Strikeforce Disasters, Part 1: Fedor Emelianenko Flops on Showtime
Oh my oh my. Lots of Strikeforce news this morning. First off, Dave Meltzer reports that Fedor's numbers were just so-so on Showtime:
The two-hour show itself did a 1.5 rating and 492,000 total viewers on Showtime, better than average mixed martial artsnumbers on the network, but not close to the network's previous high marks.
Last summer's Gina Carano vs. Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos women's title fight set a Showtime record with a 2.2 rating. Herschel Walker's MMA debut on Jan. 30 did a 1.8 rating. Emelianenko's numbers were also lower than several shows headlined by both Kimbo Slice and Frank Shamrock.
Emelianenko came with a higher price tag than the others, however, including having to give his M-1 Global backing company co-promotional rights.
The Russian's first appearance on U.S. television on Nov. 7, a win over Brett Rogers on CBS, did a 2.5 rating. The show was not a ratings home run, but was considered a success. In particular, Emelianenko vs. Rogers, gaining 1.49 million new viewers from the previous fight, was the second biggest fight in U.S. television MMA history when it comes to new viewers being added to the telecast.
The prior major Strikeforce event, on May 15, headlined by Alistair Overeem defending the heavyweight title against Brett Rogers, did a 1.0 rating, showing that Overeem, in his first live major television appearance on U.S. television (he had appeared on HDNet events televised live from Japan), needs time to develop interest among U.S. consumers
As I wrote back in April, M-1 really screwed Fedor and themselves when they sat out the April Strikeforce on CBS show:
The tragedy of M-1's hold out was that Fedor was primed for a break out performance on the heels of his dramatic KO win over Brett Rogers. Now I doubt that he'll have a second bite at the U.S. network television apple. Whatever M-1 Global is doing, they are NOT looking out for what's best for Fedor's career. Had he posted even better numbers and more media attention for his second CBS fight, he'd have been a star in the biggest sports market in the world. Now he'll be a might have been.
As a hardcore fan, I loved the show, but it was clearly a business disaster that might have cost Strikeforce the CBS relationship. With just Showtime, frankly they can't afford Fedor. But since M-1 is under contract with Strikeforce, expect it to take quite a bit of untangling to work out.
And the oddest thing of all about their decision to sit out that event is it's entirely unclear what they got out of it. There were no more mentions of M-1 Global on this broadcast than on any other. I didn't see any of their roster of dynamite talent on the main card.
Worst of all, without CBS's PR department to push Fedor to the press, the fight got zero mainstream coverage. And I wouldn't envy the Strikeforce PR flack that had to try to pitch Fedor on Showtime because the obvious question in a reporter's mind is "if this guy is such a legend why the hell is he fighting on Showtime?"
Well luckily for Scott Coker, he won't have to deal with Vadim Finkelchstein on such uneven terms in the future. As an MMA fan with a near lust for exciting international talent I hate to see M-1 Global be the sole major player in Russian MMA -- with the bumper crop of top flight wrestlers, judokas, boxers, kickboxers and sambo fighters that country produces it's a huge loss to world MMA to not have access to the next generation of Emelianenkos, Taktarovs, Zinovievs, Vovchanchyns, Volk Hans, Ilioukhines, Matyushenkos and Arlovskis.
Now speaking of headaches that Coker is glad to be done with we've got the news that Strikeforce has "released" Jake Shields and the seeming collapse of their promising middleweight tournament.
We'll cover that in Part 2: No One Wants Jake Shields' Strikeforce Middleweight Title