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The UFC is MMA

In a weekend largely filled with bad news for MMA, the UFC came out as the big winner.  Shooto and Jewels were forced to cancel shows due to the massive Japanese earthquake, Sengoku lost primary sponsor Don Quijote and is close to death, and Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, purchased primary competitor Strikeforce.

With this acquisition, Zuffa has added 20 additional top-25 fighters to its MMA umbrella.  For the top five men’s divisions, the UFC has gone from housing 69.6% of those 125 fighters to now holding contacts for 85.6% of those fighters.  With the dying Japanese MMA scene, the UFC stands to add even more top tier fighters, especially at the lighter weight classes.

Dana White has already come out and stated it will be business as usual for the two promotions, which will operate as separate entities (for now.)  Strikeforce will continue on with Scott Coker in charge of the promotion, while White will continue to helm the UFC.  The UFC and Strikeforce will maintain separate rosters of fighters and the Diaz vs. Daley April 9 show for Strikeforce is going on as planned.

Of course, this arrangement likely won’t last long.  When the UFC purchased PRIDE, they didn’t keep that promotion alive in any form.  Of course, PRIDE was already dying and there haven’t been any big signs of trouble for Strikeforce.  The UFC has also obtained significantly more fighter contracts this time around, so it makes sense that these two promotions operate separately for now.  As fighter contracts expire, Dana says that fighters will be able to negotiate between Strikeforce and the UFC, but I just don’t see that happening.

Keeping Strikeforce alive for now is delaying the process of killing the Strikeforce name and promotion.  Fighters need to continue fighting, and frankly, the UFC is currently unable to facilitate the number of events to keep two rosters of fighters active.  So it’s convenient that Strikeforce already has a lot of 2011 mapped out, with title fights arranged and a Heavyweight Grand Prix already in progress.

I honestly think 2011 will be business as usual for the two promotions, though there will likely be defections to the UFC.  Any top fighters with easily transferable contracts will show up in the UFC sooner rather than later.  Strikeforce’s roster will continue to thin toward the end of the year and the promotion should close at the end of the year.  UFC and Strikeforce champions will fight to unify titles in 2012 and the roster should be assimilated completely.

Next year, it wouldn’t surprise me if the UFC doubled their events from the 30 in 2011 to between 60 and 70 in 2012.  That’s more than one fight a week, so we may see a week where the UFC holds events on Thursdays and Saturday.  Or perhaps there would be two fights on the same day in two separate countries?  The UFC has eyed international expansion, and now it’s possible that they have the roster to follow through.

Of course, there’s still a lot of work to do, and Zuffa has the rest of 2011 to figure it out.  Sengoku is close to death, so that could be yet another roster of fighters the UFC could obtain.  Fighters like Josh Barnett and Paul Daley are not UFC favorites, so will they be left in the cold?  And Dana has previously said that women will never fight in the UFC, so where does that leave Strikeforce’s top female stars?

I worry the most about the women’s fighters, as they definitely deserve a home to compete.  One scenario I would love, and it’s a pipe dream, is if the UFC was the top men’s promotion and Strikeforce was kept as the top women’s promotion as a part of Zuffa.  That way, Dana will never have to see women in the MMA and they can have a home to compete.  I think there’s enough female talent out there to populate an entire promotion with 8-10 big events per year.

For the men, it might be worthwhile to start a cruiserweight division.  I’ve been in the camp for flyweights in the UFC, but with these new contracts, adding a 220-230 lbs. weight class might accommodate this influx of new fighters.  “Rampage” Jackson, Jon Jones, Randy Couture, and Fedor are four names I can think of for this division.  This would be a good home for the heavier 205 pounders, while lighter heavyweights would have a more legitimate home.

There are so many different scenarios and I’m so excited to see how this acquisition shapes up.  More details will emerge in the coming weeks and months, but I’m thrilled that more top fighters are all part of the same parent promotion.

Prior to this purchase, many fans refused to crown the UFC as the king of MMA given the top talent outside of the promotion.  Now I don’t see any way you can argue with this notion.  The UFC is the home of so many fantastic fighters that it is slowly becoming the only place that matters in MMA.

Categories: Editorial Feature
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