Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE
When ZUFFA made the surprise purchase of Strikeforce back in 2011, it was hard for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans to remain optimistic about the promotion's future. These past 12 months of injuries, cancelations and talent defections have proved why.
Strikeforce called it quits earlier this evening (Jan. 12, 2013) with "Marquardt vs. Saffiedine," the final mixed martial arts (MMA) event in the promotion's history, which aired on the Showtime network from the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Goodbye and good riddance.
The first live event I ever covered as a member of the MMA (cough) "media" was Strikeforce: "Shamrock vs. Le," and as a longtime fan of combat sports, I found that the fledgling promotion -- and the talent behind it -- delivered the goods more often than not.
But, let's not ignore the obvious.
The Strikeforce we all knew and loved was dead long before the "Sooner State" extravaganza, thanks to a 2011 buyout from ZUFFA, the parent company of Las Vegas-based rivals Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). And for a promotion that was known for its gratuitous "super fights," the matchmaking for its winter swan song was downright laughable.
But, what made Striikeforce so appealing in the first place? For this writer, it was CEO Scott Coker's ability to keep his organization afloat without a lick of divisional credibility. Alistair Overeem won the heavyweight strap in Nov. 2007 yet didn't have his first title defense until May 2010.
That's not all.
Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez ran out of challengers, so they brought in a pair Japanese imports from DREAM. Luke Rockhold, meanwhile, was putting his 185-pound title on the line against UFC castaway Keith Jardine, despite the "Dean of Mean's" 0-1-1 record under the Strikeforce banner.
But, none of it mattered.
Fans were willing to turn a blind eye because Coker and his band of merry men knew how to entertain. After all, they had colorful characters like Nick Diaz and Jason Miller, the culprits behind the "Nashville" rumble, in addition to marquee names like Dan Henderson and Fedor Emelianenko.
Hell, they even threw down at the Playboy mansion.
And speaking of "The Last Emperor," there was a time you could argue that Strikeforce, also the home Antonio Silva, Fabricio Werdum, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett and the aforementioned Overeem, housed some of the best 265-pound fighters on the planet.
Sometimes it was more spectacle than sport (see Walker, Herschel), but it was a helluva lotta fun while it lasted.
Those days are now over. In fact, they've been over for a long time and this last 1.5 years has been painful to watch. Once "Demolition Man" stubbed his toe, bowed out of the promotion's heavyweight grand prix tournament and signed with UFC, the flood gates opened.
Green grass and high tides forever inside the Octagon, which is why Nick Diaz followed fellow Strikeforce champion Jake Shields to the promised land of "Sin City." Dan Henderson also came home while Muhammed Lawal and Cristiane Santos got shit-canned after pissing positive.
Rockhold and Melendez couldn't jump ship, contractually, so they opted to run out the clock on the injured reserves. At least we had Ronda Rousey (kinda), one of the few survivors who chose to swim to shore rather than tread water and wait to be rescued.
As for the rest of the crew, I hear the ZUFFA lifeboats are leaving only half full.
The bow of the S.S. Strikeforce has now slipped below the surface and out of sight for good. All that remains is the fond memory of the little engine who could, and often did, but a memory forever tainted by the bloody fingerprints of its white-collar killer.
Strikeforce is dead and I couldn't be happier, because now I can (finally) get my nostalgia on. Speaking of, anyone wanna talk about PRIDE?