By Bryanna Fissori
With two consecutive cancellations looming over the promotion, Strikeforce has announced plans for a January event. The Zuffa-owned company was forced to cancel both their September 29 and November 3 events due to fighter injuries, leaving two entire cards of fighters without cage time. This is lost time and money for competitors spent in and on training camp with coaches a teams prepping for fights that didn’t happen. That being said, some fighters have also lost precious time to stay active this year. Those that started training mid-summer for the September event may have 6 months or more between their last bout and the January card.
The September cancellation arose as a result of Gilbert Melindez sustaining a shoulder injury a week before the scheduled main event against Pat Healy. It was reported that after announcement of the injury Showtime decided not to air the card, leaving the promotion without a television partner. Similarly, the November card was cancelled due to Heavyweight Frank Mir being unable to compete in his scheduled bout againt Daniel Cormier, along with an injury to middleweight Luke Rockhold who had planned for a title defense. Despite having two cancellations in a row, neither announcement was taken with the seriousness that was asserted when UFC 151 was called off.
Fewer Events in 2012
The promotion’s lack of presence this year is significant comp when the sixteen events that were hosted in 2011 are listed next to the mere five held in 2012. In the last few years of its operation, the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting) promotion, which is also owned by Zuffa, was hosting six to eight events broadcast on HDNet annually and remained consistent up to its full merger with the UFC.
Female Fighters on the Rise
Since Zuffa’s acquisition of Strikeforce in March of last year, rumors have flooded the industry about the future of the promotion. One general consensus has been that as long as the UFC refused women competitors, Strikeforce would remain a necessity, for at least the purpose of holding the majority of top female contenders. Recently, Kansas City based promotion Invicta FC has found success as an all-female event, with a number of Strikeforce competitors on their cards. Even more relevant is UFC President Dana White’s recent proclamation that women will be in the UFC at some point. When the WEC officially merged with the UFC, the lighter weight classes were also absorbed, much like is possible for the women’s division. These two factors may have an important role in determining the value of Strikeforce as women begin to have other options to reach the top.
There has also been speculation about the promotion’s contract with Showtime, which has been a long time host television for its events. The 2012 contract was set for six to eight events and is rumored to have an option to renew (though this information is un-verified without seeing the actual contract).
Currently, one of the issues with the Showtime contract is that fighters that sign with Strikeforce also sign with Showtime. Even if Strikeforce and the UFC would allow the crossover, Showtime may not. The most recent case of this being an issue is for Strikeforce fighter Derek Brunson, who was unable to appear on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) television show which is broadcast on FOX because Showtime would not release him from the contract.
Showtime has already called for the cancellation of events due to changes in the card. Whether or not they are trying to wait it out for an expiration date is unknown. If Strikeforce does not renew a Showtime contract, Zuffa will have to have another plan for broadcast, and it is unlikely that fans will be willing to purchase Pay Per View events for both Strikeforce and the UFC.
Right now Strikeforce, which was once the UFC’s largest rival, is seen by many as a lower division of the big leagues. Much like AAA baseball, the athletes are almost to the top. It is a place for those moving up and coming down. It serves a purpose in providing that space to build better competitors. The question is, will Zuffa also see it as such a necessity or will it become a burden such as the likes of past acquisitions Pride FC and the WEC . . . and fade off into the sunset?
What are your thoughts?