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From Strikeforce to Bellator: Why The Smaller MMA Promotions Matter To The UFC

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Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC prides itself on being the biggest, most dominant force in MMA.

The UFC claims that the best fighters in the world fight for the company and the other leagues aren’t at its level.

It’s true that some of the best fighters in the world fight in the UFC, but it’s not true that only the best fighters in the world fight in the UFC.

Other promotions have great value. In fact, the UFC’s biggest star right now, Ronda Rousey, probably wouldn’t even be in MMA and certainly not the UFC, if it weren’t for “other MMA promotions.

Rousey got her start in Strikeforce, the San Jose, California-based company that was eventually purchased by the UFC.

At a time when the UFC was saying that it wouldn’t promote women’s MMA because there weren’t enough talented women to create a division, stars such as Gina Carano, Cris Cyborg, Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey were wowing fans.

Strikeforce gave these women opportunities. The UFC was unwilling to take a chance on promoting women’s MMA. It wasn’t until women’s MMA became hugely popular, largely because of Rousey, that the UFC took an interest.

How many other great things are out there that UFC ignoring?

Alternative promotions make the UFC and all of MMA better. Look who headlined the co-main event of UFC 170? Daniel Cormier is another undefeated superstar who got his start in Strikeforce. Now he and Rousey are headlining major PPV shows. Cormier may have found his way to the UFC eventually, but at the time it was Strikeforce that gave him the shot.

And it’s not just Strikeforce. Bellator is alive and well. Although the company trails UFC as the brand leader in the marketplace, the company still plays a major role. If it weren’t for Bellator, for example, Gilbert Melendez, may have been gone from the UFC, and without options.

Melendez and his management team used Bellator to gain leverage for a bigger, better contract with the UFC. Bellator announced last week that the company had come to terms on a deal with Melendez. The UFC and Melendez could not agree so Melendez showed his worth to a competitor. How did the UFC respond? They not only reached a deal with Melendez, but he will now host the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter” against Anthony Pettis.

Does Bellator matter? Yes, it does. Just ask Melendez. Don’t forget where Melendez got his start, by the way: in Strikeforce.

So in the last few days, the names dominating the biggest headlines have been former Strikeforce stars.

Who else is out there that isn’t fighting in the UFC, but certainly could be? Eddie Alvarez? Michael Chandler? Ben Askren?

The UFC is the biggest dog in the yard, but there are plenty of bigger dogs outside the yard. Bellator, WSOF, OneFC and other MMA companies certainly house some of the best fighters in the world.

The existence of these companies gives fighters options. Competition ultimately makes the product better. The fans win and the quality of MMA fighting increases.

After all, three of the biggest fighters in the UFC right now, and possibly the biggest in Rousey, were build and made in Strikeforce, not the UFC.