How many times do we have to hear it?
Strikeforce is "a dying cancer patient" said the organization's own former champion. "All the top ten guys or whatever are in the UFC" said its freshly crowned Middleweight champion. "I want to fight where the money is" is what they feel and dare verbalize for all to hear. They want out. They see the pastures greener on the other side, and the fence getting weaker than the farm's in The Walking Dead.
For all of White and the Zuffa gang's intentions, the biggest names in Strikeforce have made it clear, through word or action time and time again: with the purchase of Strikeforce they want into the big leagues, the one big league available, the one they sort of work for already but with a permanent second-level status.
And then comes the question: if we emptied Strikeforce of its men (as it is happening one champion at a time or one entire division at a time), what to do with the brand power and the fan base Scott Coker built? Do you go the Pride/WEC way (aka, the way of the dodo) and give in to the hundreds of "we knew it", "they took too long" opinions?
Or do you do something completely new? Something that wasn't there when Zuffa bought the thing but now, now and not later, now it would make sense, it would make money, and it would make (gasp!) almost everybody happy?
Here's my humble suggestion: you make Strikeforce the world's premier MMA league for female fighters. It already is, you just get rid of the confusion ("do they, do they not like us?") and almost, almost everybody involved, fans included, will be much better for it.
It's crazy when I put it like that, I know, but let's follow the ramifications of such a decision. There's no harm in talking-- what happens if Zuffa brings the men to the UFC and leaves Strikeforce to the ladies?:
1- Male fighters get the biggest break of their lives, complaining ends: you can put all the lipstick in Ryan Seacrest's drawers on Strikeforce, but it's exactly what the UFC has said it would not become-- a B league for male fighters. They know it and being employed there instead of the UFC is their source of discomfort.
A lot goes into it. The paycheck size, first and foremost. The exposure, and with it, the leverage with sponsors. The increased opportunities to create their own brand and live off their names and not their bodies. The tight machine the UFC runs in their events. The thrill of the thousands and thousands of fans chanting (hopefully) your name, instead of dozens and dozens.
Give the boys what they want; bring them home, and keep Dana's own promise of...
2- Zuffa gives fans the fights they want: Diaz vs GSP, Le vs Silva and Lesnar vs Overeem can become the heralds to a fantastic year or so of "Welcome Home" fights. There are many intriguing matches that can happen if that faint line dividing the men of the organizations is done away with. Say, Gilbert Melendez taking on Benson Henderson or Frankie Edgar. Or Luke Rockhold offering a fresh challenge in the Middleweight division to the soon-to-retire Anderson Silva. Jacare Souza vs Rousimar Toquinho Palhares for a grapplefest of the ages anyone?
There are many fun matches to be booked now, now and not later, and you can put one or two UFC vs Strikeforce fights in every event for a year maybe. They are already doing it. They are bringing the likes of Cung Le and Alistair Overeem and the entire heavyweight division. Stop being coy, quit confusing the fans with the "will he go, will he not go?" game and commit to it; bring those boys all under one roof and put some dream matches on.
3. Steps are taken to end the lack-of-depth issue in women's divisions: How do you add depth to the shallow women divisions White keeps complaining about and Fertitta keeps agreeing on?
What did they do when they had no male champion? What are other MMA promotions doing, in order to build their roster? You hunt for talent and you organize tournaments. That's how the UFC progressed from bar brawlers and untrained adventure seekers to true athletes today, and that's what other promotions are doing.
The UFC, or the new WMMA-only Strikeforce now, goes out on a talent hunt, not unlike other sports that do this all the time. You visit Olympic training centers and sit down with the standout girls in Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Boxing, Wrestling and other combat sports. You get in touch with BJJ and grappling champions who haven't crosssed over to MMA yet for whatever reason. You go there and present them the value of taking on a career that promises not only athletic glory but a viable livelihood. You bring agents along for the ride or steer them in their direction and, just as hundreds of men have made the choice, many women will prefer a career founded in their athletic ability.
You bring new names and you build them up. You put these girls in brackets, schedule several events to watch it unfold and let survival of the fittest give you the new names and faces of a bright, new age of WMMA.
The UFC may not be ready or may not want to invest this much effort, time and money. But the method to doing so is there, in my opinion, and the sooner it is done, the more this present momentum for WMMA can help entice female athletes to make the switch from their current lines of work to the cage.
4. WMMA-Strikeforce updates its image to a more modern, mainstream look: the substance of the organization now changes, why not go all the way in?
Go ahead and update Strikeforce's image to something more in tune with the times and its new raison d'etre. Leave out the heavy metal, the ring girls, the skull and bones and focus on a visual language more palatable and inviting for the female athlete, the girl trying to get fit, hell; the suburban mother of three out there, the women who will be inspired by watching and will decide to take up the sport and watch the events on their own and consider WMMA something of their own.
I recall the huge impact the Nintendo Wii had in those first years after its introduction. People who never thought of themselves as video game players suddenly played, right alongside their kids. Give these women and men on the fences every reason to watch WMMA-Strikeforce and none to tune out. It can be done.
5. Clean up the minimal collateral damage and move on: Perhaps Coker, as much as he has believed and invested in WMMA did not have this ever in mind and won't be happy with what it will become. Perhaps this and that sponsor will be hesitant to continue their support. Perhaps Showtime thinks it's way too progressive and cut Strikeforce loose.
But employees can be convinced, motivated and hell, thrown enough money at to change their minds. Sponsors increased for Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate in their fight, they didn't decrease. And Showtime? Something tells me Dana would perhaps welcome their dropping Strikeforce and perhaps finding it a new home elsewhere, perhaps with his new Fox partners.
It is my dearly held opinion that Tate vs Rousey fight was WMMA's Bonnar vs Griffin. People were wowed, they're watching and expectant, and the present momentum can be ridden for all it has.
Going this route would keep every behind-the-curtain employee there, as long as they were OK with the changes; it sharply distinguishes both brands' power and flavor, feeds more fighters to the ever growing event machine the UFC is becoming with their current calendar of events, opens up what could be a completely new source of revenue in WMMA Strikeforce, builds new stars to the same level of their male counterparts and opens a legitimate career choice for female athletes in a multitude of sports disciplines (instead of the shaky status it permanently enjoys now).
I think it makes sense. It still sounds no less crazy, but as a big WMMA fan, I believe they deserve their own house already. In my opinion, there is no other female sport that would ever match a well-funded, marketed and properly talent-fed WMMA organization with Zuffa backing.
What do you think? Let us know via Twitter or below in the poll.