Strikeforce still own boss despite purchase by UFC

The parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship has purchased rival mixed martial arts promoter Strikeforce, though it will continue to operate as a separate entity.

Financial terms of the sale were not available.

UFC president Dana White confirmed the deal Saturday in a text message to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, also confirming that event operations will remain separate.

Strikeforce spokesman Mike Afromowitz verified the deal to The Associated Press, saying he was told it will be “business as usual” for both companies.

Strikeforce, based in San Jose, Calif., has grown quickly in the past few years, building a roster of stars that includes Fedor Emelianenko, Nick Diaz and Dan Henderson. It also has deals with premium cable network Showtime and had been poised to begin pay-per-view broadcasts.

The companies will be owned by Zuffa LLC, though Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker will continue to run his arm of the business. Strikeforce had been a partnership between West Coast Entertainment and Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, which runs the San Jose Sharks.

Coker did not return a telephone message seeking comment from the Review-Journal.

“Right now the plan is to operate on our own,” Afromowitz said. “Business as usual.”

The UFC long has been the dominant force in MMA, leading the charge in getting the sport approved by state athletic commissions and building a brand that has become one of the hottest in sports and entertainment. Some sports business experts have estimated the company’s value at about $1 billion, though White’s own estimate is over $2 billion.

That economic might is one reason it has been able to snap up rival promoters and essentially keep mixed martial arts a monopoly at the highest level.

The UFC bought Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships in 2007 and World Fighting Alliance and World Extreme Cagefighting in 2006. It also struck a deal with Affliction that prompted the clothing manufacturer to become a sponsor rather than a rival promoter.

The UFC ran the WEC as a separate entity focusing on lighter weights until December, much like it plans to do with Strikeforce. WEC since has been absorbed by the UFC with the addition of bantamweight and featherweight classes.

White has been reluctant to cross-promote, which has caused some friction with fans who want to see Strikeforce’s excellent heavyweight roster face UFC stars such as Brock Lesnar and its champion, Cain Velasquez. That appears closer to becoming a reality.

There also have been cases of fighters switching promotions.

Jake Shields, a former Strikeforce middleweight champion, is scheduled to fight UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre at UFC 129 in Toronto on April 30.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Adam Hill contributed to this report.

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