If the Yankees do not win this year’s World Series, Major League Baseball will not cease to exist.
If the Lakers can’t repeat as champions this year, the NBA won’t close up shop.
These scenarios are absurd, but for the burgeoning mixed martial arts promotion such an outcome can be a bitter fact of life. A promotion hitches its wagon to its biggest horse, and where that horse goes, the company follows.
The MMA community saw just how badly this business model can play out last year when Kimbo Slice was knocked out in the first round by journeyman Seth Petruzelli. Within a month of watching it’s superstar hit the canvas, EliteXC ceased operations.
To be clear, EliteXC was already struggling financially. But any hopes the organization had for a turnaround, or even of selling the company, vanished when the bottom fell out of its biggest commodity.
While EliteXC’s demise is certainly the blueprint, others have followed suit in their own way.
Affliction Entertainment put massive money on a triumvirate of heavyweights–Andrei Arlovski, Josh Barnett, and Fedor Emelianenko. When Barnett’s positive steroid test caused the cancellation of the Fedor fight, the company folded just days later. Even if the fight had gone on as planned, there was no one left for Fedor to fight.
So with Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers quickly approaching, you might think Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker would have a heavy rooting interest in the main event
But things are different at Strikeforce. If Brett Rogers can somehow find a way to upset the world’s greatest fighter, don’t expect the promotion to suffer.
One of the most popular ways to build up a star fighter’s popularity is to have him fight the ghosts of MMA’s past.
EliteXC tried this when they set up fights for Kimbo Slice against Tank Abbott and Ken Shamrock (Slice’s original opponent before Petruzelli stepped in). Even the UFC tried this when they set up a match in 2008 between Brock Lesnar and Mark Coleman (Coleman would withdraw due to injury).
But Brett Rogers is one of the most exciting young stars in mixed martial arts today. Already holding a knockout win over Andrei Arlovski, the undefeated Rogers is one of the few prospects in a heavyweight division largely devoid of young talent.
Perhaps even more exciting for the brass at Strikeforce is Rogers’ personality. Brash, boisterous, and not opposed to talking trash, Rogers stands as a polar opposite to Fedor’s quiet demeanor. And fans just love personality.
If The Grim can become the first man to defeat Fedor (as always, excluding his loss to Tsuyoshi Kosaka due to a cut), a star will be born that the fans will embrace.
Certainly Strikeforce did not pay Fedor to be a stepping stone for another star, but in the long run the charismatic, talented Rogers could be even a bigger draw than the Last Emperor.
Gegard Mousasi might be the most talented fighter that casual fans have never heard of.
Less than three months removed from earning the Strikeforce light heavyweight title by impressively defeating Babalu, the Armenian will square off against Rameau Thierry Sokodjou in a non-title fight. Already with wins over Mark Hunt, Jacare, and Melvin Manhoef, Mousasi is the most talented non-UFC fighter in the world not named Fedor.
The casual fan will tune in on November 7 to see the mysterious Fedor. But before the Russian even makes his way to the cage, those fans will be impressed by Mousasi.
The same can be said of the other fighters on the card. Jake Shields will defend his middleweight title against Jason Miller, and Fabricio Werdum will take on former EliteXC heavyweight champ Antonio Silva.
Strikeforce has put all of their eggs in one basket with Fedor vs. Rogers , but there is no alternative. The UFC cannot put all of its best fighters on one card, because it has to sell 12+pay-per-views per year. But this is Strikforce’s opportunity to expose the fans to these very talented fighters.
Unlike previous promotions that have sought a spot at the big kids’ table, Strikeforce has a wealth of talent across multiple weight classes. Even if Fedor loses on Nov. 7, the exposure these fighters get will enable them to draw viewers on their own at future events.
Some may find it surprising that Crush is even part of this conversation.
But the truth is that despite being mauled three months ago by Cristiane Santos, Carano is by far Strikeforce’s biggest attraction. She will bring more viewers to an event than any other Strikeforce fighter, Fedor included.
Strikeforce’s next CBS event after Fedor vs. Rogers will most likely feature Carano. Even if Fedor is not on the card, people will tune in. And once again, in watching the event for the superstar, fans will get to know the other personalities in the organization.
A win for Fedor on November 7 is good for Strikeforce. It will be good for the casual fan base to learn what the so-called hardcore fans have known for years: Fedor is a legend. But if that legend loses next Saturday night, Strikeforce will be just fine.