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Snowden: Strikeforce Still has Plenty to Prove

There was much rejoicing in the insular MMA community when it was finally announced that Scott Coker and Strikeforce would be taking over the coveted CBS and Showtime television contracts from the (nearly) defunct ProElite.

Not only did Coker gain control of the sport’s first network television time slot, he also took control of EliteXC’s top fighters like Robbie Lawler, Jake Shields, Gina Carano, and even the infamous Kimbo Slice.

Fans and the MMA blogging community were quick to proclaim the revamped Strikeforce was a potential UFC killer, the first real North American competition of the eight year Zuffa reign.

Not so fast-Coker and Strikeforce still have a lot to prove.

It’s true that Strikeforce is one of the only other promoters outside of the Zuffa umbrella in the black. In an era that has seen the IFL, BoDog, and ProElite drop tens of millions of dollars in an effort to compete with the UFC, this is an accomplishment in itself. Strikeforce has gotten by with smarts and moxie and a team with decades of promotional experience in both kickboxing and MMA. And by being conservative when others have been bold.

However, right now, Strikeforce is a regional promotion. They essentially run one town, San Jose, while branching out into other parts of California and the pacific northwest with limited success.

Strikeforce cards are usually based around a single strong main event. The bulk of the card is an afterthought, the occasional national name mixed in with a hodge podge collection of local fighters and instructors. This approach can work well when your main source of income is the gate, because a local star like Cung Le or Frank Shamrock can attract a huge crowd in their home base.

But it remains to be seen how well it will translate into national television. Unfortunately for Coker and Strikeforce, MMA fans have been spoiled, not just by the great cards UFC routinely puts out on television and PPV, and by the largess of promotions like Affliction and EliteXC.

A major league MMA card in 2009 is expected to be packed to the brim with recognizable stars and compelling matchups. Putting on a card that attracts national attention is, frankly, expensive. Perhaps prohibitively so for the amount Showtime and CBS are willing to pay.

Coker and Strikeforce have stayed afloat for years with the exact opposite instincts: to play it safe, look for the base hit, never taking the kind of risks that can result in a homerun. That approach isn’t going to work on CBS, where the demand for a ratings bonanza requires more than a local star and a big gate.

Strikeforce needs to be prepared to swing for the fences. The talent is out there to make it happen — I just hope they have the will.

  • meatloaf says:

    I don’t understand the point of this article at all other than you just wanted to write something.
    I mean Scott Coker isn’t all of a sudden going to become an idiot.
    The guys been in this business longer than Dana White.
    CBS and Showtime were the ones pushing ProElite to sell to Strikeforce so I’m sure all the details were gone over between their execs. and Coker as far as promotion and number of shows.
    This article is basically taking a pessimistic point of view that it’s doomed from the start.
    I disagree completely.

  • Jonathan Snowden says:

    Scott Coker has never been in “this” business at all. He’s been a small-time promoter and a good one. But he’s never put on a show of the magnitude he’s expected to deliver now several times a year. I think it remains to be seen how well they do. If Strikeforce is going to succeed, Coker will likely have to do things he only thinks an “idiot” would do. Because they won’t survive with the absymal cards Strikeforce ran last year. They will need to provide better and more compelling matchups then they have ever contemplated before.

  • meatloaf says:

    What abysmal cards did Strikeforce put on last year? Was it just a couple of cards where you personally weren’t familiar with a lot of the fighters?
    I don’t think the the card they had in Denver with Bang Ludwig vs. Sam Morgan was supposed to be a mega hit.
    On the other hand the UFC’s St.Pierre / Penn 2 card was supposed to be the biggest event in UFC history and it was a huge letdown.
    So what’s worse a small event with average mma fighters with a hometown guy headlining or a mega hyped overrated rematch that turned into a one-sided beatdown with decision after decision to the point where it was the first PPV that I didn’t see one undercard fight.
    Also these events they’re putting on Showtime and CBS aren’t going to cost mma fans 45 or 55 dollars a pop to see.

  • Jonathan Snowden says:

    There’s nothing wrong with a smaller event headlined by a hometown guy. Unless you are promoting a show on national television. Then you need to step it up a little. If Coker is thinking the same way you are, that they can just continue to do what they’ve been doing, they are in a ton of trouble.

  • ultmma says:

    a way to look at it is the audience Strike Force has been catering to since March 2006 is San Jose and hardcore MMA fans

    Now with their deal with Showtime and eventually CBS they have to broaden their fight cards and match making to appeal to the causal fans who tuned into the 1st and 3rd Elite XC cards on CBS

    Lawler vs. Smith 2 didnt work on CBS and neither would Thomson vs. Melendez

    With 42 more fighters added to the roster Strike Force will have a very good shot starting on April 11th to take their brand to the national stage

  • ace328 says:

    I wonder how much they’re going to pay Kimbo. There’s no way anyone will pay him 500k. He still very well known so I could see 50-100k.

  • meatloaf says:

    @ Snowden “If Coker is thinking the same way you are, that they can just continue to do what they’ve been doing, they are in a ton of trouble.”
    LOL I never said they’re going to continue what they’ve been doing I said that Coker isn’t an idiot and knows what he’s doing and if you heard his interview on Sherdog you’d know this. The man has been a promoter a long time and has slowly built a promotion that’s on NBC and soon to be CBS and Showtime.

    You said they can’t put on “abysmal” fight cards like last year and I mentioned the Ludwig/Morgan card as an example of one you could be referring too since you never mentioned one and do you think they’re going to put a card like that together for a CBS show? Also they’re looking too add 42 fighters from Elite to their roster and if they can they should be digging up the contract Tito Ortiz said he was going to sign right when Elite decided it was shutting down.

    By the way if Coker is thinking the same way you are he is probably at this moment closing up shop!

  • mo dogg says:

    Meatloaf, I’m sorry but you are completely missing Snowden’s point. I think he is spot on with what he is inferring. Running an MMa organization on a local level, vs. running an organization for a more global audience is literally 2 different jobs. If Coker wants to maintain Strikeforce as it is, and simply bring in better fighters and sharpen their rosters then he’ll be fine. When Snowden references some of Strikeforces cards and the local appeal, it is point on. People in the rest of the country are not as interested in the local talent and local scenarios. this article is simply saying that there is no guarantee that Strikeforce is on the same level as the UFC now and that they will have to change their model. Now with that, whatg fighters in Strikeforce will elicit national attn. How are you going to sell Strikeforce to mainstream America? If Coker doesn’t want to do that fine, and he can probably maintain a Showtime slot with carrying on normal Strikeforce cards with the extra talent, but those CBS shows will be interesting to see what they can do

  • meatloaf says:

    “mo dogg” I’m not completely missing Snowden’s point at all.
    What can you gather from it other than he’s assuming all is lost from the get go.
    I’m not going to even go into what I was saying because it’s obviously going on deaf ears. All I’m going to say is I have Showtime and I’m glad they’re going to have MMA again and I can’t wait until CBS has their first Strikeforce card on.
    Also I have to say I hate it when people assume as long as the UFC is huge there isn’t any chance for another promotion to be successful and in some cases these fans are hoping any non Zuffa promotion goes under as if they personally have a vested interest in the outcome other than being a fan.

  • mo dogg says:

    and meatloaf, all i have to say is i probably will re-order Showtime since i canceled it after they lost their EliteXC fights, and luckily for all of us we will be able to see more fights. We all win which is good. My guess is Affliction and Strikeforce will talk, and they will hang around. My only point is to capture the mainstream audience they will have to do more than what they are doing now. All of us will certainly be fans, the focus is the rest of teh population, especially from CBS’s perspective


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