Strikeforce and Showtime officially announced their new deal on Thursday that keeps the UFC-owned promotion on the premium channel for eight events per year beginning with “Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine” on January 7, which will be available to more than 60 million households as part of a free preview weekend.
Strikeforce will now be dropping its heavyweight division to focus on lighter weight classes and women’s divisions, but Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett will still meet in the finals of Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix early next year and may fight one more time for the promotion before likely moving to the UFC.
Strikeforce will also discontinue its prospect-focused Strikeforce Challengers series, but Strikeforce prelims will now air live on Showtime Extreme. New champions will be crowned in the welterweight and light heavyweight divisions in the coming months after Nick Diaz and Dan Henderson respectively returned to the UFC.
Strikeforce and the UFC will combine for at least 40 events in 2012, not including live fights from The Ultimate Fighter on FX.
Strikeforce returns on Saturday with lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez taking on Jorge Masvidal and women’s featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos facing Hiroko Yamanaka, while middleweight champion Luke Rockhold meets UFC veteran Keith Jardine in the Jan. 7 main event.
Pictured: Gilbert Melendez