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« | Home | »

Hard to put a positive spin on Strikeforce and CBS relationship

By Zach Arnold | April 20, 2010

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I figured I would quote Dave Meltzer here from his radio show today since he tries to give a fair take on what is happening right now and what the company mindset is within Strikeforce.

“Strikeforce, it was a 1.8 rating… and… it’s… you know, I mean… it wasn’t, you know, after talking to a lot of people today including people there (at the show), it was certainly disappointing. It was not disastrous. They have done worse, you know when they did the show from Stockton and it did come back from that… Will they do it? You know… CBS is going to have to make the call. I mean there’s, it’s not a sure thing either way. It’s not like, ‘Oh my God, they’re dead for sure!’ They haven’t informed, certainly no one in Strikeforce knows that they’re dead. And they haven’t been, I mean just based on talking to people and everything like that today, they’re not acting like it’s a dead thing. There are signs that are positive that they’ll probably do another show in the fall. You know one of the things that you know was brought up to me was that you know realistically in another day or two, no one’s going to talk about that brawl again and certainly by Saturday you know it’ll be a dead subject.

Now the rating, you know, again, the rating was more important thing than the brawl and the rating wasn’t good, but it’s also the learning thing in the sense that we know that with the right match, we can do a good demo play with MMA. We also now know for sure that with you know that Dan Henderson is not the right and Jake Shields was not the right match and that unless we have the right match, you really don’t want to do this show. You can’t just do the show and go like, ‘We got this card with all these guys that are like ranked and this and that or this match is you look on paper and go on paper we got a good show so we’ll have exciting fights and people will tune in.’ It’s not that. There’s no, all you got is star power and the problem of course with Strikeforce is there’s not a lot of that star power there. I mean, maybe Herschel Walker? And that’s not a lock. Gina Carano? Probably, probably… Fedor for sure, but God knows what you know… Fedor and Strikeforce do not have a deal for another fight right now and it’s you know the situation is what the situation is, it’s um… it’s impossible to do deals with those guys you know and so you’re kind of being held under a barrel by that thing. Stealing someone from UFC is probably not going to happen, I don’t see anyone from UFC at this point in time going, “Yeah, I want to jump on CBS, I want to jump on bandwagon.” If anything, people right now would be scared to make that move. Arlovski’s not the guy, you know, no matter, you know, he’s just not that guy. So, um, I suppose they could do a Cyborg/Carano re-match? And that actually would work but the problem is there then, you know, you’re going to have the same massacre more likely than not.”

1. The truth is that Herschel Walker is their biggest drawing card. Say of it what you will, but it’s reality. He got the biggest pop of anyone in Nashville. His fight against tomato can Greg Nagy drew more attention in the sports world than anything on the Strikeforce show in Nashville did.

2. It seems almost inevitable that Fedor will end up fighting in Japan again, likely against Barnett on New Year’s Eve. As for fighting in UFC… I say 50/50. Which makes Strikeforce pushing Fedor vs. Brett Rogers on CBS last Fall dumb. Fedor’s not a cornerstone guy of any promotion. Note the emphasis.

3. Can the light switch be turned on and off for Gina Carano’s star power?

4. How is Strikeforce going to make new stars?

5. Should Strikeforce ditch some weight classes (like Heavyweight) and adopt some smaller weight classes (Featherweight) in order to try to gain a competitive advantage?

Topics: Media, MMA, StrikeForce, Zach Arnold | 22 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

22 Responses to “Hard to put a positive spin on Strikeforce and CBS relationship”

  1. Chuck says:

    If Strikeforce got rid of the heavier weight classes and introduced feather, bantam, etc. then they would be looked at as a WEC rip off. Having those smaller weight classes would be great, but not at the expense of the heavier weight classes. Their heavyweight division is solid. Not nearly as solid as the UFC’s, but solid nonetheless. More than anything, I would be more worried about their light heavyweight division. Who do they have? Gegard Mousasi (who bumped up from middleweight), Mo Lawal, maybe Melvin Manhoef (he’s more of a middle weight).

    At heavyweight, they have Fedor, Brett Rogers, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Andrei Arlovski, Herschel Walker, Bobby Lashley, Antonio Silva, etc. Besides Walker and Lashley ALL of them are top 20-25. All of them (besides the previously mentioned two). And Lashley could very well be on the cusp of being top 15-20 (if he didn’t turn down so many damn opponents). Nothing perfect, not even close, but it’s solid. I would say it is probably better than UFC’s heavyweight division circa 2003 or so.

    How can Strikeforce create new stars? The EA Sports MMA game could help, but that can very well come out December or even January, so that is a long way’s away. Maybe they can start plucking talent from smaller feds? There’s no easy answers for this one.

  2. David says:

    Love your reportage Zach. All great points of interest you brought up regarding Strikeforce’s place in the fight business. Dana White really is intelligent in realizing early on that signing a deal with a network television channel does not equate to success. I thought he was arrogant and wanted to keep his brand tightly controlled but now I realize also why he didn’t make a deal with HBO. He said the main point of conflict was surrounding the production oversight, however, clearly they make tons more money in PPV and makes it ever more of a spectacle than a household sporting event. Let’s face it, HBO is more accessible than a $50 PPV event.

    Great points, especially about Gina, can she come back to the scene..

  3. Mr.Roadblock says:

    I don’t know if they’ll ever get a crack at CBS again.

    If they do they need to focus on putting on fights that will be exciting.

    Cung Le vs Manhoef – They’ll stand there and kick each other repeatedly.

    or Cung vs Diaz

    I think they have an obvious fight between Mousasi and Hendo. But if you keep Shields you can do him vs Mousasi. I think any of those fights are probably Showtime fights because you don’t want to risk a five round stinker on CBS.

    I think Overeem vs Arlovski could be good on CBS. One of them (probably Arlovski) will be laid out in round 1.

    The Lawler/Smith winner could fight Shields but that’s another Showtime fight.

    It’s tough to look at Strikeforce’s roster and come up with fights to put on CBS. It’s tough to look at the roster and come up with fights I want to see from them period.

    I think the obvious match next time on CBS is Walker vs Canseco.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lashley vs King Mo. But that has the potential to be an awful 25 minutes on TV.

  4. Safari_Punch says:

    1) I wouldn’t say Herschel is the biggest draw – most recognizable, sure – but fans that tuned into Strikeforce’s last Showtime event, saw all they needed to know: Walker is not worth watching. I don’t think Walker is going to garner as much interest the next time he fights; I just don’t see it.

    2)Is Japanese MMA even going to be alive come NYE? I don’t know what the terms of doing a show with FEG is in Japan, but I can’t imagine they’d co-promote in a 50/50 sense with M-1 Global for their biggest show of the year….would they?

    3) Gina has some drawing power that can probably be switched back on, but not as a headliner on CBS. I’m amazed she gets as much attention as she does with the way she comes across on television, as dumb as a box of rocks. But I guess looks are sometimes enough.

    4) Roger Gracie and KJ Noons are both fighters that could probably win over the casuals.

    The Gracie brand is still going strong since 1993 and if Gracie can get past Randleman (which shouldn’t be hard), he is a potential star – that is if he wants to pursue MMA full-time.

    Noons has clean cut good looks and KO power in his hands. I don’t know about his likability factor, but that could be more of an issue with message board posters who like pot smoking fighters then anything. He may not draw due to his size, but he has some exciting match ups on the horizon that could make him a semi-star (Diaz rematch, Melendez title fight).

    5. Who wants to watch the smaller weight classes? I think the cut off for interest amongst the majority has to be at LW.

    • Steve says:

      Most of what you wrote was very reasonable, but LOL at Roger Gracie ever becoming a draw. He’ll win his fight with Randleman and then take another two years off before coming back to smash another washed-up guy in 2012.

  5. Star creation is the one thing MMA certainly shares in common with boxing. You have to beat big names – i.e. other stars. The alternative is that you have some sort of gimmick that you can present the audience – a football player, a youtube brawler, a celebrity, etc. Basically, freakshows. Its easier to do freakshows for Strikeforce than legitimate title fights, so I won’t be surprised if that’s the path they travel. I think the networks are no different than anyone else in MMA in that they don’t think its a sport and don’t act that way, so I doubt, should Strikeforce get another shot at CBS, that they would mind such fights.

    There are no feather or bantams available in the whole wide world that will make a difference for Strikeforce. It definitely won’t help replace the heavyweights. That’s foolhardy. Its easy to pretend that Urijah Faber is a big star because he can sell tickets in his hometown, but he’s a nobody everywhere else and gets less people to watch him on Versus than a test signal would on CBS.

  6. Mark says:

    It’s not the rating, it’s the rating combined with the fight that has them on deathwatch. Of course the Stockton show did worse, but 1) there was no post-fight brawl and 2) Elite had no big stars on the show whereas Strikeforce was positioning Henderson to be up there with Fedor, Gina and Walker as their go-to fighters. There’s no way of spinning this.

    I definitely agree (unfortunately) Walker is their best bet to get a respectable number on CBS. I can’t see Gina coming back, and Fedor is always up in the air, so he’s the one guy they can depend on to get a number. He has no talent, he’s an embarrassment to the sport, but the casuals will tune in (at least once) to see what he can do. Strikeforce tried to get a show the casuals respected and it bombed so go to plan B.

    I don’t think pushing Fedor was a bad idea. Who else do they have with his hype? It was only right to experiment with getting him known in America. There is no media obsession with Robbie Lawler. You don’t see Dana being asked if he’s going to sign Cung Le for an Anderson Silva superfight. Of course Fedor didn’t get the buzz Elite had with Kimbo, but Kimbo is a gimmick and Fedor is a guy who has no bells and whistles beyond having great fights which is never going to be as big. As for Fedor going to the UFC if Strikeforce closes, I doubt it. I think Fedor is going to be the MMA version of Sting in pro wrestling, the one guy who says he’ll never accept the monopoly’s money and means it. I think it goes beyond just “Fedor fears Brock” or “M-1 is intentionally ruining deals.” Dana’s attempts to rope him in by heckling his abilities really seem to have backfired since in interviews Fedor seem legitimately pissed about it. It’s like expecting the Redskins to have said “Donovan McNabb sucks! Man, what an overrated jackoff! Hey, come play for our team if you think you’re so good why don’t ya?” and gotten the deal.

    I don’t know what Zach means by a light switch being turned off for Gina’s power. She gets no respect from the hardcores, but the casuals will always be interested in seeing a hot chick fight so she’s a star no matter if she proved she can’t hang with Cyborg or is gone a whole year. Personally I do not see her ever returning. In movies actors are under heavy insurance deals so I can’t see an insurance company okaying her getting injured or breaking her nose when she has a movie to shoot in 2 months. But if she did comeback it would mean only instant ratings.

    You can’t force new stars, they just happen. Look at Brandon Vera, they’ve done everything they can to make him a UFC megastar and it doesn’t work because the public doesn’t like him. But Frank Mir, a guy they brought in to lose to Lesnar, who was seen as washed up for 3 years becomes a sensation. Or GSP, a guy who spoke broken English becomes bigger than Matt Hughes. You can’t ram fighters down the public’s throats.

    Playing around with weight classes is a bad idea. Elite tried it and failed. Bellator and WEC have the market on smaller divisions. The public expects a 155, 170, 185, 205, 265 set up so give it to them.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      They should have never signed Fedor. His contract required them to expand too quickly beyond what were capable of.

  7. Miller says:

    Elite XC: Unfinished Business did a 2.0 in the summer so Dave Meltzer is wrong. Plus Dan Henderson was supposed to be a draw and nobody expected Robbie Lawler or Scott Smith to do Kimbo/Gina ratings.

    • Mr. Roadblock says:

      That’s exactly right and it’s important to put things in that context.

      The second Elite XC show was basically a favor to CBS because the inventory got sold so quickly on the first show. TV is a wasteland in the Summer and CBS wanted to make a couple bucks.

      Last Saturday’s show was a make or break night for SF. They featured their high priced new edition and all of their respectable stars.

      That hour long over run is really going to come back to bite SF.

  8. 45 Huddle says:

    There is little doubt in my mind that Coker will go the freakshow route…. He doesn’t have many options.

    • Steve says:

      Strikeforce was founded on freakshows (Shamrock-Gracie, Buentello-Tank, Sapp-Nortje). Might as well go with what you know.

  9. David M says:

    Dan Henderson was not a megadraw; that should have been evident to anyone who wasn’t insane. He has no charisma, can’t talk to save his life, never held a UFC belt, and had no buzz.

    Fedor has all the buzz and is widely considered the best mma fighter ever, so his fight drew big ratings, but as has been stated millions of times, he doesn’t fight except when he wants to. 45 made a good point-Fedor’s signing was a big part of Strikeforce jumping to the big stage before they were ready.

    If they get another crack on CBS, they have to have Fedor, Herschel Walker, and Nick Diaz (another loose cannon, but he can talk, he can fight, and they can use the pull apart brawl video as hype) against Miller.

    • Mark says:

      I’d put the blame on Shields being his opponent as well. Everybody left talking about how boring Shields is after the Miller fight so he was tainted goods to begin with. And the assumption was Henderson was just going to run through him easily because Strikeforce wanted to have a belt on him. Very few fighters, even massive superstars, can get big numbers if they’re fighting a fight nobody believes is going to be competitive.

      And it’s looking like the real killer of the show was Aoki/Melendez, since the rating tanked over those 25 minutes unsurprisingly.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Think about if Strikeforce didn’t sign Fedor Emelianenko…

      They would still be on Showtime… They probably wouldn’t of signed Dan Henderson. They would be putting on cards and basically doing what the WEC is trying to do, which is establish their company name to specific markets and have organic growth. It would be a slow growth that would allow them to make some mistakes and still move forward based on the money Showtime is paying out.

      Instead, they signed Fedor Emelianenko, who has a long history of shady management. That is a horrible foundation. And to afford Fedor, they needed to expand so quickly and sign on more stars. To the point that if something went wrong… Like Fedor got flacky…. They were screwed.

      They should have road out their entire Showtime contract…. 3 years… And then made a big push. That would have been the smart business move.

      And speaking of Scott Coker… The guy is doing a pathetic job at getting his message out there. He was almost non-existent after the brawl except for maybe 1 or 2 smaller interviews. M-1 has spoken a few times basically putting the blame on Strikeforce for Fedor not fighting…. And Coker has stayed silent.

      Is Coker purposely trying to make his company tank? I know he tries to be Mr. Passive Nice Guy…. But man, he needs to sent the tone for his companies message… Which he is not….

      • This assumes that Strikeforce was signed by Showtime to be a second rate MMA promotion or that CBS events were never part of the potential deal. It also assumes that the UFC wouldn’t want to still pick over their talent roster. In other words, these are a lot of assumptions. I think very few of them are realistic.

        • Steve says:

          Strikeforce was signed by Showtime to be EliteXC 2.0

          They wanted an MMA promotion they could control and run on the cheap just like their boxing product. I highly doubt Showtime had illusions of picking up guys like Fedor & Hendo. That was all CBS.

  10. Chromium says:

    Drop the Heavyweight Division? No, not if they want to be seen as major league in any way. Their LHW division is weaker than their HW division, and dropping their HW division would only make that all the more apparent anyway.

    Add a Featherweight Division? If they can get some good fighters, then absolutely. There’s no reason not to do FW fights. Snag someone like Marlon Sandro one he becomes available, then get a few other decent guys and some prospects and hold an 8-man tournament. Their current plan to put Kid Yamamoto in a dark match is fucking ridiculous though.

    As for Carano, they don’t need to do Carano-Cyborg II for Carano to draw. They can find another opponent for her. Hiroko Yamanaka at 150 catchweight, or Cindy Dandois maybe. Both of those fighters are still marketable should they happen to beat Carano, but neither one would be the favorite. And should Carano win, then the rematch with Cyborg would be much bigger if Carano had a comeback win first.

    As for Herschel Walker, I think he’s still a draw because he’s still somewhat of a question mark. Maybe give him slightly tougher opponent with a winning record. People will still be curious if he’s pitted against someone who doesn’t look like they were entirely hand-picked to lose (although that would still be the reality).

    Bobby Lashley, while not a major draw, is still someone who can hold an audience’s interest. He needs to fight someone who is a legit threat. At some point or another he’s going to have to prove whether or not he is more than just a prospect with a famous past.

    As for Fedor, all the baggage that comes with the guy may just make him not worth it.

  11. robthom says:

    I didn’t appreciate the 4 hour delay on the west coast. I just DL’d it the next day since I wouldn’t be able to chat on line while watching it.

    I thought the 3 main card fights where just fine. But I can see how they wouldn’t get more attention than americas most wanted and a repeat of law and order.

    MMA doesn’t belong in primetime IMO.

    I’m not saying “its not ready for primetime”, I’m saying its better without it.

  12. David M says:

    Strikeforce definitely overemphasized the titles. Who fucking cares? Put on fights people want to see with fighters who the public cares about. One would have thought StrikeforcEXC would have learned from what works: Kimbo, Fedor, Herschel, Gina. What doesnt work are fights that appeal only to hardcore fans. The fact that Dream was mentioned 40 times on the air is proof that they dont have a fucking clue who their audience is.

    In that vein, who cares if Gina fights for a title? People just want to see her win because she’s pretty and likable. Put her up against a string of cans and keep her away from Cyborg. Similarly, put Herschel against some cans so he looks good. If they ever want to go on PPV, he can fight his toughest fight on ppv. Until then, just let him win and look good. People love Herschel Walker. This isn’t rocket science. Coker seemingly doesn’t understand that his audience isn’t sherdog posters, but rather the average Joe Shmoe who only knows the UFC and only knows the most recognizable fighters by name. Shinya Aoki means as much to the average American fan as any 2 Japanese words put together. Seriously. They might as well have said Kazuyuki Nakamura the Dream champion. Dream sounds like a fucking nickname anyways, not a promotion. Ugh. horrible.

    • Chromium says:

      I wouldn’t put Gina in against cans, because a can winning would devastate her career. The UFC is very smart about its match making, in that they may benefit more from one outcome than another, but they always make match-ups where they can get some benefit from either fighter winning if possible. And if a major star is leaving, like Arlovski when he was on his way out, they just put him on prelims if he hasn’t re-signed for the long-term or doesn’t have a Championship clause in his contract (like Jake Shields).

      You are right though in that it doesn’t matter if she’s against Cyborg, as Carano is still a draw regardless. I would put her against Yuka “Hiroko” Yamanaka because she’s a credible opponent, with a very marketable look (she’s not-too-bad looking and she’s also intimidating at 5’11”), and someone who would probably lose to Carano. If she loses, Carano has beaten a very large and scary-looking opponent who is a champion in another promotion, and is on the rebound and gains back some credibility (making her even more marketable). If she loses then you have a credible fighter who could also be a new opponent for Cyborg (if she can make the weight cut; either one I mean). I would contest it at Catchweight at 150, since Yamanaka typically fights at 160 lbs. or so.

      Belgian Cindy Dandois is another possible opponent. She beat Marloes Coenen by decision in her _debut_ match, and is now 3-0 and one of the hottest prospects in all of female MMA. She’s also someone who would be a natural Featherweight, and not an inflated Bantamweight like Roxy Modafferi or any number of opponents that Cyborg and Carano have. Also, while not a pin-up model she aint exactly ugly. If she wins or loses, it would play out the same way as if Yamanaka or Carano won or lost.

      Furthermore you could make something out of either of these fighters even if they lose.

  13. IamANT says:

    David M is spot on. This sport/spectacle/business/entertainment isn’t rocket science. I don’t know who made the final decision on the Nashville card or who influenced them but it seems they took their queue 100% from the sherdog/hardcore mma fanboy/josh gross mindset. The sad part is it’s been proven time and time again but the mma promoters, journalists, and even fighters them selves just don’t get it. Star power folks, that’s what the casual fans (which provide 90% of the ratings & ppv buys) want – not just good fights, championships, rankings or promotion vs promotion.

    Sadly, I think some people in the business will just never learn even after the cbs debacle. Sigh.


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