Scott Coker (file photo) answered questions about Strikeforce’s future Monday. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
With the dust beginning to settle after Saturday’s momentous announcement that UFC parent company Zuffa, LLC, has purchased rival promotion Strikeforce, officials from both organizations fielded questions about the deal on a Monday media conference call.
Regarding the reason for the sale, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker stated that former Strikeforce co-owners Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment “wanted to get back to their core business.” The company, which partnered with Strikeforce in May 2008, also owns and operates the NHL’s San Jose Sharks franchise.
Although the sale was not finalized until last week, talks between Zuffa and Strikeforce began in mid-December. However, Coker said, the delaying of the second round of Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix -- which was recently pushed from April 9 to June 18 -- had nothing to do with negotiations and was simply a matter of finding a suitable venue for the card.
UFC President Dana White said that the deal could provide a larger platform for the final of the much-discussed heavyweight tournament.
“We’re open to the idea of the heavyweight grand prix final being on pay-per-view,” said White.
Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta stated that his company has yet to meet with Showtime, Strikeforce’s current home on premium cable. According to Fertitta, Strikeforce events will continue to air on Showtime, as the promotion is under contract for 16 more events, a deal which reportedly extends to 2014.
“If Showtime is interested in something beyond that, we’re interested,” said Fertitta.
“There are things we can do to help out, but right now, they’re running production,” added White, asserting that Showtime will continue to control all aspects of production for Showtime’s events.
While Strikeforce’s cage will remain hexagonal, Fertitta says that the promotion will adopt the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, the rule set currently employed by the UFC and recognized by most state athletic commissions. The major change will come in the form of the allowance of elbow strikes on the ground, previously forbidden under Strikeforce rules.
The UFC and Strikeforce will continue to exist as separate entities for the foreseeable future. White said that he “wouldn’t count anything out” when it comes to fighters crossing over in the future and that Zuffa’s plans for Strikeforce remain “a work in progress.” Asked if he will be able to conduct business with current Strikeforce fighters previously banned from the UFC -- namely welterweight contender Paul Daley and heavyweight grand prix participant Josh Barnett -- White was optimistic.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t big fans of mine, but we can still do business,” White said. “Me and Tito [Ortiz] did business for years.”