Strikeforce's Uncertain Future and the Fighters It Affects the Most

Jeremy BotterMMA Senior WriterOctober 26, 2012

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 30:  Mixed martial artist Ryan Couture arrives at the Fighters Only World Mixed Martial Arts Awards 2011 at the Palms Casino Resort November 30, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Strikeforce just keeps hanging around.

The fighters on that roster are in an eternal state of unknowing, a kind of limbo with no end in sight. They want to fight each other, to punch each other in the face, but they don't know if that will ever happen because, well, all of the fight cards get cancelled, sometimes just weeks before they were scheduled to take place.

Most of the Strikeforce fighters I've chatted with just want it to end. They want some kind of resolution to this thing because they want to go to the UFC and get their careers and livelihoods back on track.

But because the relationship between Zuffa and Showtime is more like two parents who absolutely detest each other yet stick together for the kids—with the kids suffering all kinds of deep trauma that will manifest itself later in life as a result—the fighters are left wondering what's going to happen. 

Ryan Couture is one of those fighters. He has a bit of a famous name, or at least a famous last name, and you'd think that would be enough to secure him a place in the UFC when this Strikeforce facade is finally buried six feet under. But according to his father, Randy, who appeared on MMA Uncensored last night, they aren't totally convinced that's a sure thing.

"I think you're gonna see the Strikeforce guys absorbed and plucked like they did with the WEC. So then the question is, is Ryan going to be one of those guys they want to keep? Or is he gonna be one of those guys that gets cut loose? Where are we gonna go with him? The Showtime contract's up this year. Early next year, I think you'll see something happen."

Couture is right to wonder if his son has a place in the future UFC. That's not because he's not a good fighter or anything of that nature; the younger Couture is actually quite serviceable as an athlete and has made impressive strides in his overall fighting game since deciding he wanted to take up the family mantle.

But the UFC roster is already overflowing with talent, and Zuffa is looking to expand more into international markets than they are in North America. That means hiring tons of fighters who you've never heard of, placing them in country-specific versions of The Ultimate Fighter that nobody in America ever watches and then running localized fight cards in small towns in China, Korea, Germany and other places.

The idea is to create a world market for the UFC, a place where they can build up international stars that can sell out buildings and pay-per-views in their home countries. And all of that requires a massive influx of talent from those localized regions, which means that the guys who qualify as marginal talent in North America will have a much more difficult time staying on the roster once they start sliding into the two- and three-consecutive-loss territory.

That also means that not everyone from Strikeforce will get to make the jump. Sure, Ronda Rousey, Gilbert Melendez, Daniel Cormier and Luke Rockhold are stone-cold locks to make the leap. They're established stars with even brighter futures. 

But what of the Virgil Zwickers, the Matt Ricehouses and the Ryan Coutures? Is there a place for them at the UFC table in 2013, or 2020, or whenever this Strikeforce thing is finally laid to rest and remembered only as a logo on Dana White's mock gravestone?

It's tough to say. You'd like to think so.

But in the meantime, it must be terrible to live with the uncertainty.