Press Release below,
Showtime Networks Inc. and world championship mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion STRIKEFORCEÂ® 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 SportsÂ®, Dana White, UFCÂ® 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, womenâ€™s featherweight champion Cris â€œCyborgâ€ Santos, womenâ€™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 networkâ€™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, â€œKing Moâ€ Lawal and Tyron Woodley are also set to compete on the televised card, whichâ€”as part of Free Preview Weekendâ€”will be available in more than 60 million households nationwide across SHOWTIME, SHOWTIME HDâ„¢ and SHOWTIME On DemandÂ®.
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 sportâ€™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.
â€œSince its advent on SHOWTIME in 2007, live mixed martial arts has always performed well with our subscribers, particularly in the younger demographics,â€ 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. â€œAs 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.
â€œThis exciting announcement could not have come at a better time,â€ he continued. â€œDuring our nationwide Free Preview Weekend a whole new crop of MMA fans will have the opportunity to sample the Strikeforce brand free of charge.â€
â€œWeâ€™re excited about this renewal with SHOWTIME and I expect to put on some big STRIKEFORCE events next year,â€ White said. â€œI never thought I would say this, but I am very much looking forward to building STRIKEFORCE and working very closely with SHOWTIME.â€
â€œSHOWTIME has been a great TV partner for us and weâ€™re happy to renew our agreement with them,â€ Coker said. â€œTogether, weâ€™ve put on some really amazing events and weâ€™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.â€
STRIKEFORCEÂ®: 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 nightâ€™s co-main event, womenâ€™s featherweight champion Cris â€œCyborgâ€ Santos meets gifted Japanese star Hiroko Yamanaka.