Death is knocking on Strikeforce’s door, and there’s one lady who has to feel its presence more than anyone else in the promotion’s locker room.

That lady is women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

For every other champion and top name in that locker room—lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez, middleweight kingpin Luke Rockhold, Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier, and even the likes of top contenders Pat Healy, Josh Thomson, Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza—a home awaits in Strikeforce’s bigger sibling, the UFC. That is, if the rumors and reports prove true that the promotion’s Nov. 3 event is in jeopardy and that its cancellation would also signal the shuttering of the entire organization.

For Rousey, there’s no such luck.

But Rousey is a star, possibly shining the brightest among those potential Strikeforce refugees Zuffa won’t just bid her adieu. UFC President Dana White knows that he has a draw on his hands, and that might lead the UFC in a direction the promotion has never taken before: cross-promotion.

Prior to this dilemma, the UFC’s answer to any proposal involving talent sharing or plastering another organization’s name on the Octagon has always been, “Hell no!” The best example came in Zuffa’s negotiations with former Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. One of the demands from Fedor’s camp was that M-1 Global would co-promote events with the UFC. In other words, the Russian organization’s name would appear alongside the UFC’s in all promotional packaging for events involving Fedor. The UFC balked, and as a result, Emelianenko has never seen the inside of the Octagon.

Why would that change for Rousey’s benefit? Well, because Rousey’s predicament would be a far cry from Fedor’s demands.

Rousey is already under contract with Zuffa, and she needs opponents. The UFC is highly unlikely to launch a new division just to support her—Dana White is warming to women’s MMA, but his doubts as to the depth of the talent pool do still remain. And while it might seem convenient to just buy Invicta Fighting Championships, a quickly rising promotion that serves as home to the majority of the best female competitors out there, it’s doubtful that Zuffa is ready to take that leap. After all, not only would such a move involve the acquisition of an entire promotion, it would also require Zuffa to negotiate a television deal, something not likely to happen with Showtime, given the two entities’ deteriorating relationship, nor with the networks already reportedly in talks with the all-women promotion, as Zuffa would likely want to start from scratch and lay out its own terms.

The path of least resistance, then, would be cross-promotion.

In the case of M-1 Global, the UFC had a good point. Why elevate M-1 Global’s status for one fighter? The UFC would get a man who might be a legend, but with one loss (as was eventually the case in Strikeforce) that man became just another heavyweight. M-1 Global, however, would have its name standing next to the UFC’s.

That would be like McDonald’s agreeing to put up a Burger King sign next to the golden arches and sell Whoppers, but only for a limited time. By co-promoting with M-1 Global, the UFC would effectively give its competition a long-term boost while only receiving the services of one fighter, whose career could take a nosedive at any given moment.

But in the case of Rousey, the UFC could turn to Invicta for a partnership that benefits both sides. Invicta, after all, is not a direct competitor to the UFC. Both deal in MMA, but one promotion is all about the men whereas the other is solely about the women. In addition, the two already have a good working relationship that has allowed Sara McMann to cross from Invicta to Strikeforce and was prepared to allow Sarah Kaufman to travel in the opposite direction.

Invicta has already established a deep pool of talent, most notably at 135 pounds, Rousey’s division. By giving the promotion billing alongside the UFC name, Zuffa would be turning more eyes to the promotion, therefore increasing the stock of the best fighters Invicta has to offer. The result would be opponents for Rousey that the fans would see as real challenges—fighters such as McMann and Shayna Baszler, both of whom performed well on Invicta shows. With even more names emerging as stars on Invicta’s roster, the UFC could secure access to a deep roster of potential foes for Rousey.

While Invicta benefits through its name sharing the spotlight at pay-per-views and on network television, the UFC gains the type of competition it needs to place opposite Rousey. It’s something the promotion would have a hard time doing on its own. With only one-off fights, rather than a full division, Zuffa might even find it hard to snatch talent away from Invicta, and the talent at 135 pounds outside of Invicta is almost non-existent.

With this opportunity for a mutually beneficial cross-promotion, does anybody really lose?

Photo: Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

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  • unbeknownst

    This is a really good idea. I just can’t see Zuffa ending Strikeforce and allowing Rousey to walk to Invicta or Bellator, she’s in the top five of trending MMA athletes.

    However, I can’t see the UFC adding a woman’s division just for one fighter. Simply because they have to promote and build her contenders too, with non-Rousey female fights in the UFC.

    Couple of questions. I don’t understand when does the co-promotion come in? During only Rousey fights? During Invicta events, are they co-promoted by the UFC too? Is it a UFC belt or Invicta belt? Is only Rousey fighting in the UFC? What about Cyborg? OR what about other weight classes championship bouts, do they fight in the UFC too or is it just bantamweight?

    • Bryan Henderson, Editor-in-Chief

      Thanks for posting a comment. To answer your questions:

      The co-promotion would come in just for the Rousey fights in my idea. The UFC could leave talent development and establishing a top challenger to Invicta. In the other direction, perhaps Invicta events that decide Rousey’s next opponent would be co-promoted by the UFC. And it would just be the one weight class, as the focus is on the one female draw the UFC believes in, which is Rousey. If talents in other weight classes reach that level, then the two sides could explore expanding the deal, but this idea is meant purely to suggest a possible route the UFC could go in regards to Rousey if Strikeforce is merged into the UFC.

      The title could perhaps be a unified women’s belt, not belonging specifically to a certain promotion, or perhaps the belt would remain in Invicta’s stable and the Rousey bouts would be purely non-title super fights.

      Rousey would be in the UFC, it would just be other fighters coming to her. The idea would be that Rousey is a Zuffa talent, but Zuffa needs a source from which to draw opponents for her. If she loses, then it becomes a situation of whether she’s still a draw (a la Gina Carano) or if her unblemished record was a major factor. If it’s the former, the UFC and Invicta maintain the relationship, and if not, perhaps Zuffa decides Rousey has run her course as a draw and the promotion ends its foray into WMMA.

      Cyborg might join Rousey as a UFC-only talent, but the real issue there is that even Invicta hasn’t focused on 145 very much, so unless Cyborg is okay with shifting to 135, there might not be a lot that can happen with her in general.

  • robbyedwards

    i think rouseyhas alot of fights before she is best, the media makes her out to be the only talented female fighter, well invictafc has proven that there are lots of females out there that have skills. If invictafc can run female only fight cards and be successful then there is enough depth for 115, and 135 right now, and the other div are catching up, the ufc should capitalize on rousey before she losses because sadly once she gets beat, dana will lose interest in wmma, i think he is only interested in rouseybecause otherwise he would be able to name female like basyler, mcmann, coenen, davis, carmouche, nunes, zinago, etc, and i only named a few top females at 135, anyone of these girls have the skills to beat rousey, letsbe honest all we have seen in every rousey fight is a headlock leading to a hip tosx to side control to mount then an arm bar, its the exact same set upevery fight, kaufman saw this and stopped the initial attack but left herselfin range for a foot sweep, but mark my words thewomen are paying attention and its just a matter of time til rousey gets beat and when she does it is going to be ugly because most of the other females fighters cant stand her, and women are much nastier