Middleweight Derek Brunson has only fought a single time for Strikeforce in the past year, suffering a knockout loss less than a minute into his August outing against Ronaldo Souza. The defeat was his second straight, dropping his overall record to 9-2.

However, despite his recent struggles and the murky future of Strikeforce, it appears Showtime isn’t interested in letting the 28-year old explore other options. According to Brunson, he was offered a spot on the Ultimate Fighter 17 but was denied as a result of the network’s interference.

“As you all know I tried out for The Ultimate Fighter, made the show, flew to Vegas yesterday, weighed in today, (and) filming was about to start. Showtime network called and said they wouldn’t release me from my Strikeforce contract, so no TUF for me,” wrote Brunson this week on his Twitter page. “I want to thank FOX for being such professionals in trying to handle the situation. Back to the drawing board.”

While Showtime’s interest in maintaining the services of Strikeforce champions like Ronda Rousey and Gilbert Melendez is understandable, playing hardball with a fighter like Brunson seems to support talk that Zuffa’s relationship with Showtime is strained.

Showtime also played a significant role in the cancellation of Strikeforce’s last two cards, feeling as though a number of significant injuries had weakened both lineups to the point the broadcaster decided to pass on airing either event. Strikeforce is expected to return to the small screen in January with a stacked lineup, though it’s unknown if Brunson will be part of the show or forced to sit idly by while waiting to see what happens after the company’s effort.

TUF 17 is tabbed to be one of the UFC’s more-successful seasons, as light heavyweight title-holder Jon Jones and outspoken contender Chael Sonnen will each serve as coaches before facing off for Jones’ belt in late April.