Its likely that most people who read Bloody Elbow regularly will never know what it must be like to run a national or international MMA promotion (holler if you know different!) and by the time we get to those who run such an organization and then find themselves selling it to the UFC... well, there's only a handful of such people in existence.
So it occurred to me to acknowledge a member of this rare breed and say a few words over Scott Coker's quiet rise and recent windfall, coming though it has at the expense of his brand and its holdings.
Those on BE and other sites who have done nothing but lambast Coker and Strikeforce (and there have been many) should now be aware that the perception of Strikeforce as a disorganized shambles has not it would appear been shared by the hallowed number one promotion in the sport. If you are a Zuffa acolyte, I'm not saying that this is like having your deity reach out and sanctify the thing you've been shitting on for the last few years, but the idea that it might is certainly satisfying.
While reaction and response has been rumbling steadily on, the one person who seems under-represented in terms of their views and specific coverage has been Scott Coker himself. Although his twitter seems fairly inactive, I am sure he is keeping his counsel to himself and those close to him and it may be a long time (if at all) before we ever really know how he has felt about this whole process.
In a recent video, Josh Gross indicated that prior to the Zuffa (read Forza LLC) buyout, Coker had been trying to keep Strikeforce going through a search for other investors. It seems Coker's intention was never simply to ‘trouser the readies' (as UK slang would have it) and sell out, but to continue to build on what he and his team had already accomplished and though this might be a cold crumb of comfort for those of us who feel the buyout is a significant loss to MMA, it does highlight a determination which had served to get Strikeforce to its position as the no.2 MMA promotion in the world.
When I first heard Gross confirm this, I realised that it had probably been short sighted in the first place to have thought that this deal was merely the story of Coker's head being turned by an offer of a gargantuan amount of Zuffa zeroes. Coker it seems, is one of those people whom it is very easy to label as soft or indecisive (as thousands of BE comments will attest) and until this detail had emerged, the buyout may even have lent credence to these views. He hasn't after all, been able to keep Strikeforce going as a viable entity without Zuffa swallowing the whole thing up - although we now know that others such as Pro-Elite had registered an interest in coming on board.
I have never met and do not know Scott Coker, but with a short repose for thought, I realised that here has been a man who has survived in waters that have destroyed others - something for which he deserves real credit. Zuffa have seen competitors come and go in the last ten years (some of whom they have certainly helped into the abyss along the way) and more recently, the one entity in their rear view mirror that looked like it might not be going anywhere had Coker at the helm.
On the one hand Gross's video post indicates that Strikeforce was running with some $20m in debt, on the other hand, they had recently upped the ante on the promotional front to a level that for them was simply unprecedented - even eating into the perception of the UFC as an untouchable pre-eminent brand in MMA, via their Heavyweight Grand Prix, a real marketing coup within the sport's showcase division.
To have led Strikeforce to this point - joining the WEC and PRIDE FC as organizations Zuffa felt compelled to consume - is a real achievement and the fact is Coker led this in his own understated and measured way. He may not be quite the shrinking violet of his media persona (a real degree of savvy is evident from his media presence) but he has always handled matters in a quiet, mostly dignified way without resorting to bombastic explosions, aggressive expulsions and without modeling the profile of his brand on the dynamics of his own personality, probably because this just wasn't in his character and he knew it.
We can speculate on whether or not things would have been different if Fedor had overcome Werdum to set up a clash with Alistair Overeem, or had not derailed more imminent PPV prospects by losing to Brazil's version of the Yeti, but we must all navigate circumstance in our lives and for whatever reasons ultimately, it seems the rug got pulled from beneath Coker's feet (the role of partners - Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment here seems key).
I wonder if this is the last we will hear from Coker as an independent promoter? Perhaps he will be content to take a high profile role within Zuffa/Forza/UFC (if offered in the longer term) and as so many possibilities still exist as to how Strikeforce will fare (will it be killed off? Become a feeder? Etc) it seems that any one of a number of outcomes could be realistic.
One thing I am sure of though is that he is a pragmatic man - pragmatics after all are at the heart of both business and MMA. Its highly probable that he is feeling hurt at losing the promotion he spent years building (this version of it at any rate) to the point where he was about to go international and possibly into Pay Per View. However, whether it will ultimately be with Zuffa, or elsewhere, I cannot imagine that someone who has had the ambition and skill to get as far as he has, will simply go away, I may be wrong, but I hope not, I just hope that whatever impact Scott Coker continues to have on MMA it will ultimately be in the direction of enriching it as a viable sport, for both fans and fighters.
If you liked this post, you may also want to check out my first fanpost, a satirical timeline on the future of Zuffa.