Strikeforce Heavyweight GP Delay – Reasons, Ramifications and Aiming to Capitalize

March 3, 2011

Strikeforce confirmed this week what Sherdog reported a week ago,which was the postponement to the second leg of the Heavyweight Grand Prix, which was originally scheduled to take place on April 9. A few days ago, Josh Gross of ESPN then confirmed that the HW GP would indeed be postponed and continue in Dallas, TX on June 18.

 

As a result of the move, the April 9th HW GP bouts were replaced by Nick Diaz vs Paul Daley and Gilbert Melendez vs Tatsuya Kawajiri. The Strikeforce press release states the following:

NEW YORK (March 2, 2011) – The STRIKEFORCE World Grand Prix — Heavyweight Tournament will continue on Saturday, June 18 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, LIVE on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).

The date originally reserved for continuation of the three-stage, single-elimination tournament comprised of eight of the world’s top heavyweights, April 9, will now feature a terrific STRIKEFORCE World Championship Doubleheader from Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, Calif., formerly the San Diego Sports Arena.

In the second event of the tournament, STRIKEFORCE Heavyweight World Champion Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem (34-11, 1 NC) will face the only man to tap out MMA legend Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1) and the heavy-handed Brett “The Grim” Rogers (11-2) will take on former UFC World Champion Josh Barnett (29-5).

“STRIKEFORCE is coming off a record presale and impressive attendance for the kickoff of the Grand Prix at IZOD Center in New Jersey that also drew a record viewership on SHOWTIME for live MMA,” said STRIKEFORCE CEO Scott Coker.  “To build on the tremendous momentum from New Jersey we needed the proper time to promote an event of this magnitude, which is why we have decided to continue the Tournament on June 18 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, a venue that has been identified as one of the premier sports and entertainment venues in the U.S.”

Coker continued: “We have a great relationship with the Texas State Athletic Commission, who, along with the American Airlines Center, is enthused to host the Grand Prix.”

STRIKEFORCE Welterweight World Champion Nick Diaz (24-1, 1 NC) will defend his title in a highly anticipated grudge match against the brawling Paul “Semtex” Daley (26-9-2) in the April 9 main event.  Gilbert Melendez (18-2) will make the second defense of his STRIKEFORCE Lightweight World Title against the powerful Tatsuya Kawajiri (27-6-2).  Also on the April 9 card is a bitter showdown between current DREAM Light Heavyweight Champion Gegard Mousasi and Mike Kyle.

“We are fortunate to replace the April 9 date with a tremendous World Championship Doubleheader featuring the eagerly awaited showdown between Nick and Paul and the sensational matchup between Gilbert and Tatsuya,” Coker said.  “This is a fight everyone has been waiting for and I’d like to thank DREAM for allowing Tatsuya to come to the U.S. to take on our Lightweight World Champion.”


PAYOUT PERSPECTIVE:

The news of the postponement has definitely raised a cloud of doubt among MMA fans in terms of Strikeforce’s ability to pull off the HW Grand Prix without any further hiccups.  We will take a look at what delaying the second leg of the HW GP means, the reasoning behind the move, and how they are trying to capitalize from the event.

Reasons Behind Delay:

* Talks to host the event in Japan did not materialize. Booking a venue (Saitama Super Arena) for the April 9 date was a big issue, as well as locking down logistics, gaining sponsors, promoting the event, and finding supporters in Japan in such a short amount of time after the 2/12 event.

* Once the April 9 date could not be booked in Japan, Strikeforce began to look for major markets in the U.S. that could possibly host the event. A problem encountered was that many of the states and venues they were looking into were booked on Saturday night, either by NBA or NHL.  Only a few were found that worked with all the parties involved, but they also happened to be in California. The Oracle Arena in Oakland and the San Diego Sports Arena were the two leading venues, though both were out of the question to host the HW GP second leg due to the Josh Barnett licensing issues with the California State Athletic Commission, which Strikeforce want’s Josh Barnett to resolve in case he advances to the semi-finals and final rounds of the GP.

* Finding enough time to promote and capitalize on the HW GP.  With the limited resources Strikeforce has in hand, concentrating on the HW GP while also having to plan for Challenger events and the big Columbus event which coincides with the Arnold Sports Festival provided logistics hurdles. They are looking into properly promoting not only the second leg of the HW GP, but also all the shows in between.  They won’t be able to free resources up until May as  Showtime and CBS will be heavily involved in promoting the Manny Pacquiao vs Shane Mosley fight, so May will be a chance for Strikeforce to catch their breath.  On the positive end, all signs point to Strikeforce being promoted on the huge platform, so it could pay off big for them heading into the latter half of the year.

* There was a rumor floating around that Alistair Overeem wanted to fight in May or June, and that April 9th was too soon to put up a full training camp.  He has fought frequently for FEG in the past 5 months, taking home the belt in the K-1 World Grand Prix as well as defeating Todd Duffee in the NYE card to become the DREAM Interim HW Champion.  Overeem made the following statements to MMAFightingt back in November of last year:

“I will be ready for Strikeforce as soon as I would say April, May, June,” Overeem said Monday on MMAFighting.com’s The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani.


After his December fight(s) in Japan, Overeem says he will take a vacation in January and would need two to four months after to properly prepare for his return.

MMAPayout was able to reach both parties, who subsequently denied the rumors.  Golden Glory team stated the following  “Alistair has been training hard lately and is always ready to fight! Doesn’t matter if it was April or June, he will be ready as ever…”

 

The Cons:

* Long layoff hurts momentum created by the hugely successful first leg of the HW GP held in February 12  and headlined with Fedor Emelianenko vs Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.

* Fighters who fought on the 2/12 event will go 7 months without a fight, fighters who were told they were fighting on 4/9 have a 2 month delay in the middle of training camps. There are already rumbles that Antonio Silva does not want to wait around that long and that his management want’s a fight in between. Alex Davis told ESPN.com “For us it sucks. I gotta keep him in action. What I’ll try to see if they’ll let him fight in Japan. He’s in the tournament so it wouldn’t make any sense to have him fight in Strikeforce. We can’t just wait this long.” The obvious issue here is that if you let Silva or any other fighter fight outside of the promotion and they lose or get injured, it would not be very good for the tournament, which is not a very good position for either side.

* Jeopardizes the scheduling of the entire tournament to conclude in 2011, since the margin of error (bad luck/injuries) is now slim, as the semifinals are tentatively scheduled for September and the finals around early December. Strikeforce did previously mention that if there was an injury, they were willing to give the fighter a 2 month window to see if he could heal to avoid using a replacement for minor injuries.  If any of those situations occur, the event may have slipped into 2011 regardless of this 2 month delay.

* As a promotion who is still working out the kinks in transitioning into a worldwide promotion, having these scheduling issues and hiccups only fuel those within the MMA community who already think Strikeforce is not yet capable of properly handling hurdles that are presented to them.  The two month delay has raised concerns from a number of fans, but if the rest of the GP can go smoothly, I think it will be easily forgotten, though smooth sailing is hardly a given when it comes to MMA or tournaments.

 

The Pros:

* The key here with the extra time is to use it wisely and promote the second leg of the HW GP. Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Brett Rogers, and Josh Barnett (making his Strikeforce debut) are all relatively unknown in the U.S. still, so using this time wisely to promote the fighters and the idea of a tournament is a must here.  Although it’s not a positive for the fighters, Strikeforce and Showtime now have more time to promote the next event and cash in on the extra attention from it.  It also doesn’t hurt that the event takes place in Texas, where Gina Carano is from and where big attractions like Herschel Walker can be used to gain publicity.

*April 9th was originally planned as a Japan show, which has now moved to San Diego in what appears to be a Strikeforce vs DREAM event, which should excite fans the closer we get to the event. The event is rumored to have Diaz vs Daley, Melendez vs Kawajiri, Mousasi vs Kyle, Aoki, and Takaya as possible participants.  In fact, it looks like many of the same fighters which were going to participate in the 4/9 event in Japan are still on the card in San Diego.  Sources say that Strikeforce pretty much had Strikeforce done, but due to lack of time and logistics (venue), were not able to pull it off, essentially moving the event to San Diego.  Not only is Strikeforce getting DREAM fighters for the event, but NightmareOfBattle is also reporting that DREAM will also support Strikeforce with the event in terms of “production”.   The event will be billed as a DREAM vs STRIKEFORCE event and DREAM is hoping that they can continue the relationship in 2011, having fighters from both promotions participating in Japan and the U.S. The report also states that DREAM will be focusing on the Bantamweight division and will look forward to crowning champs for each division.

* Although Overeem vs Werdum and Barnett vs Rogers was pushed out, Nick Diaz vs Paul Daley was pushed in to be the main event.  Paul Daley is coming off another impressive first round stoppage, this time over DEEP WW champ Yuya Shurai on BAMMA 5, an event held in the UK.  Daley’s popularity has grown so much as of late, that his fight against Shurai – which aired late Saturday night in the UK on Syfy and streamed live in the US in the afternoon –  resulted in Paul Daley being a top Twitter trend in both markets, which is remarkable. Capitalizing on the buzz Paul Daley has at the moment is key for Strikeforce, and they have done that with booking Diaz vs Daley as the main event of the 4/9 card.  The only worry now is that they have to sell that fight and promote it, which shouldn’t be too hard to do with those guys.  It will also be the date Strikeforce gets their LW champ, Gilbert Melendez, back from injury.

 

Aiming to Capitalize On the HW GP:

* In terms of business, sources within the industry have said that the Fedor vs Silva event has opened up financial opportunities for Strikeforce that were not there before, so stretching out the GP may not necessarily be such a bad thing for them business wise.  It also means more mainstream interest and coverage from otherwise unwilling outlets.  The key here is for Strikeforce to draw mainstream attention to the in between HW GP events and use the GP to boost up the brand.

* The HW GP has opened up PPV for Strikeforce in several non-domestic markets.  Sources within the industry have pointed out that sponsors and other groups are seeking to work with Strikeforce in part to the the HW GP, especially if it could mean a future spot on a PPV or CBS event for the final rounds.  According to NightmareOfBattle, the famous Japanese Magazine “Kamipro” is reporting PPV success for Strikeforce in Japan, to the point where the April 9 event will also be a highly anticipated event in Japan.

“According to authorized people it looks like the amount sold for the SKY PerfecTV! televised PPV of Fedor vs. Bigfoot was quite good. I’m anticipating a Kawajiri vs. Melendez PPV as well!!”

 

In addition to Japan, Strikeforce has also partnered with UK PPV provider Primetime, which now appears to be a budding partnership.

 

Looking at the April 9 card, the key participants are Paul Daley, Kawajiri, Aoki, and Takaya guys who will be used to bump the PPV sales both in the UK and in Japan.  Roger Gracie is also rumored to potentially land on the event, who lives in London.

Other countries with no TV deals (i.e. Australia) can also purchase Strikeforce HW GP events via PPV.  Latin America saw the Fedor vs Silva event via HBO Plus, which did extremely well and was a top Twitter trend for most of the day in Brazil due to the buzz the event created. The Latin American market has opened up for Strikeforce mainly due to the Canal Space TV deal, which has been vital in penetrating the market and exposing the brand to numerous countries in the region in the past year.

Though holding PPV’s is not ideal for a promotion who is still trying to grow the brand, slowly phasing it in when no other television options are available will give them some sort of non-domestic revenue and a good study in venturing into the sparingly used only for special events  PPV business.

* Ultimately, the goal for Strikeforce will be to hold an event on CBS and then plan a PPV around the HW GP finals or semi-finals.  At the time, they hope to cash in on what they are slowly building with the GP this year.  Ratings, attendance, gate, merchandising sales, and interest in the product are all significantly higher in 2011 in the first 3 months than what it was for the latter part of 2010 for the promotion.

 

8 Responses to “Strikeforce Heavyweight GP Delay – Reasons, Ramifications and Aiming to Capitalize”

  1. MarQ from FG on March 3rd, 2011 7:44 PM

    Another pro is that since it’s in Dallas, a possible return of hometown girl Gina Carano will do a lot to hype the fights and promotion

  2. jv on March 3rd, 2011 8:13 PM

    Nice write up Jose. The part I’m still not sold on is CBS helping out. Just because they are willing to fall over them selves to get a fat slice of the pacman PPV cash doesn’t mean they will do it for the chump change a SF PPV will do.

  3. Jose Mendoza on March 3rd, 2011 10:02 PM

    jv:

    Absolutely. CBS has not given any indication yet of airing another MMA event, but both Showtime and Strikeforce know that if they want to get on PPV in the U.S., they have to hope they get back on CBS. You bring up a good point with Pacman, but how many times will they land him for a PPV? The deal was done just for this one fight, no guarantees where he goes for his next one or when that will even be. Prizefight boxers typically fight two times a year, so it would be great if Strikeforce could be used to fill the voids and grow a brand currently under their umbrella. Top Rank has a big announcement tomorrow, lets see what they say. 🙂

    MarQ:

    Absolutely! Also dealing with a commission that is pretty easy to work with doesn’t hurt either, I’m sure.

  4. BrainSmasher on March 3rd, 2011 11:11 PM

    Mismanagement. They are a small Promotion who is already to big for the management to organize and they have zero control of the fighters and cant promise anything to the fans without it blowing up in their face over and over. Nothing they claim ever happens. From fights to tournament to venues. All of it falls at the feet of Coker or whoever is in charge over there.

  5. mmaguru on March 4th, 2011 5:28 AM

    Coker does not appear to have the final say on the big issues. For example, there biggest star Fedor was negotiated with between Showtime and M1, so it’s really hard to say that Coker is the man behind everything. I suspect Coker just runs the day to day stuff and the final decisions are made at Showtime especially around dates and locations for events and what fight becomes the headliner.

    The HWGP mess can be attributed to one man and one man only – Josh Barnett. And the person to blame for all this is Coker for signing Josh and putting him in the GP. It is hard to argue that SF would have held the second leg of the GP on April 9 as scheduled if Josh was not on the card. It really seems pretty simple to me.

  6. jv on March 4th, 2011 7:59 AM

    The bottom line is whether they do any thing to keep the fans wet while they are waiting or do they just let the tournament fade away and dust it off on the tuesday the week of the next event in the tournament. We know SHO ain’t gonna do nothing so it is going to be up to Strikeforce to get the job done.

    The fact that the Dream guys are helping out with the production for the April 9 show is interesting. We don’t really know what that means yet. If we can take it even marginally at face value it could be a real game changer. If SHO wasn’t all about the boxing right now then there wouldn’t be any of that going on.

    Jose:

    Well if they use Gus for the Pacman fight this will be one and done. Lucky for boxing Arum probably has enough pull to say “that idiot isn’t coming near my event”.

    BS:

    Yet they might have the best growth rate of any MMA promotion right now.

    mmaguru:

    Showtime & Coker have said numerous times that there are only a couple of fighters where SHO is directly involved in the contract for the fighter. Hendo and Fedor come to mind. Overeem may fit the bill as well. The reason why they are involved with those fighters is they are outside of Strikeforces budget for what they get paid by SHO. Coker would put on shows but he wouldn’t spend a million + for Fedor if he is only getting 700k from Showtime. He would be broke in no time. If SHO wants the big names (and they do ) they need to step up.

  7. BrainSmasher on March 4th, 2011 4:59 PM

    “BS:

    Yet they might have the best growth rate of any MMA promotion right now. ”

    That maybe true but the same was true for Elite XC, Affliction, and IFL. You take a new promotion and get them anywhere on tv and dump money into them they will have a fast growth rate. It dont make you successful and it dont mean you will survive. It is what it is. It is even arguable if they do have a faster growth rate. There is no sign of their profitability and their fanbase really isnt growing that much from year to year. I know of local promotions who are blowing up in both those area’s. They are much smaller than SF and they only run a few pro fights and only have like 10 events under their belt. But their attendance has more than trippled while cost is almost unchanged.

  8. The Bright Side of Strikeforce’s HWGP Tournament Delay | MMA Opinion on March 5th, 2011 12:53 PM

    […] mentioned on MMAPayout, the delay does give Strikeforce the chance to try and properly promote this event. Competitors […]

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