Photo of UFC President Dana White by Michael Cohen/Getty Images
One week from today, it will have been one year since the shocking news that Zuffa -- the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) -- purchased its biggest competitor in Strikeforce. The announcement was sudden and took most mixed martial arts (MMA) fans by total surprise.
Much like when Zuffa purchased Pride Fighting Championships -- coincidentally around this time of year half a decade ago -- the back and forth between pundits and fans was of cross-promotional title unification bouts, mergers and even super cards.
It became apparent, after being used around 78 times during the video, almost none of those hopes would come to fruition and the meme "business as usual" was etched into the MMA lexicon.
It hasn't been "business as usual," per se. For example, Strikeforce is without a heavyweight, light heavyweight and welterweight champion after Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson and Nick Diaz all signed contracts to bring their talents to the Octagon. Aside from those deviations, the company Scott Coker founded as a kickboxing organization plugged along with the only huge difference being UFC pay-per-view commercials during the Showtime telecasts.
The company did indeed stay on the premium cable channel, although the future of their relationship was murky. The contract was set to expire in early 2012 and many expected the promotion to move stations or be absorbed -- a la World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) -- into the UFC. Neither happened as an extension through the end of this year was announced last December.
It seemed as if Showtime and Dana White -- a pair with no love lost in the past -- had found a way to play nice.
Whoa, pump the breaks. I spoke too soon.
It was long expected that this past Saturday's (Mar. 3) event, Strikeforce: 'Tate vs. Rousey', would be the first to have the Dana White touch to it. He was even set to miss the UFC on FX event -- held a world away in Australia -- to be in Columbus for the Strikeforce show, marking the first time in over a decade the foul-mouthed President wouldn't be sitting next to the Octagon.
But things didn't quite turn out that way.
According to an interview today at the UFC on Fox press conference hyping the May 5 event headlined by Nate Diaz and Jim Miller, White revealed he received a call a week before he was set to fly out to Ohio and was told his presence wasn't needed.
"It's quite simple. We had four meetings ... and obviously there's some creative differences between me and the producer of the show. And this guy's not a bad guy. ... Creatively, we have some differences ... and we're always gonna. ... While he has that type of power, I guess I ... won't be in the mix."
If this is the case and White's input on Strikeforce has been flat out refused, I can only wonder what is going through the mind of Showtime Sports head honcho Stephen Espinoza.
Sure, White can often be obnoxious. Okay, that's putting it lightly. The UFC President can be a straight pain in the butt from time to time. He engages in Twitter flamewars with D-level MMA personalities, uses a four-letter word every 10 seconds and doesn't go to bed at night before he's said at least one negative thing about Fedor Emelianenko.
But there's absolutely no one on the planet who has done his job -- running a fight promotion -- longer and better than he has. Coker only recently branched outside of southern California while the UFC has been breaking ground in the Middle East, Australia and will do so in Sweden next month. Bellator bigwig Bjorn Rebney has only be in the game a few years and all the power players in Japan are either in jail or in hiding.
There's a wealth of knowledge White has which Showtime is squandering. Here, they have the man who has helped MMA become one of the fastest growing sports in the world and the man who partly owns the promotion on their own network and what do they say?
Thanks, but no thanks.
The decision is baffling and could potentially lead to Strikeforce's demise. Zuffa bought a new toy in Strikeforce but Showtime isn't letting them play with it. If White and company came into the deal thinking they would have some input only to instead get shut out, will there be any incentive to renew the contract once the time comes?
No, there won't be.
And that will lead to a mountain of uncertainty. Will Strikeforce go to a different network? Or will it close its doors and get absorbed into the UFC? Where would that leave fighters like Nate Marquardt, Paul Daley and the bevy of women fighters under Coker's employ?
The small act of Showtime refusing White's help could have major ramifications.