The Consequences of War: the UFC Money Drain Will Soon Make Strikeforce its Primary Target

20090609121406_img_2092_mediumStrikeforce made a big play today by signing Fedor.  But what did they get, and at what long term cost?  Fedor Emelianenko is a superstar among MMA fans, but the costs of using him have also sunk numerous promotions he's worked with since Pride collapsed.  His PPV record is mediocre at best; his best sales performance against Andrei Arlovski would be a complete and utter disaster for even the worst UFC show.

Currently, there are no big fights for Fedor in Strikeforce.  By big fights, I mean fights that will grab mainstream interest and attract a lot of fan attention.  Alistair Overeem means nothing to American fans, and neither does Fabricio Werdum.  Brett Rogers could eventually be a big fight if they build him up well, but it would still be a small fight in comparison to the average UFC European main event.

I think the bigger concern for Strikeforce is the UFC's response.  They will take this as a declaration of war, and their strategy will be oriented around driving Strikeforce into the ground by bidding their costs to the moon.  Forget Fedor's costs for a second, what do the people at Strikeforce expect to happen when Jake Shields, Brett Rogers, and Nick Diaz finish up their current deals?  The UFC has the revenue to offer far more than Strikeforce, and they can effectively undo a year of star-creation by taking these fighters.  Rumor has it that Gina Carano has signed on for three or four fights, what will the UFC offer her to leave at the end of that deal?

Showtime wants to get MMA on PPV.  Strikeforce is their tool to get there, and they've hitched their wagon to Fedor Emelianenko.  They can only make money on PPV, they have to go that route now, and avoiding it has been the key so far to Strikeforce's survival.  

The UFC may also open up a legal front in this battle against Strikeforce.  It's unclear what rights they have under the "collaboration" deal with Affliction, but I expect them to assert those rights to the fullest extent that they can.  It's another way to start draining money out of their opposition.

Photo via sherdog.com

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