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Strikeforce Strikes Deal With NBC

Growing MMA promotion Strikeforce and NBC are reportedly on the verge of announcing a major partnership, according to MMA Junkie. Details of the expected venture are slowly coming out, but here is what we know so far:

“As part of the NBC deal, fight footage from past Strikeforce events will likely be shown in “highlights” shows, not unlike the Pride Fighting Championships shows that currently air on Fox Sports Net. The first Strikeforce show is expected to air in mid-April.

The program will likely air on late Saturday nights (early Sunday mornings) either immediately after or soon after the hit NBC series, “Saturday Night Live.”

Although unconfirmed, there’s speculation that the deal could possibly lead to live or, at the very least, tape-delayed Strikeforce events airing on NBC.

The show will apparently be patterned after the “PRIDE Fighting Championships” shows that air on FOX Sports Net and the “UFC Unleashed” episodes that broadcast on Spike TV. However, the Strikeforce shows will likely also include fighter interviews with the organization’s better-known personalities, such as Frank Shamrock, Cung Le, Gilbert Melendez and Nick Thomson — fighters that have been significant draws in California, where Strikeforce is headquartered. One source said the shows could also “extensively” promote Strikeforce pay-per-views and other upcoming live events.

Essentially, the shows will introduce viewers to the organization — rather than just show past fight footage.”

If all of this MMA-network talk sounds familiar, it’s probably because ProElite just announced their own network deal with CBS last month. Though the nature of the CBS-ProElite agreement differs from that of the new Strikeforce-NBC deal, it still boils down to one very obvious fact: Smaller, lesser known MMA promotions which are definitely not the UFC, are scoring some type of network agreement. Meanwhile, the best Dana White has to offer in the wake of rival MMA network-deals is a Budweiser sponsorship. Not to take anything away from the Budweiser deal, which will definitely benefit the UFC from a number of angles, but it doesn’t necessarily get the biggest MMA organization any closer to being on network television. The report goes on to explain that while the UFC had been in the mix regarding a network agreement, nothing tangible had ever come very close to fruition:

“…Talks between the UFC and NBC never really got off the ground. According to those sources, the UFC wasn’t interested in a late-night timeslot, and additionally, NBC executives “weren’t too keen” on working with UFC president Dana White….

Prior to the EliteXC and Strikeforce deals, the UFC had been in talks with both HBO and CBS, but those deals fell apart when White reportedly wasn’t willing to concede creative control. During a pre-UFC 82 press conference, White said he wasn’t willing to make a “bad deal” when asked about the failed negotiations.”

So, has Dana White already soured his chances at getting the UFC on a major television network? I can’t say he has because you never know who will come out of the woodwork in the future. But it is entirely possible that once rival MMA promotions start getting their broadcasts out on major airwaves, some day people might stop immediately associating MMA with the UFC. And believe me, losing that sort of branding association could spell serious trouble for the promotion’s current lock on the industry.

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