Stephen Espinoza, the vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, believes the premium cable network may continue to have some relationship with mixed martial arts even after it airs the final Strikeforce event Saturday night.
Speaking Monday on The MMA Hour broadcast with host Ariel Helwani, Espinoza said he hopes Showtime can stay in the MMA business.
I'm a huge MMA fan. There is definitely still an appetite. Whether there is the right opportunity or opportunities is still a process that is going on as we speak. I don't know what the future holds. But we would definitely love to continue in MMA.
Espinoza said Showtime has engaged in conversations with other MMA organizations, but declined to offer specifics on the promotions he is interested in, and said nothing formal or definitive has yet emerged as far as a future promotion partner.
Showtime was the long-time television partner for Strikeforce, which was purchased by UFC parent company Zuffa in 2011. Last month, Strikeforce announced this Saturday's fight card, which is headlined by a fight between Nate Marquardt and Tarec Saffiedine, would be its last.
Espinoza said Showtime chose not to continue with Strikeforce because of "talent problems" within the promotion.
We just weren't comfortable with the way the shows were going. We just didn't think we were getting premium television level shows and we didn't see that changing.
UFC President Dana White has previously said that relations between Zuffa (specifically White himself) and Showtime execs were not always hunky-dory. When asked about the relationship, Espinoza said it was sound.
The relationship was actually fine between Zuffa as a company and Showtime as a company. Dana has been outspoken. He's outspoken on everything. So I'd take what he says with a little bit of a grain of salt...The fact that Dana had distanced himself from us at times didn't affect the relationship.