With Fox deal ending, could Showtime be a landing place for UFC?

September 11, 2017

MMA Fighting reports that Showtime is interested in jumping back into partnership with the UFC once the company’s current rights fee is up.

In an interview last week with MMA Fighting, Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza stated that it would reach out to the UFC about being one of its broadcast partners.  Of course, since its likely that the UFC will have events on multiple platforms and multiple networks, Showtime’s concern would be what level of events it would receive for the network.

And, of course, how much it would need to pay.

Showtime worked with Zuffa in brokering a deal for the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight last month.  It appeared that there the working relationship went fairly well as the two sides were able to put together the deal in a relatively short time span.  Compare that to the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in May 2015 which seemed to have taken several years to put together.

Payout Perspective:

There are obvious details that would have to be hammered out aside from the financials.  Dana White had issues with Showtime and its production of Strikeforce once Zuffa took over.  Whether or not White has softened his stance on Showtime based on his dealings with The Money Fight is yet to be seen.  Of course, with the new ownership, we can see if WME-IMG is willing to work with Showtime.  Then again, this upcoming rights deal will be something the company expects to be lucrative and whether Showtime is willing to pay for it is something to be seen.  I would expect other bidders competing including Fox (which ended or is at the end of an exclusive negotiating window), Turner Sports, NBC Universal and Amazon.

Rebney out as Bellator head, Coker to step in

June 18, 2014

Bjorn Rebney and Tim Danaher have left Bellator as Scott Coker is slated to replace Rebney as the head of the promotion.  Viacom announced that Rebney and former president and CEO Danaher are done with the promotion effective immediately.

UPDATE 06/18/14: Viacom and Bellator have made it official: Scott Coker is your new president of Bellator MMA.

Josh Gross had the initial report first:

MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani added on to the report:

After the announcement, Rebney issued a statement via Jason Floyd:

Via MMA Fighting:

“I would like to thank Bjorn and Tim on behalf of Spike and Viacom for their dedication and hard work building Bellator from the ground up,” Spike TV president Kevin Kay stated. “They worked tirelessly in getting Bellator to where it is today. They were great partners to work with and we wish them all the best,” said Kevin Kay, Spike TV.

With Rebney and Danaher’s departure, Scott Coker is said to replace Rebney as the head of the promotion via MMA Fighting.  As we all know, Coker was the head of Strikeforce since 1985 when it began as a kickboxing promotion.

The move was discussed earlier in the week according to MMA Fighting and it was a matter of waiting out Coker’s non-compete with Zuffa, which purchased Strikeforce, for him to be hired.

Payout Perspective:

An interesting move by Viacom although there was much speculation about this shakeup for a while.  Rebney did a lot for the company and its first PPV did much better than expected garnering over 100,000 PPV buys despite losing the main event.  Rebney, the original founder, has received his share of criticism throughout his tenure for the organization.  We shall see what the appointment of Coker means for the company and whether it means a shift in direction for the company.

Strikeforce last event: 310,000 viewer average

January 15, 2013

MMA Junkie reports the ratings for Saturday night’s Strikeforce event averaged just 310,00 viewers a household rating of 0.82.  It was the second lowest rating for an “Arena Series” since 2011

The end of Strikeforce mercifully came to an end as the card which suffered from injuries and one postponement finally occurred.

250px-StrikeforceLogo

Via MMA Junkie:

Strikeforce’s five 2012 events averaged 446,000 viewers. Strikeforce’s eight events in 2011 drew an average of 521,000 viewers. The previous event, “Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman,” scored 529,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

Poor ratings considering it occurred during a free preview weekend on Showtime which presumably gave the event a chance for a broader audience.  Unfortunately, at least for DirecTV subscribers, HBO, Starz, Cinemax and HBO also held a free preview weekend as well. Thus it may have created an overload of things to choose from.  Couple that with the NFL Playoff game between the 49ers versus the Packers and there may have been other distractions from Strikeforce’s last show.

Also, the fact that Strikeforce has not held an event since August hurt.  It had no presence on television (i.e., shoulder programming) and thus lacked any buzz for the event.  It felt like the last game of the regular season for a team that didn’t make the playoffs.

Strikeforce salaries has War Master on top

January 14, 2013

MMA Junkie reports the final Strikeforce salaries for Saturday’s event.  Josh Barnett topped the list of earners with $250,000

Via MMA Junkie as released by the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission:

Tarec Saffiedine: $39,000 (includes $19,500 win bonus)
def. Nate Marquardt: $40,000

Daniel Cormier: $120,000 (includes $60,000 win bonus)
def. Dion Staring: $8,000

Josh Barnett: $250,000 (no win bonus)
def. Nandor Guelmino: $12,000

Gegard Mousasi: $175,000 (no win bonus)
def. Mike Kyle: $25,000

Ronaldo Souza: $100,500 (includes $28,000 win bonus)
def. Ed Herman: $34,000

Ryan Couture: $22,000 (includes $7,000 win bonus)
def. KJ Noons: $41,000

Tim Kennedy: $80,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Trevor Smith: $8,000

Pat Healy: $42,000 (includes $15,000 win bonus)
def. Kurt Holobaugh: $9,000

Roger Gracie: $94,000 (includes $47,000 win bonus)
def. Anthony Smith: $10,000

Adriano Martins: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)
def. Jorge Gurgel: $10,000

Estevan Payan: $12,000 (includes $6,000 win bonus)
def. Michael Bravo: $6,000

Payout Perspective:

Some high priced fighters on this very last Strikeforce card:  Barnett and Mousasi with six figure show salaries. Daniel Cormier and Ronaldo Souza made six figures with their win bonuses.  Its interesting to see Barnett with such a high purse.  Also, Roger Gracie receiving a $47,000/$47,000 deal.  We’ll see how many on this roster will make the UFC.

Cormier signs with Cage Fighter

January 6, 2013

Strikeforce Heavyweight Daniel Cormier, has signed with the Cage Fighter Athletic Brand.  The surprising winner of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, Cormier should have a shirt, shorts and banner representing the brand on Saturday night.

Undefeated in MMA, the former Olympic wrestler was sponsored by Cage Fighter in 2008.  According to the Cage Fighter web site, Lutte Licensing Group (which owns Cage Fighter) signed an exclusive licensing, sponsoring and marketing agreement with Cormier.

Daniel Cormier

(H/t:  Fighterxfashion)

Payout Perspective:

Its a multi-fight deal for Cormier and we should see him wearing the “Embrace the Grind” motto for the brand Saturday night in the last Strikeforce event ever.  Cormier appears to be an affable guy (based on watching “The Fight Factory”) with a good background in amateur wrestling and should be an asset for the brand.  Depending on where he lands in weight class, he could be a force in the UFC.

Top 10 of 2012: No. 2 The end of Strikeforce

December 31, 2012

MMA Payout’s No. 2 business story of 2012 is the demise of Strikeforce.  January 12th will be the end of the organization after 27 years of existence and 7 as an MMA promotion.

The purchase of Strikeforce by Zuffa was for a reported $40 million and repayment of debt.  Dana White has denied Zuffa trying to dissolve the company once it was acquired but the acquisition saw fighters moving over to the UFC.  With the purchase, management changed (although Scott Coker was still in “charge,” White oversaw the operations) and with that change it included an end to Strikeforce Challengers.  With two canceled events in September and November and the UFC signing of Ronda Rousey, the writing was on the wall.

250px-StrikeforceLogo

When White eliminated himself from talks with Showtime to extend the Strikeforc e contract due to the adverse relationship he had with its execs, it was apparent that this would be a detriment to the existence of the company.   And then the last straw may have been Showtime nixing changes White wanted for Strikeforce: Columbus.

According to MMA Junkie, Showtime and Zuffa each have rights to the Strikeforce library.  White was vague as to the duration of Showtime’s rights.  Showtime may gain some ratings with reruns of Ronda Rousey and Alistair Overeem fights but we will have to wait and see as to what Showtime will do with the library rights.

It was unlikely that Strikeforce could compete in the long run with the UFC prior to the purchase.   The concept that Strikeforce could operate as a separate entity but still owned by Zuffa was not likely either.  The best that could have happened was that it be a minor league to the UFC.  But, with the number of UFC events increasing, the Strikeforce niche became smaller and smaller.  It also became a losing proposition.  For Zuffa, it was a smart business decision to close the promotion and move over fighters it thought talented enough to bring to the UFC.

Strikeforce officially announces last event

December 22, 2012

Strikeforce officially announced that its next event set for January 12th will be its last. The event will be held during Showtime’s “free preview” weekend.

Via Strikeforce Press Release:

STRIKEFORCE® welterweight champion and seasoned UFC® veteran Nate Marquardt will defend his title against current number one contender Tarec Saffiedine on Saturday, Jan. 12as STRIKEFORCE® visits Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. In the night’s co-main event, Oklahoma State University All-American wrestler and STRIKEFORCE Grand Prix heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier takes on kickboxing veteran Dion Staring. The event will air live on SHOWTIME at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast) as part of the premium network’s Free Preview Weekend whereby more than 80 million households nationwide will have access to SHOWTIME, SHOWTIME HD, SHOWTIME ON DEMAND and more.

 In addition to the main and co-main events, STRIKEFORCE® will also feature the following matchups that include several past champions and many of the sports top prospects:

·         Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett meets Austrian powerhouse Nandor Guelmino

·         Former light heavyweight champ Gegard Mousasi takes on the heavy-handed Mike Kyle

·         Former middleweight champ “Jacare” Souza faces UFC star Ed Herman

·         Top lightweight contender Pat Healy will be in action against an opponent yet to be determined

·         Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Roger Gracie takes on talented striker Anthony Smith at middleweight

·         U.S. Army Ranger Tim Kennedy vs. Trevor Smith in a fight involving top middleweights

·         Elite kickboxer KJ Noons meets second-generation star Ryan Couture in a lightweight matchup

·         Cincinnati’s Jorge Gurgel is set to battle Brazilian prospect Adriano Martins at lightweight

·         At lightweight, winner of four straight Estevan Payan vs. Team Alpha Male’s Michael Bravo

Payout Perspective:

We’ve known about this for some time but the press release confirms the end of the organization.  The good news is the announcements that Strikeforce fighters filling up UFC cards.  While the demise of the organization was rumored once it was purchased by Zuffa, key injuries causing the cancellation of a couple events this past year and the UFC signing of Ronda Rousey made it known that Strikeforce would inevitably cease operations.  The free preview on Showtime the weekend of the event should help with ratings in its final show.

Strikeforce card announced; Rousey to UFC?

November 8, 2012

Strikeforce announced that it will hold a card January 12th in Oklahoma City which will feature all of the Strikeforce champs in the men’s division.  There is also a rumor that Ronda Rousey is officially a member of the UFC roster.

The announced matches via Strikeforce Press Release:

•    Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez (champion) vs. Pat Healy for the STRIKEFORCE lightweight title
•    Luke Rockhold (champion) vs. Lorenz Larkin for the STRIKEFORCE middleweight title
•    Nate Marquardt (champion) vs. Tarec Saffiedine for the STRIKEFORCE welterweight title
•    Daniel Cormier (Grand Prix champion, OSU All-American) vs. Dion Staring

“We’ve built an absolutely stacked card for Oklahoma City and the SHOWTIME viewers,” STRIKEFORCE CEO Scott Coker said. “We have three awesome title fights featuring some of the best fighters to ever grace the STRIKEFORCE cage. Plus, we have Daniel Cormier, one of the fastest-rising heavyweight stars today, returning to his roots in Oklahoma to fight Dion Staring. January 12 is going to be a really special night.”

While Melendez, Rockhold, Marquardt and Cormier will all fight on the card.  Strikeforce’s only recognized women’s champion, Ronda Rousey, may have moved on.

TMZ reports that Rousey is the first female to sign with the UFC.  The news would not be surprising considering Dana White hinting to media recently  that he had changed his mind about women’s MMA due in large part to Rousey.  The armbar specialist was featured in this week’s Sports Illustrated.

Payout Perspective:

With Rousey left off this card (for now), the speculation that she is now a member of the UFC makes sense and a fight with Cyborg Santos could be the first women’s MMA match in the UFC. Undoubtedly, that fight would be the co-main event of its Memorial Day or July 4th weekend card.

No confirmation on whether this will be the last card for Strikeforce and I don’t expect an announcement until we get closer to the date.  The January show may be a way to fulfill the cancellation of its last show and not a new contract for 2013.   If Strikeforce were to cease operations after the January card, it would leave many Strikeforce fighters looking for work.  The UFC could sign most of these fighters considering the need to find fighters for the growing number of events around the world and quality replacements for the inevitable injury.

Rousey to UFC?

October 25, 2012

MMA Fighting reports on Dana White’s interview with Sports Illustrated on Tuesday where he indicated that women’s MMA will be heading to the UFC.  The reason for the move is due to Strikeforce Women’s Champ Ronda Rousey.

White was an opponent of women’s MMA in the UFC and affirmed his position when Zuffa purchased Strikeforce.  However, it appears that White has changed course based upon the popularity of Rousey.

via Wikimedia Commons

White indicated that there is no time frame for this and Rousey’s manager stated that she still has three fights left on her Strikeforce contract.

Payout Perspective:

With the addition of events in 2013, its plausible to argue that the UFC will need attractive fights to fill its cards.  Rousey is a hot commodity in MMA as she has built an impressive resume in a short timeframe.  And she’s finished her opponents with an armbar – her signature move.   Moreover, and most importantly, she is an outgoing, attractive female that is a good ambassador for the sport.  But, the question will be whether viewers will be interested in Rousey.  And if so, will they be interested in women’s MMA as a whole.

While many MMA enthusiasts are fine with the blood and bruising involved in a men’s match, how many casual viewers will be fine seeing a women busted open?  Sure, MMA purists will point to the fact that its sport and if you don’t like it don’t watch it.  But, the point of including Rousey in the UFC is that you want to attract viewers.

Will the decision to bring in women’s MMA help the UFC?  Or, does it mean that Strikeforce is on its way out?  While we can argue the overarching question of whether women’s MMA would appeal to an audience, the more practical question is whether the move means the demise of Strikeforce?

The argument that Strikeforce may be on life support is buttressed by the fact it has cancelled its last two events due to injuries to its main events.  It has pointed to 2013 as its next event but nothing has been made official.  Moving Rousey, and women’s MMA to the UFC would be a sign that the organization could be sunsetting in the near future.  Without Rousey, there is no women’s MMA in Strikeforce.

If Rousey headlines or co-main event’s a UFC card, would it speak to the advancement of gender equality in MMA or the popularity of one?  Invicta FC has shown that there is an audience for women’s MMA.  Rousey drew the biggest ratings for Strikeforce on Showtime this year.  And she has shown a penchant for promoting fights.  It will be interesting to see how UFC and Fox handles the issue if and when it happens.

November 3rd Strikeforce Event Cancelled

October 12, 2012

Strikeforce announced via press release today that it is cancelling its November 3rd event from Oklahoma City.  The press release stated that the organization’s next event would be in January 2013.

Daniel Cormier versus UFC Heavyweight Frank Mir was to be the main event for this card.  However, Mir pulled out and a replacement was never officially mentioned.  Middleweight Luke Rockhold was to have defended his title on the card but had to pull out due to injury.

This makes it the second straight Strikeforce card to be cancelled as it had to put down the late-September card when Gilbert Melendez went down with an injury.

Payout Perspective:

Without Ronda Rousey, Strikeforce may have already closed up shop.  The cancellation does damage to the organization since it has not been able to put on a show since August and will not have another until January 2013.  Thus, many fighters are going to be without fights for a substantial amount of time.  The cancellation must bring into question the organization’s relationship with Showtime and what to expect from it in the future.

But, with the cancellation, it should bolster viewers for the debut of the World Series of Fighting set for NBC Sports Network on November 3rd.

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