Strikeforce will air a final event on Showtime (10 p.m. ET/PT) from Oklahoma City on Saturday night.
It's a bittersweet ending, says Strikeforce founder and CEO Scott Coker, who got his start promoting martial arts events in 1985 while working part time as a Bay Area karate instructor.
At first, Strikeforce's ambitions were strictly local. It operated mainly out of HP Pavilion, also home of the NHL's San Jose Sharks. Near the end of 2007, when the Sharks owners at Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment Inc. expressed an interest in buying a 50 percent ownership stake in Strikeforce, Coker saw the opportunity to create something bigger.
In 2009, Strikeforce, with help from its new partner, purchased fighter contracts and an existing TV deal with CBS and Showtime from struggling MMA promoter ProElite.
Soon Strikeforce signed marquee fighters such as Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson, and launched an ambitious heavyweight tournament.
But when Zuffa made an offer to buy out its largest competitor, Coker says his partners felt it was time to get out of the MMA business and refocus on hockey.
"I think this is a good way to close the chapter, and it's something that I'm going to celebrate," Coker says. "I've been in the fight business 27 years. That's a long time, a long run, and I'm going to celebrate this."
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