Mark Pavelich said something telling yesterday on Bloody Elbow Radio. The Maximum Fighting Championship owner, an intensely competitive man, made it clear his promotion, and every other promotion on the planet, is competing for number two. The clear industry leader, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is "miles and miles ahead" of everyone else in the combat sports space.
It's not just box office dominance, where the UFC has broken it's own Pay Per View sales record two years running, last year bringing in an estimated $411 million in gross revenue. They're doing it with the best fighters in the world, smartly matched with other great fighters by matchmaker Joe Silva to create a succession of mega events. And that's not just my opinion. Our own USA Today/SBNation Consensus Rankings bear this out.
Not only does the UFC keep their accountants busy, they keep most of the world's top 25 fighters in each weight class busy as well. According to our rankings, 120 of the sport's 175 top fighters across the major seven divisions compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Of the 70 top ten fighters, 52 of them fly the UFC flag.
It's a talent gap unprecedented in mixed martial arts history. There's never been so much talent concentrated in a single promotion ever. Silva and his boss Dana White have more flexibility and options than they've ever had. Stars like Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva have given the promotion continuity, and young turks like Jon Jones and Frankie Edgar are raising the game to new levels.
It begs the question: why does everyone in the industry compare this modern day promotional marvel to San Jose's little old Strikeforce?
We'll discuss after the break.
Strikeforce took over from Elite XC on Showtime and CBS in 2009, a noted regional organization jumping head first into the deep waters of national promotion. Their success has been mixed. The ratings are growing on Showtime, surely a good sign, but not before several failures on CBS shut down network television for some time. But it's safe to say they are finding their way.
Matchmaker Rich Chou has a gift for making the most of a limited pool of talent, always finding the right fights, both competitively and for maximizing excitement. Last week's Strikeforce Challengers 14 show encapsulated this talent nicely - the main event between prospect Lyle Berrbohm and veteran Pat Healy delivered a super back and forth fight.
But it's safe to say Strikeforce is not the UFC. Nor do they claim to be. Over and over again people backstage have made it clear they understand this all to well. In fact, to many in the organization, a UFC comparison is a sign they are doing their jobs well.
Strikeforce is a promotion that is growing but still on pace to do just $30 million in revenue this fiscal year. The UFC will do that with their UFC 129 even alone. Comparing the two, even unfavorably, is a monumental insult to the UFC and a huge compliment for the small Strikeforce team. The UFC sets the standard in the MMA world. They have for a very long time. Being mentioned in the same breath as the UFC is a huge coup for Scott Coker and his crew of just 13 employees. It's instant credibility, it's being put in the same game as a billion dollar behemoth, and it's more than a little gratifying for a promotion just starting to find its footing.