Before anyone labels me Zuffa hater or Strikeforce Shill, I want to compare our PPV bills.
(Scott Coker has hit promotional gold with the planning of the Strikeforce tournament)
While it was originally reported that the Strikeforce HW title will be on the line throughout the tournament, in the last 24 hours a (micro)media storm has been unleashed regarding the announcement that there will be a separate tournament title apart from Promotional HW title owned by Alistair Overeem. While a lot of fans initial reaction to this will be negative, as was mine, this actually makes business sense for the promotion in the long run. There is a lot of flack saying this tournament makes no sense now. This is unfounded. It puts the tournament in line with K1, UFC and Pride tradition where there was a tournament title and a GP belt that is independent and separate. It also makes the tournament more fair and uniform, as five round fights take longer to prepare and recover from possibly.
It still gives is the fights people want to see, the lineal title can still change hands(save it - lineal title complaint box), and it creates essentially another tournament final after the final. I really doubt anyone who would have turned into see the tournament now won't because of this(though negative press from may cause a small dip, any issue along that is more than justified by a second major fight after the final being created, generating an overall net gain in eyes on Strikeforce even with the worst case scenario PR damage this move causes, if it causes any at all.)
(the way this tournament is being promoted is nothing new to MMA, or the Last Emperor)
Those who watched MMA before the TUF recent era or those who have taken the time to learn the sport remember that the then-number 1 promotion Pride had a situation like this develop when Ricardo Arona defeated Wanderlei Silva during the tournament, setting up a rematch which Wanderlei won a contentious decision. It creates storylines, controversy and intrigue with things like this. If Strikeforce's goals are to either get back on CBS, or launch on PPV, the more buzz and the more fights this tournament can create, the better in the long run.
"So what if Alistair wins?" some ask, well then, nothing. The tournament would have gone like it would have anyway if the title was on the line anyway, and a new challenger would have to be created either way as it stood before.
I hear a constant banging on the M-1 renegotiation self distruct mode argument. That M-1 is destined to renegotiate regardless of what happened. That negotiating after the Werdum loss proves how they'll operate in the future. What is entirely missed in this line of thinking is that Strikeforce and Showtime both had a mutual interest in renegotiating before his next fight as well. Fedor was on the last fight of his deal, and was interested in either fighting Werdum or Overeem. With Fedor comes intense interest from hardcore fans and ergo the mma blogsphere and media, and the legitimacy of the greatest HW fighter of all time. Strikeforce and Showtime, regardless of what some fans believe, need Fedor, win or lose. There was no way Fedor would have entered into his final bout in Strikeforce without fighting either Overeem or Werdum None. Neither the network nor the promotion could risk their cornerstone winning his final bout and regaining all or most of his draw and then become a free agent. If M-1 is hard to deal with now, they'd be tenfold then. Further, this would allow the UFC back into the fray to either A. steal Fedor away finally or B. drive his value even higher. M-1 and Strikeforce couldn't let Fedor's team complete the contract with that many chips on the table. Doing so would be promotional malpractice 101. The signals out of all parties since the new deal has been struck is that this deal is solid and will hold. And if not and M-1 pulls a fresh round of crap from their arse? Showtime can simply threaten to continue with the tournament without him. With this many aces in play it becomes much harder for M-1 to play that card once again. The fail safe device is mutually assured destruction for M-1. The tournament could continue on, but if their cashcow bows out what would that do to his legacy, reputation and future marketability? M-1 has Fedor locked up for the length of this tournament at least. You can bank on it.
(yo, it's a real tournament, I promise)
Then there is the assertion that this somehow isn't a tournament. In the strictest terms, that is absurd because Merriam Webster defines a tournament as simply ;
But the nuance of the argument is structured around the seeding. That the seeding makes no sense because the brackets are not arranged like a playoff or March Madness. However, as BloodyElbow's Luke Thomas explained on MMAnation this is impossible in MMA because the nature of fight sport. Long term fight booking never works for promotions, and always blows up in their faces. The best course of action is to make the money fights people actually want to see now, while still providing a legitimate challenger from the other side of the bracket. Everyone has separate rankings, much less promotions, so who is to say who should be ranked 1, 2, 3 and so on, but say Strikeforce attempted to do this, not only would they be making fights no one wants to see to start the tournament off, but their HW's would also be facing a lot of criticism for facing inferior competition. The way it's structured now is genius.
Tomas Rios takes the criticism a notch further in his new blog. The dissection and immolation of his arguments can be seen in the comments here.
While not everything has been smooth since the announcement of the tournament, Stikeforce, a company who has never attempted something close to this scale deserves to be cut a little bit of slack. Would it be rational or realistic to assume everything would be perfect? Would the UFC conceivably do every thing perfect if they abandoned their contender-today-non-contender tomorrow approach(see LW division and the jobbing of Jim Miller, George Sotiropoulos for more details) for a rigid tournament structure that provided a road map that allowed the fighters to determine who deserves to fight for the title? Has a tournament of this scale been attempted in memory under the Unified Rules?
And oh yea, what was the storyline a day ago? That the reality show featuring dethroned Brock Lesnar would suck the air from this room and dwarf this story. What happened with that?