I'm not suggesting that the emergence of a video game populated by fighters who compete outside of the UFC (and a couple who do like Randy Couture and Jake Shields) is going to send Strikeforce rocketing past the UFC in terms of fans, but is it really unrealistic to think that some of the video game fans who started following MMA after the release of Undisputed 2009 would begin to pay attention to the organization they fight for on their console of choice?
Personally, i don't think the idea is that much of a stretch.
EA Sports franchises from the major sports are amongst the highest selling games each year, and there is no way that only hardcore hockey fans are buying NHL 11 at EB Games. Before I became a rabid NFL fan, consumed with tinkering with my 10 fantasy football rosters all week, I was a Madden junkie. Each of the different EA titles helped fill my useless sports knowledge database and made me more interested in the real thing, as questions like "Can you really dominate the Pittsburgh Steelers defense with a third-string running back?" had to be answered.
Applied to EA's MMA offering, pairing Alistair Overeem and Fedor Emelianenko in an epic clash for the heavyweight title and playing it out on the PS3 could certainly create interest in seeing if the results change when the two actually meet inside the cage. For the sport as a whole and Strikeforce in particular, any new fans is a positive.
But Ben Fowlkes raises the spectre of could-have beens and the mega-fight that was supposed to push EA Sports MMA into the stratosphere, Randy Couture vs Fedor Emelianenko:
The irony of Couture's video game showdown with Emelianenko is that it was at least partially a desire to make that dream match-up happen that led to Couture leaving the UFC in 2007, which then opened the door for him to participate in the EA Sports game.
Now, three years later, Couture is edging towards retirement and the fight still hasn't materialized. It's looking more and more like Tuesday's virtual fight is the closest we might ever come to seeing the two men in the same cage.
"It is what it is," Couture shrugged. "I came to terms with it a long time ago."
So too has Fedor.
"If it's not meant to be for us to fight in real life, then it's not meant to be," he remarked. "That's all."
Had Mark Cuban, Affliction, M-1 Global and the other players who were trying to book then UFC champ Randy Couture vs Fedor, the last Pride champion, in 2007 or 2008 it would have been epic. Instead Randy was forced to return to the UFC after realizing he wasn't going to win the legal battles and then he lost his title to Brock Lesnar. Since then Fedor has lost as well, to Fabricio Werdum, in bout on Showtime.
Josh Gross details where the Last Emperor's career is today, in limbo:
While the two-division UFC champion begins to close out his career mode, Emelianenko's fate is thick with multi-party contract talks between Strikeforce, Showtime and his representatives, M-1 Global, whose reputation has taken a beating for all its sausage making. M-1, it seems, is the king of MMA sausage makers. Sadly, that's not in the game.
With one fight remaining on a contract that puts Emelianenko's American bouts in Strikeforce, the former Pride heavyweight champion's future is being leveraged in an attempt to place M-1 events on Showtime, which currently carries only Strikeforce cards.
"We have our own interests that we need to discuss with the network," said M-1 boss Vadim Finkelstein.
"Principally we feel we're very close. It all depends on Showtime."
Showtime would not discuss ongoing negotiations, though sources on all sides suggest the process has for weeks resembled a roller coaster ride. One day a deal seems done. The next day, not so much.
The attempts to piece together a confederation of non-UFC players into a bigger than the sum of their parts coalition has failed and the careers of the two stars who were to carry that alliance, Randy Couture and Fedor Emelianenko, appear to be winding down.
Strikeforce wasn't even part of any of the original schemes, instead it inherited the mantle of the UFC's #1 competitor just like it inherited the involvement with EA Sports and the Showtime/CBS deal.
As for the game itself, the reviews are impressive, but the prospects of it becoming a break out hit in a very crowded fall field seem slim.