Mailbag: Strikeforce brawl fallout

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

You can follow Kevin Iole on Twitter at @KevinI

The melee that ensued in the cage following Jake Shields' impressive victory over Dan Henderson in Nashville, Tenn., on a Strikeforce card that was televised nationally on CBS was not the finest hour for men like Jason "Mayhem" Miller, Nick and Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez, among others.

But the brawl is hardly going to be the demise of MMA on national TV, nor should it be.

It was a preventable and unfortunate incident and the Tennessee Athletic Commission should issue penalties to those involved. Miller had no reason being in the cage, and he had even less of a reason to demand a rematch with Shields, Strikeforce's middleweight champion. Miller lost a title fight to Shields in November and didn't look good in doing it.

The blame for this has to be as much on the Tennessee commission and arena security as on the fighters involved. Commissions around the country allow the cage and ring to be filled with onlookers after fights. Saturday's post-fight brawl wasn't the first to happen, but these things can easily be prevented if commissions had regulations that barred everyone but essential personnel from the ring or cage.

The Diaz brothers and Melendez are Shields' teammates and rightly were thrilled for him after his significant upset victory. Many thought it would be a one-sided fight in Henderson's favor, but after a rough start, Shields beat Henderson at his own game in the best performance of his career.

He deserved to be allowed to bask in the glory of his win while being interviewed by CBS' Gus Johnson and not accosted by Miller. But the Diaz brothers and Melendez were way off base in starting a fight with Miller and pummeling him in what turned out to be a 7-on-1 situation.

As a result, they should be suspended. It's disappointing that Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White didn't see fit to take action against Nate Diaz on his own. Nate Diaz is a UFC-contracted fighter and White should have done the right thing and not waited for the commission to act.

That said, it's not the first time there was a brawl in a sporting event on national television, and it won't be the last.

The biggest problem for Strikeforce coming out of the card is not dealing with the aftermath of the brawl. Rather, its biggest concern post-fight has to be the awful ratings.

According to MediaWeek, CBS came in last of the four major networks on Saturday. The Strikeforce card had 2.57 million viewers from 9 to 9:30 p.m. ET. It decreased slightly to 2.55 million from 9:30 to 10 p.m. ET. From 10 to 10:30 p.m. ET, it had 2.89 million viewers and then dipped to 2.52 million from 10:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. The show went over by more than 40 minutes, but ratings aren't yet available for the extension.

The fight was beaten in the ratings by a repeat of "Cops" on FOX and by "Law & Order" as well as "Law & Order: SVU." A repeat of "NCIS" on CBS from 8-9 p.m. did 3.58 million viewers, so the fight card couldn't even maintain that audience.

That, more than the brawl, was the bad news for MMA on Saturday.

With that, let's get to the mailbag, where there are plenty of questions about the brawl, as well as other topics.

The all-brawl channel

Why is everyone so upset about this brawl? It happens in every other team sport at least a few times a year, and at every boxing weigh-in. Columnists like you want to get all up in arms and run to Dana White for a comment, as if he wouldn't love to have that publicity for the UFC. Brawls are unequivocally awesome, and if there was an all-brawl channel, I would no longer need a remote. After a couple hours of boring fights, that was the best part of the night. Get off your high horse, Iole, and enjoy watching a loudmouth get stomped by the Stockton crew instead of shaking your head alone on a couch.
Jersey City, N.J.

It's hard to respond to that, Crofton. I guess my suggestion for you is to be certain to tune in to HBO at 10 p.m. ET/PT on May 4. That night, HBO is going to debut its latest documentary, "Broad Street Bullies," about the brawling Philadelphia Flyers of the 1970s. I'm sure there will be plenty of brawls shown during that show to keep you enthused.

It was 'unacceptable'

What happened at the end of the Strikeforce card is unacceptable. There have been many instances in MMA and boxing where a contender enters the cage to call out a champion. Melendez did not act like a champion and ambassador of the sport. He needs his title stripped. And both he, the Diaz brothers and everyone else who hit or kicked Miller need to have battery charges filed against them. People wonder why MMA fans consider Strikeforce inferior to the UFC. This is why. Management needs to take a firm stance against all parties involved immediately.
Daly City, Calif.

Based on his poor showing in November, I'm not sure where Miller gets the idea that he's a contender. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker promised to do a thorough review and then take action, so I'll take him at his word and believe he's going to do the right thing.

A fortunate turn?

Do you see the brawl Saturday as a fortunate event for Strikeforce? Technically, Shields delivered the first blow by pushing Miller. If Shields and Strikeforce aren't able to reach an agreement on a new contract and Shields is free to leave the promotion in two months, do you see this as a way for Strikeforce to strip him of the belt before he leaves by invoking a "behavior unbecoming of a champion" type of clause? If not, and Shields signs with UFC, what happens to the Strikeforce championship?
Quintin Stick
Washington, D.C.

I don't believe Strikeforce will strip Shields. He beat a guy who was considered to be one of the top 10 fighters in the world by most experts coming into the fight. Not only did Shields beat him, he dominated him like Henderson has rarely been dominated. Coker is too smart to yank the title. If Shields leaves, he'll just have a vacant belt and have either a tournament to fill it or pick whom he considers the top two contenders and have them fight for it.

Contenders have been there before

Saturday's card is not the first time a challenger has entered the cage after a fight to ask for a rematch, but is it the first brawl for doing so? I know Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans had words in the cage after UFC 96 last year, but there was not even any shoving.
E. Kavanaugh
Tulsa, Okla.

I don't remember this ever happening before in a major promotion.

Blame CBS

The brawl 100 percent CBS's fault. CBS had Miller in the cage, ready for a 'TV moment,' and didn't even consider that they were creating a volatile situation, complete with gasoline (Nate Diaz), dynamite (Nick Diaz), and a box of matches (Miller). I'm afraid CBS is going to kill Strikeforce trying bone-headed garbage like this.
Greensboro, N.C.

I don't think there is any evidence that anyone from CBS invited Miller into the cage or that they were pleased he was there.

Shields' value

How valuable is Jake Shields to Strikeforce? Considering the poor ratings for the two CBS events that he headlined, is his potential jump to the UFC that big of a deal? Yes, he is its middleweight champion, but viewership is the name of the game and casual fans don't gravitate to Jake. If Shields does sign with the UFC, it seems to be a bigger win for the UFC since they have a new challenger (with name recognition) to GSP while Strikeforce would benefit by being able to crown a more marketable fighter in their middleweight division. Your thoughts?
Chris DeMay
Grand Rapids, Mich.

One of Strikeforce's problems in trying to compete with the UFC is that it doesn't have a lot of depth. Losing Shields would simply exacerbate that problem. He's not the most exciting or charismatic fighter, but I think he'll be more popular now that he's beaten a quality and well-known opponent like Henderson. It won't be the end of the world for Strikeforce if Shields signs with the UFC, but it sure wouldn't help them if he left.

Dana is killing the sport

In the past couple weeks, we have all witnessed what I believe to be the death of MMA (It's probably a temporary death, but it's dead nonetheless). UFC president Dana White is more responsible for this than anyone, having gone to the well too many times, dishing up a pay-per-view every month, instead of every quarter. The talent pool, while more skilled than ever, has become too thin to accommodate a good card every month. We are now at that stage in economic models, where a product has become over-saturated, and is now in the downfall. We see this with the propping up of 'old stars', like Dan Henderson, Randy Couture and sad to say, Tito Ortiz. It used to be that a UFC PPV event was special, something akin to UFC 100. Anymore, you're lucky if you get to see two good fights per card. I've paid for the last 20-plus PPV events, but I'm stopping now until I'm convinced that UFC has turned a corner. I was glad to see Dana respond with lots of negative bluster over the Anderson Silva bomb show. And frankly, I fear for the life of Chael Sonnen with Anderson having something to prove. But until we see a 'pattern of quality' return to MMA, I'm not shelling out another thin dime.
Tracy Romine
McKinney, Texas

I think the best way a fan can voice his displeasure about a card is to not buy a ticket or not buy the pay-per-view. But your contention that Dana is killing the sport isn't borne by the facts. He's not expecting you to buy every card. You should be selective and buy the ones that interest you. But they're growing the sport by bringing it to different regions of the country and to different parts of the world. They had more than 700,000 buys for UFC 111. I'm not sure what the count was for UFC 112, but the ticket sales and the pay-per-view numbers don't jive with your version of events.

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