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UFC, Strikeforce Not 'Business As Usual' -- Business Better Than Ever

Dana White is the best in the world when it comes to hyping a fight, and sometimes that requires a little bit (or even a lot) of overstatement. But every now and then, he decides to understate things. And that's what White has done with the news that the UFC purchased Strikeforce.

In his interview with Ariel Helwani, White said repeatedly that the UFC buying Strikeforce would result in nothing more than "business as usual" -- the UFC would keep putting on its own fights, Strikeforce will keep putting on its own fights, and not a whole lot will change.

Don't believe it. This transaction won't result in business as usual. It will result in the UFC's business growing far beyond the usual.


The UFC was already the No. 1 mixed martial arts promotion in the world by a huge margin, and now it has purchased the No. 2. There really is no No. 3, and with one company now controlling the sport of MMA to an unprecedented extent, we're going to see business get better in a lot of ways:

The fights: What the UFC has always stood for, Dana White frequently says, is giving the fans the fights they want to see. And so while White says now that the fighters under contract to Strikeforce will remain in Strikeforce and the fighters under contract to the UFC will stay in the UFC, it's just a matter of time before we see crossover super fights. If the fans are clamoring for it, it would be crazy not to do it.

My money is on the first super fight coming in 2012, with the Strikeforce heavyweight champion taking on the UFC heavyweight champion. Imagine the hype surrounding an Alistair Overeem vs. Cain Velasquez fight, if Overeem has won the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament and Velasquez has beaten Brock Lesnar or Junior dos Santos. That would be the fight the fans would want to see, and it's the fight the UFC would make.

Eventually, I think the UFC will do exactly what it did with the WEC, and fold the smaller promotion into the bigger promotion. But before that happens, expect to see some Strikeforce-UFC super fights, even if those fights aren't currently in White's plans.

The Fighters: Most of the fighters under the Strikeforce banner, have to be thrilled at the idea of Zuffa's promotional muscle getting behind them. Someone like Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez is going to see his stock surge among MMA fans, many of whom are exclusively UFC fans and don't know who Melendez is.

Where it's a bad thing for fighters is that if you're a free agent, you can't count on two big promotions bidding for your services anymore. Fighters like Dan Henderson and Jake Shields, who benefited from switching promotions for more money, won't have that option anymore.

The Media: MMA still doesn't receive as much mainstream media attention as it should, and one of the reasons is that the mainstream media still doesn't really get how MMA works: The average newspaper sports editor wouldn't know Cain Velasquez from Kimbo Slice. For the mainstream media, this move will simplify things, and make the sport easier to follow, and therefore easier to cover.

The TV deals: Strikeforce's television model is fundamentally different from the UFC's, with the UFC focusing on pay-per-view and basic cable while Strikeforce goes for premium cable on Showtime and, occasionally, network television on CBS. The UFC has tried hard to get a premium cable deal (a deal with HBO fell apart at the 11th hour), and getting the UFC on network television has long been viewed as a necessary step toward mainstream acceptance. Taking over Strikeforce means taking over the TV contracts, and it's a step toward a world where the UFC is able to gain more exposure on TV without cannibalizing its bread-and-butter pay-per-view business.

The calendar: White has said in the past that he envisions a future time when there's never a week when the UFC isn't running shows somewhere in the world -- and maybe even running multiple shows on the same weekend. As the UFC is currently constructed, that's not possible. But with the addition of more fighters and more staff, you can easily see how 52 shows a year -- or more -- is a real possibility. In 2010, the UFC did 24 events, the WEC did eight events and Strikeforce did 15 events. Combining the three promotions makes it entirely possible that Zuffa could put out a schedule in which it never takes a week off. Not in 2011 or 2012, but some day in the not-too-distant future.

These are exciting times for MMA fans, and this deal is a game changer for the sport. Dana White knows that his business is looking better than ever.