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News Story of the Half-Year: Zuffa Buys Strikeforce

MMA fans opened up their internet browsers one afternoon in March and discovered that their world had changed. The competition that had been gradually escalating between the UFC and Strikeforce was now over.

With one flourish of its checkbook, Zuffa ended that rivalry by purchasing its largest competitor, and the MMA landscape shifted under our feet.

Business as usual. So said UFC president Dana White, anyway.

The wonderfully ironic phrase was his go-to answer for all the biggest questions. What would happen to Strikeforce's independent operation? Would UFC and Strikeforce fighters square off in cross-promotional superfights? Would fighters cut from the UFC still be able to turn right around and sign with Strikeforce, now that the UFC effectively owned that too?

Business as usual, was the answer, and so it went.

If by usual, you mean completely different in ways both big and small.

The Zuffa purchase of Strikeforce was more than just a UFC expansion, however. It was also a consolidation of MMA power with the potential to be both good and bad for fighters.

For instance, when the UFC held its annual fighter summit, Strikeforce fighters were there. When Zuffa acquired limited medical insurance coverage for its fights, Strikeforce fighters were covered by it. When Zuffa ran ads for future events during current ones, it included upcoming Strikeforce shows in those efforts.

Just business as usual.

The same was true when Nate Marquardt was dropped from the UFC and there was hardly even a whisper that a Strikeforce contract might be in his future. When asked if that was even possible, White shrugged his shoulders and glanced off into the distance -- exactly as he had done a few weeks earlier when asked what would become of the Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix champion.

"I don't know," he said. "Don't ask me about Strikeforce."

Not that the big fights didn't also begin to materialize. A bout between Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz and UFC champion Georges St. Pierre seemed like a wonderful, but impossible dream when Diaz mentioned it in the odd interview here or there. But after the Zuffa purchase of Strikeforce, that dream quickly found its way onto the upcoming UFC schedule.

Champion versus champion. Diaz vs. GSP. Business as usual.

But while champions salivated at the thought of big money fights across organizations, the smaller players and the also-rans wondered about their futures.

In the women's division, champions and contenders alike started eyeing Strikeforce's existing contract with Showtime, wondering what would become of their home and their division if, when the contract was up, the UFC decided to do away with the most prominent employer of female fighters. Of all the competitors Zuffa has purchased over the years, not one has survived as an independent operation. Why should Strikeforce be any different?

It's still hard to know exactly how the sale will impact the MMA world. It's a relatively big pond these days, and it takes time for the ripples in the center to reach every shore.

When they finally do, though, the one thing no one should be surprised to learn is that this one change will have changed everything. Only in a world like MMA, where frequent and violent upheaval is the only constant, can that be called business as usual. Usually that upheaval is confined to the cage, with one champion unseating another, one bright prospect burning out to give way to another, seismic shifts in the landscape on a Saturday night.

It's the same here, only this time the epicenter was an office rather than an arena. And four months later, we're still waiting for the shaking to stop, if only so we can finally see what our world looks like now.

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