Yesterday, we asked if a war was brewing between Strikeforce and the UFC. Today, we got our answer. Yes there is, and Dana White fired the first shots following the UFC 101 pre-fight press conference.
“[Strikeforce has] no money, no fighters. They’re a small-town show. Cung Le hasn’t defended the title since like 1997. Josh Thomson hasn’t defended the belt in like two years. Who’s their other champion? Alistair Overeem? He hasn’t defended the belt in like two years. It’s Strike-Farce. It’s a little regional show with no one in it…[Fedor will] put them out of business. They have no money and no distribution. You know how many people watch their fights? Their last fight [on Showtime cable], 245,000 people watched that fight. That’s nothing.”
Loretta Hunt relayed these comments to Scott Coker on the Strikeforce-M-1 Global conference call today. They seemed to catch him a little off-guard, but in his usual diplomatic manner, he wouldn’t take the bait.
“Of course he’s going to say that. He’s a promoter. He’s going to go on and say what he’s going to say, but we’ve been in business a long time and I think we know how to operate a business and forged a relationship with Ken (Hershman) and Showtime and M-1. I feel confident that we’re going to have some great big shows with Fedor…Under the current circumstances, is anybody surprised? I don’t think so.”
The rumored cease-and-desist letter also came up at both press conferences. M-1’s Apy Echteld confirmed the UFC tried to stop the Mousasi-Babalu fight, but said Mousasi was “happy” with his Strikeforce contract and will honor it.
“There have never been any tight negotiations about this contract,” he said. “There has been some contact in the past, and also during the conversation, the only thing that came on the table was (that) the UFC tried to stop the fight between Mousasi and Babalu. But at that time, Mousasi already signed his contract, which he is happy with and he will honor with Strikeforce.
“I talked with (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva last night, and last night he actually said for the first time the only thing they tried to do… is match with contract with Affliction and Mousasi, so that was all.”
Meanwhile, Dana said he couldn’t confirm it, but he didn’t deny it either.
“I honestly don’t know,” he said, intimating that his legal team might have acted without his knowledge. “Maybe we did. You know me. I’d tell you if I knew we did.”
At this point, I think it has become pretty clear that the UFC is gearing up to take out another competitor. Scott Coker may have never asked for it, but with the Fedor/M-1 deal, Strikeforce didn’t just gain a new ally, they acquired a substantial enemy too. Now, it’s just a question of if they can survive what Zuffa throws at them. Coker believes since their core business is mixed martial arts and not t-shirts, comic books or gambling, they can succeed where others failed. Maybe he’s right, but they’re going to be in for one hell of a fight along the way.
“We’ll see what happens,” White said. “If they want to fight me, we’re gonna fight. We know how that goes, and we know how it ends.”
Unfortunately, we do.