That’s right ladies and gentlemen, the deal that turned the world of Mixed Martial Arts upside down is now 100% official. ZUFFA, LLC Subsidary will today announce in a media conference call at 10 AM PST / 1 PM EST the purchase of Strikeforce. Lowkick.com’s own Anton Gurevich will be listening in LIVE and providing updates on the fly. UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and UFC President Dana White will be participating in the conference call as well. Be sure to check back often for the minute by minute coverage of this historic announcement!
Here’s the media conference call log, thanks to our good friends at MMAMania.com:
1:05pm — Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta and Scott Coker on the call.
1:06pm — Scott, what prompted you to make the deal? Coker: It was a long and hard decision but investors (SVSE) wanted to get back to their hockey business so we looked at new offers/investors.
1:08pm — Dana, will you merge brands down the road? White: Anything is possible, but as of now the plan is to run Strikeforce on Showtime like it has been. Showtime runs the production including choice of announcers.
1:09pm — Coker: Approximately 140 fighters under contract with Strikeforce.
1:10pm — Dana, is no competition a bad thing? White: There will always be competition, this is about growing the sport. It’s a great day for fans and fighters. Lorenzo: We have vast financial resources and it’s good for fighters to be with a big, healthy promotion. There are literally thousands of promotions worldwide so fighters still have plenty of options.
1:11pm — Lorenzo says acquisition is in “early stages” and he hasn’t talked to Showtime yet. If they want to pursue a new deal after current Strikeforce contract expires (in 2014) he would be willing to talk.
1:12pm — UFC will implement unified rules of MMA in Strikeforce shows (including elbows on the ground) effective immediately.
1:13pm — Dana says “superfights” are possible but it’s too early to forecast fantasy match-ups. It’s a work in progress.
1:15pm — Fertitta: How quickly the UFC expands may dictate how they use newly acquired fighters.
1:17pm — White: UFC anticipates no fallout from Canadian outcry against head injuries (RE: NHL).
1:20pm — Will Strikeforce come to Canada? Coker: There was dialog with a casino and arena in Canada but we’re still a few weeks away from any kind of announcement.
1:21pm — White: There is a demand for MMA and it does not compete with other major sports like NFL and MLB. UFC has its own demand.
1:22pm — What about comments from Paul Daley and Josh Barnett who have past issues with UFC? White: This is a business, if you don’t like me you can always deal with Lorenzo but as of now we will honor all contracts.
1:23pm — Another fantasy match-up question. Same answer: Work in progress and brands will run separately for now. Lorenzo: There is still unfinished business in Strikeforce (RE: Grand Prix, other upcoming events).
1:25pm — Will the UFC open themselves up to anti-trust suits with new acquisition? Fertitta: Doubtful, plenty of promotions already exist and there are no barriers to new promotions starting and signing fighters. White: All you need is big balls and big money.
1:26pm — White: No plans to do Strikeforce “Ultimate Fighter” but you never know.
1:27pm — Does the Strikeforce purchase help the UFC get into Japan? Lorenzo: Too early to tell but Coker has good relationship there and it warrants future consideration.
1:28pm — Coker: UFC purchase had no effect on delay of heavyweight tournament.
1:29pm — White: UFC will not counter-program Strikeforce events moving forward but will continue to air old UFC pay-per-views on Spike TV.
1:30pm — Dana White has not changed his opinion of female fighting (not a fan) and calls it “Scott’s deal.”
1:31pm — How much closer does this acquisition put you to a Zuffa “On Demand” channel? Lorenzo: Nothing to report on that but we will use the Strikeforce library like we have for PRIDE and WEC. UFC has 4000+ library of fights.
1:33pm — Coker: Strikeforce still interested in Hispanic market and can now use Zuffa backing to help capitalize on that demand.
1:34pm — White: It’s up to the fighters if they want to do a union but the problem is MMA isn’t a team sport and top paying guys may not want to kick some of that money to guys coming up or who might not make it — but that is entirely up to the fighters.
1:35pm — Another fantasy match-up question and (surprise) same answer: “Business as usual.” Coker cannot comment on specific contracts but reiterates that Fedor Emelianenko fights for Strikeforce on Showtime.
1:36pm — Was Strikeforce purchase a defensive move to keep it from other investors? White and Fertitta: No, and they hadn’t heard the rumor of other interested parties until today.
1:39pm — White: This will be the biggest sport in the world because everyone likes fighting and we have big International plans. We need more fighters as we continue to grow the sport worldwide. We’re in half a billion homes so we’re doing a pretty good job.
1:40pm — How does the UFC keep the championship picture from getting messy like boxing now that UFC owns two promotions with two sets of champs? White: Nothing has changed. Two separate brands and each has its own set of champions to represent it.
1:41pm — Fertitta: We’re growing our brand through increased presence like new “Prelim” specials on TV and Facebook and want to introduce new fighters and build talent overseas and in different markets through more content like “Fight Nights” and related programming. White: There is a ton of demand worldwide and we’re trying to keep up.
1:42pm — Fertitta: We don’t feel like we have a year-round presence overseas and now it’s just a “special event” type of approach. Goal is to make it a full-time presence.
1:45pm — Call ends.
Las Vegas, Nevada –Forza, LLC, a subsidiary of Zuffa, LLC, which owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship® brand, announced today that it has purchased the assets of Explosion Entertainment, LLC dba Strikeforce®. Under the terms of the deal, all Strikeforce fighter contracts will be honored, as will its broadcast agreement with Showtime® Networks, Inc. Strikeforce will continue to operate as a separate business and current Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has signed a long-term employment agreement with the company.
“We have worked hard to make mixed martial arts the fastest growing sport in the world,” UFC President Dana White said. “We’ve spent countless hours getting this sport regulated and taking the Octagon® all over the world. Acquiring the Strikeforce assets allows us to continue to develop this sport into a global force.”
“We intend to operate Strikeforce as a separate business much like we did with the WEC for many years,” Lorenzo Fertitta, Chairman and CEO of Zuffa, said. “We look forward to working with Scott Coker, and the entire Strikeforce and Showtime teams to continue to provide quality content for mixed martial arts fans.
“We’ve long admired Scott Coker and the Strikeforce business he launched and developed,” Fertitta continued. “We feel that together with Scott, we can continue to build both Strikeforce and the UFC.”
Currently, Strikeforce holds 16 events annually across the United States. The organization will continue to do so under new ownership and fans can look forward to exciting fights featuring their favorite Strikeforce athletes. While there are currently no plans to bring Strikeforce fighters to the UFC, a new strategy to strengthen Strikeforce’s talented roster is being developed.
“This is an important day for the sport of mixed martial arts,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said. “We are excited to work with Lorenzo Fertitta, Frank Fertitta, Dana White and everyone at the UFC on the quest to make MMA the biggest sport in the world. Fans can continue to expect quality Strikeforce shows and we look forward to giving our athletes an even broader platform on which to perform.”
Strikeforce was represented in the transaction by Evolution Media Capital, a media and sports investment bank affiliated with Creative Artists Agency.
The next Strikeforce event is planned for Friday, April 1 in Stockton, Calif. In the main event of the Strikeforce Challengers card held at the Stockton Arena, lightweights Justin Wilcox (10-3) and Rodrigo Damm (9-4) are set to collide. The fight will air on Showtime at 11 p.m. ET/PT.
Strikeforce also has an event on April 9 at the Valley View Casino Arena in San Diego featuring a welterweight title fight between Nick Diaz (24-7-1) and Paul Daley (27-9-2). Then, in June, Strikeforce continues its Heavyweight Grand Prix at the American Airlines Center in Dallas with a much anticipated heavyweight clash pitting Alistair Overeem (34-11-1) vs. Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1). All bouts live and subject to change.
Audio courtesy of Yahoo! Sports Cagewriter