Now that it’s official that Strikeforce has re-upped their deal with Showtime and will be running six to eight shows in 2012, there are still quite a few details that had to be determined.
Those details were given out during a media conference call on Thursday where UFC president Dana White, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, and Showtime Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza gave out all the particulars about the deal.
Check out the bullet points below for all the details:
The new Strikeforce will be focused on several weight classes including light heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, and lightweight, along with two women’s divisions. What’s left out is the heavyweight division, which will effectively be eliminated after just a couple more fights.
The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix will play out towards the end of the first quarter in 2012. The winner will stick around for one more major fight, and then the division will be disbanded.
“Strikeforce, we’re going to focus on our other weight classes,” said Coker. “We have a great lightweight division, welterweight, middleweight, and light heavyweight, and we’re going to focus on the women’s divisions, which you’ll see after the event with the tournament finals with Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett is you’ll see one more fight where the winner will fight a top rated heavyweight and then we’re going to go back to focusing on our other weight classes.”
None of the executives on the call could determine if the one more fight for the Heavyweight Grand Prix winner would be against a UFC heavyweight or someone else, but there will be one more fight after Barnett and Cormier square off. After that, the Strikeforce heavyweights go away forever.
As far as them moving to the UFC, White was elusive with that answer, but obviously anything could happen.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen to that yet,” White stated. “We’ll see.”
While Strikeforce employs several top fighters, none rank as high as lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, who defends his title this Saturday night against Jorge Masvidal.
Just a few short months ago, Melendez was flat out determined to be coming to the UFC, but now with this new Strikeforce deal in place, the organization’s lightweight champion is staying put. Dana White says that Melendez is happy with his deal and will continue on as Strikeforce’s champion with a smile on his face.
“I can tell you this,” said White. “Gilbert Melendez is pumped to stay in Strikeforce. He’s one of the big stars in Strikeforce. If he wins the next fight and the next fight after that, he will continue to defend his belt in Strikeforce. He’s absolutely (expletive) excited about it.”
White didn’t rule out crossover fights at some point in the future for anybody in Strikeforce, but for now Melendez is solely the champion of that organization.
The heavyweights may be going away, but the women will still have a definitive home in Strikeforce.
The weight classes will remain the same at 135 pounds and 145 pounds, and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker promises to continue to “scour the planet” for the best female fighters to fill up the divisions. White joked about the depth at 145 pounds, but still stands behind promoting the women’s divisions in the future.
“So basically what that means is we’re keeping one division and Cyborg,” White said with a laugh.
Currently within the men’s divisions that Strikeforce will continue to promote, only a middleweight and lightweight champion exist. The welterweight title was vacated after Nick Diaz shuffled off to the UFC, as well as the light heavyweight title once Dan Henderson moved on as well.
New champions will be crowned in the near future, however, but the contenders are yet to be determined.
“Basically, when you think about the fights that we’re having even this Saturday and the fights we’re having in January, it’s eventually going to lead to the title fights in the weight classes that you’re speaking about,” Coker stated. “We’re going to put some fights together and start working towards a title in each one of those divisions.”
The current roster includes Mauro Ranallo, Gus Johnson, Stephen Quadros, Pat Miletich, and Frank Shamrock. Showtime Vice President Stephen Espinoza says that all of them will have a place in the new Strikeforce agenda.
“We’re in the process of determining the pairings. It will be based on schedule and show,” said Espinoza.
The feeder series known as Strikeforce Challengers appears to be going away with the new deal, but the fighters will still have a home in the promotion, just not on that show.
The Strikeforce preliminary fights will now air on Showtime Extreme, and many of the Challengers fighters will end up in the prelims instead of fighting on separate Challengers branded events.
“What we’ve decided to do in a sense is consolidate programming. We’re going to have the preliminaries airing on (Showtime) Extreme, immediately preceding the televised main event, and primary undercard fights. Whether they’ll be called Challengers or not is still something to be discussed,” said Espinoza.
The final concern raised regarded the number of fighters under contract to Strikeforce. With the promotion going to a max of eight shows a year, will that mean that less fighters will be kept under contract?
To the contrary. White, who will be a big part of Strikeforce under this new regime, says that the fight roster will give them new opportunities to expand and work with different fighters.
“Not only will we be able to keep our roster, we’ll be able to sign more guys,” he said.
It appears the future is bright for Strikeforce for 2012 and beyond. The powers that be chose not to discuss the length of the new deal, but things kick off on Jan. 7 with the Rockhold vs. Jardine fight card, and more can be expected for Strikeforce in the following year.
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