Post Fedor Loss Showtime, Strikeforce and M-1 Global Locked in an Awkward Dance

Photo via M-1 Global

In the afterglow aftermath of Fedor Emelianenko's devastating loss to Antonio Silva, we've had a delightful week of picking over the bones of Fedor's career. But now it's time to look at what it means for the future. The future of the MMA business that is. 

Showtime and M-1 Global announced that Showtime will be broadcasting M-1 Global events starting this spring, via MMA Fighting:

International fight promotion M-1 Global and premium U.S. cable channel Showtime have reached a deal to televise four U.S. events in 2011, MMA Fighting has learned.

The first event will take place on March 25 at the Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. and air at 11 p.m. ET. It will be the first of four M-1 U.S. Challenge shows to appear on the network this year, sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed.

MMA Payout comments:

Back in September when MMAPayout broke the news regarding the negotiations between M-1 Global and Showtime, it was speculated that this was part of the deal in order for Fedor to re-sign with Strikeforce and keep him on board, which was a key piece since Strikeforce and Showtime were already working on putting the Heavyweight Grand Prix together. Since that time, sources close to the negotiations have informed MMAPayout that this TV deal between Showtime and M-1 Global was seperate to the Fedor deal, and has been ongoing since September of 2010.

M-1 took a big blow with Fedor's loss in the first round of the HW GP this past Saturday as he almost announced his retirement on the network, but with a Showtime TV set to air the M-1 Challenge events and Fedor's most recent comments that he will continue to fight, the blow has at least softened a bit.

Jordan Breen talked to Ariel Helwani about the possibility that Strikeforce and Showtime were actually secretly happy that Fedor lost (transcription via Fight Opinion):

JORDAN BREEN: But, do you think there's a real sense of joy and relief from Scott Coker and company that maybe they can go full-speed ahead on Alistair Overeem and maybe put the nightmarish dealings with M-1 behind them?"

ARIEL HELWANI: "Like I said, I don't think that they will admit this to us on the record at least but, trust me, I'm not going to call anyone out but I spoke to a few people in Strikeforce who, when I said ‘what does this mean?', a smile instantly appeared on their face. I mean, I'm not saying that they're rooting for Fedor, obviously not, but let's be honest, I mean, everyone knows that it's very hard to deal with M-1.

"So, now, April 9th it's not an M-1 Global & Strikeforce event. That's just a Strikeforce event. This one had to be an M-1 Global event because Fedor was on the card. April 9th isn't. ... So, just think of that. Whatever their deal is with M-1 Global and, you know, they have to share part of the profits and all that stuff. They don't have to do that any more. And now, fine, you know, Fedor's going to come back and he's going to fight, but I just think it opens up a lot of, imagine if they are going to do PPV for the second round. Well, now, Fedor's not part of the PPV show. He still might be on the card, you know, that could switch things up, but I think it just opens a lot of things up for Strikeforce. They can deal with their own brand, they can make the decisions that they want, they can promote it how they want, they don't have to deal with any politics behind the scenes, and we all know that it's been hard to deal with M-1 Global. Everyone from Dana White to Scott Coker and anyone else will tell you that. Now they're in the clear and they can do whatever they want."

On the other hand, Breen and Helwani also address the fact that Fedor losing definitely slows down Strikeforce's PPV plans:

JORDAN BREEN: "So at this point in time, do you think that, like, how far do you see them away from being on a PPV? What do you think would be an appropriate timeline and setup for them to get on PPV? Is the return of Gina Carano good enough or interesting enough to make it without a Fedor/Overeem fight on the immediate horizon? Is there something they can make do with to break into PPV?"

ARIEL HELWANI: "I thought, you know, Scott Coker said on Bloomberg last week that by Fall 2011 they hope to be in the PPV business and obviously that was before Saturday night. I think what happened on Saturday night definitely delays things. I was going to say kind of delays things, it definitely does. I definitely think that, as you mentioned, Overeem vs. Fedor that's a PPV main event. Would they get 500,000 buys? I don't think so. Would they get 200,000? Maybe, and I think that would be a success.

"I mean, let's not forget, the UFC name on its own, in my opinion, gets around 200,000-250,000 buys. You know, even their worse show will get that much just because people think, ‘oh, it's a UFC show, we know what we're getting.' Strikeforce isn't a known PPV brand just yet. So, that kind of delays things for them. So, now you have to see how the tournament plays out. If things where it's a match that everyone wants to see, you know, I don't know if Overeem vs. Barnett is really a PPV fight that people will actually pay $30 or $40 for but if things play out and you can sell the tournament and its been some epic fights along the way, I think you can do that.

That's the thing about schadenfreude, no matter how much of a headache M-1 Global is to negotiate with, it's better to have a headache and a successful PPV than no headache and no PPV.

As far as M-1 Global on Showtime goes, I'd prefer them to be back on HDNet personally, but I'm fine with their events getting major exposure. They generally book quality fights and I consider them a solid second tier promotion, right up there with MFC and Tachi Palace. 

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