NEW YORK (Dec. 15, 2011)—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, EVP 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.
“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.”