For months the speculation has been that once the Showtime deal runs out, Strikeforce would cease to exist and many of their stars would join the ranks of the UFC. Furthermore the loss of Strikeforce would also usher in the end to the women’s division as the UFC/Dana White wants nothing to do with it. Well once again the MMA community was wrong in their future forecasts.
The ZUFFA owned Strikeforce has reached a new deal with Showtime that will bring up to eight live events to fans in 2012, starting with the January 7th event. The new deal was announced today via press release with a conference call with Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President & General Manager SHOWTIME Sports, Dana White, UFC President and Scott Coker, STRIKEFORCE CEO that followed.
The once thought to be dead promotion is alive and kicking and the current roster of champions, including Gilbert Melendez will all remaining on the roster. The current lightweight champion who is defending his title at this weekend’s event in San Diego has lobbied hard since ZUFFA acquired Strikeforce to fight in the UFC. You’d think Melendez would be upset with the news but White says that completely untrue, “Gilbert Melendez is pumped to stay in Strikeforce and he will be staying there to defend his belt”.
The new deal includes some rather exciting items to point out that should have fans extremely happy, unless you’re a current Strikeforce heavyweight.
The women’s division will remain as it currently is with the two divisions and the promotion will continue to build the 135 lbs. and 145 lbs. weight classes. This is great news for fans of the women stepping into the cage who have been complaining that if Strikeforce disappeared that so too would WMMA.
The heavyweight grand prix will conclude with the finals, but the winner will not be crowned the Strikeforce heavyweight champion. In fact the whole division will be disbanded after the winner fights one more time after the finish of the grand prix. What happens to the heavyweights currently on the roster and in the grand prix finals is yet to be determined but it’s safe to say some will be in need to new employment very soon.
With the heavyweights gone the promotion plans to focus on four men’s divisions (155, 170, 185 & 205 lbs.) and two women’s (135 & 145 lbs.). There are two men’s divisions without a current champion and the promotion will use the next two events to help determine who will get those title shots in the welterweight and light heavyweight divisions.
Last but certainly not the least is along with the main events continuing to air on Showtime, the undercard bouts will now air on Showtime Extreme. The Challenger’s events that used to air on Showtime will give way to bigger cards that will air on both Showtime Extreme and Showtime.
It all kicks off on January 7th with Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event should not be missed by anyone as it will coincide with a free preview weekend on Showtime. So no excuses, make sure to check out the new version of Strikeforce!