It seems that once the news broke that Zuffa had purchased Strikeforce that it was only a matter of time until the Strikeforce brand was dissolved into the UFC. However, the company line has been that it will be “business as usual.” Most people don’t really believe that. While there is a contract in place with Showtime that may prevent an immediate merger of the two brands it still seems to be only a matter of time. The writing is on the wall. Strikeforce is continuing to promote events, schedule events and even sign fighters, but the question has to be how long can they be profitable?
The biggest sign has to be the recent developments between Strikeforce and Alistair Overeem. Overeem, the promotions heavyweight champion was cut from the roster after some disagreement with the company. Overeem was one of Strikeforce’s biggest named fighters. Losing him hurts their bottom line. If Overeem bolts to the UFC, it would be even more telling. I get the sense that most Strikeforce fighters are wanting to fight in the UFC.
Also, Strikeforce has recently lost their welterweight champion, Nick Diaz who moved to the UFC as well. If you go back even further, their former middleweight champion, Jake Shields also jumped to the UFC.
Tonight is an important night for Strikeforce. Solid ratings are a must. However, this is the last fight on both Dan Henderson and Fedor Emelianenko’s contract. In other words, it is feasable that the promotion could lose its heavyweight champion, light heavyweight champion and biggest name all in a 48 hour span. Granted, I do not think that Henderson or Fedor are in the long term future plans of the promotion.
The one inconsistency is that Strikeforce is signing prospects. In fact, they are doing a darn good job of it. They have recently signed elite prospects such as Guto Inocente, Maros Rogerio de Lima, and Yoel Romero. They have added guys like Jordan Mein, Bobby Green, Danillo Villefort, Yuri Villefort, Adlan Amagov, Jason High and Quinn Mulhern. This doesn’t seem like the agenda of a dying brand.
Any way you cut it, Zuffa is obligated to keep the Strikeforce brand around until sometime in 2012 when their Showtime contract expires. However, I cannot see Strikeforce continuing into 2013. Look for in that time fram for Zuffa to market some up and comers, develop some prospects into stars, and give tough fights for guys they may not really have interest in bringing over to the UFC (i.e. Paul Daley and Josh Barnett).
If I was a betting man, I would say that the future of Strikeforce as we know it is dim. dropping heavy contracts like Overeem, Henderson and Fedor could actually help them financially. However, if Strikeforce is not profitable it does not make business sense to keep them around. Plus, the fans want to see several of their fighters against the UFC’s best. It is just a matter of time. I would guess that the best case scenario for Strikeforce is to be a prospect developing league, which may explain why several top prospects are now in Strikeforce as opposed to UFC.