Strikeforce will be back in action tonight with another stellar card. I know it may come as a news flash to MMA fans, but yes, there are actually more fighters competing than just Ronda Rousey.
In that statement lays the biggest detriment to what is seemingly becoming a monthly struggle for Strikeforce—holding events that are both exciting and relevant.
The excitement element is something the promotion has had little trouble in producing.
Was Nick Diaz vs. Frank Shamrock relevant at the time? Hell no, but it was entertaining stuff to watch. Did fighters like Keith Jardine or Brett Rogers deserve title shots? Absolutely not, but they were the best fighters Strikeforce could put together with its champions.
The balancing act between exciting and relevant has become harder as more and more fighters are crossing over to the UFC now that Zuffa owns both promotions. Strikeforce has seen virtually its entire heavyweight division become part of the UFC’s ranks while also seeing its most marketable star leave to challenge the UFC’s welterweights.
Now, Strikeforce has a new star in Rousey, but her main attraction is also the one thing that will hold her career back. Rousey is a woman, and women’s MMA isn’t popular among all circles of MMA. It’s still viewed much like a niche in the grand scheme of MMA as a whole. Outside of a few stars, it remains relatively unknown to many fans.
WMMA is still in its infancy, and a star like Rousey could be one of the pioneers to lead it into acceptance from mainstream fans and media alike. That will also likely take quite a bit of time, something Strikeforce seems to be running out of.
Since the Zuffa buyout, rumors of the demise of Strikeforce have been an almost constant headline in media. The relationship between Strikeforce and Showtime seems to be working fine, but with more prominent fighters attempting to seek bigger paydays elsewhere, that relationship may become strained in the future.
In an effort to not only help get more eyeballs to Strikeforce and its fighters, the promotion has been holding events while the other two big promotions in the country are off. Without any major competition from Bellator or the UFC this weekend, all eyes in the MMA world can be turned to Strikeforce. That hopefully leads to bigger ratings and more attention for the fighters involved so they don’t have to leave the promotion.
That’s why Strikeforce should look at the business model of the third best promotion in the United States—Bellator. Not that I’m saying that Bellator is a better promotion, but it does perhaps the best job of creating “homegrown” talent, guys who come up through the promotion and stay with it.
Guys like Hector Lombard, Eddie Alvarez and Ben Askren have become faces for marketing the Bellator product. Strikeforce has a number of talented fighters just waiting to receive the proper support.
You can see a few of them, such as Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Tarec Saffiedine and Miesha Tate, in action tonight. They’re all talented individuals who possess all the skills necessary to become stars inside the cage.
But when choosing to build up stars, Strikeforce will need to reconsider its future plans. Does the promotion want to become a place for fighters to regroup their career while putting on exciting bouts that mean little in the terms of rankings? Or does it want to help add credible depth to its divisions by putting together fights that are not only entertaining but also meaningful?
The best part about the answer to these questions is that Strikeforce is at a point where it can choose either path. The promotion has a handful of recognizable stars to draw fans in each month, but also possess a wealth of young talent to build around for the future.
Like a professional sports team at a crossroads, does Strikeforce stick to what it has now or does it go with a youth movement to rebuild the product? Whatever path the promotion chooses, it needs to be both a clear choice and consistent.
Photo: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (L) and Derek Brunson are among the stars that Strikeforce needs to build upon if it wants to hold monthly events (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)