Story by Andreas Hale
After the announcement that shocked the MMA world hit the web on Saturday as Dana White announced that the UFC’s parent company, Zuffa LLC, has purchased the rights to their biggest active competitor, Strikeforce, Dana White, Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Feritta and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker gave some clarity on the recent acquisition during a conference call.
White quickly shot down any notion of the UFC and Strikeforce merging as he continuously pushed that both companies will be ran as separate entities.
“Scott (Coker) going to run this thing, make his fights and communicate with the fighters. It will be business as usual,” White stated.
UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta echoed White’s sentiments and addressed how Strikeforce’s current deal with Showtime will continue to play out. He mentioned that the current contract runs through 2014 and, as of right now, there will be no effort to put the UFC on Showtime.
“We haven’t had a chance to sit down and meet to see what the future holds,” Fertitta said. “Strikeforce will deliver 16 fights to Showtime this year. If they want to deliver beyond that, we’ll talk then.”
Coker brought some clarity as to why Strikeforce was even up for sale; especially considering that the promotion was really just gaining momentum with its heavyweight tournament. Coker stated that Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment – co-owners of the promotion – wanted to “get back to core business” which means they wanted to focus on the NHL and their San Jose Sharks franchise. Talks began as early as this past December and were finalized over the weekend as Zuffa locked down the unprecedented deal that will bring mixed martial arts to more international markets.
“This is a historical day for the sport of MMA,” Coker said as he maintained that the promotion will be ran by him but overseen by Zuffa. All fighter contracts will still be in play and negotiations for new fighters will be handled primarily by Coker. There is even the possibility of the finals for the Heavyweight Grand Prix to be shown on PPV. “We’re open to the idea of the Heavyweight Grand Prix final being on pay-per-view,” said White.
Some may be skeptical of Zuffa LLC swallowing up all of the competition. Without much competition left out there, a concern as to whether or not Zuffa and the UFC will continue to push for the #1 spot they have a stranglehold on is on everyone’s mind. White says that it is bigger than one promotion versus another. This is about making MMA the biggest sport in the world.
“There will always be competition,” White said, citing that there are still numerous promotions out there that can compete. “We’ll continue to expand and grow this business. We need more fighters. This isn’t about competition; it’s about growing the sport.
White still is not a fan of women’s MMA, but has no qualms with Coker continuing to build the female fighters up in Strikeforce.
“(My opinion on women’s MMA) is the same as they were before. That’s Scott’s deal, not mine,” White said.
Immediate changes will be minimal. The Hexagon will still be used and the production will still be ran through Showtime. The only notable change will be the adoption of the unified rules of MMA, which includes elbow strikes to the head of a downed opponent.
The one thing fans will immediately be clamoring for are superfights between the champions of both promotions. Although White said that they are still “shaking out” the details on the deal, he wouldn’t denounce the possibility of seeing fights such as lightweight champions of each promotion Gilbert Melendez (Strikeforce) Vs. Frankie Edgar (UFC) happening in the future.
“I wouldn’t say no to anything,” White said regarding superfights. “If the fans want it then we’ll put it on.”
In short, there are still things being hammered out between the two entities. But we can hopefully see some even bigger fights in the near future. And that’s good news for any MMA fan.