Mike Afromowitz was Strikeforce’s director of communications and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker’s de facto right hand man until the struggling promotion was acquired by Zuffa, LLC, and the Strikeforce offices were gutted. Coker was kept on as front man, but his team have been replaced by Zuffa staff, making it pretty clear who’s pulling the strings now.
Strikeforce was essentially placed in a situation where selling was their only option; they simply weren’t seen as a viable business venture anymore by their investors Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment. In came Zuffa with cash to spare, propping up the limping company seemingly long enough to absorb their best talent and either close the doors, or keep it operating as a feeder organization. Speaking with Sherdog.com’s Jack Encarnacao on the Beatdown radio network recently, Afromowitz indicated that the promotion’s costly acquiring of high-profile fighter Fedor Emelianenko could very well have been a major factor in Strikeforce’s downfall.
In 2009, Strikeforce signed top heavyweight and MMA superstar Fedor Emelianenko to a multi-fight deal, a move that vaulted Strikeforce into direct competition with the UFC. In order to lock in The Last Emperor’s services though, Strikeforce was forced to acquiesce to the Russian’s management company M-1 Global’s terms, which included a strict co-promotion where M-1 received some fifty percent of the overall revenue of shows on which Emelianenko appeared.
“I think it was a deal that made it very difficult to be profitable from,” Afromowitz said of signing Emelianenko. “So getting Fedor from a branding perspective was huge, and that was a risk that was, at the time, necessary to take. That was the biggest acquisition we had made as a company. Right away, signing Fedor put our company, put Strikeforce, in that many more households. Just the name Strikeforce — it got out there. The same [thing happened] with Herschel Walker, signing Herschel Walker. Those are … there are certain names that when you attach yourself to, it just elevates your brand and it takes things to new level. And, so, it’s an investment that, at the time, seemed like an investment that was necessary.”
UFC president Dana White is certainly enjoying himself at this point, having been very vocal about the over-the-top demands made by M-1, which made it impossible for the UFC to come to terms with them before Emelianenko signed to Strikeforce. At the time, signing Emelianenko seemed like a necessary business move — and for a time it kept Strikeforce the UFC’s number one competitor — but, in retrospect, Afromowitz believes it was a deal that very well may have taxed the promotion beyond its ability to sustain itself.
“You know, what’s funny is somebody said to me not too long ago, ‘You are never going to make money with Fedor.’ He said that to me because he thought that he understood the mentality behind Fedor’s management,” Afromowitz revealed. “He said, ‘You are never going to make money with them.’ [He] said that straight out to me. There’s a lot of different thoughts out there, and I think maybe it wasn’t the right move, but everybody wanted it at the time. And when we did it, it sure felt good. But it could have been part of the undoing.”
Having lost his last three bouts in emphatic fashion leading to his Strikeforce release (authorized by the new Zuffa bosses), it’s likely hard for Afromowitz or Coker to look back and see that the juice was worth the squeeze.