Strikeforce is a thing of the past, but sometimes these things happen in MMA.
Strikeforce presented their final show on Saturday, and the promotion put on an event that exhibited dominant performances, back and forth wars and even an upset in the main event. In the years leading up to “Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine,” the mixed martial arts promotion was also responsible for breeding new fighters, reviving old stars, as well as some of the sport’s greatest debacles.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker started the promotion as a kickboxing organization in 1985, however, we’re going to focus on the MMA Strikeforce that was incepted in 2006.
On March 10, 2006, Strikeforce displayed their first MMA event. The show had bouts including some of today’s well-known names such as, Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson, Clay Guida, Brian Ebersole, Matt Horwich, Mike Kyle, Krzysztof Soszynski, Cung Le and Nate Diaz. A battle between Frank Shamrock and Cesar Gracie also took place that evening and set the pace for the breakthrough organization.
The San Jose based promotion spent the next couple years building their roster out of fighters from smaller companies and UFC rejects. Once Strikeforce found its niche in the sport, they started to catch the respect of MMA fans looking for another outlet to watch their favorite sport besides the UFC.
In 2008 and 2009, Strikeforce really flourished. The promotion acquired fighters, as well as the combatants’ video libraries from Pro Elite (parent company to EliteXC). Those mixed martial artists included the likes of Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, Scott Smith, Robbie Lawlor, amongst others. Another seldom seen thing in MMA, Strikeforce struck deals with Japanese organizations, which allowed fighters to have cross-promotion matches. This idea gave fans the ability to see elite fighters from two different promotions do battle. They also put an emphasis on promoting the females of the sport, which birthed superstars in WMMA and encouraged fans to take a look at what women can offer in the cage.
By then, Strikeforce wasn’t relying on journeymen and beyond-their-prime fighters to flesh out a card. Strikeforce had an identity and began building their superstars.
(Nick) Diaz, a longtime fan-favorite in MMA, entered Strikeforce with his take no nonsense attitude and took out Shamrock in his first bout under contract with the promotion. Diaz went on a six-fight undefeated streak, while grasping the welterweight belt in Strikeforce during his time with the organization. The aforementioned Melendez, Diaz’s homie, built his name in Strikeforce en route to becoming the lightweight champion and cementing a legendary trilogy of scraps with Thomson. A couple of women by the names of Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” Santos put female fighting on the map when the two combatants headlined a Strikeforce event on Showtime. It was the first time two females were ever the main event of an MMA card, and man, they delivered.
Strikeforce was beginning to look like a promotion that could co-exist with the ginormous UFC. Strikeforce attained UFC top contender Dan Henderson and a fighter considered to be one of the best in the world, Fedor Emelianenko, which were two essential assets to obtain in 2010 MMA. They were embarking on the beginning of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, which included Alistair Overeem. They had their own fighters that represented the organization, inked network television deals and we’re expanding, which established the promotion in the sport. They were intent on making their next move, however, the hiccups and turmoil began.
In Henderson’s inaugural bout in the Strikeforce cage, he was bested by Shields in a middleweight title affair. Emelianenko won his first match in the promotion against Brett Rogers, yet was annihilated in his final three Strikeforce outings. And, lest we forget, the Nashville brawl that followed the Shields vs. Henderson main event, which had Diaz and crew rush Jason Miller in the cage after an uninvited plug to get his shot against the middleweight champ. Then the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix started as a great concept, but after Overeem fell to injury, and Daniel Cormier replaced “The Demolition Man,” fans had to wait eight months for the tournament to finalize. It questioned the legitimacy of the tourney and the promotion.
While Strikeforce was ironing out their wrinkles, they were purchased by Zuffa, parent company of the UFC. The UFC was quick to gobble up the fighters who were UFC-ready. Diaz, Henderson, Lavar Johnson, Antonio Silva, amongst others were absorbed immediately. Yet, Strikeforce was expected to continue as its own entity, it was business as usual, UFC president Dana White claimed.
Strikeforce had champions like Luke Rockhold, perennial contenders like Tim Kennedy, new stars like Cormier, yet the inevitable happened in the autumn of 2012. They announced the doors would be closed on the promotion following their event on Saturday.
Though, many fans expected Strikeforce to become defunct after Zuffa purchased the company, some still had hope the promotion would continue. MMA fanatics loved having an option other than UFC, they enjoyed the quirky commentating booth, they appreciated an outlet supporting fighters that didn’t go with the UFC grain, yet they were let down.
After Tarec Saffiedine defeated Nate Marquardt vie decision last Saturday, the promotion was laid to rest.
Strikeforce is now a thing of the past, and in the words of former Strikeforce commentator Gus Johnson, sometimes these things happen in MMA.