Showtime Sports and Strikeforce will hold a special media conference call today (Dec. 15, 2011) to make a "special announcement."
Hrmmm, I wonder what this could possibly be about?
The call, which begins at 3 p.m. ET, will feature Stephen Espinoza, UFC President Dana White and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker.
Stephen Espinoza is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Showtime Sports. Rumors have been flying that Zuffa has made a deal to keep Strikeforce on Showtime for the forseeable future and today, all the speculation can finally end.
Expect to hear plenty of information about the future of Strikeforce, it's fighters and what its potential relationship with Showtime will be like moving forward.
We'll have complete updates of the Showtime Sports and Strikeforce conference call after the jump:
Brian Hemminger here. The conference call is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET.
3:03 p.m. - We're getting started. An executive press release was just sent out about an agreement for Strikeforce and Showtime. The new deal begins with the January 7 event, Rockhold vs. Jardine.
Stephen Espinoza: Showtime and Strikeforce have a long history and we're happy to allow that to continue with this new structure.
Stephen Espinoza: What we decided to do is consolidate the programming. We're gonna have the preliminaries streamed before the televised main event and it would make sense to make it one huge night of programming.
Stephen Espinoza: Gus Johnson, Mauro Ranallo, Frank Shamrock and Stephen Quadros, nothing really is changing in that area.
Dana White: I'm fired up about this deal and the guys in Strikeforce are very fired up about it.
Scott Coker: The winner of the grand prix will not be named the new champion of Strikeforce. We're gonna focus on the other weight classes and the women's divisions. You'll see one more fight where the winner of the heavyweight tournament will take on a top-rated heavyweight and then we'll focus on the other weight classes.
Stephen Espinoza: We're gonna be looking at 6-8 events this year and there are options for more events beyond that.
Dana White: We'll be doing 6-8 events a year and we'll be focusing on key weight-classes and the women's division. We'll focus on the weight divisions that are strong. The heavyweight division isn't deep enough so we'll do away with the Strikeforce heavyweight division. The women's division is very popular and we're gonna keep it.
Dana White: Since I made that meeting in New York, everything's been good, it's just taken a long time to get together and announce the deal.
Scott Coker: We're gonna continue to run the two women's divisions and we'll continue to scour the world and keep the best fighters in Strikeforce.
Dana White: Cyborg is a huge star. She's a champion and we're gonna keep that division. People are excited to see her fight.
Dana White: Gilbert Melendez is pumped to stay in Strikeforce. He will continue to defend his belt in Strikeforce and he's "absolutely fucking excited about it."
Dana White: I would never say never to pay-per-view and there could be an opportunity to do one, maybe we could, but but is a fight deal for these fights to air on Showtime.
Stephen Espinoza: As it stands, we're contemplating doing at least 4 hours of MMA programming on the same night.
Dana White: This free preview is going to be open to 60 million homes. It'll be a chance to tune in, check out Strikeforce on Showtime and it's gonna be free. We're gonna show all the prelims on Showtime Extreme and then you can switch over to Showtime.
Scott Coker: The fights we're having on Saturday and in January, it'll eventually lead to the titles in the weight classes. We're gonna work towards the title in the divisions.
Scott Coker: it still has to be determined when the other shows will be. We'll sit down with them in the near future and figure out when it will be.
Dana White: Scott will run Strikeforce day-to-day and I'll be involved creatively. I will be at Strikeforce events. When there's a Strikeforce event on a Saturday, I'll work a Strikeforce event just like a UFC event.
Dana White: I did not have a good relationship with the old regime and I do have a good relationship with the new regime. I love what we came up with and I'm sure you can tell. I'm genuinely excited about this and I would not be this enthusiastic if I wasn't.
Dana White: This deal probably wouldn't have been done with the old regime.
Dana White: There's gonna be fights we can make for Cyborg and fights we can do in the women's divisions. We'll be able to keep the roster and sign more guys.
Stephen Espinoza: Our focus here is getting the deal done with Strikeforce. That has been our primary relationship, our most important relationship. As for M-1, we'll see how it plays out.
Scott Coker: It's not confirmed yet, but we're looking to promote that tournament final in the end of the first quarter.
Dana White: I love getting involved with networks and getting in with Showtime, taking this thing and building it. We're gonna create all this talent, bring all these guys in. There's only so many people we can have in the UFC. We're gonna put on great exciting fights and I love doing the things we're doing with Showtime, making tweaks in productions and making this show the best we possibly can. The last time in San Diego, it was a great event. I want to build this thing into a machine and build their numbers. This is what gets me out of bed in the morning. The Showtime guys and Scott Coker, they're business as usual and we're gonna see how big we can make this thing.
Dana White: This whole thing is like a work in progress. We're both looking at the best fighters in the world. Lorenzo and I just flew down to Brazil for the last few days and there's a ton of talent and there's only so many slots to fill. There's a lot of great fighters out there that we can bring into Strikeforce and it's gonna be awesome.
Dana White: It puts us at about 40 shows for the year. My schedule next year is ridiculous and people don't think it's gonna be humanly possible but I disagree.
Dana White: We talked to the guys at Showtime. These guys have been putting on a show for a long time and we're gonna walk through some things and make some changes and do some fun stuff. This isn't an ego competition or anything like that.
Stephen Espinoza: It's not about who controls what. We view this as a partnership. It's a joint venture in the creativity sense. We're gonna come up with the best possible programming that all our creative organizations can think of.
Dana White: The thing was set up to fail with the Challengers Series. We narrowed it down to key certain weight classes. If Strikeforce goes away, the women aren't fighting. We're not doing women in the UFC right now. Strikeforce is about building champions and contenders and keeping the women's division alive.
Scott Coker: Miesha's next date and opponent haven't been determined yet. I think there's gonna be a fight out there with Ronda at some point that's gonna be very exciting. I saw her the other day and she looked fantastic and she was training to get down there. She said she wants to go to both weight classes and be champion of both. Whether Miesha fights Ronda first or in a couple fights, that fight will happen at some point.
Stephen Espinoza: All Showtime events will be held on Saturday nights.
Dana White: I would have to say yes (Strikeforce fighters will have the chance to win fight night bonuses).
Stephen Espinoza: Gina at heart is a fighter whether she acts in a dozen movies or one. She will always have that genuine desire to fight. It will not surprise me at all to see her back in MMA.
Scott Coker: She has the movie coming out January 2nd and then we'll sit down and talk to her and Stephen will persuade her to get back.
Dana White: Showtime wanted to have the Grand Prix finished and then have the winner fight one more time on Showtime before the division went away. They invested in this tournament and wanted to have another fight.
Stephen Espinoza: From the Showtime perspective, it felt incomplete and we wanted to run this tournament to it's conclusion and then put an exclamation point on it.
Scott Coker: The events will be on Super Channel in Canada. We're broadcasting there now and it's gonna continue.
Scott Coker: We have good depth in all the other weight classes and I think Sean Shelby has done a great job acquiring new talent. We're gonna be fine in all the other weight classes.
Dana White: There's nothing wrong with a feeder league but that's not what this is designed to be. Watch and see what we do with Strikeforce and watch the talent that's built over there. A feeder league would be something like where guys lose and then they have to win fights and we bring them back up. Strikeforce will be looking for the best guys available in these weight divisions and they'll be building these guys up to the best of their ability. It's gonna be the first thing from a feeder league.
Scott Coker: This thing got really heated in the last few weeks and extra television deals are in dialog.
Stephen Espinoza: Everything is on the table at this point and be as creative and aggressive as we can.