What Now For Showtime?
An Open Letter to Stephen Espinoza
Now that it is clear Strikeforce will have one more show then be folded into oblivion, there are many questions about what will happen to the remaining pieces (It remains to be seen who will actually fight on that card given the recent spate of injuries but it appears Strikeforce is doing what it can to keep a viable card for this show).
The UFC didn’t buy Strikeforce to keep it as a going concern. Its days were limited the day the sale was announced. Dana White knew he had to keep the more valuable assets away from potential competitors.
At the time of the purchase, I heard lots of speculation the UFC wanted the Showtime contract so they bought Strikeforce, but it is clear from their actions the Showtime contract was of little value to the UFC.
Strikeforce had a couple of assets that interested the UFC, mainly a supply of heavyweights to help fill out a thin UFC division plus a few other fighters that have panned out, most notably Ronda Rousey, but it is clear there were other reasons for the purchase other than the Strikeforce contract.
It was quite laughable at the time there was even discussion the Showtime contract was the focus of the UFC purchase as the UFC has shown there is not a lack of viable broadcast partners for them.
While looking back at what could have been between Strikeforce and Showtime will be an amusing exercise for some pundit, I am focusing on the future. As a promoter, a fight fan, and a businessman, there is great opportunity for Showtime, after two failed attempts to broadcast MMA, so I am writing this open letter to Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Showtime Sports in an effort to offer to help him with his options.
Dear Mr. Espinoza:
Showtime Sports has had two failed attempts to get into the MMA broadcast business. Both EliteXC and Strikeforce have not provided either the long-term results or partner that Showtime Sports should have, particularly considering the financial investment it must have put into both promotions. It is easy to see in hindsight that both ventures were destined to fail from the outset, albeit for different reasons.
That it is why it is very important Showtime carefully consider its options before leaping back into another ill-fated broadcast agreement. The UFC is now tied to FOX and its series of stations for the long term and while the success and viability of this arrangement is still to be determined, Showtime Sports is in a unique position to enter the MMA broadcast world with a product that will stand the test of time and eventually could become a serious threat to the long-held dominance the UFC has in MMA.
To do this, it takes a visionary in the broadcast world that understands the promotional landscape of MMA and can appreciate the weaknesses in the current UFC business model. There is great opportunity here but Showtime Sports will not be the beneficiary of it by using the tried-and-failed approaches of others and itself.
Clearly, I will not and cannot go into detail as to my thoughts in this open letter but I am happy to share it with Showtime Sports under the proper circumstances. I run one of the more successful shows in the state of California. I understand fighters, managers, sponsors and the broadcasting aspect of the business. I understand you need to bring a quality program to the table that will increase both Showtime’s current subscription base but also increase the loyalty to Showtime by its current subscribers.
Showtime, as part of the Strikeforce Challengers Series had a scheduled main event of Lorenz Larkin vs. Virgil Zwicker (Strikeforce Challengers 19 which was eventually cancelled due to fighter injuries, if I recall correctly). As you may know, Lorenz was my promotion’s 205-pound champion and this fight was scheduled to be on my show (verbal agreements were in place and then was cancelled due to fighter injury – yes there is a trend here) but this fight is just one example that I truly do understand the MMA world.
Bringing in another UFC wannabe that signs castoffs and calls them main events and promotional foundation will not do it. History has shown that this model will fail. As Edward Burke said “those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it” so please don’t repeat history in this case.
I will not deny that some of this is self-serving but I believe that I can truly help Showtime Sports be bigger and better than just about every other broadcaster of MMA. The fans of the sport, current, future and present are anxiously awaiting and craving the right product in MMA.
Mr. Espinoza, you weren’t involved in either of the EliteXC or Strikeforce deals and since your predecessor is with HBO, he is not likely to get involved with MMA there, given that he cannot sign the UFC. This also adds to Showtime’s ability to be the leader and separate itself from its competitors. The time is right for an innovator and revolutionary in the world of MMA and I think you are the man to lead the charge. Please make this happen.
The “Pandemonium blog” is a ProMMAnow.com blog series written by Craig Zimmerman, promoter for Southern California’s MEZ Sports Pandemonium Fight Series. Check out the Pandemonium Fight Series website at www.mezsports.com and follow Craig on Twitter (@MEZSports) and on Facebook.