–Kenny Rice

The greatest compliment to Strikeforce is that the UFC bought it out in March 2011.

Sure there is a litany of talent produced by the organization. One can certainly debate if the likes of Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold and Cung Le would have found a place with their formidable abilities. It’s likely Nick Diaz would’ve found another path back to the UFC. International stars Gegard Mousasi, Ronald Souza and Rafael Calvalcante perhaps would have been discovered for an American audience through another operation it could be argued.

Perhaps some other outfit would’ve provided a respite for Dan Henderson on his way back to the UFC, or given Nate Marquardt a chance at redemption.

In a stretch, there might have been another showcase for Fedor Emelianenko to make a prolonged visit to the U.S. even though it was in the twilight of his great career.

Daniel Cormier, it can be assumed has too much going for him to be overlooked for a length of time that he wouldn’t have been signed by a group.

These assumptions though are just that, it can easily be argued that without Strikeforce none of this would have happened in a timely manner, possibly even an extraordinary fighter might have taken such a circuitous route it would have broken their spirit or they might have been rushed into a fight that would have stymied their chance to eventually shine.

The one division with no other way to spin it except to give Stirkeforce sole credit is the women’s ranks. Without that historic August 18, 2009 showdown between Cristian “Cyborg” Santos and Gina Carano there would not have been the interest, regardless of merit, for Ronda Rousey to leap from the Strikeforce cage to the UFC octagon with so much fanfare. If there is one indisputable legacy of this organization it is the foresight for women fighters and the realization that there was an audience to support it.

What is remarkable is the rapid rise of this once kickboxing firm to become California’s first regulated MMA event on March 10, 2006 , breaking the UFC’s attendance record with 18,285 on hand for the inauguration and subsequently proceed to land network TV deals with CBS and Showtime. Aided greatly from their MMA start by former UFC champ Frank Shamrock, who remained loyal to the organization all the way to the end as a commentator after headlining their monumental debut as a fighter against Cesar Gracie.

Scott Coker the boss of Strikeforce was never a “look at me” guy and that was the key to the fast ascension. He quietly cut deals with TV, including HDNet before it became AXS TV. He procured talent and let them have the spotlight. His roar was always via his stars, few were rushing to ask Coker about a fight they were asking the fighters. Coker was the brain of the group, the heart and soul were the combatants.

What Coker really accomplished was a testament to American business. You don’t have to build a better mousetrap just show you have the cunning to add on enough things to make it interesting, get people talking.  Basic economics, the bigger company buying out the competitor that is getting a little too close for comfort, a threat to one up the leader.
A software service, a financial establishment, it doesn’t matter what they do, it’s that they have done it so well even better in instances than the biggest operation.

With this kind of takeover usually the larger firm will eventually absorb all that was the burgeoning outfit, some here some there. The two cancellations of Strikeforce shows last year was not stunning, Zuffa its parent company for less than two years certainly had a stable of fighters to lend a few out from the UFC to more the adequately fill the cards. But the UFC has TV deals with the FOX family, the CBS owned Showtime was  a competitor l though Strikeforce was now part of the Zuffa family. It was time to complete the buyout in whole.

Strikeforce provided great moments, opened eyes to up-and-coming talent, created a place for women but above all it was the business model executed by Coker that will certainly go into the MMA history book, perhaps even discussed in classrooms sometime soon.

In five years going from a start-up to a seven figure competitor purchase was truly a knock out. It will be difficult to top but has certainly laid out a blueprint to follow.

What is your favorite Strikeforce memory? Tell us on facebook or twitter, or tell the man himself on Kenny’s twitter or facebook page

Watch Kenny Rice along with Bas Rutten LIVE every Monday night on Inside MMA, and check out Kenny’s new book “Not Hit Yet” an insider look at the MMA world in 2012, available at Amazon now

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