According to company officials, Strikeforce fighters are most certainly not Strikeforce fighters for life.
But as long as Showtime broadcasts MMA with Strikeforce parent Forza – essentially, UFC parent Zuffa with a different name – the talent within its roster stays put.
"There's not a list of protected fighters – (Strikeforce women's bantamweight champ Ronda) Rousey and this one and that one," UFC president Dana White said at a pre-event press conference for UFC 149. "The reality is, and I've said this a million times, (it's) the entire Strikeforce roster."
The rumored list, which came to light earlier this week in a podcast from veteran MMA reporter Dave Meltzer, reinforced widespread sentiment that fighters in the smaller-brother promotion have a raw deal – essentially, that they're condemned to second-class status and unable to do anything about it.
Of course, some Strikeforce fighters themselves supported that idea when they complained of a lack of promotion prior to this past Saturday's "Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy," which took place in Portland, Ore.
But as White noted, the no-crossover rule is nothing new. Strikeforce fighters whose contracts expired would have to re-sign with the promotion or test the open market. What they could not do is sign with the UFC, as the industry-leader agreed not to poach Strikeforce talent while Showtime is invested in the promotion.
Prior to reaching a new broadcast agreement with the premium cable channel in December 2011, Zuffa made headlines by signing Strikeforce welterweight champ
Nick Diaz, light-heavyweight champ Dan Henderson, and heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem – after first releasing him from his Strikeforce contract.
When the new agreement was struck, White made a promise that the UFC would keep its hands off Strikeforce talent. That didn't come as music to the ears of such fighters as Gilbert Melendez, who despite being Strikeforce lightweight champion openly campaigned to cross over.
But as White would later say, "It is what it is."
"Gilbert Melendez and all the guys that are in the Strikeforce show and with Showtime, I will make this right," White said upon announcing the new broadcast deal. "They will be happy to be there. Believe me. I've got this thing worked out. I've got it figured out. It's going to be good for everybody. It's going to be good for the fighters, it's going to be good for Showtime, and it's going to be good for Strikeforce. Trust me, I got this."
Since then, White's relationship has soured with Showtime, prompting speculation that Strikeforce's lifespan might be shortened as a result. The new agreement called for one year with an open to renew for another year, according to sources with knowledge of the deal.
Several Strikeforce fighters will eventually become free agents. But Zuffa remains off the table for them.
And while there perhaps isn't an official list, there remains an official understanding between Showtime and Zuffa.
"While there's still a deal with Strikeforce and Showtime, they can't go over," White said.