Holy smokes! In an interview with MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, Dana White breaks the monumental news that Zuffa, parent company of the UFC, has purchased Strikeforce.
Update: Rundown of the details…
— Deal literally just closed
— They made the deal because they need more fights as the company grows and expands internationally.
— They recognized that Strikeforce is a brand that is building a following and fans have come to like. They put on fights people like and acquiring them made sense to them.
— The deal happened quickly. “Not even close” to a year.
— Won’t disclose how the deal came together.
— Strikeforce fighters will remain Strikeforce fighters. The Strikeforce organization will remain a separate entity from the UFC. “Business as usual” All contracts will be honored. Strikeforce will remain on Showtime.
— UFC fighters could “absolutely” leave the UFC and end up in Strikeforce. Didn’t say if Strikeforce fighters could move to the UFC, but I’m sure that’s a possibility.
— Showtime will still produce Strikeforce events, but you may see minor Zuffa influences in the broadcasts.
— Given their volatile relationship, Lorenzo Fertitta will likely deal with Showtime’s Ken Hershman instead of Dana White.
— Scott Coker will continue to work with Showtime and other partners Dana has a sour relationship with such as Fedor Emelianenko and M-1 Global.
— Scott Coker will continue to run Strikeforce. “Business as usual”
— In their 10 years of being in the mixed martial arts business, they have never not honored a contract. They will do the same with Showtime, M-1 Global, Fedor, etc.
— Fedor Emelianenko has a contract with Strikeforce and Showtime, and will continue to fight for Strikeforce on Showtime.
— No “super bowl” as Ariel phrased it between the UFC and Strikeforce. They will not be doing any super fights. “When I say business as usual, we don’t co-promote. Even when we own it, we don’t co-promote.”
— At this point in time, Strikeforce operations will remain the same out of their headquarters in San Jose. Zuffa can however provide them resources to help them grow both domestically and internationally. They can “absolutely” make tweaks to make Strikeforce run better.
— Won’t disclose how much they paid for Strikeforce. Dana White says it was the “right deal.” Says the PRIDE deal was bigger. Off the top of my head, I believe that deal was rumored to be somewhere around $70 million.
— No idea what will happen in the future when Strikeforce contracts expire with their fighters and Showtime, but they will have the right to negotiate with fighters to bring them into the UFC if they choose to do so. Dana however alludes to him and Scott Coker competing for talent just like before. Reiterates “business as usual.”
— Dana’s “buddies” like Josh Barnett and Paul Daley who have contracts with Strikeforce will remain in Strikeforce. Their contracts will be honored. However, Dana will not be negotiating with Josh Barnett to bring him to the UFC when his contract is up.
— Dana hasn’t watched the Strikeforce/Showtime product enough to form an opinion, but “the reality is” the fans enjoy their product and that’s what matters
— There will be marketing synergy. We will see Strikeforce promotions during UFC pay-per-view broadcasts and visa versa.
— Women’s fighting will remain in Strikeforce. “Business as usual” Dana still doesn’t think there’s enough top female talent to support a women’s division.
— “Probably” won’t see Dana White at Strikeforce events. He still doesn’t get along with a lot of people over there. You will likely see other UFC personalities at Strikeforce events such as Lorenzo Fertitta or Joe Silva though.
— Believes Scott Coker wants to continue promoting mixed martial arts because that’s what he does even though he has cashed out so to speak.
— It’s possible Showtime could come to them and say they don’t want to be in business with Zuffa, but they haven’t said anything to this point to make Dana believe they will.
— Zuffa acquires the Strikefore library and has the largest MMA library on the planet.
— Dana says the primary motivation behind the deal was acquiring more fighters to put on more fights as they expand internationally.
— Won’t admit they did the deal to eliminate the competition.
— All business relationships Scott Coker has in place such as his “strategic alliance” with DREAM & FEG (who may not exist in the next six months) will remain in place.
— We may see UFC events at Strikeforce’s home venue, the HP Pavilion in San Jose, and we may see Strikeforce events in Las Vegas.
— “Doubts” they will look to acquire “the Bellator’s of the world,” but “I never say never.”
— Reiterates that Strikeforce is a separate business, with their own income, budgets and deals.
— Uses the Viacom split as an example. Same company, but two different entities run by two different people and they stay that way. UFC and Strikeforce will be run the same exact way.
— Paul Daley will still never fight in the UFC. Up to Scott Coker if he re-signs guys like Daley and Josh Barnett.
In summary, everything will remain pretty much the same between the UFC and Strikeforce for the foreseeable future. Strikeforce just has a different owner. When it will really get interesting though is when all of Strikeforce’s contracts start running out. For now, “business as usual.”
Update: MMA Weekly got Dan Henderson’s reaction to the news. He was just as shocked as the rest of us, but with one fight left on his Strikeforce contract, he is open to returning to the UFC.
“It’s a little shocking. I had no idea,” Henderson told MMAWeekly.com on Saturday. “I know there were rumors 6 months ago, but I was pretty shocked. I don’t know what to feel about it, I don’t necessarily think, it might not be the best thing for the sport. But then again you’re going to start being able to see all these match-ups that everyone wants to see. Who knows.”
“I had no plans of leaving, but I don’t know what this is going to do those plans, but I have one fight left on my deal and we’ll see what happens,” Henderson stated.
“Of course,” Henderson answered when prompted about fighting for White and the UFC again. “I’ve never said anything bad about them. I always appreciated everything they’ve done for me and for the sport. It’s just I was paid more money to go elsewhere, and that’s what I did. Dana’s the type that needs to talk a little smack if he doesn’t get his way, but I’ve got no hard feelings about anything.”
This is why you don’t burn bridges. Guys like Josh Barnett are going to find this out the hard way.
Some people think Zuffa may actually have an interest in continuing to build Strikeforce like that said they wanted to with PRIDE and tried to do with the WEC, but that’s not what ESPN’s Josh Gross is hearing.
Update: MMA Junkie reports that Zuffa weren’t the only ones trying to acquire Strikeforce. Apparently, ProElite Inc. started making a play for Strikeforce long before Zuffa did.
ProElite Inc., the once-mighty fight-promotion company purchased for pennies on the dollar in February 2010 by Stratus Media Group Inc., had been in active negotiations with the recently acquired Strikeforce and had met face to face with CEO Scott Coker, sources close to the negotiations today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com).
“There were offers made both ways,” said one source.
ProElite Inc. first inquired about purchasing Strikeforce mere months after it was taken over by Stratus Media Group in early 2010, and talks had intensified within the past month, one source said.
One of Junkie’s sources said Strikeforce co-owner Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment was happy with their returns but “didn’t want to take it to the next level,” while another source said Strikeforce was losing money and they were beginning to worry. Either way, it doesn’t matter now that Zuffa closed the deal.
Among those potential investors was ProElite, Inc., which was told it could buy out Coker’s Silicon Valley partners for $20 million and another $20 million investment in capital, a source involved in the negotiations said. ProElite is a publicly traded company that promoted MMA on Showtime under the EliteXC banner until it sold its assets to Strikeforce and its partner Silicon Valley in February 2009. That 2009 sale created the opportunity for Strikeforce to strike a deal with Showtime.
Sources confirmed Coker, the current Strikeforce CEO, attempted to wrest control of the brand, but in the end was unsuccessful. Instead, an agreement to sell Strikeforce’s licensing rights, fighter contracts and video library closed with the UFC on Thursday or Friday.
Current contracts between fighters and Strikeforce are transferrable to Zuffa, sources with knowledge of the contracts’ language said.
MMAPayout’s Jose Mendoza adds these details:
That would explain why Dana was uncharacteristically complimentary of the heavyweight grand prix.
Meanwhile, Paul Daley, who Dana White famously banned from the UFC for taking a cheap shot at Josh Koscheck following their fight at UFC 113, is threatening to pull out of his fight with Nick Diaz because he doesn’t want to put money in Dana White’s pockets.
Business as usual, what if i dont wanna fight for DANA WHITE/ZUFFA?……Dana white bans me for life from the UFC, Then buys STRIKEFORCE, and thinks im still gonna be EASY and fight on one of the most anticipated fights of the year (vs Diaz)? Which will no doubt make ZUFFA/Dana White money.
Daley vs Diaz still on?…..Someone better holla at my manager real quick.
Not sure what im gonna do right now, honestly…fight for the Strikeforce and be Strikeforce champ, put money in ZUFFA/Dana Whites pockets? Or fight here in the UK for BAMMA, who appreciate my brand, and have my loyal fans, family and media support me. For real.
I’ve always thought Dana White’s stance on Daley was too harsh, but Daley isn’t doing himself any favors here. This deal is going through with or without him. No one is going to lose any sleep if Daley fades away from relevance in the UK. He would be best served to get back in Dana’s good graces, not burn more bridges. This is why you don’t burn bridges!
If you’re thinking this will lead to Fedor Emelianenko finally competing in the UFC, think again. Dana White doesn’t think it will happen.
“I don’t see any irony in that,” White said, chuckling. “Even though Fedor is now under contract with Zuffa, I still have a hard time imagining he’ll ever fight in the UFC. We’ll see, but that’s my bet right now.”
How would you like to be a fighter for Strikeforce now? Fedor doesn’t want any part of Zuffa. Alistair Overeem wants to be able to kickbox as well as fight and that goes against Zuffa code. Josh Barnett doesn’t want to deal with the UFC politics. What does it say about Coker and his belief in his Heavyweight GP that he would cash out before even completing one round of said tournament? If he really believed in his company and believed in the trajectory it was going in, he wouldn’t have sold the company. Remember all those glowing reports from a couple of weeks ago about how the company was doing so well? Will the ‘tournament’ even progress further?
Outside of roster issues, UFC accomplishes a lot here with the purchase of Strikeforce. They eliminate their main rival and ensure complete and total control of the industry. They also have enough VTR (video) to run a media channel. Other than Shaw and Showtime, there is no one left to give Zuffa a headache. And, if you’re DREAM or K-1 or Sakakibara, you just saw the one willing business partner in the States sell his company out to an organization (UFC) that had a bitter taste left in its mouth in the asset sale deal for PRIDE.
Dave Meltzer brings up some other interesting points. Dana White said they did this because they need more fighters for more fights, but don’t they already have too many fighters under contract? Meltzer says yes. Via BE:
- “The UFC can run enough shows to keep 200 fighters busy. Right now they’ve got 260 fighters under contract.”
- “Strikeforce has too many fighters under contract. The UFC has too many fighters under contract.”
- “At some point down the road they’d like to be running events in Europe on the same night they’re doing events in the U.S. but that’s not the situation now.”
- “Can the UFC give up mega-fights it needs for pay-per-view for a network show on CBS? It’s tricky.”
If you want my two cents, I thought this is where this was all heading anyways. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, I figured a couple years, but either Strikeforce was going to run themselves into the ground or Zuffa was going to buy them out. Zuffa is just too big and powerful to allow a real legitimate competitor to emerge and threaten their future. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I guess that depends on who you ask, but I will tell you that I’m very excited for all the potential match-ups this could ultimately produce. The biggest concern moving forward of course will be the fighters now that their leverage is all but gone. I’d like to see some sort of union or association emerge at some point to protect the fighters’ interests. I doubt it will happen anytime soon, if ever, but it’s only fair.
Update: M-1 Global’s Evgeni Kogan agrees with Dana White. It’s “business as usual” as far as they’re concerned.
‘Fedor’s contract is with Showtime Networks Inc and we’re excited to be working with such a premium North American outlet,” Kogan said.
“The purchase of Strikeforce doesn’t affect M-1 at all,” Kogan stated. “Our TV deal is with Showtime and we’re happy. It’s business as usual for M-1 Global as we close into our March 25th event.”