After a rollercoaster year Strikeforce’s future is finally secure after signing a new television deal with Showtime which will see the sport’s second biggest promotion continuing on the network until 2014.
The news was confirmed today at a media conference call featuring UFC president Dana White, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker and Showtime Executive VP Stephen Espinoza.
At one stage it looked almost certain that Strikeforce was on the way out with Dana White refusing to be involved in the negotiation process while a number of the promotion’s marquee stars began making the jump to the UFC.
That all changed when White suddenly did a 180 degree turn and got involved with hammering out Strikeforce’s future after Showtime’s Ken Hershman – who White had long standing issues with – left to become the president of HBO.
In total Showtime will air up to eight events a year, and in a change to the current format the prelims will now air on Showtime Extreme. The new deal will begin on January 7th with a live event featuring Luke Rockhold Vs Keith Jardine as part of a Showtime free-to-air weekend.
It was also stressed during the call that the remaining big name stars under contract at Strikeforce like lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold, Meisha Tate and Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos will all be staying put.
There will be some casualties though.
Firsly the Strikeforce’s heavyweight division is set to be shut down, though not before the conclusion of the heavyweight GP pitting Josh Barnett Vs Daniel Cormier. The winner will then have one more fight before the weight class is disbanded.
Furthermore the Strikeforce Challengers series which helped groom up and coming stars like current middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is also set to be consigned to the record books.
On a more positive note, Contrary to previous rumors two woman’s divisions at 135lbs and 145lbs will remain.
Dana White also indicated that the possibility for Strikeforce fighters to be matched up with their UFC counterparts hasn’t been ruled out.
“I never thought I would say this, but I am very much looking forward to building Strikeforce and working very closely with Showtime,” White stated.
While White is set to keep tabs on ‘the bigger picture’ for Strikeforce from now on and will be in attendance at it’s future events, Coker will remain in charge of the company’s day-to-day operations.
“Showtime has been a great TV partner for us and we’re happy to renew our agreement with them,” Coker stated in a press release. “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.”