VANCOUVER, British Columbia – It's amazing how much can change in the MMA world in just a few short months. Take, for instance, UFC
president Dana White's stance on both Strikeforce and its TV partner, Showtime.
Before Zuffa bought Strikeforce, White rarely missed a chance to rip on both his largest competitor and its premium cable home. But now? Even White is a little surprised at the words coming out of his mouth.
"Showtime has worked with us really good," White told reporters following the UFC 131 pre-fight press conference on Thursday. "I can't believe you guys are going to hear me say some positive Showtime stuff right now, but to be honest, and no joking, they've been great with us. We've worked together very well and we'll see what happens."
That doesn't mean the situation isn't sticky at times, however. White explained how the UFC made a deal with Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz
to come to the UFC and face Georges St. Pierre
– a bout he was spurred to sign due to overwhelming fan request for it, White explained.
The move means that Diaz will vacate his Strikeforce title to fight for GSP's UFC belt, White said, leaving the Strikeforce strap behind for two as-of-yet unnamed fighters to compete for.
"He will give up the title. He will give up his Strikeforce title. He will come in and fight Georges St. Pierre. Two guys will fight for the vacant belt in Strikeforce, and then we'll go from there," White said.
"[Diaz] has a UFC contract now. ...If things didn't go well, there'd be no problem with him fighting over in Strikeforce. He'd still make the same money. It's the same company. It's not like we'd say, 'Now you're going to Strikeforce and you got to do this.' Diaz is stepping up. He's going to take this big fight with Georges St. Pierre. We always make it right with the guys, so we'll figure it out."
White seemed upbeat about his recent meeting with Diaz, saying the Stockton, Calif. fighter has "a completely different attitude than he used to have when he was in the UFC."
But has he finally learned, as White long said he'd have to, how to "play the game"?
"That is the million-dollar question," White said.
But just because Diaz got shuffled into a UFC title fight relatively quickly, it doesn't mean all Strikeforce fighters should expect a similar opportunity. White said he wants to "respect the deal that we have with [Showtime]" and not pick Strikeforce clean of all its best talent.
In the end, he said, it's "ninety-nine percent economics."
"We want to make this thing work for them and us. And the big question with Strikeforce is, can we make this thing work on Showtime so that we don't get murdered and lose a bunch of money?"
For now, White and the UFC seem to be taking it one step at a time when it comes to Strikeforce issues. When asked several times and in several different ways what he plans to do with the eventual winner of Strikeforce's heavyweight Grand Prix, White pleaded ignorance, explaining that they had yet to decide on a course of action.
"I have no clue," he said during Thursday's press conference. "I don't know what we're doing with that. We'll see what happens."
White clarified that, at least in his eyes, the winner of the Strikeforce tournament would be "the best heavyweight in Strikeforce," but it wouldn't necessarily mean an immediate pass into the UFC, no matter how much people might love to see that.
"I'm glad that fans are excited about this stuff," White told reporters. "Part of being a fight fan is getting excited about fights. The fact that fans get excited about fights and media get excited about fights and want to know what's going to happen next, I love it. It's good stuff. It's just that the answer is: I don't know. If I knew, I'd tell you. We're trying to figure this thing out."