Monte Cox (left) has several fighters signed with both the UFC and Strikeforce. | Photo: Matthew Kaplowitz
For some of his fighters, Monte Cox is already seeing the benefits of Strikeforce’s sale to Zuffa.
Cox has been promoting MMA and managing fighters since the mid-1990s. When the UFC’s parent company bought its closest rival in March, Cox figured it would not be the best deal for top talent. That may still be the case, but Cox said the situation for younger fighters has improved.
“Because now Zuffa is in charge, a lot of things have changed,” Cox said recently during a “Savage Dog Show” interview on the Sherdog Radio Network. “Strikeforce, I had a kid, Sam Oropeza, that fought on the undercard of the big heavyweight tournament with Fedor. We didn’t get per diem [money]. We didn’t get mileage [money]. They just didn’t pay those things for the undercard. Here you’re fighting on the biggest card that they can produce and you can’t get paid back for your mileage. You would get two nights for a hotel. So if you live three hours away, you had to drive three hours, weigh in, drive three hours back, then get up in the morning and drive back. That was standard procedure, if you got a hotel room at all.”
Zuffa wasted no time in making changes, Cox said: “Now there’s per diem. Now there’s travel. Now there’s three nights for a hotel. Instantly that all changed. For those guys, it’s a homerun.”
By “those guys,” Cox means fighters either on a preliminary card or trying to get on one. Since Zuffa ended Strikeforce’s practice of promoting amateur bouts on prelim cards, there will be more slots for up-and-coming professionals. Cox called that a “tremendous” change. At the same time, he didn’t express any hostility for the way Strikeforce did business before the sale.
“I’m not going to judge Strikeforce for what they did mainly because they weren’t making money,” Cox explained. “Sometimes you have to do what it takes to survive. No one knows that any better than me. … If you’re going to make it, you have to set a budget that makes sense for you as a business and you have to stick to it. I used to tell people all the time, ‘I would love to pay your more money. I think you’re worth more money, but this is what I have for this spot. If that’s not enough, I wish we could have made it work, but I’ll get someone else.’ That’s the way you hang around in this sport and keep going.”
Few promotions have been able to hang for long. The Strikeforce sale eliminated the UFC’s last sizable competitor, and despite the improvements for some fighters, Cox remains concerned about the bargaining power for elite talent.
“As a manager, if you’ve got top guys -- in my case, a Rich Franklin, a Robbie Lawler, an Eddie Alvarez -- it’s not a great thing because they’ve taken top competition out,” he said. “Say Rich gets done with his contract. It’s impossible for me to go, ‘What are you going to give us now? You don’t want us to go anywhere else.’ … There is nowhere else. From that standpoint, it’s difficult. You have to rely on Zuffa being fair and doing the right thing, and hopefully that works.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 30:10).