Gilbert Melendez, left, thoroughly dominated Shinya Aoki to retain his...

Gilbert Melendez, left, thoroughly dominated Shinya Aoki to retain his lightweight title at Strikeforce Nashville. Melendez won a 50-45 unanimous decision. (April 17, 2010) Credit: Strikeforce / Esther Lin

Strikeforce lives to see more fights, as do their fans.

Strikeforce, owned by Zuffa LLC -- the UFC's parent company -- will continue to air on Showtime in a new deal announced by all parties on Thursday.

Under this new broadcast agreement, Showtime will televise and produce up to eight live events, beginning with middleweight champion Luke Rockhold's title defense against Keith Jardine on Jan. 7. It's part of the network's free preview weekend.

Gilbert Melendez, who defends the Strikeforce lightweight title this Saturday against Jorge Masvidal, would be a natural fit to fight UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in a unification bout. But he will remain a Strikeforce fighter.

Showtime will also televise all undercard bouts live on Showtime Extreme.

Zuffa announced its purchase of Strikeforce on March 12, 2011, outbidding an undisclosed number of suitors when Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment decided to sell the Bay Area-based promotion that began with kickboxing and started with MMA fights five years ago.

At the time, Strikeforce was the UFC's main rival. Now, nine months afterward, Strikeforce champions Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem and Dan Henderson all fight in the UFC. Jake Shields, a former Strikeforce middleweight champion, also is part of the UFC.

It has become a noticeable pattern.

Zuffa also has a history of buying up the competition and absorbing them after a short while. Pride Fighting, once the premier MMA league in Japan, came under the Zuffa umbrella in March 2007. By October 2007, the Pride offices were closed.

World Extreme Championship and World Fighting Alliance were both purchased by Zuffa in December 2006. The WFA -- which owned the contractual rights to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at the time -- ceased operating immediately. In October 2010, the UFC announced it would expand to the lighter weight classes -- bantamweight and featherweight -- and absorb the WEC fighters.

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