The Strikeforce cage closed for the final time when Tarec Saffiedine defeated Nate Marquardt via unanimous decision to win the welterweight title on Saturday, Jan. 12. The organization’s fighters will either be released or moved to the UFC.
There was a time when Strikeforce was the nation’s second largest MMA promotion. When the UFC bought the California-based organization, it was consistently holding shows across the country, developing young talent, and putting on outstanding fights. Strikeforce also rarely overpaid its fighters, which was a problem that sunk competitor Elite XC years ago. It was a shining example of how a rising MMA promotion should be run.
Now Strikeforce is gone, and it leaves behind a gap in the sport that needs to be filled. At its peak, Strikeforce provided fans with another option to the UFC through its willingness to take risks. It started the Challengers series, which highlighted fights between young prospects on television. Many of those prospects, including Saffiedine, have done well with that opportunity.
Strikeforce also led the way with women’s MMA in the United States. The promotion’s decision to put fighters such as Gina Carano, Elaina Maxwell, and Miesha Tate on its cards was an important step to the eventual formation of a women’s bantamweight division in the UFC.
With Strikeforce shutting down, two other organizations appear primed to take its place. Bellator Fighting Championships has prospered with its tournament format, and now that it has moved to Spike TV, it has become the No. 2 MMA promotion in the country. Furthermore, its move to California has opened up more venues for its cards. Bellator’s growth should continue over the next couple of years as long as it maximizes its television deal with Spike.
Meanwhile, Invicta Fighting Championships has done an excellent job building its fanbase in its first year of operation. The all-women’s organization will be holding its first show outside of Kansas City this spring when it visits California. Invicta is also putting together a solid roster of fighters, many of which appear to be rising stars.
Both of these companies have bright futures in the sport if they continue to make good business decisions. They offer hope to MMA fans that there is some competition out there for the UFC in the United States.
Hopefully, these organizations will help us forget about Strikeforce and its demise. That’s a tall task to accomplish because Strikeforce gave us some outstanding fights and stories.
But you never know, Bellator and Invicta might just surprise us all.