Last week marked the four year anniversary of Strikeforce’s final show. Since the Strikeforce promotion closed, there have been very few challengers to the giant known as the UFC.
Before Strikeforce came along, it seemed like there was no great alternative to the UFC in the USA or for that matter the world. Once Pride Fighting went under and the fighters acquired by the UFC, it looked as if the UFC had a monopoly on MMA.
Out of the shadows of San Jose though, a contender to the MMA king crown in the form of Strikeforce. What they built in the short period of operation as an MMA company is truly astounding.
If you aren’t familiar with Strikeforce, then let me take you on a walk down memory lane and share with you guys just how many great fighters started there careers with this company.
To start off the journey, let’s talk about the trailblazing women of the company.
Strikeforce was putting on women’s MMA fights years before the UFC even considered putting women in the Octagon. Dana White, UFC President, once famously said that there would never be women in the UFC.
So, without the help of the UFC, the world’s best women flocked to Strikeforce where they were welcomed with open arms. Names like Miesha Tate, Cyborg Justino, Gina Carano, and possibly the most famous woman in MMA history, Ronda Rousey, all fought under the Strikeforce banner.
I don’t think that it is an exaggeration to say, if these ladies hadn’t had the success they did in Strikeforce, the UFC would have never added a women’s division. Strikeforce truly changed the landscape of MMA forever by being more forward thinking than the UFC.
The success spans way beyond just their women’s division though.
Some of the best fighters in the UFC today, got a majority of their early career experience with Strikeforce. Guys like Luke Rockhold, Daniel Cormier, and Tyron Woodley all were pretty green before coming into Strikeforce, but left the company razor sharp.
Rockhold started his career Strikeforce career with only two fights of pro experience. He was a shaggy haired kid who looked like he was skipping a sick skate sesh with his bros to fight for money. Despite his look, he showed a ton of promise.
Fast forward seven years later and he was getting his hand raised as the new UFC middleweight champion of the world.
Tyron Woodley and Daniel Cormier both had similar starts to their MMA careers. Both men started their combat career as All American college wrestlers before being scooped up by Strikeforce.
Cormier debuted in pro MMA with Strikeforce and Woodley debuted in the promotion with only two fight under his belt. Both guys exploded onto the scene and quickly established themselves as contenders in their respective weight classes.
Now, those two scrappy wrestlers have gone from contenders to champions in the UFC. Woodley the champion of the welterweights and Cormier the champion of the light heavyweights. The list goes on of great fighters that began their career with this promotion, but they don’t get any better than those three guys.
Strikeforce, along with their great talent development, also had a great eye for signing veterans. Huge names like Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, Josh Barnett, Nick Diaz, and the legend Fedor Emelianenko all showed up and added a ton of legitimacy to the young promotion.
Without veterans like them, Strikeforce would have had no name recognition. With them however, they added a new reason for casual fans to watch something other than the UFC. The Fedor acquisition in particular was the move that added a new level of excitement to Strikeforce.
Prior to his signing in 2009, the man who is looked at as one of the greatest of all time, had only fought in the USA three times. American fans were dying to see The Last Emperor in action and Strikeforce gave them the opportunity. Fedor’s stint in Strikeforce was ultimately an unsuccessful one, but in failure, Strikeforce got even more recognition than they would have, had he been undefeated in the promotion.
I can remember when Fabrico Werdum caught him in a triangle to hand Fedor his first loss in ten years, the media was covering it like nothing I had seen before in MMA. In 2010, MMA still hadn’t reached the sort of media and mainstream attention that it does now, so to see shows on ESPN leading their coverage with a story over this incredible upset was so cool.
That upset in particular showed that Strikeforce had some real killers on their roster and that they had talent to rival the UFC.
I could talk about all the amazing fights and fighters that used to fight for Strikeforce all day, but this article has to end eventually. I haven’t even brought up fighters like Cung Le, Gilbert Melendez, Jacare Souza, Robbie Lawler, Bigfoot Silva and the GOAT Herschel Walker, but like I said I have to move on.
So, as the title states, the question of this article is, just how good was Strikeforce?
Personally, I think it was almost as good as the UFC and sometimes in moments like the Fedor v. Werdum fight, it was better. It was an awesome alternative to the UFC and it allowed so many talented young fighters get their name out there, as well as give veterans a second chance at big money fights.
If the brand wouldn’t have been bought out by the UFC, there could have been a Monday night wars type showdown between Strikeforce and the UFC. Who knows, if Strikeforce would have stayed around for a few more years there could have been a huge paradigm shit in MMA.
Strikeforce is gone, but I think it will be a very long time before the impact of that promotion will wear off. Just last year, there was a point were five of the ten UFC champions were former Strikeforce fighters.
Simply put, what Strikeforce was able to do in such a short period of time is incredible and we may never see another promotion challenge the UFC’s giant empire like Strikeforce did.