The kickboxing/mixed martial arts promotion Strikeforce was among the earliest precursors of the MMA phenomenon which is now taking the sports world by storm. Founded in San Jose, California in 1985, Strikeforce was exclusively a kickboxing organization until 2006, when it hosted its first MMA event. It was eventually acquired by Zuffa LLC, the parent company which owns the Ultimate Fighting Championships. It was fully absorbed by the UFC in early 2013.
Over its history, Strikeforce held a total of 63 official events. Most were held in the western United States, with the outfit’s top-drawing card taking place in San Jose in 2006. That Strikeforce event, held at the HP Pavilion, home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, attracted over 18,000 fans.
Strikeforce supported seven different divisions: five for men and two for women. Men competed in heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight and lightweight classes, while women fought as featherweights and bantamweights. It was also unique in that it limited non-championship matches to three rounds of five minutes each, while title bouts went for up to five rounds of five minutes each. Unified MMA rules applied from 2006 until the organization became defunct.
Zuffa LLC bought Strikeforce in March of 2011, originally intending to run Strikeforce as a separate promotion, much like it had planned to do with Pride FC. However, logistical issues prevented that vision from becoming a reality, and by January of 2013, Strikeforce was officially defunct. Its remaining competitors and officials were absorbed by the UFC.
Strikeforce left behind an impressive legacy which saw some of the most talented mixed martial artists in the world compete under its banner. Its final champions were Daniel Cormier (heavyweight), Dan Henderson (light heavyweight), Luke Rockhold (middleweight), Tarec Saffiedine (welterweight) and Gilbert Melendez (lightweight). Featherweight Cristiane Santos and bantamweight Ronda Rousey were its last female title holders.