In news that shook the MMA world, the UFC just purchased their main competition, San Jose based Strikeforce. The ink has barely dried on the deal, reporters across the internet are desperately contacting their sources to learn more. What better time for boundless and uninformed speculation?
The UFC: Dana White famously has a tombstone with the names of all the competitors he's put out of business. Scott Coker's Strikeforce wasn't on it. Stubbornly, skillfully, strategically, Strikeforce was making their mark on the industry. They were showing real staying power, with a home on Showtime that was becoming pretty comfortable. They made serious waves with the announcement of the Heavyweight Grand Prix to kick off 2011.
Failure, in short, didn't look likely. That's why it's nice for Dana White to be able to snake his hand into Lorenzo Fertitta's wallet. Is the competition thriving? Not looking likely to kill itself with reckless spending or other foolishness? Just buy them. Problem solved.
Strikeforce Champions: Somehow I'm guessing Zuffa won't be enforcing the Champion's Clause in their contracts. Now a guy like Gilbert Melendez will have a shot at crossing over to the UFC when his contract expires.
UFC Fighters on the Bubble: The UFC has been running roughshod through the lighter weight classes with a meat cleaver, cutting a ton of pretty good fighters after a single loss. Those guys can breathe easier. Dana White specifically mentioned shifting some guys over to Strikeforce. It's a good way to rebuild struggling fighters or create new and compelling match ups.
Scott Coker: A few years ago Coker was running a local promotion. Although terms were not discussed, there is no doubt he was able to turn that small investment into millions. Get in and get out. Well played.
The Fighters: Dana White claims that it is business as usual. That the UFC and Strikeforce will continue bidding against each other for top free agents. No one in their right mind believes it. This move will put increasing fighter salaries into the UFC's hands, stagnating growth. There is no more open market at the top level of the sport.
Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich: Two Strikeforce announcers, two long term beefs with UFC President Dana White. Their contracts are with Showtime. Of course, that only protects them as long as Zuffa and the pay cable network are in business together.
Josh Barnett and Paul Daley: Two more Dana White enemies. Right now they are protected by contract. But when those deals expire, I expect them to be shown the door. Barnett is White's least favorite fighter, stemming from an ugly dispute after Barnett tested positive for steroids early in the Zuffa years. Daley is the poster boy for classless cheapshots. Both should be very afraid.
Showtime: No one is saying for sure, but there are already rumors flying that the UFC plans to close Strikeforce once the TV contract runs its course. White was already discussing the deal as a way to add fighters to his growing promotion. Will he really promote under two banners, despite the lessons learned with the WEC? Showtime will be in the strange spot of promoting and building fighters that will inevitably end up with the competition.