Last night we got the bad news that Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Healy, scheduled for this coming Saturday, September 29 at the Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento, California was cancelled due to a late injury to Lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.
Here's how Strikeforce boss Scott Coker explained it in the press release:
"When SHOWTIME informed us that it would not be airing the event, we made the difficult decision to cancel Saturday's card in Sacramento," STRIKEFORCE CEO Scott Coker said. "Without a television partner, we simply could not move forward with this event. We wish Gilbert a speedy recovery and will work diligently and quickly to reschedule the fighters affected by this news on upcoming cards."
Strikeforce has been limping along since it was acquired by UFC parent company Zuffa in early 2011. Since the poaching of top talent Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem and Dan Henderson it has been truly devastated. Even worse, after Zuffa started stripping the promotion for parts (acquiring talent was after all the nominal reason for the purchase), Showtime stepped up and forced a new contract that precludes any further non-Heavyweight talent moving from Strikeforce to the UFC.
With the cancellation of the Sept. 29 event coming on the heels of the Nov. 3 Strikeforce event losing headliner Frank Mir -- and they still haven't announced a replacement opponent for Strikeforce HW GP champ Daniel Cormier in his last bout before heading to the UFC -- this is a good time for Zuffa to rethink it's Strikeforce/Showtime gambit.
That set off Cory Braiterman at MMA Mania and he laid out an argument for killing the promotion due to what is happening to the talent still stuck there:
They're holding down fighters like Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, who hasn't fought more than twice a year in four years despite not being injured. Fighters like Tyron Woodley, who hasn't fought more than twice a year in three years despite not being injured. Fighters like Gilbert Melendez, who was about to have only his fifth fight in the last three years - once again, despite not being injured (until now).
We're talking about a pair of consensus top-20 fighters and the number two ranked lightweight in the world not fighting simply because the promotion they're signed to isn't holding events.
They're clearly dying. Either end it, or reinvent it, but the way they're going now is a joke that's hurting the careers and livelihoods of the athletes in this sport.
I have to concur with Braiterman while adding an additional caveat or two. Those musings are after the jump...
Not only is the Strikeforce arrangement holding back some of the sport's most-promising fighters, it's also holding back the sport.
Despite their claims that talent acquisition was the reason for the purchase (and they did clearly want Overeem, Diaz and Henderson), the fact that Zuffa kept the deal going even after Showtime put the kibosh on any further talent migration shows the real reason Zuffa made the deal: preventing any competing promoter from getting the Showtime exposure.
The UFC has done this before. They acquired the WEC in late 2006 strictly so they could cut a TV deal with the Versus network and prevent any competitor from getting that cable TV slot. That was a shrewd move and was very nearly the first step in a UFC/Comcast/NBC (the owners of Versus) alliance.
However, Showtime/CBS is no longer looking to expand their MMA portfolio, they're just looking for cheap programming that will draw subscribers. Strikeforce, at its current deep discount, meets that criteria but not much more.
Let's cut the farce, end Strikeforce. Let the fighters free. Dana White may rail about the "scumbag" way that Bellator treats talent but nothing they'd done has been remotely close to the damage Zuffa and Showtime have done to the careers of the whole Strikeforce roster.
It's not just the fighters either, the UFC brass is already stretched too thin trying to put on too many UFC events, it's time to end the needless distraction that is Strikeforce. In a period where the UFC has more TV and PPV slots than it has headliners, its time to get Strikeforce stars like Ronda Rousey, Cristiane "Cybrog" Santos and Gilbert Melendez in the UFC where they can headline some events.
It's an obvious win/win/win for Zuffa, the fighters and the sport but don't expect it to happen. The Zuffa brass is anything but willing to adapt to circumstances these days.