Showtime exec: ‘Decimation’ of talent pool since Zuffa purchase signaled Strikeforce's end

Esther Lin for Strikeforce

Showtime Sports executive, Stephen Espinoza, says if he had to point the finger at the main reason Strikeforce will cease to exist beyond 2013 it is because of a lack of talent on the roster.

This weekend (Jan. 12, 2013), Strikeforce will stage its final mixed martial arts (MMA) show after playing second fiddle to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for the last six years when it presents Strikeforce: "Marquardt vs. Saffiedine" from the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Holding numerous events since its foray into MMA on March 10, 2006, the San Jose, Calif.,-based promotion was home to many of today's top stars such as Nick Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields, Ronda Rousey, Dan Henderson and Alistair Overeem, among others.

It even managed to land the services of Fedor Emelianenko, something the UFC was unable to accomplish no matter how hard it -- and company president Dana White -- tried.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. And for Strikeforce, the buck stops in just five short days.

So what exactly went wrong?

According to Showtime Sports executive Stephen Espinoza, who appeared on the most recent edition of "The MMA Hour," it was all about the lack of talent that ultimately led to Showtime's decision to not renew its contract with the promotion.

His words:

"We had the option to extend for another year. We decided not to, and candidly, there's one main reason behind it. As any fan who follows Strikeforce or MMA generally knows, there's been some talent problems in the last half of the year, and there's been some injury problems throughout the sport. But given where the talent pool in Strikeforce is, we really got decimated by injuries and suspensions. And in the overall scheme of things, we just weren't comfortable with the trajectory of where the shows were going. We didn't believe toward the end of the year that we were getting shows that were premium television level shows, and we didn't see that situation getting any better. I wanted to live up to the high standards that Strikeforce set with Showtime before I got here, and as the year went on, it was clear that wasn't going to happen.... This problem with the talent pool and the trajectory of the promotion going forward wasn't going away. It wasn't just a streak of bad luck for a couple months. It was a trend. Look at it from the big picture. Look at the trajectory of the organization Strikeforce before the acquisition by Zuffa and after. I think, with due respect, everything that we did after, the trajectory wasn't the same. That became very clear by the end of the year."

When Zuffa -- parent company of the UFC -- purchased Strikeforce last year, it wasn't long before the talent pool started to drain, with the UFC acquiring the services of the aforementioned Diaz and Overeem.

With its roster already on life support, the move of women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey over to the UFC in late 2012, coupled with two event cancellations, were the final blows to an already fragile promotion.

Espinoza also revealed the decisions to cancel the events this year were not made by him or Showtime, but rather Zuffa was the one that pulled the plug. The good news, maybe, is that despite ending its partnership with Strikeforce, Espinoza revealed Showtime still hopes to continue promoting MMA events in the future.

But, with what talent?

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