The gutting of Strikeforce continues and the final blow may be coming sooner than expected. Even with a scheduled title shot on the table, the UFC is ready to sign Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez immediately to the UFC.
This is pretty much the death blow in my opinion to Strikeforce. Remember when Zuffa purchased Strikeforce about seven months ago and everyone said it would be business as usual? Well as we know now that was all lies. Since buying the company, Zuffa has either moved or cut all of Strikeforce’s top draws but one. And according to Dana White, he is next to go.
Dana White dropped a bombshell over the weekend when he announced that plans were underway to move Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez to the UFC immediately. According to White, Melendez would not only move immediately but he could receive the first title shot at the winner of Saturday’s Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard UFC lightweight title fight.
“(Getting an immediate title shot is) a possibility. The thing is, that division is so stacked. And usually timing has a lot to do with (who gets the next shot).”
That is big news on a few different levels. One, Melendez has a scheduled fight on the table for December 17 against Jorge Masvidal. If White follows through on his plan, the fight would be scrapped. That would leave the Strikeforce show without a main-event. That would also leave four out of five of Strikeforce’s male championships vacant.
Melendez was the first champion to fight in Strikeforce after the company was purchased by Zuffa. After beating Tatsuya Kawajiri back in April, Melendez immediately called out the UFC lightweight champion and demanded a champion vs. champion fight. He was the first fighter to do that in a public forum following the sale. So it should be of no surprise to anyone that Melendez would welcome the move.
“It’s exciting that the boss definitely wants me over to the UFC, because it’s definitely a good move for me,” Melendez said. “As far as I’m concerned (Jorge) Masvidal is the next guy on my list, and I’m focusing 100-percent on him, so before I get too excited, I’m just focusing on tearing that guy up. But definitely my goal is to be in the UFC, so if we can get that there sooner than later, I’m all for it.”
I think this move is about two things. One of course would be injecting some star power into the lightweight division. It is an extremely talented division, but it is in desperate need of a superstar now that BJ Penn has gone back to welterweight.
Two and probably most important, pulling Melendez from Strikeforce would more or less force Showtime’s hand when it comes to renewing its deal with Strikeforce. The deal coming due and Showtime has the option to renew. With Zuffa moving the UFC programming to Fox, it would be natural to want to move any remaining Strikeforce broadcasts to the network. That won’t happen as long as there is a deal in place with Showtime. With Melendez gone, there isn’t much left for Showtime to promote, hence the deal would likely not be renewed.
I am a big Melendez fan and I think he has big potential to be a household name in the UFC. He has the charisma, the personality, and he fights exciting fights. While I don’t think Edgar/Maynard vs. Melendez is anything that will do big business, it is something that could appeal to hardcore MMA fans in 2012, thus making Melendez an immediate hit in the UFC.
I also would not be shocked to see Melendez walk into the octagon Saturday night and issue the open challenge directly to the UFC lightweight champion. As a matter of a fact, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.
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