Report: Strikeforce 'folding up shop' after Jan. 2013 event, Ronda Rousey signs with UFC

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

'Sources' say female mixed martial arts (MMA) bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has made history, becoming the first female ever to sign with the UFC thanks to her current employer, Strikeforce, planning to cease operations indefinitely after holding its final event on Showtime in Jan. 2013.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White apparently wasn't kidding when he recently boasted that he was 'absolutely' committed to introducing a women's division sometime in the near future.

In fact, according to a report from TMZ.com, it's going to happen much sooner rather than possibly expected.

White has reportedly inked female Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey to a UFC contract even though the 135-pound superstar still had three fights remaining on her existing deal with the San Jose, Calif.,-based promotion. The reason she was likely permitted to prematurely switch sweaters is because Strikeforce's "stacked" event planned for Jan. 12, 2013, will apparently be its last.

Here's the skinny:

"Ronda Rousey just made MMA history ... becoming the very first female fighter to join the UFC ... Rousey -- a former U.S. Olympian -- has officially joined Dana White's MMA organization ... and automatically becomes the 135 lb women's champion ... sources say Strikeforce, which airs on Showtime, will be running its last event in January before folding up shop for good."

It's important to note that White, Strikeforce or Showtime have not commented on the accuracy (or lack thereof) of this report. However, MMAFighting.com has independently confirmed it, saying "sources close to the promotion [confirm] that both news items are in fact true and more information is expected to be released early next week."

Strikeforce has been in dire straits even before it was forced to cancel its first-ever event on Showtime last month because of an injury to its lightweight champion, Gilbert Melendez. Amidst swirling speculation that Strikeforce was on the verge of closing up shop, Showtime issued a statement that it would stage a "stacked" event in Jan. 2013.

And so far the premium cable network has been trying to do just that, recently announcing that three title fights -- Luke Rockhold vs. Lorenz Larkin, Nate Marquardt vs. Tarec Saffiedine and Gilbert Melendez vs. Pat Healy -- would top the televised main card. But, beyond January, it was unclear what would happen next.

Perhaps we now know, pending an official statement from one or all of the involved parties.

As for Rousey, no timetable for her historic Octagon debut is known at this time. In addition, it's unclear who she would fight first, but Sara McMann, Cristiane Cyborg and Miesha Tate were mentioned as possibilities.

Meow.

Be sure to stay glued to MMAmania.com for the latest breaking news as it relates to this hot topic and all others.

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