The Strikeforce Fighting Championships has been the most successful North American MMA promotion next to the UFC.
Originating as a kickboxing organization, Strikeforce began to promote MMA fights in 2006. The first Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie event sold over 18,000 tickets and launched the promotion in its new direction.
With it came more sportsbook attention for producing Strikeforce odds on these major events.
As the promotion grew CEO Scott Coker was able to establish deals with numerous television networks including CBS, Showtime, Super Channel in Canada, Primetime in the United Kingdom, SKY PerfecTV in Japan, HBO Plus in Brazil, and Space TV in Latin America and the Caribbean.
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In 2009 the organization announced they had partnered with Japanese promotion Dream and Russian promotion M-1 Global; this would allow fighters to cross over from the other promotions and increase the level of competition.
Notable fighters signed at the time included Fedor Emelianenko, Gegard Mousasi, Dan Henderson, Marius Zaromskis, Muhammed Lawal, Melvin Manhoef, Nick Diaz, K.J. Noons, and Bobby Lashley.
The arrival of then-MMA superstar Emelianenko attracted many top-tier heavyweight fighters to Strikeforce, and the announcement of the Heavyweight Tournament made the promotion a real contender against the UFC.
Unfortunately for Strikeforce owners Emelianenko did not live up to expectations and lost three straight fights. However, enough heavyweight fighters had been signed by the promotion to become the premiere heavyweight division in MMA.
As Strikeforce continued to attract more big-name fighters - and new fans - the UFC owners decided that a buyout was in order to ensure its future as the premiere MMA promotion in the world.
In March of 2011 Zuffa purchased Strikeforce and announced that the promotion would continue to operate as a separate entity from the UFC.
Since then much of the Strikeforce talent has migrated over to the UFC, including Diaz, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Henderson, Jason Miller, and Cung Lee. More are expected to make the jump as the UFC continues to sign chosen fighters that have expired Strikeforce contracts.
The future of the Strikeforce promotion remains unknown. The UFC has announced that it will continue to operate through 2012, and as long as it continues to be profitable there’s no reason for the UFC to kill the brand the way they did with Pride Fighting Championships and the WEC.
Strikeforce will continue to play the role of an MMA farm team, providing extra talent for the UFC.