The story surrounding the mixed martial arts community as of Sunday, March 13, is Zuffa’s recent acquisition of Explosion Entertainment, better known as the management behind Strikeforce.
To give you an idea how crucial this is, allow us to lay it out in simpler terms: UFC now has full ownership of Strikeforce, its sole rival MMA promotion. It’s like ABS-CBN acquiring GMA; the Lakers buying out the Celtics.
The initial reaction would be to speculate whether Strikeforce will close down for good. Another conjecture is, if and when we’ll get to see match-ups between UFC and Strikeforce fighters. It is, after all, the home of Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, and Fedor Emelianenko, just to name a few.
“We intend to operate Strikeforce as a separate business much like we did with the WEC for many years,” Lorenzo Fertitta, Chairman and CEO of Zuffa, said. The WEC and Pride FC, two promotions that were previously purchased by Zuffa, eventually folded into their main roster.
With this unlikely alliance, it’ll be a struggle finding other MMA promotions that can rise up to the ranks of the Ultimate Fighting Championship the way Strikeforce did. But the good news is there are a hundreds of promotions all over the world that could try to fit that bill.
Five of them, in fact, are already in MMA fan's radars. Check out Bellator FC and four other MMA promotions that could very well be the UFC's next biggest rival:
Bellator Fighting Championships
Current Fighters: Ben Askren, Hector Lombard, Joe Warren
The sole significant MMA promotion based in the US, Bellator is a name coined from the Latin word “warrior.” Televised MMA events are being divided into seasons, with the latest one starting only this month. Fight purses have proven to be a big come on for former UFC fighters Roger Huerta and Ben Saunders, who have competed in the promotion at one point.
Current Fighters: Gegard Mousasi, Alistair Overeem, Shinya Aoki
Founded and based in Japan, Dream is the sister promotion of K-1 kick boxing and is currently in alliance with Strikeforce, which explains why the fighters mentioned above are included in their current roster of fighters. Zuffa’s recent purchase of Strikeforce however could obscure the working relationship between the two promotions, so it’s best we wait for further details.
Current Fighters: Tom Watson, Rob Sinclair, Paul Daley
Founded in 2009, the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) is the largest MMA promotion in the United Kingdom. They are on their way to their sixth MMA event, all of them held in England. Former UFC fighter Paul Daley currently competes both under the Strikeforce and BAMMA banner, but the purchase indicates that he might stay with the latter for good.
Maximum Fighting Championship
Current Fighters: Douglas Lima, Ryan Jimmo
Based in Canada, the MFC has generated notable fighters old and new, including Thales Leites, Ben Henderson, and Marcus Davis. Fight rules being used in the MFC is most similar with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, as opposed to the rules coming from the other promotions in this list. The only difference however is that the MFC doesn’t have a heavyweight division.
Current fighters: Maximo Blanco, Marlon Sandro, Ryo Kawamura
A mixed martial arts organization founded in Japan, the word Pancrase is taken from the wrestling-based martial art Pankration. Title holders, in return, are labeled as King of Pancrase instead of champions. UFC fighters Nate Marquardt, Chris Lytle, and Chael Sonnen once fought in the promotion. Like Zuffa, Pancrase has its own chain of events and MMA gyms.