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UFC buys Strikeforce

Zuffa LLC., the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has come to an agreement to purchase rival promotion Strikeforce, a San Jose organization that had been considered a growing competitor behind the industry leader.

UFC President Dana White announced the deal during an exclusive video interview that was posted on MMAFighting.com on Saturday.

Mike Afromowitz, Director of Communications for Strikeforce, also confirmed the purchase late Saturday. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker was not initially available for comment.

The acquisition, the sport’s most monumental since Zuffa purchased the Japan-based Pride Fighting Championships in March 2007, brings together a strong majority of the sport’s top talent under one promoter.

White told reporter Ariel Helwani that the two promotions will run separately for now and that all of Strikeforce’s fighter contracts will be honored to term, at least. Strikeforce has 100-150 fighters under contract.

The UFC president also said Strikeforce would continue to run under the leadership of Coker, who owned an equal split of the promotion with partners Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, a company that owns multiple sports franchises, including the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.
 
Showtime has broadcasted 28 Strikeforce events on its pay premium channel since the two reached a multi-year deal in February 2009. CBS, which owns Showtime, also broadcasted two Strikeforce events in late 2009 and early 2010 to decent ratings.

White, who has spoken negatively about Showtime in the past, told MMAFighting.com that it would be “business as usual” under Strikeforce’s current broadcasting agreement, which has at least one year remaining on its contract.

Showtime representatives declined to comment on the sale Saturday.

Afromowitz confirmed that Strikeforce events planned for April 1 in Stockton, April 9 in San Diego and June 18 in Dallas, would take place as planned. On June 18, the newly acquired promotion will host the second quarterfinal round of Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix tournament, which delivered record viewing numbers upwards of 1 million subscribers when it debuted Feb. 12 on Showtime.

Evgeni Kogan, director of operations with M-1 Global, the European-based promotion that manages former No. 1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, stated that his company signed into its co-promotional deal with Showtime, and not Strikeforce. Under that agreement, Emelianenko is expected to fight three more times.

“Time will tell what happens in the details, but the big picture is business as usual,” said Kogan, whose organization recently signed into its own broadcast deal with Showtime. “We look forward to putting on Challenge XXIV on March 25 in Norfolk, Virginia, which is live on Showtime and we look forward to seeing Fedor come back in the summer.”

--- Loretta Hunt

 
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