It’s been a long time since Strikeforce women’s middleweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Santos last fought, and the bad news is it doesn’t look like Cyborg is going to defend her title anytime soon, if ever.

Her absence in the cage can be attributed to a number of things including opponent issues and the Zuffa acquisition process, but the biggest obstacle right now appears to be contract negotiations. The two sides have been negotiating for quite awhile now, and as of earlier this week Cyborg reportedly became a free agent before they could agree on terms. Cage Potato broke the news:

A source we spoke to today received confirmation from Cyborg’s management that Zuffa’s exclusive negotiation period with the 10-1 Curitiba, Brazil fighter ended yesterday and that the parent company of Strikeforce and the UFC failed to come to terms with the Strikeforce women’s middleweight champ before she became a free agent at the stroke of midnight.

According to Santos’ former manager Ken Pavia who helped negotiate the deal that was fulfilled with her last fight with Jan Finney on June 26, 2010, there was a champion’s clause in her contract, which he said he thought would extend her deal. But according to another we spoke to who is close to the situation,  the clause had a one-year expiration date and when Strikeforce failed to re-sign her or offer her a fight by June 26, they waived their right to exercise the option.

MMA Fighting confirmed the report with their sources and added that Cyborg is very close to scheduling a fight in Brazil outside Strikeforce.

On Tuesday, reported that Cyborg is now a free agent. When reached by MMA Fighting, Cyborg’s camp declined any comment on her contract status. Sources with knowledge of the situation, however, say that in fact, June 26 was the deadline to finalize a new deal, and the date came and went with little dialogue.

Before time ever ran out on her deal though, Cyborg (10-1) was looking at other options. Cyborg’s contract was exclusive to the U.S., giving her the opportunity to scour for fights elsewhere around the world. A source with knowledge of the situation told MMA Fighting that a previously rumored August 6 fight in Brazil has been “green-lit” and that though her opponent has not been finalized, she is contracted to compete at the event and is currently in the midst of training camp.

Despite the likelihood that she’ll fight elsewhere in the meantime, Cyborg’s camp hopes to eventually reach a new deal with Strikeforce, but they aren’t exactly optimistic that it’s going to happen. In fact, one of MMA Fighting’s sources told them, “To be honest, I just don’t see it happening.”

It’s unclear how far apart the two sides are in negotiations. Cyborg only made $35,000 after bonuses when she defeated Jan Finney in her last fight at Strikeforce “Fedor vs. Werdum.” I think we can all agree she deserves more than that considering she’s the top female fighter in MMA and a current champion, but the question is how much? Clearly, Strikeforce and the Cyborg camp can’t agree on that answer.

Image via Esther Lin for Strikeforce/Showtime