Strikeforce: The End Is Near

Elite XC, Affliction, The IFL, and World Extreme Cagefighting: these are all MMA promotions that have vanished beneath the shadow of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Three of them are actually on a faux tombstone in the office of UFC President Dana White. Is Strikeforce next?

Strikeforce, like World Extreme Fighting (WEC) was in 2006, was recently bought by Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC. The WEC’s fighters were subsequently absorbed into the UFC’s roster after WEC 53 in December 2010, and the WEC brand was forever closed. It seems like a matter of time before Zuffa does the same with Strikeforce.

The cards have begun to fall for some time now. Media coverage of Strikeforce events has dwindled, and many of Strikeforce’s most prominent fighters have already made the jump the UFC. Before Strikeforce's September 10th event in Cincinnati, Ohio, Strikeforce fighters like Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal noticed the drop in media attention and made their voices heard.

"I was hoping there would be more people out here, more media, more questions, but really I guess ya'll don't care about us that much," Lawal said at the September pre-fight press conference.

Former UFC Heavyweight Champion and current Strikeforce employee Josh Barnett echoed Lawal's concerns.

"I'd really like it if we could get a little bit of back-up from the UFC on this," he said. "Just a blurb. I've talked to some of the fighters and the conversation has come up, why can't Dana [White] do one little video blog, one little piece saying, please come watch these fights because they're good fights?"

Want more bad news? Just look at the ever-shrinking Strikeforce roster. What do Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem, Nick Diaz, Tim Kennedy, and Cung Le have in common? They are all former Strikeforce fighters with bouts scheduled under the UFC banner in the coming months. Three of them were reigning champions when they were pulled from Strikeforce; Le is a former champion and Kennedy is a former title contender. Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez is also rumored to be UFC-bound to challenge for the title if he gets by the tough Jorge Masvidal on December 17th.

With many of its champions being pulled for greener pastures, the Strikeforce organization will soon be left on life support in a ratings sense. If their lightweight champion vacates his title as he is rumored to, Strikeforce’s biggest draw will be either Barnett or Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, their women’s welterweight champion who hasn't fought in well over a year. Neither are exactly a ratings powerhouse.

So what does it all mean? For one thing, a lot of fighters will likely lose their jobs with the inevitable merger. The champions and top contenders that haven't crossed over already will have a spot in the UFC's octagon, but where will the Scott Smith's, Pat Healy’s, KJ Noons’, and Benji Raddach’s of the world fight?

[caption id="attachment_55" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Women's MMA would take a huge hit if Strikeforce folds."][/caption]

Strikeforce's absence would also be a huge hit for women's MMA, as the promotion currently represents the biggest platform for female fighters. UFC President Dana White has been lukewarm on the idea of women competing in the UFC, saying, in an interview with, "There aren't enough good women in each division to create an entire division."

Female athletes like Santos, Miesha Tate, Sarah Kaufman, and Liz Carmouche would likely have to head for Bellator Fighting Championships, which is quickly emerging as the UFC's biggest competitor. The media conglomerate Viacom purchased a majority stake in Bellator this week, meaning the promotion will likely be broadcast on Spike TV in 2013. Currently, Bellator airs on MTV2.

According to White, the Showtime Network that currently airs most Strikeforce cards will ultimately decide the future of the company. But if the UFC keeps pulling fighters and Zuffa doesn't promote the ones who are left, it's just a matter of time before the dissolution of Strikeforce is a formality.

Imagine the MMA landscape 5 years from now. Surely the UFC will still be around. Bellator has a good shot of sticking around with the recent Viacom purchase. Japanese promotions like DREAM continue to struggle. Does anyone really see Strikeforce plugging along in the UFC's shadow in 2016? The media doesn't seem to. The fighters, like Lawal, who has been campaigning for a fight with UFC star Quinton Rampage Jackson, don't seem to either. It's getting to that point where we look at Strikeforce and say, "thanks for all the great fights," because there may not be too many more.

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