When Dana White shocked the MMA world with his announcement that the UFC's parent company Zuffa LLC had acquired Strikeforce his mantra was "business as usual." He was emphatic that there would be no cross-over fights in the short term and that the UFC wouldn't be overly involved in the way Strikeforce managed its affairs.
No one should be surprised to see those vows going to the way-side already. For one thing, Dana himself was front and center cage side wearing a Strikeforce t-shirt despite his initial claims that he wouldn't be attending the shows.
Although new to Strikeforce, it is not unusual to vet media requests in professional sports. The surprise is that several notable journalists tied with reputable outlets (and avid readership) have been shut out of coverage. Is the exclusion of certain journalists punitive for past run-ins with the UFC? Is it a message to those excluded that they need to change the way they write to regain access? As journalists covering an event, access is needed to obtain good articles.
If the UFC and Strikeforce are to be considered on par with other major sports leagues it must allow access to those that may have a differing view. There needs to be some level of journalistic freedom for writers to express their point of view. That is where public relations can come in to assist and educate journalists to some degree. Certainly, Zuffa can demonize the internet message boards and web sites that have a contrary view to it. But eliminating certain outlets may be detrimental to long-term growth as a company and as a sport.
The Showtime broadcast itself featured UFC advertisements (and Showtime boxing ads too) plus Dana White swilling Xyience -- a UFC sponsor and competitor to Strikeforce energy drink sponsor Rockstar. Not to mention Gus Johnson talking to Jake Shields about his upcoming UFC 129 title shot against Georges St Pierre.
MMA Payout comments:
It will be interesting how Zuffa handles this considering the "business as usual" mantra it has preached since the initial purchase. If last night's presentation was any indication, the Strikeforce brand is being minimized. It seemed that the UFC, especially UFC 129 (e.g., the improv Jake Shields interview) was pushed more than Strikeforce during last night's event.
Zach Arnold comments:
We all know what the end game here is. Showtime's essentially paying Zuffa and giving them a media platform to push upcoming PPV events. Some suggested that they should grateful that they stumbled into obtaining a Zuffa-based product. I suspect Ken Hershman is not one of those people.
"Showtime's actually been great to deal with.
"It's been great, and no, I haven't talked to them. You know, Lorenzo (Fertitta) talked to them originally and then flew out and talked to them a couple days ago and everything's been great. There's no hard feelings on that side and there's no hard feelings on this side. We'll figure this thing out.
"There's some guys over at CBS & Showtime that I've had great relationships with and never had a problem with and then there's some that I've butted heads with."
As for Strikeforce boss Scott Coker he's ready to pit his guys against the UFC's best per the incomparable Ben Fowlkes:
"I think, you know what? Let the Strikeforce guys fight the UFC guys," Coker said. "I'd love to see it. To me, Alistair Overeem versus Cain Velasquez? Let's do it. Or Fedor fighting Brock Lesnar. ...There's nothing to say these guys can't fight each other."
According to Coker, the contracts in place aren't standing in the way, nor is Strikeforce's relationship with Showtime. As for whether these cross-promotional fights will take place on a UFC pay-per-view or on Showtime, however, is still "something that we'll have to work out," he said.
Yet Coker's vision for the future involves frequent such fights, and he doesn't see any reason why it can't happen sooner rather than later under the Zuffa banner, once all the details are worked out.
I remain hopeful that Zuffa and Strikeforce/CBS will be able to work something out. I enjoy watching Strikeforce fights on Showtime and hope to see them on CBS again as well.
As a fan my biggest priority is seeing the best fighters face off -- Alistair Overeem, Gilbert Melendez, Nick Diaz and Ronaldo Souza have all earned the right to test themselves against the UFC's best -- but we'll see how everyone involved plays their cards.
When Zuffa first hinted that they were looking at a Strikeforce Summer pay per view I wondered if they were blowing off Showtime and looking to cannibalize all of Strikeforce's best fights for pay per view, but it may well be that they're willing to lend their PR muscle to push a Showtime PPV. I presume that Strikeforce's contracts give Showtime a lock on any PPV event they mounted. That latter scenario could be a profitable win/win for both Zuffa and Showtime.