Should they or shouldn't they? That is the question that has been lingering for nearly seven months. It was on national television, after his victory over Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki, that Gilbert Melendez, Strikeforce lightweight champion, said in his post-fight interview, "I would like to fight Eddie Alvarez."
Alvarez just happens to be the Bellator lightweight champion and ever since that night, the question's been burning. Also, the fire's been fueled by, comment, call-outs and other possible intriguing match-ups.
Would we as MMA fans love to see this fight? Of course, but at what cost? Fighter's prides aside; too two upstart promotions always having to play second fiddle here in the U.S. to the UFC, it can be a risk full of rewards or consequences. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of cross promoting.
Both Strikeforce and Bellator have rosters full of world class fighters and young talented upstarts. However, there is no question that once you start getting past the champions and contenders, their stables as a whole don't compare to the depth of the UFC.
In other words, UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar could be put in a fight against a fighter in the lower tier of the UFC's lightweight division and the chances of him losing are greater than if Melendez or Alvarez were put in the same position in their respective organizations. It has to do with the parity the UFC offers from top to bottom in their respective weight classes.
It is because of this lack of depth that champions like Melendez and Alvarez, who are universally recognized among the top three lightweights in the world, have to look to each other for competition and fights that will earn them both money and recognition. No disrespect, but how many times can Melendez fight Josh Thompson or Shinya Aoki? As for Alvarez, he's scheduled to fight Pat Curran, who's a young exciting talent, but let's keep it real; he earned his spot by winning an eight man tournament against second and third tier fighters.
No disrespect meant towards Strikeforce or Bellator, but it is the truth. I truly believe their top tier fighters could easily hang, if not win, against the UFC's elite. They just don't have the depth, which means they have to look to each other and while that looks good on paper, I'm not 100% sure if it's such a good idea.
For the winner, there's recognition for the fighter and bragging rights for the promotion, but then what? Where do you go from there? You can't challenge the UFC's champions because they will not even consider cross promoting. In Dana White's eyes why should they and honestly he's right. The UFC doesn't need anybody, its the other way around; Bellator and Strikeforce need the UFC.
As for the loser, sure the fighter remains champion in his respective organization, but how much weight does that hold. Your organization just took a major blow as to how strong it truly is. Regardless of whether it is or not, it will inevitably be looked upon as the weaker of the two. It will be relegated to third place status in the eyes of U.S. MMA fans.
Considering the recent merger between the UFC and WEC, although that was a relatively easy transition considering both promotions were under the same ownership, wouldn't it be great if Strikeforce and Bellator could merge? Now that would be something huge and special. A merger of that magnitude could really be a force and a challenge to the UFC for U.S. MMA Supremacy.
Alas, the chances of something like that happening are probably slim to none. Unlike Zuffa, there is not one Ownership Company at work here; thus money, power and respect would keep something like this from happening. Besides, to this point Scott Coker, Strikeforce CEO and Bjorn Rebney, Bellator CEO, can't see eye to eye on putting together one fight, let alone a merger. Thus, the saga continues regarding the pros and cons of cross-promotion.