OFFICIAL: Showtime and ZUFFA sign a new deal for Strikeforce

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    Showtime-Zuffa-Strikeforce deal in bullets:

    * Gilbert Melendez and other champions (up to Light Heavyweight) will remain with the promotion

    * Strikeforce Heavyweight division will be eliminated. Barnett/Cormier will fight only once more after their Heavyweight Tournament bout, and then (presumably) moving to the UFC with other Strikeforce heavies.

    * Strikeforce will have 8 live MMA events in 2012

    * Strikeforce Challengers will be eliminated

    * Women’s 135lbs and 145lbs divisions will remain active

    OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE:

    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, 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.”

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    • http://lowkickmma.com/author/DavidSaucier David Saucier

      The should consolidate the 135, and 145 div into a 140 div make it easier for Cyborg to make weight and find oppenents instead of cutting down to 135, Rousey would benefit as well.

    • http://lowkickmma.com/author/51JD51 51JD51

      Well we’ll see how long this lasts for, Melendez and all the other guys will still be looking to jump ship as quick as possible (not to mention the fans want to see them in the UFC) then they better have some sort of alternative planned.

    • http://lowkickmma.com/author/Fletcherx Fletcherx

      This is a way to insure Fedor never fights for zuffa, moving the heavyweights division out of the organization and into the UFC will mean Fedor has only one place to go if he wants to fight for the big show, And if his managers won’t agree with the terms Zuffa offers then Fedor will never fight the top guys again.

    • http://lowkickmma.com/author/UnderdogGreatness UnderdogGreatness

      Gilbert Melendez may just lose his mind after this new deal, especially if he is going to remain on the Strikeforce roster.

    • http://lowkickmma.com/author/jdnextchamp jdnextchamp

      Eight events is not that much, I mean, they have less fighters but I don’t think it’s a great way to promote the organization. But seen in another way, every card will be stacked. One or two title fights for every event.

    • http://lowkickmma.com/author/KeyboardContender Keyboard Contender

      good idea, but theres always serious nagging when a women’s weight is being discussed lol

    • http://lowkickmma.com/author/toxic toxic

      interesting…
      zuffa is buing up other promotions just to shut them down slowly…

    • http://lowkickmma.com/author/computerjiujitsubb computerjiujitsubb

      yep this sounds very familiar. pretty much the same thing they did to the WEC. take them over eliminate bigger weight classes. once the average public begins to take notice of some of the Strikeforce stars (because they are under zuffa) shut em down and bring all the real talent to the UFC.

    • http://lowkickmma.com/author/51JD51 51JD51

      Although I agree that’s going to happen, I truly doubt this went through anyone’s mind when making that decision.

    • http://lowkickmma.com/author/Fletcherx Fletcherx

      Oh no, i know haha, but it’s what went through my mind thinking of all the heavyweights that have had contractual issues with zuffa before, making it so we’ll never see them in either strikeforce or UFC. I’m not a fan of bellator, although they do have some talent in the lower weight classes, and BAMMA is just something i never really get to see being in Canada. We’ll see though..