UFC still thrashing out Strikeforce deal
While news that Zuffa Inc., the parent company of the UFC, has acquired Strikeforce marks a historical day in mixed martial arts, seeing the actual effects it will have on the sport might take time.
That much was apparent during a UFC conference call Monday, as chairman Lorenzo Fertitta and president Dana White repeatedly emphasized that most details are not hammered out.
"We put this thing together in short order and we don't have all the answers yet," Fertitta said. "We're going to see how it plays out."
Zuffa finalized a deal to buy out Strikeforce for an undisclosed amount Friday. The company represented UFC's top North American competitor and currently holds a roster of approximately 140 fighters.
At this time, the UFC plans to allow Strikeforce to operate as it has on its own. While most MMA experts conclude the organization will eventually be folded into the UFC, much like the WEC was earlier this year, White refused to confirm those plans Monday.
Strikeforce shows will continue to air on the Showtime Network and CEO Scott Coker will keep his position as the promotion's head.
"It's business as usual," White said. "Scott's going to run everything. [Folding it into UFC] is not what we have planned right now."
"Anything's possible and I would never say never to anything. But right now, Strikeforce is going to continue to run their shows on Showtime."
While it appears as though the two entities will function much as fans have known initially, plenty of storylines figure to play out as Zuffa's plan unfolds.
Fans are already asking when they might see a matchup between fighters from opposite organizations.
White has long been a proponent of putting together the fights fans ask for -- something he says he'll continue to do. With the ink still drying on the buyout, however, the UFC has yet to determine when those super fights will happen.
"We literally have not talked about it at all," White said. "Scott is here for this conference call and then he's going back to run his business as usual and so are we.
"Will [UFC and Strikeforce] guys never face each other? No. Our job is to make sure fans get the fights they want to see. It's just a matter of when."
Discussions between Zuffa and its new partner, Showtime, have also yet to take place. According to Fertitta, Strikeforce is under contract with the premium cable channel to deliver 16 fights, with the deal expiring in 2014.
The new relationship could conceivably open the door for the UFC to gain traction on a deal with Showtime or Strikeforce's other network partner, CBS.
"We're really in the early stages here and we haven't had a chance to sit down and meet with the Showtime guys to see what the future holds," Fertitta said. "There is a contract in place and if they want to do something beyond that, we'll certainly sit down and talk to them."
As of now, the most significant change due to the deal is Strikeforce will immediately adopt the unified rules currently used under the UFC brand. The rules allow fighters to use elbow strikes on the ground, a strategy previously illegal in Strikeforce.
Brett Okamoto covers mixed martial arts for ESPN.com.
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