UFC president Dana White dropped a bombshell on the MMA world early Saturday morning when he revealed to MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani that Zuffa, LLC, had purchased its biggest competitor: Strikeforce.
Speculation immediately began as to what the buy would mean for fighters, fans and MMA in general, and with the deal still in its infancy and details scarce, speculation is pretty much our best option. However, White, Zuffa co-founder Lorenzo Fertitta and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker spoke with media today about the purchase and, while not exactly clearing up the myriad of questions brought up by the purchase, the three men did shed some light on what the purchase means in the immediate future and also offered plenty of fuel for further speculation.
The change that will probably be most noticeable early on will be the implementation of the unified rules in the Strikeforce promotion, legalizing elbow strikes on the ground and further accomplishing Zuffa’s goal of presenting MMA as one sport with one set of rules across the board.
“The one change we’re going to do as a promoter of the show is the unified rules that you see in the UFC,” Fertitta made sure to point out.
Of course, the biggest thing on anyone’s mind is the prospect of superfights between both promotions’ standout fighters. To that end, White softened his stance even from Saturday, when he denied that such fights would ever occur. When asked whether or not the fans would ever be treated to fights like Frankie Edgar vs. Gilbert Melendez, White responded thusly, “Who knows? Anything’s possible and I would never say never to anything, but right here, right now, Strikeforce will continue to run their shows on Showtime.”
When pressed further, White said, “I wouldn’t count anything out. I wouldn’t say no to anything. Listen, at the end of the day what we want to do is put on the best fights that the fans want to see. That’s our job so…”
At that point, Fertitta chimed in, reiterating White’s statement, “If there’s an interest in that and the fans want to see it, as Dana says, then that’s what we’ll do.”
White explained that the biggest impetus for purchasing Strikeforce was to be able to expand their overall stable of fighters in order to hasten MMA’s global expansion and that the decision was not made solely to take out their competition.
“What we’re doing, as we continue to expand and grow this sport and grow this business – I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more, we need more fighters,” he said. “As we continue to do all of the shows we’re doing here in the United States, we start pushing into these new markets – we need more guys, we need more fighters. This isn’t a thing about competition, it’s about growing the sport. It’s a good day for the fans – great day for the fans.”
When will the UFC begin to put on superfights (Because now, “It’s a matter of when,” according to White)? Will they absorb Strikeforce completely upon the conclusion of their Showtime contract? How many times will White say “business as usual” before all of this settles down? The answers to those questions remain unknown for now, but it was revealed that Strikeforce’s contract with Showtime is probably for sixteen fights and could run until as late as 2014, though none of this was exactly confirmed. Fertitta even admitted that he and his business partners had yet to meet with Showtime execs, citing the newness of the deal as the reason.
In fact, many of the questions presented during the media conference call were met with honest admissions of ignorance, or comments to the effect that, “the deal is too young, it’s too early to tell.” It looks like, for now, the MMA world must wait and see what comes of this momentous news, while dreams of superfights dance in our heads.