Coker Sees Co-Promotion As Key Component Of Future Operation
In the early years of the new millennium, with the UFC struggling for U.S. acceptance and PRIDE in its Japanese heyday, the companies toyed around with the idea of co-promotion through fighter sharing.
The UFC has since changed courses on that thought, and you're unlikely to see a fighter under Zuffa contract ever appearing in another promotion.
But Strikeforce has recently partnered up with DREAM to exchange fighters across the Pacific Ocean, and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker recently told MMAjunkie.com (http://www.mmajunkie.com) that he envisions a flourishing relationship moving forward.
"I worked for K-1 for about eight years, and the ownership group of K-1 and DREAM is still the same," Coker said. "I've maintained good relationships over there, and it's always been my dream ? that's kind of a pun, right? ? to have our guys fight their guys and to see who would end up on top. If our guys win, that's fantastic. If [their guy] wins, then that's just great. It's just good competition.
"I think it's the true nature of sports to compete. Now we have the DREAM champion against our champion, and especially for the hardcore fans, I don't think it gets any better than that."
Things didn't go so well for the Japanese promotion at January's "Strikeforce: Miami" event. DREAM sent over welterweight Marius Zaromskis, who was promptly drubbed by Nick Diaz.
DREAM will get a second shot at respect in April when lightweight Shinya Aoki faces Gilbert Melendez.
Coker said even he was a bit amazed that DREAM would be so willing to send over Aoki, the organization's lightweight title holder and widely regarded as one of the best fighters in the world.
"I feel very content," Coker said. "Aoki-Gibert, that's a fight that I thought 60-40 was not going to happen, even though I was pitching for it and pulling for it, because there's just so many things that can break down. I'm very appreciative to DREAM for honoring their word and sending Aoki to come over and compete against Gilbert."
Of course, Melendez's power could prove troublesome for Aoki. Would the Japanese be willing to continue the program even if Strikeforce's roster were to prove the better list?
"Timing is everything, and there was a time when PRIDE was taking it to everybody, and they probably had the best roster in the world," Coker said. "In some weight classes, I think [DREAM is] a little thin right now, but for our guys, we can test our guys and make those fights happen ? like the UFC would never have their guys fight the other leagues' champion ? so it's an interesting time.
"In Nashville, we're all going to get to see it as fans. I'm a fan, too, so I'm going to sit back and watch that fight, and whatever happens, happens. Let the chips fall where they may."
And with K.J. Noons set to fight at DREAM.13 later this month, Coker said the return plan is already underway.
"We're sending K.J. Noons over there in a coupe of weeks to compete," Coker said. "We'll be sending Nick Diaz over there, probably, at some point this year. They're going to ask for certain fighters. I think they've already requested Andrei Arlovski, which let's see how he does in the May fight."
It's an interesting time for Strikeforce, who ? depending on who's talking ? are either firmly entrenched as MMA's No. 2 promotion or on the brink of collapse.
Coker believes the former, and he hopes to continue to utilize the partnership with DREAM to make entertaining matchups.
"If the schedule permits, we'll let our guys go over there, and hopefully Tatsuya Kawajiri and Hayato 'Mach' Sakurai and all the fighters that we'd like to see over here eventually make their way over here and fight our top guys," Coker said. "Let's get it on."