One of the things I have consistently suggested is that Strikeforce find their niche. This is especially true now that they are under the Zuffa banner. It makes no sense to have two of the same thing with different names. It confuses people. Strikeforce can never do the things the UFC does. The WEC was successful under Zuffa because they had their own niche. They focused on the lighter guys. No one else was doing that. The UFC understood that with the WEC and therefore dropped their 205, 185 and 170 pound divisions.
So, what is Strikeforce’s niche? I believe that it comes through two things. First is their challengers series which focuses on prospects. Second is female MMA. I believe the two can be connected and could be what distinguishes UFC from Strikeforce. Here is my simple steps to get there. I hope the Zuffa brass is listening because this is sound advice…
Step 1: Move Top Fighters Into UFC
There are several fighters in Strikeforce who are not prospects, in fact, they are world class fighters. Evertually, the Strikeforce well will run dry in each division. The best solution is to merge the rosters. Here is who I would bring into the UFC brand:
- Alistair Overeem
- Antonio Silva
- Fabricio Werdum
- Josh Barnett
- Sergei Kharitnonov
- Fedor Emelianenko
- Daniel Cormier
- Chad Griggs
- Dan Henderson
- Rafael “Feijao”
- Mike Kyle
- “King Mo” Lawal
- Gegard Mousasi
- “Babalu” Sobral
- Roger Gracie
- “Jacare” de Souza
- Robbie Lawler
- Tim Kennedy
- Cung Le
- Luke Rockhold
- Paul Daley
- Tyron Woodley
- Evangelista Santos
- Gilbert Melendez
- Josh Thomson
- Maximo Blanco
- Jorge Masvidal
When it comes down to it fans want to see how some of the top Strikeforce guys would do in the UFC. I do too. Some of these top guys are running out of opponents. I do not think gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal is a good fight. I think Masvidal is the number one contender, but I don’t think the fight is competitive on paper. Melendez should be fighting top 5 guys. I don’t like the “Jacare” vs. Rockhold fight. I think Jacare deserves higher ranked opponents. The UFC is the logical place for those guys to find competitive fights.
Step 2: Sign More Prospects
I would do my best to snatch up prospects early in their career. The Zuffa brand could hold onto great fighters and develpp them properly. The Challengers series is a great way to do that. Notice, several fighters on the Strikeforce roster not mentioned in the above list to be carried into the UFC. That is because they would get swallowed up there. I would suggest top prospects developing in Strikeforce until they graduate from the Challengers series. The list of fighters on the challengers series could pose interesting fights as well as a roster of fighters that UFC could tap into for late replacements or even the Ultimate Fighter series. Too many fighters careers are messed up by being developed too quickly. The UFC knows how to bring a fighter along.
Also, this would keep great prospects away from the competition. I also think another benefit would be that fans would grow with some of these prospects and stars would emerge.
It is unfair to most prospects to sign them when they are 1-0 or 2-0. However, the Challengers series could be a place for guys with little to no experience. Perhaps a place even for elite collegiate wrestlers to have their first few fights. Perhaps a place for elite BJJ fighters like Robert Drysdale to make a transition. No, they could not hack it in the UFC right away, but perhaps some time in the minors.
Step 3 – Identify Which Guys to Invest In
The Strikeforce roster does have several solid prospects. Zuffa would need to unofficially decide who they think can be a future star and groom them for that. I really like some of their prospects such as Yuri Villefort, Guto Inocente, Marcos Rogerio de Lima, Lorenz Larkin, Ovince St. Preux, Yancy Medeiros, Tarec Saffeidine, Danillo Villefort, Jason High and Derek Brunson.
These guys could strategically be primed to make waves in UFC. They could become big fish in a small pond in the challengers series and graduate to being a big fish in a big pond. They could gain exposure and experience. They could have been matche dup strategically and against gradually better competition. They could gain experience headlining a card. This would be a good move.
Step 4 – Continue to Test the Waters of Female MMA
I do not disagree with Dana White’s questions surrounding female MMA and a lack of competitive fighters. However, the challengers series could be a place to test the waters of female MMA. They could do their best to secure talent and promote female fighters. If in the end it is a failure then there is no harm done. I think women’s MMA needs a venue to shine. The challengers series could be it.
Step 5 – Use the UFC Name
I know there are contractual obligation with Showtime and Strikeforce, but I think that this whole Strikeforce and UFC under the Zuffa banner is confusing. I like the Challengers series. I like it on Showtime. However, the UFC name carries power. I would suggest doing away with the Strikeforce name and calling it UFC Challengers Seriers.
Step 6 – Add Weight Classes
If things went according to my plan, why not add a place for the bantamweights and featherweight prospects to develop?