Jul 17, 2012 - Immediately after Luke Rockhold retained his Strikeforce middleweight title last Saturday night, the
debate began about where exactly he ranked in the worldwide divisional pecking
order. Was he just below UFC champion Anderson Silva, who is nearly unanimously considered the
best in the world? Is he on the outskirts of the top five, tucked below names
like Chris Weidman and Chael Sonnen? Or is he even top 10 worthy at
Unfortunately, we might never know just how good Rockhold is. Given
his Strikeforce contract, he's not likely to move over to the UFC anytime soon
or have the opportunity to challenge UFC kingpin Silva.
On Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Showtime sports president Stephen Espinoza
surprisingly put forth a hope of matching Strikeforce champions against UFC
"I hope that we're getting the story out there clearly enough that these are
two high-level organizations, he said. "You can make the analogy -- the one I
like to use is the AFL and the NFL. Before the NFL as we currently know it
existed, there were two leagues and they’d play once a year in the Super Bowl.
And that’s how the Super Bowl came about, was a championship between two
different leagues. I think a best case-scenario for the fans that I talk to and
I'm sure the fans that you talk to, [they] would like to see some structure like
that and sort of answer those questions about who is the best middleweight, who
is the best welterweight, all those kinds of things going
Espinoza didn't say how likely such a scenario is, and chances
are probably against it in the immediate future given the demanding schedules of
the UFC and Strikeforce, along with all of the contractual obligations and
fine-print details that might get in the way. Yet it's certainly intriguing to
hear that a high-powered executive with some sway in the possibility has an
interest in answering the questions that are until now, just hypothetical.
Of course, you may remember that UFC president Dana White, who holds
considerable power in the future of Strikeforce as well as any UFC vs.
Strikeforce matchups, has had his issues with Showtime management, and has
essentially adopted a hands-off policy, electing to allow Zuffa chairman and CEO
Lorenzo Fertitta to handle the business relationship.
Espinoza says that
after some preliminary growing pains and adjustments, the cable network's
relationship with the Zuffa team is now "very good" and that they are both
looking for ways to better collaborate on the product.
said, in the future, that will mean addressing the most pressing competition
question in the sport.
"Maybe at some point with all the creative minds
thinking about this issue, we can come up with a solution and something which
satisfies the fans who want sort of 'unified' champions, or essentially to
answer the question, 'Who is the No. 1 best in the cage at a particular weight
class?' he said. "I would love to see that happen at some point as well. I’m no
different than any other fan. I’d love to answer that question, too."