It’s time for Zuffa to close the curtain on Strikeforce, Showtime be damned.

With Gilbert Melendez injured and out of his main event lightweight title defense against Pat Healy, Strikeforce officials announced the cancellation of the entire event.  But this wasn’t like the recent UFC 151 implosion, where Jon Jones’ original opponent fell due to injury and the champ refused to take on anyone on short notice, forcing the card to be scrapped altogether.  This time, it was the fault of a network, not the fighters or the promotion.  This time, the network showed that they truly do not care about the long-term viability of Strikeforce.

Not long ago, rumors surfaced that Showtime and Zuffa’s most recent contractual agreement involved a list of names prevented from moving to the UFC.  As long as they were under contract with Zuffa, these fighters had to appear on Showtime, and therefore within the Strikeforce cage.  Melendez is one of the names reportedly on this list. This list focuses on the names of the present—Melendez and possibly fighters such as Luke Rockhold and Ronda Rousey.

What Showtime fails to do is think about the future.  What happens when Melendez and Rousey are no longer the stars they are today?  Is Showtime putting all its money on the fact that when Melendez and Rousey lose their titles, they won’t just pass the gold to a new fighter, but also their drawing power?

It would seem that way.

Strikeforce’s press release for the cancellation of the event states that Showtime would not air the event without Melendez.  No Melendez, no television broadcast, therefore no event.  But why?

Yes, Melendez vs. Healy was the primary draw here.  It was the biggest fight on the card, and the event will suffer without it.  Yet, it’s still an almost fully formed card and should have continued forward.  Even if Strikeforce did not pursue a replacement opponent for Pat Healy, this card still had a blend of talent that could have produced interesting fights.  And more importantly, it could have put the spotlight on a group of fighters that doesn’t often get it, a group out of which some new star power could have emerged.

Jorge Santiago’s welterweight debut against Quinn Mulhern, lightweight Isaac Vallie-Flagg looking to follow up a victory over Gesias Cavalcante with a win over Adriano Martins, former lightweight title contender Josh Thomson (who just fought to a split decision with Melendez) taking on Caros Fodor and a battle of light heavyweight prospects Guto Inocente and Gian Villante—that’s still a strong lineup, one that could develop contenders in three different weight classes.  And from the preliminary set, the 135-pound tilt between Amanda Nunes and the undefeated Cat Zingano could have easily been shifted to the main event, capitalizing on the rising interest in women’s MMA brought on by Rousey and Invicta FC.  Sure, it wouldn’t have the drawing power that Melendez brings, but that lineup is still worth Showtime’s time.

Instead, Showtime has focused solely on Melendez.  The ability to develop a new Melendez or Rousey via these other matchups is lost on the premium network.  Or maybe it just doesn’t care.

However, there’s one group that should care, and that would be Zuffa.  In Strikeforce, Zuffa has Melendez, Rousey and Rockhold.  If Zuffa brought women’s MMA to the UFC, Rousey could be an immediate draw.  And there’s little doubt that fans would rather see Melendez and Rockhold challenge the best the UFC has to offer rather than the best Strikeforce has to offer.  Regardless of the skill set of Strikeforce’s other talents, they will always be second rate in the eyes of fans and Showtime is putting little effort into changing that fact.

Zuffa must ask itself, is it really worth the time, effort and promotional investment to put together events that hinge on the health of one athlete?  Outside of UFC 151, the UFC doesn’t make a habit of canceling cards.  It finds an alternative match-up or shuffles the card around to promote the co-headliner to the main event slot.  That doesn’t even appear to be an option when it comes to Strikeforce.

To give these fighters the proper attention and the fights they need, both for their own livelihood and in order to remain active and in the collective consciousness of MMA fans, Zuffa must cut the ties with Showtime as soon as possible.  It’s no longer an option, it’s a necessity.

Photo: Gilbert Melendez (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

The MMA Corner Staff

Your home for all things MMA. News, Interviews, Event Coverage, Editorials. If it is MMA related, you will find it on The MMA Corner.