In May, Showtime sports executive Stephen Espinoza hinted at a deal to bring mixed martial arts back to their airwaves later in the year. The network that introduced many to Strikeforce and EliteXC was rumored to be looking into a partnership with Invicta FC, an all-women’s promotion.
Espinoza officially put those rumors to rest when he spoke to MMA Fighting this week. “We are continuing to evaluate MMA opportunities,” he said. “But given our very busy programming slate for the rest of 2013, any new MMA programming would have to debut in 2014.”
Even though Showtime’s final event was January’s Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine, the demise of their MMA programming began in 2011. Former manager of sports and event programming Ken Hershman, who was vital in bringing Strikeforce aboard, left the company to work for rival HBO. From that point on Showtime’s interest in mixed martial arts declined, possible contributing to Strikeforce folding earlier this year.
This is a blow to promotions trying to escape the UFC’s shadow. While it may not work on premium channels, television networks will eventually realize that there is a growing MMA audience looking for an alternative. We’ll have to wait and see who is bold enough to take the risk.