Remember the glory days? We saw the best against the best inside the spacious Tokyo Egg Dome or the smaller Saitama Super Arena. In Saitama fans could sit peacefully in the John Lennon Museum's "Reflections" room while waiting for the show to start, fitting preparation for an audience about to stoically contemplate the meaning inherent in the finest combat athletes in the world gathering to do battle.
Many fans remember Japanese MMA this way: the smart and appreciative fans, the amazing athletes, the tremendous venues and presentations. What they tend to forget? The spectacle. Oh, the sordid spectacle.
Pride was built on the back of pro wrestler Nobuhiko Takada. Another pro wrestler, Naoya Ogawa, helped carry the promotion to tremendous heights. In K-1, things were even more wacky. Fighting not entertaining enough? Here's a comedian, a sumo wrestler, a very, very large black man.
The fact is, in between bouts between the best in the world, Japanese MMA featured a cavalcade of increasingly more bizarre publicity stunts and shock booking-all designed to capture the attention of a fickle and flighty audience. And, if things are as they apSBN coverage of Strikeforce: Los Angeles','/event/kRkklNdV'); return false;">pear to be, Strikeforce may soon be walking the very same road.
More after the jump.
Strikeforce has done a pretty good job of feasting on the UFC's left overs. Most of the world's best non-Zuffa fighters are competing there (and, oh yeah, the best fighter in the world). Fight pedigree alone, unfortunately, is not nearly enough. The promotion's best fighter not named Fedor Emelianenko, Jake Shields, has failed to draw even average ratings not once, but twice. The promotion got more attention from pro wrestler Bobby Lashley and 47-year old ex-football star Hershel Walker-and the competition wasn't particularly close.
The bottom line is, and always will be, the bottom line. Strikeforce needs ratings to survive, at least on CBS, and celebrities know this. Professional douchebag Spencer Pratt is making his play, baseball pariah Jose Canseco made an embarassingly desperate attempt to fight Walker, and now wrestling washout Dave Batista is lurking drunkenly in alleyways, just awaiting his opportunity. Dave Meltzer talked to Batista at the last Strikeforce show and he seemed serious about giving it a try.
I asked him like what he’s doing and he said ‘I’m unemployed and I’m working for work, that’s why I’m here in Los Angeles.’ So, he’s an unemployed wrestler looking for, him and Scott Hall. Looking for work, obviously looking for acting work and looking for, I mean, he talked to Scott Coker, you know, you can make of that what you will. You know I mean he was talking to Scott Coker and Scott came up to me and just goes, he goes, ‘you know we haven’t signed a deal yet, so don’t start saying that we have.’ So, um, I mean, I can’t imagine him doing MMA. The idea of it is… is ridiculous. Nevertheless, he was talking to people you know like he was intrigued and interested in doing it. Transcribed by Fight Opinion.
Batista may be one of many credibility sacrificing moves Strikeforce makes to keep their show on CBS. On Showtime they can rest easier, knowing that solid fights between professional fighters will draw a sustainable audience. On network television, it's a ratings grab. And, like it or not, Strikeforce will need to walk Pride and K-1's path to get the numbers they need. So bring on your Batistas, your Pratts, your Cansecos. Squeeze one more rating out of Kimbo Slice. Do what you need to do Scott Coker. If it means more Diaz, more Heun, more Melendez, and, yes, more Fedor, it's a price this fan will gladly pay.