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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The latest Strikeforce event brings out once again the latest round of fans wanting to see the top fighters in the organization moved to the UFC. However, in a massively disappointing bit of news, it's highly unlikely that many of the top fighters in Strikeforce make their way to the Octagon anytime soon, if ever.
In his latest podcast at WrestlingObserver.com, veteran MMA reporter Dave Meltzer dropped a bit of a bomb on listeners when he went into the deal signed between Showtime and Zuffa at the end of 2011.
According to Meltzer, Showtime executives became a bit paranoid with the UFC poaching fighters like Nick Diaz, Dan Henderson, and Alistair Overeem in 2011 after purchasing Strikeforce. In reaction to that, they wrote in a clause to the new deal that would prohibit several top names in Strikeforce from fighting in the UFC as long as Showtime airs MMA. That bars several top names from being signed with the UFC even after their contracts expire, and the UFC agreed to the deal.
"They made this list of guys and they said 'these are our guys' and, even if their contract expires, they can't move to UFC," Meltzer said (transcribed by Brent Brookhouse at BloodyElbow.com). "That's part of their deal with keeping this alive. So these guys are stuck."
"[Gilbert Melendez] couldn't go to UFC. He could go to Bellator if he wanted to, but he couldn't go to the UFC... There's a list of guys, not everyone on Showtime is on the list, but Ronda Rousey is on the list, Gilbert Melendez is on the list, Luke Rockhold is on the list... It's for as long as Showtime broadcasts MMA."
Meltzer made it clear that this deal is in place for as long as Showtime broadcasts MMA events, and whether that's six months or 15 years from now, the fighters on this list are Showtime exclusive. Additionally, Meltzer said it's a deal between Zuffa and Showtime, which may not allow fighters to challenge it in court.
"They're Showtime fighters for life. Or they could leave the Zuffa organization," Meltzer said. "They can't [challenge it] because it's a contract the UFC has, it's not a fighter deal. I've had the whole thing explained to me by one of the fighters on the list."
"Zuffa isn't going to do it to be in breach of contract. The contract is between Zuffa and Showtime that this list of fighters are Showtime fighters and if they're in the Zuffa organization they will fight on Showtime."
Penick's Analysis: For all of the talk about fighter rights and how it's better to have competition to the UFC, this deal here essentially imprisons these fighters on Showtime with now chance to progress beyond that in their career. That's bad for them, and it's bad for the UFC, so it's curious that they went along with this deal. I have no idea how this could possibly be legal, or how it would stand up if one of the fighters on the list did try to challenge it, regardless of Meltzer's end comment there, but it would be up to one of them to make the move. Really, the issue comes when Strikeforce runs its course as an organization, and what happens to these fighters if there isn't another organization running on Showtime immediately thereafter.
UPDATE: Rousey's status was discussed further by Meltzer, who clarified that, at least in her case, an option would be available to fight in the UFC, but it would be subject to approval by Showtime. Per Meltzer (via BloodyElbow):
"As long as Showtime and Zuffa have a contract to broadcast events, Rousey can only fight on a UFC show if Showtime allows her to do so. She's not banned, but Showtime has to make the decision. That's why I recommended Showtime should allow her to fight on the December UFC show."
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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