DENVER -- Near the end of Wednesday's UFC 135
pre-fight press conference, a particularly insistent fan decided he didn't need the microphone in order to grill UFC
president Dana White about the future of Strikeforce's women's division, of which he seemed to be an ardent supporter. What would become of the female fighters, he inquired, after Strikeforce
...well, you know.
"After Strikeforce what?" White shot back. Though really, he didn't need to ask. He understood the unstated assumption as well as anyone in the room, and the sheepish grin on his face said as much.
"Are you assuming that we're going to shut Strikeforce down?" White asked, as if it was the first time he'd heard the idea.
To hear White tell it, it's not a question of whether Zuffa wants to continue to operate the lesser-known organization it acquired last spring. Instead, he insisted, it's up to Showtime, which broadcasts the fights on its premium cable network.
"Who knows what's going to happen? The way this thing works is, it depends on Showtime. The ball's in their court. They need to decide whether they want to keep Strikeforce around or not," White said.
Of course, with the UFC picking off Strikeforce champions left and right, it seems as though White isn't giving Showtime a lot of reasons to keep the flagging organization alive.
Former Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem
and former welterweight champ Nick Diaz
both have UFC dates in the near future, and vacant Strikeforce titles in their wakes. The UFC also recently signed Strikeforce light heavyweight champ Dan Henderson
to take on Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 139
after "smooth" contract negotiations, according to White, and the stakes for Hendo are indeed big in his return to the Octagon.
"It would be tough not to give the winner of [Henderson-Rua] a title fight," White added. "After Rashad [Evans
But while Strikeforce continues to play out its Showtime contract, White doesn't seem terribly interested in following the action. He claimed not to have seen the most recent World Heavyweight Grand Prix event, which got very little hype from Zuffa or Showtime, and received dismal ratings after drawing a paltry live crowd. Showtime reportedly has an option to extend the Strikeforce contract, but White added there was a "deadline" for the network to decide by.
"It depends on whether they seriously want to stay in the business, the mixed martial arts business," White said, before hinting that he thought Strikeforce had signed a bad deal when it aligned itself with Showtime.
"Everybody that comes into this business thinks that pay-per-view or free TV is the holy grail, the answer to everybody's problems. Bulls--t. Either of those two things will put you out of business. You get into a bad deal with one of these companies, and the next thing you know you're $30 million in the hole."
It's comments like that that have many in the industry assuming it's all just a matter of time before Strikeforce disappears for good. With the Showtime contract expiring soon, and with ratings worse than ever, it seems unlikely that the cable network would want to continue to air an organization that is rapidly losing its few stars to the UFC.
And maybe that's the whole point, even though White won't confirm or deny it.
"I'm UFC, man," he said. "I'm all UFC and you guys know that. I wanted nothing to do with this thing. And it's not like I'm Showtime's best friend. Lorenzo [Fertitta]'s much nicer than me. Let Lorenzo go deal with that."