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« | Home | »

A relieved Scott Coker discusses why he sold Strikeforce

By Zach Arnold | March 21, 2011

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As close to a visual Rorschach test as you would find for an MMA interview. Scott Coker looks relieved and happy. He’s not stuttering or mumbling over words. The difference in tone in this interview versus the interviews he’s done in the past as a promoter is noticeable to a large degree.

Some notes from the 16-minute interview:

It was quite an interview to listen to. I would encourage you to watch it if you get a chance.

Topics: M-1, MMA, Media, StrikeForce, UFC, Zach Arnold | 12 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

12 Responses to “A relieved Scott Coker discusses why he sold Strikeforce”

  1. Daniel says:

    Thanks for transcribing that, Zach. Really interesting read.

    Dana said Daley would never fight in the UFC again. If he allows UFC fighters to oppose him in SF, what’s the difference?

  2. nottheface says:

    I think he seemed more at peace than happy, he’s resigned to the fact he lost his baby but made a lot of money in the process. He must also be getting a pretty good salary from Zuffa because he’s already mouthing the company talking points.

    - “When asked about fighters and agents worried about no more leverage in the marketplace: “The fighters are getting paid more today than EVER.” He further elaborated, “if you’re a star and you move the needle, you’ll get paid.”

    I don’t know how reporters be so dumb as to let this talking point go without confronting it. The issue isn’t that the fighters will be paid less, the issue with a lack of competition is that fighters won’t be paid as much as if they would if there was competition in the market. Baseball players before 1976 were making on average four times the US median household income. They were making money. Movie stars in before 1933 were making thousands per week during a depression. And both were grossly underpaid because of collusion between the team owners and studio heads.

    - “Mr. Coker argued against there being a monopoly or monopsony in the MMA business. “It’s not hard to be a promoter. You know, just go to California, pay $100 or $500 or whatever your license is, right? So the barrier of entry is really the easy part. And then, you know, you’ve got to have some guts, you know, and invest your money.”

    Again, that’s not the argument. The argument in that there is a monopoly/monopsony on elite level mma, just as the NFL, MLB, and NBA all have monopolies on the elite level of their sports. The differences is those sports have teams competing for talent, while MMA has two major promotions both owned by the same guys.

    As for starting another promotion, how would anyone recommend doing that for elite level mma? First someone would have to get a TV deal to help market/push their product for eventual ppv. That’s not easy or cheap. Secondly, someone would have to top level fighters that fans would pay to see. Unfortunately everyone is under contract to Zuffa. And Zuffa does a great job with their contracts making sure any fighter who leaves does so as damaged goods. If a fighter loses Zuffa has the right to cut him, forcing a fighter to renegotiate or dropping him when his value is at its lowest. And the most valuable fighters – the champs – all have champions clauses in their contracts meaning they’re off the market when they’er at their most valuable. Finally, fans seem unwilling to except anything outside of the UFC. That’s probably the biggest hurdle.

    The truth is Zuffa has a monopsony over the talent and a monopoly over the sport. Hell, I can’t think of a sport – the whole sport and not just the pro level – so dominated by a few owners. The truth is that fans, the media, and the fighters already accept this reality so while I expect a few more stories about it over the next couple of weeks, after that it’ll be a non-issue.

    • IceMuncher says:

      The UFC is more of an efficiency monopoly. As long as they don’t become a coercive monopoly, I couldn’t care less.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    Scott wants to have a job once SF is gone. Smart guy.

    He has more money, less stress. Of course he would be happier.

    And of course SF was in debt. If they weren’t he would say so. It was obvious for a while. Even fans on this website were in denial about it.

    *********

    GSP/Shields gets the Primetime treatment. And now they have a lot of Shields good fight footage. This event is likely to do around 1 Million PPV Buys.

    After this Saturday’s event, I’m taking a little break from MMA. Outside of Bellator and Diaz/Daley, there really isn’t anything for about a month. Sure TUF starts but that’s not really MMA. Plus with the Yankees starting back up, it will be nice to have a small “off season” of MMA.

    I’ll get back into things before GSP/Shields.

  4. [...] any news to report from the interview, but Coker does have a lot of interesting things to say. Fight Opinion has notes if you don’t want to sit through the 15-min interview. Read more about: Bas Rutten,Inside [...]

  5. Chromium says:

    Of course the UFC wants to push StrikeForce hard and push their fighters hard. They need StrikeForce to be as valuable as possible when they do the merger proper.

    They can’t do the merger proper anyway right now until they gain exclusive control of all the top talents’ contracts, as they come up for renewal one by one.

    Meanwhile they can build these dudes up with their marketing, and use Scott Coker’s connection to FEG to better secure the best remnants of the Dream roster.

    They can then merge in 23 months and have a fresh burst with a true NFL of MMA, to Bellator’s Arena Football League (if they are still around even).

    Bellator is the final promotion that is even attempting to compete with the UFC for free agents and major-league market share.

  6. Chromium says:

    Question for Zach Arnold:

    If Zuffa made a deal to buy Sengoku and was able to get both their video library and Sengoku’s contracts (even if they’re probably non-exclusive), would that be worth $2.5 million to buy Sengoku’s corpse?

    • Zach Arnold says:

      At this point, no on the fighter contracts. As for the TV footage, a simpler way might be to work through SkyPerfecTV since the Sengoku shows aired on PPV.

  7. Michaelthebox says:

    Honestly, can somebody explain why everybody is so sure the UFC is going to absorb Strikeforce once the Showtime deal is up? I have heard that the UFC is planning that, but I’m not sure how reliable those sources are, and absorbing Strikeforce isn’t as obvious a move to me as it is to everybody else.

    There is a lot of research and plenty of real world examples of firms making more money by having two competing brands rather than a single brand. UFC/Strikeforce seems to me to be a pair of brands that could be sufficiently differentiated so as to be worth keeping apart. Furthermore Strikeforce appears to have gained enough attention to have a real fanbase, and has a good enough distribution channel on Showtime, unlike WEC with the lousy Versus channel. I don’t know why the UFC continues to fuck around with Versus.

    Another thing, having cross-promotional championship fights is a real benefit. No matter how big the UFC gets, they are limited by how many elite noticeable fighters they can have; extra fighters are just added to the bottom ranks. Having two major platforms enables them to differentiate elite fighters better and so better develop stars.

    Obviously there are definitely good reasons to absorb Strikeforce, but I don’t see it as cut-and-dried as a lot of other people seem to.

    • Chromium says:

      There is a lot of research and plenty of real world examples of firms making more money by having two competing brands rather than a single brand. UFC/Strikeforce seems to me to be a pair of brands that could be sufficiently differentiated so as to be worth keeping apart. Furthermore Strikeforce appears to have gained enough attention to have a real fanbase, and has a good enough distribution channel on Showtime, unlike WEC with the lousy Versus channel. I don’t know why the UFC continues to fuck around with Versus.

      Another thing, having cross-promotional championship fights is a real benefit. No matter how big the UFC gets, they are limited by how many elite noticeable fighters they can have; extra fighters are just added to the bottom ranks. Having two major platforms enables them to differentiate elite fighters better and so better develop stars.

      Okay, about your concerns…

      First off, StrikeForce is the inherently lesser brand in the eyes of fans. SF fans tend to be a bit more educated and most of them will be quite aware that they are the UFC’s sister brand now, and not a true competitor. They can still put on good shows and build stars, but it won’t really be a “competition,” even in the way Raw and Smackdown were originally “competing” with each other in WWE storylines. If you have a counter example though, please feel free to give one.

      Beyond that, I agree that differentiation is good, and I expect StrikeForce will still run their Women’s divisions as exclusive to them and the UFC will exclusively have Featherweights and Bantamweights. Otherwise though, they really aren’t that different. Different broadcasters, a hexagonal vs. an octagonal shaped cage, and they appear on different channels with different stars. In a merger, if they keep doing the same number of shows, not many of these things will be lost except the hexagonal cage. They may even keep some of StrikeForce’s broadcasters as they’ll be doing enough shows where a B-team would be useful. As for the entrances, they could just keep the flashier ones reserved for people who really excel at them (Mayhem Miller, King Mo). They’ll do 9 divisions instead of 7 (I expect them to keep the women’s divisions unless they become totally unmarketable if for no other reason than to keep a monopoly on Women’s 145 and 135 so potential upstart promotions wouldn’t have free access to the top female fighters in the world in an attempt to challenge the UFC).

      As for the interpromotional superfights, if they keep the brands separate, it’s a zero sum game since if Gilbert Melendez loses to Frankie Edgar for instance, it reaffirms StrikeForce as bush league, and if Jacare somehow beat Anderson Silva, it would damage the credibility of the UFC as much as it would boost StrikeForce. If all of these fighters are under the same umbrella though when they do the unification bouts, then Zuffa wins either way, and the fights are still just as big.

      This brings me to my next point, which is once the formal merger actually happens, it will bring a fresh burst of energy to the UFC, which is the real moneymaker here.

      I understand that they need to wait until they can wrest away contracts one-by-one from Showtime, while building up StrikeForce’s stars, and weeding out the people who aren’t really major-league level talent (also a few people on Dana White’s personal shitlist, unless they become world champions or major contenders). The extra time can also be used to grab free agents from Dream and Sengoku as those promotions officially fold. If Bellator folds too, that will be gravy for Zuffa. This will leave the UFC and StrikeForce as separate “brands” under Zuffa, that are ostensibly-competing-but-not-really, and as the more serious fans (who are also the ones more likely to buy PPVs) start demanding at a fever pitch that they need to merge, Dana White will magically make it so, and the UFC will finally be the entire sport to all but the most hardcore fans.

  8. Robthom says:

    What Coker should do is just take his money and go back and start up a womens league.

    Its smaller but more manageable and kinda popular.
    Doesn’t eat as much, smells nicer.

    He’s already been to the big leagues, he tried it, it wasn’t for him.

    But thats not the only way to get the job done.

  9. [...] upon was a news item that I think the general sports media in America would be very interested in. As he talked about in his HDNet interview with Bas Rutten, Scott Coker talked about SVSE wanting to get out of the Strikeforce business and move back into a [...]

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