Strikeforce: Arizona Event Planned Before Immigration Controversy

By: Tristen Critchfield
Jul 25, 2010
Scott Coker file photo: Dave Mandel |

Strikeforce’s initial foray into Arizona is something the organization has been eyeing for the better part of a year due to high demand for mixed martial arts in the state, CEO Scott Coker said.

“We’re excited,” Coker said of the Strikeforce Challengers 10 event, which is set for Aug. 13 at the Dodge Theatre in Phoenix. “Strikeforce coming there with a TV date on Showtime is going to raise the awareness for mixed martial arts in that state and in the community. I think it will be good for the industry.”

While the Southwest promotion Rage in the Cage has called Arizona home since 1998, the sport’s larger organizations have yet to hold an event there. Marc Ratner, the UFC’s vice president for regulatory affairs, has said that even though the UFC has not yet held a fight card in Arizona, doing so in the future is “definitely on our radar.”

Beating the UFC to the location is not significant, Coker said.

“We don’t operate our business model based on anybody other than our own business. What they’re doing is what they’re doing,” he said. “How we operate our business is completely independent of what they’re doing.”

Holding an event in Arizona could prove controversial, as the unpopular anti-immigration law has prompted many cities, counties and states to condemn Arizona, including San Jose, Calif., where Strikeforce is based.

According to the website: “The San Jose City Council on June 8 approved, by a 9-2 vote, a symbolic measure that condemns its neighboring state, rather than a harsher economic boycott. The measure includes a denunciation of the Arizona law, a prohibition on business trips by city employees to the state and support for legal challenges filed by other individuals or groups.”

Coker said that he hasn’t experienced any negative sentiment regarding his company’s choice of venue.

“That fight is happening in Washington, and which politician gets another in a submission on that one happens in someone else’s arena. But that’s not what we’ll be fighting about on August 13th,” he said. “In our cage on that day, it’s about MMA and bringing a great sport to the many fans in the Phoenix area.”

The law carried over into other areas of the professional sports world. Major League Baseball’s Players Association has called for a repeal of the law. The 2011 MLB All-Star game is scheduled to be played at Phoenix’s Chase Field, and already some of the league’s Latino players have threatened to boycott the festivities if the game isn’t moved. The NBA’s Phoenix Suns wore “Los Suns” jerseys during a home playoff game against San Antonio on May 5 in a show of protest against the law.

The anti-immigration law was passed earlier this year, but the planning for a Strikeforce card in Arizona has been in the works for quite some time, said Coker.

“Deciding to come into the Phoenix market has been a long process. We decided internally a long time ago that we wanted to come to Arizona because there is so much demand for MMA there, and we’re all excited for what is going to be a great event,” Coker said.

The not yet completed card features Phoenix native Joe Riggs against Louis Taylor in a 182-pound catch-weight bout. The event will also have a four-woman 135-pound, one-night single elimination tournament. Miesha Tate, Hitomi Akano, Carina Damm and Maiju Kujala will participate, with the winner getting a shot at 135-pound champion Sarah Kaufman at a later date.

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