A full week has passed since one of the biggest announcements in MMA history was made and while it is far too early to see any results, there still seems to be so many questions lingering from every corner of the fight world. Every MMA news outlet has given their initial analysis but even with interviews given by UFC President Dana White and Strikeforce head honcho Scott Coker, the only question that has been answered is that Zuffa has successfully purchased the San Jose based promotion.
On this week's installment of HDNet's "Inside MMA" the team attempted to attack the issue as MMA legend Bas Rutten interviewed Coker and "Fighting Words" host Mike Straka sat down with Dana White. In addition to airing the sitdowns the show sought out some of the biggest names in the sport as champions like Cain Velasquez and Hall of Famers such as Randy Couture gave their take on what the purchase will mean for MMA and fighters who earn their living under the Zuffa banner. While the interviews ran consecutively to one another it was impossible not to notice the inconsistencies, as minimal as they may have been, between the two sides.
Dana White's interview ran first and never being one to hold his tongue, White didn't pick HDNet as the place to start. As expected White would not discuss the financial details of the purchase but did confirm that the price was "more than what the UFC offered Fedor" as an answer to one of Straka's questions. White reconfirmed that he never saw Strikeforce as competition and commended Scott Coker for the job that he has done as an MMA promoter. Aside from the niceties White gave to Coker he did use the opportunity to take several stabs at Fedor's management as the long standing grudge between White and M-1 prepare to open another chapter.
"Vadim's gotta be kicking himself in the ass about now," White deadpanned.
When Straka asked for the specifics White replied, "because they should have been in the UFC. They should have come into the UFC when there was an opportunity for them to do it. Even if it was just for his legacy. If you are going to get beat whether it's getting triangle choked or your face smashed, at least get it done by the best guys in the world. They probably don't care about legacy like I do but I think legacy is important and for the last however many years, Fedor hasn't fought anybody."
With Fedor dropping his last two fights and his status as the best heavyweight in the world falling away there is no doubt his once invincible image has taken some damage. Straka, using the purchase as a great example of how White could be the man to save Fedor's legacy, asked the UFC President if the purchase and his influence could make that possible citing a potential bout with UFC legend Randy Couture.
"I don't think it's Fedor," White replied. "I've dealt with his management and it's 100% those guys. The problem is I don't think you are ever going to see a situation where Fedor is on his own and making his own decisions so the answer is probably no."
Straka moved right along in the interview and White stayed away from his "business as usual" response but the one question that did seem to stir something in White was the question about Showtime. There is no love lost between White and Showtime, but Straka's question wasn't aimed in that particular direction either. Straka was asking about the UFC's plans to move to a premier or paid subscription channel and White sounded off.
"Let me tell you what's going on," White replied. "It makes me laugh sometimes when I'm cruising through the internet and I'm reading some of the stories that some of the reporters write and everything else. Nobody knows what we're doing. We know what's going on We're the ones that built this industry. We're the trailblazers that are out there making all of these things happen. We know what we're doing and we know what the future is. We know what's going on and it's funny to sit around and read some of the ideas some of these websites throw out there. Trust me...we know exactly what we are doing for the next five years."
In between the interviews with White and Coker, HDNet showed interview footage as "Captain America" Randy Couture chimed in on the issue of the purchase.
"It is certainly good for them. It gives them a stronger hold and what a lot of people would call a monopoly on this sport. There is no other promotion around that is operating at the level that the UFC is doing. It just strengthens their position as number one and the leader in this sport. From a fighter's perspective it makes it a little more difficult. If you can't get a fair shake and for whatever reason the UFC isn't keen on you that was one last place you could go to get a contract or to make a living as a fighter. It will be interesting to see what direction they take the brand now, especially with the women's division since it was something that Dana has spoken out against. I'm hoping that they keep that in tact, keep the brand intact. Obviously my son is fighting in the Challengers series for Strikeforce so I don't want to see that go away. I think that is a great place for a grass roots, mid level show to give guys experience."
"Inside MMA" also showed additional interview footage from Velasquez, Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields Josh Thomson and Daniel Cormier as each fighter expressed both excitement and uncertainty to how the future would play out. While each had their own particular point of views, the one similar aspect found in many of the statements came in the utter surprise and that while most major moves in MMA come with at least some behind the scenes whispers and grumblings, the Zuffa purchase came from out of nowhere.
Perhaps the most interesting responses came from current Strikeforce heavyweight and long time White nemesis Josh Barnett as he explained his reaction to the news and his future as a Zuffa fighter.
"I was really surprised at first...I'm sure as much as anybody because it's such a major deal. It's huge in the landscape of MMA and let's be honest, MMA isn't really that big yet. As far as we've gotten there is still so much we can do with it. Most of the time there are interior rumblings, at least to a small degree, and there was nothing out there about the possibility of this happening. This could be a major injection of cash flow and notoriety and visibility and from a business standpoint, that's how I got to look at it because at the end of the day I have to go into the cage and beat the crap out of somebody so everybody can cheer and spill drinks on themselves. That's what I do. I want to fight in the biggest stage that they can possibly give me and I know that Dana has done a big time job with the UFC and creating that stage. If Dana White is who I have to get in bed with to be the best fighter in the world and to be in the biggest opportunity for MMA then I'll do it and I'll do it easily. At the end of the day I'm not here to have a grudge with somebody. I'm here to fight."
When the time came for Bas Rutten's interview with Strikeforce's CEO, Coker explained how the need for a partner initiated. Strikeforce's former investor Silicon Valley Sports Entertainment, who also own the San Jose Sharks, were pulling out of their partnership and that put Strikeforce in an urgent position.
"This company was a partnership with Silicon Valley Sports Entertainment which runs the hockey team and they ventured in with many different business and tennis tournaments and they are trying bring another sports franchise to San Jose and continue to focus on the hockey team. So I said I understand and at that point we started going out there looking for different partners. When your financial partner wants to leave then you have to start looking for another partner."
Throughout the interview Coker gave solid answers and stated that he was very proud of how far the once regional promotion had traveled. The biggest oddity came on several occasions during the interview where he referred to Strikeforce in the "past" tense then turning around and expressing excitement that Zuffa was going to put their marketing machine to work making Strikeforce bigger and better than it ever was. While there are still so many things left to be determined Coker seemed at times unsure that the brand would continue but then the promoter in him would emerge and he would put the shine back on the Strikeforce brand. Rutten asked about the purchase and eventual elimination of organizations like the WEC and Coker did his best to explain what he believes to be the future.
"I'm not exactly sure what happened over there with the WEC because I haven't talked to them about it but if you are inferring to the Strikeforce brand and will it go away my thought is that it will continue. If you look at the last two years and how much growth this brand has grown and the fighter roster that it has today I think there are a lot of good reasons to keep it going. That is the reason they bought it. Think about it...and this hasn't been discussed with Lorenzo but you could own the NFC and why not compete with the other side? So you have these great superfights. I think this brand is worthy of keeping it going and growing it. When I'm over there every indication is that they are going to take this fighter roster and this brand and they are going to push it hard. With their marketing team and my marketing person. Their 15 man PR team and my 1 marketing person are already on it," Coker laughed.
While there were the previously mentioned moments of uncertainty, Scott Coker was able to clarify a few important details throughout the interview. Coker played rumor buster and stated that UFC heavyweight Shane Carwin would not be replacing Josh Barnett in the Strikeforce Heavyweight tournament and while MMA fans across the board are hungry for potential cross promotional matchups and "super fights", Coker insisted that if MMA fans remained patient, he was sure they would get what they wanted.
"I don't think it will happen in the near future but I think if fans are patient it will eventually happen. I will push for it because I want to see it and that is part of the beauty of this deal. I'm like wow...I think Nick Diaz vs. GSP, Jacare fighting Anderson Silva. Henderson back at 205 lb. now. Whether it is Fedor, Alistair or Barnett against Brock or Cain Velasquez those are going to be exciting matchups."
Coker also confirmed that while Fedor was definitely an "expensive item" on the Strikeforce roster it was not the former Pride champion's contract that created the financial situation. In fact, when Rutten brought up the issue with M-1 Global and how they took the news of Zuffa's purchase, Coker appeared to already have his company badge on as his answer somewhat echoed that of UFC President Dana White.
"Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to talk to them yet," Coker laughed. "That wasn't on purpose it was just that I felt the need to contact other people first."