With the belated demise of Strikeforce all but complete, as rumors of a final show in January do the rounds, before tenuous ties with Showtime Sports are cut forever: Where does this leave the landscape of MMA in North America, in dire need of a viable competitor to the UFC?
Strikeforce in reality died the day that Zuffa took ownership of the promotion, as the cream of the crop was shifted over to the UFC ranks, seeing title-holders like of Nick Diaz, Alastair Overeem and Dan Henderson cherry picked, in-so depleting much of the star power of the organisation and souring relations with Showtime.
At the end of the day, Zuffa was never interested in running two separate brands and has always been committed to building the UFC Empire, crushing all and sundry in the process.
The end of Strikeforce is a blessing in disguise as Showtime can finally look for other alternatives. Showtime has invested a lot of collateral into building MMA into the psyche of their viewership on Cable TV, and would be surprising for them to pull out this far down the line.
After a successful debut show by the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) on NBC Sports last weekend, Showtime may have found a possible suitor to replace Strikeforce. The WSOF had to pay to get television time on NBC, so would likely jump at the opportunity of Showtime offering them a tidy sum to put on regular events.
The WSOF was able to put on crisp debut broadcast, with a credible line-up of fighters. The cream on top of the cake is undoubtedly the commentary of legend Bas Rutten; heaven only knows why the UFC haven’t picked him up for the Fox broadcasts.
Sadly, unless NBC or Showtime can offer them a better deal - the WSOF won’t last long having to pay for TV time – they’ll likely follow the same route Affliction, unable to balance the books, crashing into bankruptcy.
Other viable competitors to the UFC are thin on the ground, and the likes of Bellator have never really captured the imagination of the American public, partly due to the relatively unknown roster of fighters and volume of programming they put out. With a show almost every weekend, Bellator are falling into the trap that many other sports have done, by over saturating the market. Decent storylines in sport - and most notably in MMA - take time to unfold.
After Bellator, nothing else springs to mind as viable competitor to Zuffa in North America, so one has to look overseas to ONE FC in Singapore, which is cornering the Asian market, but don’t anticipate making inroads State side.
The biggest loser by having a UFC monopoly is the fighters, who can’t leverage their position in contract talks, leaving the bosses of the Zuffa with ultimate negotiating power.