When Zuffa owned WEC they made sure to keep the two promotions as separate entities. However, Zuffa also understood that the WEC needed to find its own niche and could not just be the UFC with a different name. As a result the UFC folded the WEC light heavyweight, middleweight and welterweight divisions into the UFC. The WEC became the home of the lighter weight fighters. That was their niche. When Dana White was asked about the promotion his answer was always that the UFC housed the 155 and above and the WEC housed the 155 and below. The best featherweights and bantamweights in the word were in the WEC. It was a different product. The WEC was offering something no one else offered. Now that the WEC days are behind us the question has to be what will the UFC do with Strikeforce. The answer so far has been that it will be “business as usual.” basically, what we are hearing is that the two promotions will run separate. That may sound good in essence, but it won’t work. Strikeforce needs its own nice.
Here are a few areas that they can find it…
1. Women’s MMA
Dana White has stated that he is against having women fight in the UFC. However, the no owned Strikeforce promotion has an established women’s division. I think Zuffa could really gain a following through Strikeforce and women’s MMA. They have Gina Carano, “Cyborg” Santos, Marloes Coenen, and Sarah Kaufman. It could be wise to give women’s MMA a shot, however not in the UFC, but rather through Strikeforce. They could work to sign other top women fighters and really establish a following. Women’s MMA could be Strikeforce’s niche and what separates them from the UFC. They probably won’t go for being solely a women’s promotion, but I don’t think its such a bad idea. The ladies could gain exposure and have a place to make money. Also, if it is found to be profitable the UFC could add those divisions themselves. Consider it a trial run.
2. Challengers League
I think that this is the best option. The UFC could bring over the elite guys from the Strikeforce roster such as Overeem, Werdum, Henderson, Jacare, Diaz, and Melendez and use the Strikeforce brand to develop prospects. Often times prospects get swallowed up in the UFC. What if Strikeforce was the UFC’s minor leagues. Fighters could compete at a competitive level, make some money, gain exposure, develop their skills, and then earn a shot in the UFC. Zuffa could go to great lengths to sign top prospects and let them compete in Strikeforce and if they dominate there then work them into the UFC. This idea would allow Strikeforce to honor their Showtime contract and allow fans to see the best Strikeforce guys in the UFC.
Here’s the reason Strikeforce needs to do something different…we all want to see the super fights. The best should be fighting the best. Also, there are no contenders left for Melendez or Diaz. I know that Strikeforce may push for Melendez vs. Masvidal, but that is not a competitive fight. I know they may make Diaz vs. Woodley, but no one wants that fight. I’d like to see the Strikeforce LW and WW divisions merge into the UFC or at least see Diaz and Melendez put in the UFC. They have wiped out their respective divisions. Admittedly, there are still some fights for Jacare, Henderson and Overeem in Strikeforce.
Listen, Strikeforce is great. They have exciting fights and can put on competitive fights. They may pull good numbers, but the bottom line is now that they are Zuffa owned they are just UFC part b. They have similar skilled fighters. If Zuffa wants to keep the Strikeforce brand they need to find a niche for Strikeforce that makes them stand out as different.