Strikeforce is fighting an up-hill battle against its rival UFC, the juggernaut in the business of televised mixed martial arts.  Other companies have tried and failed to even compete with UFC.

IFL (International Fight League) lasted not 3 full years before closing its doors two years ago.  They brought a new and interesting approach to MMA events and had big names involved, including Ken Shamrock, Don Frye, Renzo Gracie and Pat Miletich to name a few.

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After having run for 10 years, PRIDE Fighting Championships sold its assets to UFC in March 2007, which included the contracts of several big names including current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and one of the most recognizable faces in the industry today, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

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Regardless the talent PRIDE FC had under contract, the Japan-based company could not compete.


An organization called DREAM was formed in Japan’s MMA promotion void, and while it has made strides to get more mainstream exposure in the past two years, the championships of its top three titles are vacant and its most notable champion – Shinya Aoki – is taking fight bookings in other organizations, most recently Strikeforce, something which would be unthinkable for a UFC champion.  Such is the way struggling businesses have to conduct itself when they’re trying to grow and establish themselves.

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Affliction folded a year ago despite having a card full of fighters ready to compete on their August 1st, 2009 event.  An event which would have featured Fedor Emelianenko defending the WAMMA Heavyweight Championship in the main event.

The problem Affliction found itself facing was that Josh Barnett, the challenger to Fedor at the never-to-be Affliction: Trilogy event, failed a drug test and could not compete at the event, and due to financial constraints, Affliction did not have a roster on which a viable opponent could be chosen.

Now they exist as a clothing company which sponsors UFC.

Strikeforce is working to establish its brand identity and the viability of its roster, and they’ve been doing an admirable job thus far.

Bringing in known commodity, former UFC / Pride star Dan Henderson to fight Jake Shields was perfect.  Jake proved to be a great talent, and now Strikeforce needs to re-sign Shields and keep him a part of their company.

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At the same event as the Shields / Henderson fight, Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez fought international MMA superstar Shinya Aoki and did wonders for his reputation and that of Strikeforce by successfully defending his title.

Strikeforce needs to do more.

They can’t just rely on events televised on CBS and quality fighters if they want to beat UFC. That’s not going to work.

Great fighters can have off nights.

Ask Fedor Emelianenko, who hadn’t lost in 8 years prior to his June 27th loss to a guy who had been cut from UFC.  Strikeforce can’t rely on Fedor’s undefeated streak pulling in viewers now that it’s over.  And they wasted their chance to further build up their current Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem because they didn’t book Fedor v Overeem when they had the chance, instead letting Emelianenko fight Werdum on 6/26.

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Ask Gegard Mousasi, a highly respected fighter amongst MMA fans who lost at the same event which featured Shields vs Henderson and Aoki vs Melendez.

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Having beaten Mousasi, the new Light Heavyweight Champion in Strikeforce Mo Lawal could be built around, but Strikeforce needs more.

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Strikeforce stacked that card full of its best fighters, and they didn’t do enough to hook the fans who were watching for the first time.  What’s going to bring them in to future events?  What’s going to cause them to want to tune in on Showtime or CBS in the future?  Not the promise of other great fighters.  The fans had already seen one “great” fighter, Mousasi, lose to a mostly unheralded opponent.  What’s to say that other “top” fighters wouldn’t have sub-par showings at whatever event Strikeforce hypes next?

Strikeforce needs a different route to bring in the fans, a route for which they’ve already laid the groundwork.

UFC already has the top guy-oriented network, SPIKE TV, on which they air their Ultimate Fighter reality show which is churning out new fans as fast as it develops interest in new, young fighters.  Even if Strikeforce attempted something like this, they’d have to find the right network for it (the only likely choices would be FX or Versus), and the costs would likely out-weigh the benefits for the first couple of seasons, and I’m not convinced Strikeforce can afford that.  Strikeforce needs to find a way to pull in new viewers and get them interested in their competitors.

Strikeforce needs the WWE Universe.

Pulling in viewers who currently watch UFC is going to be tough.  Even though fans could watch Strikeforce without missing a single UFC event, that’s a tough task.  Brand loyalty, uneducated perception or lack of visibility all contribute to the road being a tough uphill slope for Strikeforce to climb without finding a different route.

The WWE Universe is already used to watching televised fights.  Many of them have already been exposed to mixed martial arts.  It’s likely that they’ve been in arguments with their friends, family and (in some cases) strangers regarding whether or not the “fake” wrestlers in WWE could compete in “real” fights.

Which is why the WWE Universe (and TNA Wrestling fans) would love to see guys like Bobby Lashley, Dave Batista and Kurt Angle perform well in the world of mixed martial arts.  The success of Brock Lesnar as the UFC World Heavyweight Champion only fuels the fire from which Strikeforce must draw its heat.

Strikeforce needs to bring known commodities into its fold to, in turn, bring in new fans.  They already started this with Bobby Lashley, who is already under contract with Strikeforce.

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He needs to be more prominently featured, even if his opponents are sub-par.  In fact, if Lashley makes short work of them, all the better.  Most fans wouldn’t know that Lashley’s opponents are sub-par anyway.

Former NFL star Herschel Walker, a near life-long martial arts student, is another great signing to Strikeforcec, as he brings in fans who don’t have to know anything about MMA.

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I couldn’t tell you how many of my friends who are football fans asked me if I had heard that Herschel Walker was a professional fighter now.

Dave Batista needs to sign with Strikeforce, now that he’s done with WWE.

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Whether they like him or hate him, a large portion of the WWE Universe are going to be interested to see how Batista fares when its real.  Even if their interest is just to see Batista get his nose bloodied.

Strikeforce needs to get in touch with Frank Trigg and get him use his connection to Kurt Angle to get the Olympic gold medalist to take a break from TNA Wrestling and make his dream of mixed martial arts competition a reality.

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If Bryan Danielson has truly parted ways with WWE (which I doubt is the case, as I believe his “firing” / “release” is part of the NXT storyline), then Strikeforce should scoop him up as well.  He trained at Xtreme Couture, headed by Randy Couture, and would likely be a highly talented competitor in MMA if he chose to enter the ranks.

I would even go so far as to say Strikeforce should sign Kimbo Slice, who appears to have a strong will to learn how to be a better mixed martial artist and brings with him significant name recognition. At this point, the name recognition is what Strikeforce needs.

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When former professional boxer James Toney signed with UFC, I don’t believe anyone at Strikeforce should’ve lost any sleep over it.

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Though he was well accomplished in boxing, Toney isn’t a “name” as big as Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather or Manny Paquiao.  If any of those guys sign a multi-fight deal with UFC, then Strikeforce should feel like they missed an opportunity.  Big audiences would tune into Strikeforce to see those guys fight.

It’s imperative that Strikeforce finds ways to bring new fans to watch their brand of MMA, and commodities who bring their own fanbase with them is the name of the game.  The other avenues which UFC rivals have already tried have proven to be failures.  Having great fighters is not enough.

If it can’t bring in new fans, Strikeforce could very easily share the same fate as Affliction, PRIDE and the IFL.

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