Strikeforce & Showtime Reach New TV Deal For 2012
December 15, 2011
It has been speculated for months, but it was finally made official today. Strikeforce and Showtime have reached an agreement to televise live MMA for 2012, starting with the January 7th event headlined by Keith Jardine vs Luke Rockhold, which will air during a free preview weekend for the premium cable TV network.
Showtime Networks Inc. and world championship mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion STRIKEFORCE® have entered into a new broadcast agreement to continue producing live MMA events on the premium television network, SHOWTIME. The agreement was announced jointly today by Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager, SHOWTIME Sports®, Dana White, UFC® President, and Scott Coker, STRIKEFORCE CEO.
Under the new agreement, SHOWTIME will produce and televise up to eight live events. STRIKEFORCE athletes such as lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, women’s featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Santos, women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate and other world-class MMA fighters will continue to compete for the organization on SHOWTIME.
The new deal kicks off during the network’s Free Preview Weekend, Saturday, Jan. 7, as champion Rockhold defends the STRIKEFORCE 185-pound title against dangerous veteran Keith Jardine at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, live on SHOWTIME at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Notable STRIKEFORCE contenders such as Robbie Lawler, “King Mo” Lawal and Tyron Woodley are also set to compete on the televised card, which—as part of Free Preview Weekend—will be available in more than 60 million households nationwide across SHOWTIME, SHOWTIME HD™ and SHOWTIME On Demand®.
Beginning with the Jan. 7 card, SHOWTIME will also televise undercard fights for all STRIKEFORCE events live on SHOWTIME EXTREME. The live SHO Extreme preliminary telecasts will afford network subscribers with expanded live fight coverage by up to two hours and provide invaluable exposure for the sport’s next generation of STRIKEFORCE contenders.
Under the new deal, the World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament champion will be determined when Josh Barnett battles Daniel Cormier. The winner will compete again on SHOWTIME under the STRIKEFORCE banner in the months to follow.
“Since its advent on SHOWTIME in 2007, live mixed martial arts has always performed well with our subscribers, particularly in the younger demographics,” said Espinoza, who now heads the division of the network responsible for programming live boxing, studio shows from National Football League and NASCAR as well as multiple sports documentary series. “As the one and only premium network in the MMA business, we are proud to renew our commitment to the sport and to our partners at Strikeforce. This agreement ensures that we can continue to deliver the edge-of-your-seat programming that each live MMA event produces in the New Year and beyond.
“This exciting announcement could not have come at a better time,” he continued. “During our nationwide Free Preview Weekend a whole new crop of MMA fans will have the opportunity to sample the Strikeforce brand free of charge.”
“We’re excited about this renewal with SHOWTIME and I expect to put on some big STRIKEFORCE events next year,” White said. “I never thought I would say this, but I am very much looking forward to building STRIKEFORCE and working very closely with SHOWTIME.”
“SHOWTIME has been a great TV partner for us and we’re happy to renew our agreement with them,” Coker said. “Together, we’ve put on some really amazing events and we’re going to keep doing that with this new deal. We have a great core of talented fighters on our roster and MMA fans are in for a real treat.”
STRIKEFORCE®: MELENDEZ vs. MASVIDAL airs live on SHOWTIME this Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on West Coast) as lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez defends the title against hard-hitting contender Jorge Masvidal. In the night’s co-main event, women’s featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Santos meets gifted Japanese star Hiroko Yamanaka.
There are many aspects to consider here as to who the winners and losers are in this deal. Women’s MMA is a big winner as it now has secured a home for at least all of next year. If Strikeforce was shut down, Dana White said he would not have had women fighting in the UFC. The losers here are the current Strikeforce fighters who wanted to cross over to the UFC, such as Gilbert Melendez, Jacare, Tim Kennedy, and King Mo Lawal, who appear to be staying in Strikeforce to give the brand and the network some meaningful fights.
Here are some other notes from the press conference:
- Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine event on January 7th held in Las Vegas, will air on Showtime’s free-preview weekend, which will makesthe channel available for free to more than 60M homes.
- Showtime says the Strikeforce deal does not preclude extending their deal with M-1, but they will be focusing on Strikeforce now.
- After the HW GP is completed, Zuffa will remove the HW division in Strikeforce. The winner of the HW GP will fight one more time under the Strikeforce banner and then the HW division will be removed. A handful of HW’s will transfer over to the UFC i.e. Fabricio Werdum vs Roy Nelson.
- Scott Coker will continue to be the front man for Strikeforce, although Dana White will oversee Strikeforce and will attend events. White will also be involved creatively with Showtime and discuss production. He states that its a partnership between Showtime and Zuffa, so changes will be coming.
- Strikeforce will begin to crown new champions soon, starting with the Welterweight and Light Heavyweight divisions.
- They will keep 145 lbs solely for Cyborg and 135 lbs for the rest of the female division, although Zuffa believes there is no depth in the 145 lbs division.
- Showtime will televise up to 8 Strikeforce events in 2012 with prelims airing on Showtime Extreme. No more Challenger events.
- Prelims will air 5-7 PM on Showtime Extreme, followed by the main card live on Showtime. Showtime will record prelims on Saturday, so if the main card ends quick, prelims will air.
- Dana White states that Strikeforce will not be a secondary brand and their champs will be viewed as legit.
- Fight bonuses not decided yet, but it looks like they are leaning to finally adding those next year.
- Between TUF, UFC events on FOX, FX, and FUEL and now with the addition of Showtime, there will be around 50 events in 2012.