According to MMAPayout sources, May 9th, 2011 was the last day Strikeforce was an MMA promotion under Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, their previous owners who sold the budding promotion to Zuffa, LLC. A few days after 5/9, Scott Coker and Peter Dropick met with the old Strikeforce staff individually to inform them that their services would no longer be required to avoid operational overlap and inefficiencies. A couple of staff members were offered positions to join Zuffa, but accepting the job would required a move to Las Vegas, which was not seen as a desirable move for those that were already established in Northern California. Those few opted to stay in the Bay Area instead. Those that were willing to relocate and accept an offer from Zuffa were not offered a position.
This news was further confirmed by various media sources via Twitter, branching out into discussions as to what this means for the future of the promotion. Is it a transition that is mimicking the timeline of the WEC? It will be interesting to see if the extension becomes a true option for Zuffa in early 2012, especially if the changes garner more viewers on Showtime.
As I opined on May 10th, there are some benefits to Zuffa extending the contract through 2014, most notably the time it would give them to fully understand exactly what can be done in the future with such a large roster of fighters. Either deep cuts to the large roster are going to happen, or the UFC will attempt to increase the number of events they produce per year. The question is whether that's going to happen sooner or later.
Two positives coming out of the deal immediately are the perks that fighters and managers receive that Strikeforce fighters weren't getting before and the exclusion of amateur fights from the undercards of events. Manager Monte Cox told Sherdog.com that per diem, mileage money, and travel are all covered, something that wasn't covered by Strikeforce and Showtime.
Undercards of events will mimic what the UFC is currently doing, providing fans with match-ups of fighters who are actually under contract with the promotion. Strikeforce utilized local talent on many of their shows as a way to cut costs while also attracting fans who were behind those local fighters. The problem that was exacerbated by that process was that it eliminated card space for fighters who wanted to fight more often, sidelining many of Strikeforce's developing talent for lengthy periods. Zuffa's change will remedy the problem.
Some of our readers predicted that this change was going to occur when the deal was first announced, and I'd be ignorant if I didn't believe this could be a laid out plan to merge the two rosters after an extension falls through in 2012. While I do think an extension gives Zuffa the time it needs to plan out a merger and gain the resources it needs to produce more events, I have an eerie feeling that the moves taking place behind the scenes at Strikeforce are indicative of the opposite stance.