Dana White. Photo courtesy of Playboy.
There are certain stories in the world of sports that sometimes catch you off guard. For almost every single MMA fan, Zuffa's purchase of Strikeforce yesterday was that sort of thing. I think we can safely say that no one saw it coming. Not a soul.
My mind is still trying to grasp the concept that the UFC now essentially owns a monopoly of North American mixed martial arts. Sure, they've been the top dog by a long mile for some time now, but there were always up-and-coming promotions that gave fans who favor healthy competition a little glimmer of hope. That's not the case anymore. Sorry, Bellator.
In the 24 hours since the announcement was made, I've gone through all of the emotions. I was shocked when I first heard it. Denial quickly set in, but so did anger and a little bit of sadness. And through all of this, a single question still lingers, at least for me - Is the UFC's monopoly really a good thing for the sport?
Don't get me wrong, the UFC is awesome at what they do. No other organization treats the fighters as well as the UFC does, but a sport, at least in this country, that is 100% controlled by Zuffa also brings some negative aspects.
For one, my blood still curdles whenever I see a newcomer in the UFC being paid $5,000/$5,000 to show and win. A no-name or not, no one deserves to be paid like crap by a promotion that is making hundreds of millions each year.
A UFC monopoly is now going to give the company even more leverage in contract negotations than they already had, which was a heck of a lot. For many fighters out there who want to make a comfortable living in this sport, at least in North America for the time being, the UFC is essentially the only option.
Another thought is what is going to happen with those fighters under contract with Strikeforce that aren't necessarily big fans of those that run the UFC. Josh Barnett, Frank Shamrock, and Paul Daley are some of the fighters that I'm referring to, fighters that chose Strikeforce as an alternative to Zuffa's business dealings.
The UFC has already erased Barnett and Shamrock from the promotion's history books. Would they be willing to do the same to their jobs? I tend to think not, but when their respective contracts are up with Strikeforce and Showtime, anything could happen to be honest.
Daley has already expressed discontent with the UFC's purchase and has left us wondering whether or not he considering pulling out of his April 9 title shot against Nick Diaz.
I know Dana White has stressed that things with Strikeforce are going to remain "business as usual" but the UFC has already tried the whole 'sister company' thing with the WEC. The result was that casual fans only identify with the UFC brand name and anything else has them confused.
Strikeforce commercials are likely to air during UFC events in the near future, so we'll get a quick gauge in terms of fan response. The only model I see working is using Strikeforce as a minor-league outlet, or a feeder promotion as you will. If the UFC hopes to reach the level of the NFL or NBA as they constantly remind us, they are going to eventually need to form some kind of developmental system.
The most probable scenario is that in two years, after Strikeforce's contracts with Showtime and other sponsors run out, the UFC will fold them into their brand, just as they did with the WEC and PRIDE. It just confuses me when White says that Zuffa was looking to add more fighters into their umbrella, when the roster is already too big to begin with.
The heart of my discontent with the purchase lies in my belief of healthy competition. For years, the UFC pushed itself forward in aiming at defeating their competitors in PRIDE, EliteXC, Affliction and the like. Will the company continue to keep up their hard work and determination while sitting as the sole proprietors of the sport by an amazingly lengthy longshot in the entire world?
And will fighters that didn't have the best of runs in a Zuffa promotion still be able to benefit from competiting in the sport that they love? Time will tell.
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