Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

Once posed as a question in song by the great Burt Bacharach, the way to San Jose is now being asked by the number one ranked heavyweight in the world, Fedor Emilianenko, as he readies for his showdown with Fabricio Werdum. The pairing of the the Orthrodox mauler and the city once serenaded by Dionne Warwick seem an odd pairing, at least from a promotional point of view.

San Jose has long served as a home base for Scott Coker’s Strikeforce, capable of drawing good numbers at the gate with such local favorites as Cung Le and Frank Shamrock. Even when they don’t have one of those two on the card they can draw in the 7k to 8k range in that market, as evidenced by the Melendez vs Thomson I card which did just over 7k fans. With either Frank or Cung on the card they are usually bumping up or around the 10k mark. I guess what I’m saying is that they can draw a good number in the SJ market without putting Fedor on the card. With Cung and Thomson on the card for the June 26th card, they will do a good number regardless, meaning the marginal utility of having Fedor on the card is lessened.

The profile of Emilianenko could and would be best served in establishing a beachhead in another market. From all accounts, the Chicago card headlined by Fedor vs Rogers in November was well attended and did a decent gate number. The city hasn’t hosted a high profile card since that evening (sorry, Bellator, you don’t count) and hasn’t seen a UFC card since the UFC 90 card featuring Silva vs Cote in October of 08. Putting a second Fedor card in the market would be a concrete way of putting down roots and building up a regular secondary market for the Strikeforce promotion. St. Louis has been built into such a secondary market and adding Chicago as well would go far to building a strong mid-west base for a company that heretofore has been mostly west coast based.

If not Chicago, Strikeforce may have been better served to take advantage of some of the brand building attempted by Affliction in the Los Angeles/Anaheim market. Fedor headlined a couple of Affliction cards in the market and has good recognition there. Affliction admittedly had to do quite a bit of “papering” of the crowd to get a full house, but pricing your shows at UFC levels ($1,000 top ticket prices) without the UFC brand to back it up will do that. From what I’ve seen Strikeforce’s pricing structure has a bit of sanity to it in comparison, which I think would make pulling a good crowd attainable.

The Fedor to San Jose move seems motivated more by the need to get him on a card as soon as possible after his contract impasse as opposed to strategically using his value as a building block. When every Fedor fight you put on might just be your last, Strikeforce has to make the most tactically shrewd moves with his fights. Putting this fight on in San Jose just seems to be shortsighted, and not really advancing the brand.

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