Story by Anthony Springer Jr.
2012 is set to be one of the biggest years in the history of Strikeforce. With more muscle behind it courtesy of being purchased by MMA powerhouse Zuffa (owners of the UFC) and a brand new deal with Showtime, the promotion aims to reach more eyes and keep putting on amazing fights. Fight News caught up with Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker ahead of this weekend’s fight at The Joint inside the Hard Rock hotel in Las Vegas to get his thoughts on the upcoming card, the fate of the women’s division and whether Strikeforce will finally get the recognition it deserves.
FN: How excited are you to have a new deal in place?
SC: I was always hopeful. It was a good ratings deliverer on Showtime and they want to have good fights on the network. They wanted to continue that and I know Zuffa wanted that as well. They brought Strikeforce to continue. It was a matter of working out the details. I was hoping it’d get done a little quicker, but at the end of the day, it’s good for the fans and the fighters.
FN: It played out like it was down to the wire, was there a point when you were thinking about a future for yourself that didn’t include Strikeforce?
SC: That thought never really crossed my mind. At some point, with Strikeforce being owned by Zuffa, anything was possible. That’s a reality in business
FN: Former champion Dan Henderson left, Alistair Overeem is in the UFC and Nick Diaz is gone. Was that a concern?
SC: These fighters are stars in the sport of MMA. Part of that is there was a gray area where our contract was going to end. Now that everybody knows the relationship is going to continue, there’s going to be a moratorium on people coming over. If I’m Dana and Lorenzo and the situation is uncertain, I’m going to put Alistair with Brock. Why not take them over if you’re not sure what’s going to happen?
FN: There’s a lot of attention on the women’s division, is there enough room for two?
SC: When you think of 145, you think of Cyborg. Maybe she should fight Urijah Faber…
FN: I’ve joked about that too.
SC: But when I think of the women’s division, I think of her, I think of Miesha Tate, I think of Ronda Roussey.
FN: How important is Cyborg to women’s MMA? One thing that I tell people is that the good thing about Cyborg is that she’s not being looked at as a sex symbol, so when she gets over it’ll be on talent and not looks.
SC: Nobody is raising their hand to fight her. I grew up in the martial arts, training alongside women. A female fighting was always a natural part of growing up. The critics… I’m not sure if they’re looking at it as martial arts. These girls can do all the stuff that the guys can do. Some of the best fights I did when Strikeforce was kickboxing were with women. You’ll see that with the MMA as well. When you see Ronda, she’s so explosive, it makes you say “wow!” as a promoter you like that feeling. She’s a marketable girl, she’s an Olympian. That’s something that you’re proud to promote. We’re going to put her in some big fights this year.
FN: How important is the Las Vegas market to Strikeforce’s growth?
SC: This is the home of the company. The Hard Rock is a great venue. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Maybe down the road we’ll do a big fight in one of the arenas
FN: What are you expecting this weekend?
SC: I think you’re going to see a lot of fireworks. You’re going to see a lot of talent, a lot of knockouts and I think you’re going to see an upset. I won’t tell you who it is.
FN: Is this the year Strikeforce gets the recognition it deserves?
SC: I think we already have. When we did the heavyweight tournament, that put a stamp on it. We’ve put on some of the best fights in the history of Showtime—in the history of MMA. It’s good for the fans and the business. That’s going to continue. Now we have more muscle. I had a staff of 12, now I have an army, a machine. I think Dana’s going to get behind it and take it to the next level.
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