“Co-promotion” remains the biggest pipe dream in prizefighting. (Even though it happened years too late, I remain amazed HBO and Showtime got together to promote the Mike Tyson/Lennox Lewis bout in 2002; it was the equivalent of Coke spooning with Pepsi.) Ego and money have done more to scratch big fights than anything, and the noble notion of finding out who “the best” is only goes as far as who that is that also happens to be under contract.
The UFC has been the most adamantly anti-cooperation, with Dana White repeatedly scoffing at any attempts to consummate with M-1 (Fedor Emelianenko’s handlers), Strikeforce, or any one of a dozen “partners.” The reality is that while it would be fun to see Alistair Overeem or Emelianenko fight Brock Lesnar or Cain Velasquez, there’s no practical incentive for the UFC to boost the profile of a competing promotion. Unlike Tyson and Lewis, the promotional brands are more valuable than the athletes they host.
At least White has been candid enough to admit it. The problem with Scott Coker and Strikeforce allegedly wavering on discussions to make an Eddie Alvarez/Gilbert Melendez fight is that Coker has long advocated promotional marriages. He’s even flown in athletes from Dream (Shinya Aoki and Melvin Manhoef, among others) to meet his fighters. The difference? If Aoki happened to beat Melendez, the waves would only have been felt in Japan. If Bellator’s Alvarez beats Melendez, Bellator would have some kind of bragging rights license in the U.S.
For Coker, the premise can’t be that appealing. Alvarez is not a name brand in the States, having competed under Bellator’s minimal exposure on Fox Sports Network -- shows often preempted by ball sports, hardly the method for building an audience. But as an advocate of the co-promotional fantasy, surely Coker realizes that not every fight of that kind will be in his best interests.
Melendez/Alvarez probably won’t happen: there’s no great demand for it outside of a small hardcore fanbase, and promoters remain paranoid that a loss will somehow tarnish their entire brand. In reality, fans are intelligent enough to understand that Alvarez beating Melendez does not make Bellator better than Strikeforce -- it simply makes him better than Melendez.