UFC buys rival MMA promoter Strikeforce

UFC buys rival MMA promoter Strikeforce
March 13, 2011, 5:20 am
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By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer NEW YORK (AP) -- The parent company of the UFC has purchased rival mixed martial arts promoter Strikeforce, though it will continue to operate as seperate entities. Financial terms of the sale were not available. Strikeforce spokesman Mike Afromowitz confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Saturday night, saying he was told that it will be "business as usual" for both companies. The San Jose-based Strikeforce has grown quickly over the past few years, with a roster of stars that includes Fedor Emelianenko, Nick Diaz and Dan Henderson. It also has output deals with premium cable network Showtime and had been poised to begin pay-per-view broadcasts. UFC president Dana White also confirmed the deal in a text message to The Canadian Press. The companies will both be owned by Zuffa LLC, though Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker will continue to run his arm of the business. Strikeforce had been a partnership between West Coast Entertainment and Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, which runs the San Jose Sharks. Coker did not return a telephone message seeking comment. "Right now the plan is to operate on our own," Afromowitz said. "Business as usual." The UFC has long been the dominant force in mixed martial arts, leading the charge in getting the sport approved by state athletic commissions and building a brand that has become one of the hottest in sports and entertainment. Some sports business experts have estimated its value at upward of a billion dollars, with White putting that estimate over 2 billion. That economic might is one of the reasons it has been able to snap up rival promoters and essentially keep mixed martial arts a monopoly at the highest level. The UFC bought Japan's Pride Fighting Championships in 2007, and World Fighting Alliance and World Extreme Cagefighting in 2006. It also struck a deal with Affliction that prompted the clothing manufacturer to become a sponsor rather than a rival promoter. The UFC ran the WEC as a separate entity focusing on lighter weights until December, much like it plans to do with Strikeforce. The promotion has since been absorbed by the UFC with the addition of bantamweight and featherweight classes. White has been reluctant in the past to cross-promote, which has caused some friction with fans who want to see Strikeforce's excellent heavyweight roster face UFC stars like Brock Lesnar and its champion, Cain Velasquez. That appears closer to becoming a reality. There has also been cases of fighters switching promotions. Jake Shields, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, is scheduled to challenge UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at UFC 129 in Toronto on April 30. Strikeforce has events planned for April 1 in Stockton, Calif., April 30 in San Diego, and the continuation of its heavyweight Grand Prix on June 18 in Dallas. All of those events are expected to go ahead as scheduled, Afromowitz said.