Dana White on Strikeforce: There is not a list of protected fightersPosted on July 20, 2012, 02:34 PM by Mike Searson
Earlier this week, Wrestling Observer editor Dave Meltzer reported via podcast that fighters from Strikeforce were not allowed to leave the promotion for the UFC when their contracts are up: "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. That's part of their deal with keeping this alive. So these guys are stuck. 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."
Stephen Espinoza, President of Showtime Sports, fired back, saying that fighters are not forbidden to sign with the UFC once they become free agents: "That roster of talent at the point we entered into the contract is attached to our contract informationally. But all this stuff about controlling people when they're free agents and things like that, that's not true. We've got an arrangement with Strikeforce that gives us rights to Strikeforce fights while they have those fighters under contract to Strikeforce. Beyond that, the short answer is, that's sort of an issue in the contract between Strikeforce and the fighters. Not us. We're not privy to that stuff. Putting it in context, that's the case for all other MMA promotions, that's the case for all other professional sports. If you're under contract in MLS you can't go sign in the European league. If you're under contract in the NBA, you can't go sign in another league while you're under contract with the NBA. It's the same thing. While you're under contract to Strikeforce, you can't go sign a contract with another organization."
UFC President Dana White reiterated this during the pre-UFC 149 press conference (see the video below): “The reality is, and I’ve said this a million times, there is not a list of protected fighters: Rousey and this one and that one, it is the entire Strikeforce roster."
White confirmed that there is an deal in place with Showtime as long as the agreement with the company lasts, relating to former Strikeforce fighters being ineligible to move over to UFC. Current Strikeforce fighters can still leave the promotion when their contracts are up but they will not be able to to sign with the UFC until Showtime declines their option to continue airing Strikeforce: "He would have to (sign again) with Strikeforce or another promotion. We have a year or a year and a half left on that deal."