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Strikeforce (mixed martial arts)

Industry Mixed Martial Arts promotion
Successor Ultimate Fighting Championship
Founded 1985 (Kickboxing), 2006 (MMA)
Founder Scott Coker
Defunct January 12, 2013
Headquarters San Jose, California, United States
Parent Zuffa, LLC

Strikeforce was a San Jose, California which operated from 1985 to 2013. It was headed by CEO Scott Coker. Its live events and competitions have been shown on CBS (debut on November 7, 2009) and Showtime in the United States, Super Channel in Canada, Primetime in the United Kingdom, SKY PerfecTV! in Japan, HBO Plus in Brazil, Space TV in Latin America and the Caribbean, and on the American Forces Network.

In early 2011, Strikeforce was purchased by Ultimate Fighting Championship owner Zuffa LLC, which eventually closed the promotion and brought the remaining fighter contracts into the UFC roster.


  • History 1
    • Arrival of Fedor Emelianenko 1.1
    • Purchase by Zuffa, LLC 1.2
  • Rules 2
    • Weight divisions 2.1
    • Match outcome 2.2
    • Judging criteria 2.3
    • Match conduct 2.4
  • Strikeforce events 3
  • Strikeforce Grand Prix 4
  • Final champions 5
  • In other media 6
    • Video games 6.1
    • Action figures 6.2
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Strikeforce Challengers 13 in Nashville, Tennessee

Founded as a kickboxing organization, Strikeforce later became the number-two mixed martial arts promotion in the world. Its first MMA event, Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie, was held on March 10, 2006, at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.[1] The event was California's first regulated MMA event and broke the previous record for largest audience at a MMA event in North America, with its 18,265 in attendance. The record was since broken by UFC 129.

In February 2008, Strikeforce held its first event outside California with Strikeforce: At The Dome at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. Starting in 2009, most Strikeforce events were held in other states (15 in total), including 5 events in Las Vegas, Nevada from 2011-2012.

In March 2008, Strikeforce partnered with NBC to broadcast weekly highlight and fighter-profile series, Strikeforce on NBC from April 12.[2] In February 2009, Strikeforce purchased several assets, including a video library and several fighter-contracts, including Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith from ProElite, owner of the defunct EliteXC promotion. Days later it also announced it had agreed to a three-year broadcast deal with Showtime for up to 16 events per year, as well as a deal with CBS for an option to produce up to four events for them.[3] In addition to Strikeforce's primary events being broadcast on Showtime, it also announced it would produce ShoMMA: Strikeforce Challengers, an event-series similar to ShoXC and ShoBox, where they would highlight up-and-coming fighters.[4]

During August 2009, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced that they had signed formal alliances with Japanese MMA-promotion Dream and Russian promotion M-1 Global. Coker said the partnership would allow for co-promotion and fighter exchanges for events both in the US and Japan to creating the best match ups possible that would not have existed before.[5] As a result, Dream fighters such as Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Sergei Kharitonov, Melvin Manhoef, Jason Miller, Gegard Mousasi, Ronaldo Souza, Hiroyuki Takaya, and Marius Zaromskis compete for Strikeforce between 2009 & the partnership's end in 2011.

On August 15, 2009, Strikeforce was available to be viewed online through the Showtime website. For a small cost, an online interactive event named "Strikeforce: All Access" could be streamed simultaneously with the live event, enabling the user multiple camera angles of the fights such as the "cage cam" exclusively offered by Showtime. A small camera was attached to the referee and fans were able to see from their perspective in real time. "Strikeforce: All Access" added other features such as pause and instant replay. This was not the first time Strikeforce events were streamed on the Showtime website but was the first time the live stream was available to audiences and internet users outside the United States.[6]

Strikeforce had major sponsorship deals with Rockstar Energy Drink, Electronic Arts, Bodog, and Full Tilt Poker.

Arrival of Fedor Emelianenko

On August 3, 2009, former Pride and reigning WAMMA Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko signed a 3 fight contract with Strikeforce, with events he competed on co-promoted by his promotional team M-1 Global.[7] On November 7, 2009, he made his Strikeforce debut at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers on the promotion's first nationally televised card on CBS. Emelianenko faced Brett Rogers, and won via knockout in the 2nd round. Emelianenko proved to be a huge rating draw, bringing in just under 5.5 million viewers.[8]

Emelianenko's next fight was at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum, where he suffered his first loss in 10 years to Fabrício Werdum via submission. Emelianenko next fought as part of the Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix Tournament,[9] losing again to Antônio Silva via doctor stoppage. Emelianenko was battered by Silva during the second round, causing his right eye to swell shut.[10]

After exiting the tournament, Emelianenko last competed against Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson in a heavyweight superfight, losing via first round knockout. After the loss, Emelianenko left the promotion to finish his career overseas. Despite his 3 fight losing streak to end his Strikeforce run, all of his appearances for the promotion attracted over 500,000 viewers, among the highest ratings in Strikeforce's history.[11]

Purchase by Zuffa, LLC

On March 12, 2011, Dana White revealed on AOL to Ariel Helwani that Zuffa, LLC, the parent company of the UFC, had purchased Strikeforce.[12] White went on to explain that Strikeforce will operate as an independent promotion, and that Scott Coker will continue to run the promotion. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced the return of Fedor Emelianenko on an unspecified July or August event and said that Zuffa-owned company would continue to co-promote with M-1 Global.[13] Following the purchase, the UFC signed many of Strikeforce's top stars and champions, such as Jason Miller, Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem, Luke Rockhold, and Cung Le. Under Zuffa's ownership, Strikeforce made minor changes, including adopting the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts in full, closing the promotion's men's weight classes below lightweight, and ceasing promotion of amateur undercard bouts. After an extension was reached to continue Strikeforce through 2012, the promotion's heavyweight division (sans Heavyweight Grand Prix finalists) was merged into the UFC, and the promotion's Challengers series was ended.

The final Strikeforce show was Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine on January 12, 2013, after which the promotion was dissolved and all fighter contracts were either ended or absorbed into the UFC.


Two fighters get ready prior to their bout

At the time of its closure, Strikeforce employed the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, and was fought on a hexagonal cage, as opposed to UFC's octagonal cage (The Octagon). Ordinary matches consisted of three five-minute rounds, while championship matches were five five-minute rounds. All rounds had a one-minute break between them. Prior to the acquisition by Zuffa, Strikeforce did not allow elbows to the head of a grounded opponent.

Prior to June 2009, all women's bouts in Strikeforce consisted of three three-minute rounds as opposed to the men's five-minute rounds. However, on June 16, 2009, Strikeforce announced that it had received approval from the Washington and California State Athletic Commissions to use five-minute rounds for all women's bouts, including five five-minute rounds for its championship bouts.[14]

Weight divisions

Weight class name Upper limit
in pounds (lb) in kilograms (kg)
Bantamweight 135 61.2
Featherweight 145 65.8
Lightweight 155 70.3
Welterweight 170 77.1
Middleweight 185 83.9
Light Heavyweight 205 93.0
Heavyweight 265 120.2
Weight class name Upper limit
in pounds (lb) in kilograms (kg)
Bantamweight 135 61.2
Featherweight 145 65.8

Match outcome

Matches usually ended via:

  • Submission: a fighter clearly taps on his/her opponent or the mat, verbally submits, or in case the fighter goes out because of hypoxia, causing the referee to stop it.
  • Knockout: a fighter falls from a legal blow and is either unconscious or unable to immediately continue.
  • Technical Knockout (TKO): If a fighter cannot continue, the fight is ended as a technical knockout. Technical knockouts can be classified into three categories:
    • referee stoppage: (the referee determines a fighter cannot "intelligently defend" himself; if warnings to the fighter to improve his position or defense go unanswered—generally, two warnings are given, about 5 seconds apart)
    • doctor stoppage (a ringside doctor due to injury or impending injury, as when blood flows into the eyes and blinds a fighter)
    • corner stoppage (a fighter's own cornerman signals defeat for their own fighter)
  • Judges' Decision: Depending on scoring, a match may end as:
    • unanimous decision (all three judges score a win for fighter A)
    • majority decision (two judges score a win for fighter A, one judge scores a draw)
    • split decision (two judges score a win for fighter A, one judge scores a win for fighter B)
    • unanimous draw (all three judges score a draw)
    • majority draw (two judges score a draw, one judge scoring a win)
    • split draw (one judge scores a win for fighter A, one judge scores a win for fighter B, and one judge scores a draw)
    • disqualification (outcome can be overturned due to testing positive for banned substances)

Note: In the event of a draw, it is not necessary that the fighters' total points be equal. However, in a unanimous or split draw, each fighter does score an equal number of win judgments from the three judges (0 or 1, respectively).

A fight could also end in a technical decision, disqualification, forfeit, technical draw, or no contest. The latter two outcomes have no winners.

Judging criteria

The ten-point must system was in effect for all fights; three judges scored each round and the winner of each received ten points, the loser nine points or fewer. If the round was even, both fighters received ten points. In New Jersey, the fewest points a fighter could receive was 7, and in other states by custom no fighter received fewer than 8.

Match conduct

  • After a verbal warning the referee could stop the fighters and stand them up if they reached a stalemate on the ground (where neither are in a dominant position or working towards one). This rule is codified in Nevada as the stand-up rule.
  • If the referee paused the match, it was resumed with the fighters in their prior positions.
  • Grabbing the cage brought a verbal warning, followed by an attempt by the referee to release the grab by pulling on the grabbing hand. If that attempt failed or if the fighter continued to hold the cage, the referee could charge a foul.
  • Under unified rules, antics were permitted before events to add to excitement and allow fighters to express themselves, but abusive language during combat was prohibited.

Strikeforce events

As of Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine, which occurred on January 12, 2013, there have been 63 Strikeforce events held, including 20 in the promotion's Challengers series.

Strikeforce Grand Prix

Strikeforce held tournaments in the men's heavyweight division from 2011–2012, and one-night tournaments in the men's middleweight divisions in November 2007 and the women's bantamweight division in August 2010. They were won respectively by Miesha Tate.

Final champions

Men's division Upper weight limit Champion
Heavyweight 265 lb (120 kg; 18.9 st) Daniel Cormier
Light heavyweight 205 lb (93 kg; 14.6 st) Dan Henderson
Middleweight 185 lb (84 kg; 13.2 st) Luke Rockhold
Welterweight 170 lb (77 kg; 12 st) Tarec Saffiedine
Lightweight 155 lb (70 kg; 11.1 st) Gilbert Melendez
Women's division Upper weight limit Champion
Featherweight 145 lb (66 kg; 10.4 st) Cristiane Santos
Bantamweight 135 lb (61 kg; 9.6 st) Ronda Rousey

In other media

Video games

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