by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Looking back at 2009, it was a banner year for the Strikeforce promotion.
Deals with Showtime and CBS allowed for wider exposure and exponential growth for the company, while a deal with EA Sports will allow Strikeforce to enter the extremely popular world of video games in 2010.
Combine its business deals with talent acquisitions such as Fedor Emelianenko, memorable in-cage performances by long standing promotional talent like Gilbert Melendez, and a rising crop of talent coming from the company’s Challenger Series and things couldn’t be looking brighter.
Strikeforce Director of Communications Mike Afromowitz recently spoke to MMAWeekly.com to look back over the year that was and the year to come for his promotion.
“I think (2009) was a banner year,” said Afromowitz. “I think we accomplished a lot of things. Getting the opportunity to partner with Showtime and CBS was a tremendous step.
“We really are appreciative of all the support they’ve given us in this relationship, and I think we’ve got a lot of great things in store for 2010.”
While some may think that Strikeforce easily slid into the Showtime and CBS slots opened by the shuttering of EliteXC and Strikeforce’s acquisition of ProElite’s roster, Afromowitz says the transition was not so cut and dry.
“We definitely had to prove ourselves,” he admitted. “We are fortunate that they took a chance for us and it was a great night that night, but we had to show and prove. I think signing Fedor and the deal with M-1 Global really set us up for a big fight on CBS.”
Not only is Afromowitz proud of what Strikeforce was able to do for its broadcast future, but he is also equally excited about the talent the promotion was able to acquire.
“Towards the end of the year we signed several stars, most notably Dan Henderson, which is a great acquisition for us,” he stated. “We signed Bobby Lashley, K.J. Noons, Marius Zaromskis, and Melvin Manhoef, so I think we’ve got a lot of exciting fights ahead and added some depth to our different weight classes.”
As Afromowitz mentioned earlier, perhaps no bigger signing helped move the promotion forward like that of Fedor.
“He’s one of a kind, one in ten million, and that show he put on that night was amazing,” exclaimed Afromowitz. “He was in trouble and he showed five and a half million people why he’s the number one fighter in the world.”
Afromowitz feels that the promotion’s free agent signings combined with its already established talent will help lead the way in 2010.
“Fedor’s the anchor, being the number one fighter in the world and the fighter people want to see on CBS, but here are other guys behind him that can emerge to superstars themselves,” he relayed. “There are a few already, and the CBS and Showtime deal can make their names even bigger.”
Stars such as Gilbert Melendez, Cris “Cyborg” Santos, and Jake Shields combined with up and coming talent like Luke Rockhold, Billy Evangelista, and Tyron Woodley escalated the level of excitement and performance to an all-time high for Strikeforce, so much so that even other areas of media took notice.
With the success of MMA in the video game market in 2009, gaming giant EA Sports decided to enter the fray and made Strikeforce its go-to company for stars for its debut title in 2010.
“It’s a great feeling, especially when a company like EA, which has accomplished so much in the game world comes along and says, ‘Let’s make an MMA game,’ and integrates our fighters and brand into their game,” stated Afromowitz.
“I was blown away when I got a first look at it before the Fedor vs. (Bret) Rogers fight. I couldn’t believe the detail that’s gone into the game as far as the development of the fighters and techniques. I can’t wait because it looks like a ton of fun.”
With a year that saw unparalleled growth for Strikeforce in 2009, he feels they’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what the company is capable of doing and looks forward to 2010 with a great sense of anticipation and excitement.
“We’re going to be back on CBS and Showtime for 16 shows, so I think there’s going to be a lot of great fights in store,” he concluded. “Starting in Miami I think there’s going to be a lot of excitement and we really appreciate the support the networks have given us, and the efforts the fighters have made to put on really great shows.
“We really appreciate the support the fans have given us this year. They’ve been coming out and watching the shows in the areas and on TV and have been tremendously supportive and have gotten behind Strikeforce and made it a really great year for us.”