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Strikeforce and Showtime Announce New Broadcast Agreement For 2012 (Update)

It’s official. Strikeforce lives, at least for now.

Strikeforce and Showtime announced today that they have reached a new broadcast agreement that will kick off on Jan. 7 with Strikeforce “Rockhold vs. Jardine.”

According to the press release, the Showtime will produce and broadcast up to eight live events in 2012 with the prelims airing on Showtime Extreme. It was also noted that Strikeforce champions Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold, Cris Cyborg, Miesha Tate and the Heavyweight Grand Prix champion (Josh Barnett or Daniel Cormier) will continue to fight for Strikeforce in 2012.

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.

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 [Stephen] 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.”

A conference call with Showtime Sports Executive Vice President and General Manager Stephen Espinoza, UFC President Dana White and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is scheduled for 3pm ET today. We’ll update this post with additional details following the call.

Update: Notes from the conference call via Ariel Helwani, Mike Chiappetta, MMA Fighting, MMA Weekly and USA Today:

  • No more Challenger shows
  • Strikeforce will focus on the following weight classes: Light Heavyweight, Middleweight, Welterweight, Lightweight, Women’s Bantamweight (135lbs) and “Cris Cyborg.” Dana says women’s MMA is popular so they’re keeping it. The heavyweight division will be dissolved after the conclusion of the  Heavyweight Grand Prix. The winner — either Josh Barnett or Daniel Cormier — will move on and face a “top” heavyweight, possibly from the UFC.
  • Gus Johnson, Mauro Ranallo, Stephen Quadros and Pat Miletich will continue to call the fights for Showtime
  • Dana White says he has everyone in Strikeforce pumped about the new deal. He specifically named Gilbert Melendez as someone who’s “f-ing” excited about it. He’ll stay in Strikeforce as long as he keeps winning.
  • Showtime is running a free preview weekend Jan. 7 so everyone will be able to see Strikeforce “Rockhold vs. Jardine”.
  • Scott Coker says one of their goals is to start crowning new champions in the welterweight and light heavyweight divisions since Nick Diaz and Dan Henderson vacated those titles.
  • Dana White plans to work all the Strikeforce events like he works the UFC events. Scott Coker will run the day-to-day operations and Dana will oversee.
  • Showtime may work with M-1 Global again but their focus now is on Strikeforce.
  • Dana White is “genuinely excited” about the new deal. It’s what he “loves to do. This is the shit that gets me out of bed in the AM.” Commenting on how he is going to be able to keep with the UFC’s insane schedule and Strikeforce too, Dana said, “Ridiculous. People don’t even think it’s going to be humanly possible, but I disagree.”
  • Dana says Strikeforce is “dialed in perfectly now for success.”
  • Between the UFC and Strikeforce, Zuffa will promote a staggering 40 cards next year, not counting the live TUF fights.
  • They are not trying to position Strikeforce as the minor leagues or a secondary brand in MMA. They want Strikeforce champions to be recognized as legitimate champions in MMA.
  • Dana White isn’t sure about adding fight night bonuses, but they probably will.
  • Gina Carano’s future is still up in the air.
  • There was some Strikeforce-UFC crossover talk on the call, but it’s unclear what their intentions are with that.
  • Strikeforce will continue to air on Super Channel in Canada.

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