When Strikeforce first began its current growth spurt, following the acquisition of both EliteXC's remaining MMA assets in February 2009 and subsequent distribution deal with CBS, UFC president Dana White seemed to take a kinder, gentler approach to the upstart promotion. Gone were the verbal barbs he had consistently launched at now-vanquished enemies like The IFL, EliteXC, and Affliction.In their place were, gasp, friendly words of encouragement.
Well, one short year and a few key signings later, it seems that White's kid-gloves policy toward Strikeforce's Scott Coker has officially ended as it has now been strongly rumoured that the UFC will create a new live event to counter-program Strikeforce's recently-announced April 17th show. In the past, the UFC has used counter-programming to great effect, especially during Affliction's ill-fated promotional period. It is further rumoured that this unnamed April 17th UFC event would be co-headlined by an intriguing match-up of Matt "The Terra" Serra vs. Mike "Quick" Swick.
In response to this move, Strikeforce is now considering pushing their own April 17th show, called Stikeforce: Nashville, which features three title fights and the North Amerian debut of Shinya Aoki (23-4), up one week to April 24th. Doing so would put Strikeforce: Nashville in direct competition with Zuffa's secondary promotion, the WEC, as it attempts to make its long-awaited pay-per-view debut with a main event of Urijah Faber vs. Jose Aldo.
In the first scenario, Strikeforce: Nashville vs. UFC on April 17th, attempting to compete with the UFC will likely negatively impact Strikeforce's total ratings on CBS. However, given CBS' superior recognition and much wider distribution, the show would probably still beat the UFC on SpikeTV overall. Furthermore, Strikeforce would benefit from being seen standing its ground. Showing a willingness to go head-to-head with their biggest competitor, and quite likely winning, could only increase their legitimacy as a world-class promotion. The only drawback here is that CBS may be too concerned with overall ratings success to go along with this messy promotional showdown. On the other hand, SpikeTV finds itself in Strikeforce's position of only increasing it's legitimacy by taking on the biggest player in their industry-- in this case, CBS.
The second scenario, Strikeforce: Nashville vs. WEC 48 (PPV) on April 24th , would ensure Strikeforce a landslide ratings victory and could potentially devastate the WEC's PPV buy numbers, which are already expected to be dismally low due to their price-point of $44.99. The drawback here, though, is that, moving from their already-announced date of April 17th in order to avoid competing with the UFC, would be tantamount to an admission by Strikeforce and CBS that they consider themselves a second-rate show that is only capable of competing with the WEC's of the world.
So it comes down to a question of winning in public perception (April 17th) or total ratings (April 24th) for Strikeforce who have yet to make up their minds one way or another. In fact, the UFC has not officially announced a show on April 17th, though Dana white has confirmed their intention to do so soon. So, what you have here truly is a pretty twisted game of promotional chicken with millions of dollars in ad, ticket, and PPV revenue hanging in the balance.
Right now, it seems like the April 17th date is the most likely for Strikeforce: Nashville, thus setting up their first live showdwn with the UFC. The following quote is from Strikeforce President Scott Coker on MMAJukie.com:
"It hasn't been decided yet. I think we're meeting probably Monday. But for now, everything is going to be locked and loaded for the 17th. There's so many fights out there. We're going to do 20 fights this year, and they're going to do a bunch of fights. It's inevitable that there will be a conflict at some point."
B.C. MMA Fan.com will keep you posted on this story as it develops.