You might not realize it, but Strikeforce's championship situation is in a state of general disarray.
Let's take a brief look at the company's champions before we proceed any further:
- Heavyweight: Vacant, last held by Alistair Overeem, who recently was released
- Light-heavyweight: Dan Henderson, who is a free agent
- Middleweight: Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza
- Welterweight: Vacant, last held by Nick Diaz, who jumped to the UFC
- Lightweight: Gilbert Melendez
- Featherweight: Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, maybe?
- Bantamweight: Miesha Tate
So by my count, that's two championships that are vacated and two divisions that have a champion that isn't under contract. Of the three champions who currently are in place, Melendez is probably headed to the UFC the second that opportunity arises while I feel Jacare and especially Tate are locked in with Strikeforce.
That means this is a company with seven belts yet only three, at best, have champions right now. What exactly does that say about the current state of Strikeforce?
As we've seen for years now in organizations that aren't at the apex of the sport, the championships have a ton of turnover because fighters always are looking for greener pastures. This case is a little different, but outside of Diaz, who actually did move numbers for Showtime, is losing any of these champions going to be a huge loss for Strikeforce?
The fact of the matter is this: Overeem's belt didn't really mean a whole lot. He defended it a total of one time during his three-and-a-half years as champion and was probably more trouble than he was worth for the organization. Until this weekend when he faced a bonafide mega-star in Fedor Emelianenko, Henderson really wasn't doing much on the ratings side for Strikeforce and Cyborg has already been largely forgotten and has been out of action for more than a year despite being healthy.
Now, I don't think the championships mean a whole lot to Strikeforce's bottom line (as seem by them putting on attraction fights rather than championship fights), but the company has to make a decision if it wants to have titles. Make a decision one way or another. If they do, they need to be more proactive in setting up fights for the vacant titles. When asked about the welterweight title last week, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said he'd have to reassess the situation with the rest of the office. Which, reading between the lines, means they have no idea what they're going to do.
They have a built-in road to finding a heavyweight champion, and that could add more intrigue to the tournament because heavyweight title fights seem to be a big thing in MMA. The situation at light-heavyweight is going to be interesting to watch, though. If Henderson signs with the UFC, as everyone expects him to do, how quickly will Strikeforce crown a new champion there? The company is in a perilous state right now and perception is everything. Not having champions and not being proactive in filling the gaps when they come up just screams "second rate."
For Strikeforce to continue operating with credibility, it needs to fill those championship gaps and it needs to fill them now.