In the grand scheme of fight promoting, there are only so many twists you can make to truly deliver an experience no one has ever seen before. Bodog Fight put people on the beach, Moat Fights has something resembling a moat, Bellator has their flying cage, and even the notion of the UFC’s iconic Octagon, rather than a traditional ring, was a gimmick at one point. In 2008, Strikeforce charged $1,000 a ticket to hold their seventh card in the backyard of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion.
At the time, Scott Coker’s promotion was on the cusp of making major waves in the industry. Elite XC, a rival promotion with a network TV deal hadn’t folded yet, weeks away from the infamous Kimbo Slice-Seth Petruzelli upset sunk the company. They had Gina Carano, Nick Diaz, Jake Shields and a slew of other up and coming stars that would eventually make their way to Strikeforce. But before that, it was still Hugh Hefner giving the burgeoning Strikeforce a chance. It speaks to Hefner’s finger being on the pulse of an ever-evolving culture.
Scott Coker gave his thoughts on the passing of Hefner to Uproxx:
“Hugh Hefner represented pop culture in a way that no else could. When he offered to host STRIKEFORCE at the iconic Playboy Mansion back in 2007, we knew that was something we couldn’t turn down. At that point, it was only our seventh event and we hadn’t been out of northern California yet. We saw it as a great opportunity to promote the sport of MMA alongside one of the most recognized brands in all of entertainment. Hugh was a tremendous supporter of combat sports and I’m proud to have promoted two events at his famed property. I’m very saddened to hear the news today and my thoughts are with Hugh Hefner’s family at this time.”
The novelty of a fight card within a few feet of a high-end buffet is worth remembering in its own, but 2008 was also a time when this current generation of stars started coming into their own. Strikeforce: At the Mansion featured Bobby Southworth post-The Ultimate Fighter 1, an undefeated Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez, who was entering one of the greatest trilogies of all-time against Josh Thomson. Both men went on to the UFC, Melendez works for ESPN and Thomson works for Bellator. There was the always reliably violent (giving or taking) UFC vet Joe Riggs and the current UFC welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal.
Not only does the card have a surprising amount of names, but it was full of finishes. Pure Strikeforce, really. They were known for putting on action-packed cards, which was helped in large part by Rich Chou’s booking. There were some uneven matches, sure. But, like Pride, Strikeforce sometimes put on showcase fights with their stars.
There’s scant video and some early cellphone video footage of the upscale event on YouTube (2008 was so long ago), but you can watch both shows on Fight Pass. It’s worth it for the MMA history lesson alone. That’s the MMA version of reading it for the articles.
-Bobby Southworth def. Bill Mahood via Verbal submission from some injured ribs (round 1)
-Gilbert Melendez def. Tetsuji Kato via unanimous decision
-Joe Riggs def. Eugene Jackson via knockout (round 1)
-Josh Thomson def. Adam Lynn via knockout (round 1)
-Billy Evangelista def. Clint Coronel via split-decision
-Jorge Masvidal def. Matt Lee via TKO (round 1)
-Falaniko Vitale def. Ron Fields via submission (strikes) round 1
-Daniel Puder def. Richard Dalton via unanimous decision
-Dewey Cooper def. Adam Smith via unanimous decision
-Daniel McWilliams def. Eddy Millis via rear-naked choke submission (round 1)
-Luke Stewart def. Sam Liera via TKO (round 1)
-Anthony Figueroa def. Miguel Linares via TKO (round 1)
Strikeforce: At the Mansion was followed up by a sequel event “At the Mansion II” almost exactly a year later. It wasn’t as strong of a show as the first, in terms of star power, but like all Strikeforce events, it’s worth checking out. Especially if you ever want to witness some people sipping wine while watching Mitsuhiro Ishida armbar a dude.
And yes, Hefner is in his robe the entire time.