It was very much “business as usual” during Saturday night’s Strikeforce “Diaz vs. Daley” broadcast, the first major event since Zuffa purchased Strikeforce. Showtime addressed the sale at the top of the broadcast and briefly showed Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta in attendance, but in terms of presentation and production value, there really weren’t any noticeable differences from past Strikeforce/Showtime events.
According to Dave Meltzer however, that wasn’t the case at all behind the scenes. Dana White said upfront that they would be bringing in some of their people to help run Strikeforce and as Meltzer reports, they didn’t waste any time in doing so. Interestingly, Zuffa elected to send over many of the folks that ran the WEC for a number of years including former WEC GM Reed Harris and matchmaker Sean Shelby. The WEC was a well-run organization so the move makes sense, but unfortunately there were casualties in the process.
The changes actually started at a smaller Strikeforce event, held eight days earlier, in Stockton, Calif., when several of the Strikeforce employees were brought into a room and told they were being let go. They were told they would have the opportunity, if they wanted, to apply for positions in UFC parent company Zuffa LLC. Many noted that while there was clearly uncertainty as soon as the purchase was announced, they were surprised the ax came down so quickly.
Friday’s weigh-ins, from an organizational perspective, felt like a World Extreme Cagefighting front-office reunion party (Zuffa merged WEC into the UFC after a final show in mid-December). Among those front and center were former WEC vice-president Peter Dropick, general manager Reed Harris, matchmaker Sean Shelby and P.R. head Dave Sholler.
It is no secret that Dropick is being groomed to help run the Strikeforce business going forward. It was expected that Shelby, who is currently the assistant matchmaker for UFC and in charge of the lighter weight divisions he ran at WEC, would oversee the Strikeforce matchmaking in some capacity.
Another major change not readily apparent to fans, but has received quite a bit of attention in the past couple weeks is Strikeforce’s new professional journalism policy. It’s common knowledge that Sherdog, Loretta Hunt, Josh Gross and others who have pissed off Zuffa officials have long been denied press credentials to UFC events. They were however welcomed with opened arms at Strikeforce events. Not anymore. Neither Sherdog nor Loretta Hunt who was attempting to cover the show for CBS Sports were granted credentials to Saturday’s event.
In short, Strikeforce still looks like Strikeforce, but it’s quickly morphing into a Zuffa promotion wrapped in Showtime’s clothing.