To say that the direction Strikeforce has been headed in since the Zuffa purchase a little over a year ago has been uncertain would be the understatement of the century.

Would it live to see 2012? Would women still have a place in the organization? Would this mean cross-promotional super fights?

Well, it’s made it more than half way through 2012, the women seem to be the brightest stars in the promotion, and we’re still waiting for the first cross-promotional bout

Over the weekend, news surfaced of a deal between Showtime and Zuffa that stated certain fighters, including Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold and Ronda Rousey—all champions in their respective divisions—would not be allowed to fight in the UFC, even after their current Strikeforce contract expires. Essentially, what that means is that if a fighter fulfills his obligation to Strikeforce, the UFC would not be an option, therefore relegating them to stay with Strikeforce or find another smaller promotion to fight for.

Since Dave Meltzer first released his statement, he’s changed it multiple times, basically throwing any credibility he has on the matter out the window. Aside from the constantly changing story, Strikeforce, Dana White and Stephen Espinoza, the head of Showtime Sports, have all vehemently denied the claim. Espinoza has even called for cross-promotional title fights.

It’d be a safe assumption that should Strikeforce outlive their deal with Showtime, Melendez and the like will be free to sign with the UFC or any other promotion that they see fit. But let’s speculate for a minute.

Presume for a minute that the big whigs are covering up a story that would have clearly made them look bad, and in the case the fighters weren’t aware of the situation would certainly lead to a bunch of really upset dudes that beat people up for a living.

The deal makes a ton of sense for Showtime, as the stars that currently call Strikeforce home are few and far between, so why not lock them up while they have them and protect their investment? For a guy like Melendez, who’s been around for years and has been dominating the lightweight division, the only thing left for him to prove is that not only can he hang with the best fighters in the UFC, but that he’s better than them. “El Nino” is consistently ranked in the top-five lightweights in the world, but because he hasn’t had an opportunity to fight the Ben Henderson’s and Frankie Edgar’s of the world, he’ll never see his name in that number-one spot.

Basically, there’s no reason for Melendez to stay with Strikeforce once his contract is up. If this rumor were to be true, it’d give the Team Gracie standout a limited number of promotions to pick from that would deliver the same level of competition that Strikefoce can. The thought there would be, “Why leave when I’m part of Zuffa, I’ve been here for years and Bellator or One FC aren’t going to give me any better pay or competition?”

The deal makes sense for Showtime because they are figuratively attaching shackles to their stars to maintain their dwindling, at best, numbers. Without Melendez, Rockhold and Rousey, Strikeforce would be completely irrelevant.

For the same reasons this deal works for Showtime, it’s horrible for the fighters that are on this list. Melendez has cleaned out the division over and over again and Josh Thomson is the only guy providing a challenge. Does anyone really need to see Melendez vs. Thomson IV? Rockhold is a young guy who is just starting out on the grand scheme of things. He won the middleweight title in what was only his ninth professional fight. He’s already beat the best Strikeforce has to offer, and let’s be honest, rematches and trilogies are getting really old—just ask Frankie Edgar.

The only name on the list that this doesn’t royally screw over is Rousey. Since the UFC doesn’t currently have a women’s division, nor does it really look like that’s going to be a reality any time soon, the women’s champ either fights for Strikeforce or a non-Zuffa owned promotion such as Invicta FC. Which begs the question, why is she even on the list, if it does in fact exist?

In all reality, Strikeforce appears to be on its last legs anyway. The media showing for the most recent event was all but non-existent. The promotion for the event was, well, was there any? The heavyweights are gone come Sept. 30 and the women’s 145-pound division is already gone. The light heavyweight division doesn’t have a champion, or any real prospects outside of Gegard Mousasi, who has yet to fight this year. The current champions—Rousey, Melendez, Nate Marquardt and Luke Rockhold—are so far ahead of their competition that it’s almost painful to watch them be subjected to subpar opponent after subpar opponent.

At the end of the day, a promotion can’t exist—not successfully anyway—with four stars. Maybe it’s time to admit that Strikeforce is done. Allow the stars to flourish in the UFC and set Showtime free to explore other options or concentrate solely on boxing. The writing is on the wall, clear for everyone to see; the only question that remains is when will the execs involved open their eyes?

Photo: Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.

  • Michael Vasquez

    Great article Paige very true and we as Strikeforce fans want to know where our favorite fighters are going in the MMA..

    I believe UFC would have more to offer if they would support a Strikeforce and UFC title shot… well put..

    MMA fan