Mailbag: UFC afterthoughts, Strikeforce Challengers, more

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With the latest Strikeforce Challengers card hours away, many loyal readers decided to chime in with their thoughts and questions. Lets go to the mail- and Twitter-bags, shall we?

• Great article about Cain Velasquez. At 27 it is difficult for me to see him dominating the sport for "decades," however as his clearly out-classed 33-year-old opponent demonstrated in their recent fight I admire Velasquez and look forward to his having a nice 3-6 year run. As the level of athleticism rises in MMA, the opposite of what is happening in boxing's heavier divisions, I just don't see fighters -- no matter how talented -- continuing to compete in their late 30s and 40s unless they do a George Foreman joke tour.-- George, Columbia, S.C.

I meant Velasquez is the kind of fighter, the right style of fighter, that will dominate the sport for decades to come: athletic, good wrestler, good striker, hard worker, good chin, durable.

• In your recent UFC 110 postmortem, you wrote that Wanderlei Silva "staved of defeat" in the final seconds, the implication being, of course, that Bisping was winning the fight up until that point. Absurd. Bisping was saved by the bell at the close of each round and never once hurt Silva. It's writers like you who perpetuate Bisping's overrated stature in the UFC. Long before Henderson (and now Silva) exposed Bisping for the third-rate fighter he is, Matt Hamill clearly beat him. Perhaps, Mr. Gross, you've been imbibing in the same spirits as the judges that night who gave the decision to Bisping.-- Ben, Newport Beach, Calif.

At least public drunkenness would be a reason for some of the decisions we've seen -- better, or at least more fun, than incompetence. Anyhow, I thought Bisping won the first round, lost the second and was on his way to winning the third when Silva dropped him in the final seconds. That's staving off defeat in my book.

• I think all this [Frank] Mir comment controversy is getting way out of control. Why didn't we hear a Brock apology when he stated he was going to "murder" Mir in pre UFC 100 comments.-- David, Austin, Texas

Yup, total empty-calorie non-story. Not surprising, then, that it was picked up by national media.

Was [Larry] Holmes serious when he said that beating [Muhammad] Ali was a cakewalk? I realize that he easily handled Ali, but does he really think that fight should be used as a barometer of Holmes's boxing skill? He fought a man who could hardly punch back and who almost certainly was in the beginning stages of Parkinson's disease, and he never dropped him, Ali's corner threw in the towel. The Ali that fought Cleveland Williams would have had little problem with Holmes, too plodding and predictable.-- Harry Cline Jr., Brooksville, Fla.

Holmes was serious. He believes he would have done just fine against an in-his-prime Ali. But that's not the man he faced, and there's nothing he can do about that.

• Any word on DirecTV/Versus battle? Any hope for March?-- @GracieBJJ751

DirecTV's vice president of public relations, Darris Gringeri, told me Thursday via e-mail that "we continue to have productive discussions and are hopeful of coming to a deal soon."

WEC General Manager Reed Harris also suggested negotiations could be coming to a head between DirecTV and Versus. With WEC on March 6, UFC on March 21 and the start of NHL's playoffs on Versus, a deal with DirecTV would need to happen in the next few weeks otherwise we're likely headed for a protracted impasse.

I'm going to hold onto my DirecTV subscription through March and see how this all plays out.

• What are your picks for [Strikeforce Challengers on Friday]? I think Bradley-Rockold and Amoussou-Prangley are both really close match ups.-- @Butch_Davis

Agreed. I'm picking Luke Rockhold, who has advantages in the submission and striking departments over Paul Bradley. The Karl Amoussou-TrevorPrangley fight should be very good, as well. Prangley has a wealth of experience, but at 37, that may not be enough against someone as dangerous as the 24-year-old Frenchman. I'm also very interested to see if Sarah Kaufman can continue her unbeaten run at 135 pounds. I think she will.

• How will Strikeforce find opponents for Cyborg after Erin [Toughill]? Miss C is hungry ...-- @Roxyfighter

Gotta love it when fighters ask questions over Twitter. So Roxanne Modafferi wonders about Cyborg. Well, it sounds like Erin Toughill is next in line. A tournament at 145 pounds later this summer should produce another contender. After that, it could be someone like Kaufman, should she continue to win, will step up in weight. As it stands now, there doesn't appear to be anyone physical enough to hand Cyborg's violence.

• With recent info on Showtime's funding of Strikeforce, how long do you think they can continue with current business model?-- @916Chris

• What is happening with Strikeforce? They seem to be completely unorganized!! It looks like there might be too many chefs in the kitchen (Strikeforce, Showtime and CBS). Do you know if they (Strikeforce) have been profitable in the last year? I read the SF Miami numbers were horrible and they lost a small fortune in that show alone. What do you think they need to do to step up their game and become a serious competitor to the MMA goliath that is the UFC.-- Mark Reid

After receiving several questions about Strikeforce's operations, I spoke with Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment senior vice president Jim Goddard for some perspective. SVS&E owns the NHL's San Jose Sharks and runs the HP Pavilion, along with other properties and businesses. SVS&E is a 50-50 partner with West Coast Productions, which is essentially Scott Coker, to own and operate a company named Explosion Entertainment, the brand name being Strikeforce.

Coker is president and CEO of Strikeforce, and runs the company on a day-to-day basis. There is a management committee that includes two people, one of whom is Coker, representing West Coast Productions, and two people representing SVS&E, one of whom is Goddard. The group meets on a regular basis to review high level items. Coker is the principle contact with Showtime and CBS. How did SVS&E became interested in Strikeforce and West Coast Productions?

Goddard: Scott and his company are located in San Jose, not far from HP Pavilion. We've done a kickboxing event or two in the early 1990s. And then when Scott was working with K-1 we got reintroduced and talked about doing martial arts events at HP Pavilion, because the sport was picking up in popularity. This was before MMA was legalized in California. We agreed to do some events on a partnership business at HP Pavilion. That's where the building is located. That's where Scott is located. We did some events here that were very successful. Around the same time MMA was legalized in California and we did the first MMA event in California, set a North American attendance record. We like working together, had success in this market. We believe that we both had expertise and capabilities that we could bring to the partnership and take the show and to the broadcast world. We agreed to enter into a formal business partnership.

I think our strengths with the the respective organizations both compliment and reinforce the other. If Scott needed to he could probably do it alone. If we needed to we could probably do it alone. But we think the combination in this case is one plus one equals three or more. SVS&E operates a sports franchise but we're also a sports marketing organization and we're in the venue management business, so we have contacts and relationships across the country in other markets with venue operators where our events will be held. We know the good markets, good buildings, good marketing folks across the country. We can leverage that expertise and network. We've got the infrastructure. Scott knows the fight business inside out. We both know the broadcast business; Scott has a little more experience on the broadcast side in terms of pay-per-view and premium cable. So complimentary and also reinforcing core strengths capabilities. If you could discuss the television relationships, because they appear to be a major component of what Strikeforce is and where it's moving.

Goddard: We have a multi-year situation with Showtime, and an agreement with CBS where they have an option to broadcast events on CBS. They have done one and all indicitaions are they're planning on doing more. Scott is the principle contact with Showtime and CBS. In turn, CBS and Showtime compare notes and coordinate because they're affiliated companies. We think it's important to be on a variety of outlets in the MMA business. We believe premium cable is a good outlet. Network television is terrific. We think it's a good combination. What is it about your business model with Strikeforce that leads you to believe it will be successful for mixed martial arts? And has it been effective so far in terms of holding events, making money, being sustainable?

Goddard: We are making money. We believe it is sustainable. We believe we've got the right combination of expertise in the MMA business and business acumen, business sense. We are operating in a business-like way from the beginning. From the beginning we are making money, and we expect both the revenues and profits to grow over time. For that reason we believe it's very sustainable. We think there's plenty of room in the MMA business given the growth of the MMA industry for perhaps a second or even other participants. We're excited about both the live-event business and the broadcast business. The growth of the sport and our role in that. We think we're poised to be a leader in that industry. As a brand, how much value does Strikeforce have right now? How much has it grown since SVS&E's involvement?

Goddard: We think it's got a lot of value at the present time, especially among the core MMA audience. We do believe it needs more exposure and more recognition. We need to grow the exposure and recognition among the general sporting audience. We think both the live events help that on a market-by-market basis. Certainly the events on Showtime have helped that. And the broadcasts on CBS helped that immensely. We acknowledge that we need to grow that in the general viewing audience. Some of the critics of the way Strikeforce is operated say there are too many chefs in the kitchen, so to speak. Decisions are slow to get made. What would you say to those critics?

Goddard: I would simply disagree. Scott is running the company on a day-to-day basis. He has the authority to make decisions that need to be made. We're in regular communication with each other so we can reach each other on a moment's notice. We compare notes regularly. Whenever you're starting and/or growing a business in its early stages, there are complexities. Both with live events and broadcast events there complexities. The fact of the matter is things are not necessarily as easy as they may appear to be from the outside. There are complexities which sometimes take time and effort to work through. Where would you say Strikeforce operates on the boxing versus WWE business model?

Goddard: I think we're closer to the WWE model. We're essentially a full-service sports marketing entity that has a lot of internal capacity. We're not just in the one-off broadcast event business. We're in the ongoing event business. We have a commitment to a schedule, which most boxing promoters don't have. So in that regard we are more like UFC, we are more like WWE. We don't claim at this stage to be as large and well known as they are. But there are certainly some comparables in terms of a regular broadcast scheduled and a regular live events schedule. And so we've got commitments to the live events schedule and we've got commitments on a regular basis to the broadcast schedule, both of which we intend to grow. It seems like one of the major differences between the way Strikeforce is operated and the UFC is that Strikeforce's willingness to work with other promoters that SVS&E doesn't own or necissarly have a piece of. Those discussions and how it comes together, what's your involvement on that end?

Goddard: Scott handles that. He's the point-person on those relationships. But as a philosophy, we think we're a friendly organization to do business with and that there are others out there that we think we can do business with that will enhance our business as well as theirs. We're open to beneficial strategic relations. In terms of the MMA space itself, how much more room for growth do you see it having?

Goddard: Well, we think it's considerable. I'm not sure that I can quantify that or put that in perspective. Its growth has been so significant and so substantion in recent years that it's probably beyond what anyone would have imagined. We think there's a lot of interest. We think the sport is very exciting and frankly compelling for a demographic that has lots of potential in terms of scope and reach. Can you compare it all to your hockey business?

Goddard: There may be some comparisons but we think it's quite different. The Sharks are part of the NHL, one of the four major sports leagues that have been around for a long, long time, and there's the dynamics of the team concept and league concept and the stability and history of those leagues, which is quite different we think than the fight business. And particularly that the MMA business is relatively in its infancy. In our case we operate a franchise in a market. In the case of Strikeforce we will be doing events across the country and probably beyond. Because of that, because it seems Strikeforce may have a larger reach outside of one region, do you see in the end that it may become a more valuable sports property for you than the Sharks?

Goddard: I wouldn't want to speculate on that. Because of that, because it seems Strikeforce may have a larger reach outside of one region, do you see in the end that it may become a more valuable sports property for you than the Sharks?

Goddard: I wouldn't want to speculate on that.