Strategic partners Strikeforce and Showtime held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon to discuss their recently signed agreement to televise and promote up to 16 fight cards together over the course of the next 12 months.
Available on today’s call was Ken Hershman, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sports and Event Programming for Showtime Networks; Strikeforce Founder and CEO Scott Coker; and MMA Legend Frank Shamrock, who will be headlining the promotion’s next show on April 11.
Below is a minute-by-minute recap of the call:
3:05 p.m. — Call has started. Showtime stated that no one from CBS is on the call but that they will help direct questions to the network in the event that someone has any inquiries.
3:07 p.m. — Scott Coker is speaking and giving the media a background about Strikeforce’s origins.
3:12 p.m. — Ken Hershman is up and he said in spite of EliteXC’s financial issues, they were happy with the programming in that it was well received and drew solid ratings. He mentioned that Showtime has worked with Strikeforce before and are looking forward to working with them again. Hershman added that he’s known Coker since “the Mike Tyson days” and that he’s a classy guy.
3:13 p.m. — Frank Shamrock is up. Apparently he has a special announcement for April 11. Right now he is complementing Coker and Showtime. Shamrock has just confirmed that he will be fighting Nick Diaz. He said Diaz is an exciting fighter, likes to throw, and likes to talk trash. Shamrock also said that he will knock Diaz out. The fight will be contested at a catch weight of 179 pounds.
3:18 p.m. — Coker responded to a question about co-promoting by saying he’s certainly open to it under the right circumstance. He also said that a show on the East Coast by year’s end is very possible.
3:19 p.m. — Frank says he’s planning to fight more than two times a year. He said a fight with Ken is still possible but is currently on the back burner. He claims that Ken is having personal and emotional problems right now but didn’t elaborate.
3:22 p.m. — Hershman said the reason why Kimbo hasn’t heard from Showtime or Strikeforce is because there have been so many deals that needed to get done, including the main event for April 11 and “unwinding” the EliteXC deal. Hershman said Kimbo definitely has a future with the promotion and that they will definitely be talking with him soon. Coker added that he actually had a brief conversation with Kimbo’s attorney, Mark, yesterday.
3:24 p.m. — Coker said they’ve talked to half the roster already and plans to have contacted everyone by tomorrow. Said he wants to get fighters back to work as soon as possible.
3:27 p.m. — Coker has confirmed that Cris Cyborg is in the fold. Says Gina Carano will be welcomed to compete on April 11 and that Cyborg has said she’s available to fight her on that date. If Carano isn’t involved with the April 11 show, there is still a chance that Cyborg will compete.
3:29 p.m. — Coker was asked about competing with the UFC and he basically said they don’t intend to be a threat and that they just want to focus on doing their own thing.
3:31 p.m. — Coker said Cung Le’s movie career is going well but that he spoke to him last week and that he said he’s itching to fight. He said that if not for an elbow injury, Le would be fighting on April 11. He said he expects Cung to fight twice in ’09 and that he wants to make Le vs. Shamrock II before the end of the year.
3:32 p.m. — Coker confirmed that he wants Gilbert Melendez involved with the April 11 show.
3:34 p.m. — Scott Smith vs. Benji Radach is confirmed. They are looking at Mitsuhiro Ishida as a possible opponent on April 11 vs. Melendez. Jorge Gurgel could also fight Melendez as well, according to Coker. Coker added he’d like Josh Thomson to fight on April 11 but he has not sat down with him. He’d like to invite K.J. Noons to fight Thomson but that nothing is confirmed.
3:35 p.m. — Wants to give all EliteXC champions the opportunity to unify their titles with Strikeforce titles.
3:36 p.m. — Hershman said they are working on putting the announce team in place. Sounds like Hershman wants Gus Johnson to do MMA play-by-play on Showtime in addition to boxing.
3:37 p.m. — Right now five Strikeforce Championship cards are planned and five “up and comer” cards as well. The deal with Showtime is UP to 16 cards in a calendar year with Strikeforce and that 2010 could be the first year they hit that number. The 16 fights do not include any fights with CBS, as any deal with CBS is separate.
3:38 p.m. — Coker said that Cesar Gracie informed him that Nick Diaz can no longer make 160 pounds and wants to go back to 170.
3:39 p.m. — Coker said they will follow the unified rules of MMA weight classes. There will be no 160 pound lightweight division, just a 155 pound lightweight division.
3:40 p.m. — The “world exclusive” contract signed with Cyborg was brought up. Coker is asked about having non-exclusive contracts with fighters in the past but with a more rigorous schedule that they will need the athletes to be exclusive to them. He said they could be flexible later but they need fighters available to fill slots.
3:41 p.m. — Coker said that Alistair Overeem will return before the end of the year but that he has a busy schedule in Japan and that has to be worked out.
3:42 p.m. — Coker said he hasn’t thought about bringing in a figurehead to serve as the “face” of the company.
3:43 p.m. — Coker says he hasn’t talked to Kimbo or Sapp about a rumored fight. Said it’s only conceptual in nature. He said he’d like to see it get worked out and thinks it would be an interesting fight if they can get it done.
3:52 p.m. — Coker said their contract with HDNet ended in November and that the home of Strikeforce is Showtime. Basically, no more deal with HDNet.
3:53 p.m. — Coker said Eddie Alvarez’s contract is complicated and you might see him fight elsewhere in the next several months but that he wants him for Strikeforce and to be featured on CBS and Showtime.