In what seems like something that should have been done long ago, Strikeforce is finally closing its doors.
News broke yesterday that Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the UFC and Strikeforce, reached an agreement with Showtime, Strikeforce's broadcast partner, to bring a close to the promotion early next year. The move will allow high-profile fighters like Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold and Gilbert Melendez to come to the octagon.
Additionally, and most notably, Strikeforce women's champion Ronda Rousey will make her transition to the UFC, which will stand as a tremendous milestone for women's MMA. She is expected to be announced as the first women's UFC fighter.
For all the scrutiny from fans and media that Zuffa has been under for its recent decisions -- including but not limited to canceled shows, selections of No. 1 contenders, and a constant push to advertise The Ultimate Fighter as something fresh and new -- the choice to bring an end to Strikeforce is one of the better ones this year, if not the best.
Strikeforce, a promotion that once made San Jose a hotbed of MMA, floundered on life support in recent months, struggling to hold onto what could only be described as a weak pulse. The decline appeared to begin slowly after Zuffa purchased the company in March 2012.
The decay of the company seems far from what Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker had in mind when he started the it as a kickboxing promotion in 2006. As recently as three months ago, Coker had high hopes that Zuffa would take his company worldwide.
"My goal when we had Strikeforce was to make it a global property," Coker said following the Aug. 18 Strikeforce event in San Diego. "I think Zuffa has the ability to make that happen."
Unfortunately, it didn't happen.
What did happen, however, is mediocre gate figures -- as low as $68,805 from 1,992 in attendance for Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine -- and marginal television ratings. Had it not been for the recent rise of Rousey, the television numbers would have likely been worse.
Strikeforce fighters expressed their frustrations openly and publicly towards the end. Middleweight contender Lorenz Larkin got down on his knees following his recent win over Robbie Lawler, begging Dana White on live television for bonus money for Strikeforce fighters.
"We're your family, too!" Larkin pleaded in his in-cage post-fight interview.
Strikeforce's media push seemed minimal to nonexistent in the weeks leading up to fight cards. Collectively, the tone was that no one cared about the fights. Competitors expressed their awareness of the matter, and even talked about how it affected them financially.
Tim Kennedy, for example, aired his grievances in the pre-fight press conference before fighting Luke Rockhold for the middleweight title.
"It's crystal clear nobody gives a [expletive]," he told MMAjunkie.com. "Do you know how much money I didn't make in sponsors for this fight because nobody cares about Strikeforce?"
The reality is more people care about the UFC and what goes on in that league versus any other. What would be more intriguing to see is how guys like Kennedy and Rockhold do against names like Brian Stann, Vitor Belfort, Anderson Silva and, when he's not calling out light heavyweight champions, Chael Sonnen.
But that's all old news now. Because Zuffa has chosen to lower Strikeforce's curtain for the final time, these fighters and others will get the opportunities they've been looking for. Melendez will at last get the chance to show he can compete in a stacked lightweight division. Cormier will no longer have to wait for UFC heavyweights to come to him when he's already part of the pack. There's even a chance Nate Marquardt will see time in the octagon again after a bitter departure from the UFC in 2011.
Say what you will about the UFC and their decisions in 2012. More than once this year, Dana White and company have been the target of criticism, and we can argue back and forth all day about whether or not it was justified. This choice, however, is by far the right one.
Fighters, fans, management and media -- everyone wins. We're going to see the fights we've been waiting to see for nearly two years. It was time to put the dying brand to bed. Time to showcase them all in the UFC.
Erik Fontanez is an MMA writer and reporter for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow Erik on Twitter at @Erik_Fontanez
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