Showtime Network Still Looking For MMA Partner, Invicta A Possibility

Gilbert Melendez punches Jorge Masvidal during the Strikeforce event at the Valley View Casino Center on December 17, 2011 in San Diego, California.

Gilbert Melendez punches Jorge Masvidal during the Strikeforce event at the Valley View Casino Center on December 17, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (2011 Josh Hedges/Forza LLC)

Showtime was once a main outlet for Mixed Martial Arts fans.

Fans of the sport would tune to the cable channel to watch Strikeforce cards, something many fans believed was only second to Ultimate Fighting Championship’s presentations.

Then, in 2011, the UFC’s parent company Zuffa LLC purchased Strikeforce, raiding some talent and the entire heavyweight division before disagreements with Showtime led to the UFC absorbing the brand and cutting short their deal with the network.

The final Strikeforce event fell on New Years day.

So far this year, there has been no new MMA on Showtime, but their sport's General Manager  Stephen Espinoza says they’re not looking to stay out of the MMA game for very long.

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“We’d like to get back in the MMA business,” Espinoza told Fox News Latino at a press event in New York for Floyd Mayweather Jr. –Saul “Canelo” Alvarez boxing event.  “The hesitation right now is… because we’re investigating the market.”

Originally, Showtime and Zuffa LLC planned to boost the Strikeforce brand together.

Fans and analysts expected an absorption similar to Zuffa’s purchase of World Extreme Cagefighting, or WEC.  UFC president and Zuffa denied that was the intention.

White originally pledged to be more involved with Strikeforce – but later backtracked on his comments amid reports of disagreements with Showtime.

“I’m out. I’m 100 percent UFC,” White tweeted last year.

Espinoza said it wasn’t the right fit at the time.

“The opportunity we had wasn’t really the right one in Strikeforce, once it was acquired by Zuffa,” said Espinoza.

The paid cable network has since focused more on their boxing programming, moving ahead of HBO and doubling their boxing programming by “200 percent” according to Espinoza.

As to why Showtime hasn’t aligned themselves with any new organizations, Espinoza said he believes it’s because there may be too much MMA out there right now. But, he said, they’re still investigating.

“The hesitation right now is really we’re investigating the market,” said Espinoza. “The real question is… given the TV landscape as it stands now, the MMA landscape, is there a demand for more MMA on television? I have my doubts because there’s quite a few hours already being programmed.”

The UFC’s Fox network deal is closing in on two years of a seven-year agreement and the organization is a foundation sport for the launch of cable sports channel Fox Sports 1. Bellator MMA’s majority stake is owned by Viacom, which airs its programming on Spike TV and the World Series Of Fighting is hanging around on the NBC Sports Network.

As for whether or not Invicta FC, an all woman’s MMA promotion that been creating buzz recently, is an option for the network, Espinoza spoke highly of them and said “it’s possible.”

“[Invicta] knows how to make noise and do good sized events on a budget,” Espinoza said.  “It would be interesting to see what they can do on a bigger platform.”

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