Despite the impending end of a three-year broadcast relationship with Strikeforce, Showtime has no plans to get out of MMA.
Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, today told MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps
) that the network is in active discussions with a variety of combat-sports promoters to fill the void left by the Zuffa-owned promotion, which is scheduled to hold its final event on Saturday.
Shark Fights, Legacy Fighting Championship, Invicta FC and Xtreme Fighting Championships are among those rumored to have been in talks with Showtime. Espinoza, though, declined to name any possible suitors.
Espinoza said the meetings took place in "the last few weeks, after it became clear that we would not be moving forward with Strikeforce for the next year."
"We had the option of moving forward (with Strikeforce)," he said. "We decided not to exercise that option."
However, Espinoza said the sport remains important to him on a personal level as well as with executives within Showtime, whose relationship with Strikeforce predates his tenure with the network. Espinoza replaced now-HBO executive Ken Hershman in November 2011.
"We are actively looking for other opportunities," Espinoza said. "(We) haven't found the right opportunity yet, but we are definitely looking for the next relationship in the MMA space."
Espinoza described the possibilities discussed for a future partner include "virtually every [possibility] in the combat-sports area."
The network also aims to keep the same number of MMA events on its schedule.
"Every opportunity is evaluated on its own merits, but we certainly have an appetite for at least the same level of programming we were getting from Strikeforce, if not more," he said.
The exec added that Showtime retains broadcast rights to Strikeforce programming and plans to re-air past events beyond the expiration of the agreement with Zuffa in March.