After putting on a home run show, a lot of the debate over Strikeforce has centered on the promotion's relevance. Sure, Melendez and Thomson had an exciting scrap, but was it a relevant fight? The answer is obviously yes. Here you have two of the top 20 fighters in the world at a given weight class going to war for 25 minutes and sending thousands of people into a frenzy. The winner will probably find himself back in the top 10. Would Gilbert Melendez beat B.J. Penn? Definitely not. Would he beat Diego Sanchez? I'd probably pick Diego, but it would be close. Either way, it doesn't matter.
I was thinking about this relevance argument as I watched the Pittsburgh Steelers earn a dramatic victory over the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon. It was one of the most exciting games I've seen recently, and it frankly didn't matter that neither one of them has much of a chance to win the superbowl. A great game is a great game. A great fight is a great fight. If you can only enjoy a lightweight fight when BJ Penn is involved, you're really missing out on a lot and should probably re-evaluate what it is you like so much about MMA, because most fights do not have the best fighters in the world involved.
Strikeforce is a growing promotion with limited (but growing) financial backing. It's frankly a miracle that they have the best heavyweight of all time, two top-ten light heavyweights, all of the top female fighters, and a number of good middleweights given the behemoth they have to compete with. The UFC has a lock on the elite talent; the best fighters are locked into championship clauses, and probably will be in the UFC for life. Is Strikeforce simply irrelevant because they can't get these fighters? Is the UFC heavyweight division irrelevant because they don't have Fedor? The obvious answer to both of these questions is "no."
In Spring, Strikeforce will be back on CBS with Fedor on top, Dan Henderson against Jake Shields, and perhaps Gilbert Melendez defending his title against Shinya Aoki. Around the same time, Brian Bowles will put his title on the line against Dominick Cruz. Is one more "relevant" than the other? The two aren't really comparable in any meaningful way, but one will be seen by millions while the other will get a couple hundred thousand viewers on a station nobody watches. At that point, does it really matter that Brian Bowles has a higher ranking in his division than Gilbert Melendez has in his? Of course not.