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The issue of co-promotion in MMA keeps rearing its head, most recently with the talk of Bellator vs. Strikeforce, so I thought it would be interesting to go back and look at the history of major MMA organizations working with each other and how it turned out.
Pride and K-1
In 2002 Pride and K-1 teamed up to do a mixed MMA/kickboxing event(and a Jiu-Jitsu bout for good measure) PRIDE Shockwave/K-1 Dynamite. To say this was a huge event is a understatement, 91,108 fans flocked to Tokyo National Stadium for it. In the end Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Bob Sapp stole the show.
Result: While this wasn’t actually a MMA co-promotion as much as a mixed card co-promotion it did lead to FEG getting deeply involved with the sport of MMA and eventually Hero’s. It also started the yearly NYE Dynamite!! events from K-1, although this event wasn’t on NYE. From huge co-promotion success came direct competition. Dynamite!! 2004 was also a co-promotion of sorts with K-1 and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Pride and the UFC
The UFC sent Chuck Liddell over to Pride to fight Guy Metzger for Pride 14 and then sent Chuck and Ricco Rodriguez over for Pride Total Elimination 2003 with the idea that Chuck would fight Wanderlei Silva at the end of the tournament. Chuck went back to famously lose to Rampage at Final Conflict 2003. Randy and Tito also made appearances in Pride. No Pride fighters ever came over to fight in the UFC but in 2006 Wanderlei did make an UFC appearance to challenge Chuck Liddell. That fight never materialized and Wanderlei went on to be knocked out by Cro Cop in Pride.
Result: Chuck didn’t fight Wanderlei until the end 2007 after Wanderlei signed with the UFC. Dana claimed that Pride was supposed to return the favor for him sending Chuck to Pride but that never happened (and the rumors are numerous and varied on why this never happened). All in all this wasn’t as much a co-promotion as it was just Chuck Liddell making a couple of trips to Japan and the controversial Ricco vs Big Nog fight. If anything came out of this it may be Dana’s current dislike of the idea of co-promotion.
EliteXC and FEG
K-1 and EliteXC got in bed together for the very memorable 2007 Dynamite!! USA show. See my previous fanpost for the details:
Result: FEG hasn’t done a MMA show in the US since they laid that giant turd on our doorstep. EliteXC went on to bigger and better things, like going out of business and selling their assets to Strikeforce. Dream and EliteXC officially partnered to share stars but that never really got off the ground.
EliteXC and Strikeforce
EliteXC opened up shop with their inaugural show, EliteXC: Destiny, in early 2007 featuring Frank Shamrock vs Renzo Gracie. There was just one problem; Frank Shamrock was under contract with Strikeforce at the time. Legal hijinks ensued and the two settled out of court by agreeing to co-promote two shows with Frank Shamrock. The first was EliteXC/Strikeforce:Shamrock vs. Baroni and the second was Strikeforce: Shamrock vs Cung Le.
Result: Strikeforce, got to have two of their early shows broadcast on Showtime and also made the connections that eventually led to them purchasing EliteXC’s assets and signing TV contracts with Showtime and CBS. EliteXC got out of being sued.
EliteXC and Affliction
In late 2008 both companies were having issues and decided to work together on EliteXC: Heat on CBS. Affliction put Andre Arlovski vs. Roy Nelson on the card and also bought tons of advertising. It wasn’t as much a event co-promotion as it was EliteXC allowing Affliction to have a bout on their CBS card.
Result: EliteXC died shortly after this event so even though there were discussions of a more serious relationship between the two companies nothing else came out of this. Less than a year later Affliction slunk back to the UFC with their tail between their legs after Josh Barnett failed to get a fighter’s license from CSAC but who knows what would have been if both companies hadn’t fallen on their faces.
On NYE of 2007 a group called the Yarenoka! Executive Committee put on a show that was supposed to be a farewell to Pride. The Yarenoka! Executive Committee was a group of former Pride executives. They were joined by FEG and Monte Cox’s M-1 Global. FEG also was doing it’s Dynamite!! 2007 show on the same night.
Result: The end result of this show was that the Yarenoka! Executive Committee went to work for FEG and Dream was born. Instead of a farewell it turned into a rebirth for Pride but Dream has never been able to quite catch that same magic that Pride did and the whole sport has nose dived in Japan in the last couple of years. The M-1 part of this fell off shortly after as Monte Cox’s M-1 became no more and M-1 Mixfight took their ball and went their own way. Fedor was at the press conference announcing Dream but he hasn’t fought for them since Yarennoka!.
FEG decided to do something special for Dynamite!! 2009 and co-promoted Dream vs. Sengoku as part of their big NYE card. The big deal here was that Dynamite!! 2009 would feature Satoshi Ishii vs.Hidehiko Yoshida as its main draw.
Results: Ratings were good (particularly for Ishii vs. Yoshida) but not as high as expected. Dream won the Dream vs. Sengoku inter-promotional contest but that was overshadowed by Shinya Aoki’s antics after his victory. Rumors have swirled of a second Dream vs. Sengoku event but FEG’s financial situation may spell the end of Dream. Sengoku parent company WVR is also not in the best of financial shape. Will Dynamite!! 2010 be the last hurrah for large scale MMA in Japan? Only time will tell.
M-1 Global and Strikeforce (and earlier Affliction)
Some people would say this is more akin to extortion than co-promotion. The basic deal is that if a company wants to sign Fedor they have to agree to co-promotion with M-1 Global. To be fair M-1 had put some other fighters on the Affliction cards besides just Fedor but for the most part this has been a situation where in order to work with Fedor you also have to agree to get in bed with M-1 Global. Has Fedor been worth it? Sort of.
Results: After Affliction fell apart M-1 and Affliction ended up suing each other over their past dealings which tends to point to an unhappy result between the two, still Affliction wouldn’t have done as much business as they did without Fedor. Strikeforce scored a good rating on CBS with Fedor but then got the short end of the stick when Fedor didn’t appear on their second CBS card due to issues with M-1. Strikeforce did above average ratings on their Showtime event with Fedor but it wasn’t the ratings hit they expected. M-1 took a huge hit when Fedor lost to Werdum and Strikeforce and M-1 are back in the negotiation trenches trying to get Fedor a fight. The biggest winner out of the entire situation was Fabricio Werdum who went from UFC cast off to MMA hot commodity after he took Fedor out with a triangle a minute into their bout.
Strikeforce and Dream
While not actually co-promoting with each other Strikeforce and Dream have agreed to share fighters and this arrangement has led to some very interesting match ups so I decided to throw this in here. This relationship has also seemed to of worked much smoother than any of the other agreements listed, which is probably because of Scott Coker’s past as a K-1 promoter.
Results: Due to the two organizations being in very different media markets and just sharing fighters instead of actually trying to put on shows together this relationship has been a good one for both companies. This has also allowed Strikeforce to sign some Dream fighters to Strikeforce contracts which will be good for Strikeforce if Dream doesn’t continue in 2011. The biggest issue so far has been Dream’s inability to pay many of its fighters in a timely manner, going into the future it will less likely that Strikeforce fighters will want to go to Japan to fight unless the payment issue is resolved.