On Sunday, September 23, Strikeforce chief executive officer Scott Coker announced the cancellation of this weekend's card. It marks the second time that a Zuffa-owned event has been called off in a month.
The announcement was made after Strikeforce and Showtime officials learned that lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez had suffered a training injury and would be unable to compete in the main event. Without a strong headliner, Showtime decided not to air the remaining card.
"When Showtime informed us that it would not be airing the event, we made the difficult decision to cancel Saturday's card in Sacramento," Coker said.
While Zuffa continues to keep the UFC and Strikeforce rosters separate for the most part, it's clear that both promotions have a problem: depth. In Strikeforce's case, the heavyweight division has been disbanded, and the light heavyweight division has lost Dan Henderson to the UFC and Muhammed Lawal to suspension. The middleweight division has a couple more fights available for Luke Rockhold, but there isn't much depth there either. The welterweight division has no real contenders for Nate Marquardt's title.
Furthermore, Melendez is close to cleaning out his division. That leaves the women's 135-pounders, which has a few potential opponents for Ronda Rousey, including Liz Carmouche, Sara McMann and even Miesha Tate. Ironically, the one weigh class that Dana White says doesn't have enough depth to move to the UFC actually appears to have more opponents available for the defending champion.
With that in mind, I think that Zuffa needs to make a decision with Strikeforce. Does the company want to keep the promotion on the air with Showtime? If so, then it needs to sign more fighters or re-structure some UFC contracts and move some people over to Strikeforce. They could also invest in building up the women's 135-pound division. There are plenty of prospects out there who have been competing for Invicta and other promotions.
In fact, I've spoken with several female fighters in the past year who have noted that the flyweight division is probably the deepest in women's MMA. Strikeforce could choose to invest in that weight class, much like Bellator is doing right now.
However, if Zuffa isn't going to build Strikeforce, then I believe that the company needs to let its contract run out with Showtime and shut down the promotion. Doing so would allow Zuffa to move Strikeforce's fighters over to the UFC, which would add depth to those divisions and help maintain the organization's current event schedule. With more fighters on the UFC roster and Strikeforce shutdown, it would help reduce the risk of having another event cancelled.
I'm not going to bury Zuffa for not putting together a deep enough card, but this should never happen again. Zuffa needs to take action to avoid this problem. The fighters and the fans shouldn't have to pay for any more cancellations. It's time for Zuffa to step up and make a decision on what it's going to do with Strikeforce.
Derek Ciapala is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor for MMA. He has been published on GatewayMMA.com, UltimateApocalypse.com and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or on Twitter @dciapala.
- Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation
- Scott Coker