When Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) announced the mega-deal that it had purchased Strikeforce -- its number one competitor at the time -- not only did Zuffa acquire yet another promotion (PRIDE and WEC before), but it also meant it would go into business with another big time player in the sports world in the form of Showtime Sports.
Given the past history between UFC President Dana White and Showtime, specifically Showtime Sports Executive Ken Hershman, that raised more than a few eyebrows.
When Hershman resigned from his post from the popular cable network in favor of its rivals over at HBO, it was widely believed that White would have more input in Strikeforce programming and would possibly be able to start a fresh beginning with Showtime.
Apparently, that wasn't the case as it was reported a few months back that Dana's suggestion to Showtime went ignored, prompting the brash President to say via his Twitter account in response to a question from a fan:
"Tell Showtime, they run that shit, not me. I'm out. I'm 100-percent UFC."
However, if you ask the new Sports Executive at Showtime, Steven Espinoza, he disagrees with the conception that White's suggestion were completely shutdown. In fact, he actually welcomes any suggestions from White or anyone from Zuffa, for that matter, if it means better production value for Strikeforce.
Fight Hub TV has the details after the jump:
"I would disagree with that characterization. I don't want to get into too much of any dirty laundry, but, if we look at the situation, I am brand new to this job, I am brand new to the position of being a T.V. executive. I think that's actually one of my strengths, is that I don't have pre-conceived notions of how production should work or who should determine the lighting or what the sound should be. So, I'd like to think that I started with a clean slate on boxing and MMA. So, whether Dana has more ideas or anyone at Zuffa, I welcome them. What my goal is, it's not worry about ownership of ideas, but really to maximize our programming and make it look as good as possible."
Espinoza says that he has nothing but good things to say about his partners over at Zuffa headquarters:
"I think both sides were a bit hesitant coming into it. They didn't know what to expect from me. I knew there was a little bit of a history before me. But, when we all got into a room, and we had a big meeting, 20 people on their side with 10 to 12 on ours, it was actually kind of surprising, it went really, really well. And, everyone put whatever pre-conceived notions and history aside. It was a great relationship from their forward. Every relationship has its ups-and-downs, but the reality is, I have nothing but positive things to say about all the guys at Zuffa from Dana and Lorenzo, all of them."
So what are the chances of actually seeing some UFC programming on the Showtime network? Espinoza says he would love nothing more than to make it happen:
"I'm not completely familiar with all of their contractual provisions, but I think that will be a problem contractually now. However, in the long run, I wouldn't say that's outside the realm of possibility. I would hope that Zuffa would say that it is a positive enough experience that it might be something in the long run and I would be happy to consider it as well. "
When asked if UFC stars would ever compete against Strikeforce stars in an event, Espinoza would love to make it happen:
"I would love to see it. Whether it will happen, there are always complicating factors, but that would be a dream. I think it would be a dream for the fans, I think it would be a great opportunity for both companies."
For now, the FOX Sports currently airs all UFC programming on its extensive cable networks, which comprises FOX, FX and FUEL TV. But, perhaps Zuffa wouldn't mind extending its reach to Showtime subscribers later on down the road if the right opportunity presents itself.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Ben Henderson immediately comes to mind.