Day by day, Strikeforce is undergoing a dramatic facelift. Some say this is the last throws of a dying organization. I'm not totally sold on that yet, but let's say it is. Today, an organization, with some money and chutzpah behind them, could pick up Alistair Overeem, Fedor Emelianenko, Dan Henderson, Jon Olav Einemo, and Marloes Coenen. All recently made free agents. In the near future you can probably count on guys like Gegard Mousasi, Sergei Kharitonov, Paul Daley, Nate Marquardt, Josh Barnett, Satoshi Ishii, and Roger Gracie becoming free agents for various reasons if Strikeforce is shut down. I would even say you might be able to bring Jacare, Gina, the Cyborgs, and Cung Le. Throw in a handful of the lightweights, like Fodor or Masvidal, that while are very talented just don't have a place in the jam packed UFC lightweight division, and work them against the Aoki and Kawajiri's of the world. Be smart and vigilant in your free agent signings and very quickly you can have a strong, viable second tier organization operating here in the States. So, who are the players that have the ability to pull something like this off? Let's take a look.
We are just starting to get to know this new organization and what they are about. Here is what we know. They have their inaugural event at the Indoor Singapore Arena on September 3rd. They expect to sell out the 12,000 seat arena and will be going out on broadcast to ESPN Star Sports (a collaboration between Walt Disney's ESPN franchise and News Corp.), they will have access to more than 500,000,000 homes in Asia, while broadcasting a stream at Sherdog here in the US. They have signed a solid stable of fighters from around the world and have close ties to Evolve MMA, home to such fighters as Shinya Aoki and Rafael Dos Anjos. Apparently their pockets are incredibly deep. The MMA scene in Asia is wide open and One FC has events in Singapore, Macau, Seoul, Jakarta, coming soon and plan to go to Mumbai, Beijing, and Tokyo in the near future. Oh, and for the hardcore fan, you will get to witness what might be the most fascinating or terrifying aspect of this MMA organization. PRIDE rules in a cage. Yep, soccer kicks, elbows, stomps, the whole deal. In a cage. Oh my. They are going to take a slow but steady approach to attacking the Asian market. But, with success, you can see a lot of free agents becoming interested in what One FC hopes to be, the UFC of Asia. An actual emerging, wide open market. If they accomplish their goals how long before they get attention here in the States?
We all know who they are and what they bring to the table. Bellator has some exciting fighters and if WMMA goes the way of Frank Shamrock in the UFC then they seem to be poised to embrace the ladies. Interestingly enough, Bellator's future success is almost directly tied to the UFC's future. If the UFC decides to leave SPIKE when their contract comes up they leave the door wide open for Bellator to walk through and fill that void. The UFC and SPIKE have an almost synonymous relationship with the casual fan, due to their rise together via TUF. Bellator can gain a ton of new eyes by stepping into the hole the UFC might leave behind for MMA fans who have gotten use to watching the sport on SPIKE.
What can I say? Who the hell knows? We know this group. Rich Chou, T. Jay Thompson. They have a management team that has certainly had a chance to learn from their mistakes. They were the runner-ups in the Strikeforce bidding war and recently were 95% acquired by Stratus Media Group. I'm not sure if that is good or bad, they seem like an odd company with not a lot of operating capital. But, hey, they got Reagan Penn. That should be fun and if SHO and Zuffa part ways there is familiarity there. However, today, right now, I don't see them playing heavily in the free agent field that will exist in the next twelve moths. I believe it is a wait and see approach with our old friends from ProElite.
Shudder to think, but if Strikeforce is shuttered and Zuffa does not work out a new deal with SHO/CBS , the network and cable provider already have a partnership with an existing MMA organization in M-1. For a second, look beyond Vadim's antics of the past and just observe the company and its fighters. Of course there is Fedor. But, there are other exciting competitors fighting for the organization. Guram is a big prospect, Vinny Maghalaes is a well accomplished grappling artist, Magomed Sultanakhmedov and Arthur Guseinov are intriguing middleweights. I could go on. Let's face it though, this group is not going to set the scene on fire here in the US. M-1's investor pool would need to commit to the US market with a real investment, and they can, by signing some or most of the free agents listed above. If they are smart, as The American Ronin has been advocating, Evgeni Kogan and Bas Boon will break bread and bring the Golden Glory team to the US along with M-1 to form a new company under the ShoMMA broadcasting channels. Say what you want, but combining Golden Glory and M-1's fighters, along with some of the free agents listed above, in that beautiful M-1 ring, will provide some of the most elite striking and exciting grappling MMA matches that can be offered. There will be finishes and they will come aplenty. It will clearly be a different style of MMA, a real alternative to the Zuffa product.
If Zuffa's intention is to shut down Strikeforce there will be very little time before a viable secondary MMA organization pops up here in the US. Zuffa just doesn't have the bandwidth to handle all the different kinds of MMA fighters that exist today. And there are enough fans of the sport, both domestic and abroad, that want to see all of these different, exciting fighters and their styles. Dana and company seem to be laying the groundwork for their next acquisition. Some day though, they might find that buyer not willing to sell.