Gilbert Melendez Possibly to the UFC: Does This Spell the End of Strikeforce?

Leon HorneAnalyst IOctober 2, 2011

HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 17:  Strikeforce World Lightweight Champion Gilbert 'El Nino' Melendez  (L) and attend the CBS' Strikeforce MMA Fighters Open Media Workout on March 17, 2010 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Looks as if UFC president Dana White wants to get current Strikeforce Lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez into the UFC and it couldn't happen sooner.

Melendez would join the current trend of former Strikeforce champions making the move to the UFC, once again leaving Strikeforce with out another champion.

Despite the saying that "It's business as usual" for the Strikeforce promotion after the UFC parent company Zuffa LLC buyout, it looks as if the promotion's future is getting bleaker by the day.

After UFC Live: Cruz vs. Johnson last night, Dana White took some time to tell a select group of the media, which included Bleacher Report MMA, that the UFC was looking into acquiring Strikeforce Lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.

"We do want to bring Gilbert Melendez over and we're looking at it right now. We're going to bring him over ASAP." White said.

The big question now is what does this mean for Strikeforce? A fight promotion with no promotable champions is the equivalent to having the NFL with no Super Bowl, it doesn't make sense.

Does this mean the end of Strikeforce is near or does it merely mean that Strikeforce is becoming the main feeder league to the UFC?

Strikeforce started losing its champions to the UFC even before Zuffa made the takeover. Former middleweight champion Jake Shields left in summer 2010 after beating veteran UFC fighter Dan Henderson.

Many felt it was a mistake for Strikeforce to let their champion go in free agency and whether or not it was a good or bad idea it seems as though Shields set a trend that isn't going out of style anytime soon.

Once Zuffa bought out Strikfeforce, welterweight champion Nick Diaz, heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem and light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson have all jumped ship and signed on with the UFC.

Newly crowned middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, female welterweight champion Cris Cyborg and female bantamweight champion Miesha Tate are the only remaining champions on Strikeforce's seven division roster.

Given the UFC brass' disinterest in the promotion of women's MMA and the novelty of Luke Rockhold as the middleweight champion, one can expect Rockhold, Tate and Cyborg to stick around in Strikeforce until the end, but will there be an end?

The outlook for Strikeforce couldn't look any worse going forward. More than ever, it looks as if the organization might be folded in to the UFC once that television contract with Showtime is up.

Championless promotions aside, Strikeforce could act as a nice feeder league for the UFC and a promotion for the diehard fans to watch the up-and-coming talent in the world of MMA compete.

Fighters could fight in Strikeforce until they become solid contenders or dominant champions and once they have done enough to the point that the hardcore fans are asking to see them in the UFC then the UFC could sign them to the big leagues.

The UFC would always have an available talent pool to pull from and it would provide a professional, safe and well-supported organization for the up-and-coming guys to showcase their talents.

The current champions who jumped ship, jumped because the fans wanted it and there is no reason to think the fans won't think the same things about the next crop of dominant Strikeforce fighters.

That being said, the track record for fight promotions bought up by Zuffa isn't a promising one. Pride Fighting Championships was purchased by Zuffa in March 2007 and by October that same year Pride FC was no more.

World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) fared a little better than Pride FC as it was purchased in December 2006 and stuck around for four years before being absorbed by the UFC, but the main reason for their run was because the WEC was used as a home for the lighter weight classes.

Regardless of whether Strikeforce sticks around, the fact of the matter is that "business as usual" simply doesn't apply anymore and whether the UFC absorbs the Strikeforce brand or not, Strikeforce won't exist the way it has in the past.

It appears as though the countdown is on and if it weren't for the television deal with Showtime, Strikeforce would have been gone a long time ago.

Cesar Gracie of the famed Gracie family is certainly all smiles as two of his fighters, Diaz and Shields, made the move to the big show that is the UFC and the third one is probably on the way in Melendez.

Going from having one student in the UFC to having four is a welcome change for any martial arts school and Gracie has to be happy with how things are panning out for his guys.


Leon Horne is a writer for Bleacher Report and is part of the BR MMA Interview team,