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Getting Best Fighters In Cage Must Be Ultimate Goal After Zuffa-Strikeforce Deal

UFC president Dana White continually makes a point of reminding the fans that he works to put together the matches they want to see. He also consistently reminds fighters that if they're in this sport to be the best, they better be ready to fight anyone at any time, including teammates. Yet when White broke the news about UFC parent company Zuffa buying Strikeforce to MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani, he produced one curious response that contradicted those two mantras.

When asked by Helwani if, for example, Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem could go to the UFC to fight its heavyweight champion, White said no.

"There won't be any superfights," he said. "When I say 'business as usual,' we don't co-promote. Even when we own it, we don't co-promote, period."

With those last words, White laughed at his own response, almost as if he realized how illogical it sounded.

No superfights?

The prospect of running Strikeforce as a stand-alone promotion makes some sense for the UFC. It is a well-established No. 2, and provides a built-in buffer from other organizations aiming to take that seat alongside the UFC at the big boy's table.

After all, you don't really have a legitimate claim as the No. 2 promotion in the world if you're not even bigger than Zuffa's No. 2 promotion.

On the other hand, White has repeatedly told us he's in the business of making the biggest fights in the world, the fights people want to see. And there are going to be plenty of people who want to see Strikeforce champions fight UFC champions. And so those are the fights White is going to have to eventually make.

He knows it, I know it, and everybody else knows it.

Right now, he's forced to play the game by an altered set of rules. Strikeforce has a strong partnership with Showtime, which may put some limitations on how exactly the Zuffa boys can play with their shiny, new toy.

According to published reports, the Showtime-Strikeforce deal goes into 2012. Until then, there are several more events to be run under the Strikeforce brand on the Showtime channel. Those shows have to be populated and run under the terms of the current deal, which puts Showtime in control of the event production. Showtime also has some influence on the Strikeforce event matchmaking. All of that means it's likely all Strikeforce hands on Showtime's deck until terms of the deal run out or can be renegotiated. All of that also means that the next few months are absolutely critical in terms of determining whether or not Zuffa can build a working relationship with Showtime or the two sides cut ties.

Given the tenuous dynamics of the relationship, Overeem vs. Cain Velasquez doesn't seem likely anytime soon. But White and the Zuffa brass are too business-driven to ignore those types of fights before long. If there's demand, they will eventually supply.

The Strikeforce brand could certainly be kept around for some important uses. Aside from giving Zuffa the No. 1 and 2 promotions, it could also serve to help grease the wheels for Zuffa's long desired push into Japan. Strikeforce's Coker has deeper ties in that community than White or the Fertitta brothers, making him a better candidate to lead a promotion there. Strikeforce also increases Zuffa's television presence, and remember, they have a pre-existing relationship with CBS as well that while strained, could see some new life breathed into it by the possible star power brought into it from the UFC.

But at the end of the day, fans don't care so much about the business deals or how many millions the suits stand to make; they only care about what this deal means for them.

For now, White says it's business as usual, which means no net gain for the fans whatsoever. But Zuffa is too savvy to let that last for long. The barriers that used to stand in the way of co-promotion are essentially gone, and thoughts of superfights should be dancing in our heads. Here's one: if UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre doesn't want to move up in weight to fight Anderson Silva, how about he fights Strikeforce welterweight champ Nick Diaz? Those are the types of options that should be opening up soon as a result of this deal.

The ultimate goal for Zuffa must be getting the best fighters in the cage together regardless of brand. Countless times, I've sat and listened to White explain that boxing's failure to book the fights people want to see is the cause of the sport's struggles, and I doubt he's suddenly forgotten that. A Showtime deal is the last barrier, and when that contract expires or is amended, there will be nothing left in the way to putting the UFC's best in the cage with Strikeforce's best.