Strikeforce plans '09 expansion

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It has been a banner year for mixed martial arts. Viewership and popularity grew to record numbers, but that success was not without a cost.

While the Ultimate Fighting Championship soared above all others, 2008 saw the downfall of the International Fight League and apparently ProElite and its MMA promotion EliteXC.

Still, there were survivors, most notably California-based promotion Strikeforce, which achieved its highest levels of exposure and revenue since its inception two years ago.

"I think it was a very good year," stated company Director of Communications Mike Afromowitz. "We did some positive things like expand into new markets, Denver and Seattle, and produced some solid shows there as well as the markets we've been to in the past. We had some new top competitors join our ranks and we're looking to build upon that in 2009.

"I'd say in some ways we met expectations, and in some ways we exceeded them."

One area in particular Afromowitz feels the company succeeded the most was in achieving airplay on a major television network.

"The launch of the NBC series I would say definitely was a big feather in our cap," he commented. "To be able to put our product out on one of the major networks and have as many as 1.1 million viewers see a single episode in the time slot it's in is a big thing.

"It's really helped build our band, so I would say that was one of the biggest things we did."

Next year Afromowitz hopes to expand the promotion's presence on network television by providing live coverage in addition to the Saturday late night show.

"We can only hope that we'll be given the opportunity to go primetime sooner than later," he stated. "NBC has been very supportive of the product through their other platforms online and Universal HD.

"Things are going well in the TV business and we just need to build off it, and hopefully we'll get the opportunity to do that. With more and more networks embracing MMA, hopefully we'll have that opportunity to showcase that live on one of the major networks."

Not only did Strikeforce provide content to NBC, but the promotion received exposure on Mark Cuban's HDNet as well as appeared on major pay television on Showtime as part of a business deal the promotion had with the now in limbo ProElite company.

Afromowitz addressed the EliteXC debacle by saying, "It was a business relationship that stemmed from the Frank Shamrock situation, but we've always been independent.

"I think some people may have been confused because we co-promoted fights and thought we were under the same ownership. That's incorrect. The confusion is understandable, but we're independent from EliteXC, and we're going to move on and do our thing in 2009."

Not only did Strikeforce make its presence felt on network television, other media outlets took notice of the promotion, such as the G4 network.

"It was a great opportunity to promote the Playboy Mansion show, which is a unique property in and of itself," commented Afromowitz. "Getting our fighters on there was the main thing and we're really thankful G4 gave us back-to-back days of coverage."

Having achieved many goals this year, Afromowitz stated what he feels the overall goal for 2009 will be for the company.

"I think building our viewership on TV is something we're shooting for and working towards a primetime slot so we can really showcase our product to the masses and gain new fans," he said.

"There's always new fans to be made out there. I think it's a great thing that more people have taken to the sport, and there's always more that can be done there."

Not to worry though, Afromowitz reiterated that while the company looks to expand in the coming year, they haven't forgotten the people that have helped them succeed in today's tumultuous fight game.

"We appreciate all the fan support," he concluded. "The fans make the sport and it's really great that they've been so supportive and helped out product grow. We appreciate it and we want to put on the best fights for them; the fights they want to see."