Famed Russian mixed martial artist Fedor Emelianenko, with a little help from his heavyweight brethren, doesn't seem to have any trouble breaking Showtime's ratings records.
But how would the former PRIDE champion fare in his return to pay-per-view?
That's been one of the longstanding questions as Strikeforce heads into the second quarter of its 2011 fight campaign after generating revenue upwards of $30 million for the previous fiscal year.
And now that the San Jose-based fight promotion has been acquired by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the little West Coast engine that could has become a speeding locomotive with the muscle and marketing power of the Zuffa brand at its disposal.
Despite a first quarter scheduling fumble, Strikeforce has been keeping fight fans entertained with its ambitious heavyweight grand prix tournament featuring top star like Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum and Josh Barnett.
"The Last Emperor" was also in the starting line-up until Brazilian "Bigfoot" Antonio Silva took him off the field back on Feb. 12. Of course when you have Emelianenko's drawing power, it's only a matter of time before you're back in the game (which could be as early as July).
Add those components together (star power, ratings, profitability) and you have the recipe for a successful pay-per-view according to Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker (via Sherdog.com):
"I think our brand name is very strong. I think it’s stronger than it’s ever been and I think the Showtime relationship has been good for everybody and good for mixed martial arts and has given a lot of fighters some great opportunities. If we can continue to grow and continue to build this business the way that we have been … if we’re profitable and the company is doing very well, then I don’t see why it would not continue. I’m going to run Strikeforce and I’m going to keep building this thing as much as I can. We’re going to work as hard as we can. … I think it will be ready for pay-per-view by the end of the year. We have access to their marketing machine and their PR machine and just all of the nuts and bolts of that company. They’ve been very helpful. They’ve been very engaging. Everybody’s been extremely friendly. We’re going to use some of those resources and we’re going to go out there and blow up Strikeforce."
Strikeforce has continually faced criticism for its haphazard approach to event scheduling, but in the end it always delivers a night of entertaining fights. That has a lot to do with the effort of its talent, which more often than not delivers when the cameras begin rolling.
Most of the MMA community expects Zuffa to fold Strikeforce into the UFC much like it did with World Extreme Cagefighting earlier this year, and if Coker is realistic about keeping it a separate promotion after his contract with Showtime expires, he'll need his brand to "blow up" both on Showtime and on pay-per-view.
But will he have enough talent to do it?
If the UFC insists on keeping contracted fighters apart, there just may not be enough names to draw from the San Jose hat to keep this thing afloat. And it's no secret that UFC President Dana White is not a fan of the Showtime network.
For now, Coker will get his chance to prove the value and growth potential of his brand. Unfortunately in the end, it just might not be enough.
What's your opinion Maniacs, should it stay or should it go? And would you buy a Strikeforce pay-per-view depending on the featured talent?