Last time the people wanted change this bad; President Barack Obama was running for office.
Zuffa, parent company of Strikeforce, has their hands tied in regards to the changes they can make to the promotion while Showtime is still involved, but one has to wonder what modifications will be made in due time.
Strikeforce: “Rockhold vs. Kennedy” took place Saturday at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Ore., and fighters and fans alike were voicing their displeasure with the promotion and its manner of operating.
Leading up to the event the challenger, Tim Kennedy, in the middleweight title main event against champion Luke Rockhold, spoke to the media about the lack of coverage the bout received. Kennedy said at the press conference prior to the show that he was peeved with the small amount of media outlets that showed up to cover the function.
Tyron Woodley, who fought Nate Marquardt for the vacant welterweight title mentioned at the press conference that a week before he was in Las Vegas and witnessed 2,000 people attend the UFC 148 weigh-in event. Woodley would probably be even more upset if he knew that there were approximately 8,000 people at the UFC 148 weigh-ins.
Strikeforce: “Rockhold vs. Kennedy” was an event that featured two title bouts as well as the debut of Marquardt, a former top ranked UFC middleweight. The pre-fight press conference was a ghost town and the weigh-ins for the event didn’t exactly have a good showing either.
Saturday came and the event commenced. Ryan Couture, son of UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, competed on the preliminary card. When the elder Couture entered the cage to assist his son in between rounds “The Natural” received a better reception from the fans than any combatant on the card, even the title bout competitors. It was as if the spectators in the Rose Garden Arena were not in tune with the fighters competing that night.
Undefeated Lorenz Larkin and UFC veteran Robbie Lawler kicked off the main card. Larkin defeated Lawler, undoubtedly the biggest victory of his career, and in his post-fight interview “The Monsoon” requested that the fighters in Strikeforce start receiving nightly bonuses like UFC combatants do. Larkin asked the question directly at UFC president Dana White, but the UFC big wig’s compromising position doesn’t allow him to make those decisions with Showtime being involved.
And the fans have been giving their usual criticism of the Strikeforce commentating team consisting of Mauro Ranallo, Pat Miletich and Frank Shamrock since the event began.
White has said in the past that he stepped back from assisting with the operations that take place at Strikeforce due to the involvement of Showtime. The contract between Showtime and Strikeforce is in place until 2014, but what changes can be expected when Zuffa fully takes over the reins.
One of the major things Strikeforce lacks that the UFC dominates is fighter exposure and advertising. There’s no doubt Zuffa will be plugging Strikeforce events and pushing their roster of combatants in fans’ faces. Showtime missed the mark on Saturday’s card by a long-shot when you compare how the brains behind the UFC would promote a dual title match card. Promoting a well-known name like Marquardt and his opponent, Woodley, who was undefeated in Strikeforce should have been relatively effortless. And the main event featured Rockhold, a defending champion that recently defeated UFC veteran Keith Jardine, battling Kennedy, a U.S. Army Ranger that has served for his country on two separate tours – one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. To miss the mark on promoting that bout can simply be chalked up as executives that don’t have a strong grasp on marketing professional MMA fighters that have character.
Just think what a Zuffa-produced countdown show could do with a war hero in terms of building Kennedy’s fan base. For example, look at what they did with Brian Stann’s marketability.
Larkin’s bid for event bonuses will likely be one of the first adjustments Zuffa will make. Clearly Strikeforce does not generate the revenue the UFC does, but possibly bonuses consisting of a lower amount of money could be an option. After all, when Zuffa owned the now-defunct WEC they provided nightly bonuses for each event. Though, the bonuses were usually to the tune of $10,000, WEC 48 saw Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung take home a promotion record setting $65,000 each for “Fight of the Night.”
Fans are the ones paying the salaries of the fighters and executives involved in any MMA promotion. The fans have never been fond of the commentators Strikeforce utilizes for their events. Viewers find Ranallo’s antics annoying, they tolerate Miletich and they despise Shamrock.
The UFC’s main duo in the booth is Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, but they also use Jon Anik and Kenny Florian on occasion. Over the years the tried UFC heavyweight Frank Mir, as well as UFC light heavyweight Stephan Bonnar in the WEC for calling the bouts. They’ve had guests such as Couture sit in with Rogan and Goldberg during UFC bouts. They found who the fans accept through trial and error, so it’s a fairly safe assumption that the Strikeforce commentating team will face changes after Zuffa is done navigating the ship.
Not to mention that White and Shamrock do not see eye to eye or even get along for the purpose of conducting business. Therefore, the UFC president will probably relieve Shamrock from his duties immediately following the Zuffa takeover.
Until Showtime is out of the picture any Strikeforce fighter that is looking for better advertising needs to be able to market themselves or impress Zuffa to the point they are offered a UFC contract. Nightly bonuses are solely a UFC thing at the moment and even if a combatant competes in the UFC they still have to earn that gratuity.
And as for the fans that can’t deal with the commentating team, their only option until 2014 is the mute button.
Likewise to President Obama and his nation of people, UFC president White and MMA’s legion of fans are anxious for change.