ‘probably not’ when asked if he’d be front and center for Diaz vs. Daley.

The deal to purchase Strikeforce has been one of the biggest, if not the biggest story in MMA since Zuffa took over the struggling UFC some years ago.

One major point that White and UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta have maintained all along is that all current Strikeforce contracts will be honored, including their deal with Showtime. According to White, UFC officials met with the brass at Showtime last week and it appears all is good to go for the future between the promotion and the cable network.

“There was a meeting the other day with the Showtime guys… I didn’t attend,” White said with a chuckle. “I heard it went well, so we’ll see how it goes.”

One other contract that Zuffa plans to honor, and they hope the same out of him, is that of former UFC welterweight Paul Daley, who is slated to face Nick Diaz in the main event of the April 9 show in San Diego, Calif. Daley expressed displeasure about the sale of Strikeforce to Zuffa.

He was released from the UFC following his suckerpunch to Josh Koscheck after their fight in 2010. Since that time, UFC president Dana White has said time and time again that Daley would never have a home in the Octagon.

After the Strikeforce sale to Zuffa, Daley posted on his Facebook account that he was considering withdrawing from the fight, but as of now White expects the British bomber to be ready to go on April 9.

“He’s got a contract, I’d imagine he’s fighting,” White commented about Daley.

As far as beyond the here and now, White still says that Strikeforce will run as a separate entity from the UFC, with CEO Scott Coker in charge of the day to day business. What will happen after the Showtime deal expires? That’s anybody’s guess.

“We’ll see what happens with these guys,” White commented.

The business at hand for now is to concentrate on the April 9 show in San Diego, which will be the first major Strikeforce show under the Zuffa banner of ownership.


UFC Mirrors NBA and NFL Rise to Mainstream With Strikeforce Purchase

16 de March de 2011

UFC president Dana White

Zuffa, LLC has put themselves in a position to run the table.

Strikeforce, the widely considered number-two MMA promotion on the planet, was recently bought out by the UFC’s parent company. News broke of the purchase on Saturday morning.

What has began is a debate on whether or not Zuffa owning the majority of the talent-heavy fight leagues is a good thing. Some look at it as a monopoly in the making – which it is well on its way to being – and some critics tend to frown upon there being a big fish in a small pond.

But what is so wrong with that?

What most people who follow mixed martial arts can agree on is the hunger to see the sport become as accepted by the mainstream as the premier leagues of other sports, such as the NBA and NFL. Zuffa’s acquisition of Strikeforce is another step towards that direction.

By purchasing their only remaining form of high caliber competition, Zuffa has widened the gap between the UFC and any other promotion that promotes themselves as being considered a professional league. The only other fight company that comes close to the UFC now is Bellator, and before the purchase of Strikeforce was announced, they were a distant third place.

By having two brands competing for the top spot in in mixed martial arts, it made it difficult for the casual fan to identify MMA since they were being pulled in more than one direction.

“Let’s face the facts, Strikeforce is a brand that fans have come to like,” UFC president Dana White told MMAFighting.com. “People enjoy the fights that they are putting on.”

Now, the UFC has all the selling power that Strikeforce’s brand was carrying in 2011, and Zuffa will reap all the benefits from the people enjoying those fights.

The UFC president has made it clear that Strikeforce will continue to operate as a completely separate entity, but if history has taught us anything, the San Jose, Calif. based promotion will not operate independently for long. Intentions to merge the WEC with the UFC were denied for years, but that all changed in late October when that merger became official.

Pride was also intended to run as its own entity after Zuffa purchased it in 2007. Obviously, that did not happen.

The UFC’s parent company executed a move similar to what the other major sports leagues did as they were growing and becoming the main attractions they are today. The NBA, for example, had major competition in the late 60s to mid 70s in the form of the ABA or American Basketball Association. In August of 1976, the NBA – which was considered the more prominent of the two leagues – bought out and dismantled three of the seven ABA teams and absorbed the Nets, Pacers, Spurs, and Nuggets. Since then, the NBA continued to expand and ultimately became the top destination for professional basketball to be played world wide. Players like Moses Malone, Julius Erving, and George Gervin were now part of the National Basketball Association, and would move on to become Hall of Fame inductees.

By eliminating their competition, the UFC has the potential to strengthen its marketability with an even deeper talent pool headlined by names like Emelianenko, Overeem, and Mousasi. This move mirrors what the NBA did in the Summer of ’76, capitalizing on its competition’s biggest assets.

The NFL also dabbled in the absorption game when they consumed the AFL in 1970. In doing so, the NFL kept its moniker and expanded to 24 teams, becoming the elite professional football league in United States. The USFL tried to give the NFL a run for its money in the 80s, but they ultimately folded, opening up the door for players such as Herschel Walker to move on to the NFL and have stellar careers with more exposure.

Like Walker’s move from the USFL to the NFL, talents like “Jacare” Souza could move into a position where they get more publicity and deeper divisions to show how dangerous they can be.

Another perk stemming from Zuffa’s purchase is the addition of Strikeforce’s video library. The UFC now has nearly all the footage of almost all relevant fighters in mixed martial arts today. The growth of their video vault gives the UFC all the more reason to, one day, do what the NFL and NBA have done and launch a league dedicated cable and/or internet channel. The NFL Network and NBA TV have become jewels to their their leagues. The UFC has strengthened their chance to have the same jewel and bring exposure on a 24-hour basis.

The UFC is following the same footsteps the NFL and NBA made when they were working to become accepted by the mainstream. Now, the NBA is garnering more top-ten highlight reels than it has ever had, and the NFL has arguably surpassed Major League Baseball as the most popular sport in North America. In climbing to these positions of mainstream acceptance, both leagues have faced competition and absorbed the opposition to the fullest extent of the word, ultimately securing themselves as the premier organizations.

The sport of MMA is young. It will continue to grow and likely get to the point where “UFC” will be the letters you see on the tab you click at your favorite sports website. You do, after all, click on “NBA” and “NFL,” not “basketball” and “football.”

These leagues have dealt with their criticisms. The UFC is no different and it will have its naysayers. It seems pretty clear that Zuffa’s lucrative MMA promotion is on its way to being the NBA’s and NFL’s equivalent. With the UFC heading towards monopoly status, some begin to worry about the promotion having too much power. When the other sports leagues grew large enough, athlete unions formed to bring balance. As imminent as the UFC’s hold on the MMA world is, perhaps the forming of a fighter union is equally as imminent. And maybe, just maybe, necessary.

The game has, indeed, changed. Is it for the better or for the worse?

Strikeforce to Adopt Unified Rules, Continue on Showtime

15 de March de 2011

Scott Coker (file photo) answered questions about Strikeforce’s future Monday. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
With the dust beginning to settle after Saturday’s momentous announcement that UFC parent company Zuffa, LLC, has purchased rival promotion Strikeforce, officials from both organizations fielded questions about the deal on a Monday media conference call.  

Regarding the reason for the sale, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker stated that former Strikeforce co-owners Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment “wanted to get back to their core business.” The company, which partnered with Strikeforce in May 2008, also owns and operates the NHL’s San Jose Sharks franchise.

Although the sale was not finalized until last week, talks between Zuffa and Strikeforce began in mid-December. However, Coker said, the delaying of the second round of Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix — which was recently pushed from April 9 to June 18 — had nothing to do with negotiations and was simply a matter of finding a suitable venue for the card.

UFC President Dana White said that the deal could provide a larger platform for the final of the much-discussed heavyweight tournament.

“We’re open to the idea of the heavyweight grand prix final being on pay-per-view,” said White.

Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta stated that his company has yet to meet with Showtime, Strikeforce’s current home on premium cable. According to Fertitta, Strikeforce events will continue to air on Showtime, as the promotion is under contract for 16 more events, a deal which reportedly extends to 2014.

“If Showtime is interested in something beyond that, we’re interested,” said Fertitta.

“There are things we can do to help out, but right now, they’re running production,” added White, asserting that Showtime will continue to control all aspects of production for Showtime’s events.

While Strikeforce’s cage will remain hexagonal, Fertitta says that the promotion will adopt the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, the rule set currently employed by the UFC and recognized by most state athletic commissions. The major change will come in the form of the allowance of elbow strikes on the ground, previously forbidden under Strikeforce rules.

The UFC and Strikeforce will continue to exist as separate entities for the foreseeable future. White said that he “wouldn’t count anything out” when it comes to fighters crossing over in the future and that Zuffa’s plans for Strikeforce remain “a work in progress.” Asked if he will be able to conduct business with current Strikeforce fighters previously banned from the UFC — namely welterweight contender Paul Daley and heavyweight grand prix participant Josh Barnett — White was optimistic.

“There are a lot of people who aren’t big fans of mine, but we can still do business,” White said. “Me and Tito [Ortiz] did business for years.”

M-1 Global States Fedor’s Contract is With Showtime, Zuffa Purchase Has No Effect on Them

13 de March de 2011

If the MMA world is wondering what happens with M-1 Global and Fedor Emelianenko now that Strikeforce has been purchased by Zuffa, wonder no more.

UFC president Dana White specifically pointed out in his interview with MMAFighting.com that he would honor all contracts currently in place with Strikeforce, including Fedor Emelianenko, the Russian’s management team at M-1 Global has their own take on the situation.

M-1 Global’s Evgeni Kogan told MMAWeekly.com on Saturday that Fedor is under contract with Showtime, and they look forward to fulfilling that deal.

“Fedor’s contract is with Showtime Networks Inc. and we’re excited to be working with such a premium North American outlet,” Kogan said.

M-1 Global, which also promotes events, recently signed a new TV deal with Showtime as well. They debut on the network on March 25.

Kogan pointed out that the new deal between Zuffa and Strikeforce effects nothing in their own deal with Showtime.

“The purchase of Strikeforce doesn’t affect M-1 at all,” Kogan stated. “Our TV deal is with Showtime and we’re happy. It’s business as usual for M-1 Global as we close into our March 25 event.”

White stated on Saturday that he believes Strikeforce’s current deal with Showtime runs for approximately two more years. Regardless of any other contracts in place, Zuffa remains committed to running Strikeforce as a separate entity.

Strikeforce has yet to comment about the deal to sell to Zuffa. MMAWeekly.com reached Director of Communications Mike Afromowitz on Saturday, but he stated that Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is currently unavailable for comment.

Game Changer: Zuffa and UFC Purchase Strikeforce

13 de March de 2011

In a move that will change the mixed martial arts industry forever, Zuffa, parent company of the UFC, has purchased Strikeforce.

The deal was announced by UFC President Dana White in an interview with MMAFighting.com on Saturday.

“It’s literally official right now,” White said in the interview about purchasing the San Jose, Calif. based promotion. “We literally just closed the deal.”

MMAWeekly.com had been told by sources a couple weeks ago that  Zuffa was talking to their partners in Abu Dhabi at Flash Entertainment about funding to purchase Strikeforce. Flash owns a percentage of Zuffa, and the deal was likely marked by a financial undertow from both Zuffa and their partners in the Middle East.

Zuffa has made a move similar to this before when they purchased Pride Fighting Championships in Japan and also buying World Extreme Cagefighting a few years ago.

This move, however, may end up proving to be the biggest deal of them all, as Zuffa has now purchased the only other major MMA promotion in North America, and by far their biggest competitor.

White says the deal just came together recently, but emphasized the point that the UFC and Strikeforce will continue to run as separate entities.

“Let’s face the facts, Strikeforce is a brand that fans have come to like, that they do have a following, people enjoy the fights that they are putting on,” White stated.

In the deal, Zuffa will be the owner of the Strikeforce brand and library of fights, but the contracts of all fighters remain under the Strikeforce name and they will continue to operate “business as usual.”

White also confirmed that Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker will remain with the company in the same role as before. He will lead the promotion and have free reign to handle all fighter contracts and continue signing new deals with fighters as well.

Fighters will continue to fight under the Strikeforce banner, including Fedor Emelianenko, whose management company M-1 Global has had a volatile relationship with White and Zuffa for years. White maintains that Emelianenko will remain in Strikeforce, and they will honor all previous deals.

White stated that fighters such as Paul Daley and Josh Barnett will remain with Strikeforce and they will fulfill those contracts, but did point out that Daley will still never fight in the UFC again. What that means for his future beyond his current contract remains to be seen.

The women’s division in Strikeforce will also remain status quo according to the UFC president. He stated time and time again that everything running in the MMA promotion remains business as usual.

Strikeforce remains in a contract with Showtime for approximately two more years. White says that his partners at Zuffa will deal with them for any issues, as he has never held his tongue when talking about the cable company.

Strikeforce employees will remain “for now,” according to White, but Zuffa will lend a hand wherever help is needed, including any behind the scenes issues and production.

The deal is a landmark change in MMA as Zuffa now owns the biggest conglomerate in the fighting world. While White stated “business as usual” several times in his interview, the business of MMA is now changed forever.

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