Last night Strikeforce put on a terrific show filled with entertaining fights and exciting finishes in Ohio headlined by the remaining competitiors in their flagship heavyweight grand-prix.
There was only one problem – barely anybody showed up to see it.
“Sorry to report it’s a very bad crowd here as the SHO broadcast is about to kick off. By far the worst for a WEC/UFC/SF that I’ve been to,” MMafighting’s Ariel Helwani reported on Twitter from cage-side last night.
“I think I would be very kind if I were to report there were 1,500 people in attendance. Hoping to get an official number soon.”
That official number still hasn’t been reported yet, indicating that Strikeforce officials would rather people didn’t know just how bad it was.
So what are the reasons for the hugely underwhelming attendance?
Firstly, there’s the fact that, despite a strong start, the tournament has almost completely lost steam after big name stars such as Fedor Emelianenko crashing out in the opening round and then Alistair Overeem beating Fabricio Werdum only to then withdraw from the semi-finals.
That left the promotion to headline last night’s show with Josh Barnett who’s undoubtedly a talented fighter but is still rebuilding his reputation in the U.S, and Sergei Kharitonov who is not widely known amongst the casual fan-base.
To add to Strikeforce’s woes they have been completely overshadowed in the weeks leading up to the event due to an almost continual stream of breaking news from the UFC. Ironically in the last week it’s been ex-Strikeforce stars such as Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem and Cung Le that have been drawing all the attention.
The effect of all this was apparent at key Strikeforce media engagements such as the pre and post-fight press conference where main card star Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal spoke of his disappointment at the fact that only a handful of journalists had shown up, a far cry from when the tournament began back in February.
The reality is that we’re witnessing the slow death of the sport’s second biggest promotion – something that began to happen the minute that Zuffa announced that they had bought over the company.
Despite the initial promise of “business as usual” it’s been anything but, with first all but two of the promotion’s employees (Scott Coker and his assistant) being let go, and then the gradual exodus of the roster’s biggest stars to the UFC.
It started with welterweight champion Nick Diaz, but since then Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller, heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem and former middleweight champion Cung Le have all jumped ship, and they won’t be the last to do so with current light-heavyweight champion Dan Henderson expected to be the next to follow suit.
That’s made it painfully obvious to all concerned that Strikeforce’s days are numbered and as a result the fans have apparently also now began to abandon the promotion too.