Ok so I’m completely and totally unqualified to talk about expanding an entertainment business as a media venture but then this is the Internet and that makes me very qualified to ramble on and on about what I would do with something someone else owns.
2. Keep Strikeforce but not as a separate company.
Sure we all know that eventually the cream of the Strikeforce crop is heading to the UFC but that doesn’t mean that they need to get rid of Strikeforce altogether. Instead of setting them out there as a separate company under the same owners set them out there as a separate brand of shows under the same sports system. De-brand the championship belts and unify the titles, the world champion should just be the world champion of the sport and the sport should just be the sport(inside of Zuffa at least). Strikeforce doesn’t need to be a separate company with separate talent they just need to be a separate touring organization presenting fights. Separate fight booking from either brand and have it run as it’s own independent wing of Zuffa and use the different brands to push into different media markets and to allow for the running of even more shows due to having separate production crews. Fans would know when they watched a Strikeforce show that it wasn’t guys that they could talk about one day having super-fights it would be guys who are in the sport and are building to the same fights and belts as UFC fighters are. It’s separate entertainment programming from the UFC but it’s the same sport across the board. Tier it in with the UFC at the levels of marketing for fighter experience/fan base support. Challengers cards then Fight Night cards and then Strikeforce main cards and then numbered UFC shows. Fans of the sport would have multiple events at multiple tier levels and media outlets could bid for the tier levels they wished to pay for. Heck I may even go the extra step of separating the Challengers events and Fight Night events into individual branding touring companies too. Branding is vitally important but you could just brand them all as four sub-levels rather easily, UFC-Challengers, UFC- Fight Night, UFC presents Strikeforce and UFC- premium(for numbered events).
Ideally this would work best if Zuffa could get a new contract lined out with Showtime long term (and/or try to get HBO interested in picking up events). Network is a dying breed but you can’t just keep relying on PPV alone either. Multiple tiers of offering from multiple media outlets allows you to diversify your offerings, offer more events and structure your product. Fighters would work for Zuffa and would fight where the bookers sent them to fight and you could even have different media outlets compete for specific fights instead of just setting a base licensing fee across the board (Hey Showtime, you want Nick Diaz vs. GSP, well you are going to have to pay specifically for Nick Diaz vs. GSP). The end goal of this in my mind would be to unify the sport while also diversifying the entertainment offerings of the company. One fighter pool with multiple potential outlets that could be sold to different media companies and to use the structure to build up fighters so they can draw on premium level ppvs. For legitimacy you want all the fighters fighting in the same sport but for media marketing and company expansion the more diverse offerings you can put out there for sell the better. Strikeforce as a separate company gets in the way of that but Strikeforce as a brand has value still.
I’m also a bit of a stickler for structure and setting up separate tiers of offerings and organizing separate touring/production groups for live shows feels more organized to me than whatever the hell "business as usual" means. Of course if they really want to get big then they are going to need to expand their production and touring capabilities drastically too.
3. Repair and expand the reality show offerings.
TUF still has it’s place and UFC Primetime can be interesting but both also have their drawbacks and lord knows TUF is stale as month old Bunny bread. Lets face it Primetime’s ratings are going to be dependant on which fighters are on their and TUF’s biggest problem is that the talent level is so low currently the fights tend to suck ass. It’s a surprisingly easy fix for TUF, just get some better quality fighters so their will be better quality fights and focus on that aspect. Fans love to see guys like Forest Griffin coming off the show and building up to competing for a belt but they haven’t got anyone at near that kind of level for years now. Heck we’ve got to the point now where guys can win on the show but still not be good enough to make it in the UFC. To fix the show you have to make it matter again.
Of course what the UFC needs isn’t just to fix what it’s got it needs to expand and diversify in the new decade. Overseas TUF’s are a given as they move into new markets but they also need to try and connect with current markets too. Personally I liked the format of the old Tap Out reality show where they would follow a fighter before and after a fight. Get rid of the goofy Tap Out guys and that format could show some promise as a reality show offering. Get an interesting host to follow one fighter for one fight on one episode and help build that guy up some recognition with the public.
My other idea would be to basically rip off poor Bellator and start doing low level tournaments as part of the Challenger cards. That way it wouldn't just be low level prospects competing on a low level show it would be low level prospects competing in a tournament fashion on a low level show. Even if you spread the tournament out long term (say three fights over an entire year) you would still add some structure and meaning to those fights beyond just random prospect one vs. random prospect two. You can take a low level live card and give it a reality show feel by adding in the tournament aspect to it. Heck combine that with the reality show rip off/idea from above and have the one guy that gets followed every week be a guy who’s fight is on a Challenger’s card. I’m not at all a fan of tournaments in MMA but with this you add importance to shows and offer up more programming you can sell too.