Showtime got into MMA pretty early on, airing Strikeforce and Elite XC events long before networks like Fox were even considering the sport. Since the death of Strikeforce last year, they've been looking for a way in. MMA Fighting's Luke Thomas spoke to Showtime exec Stephen Espinoza who says that their September boxing mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez is so big that even MMA fans can't resist:
Thomas: It seems that more than hardcore MMA fans are interested in this fight. Why is that? Is it because of the grandeur of the fight?
Espinoza: My take is that there's one common trait that most if not all combat sports fans share and it's that feeling of adrenaline. They're the goosebumps that you get before the opening bell, during the walkouts for the main event. Being part of the crowd and feeling some of that mob mentality. With as many fights as I've been to, I still get goosenbumps at various points, particularly during walkouts.
I think it's not really the form of fighting that necessarily attracts any particular, although fans have their own preferences. But underlying all of that, it's sort of, we're all adrenaline junkies and we're looking for that high, that experience, that euphoria you get in an arena packed with screaming fans.
Fifty-five thousand Canadians screaming for GSP or forty-thousand people in San Antonio cheering for Canelo. It's the same thing. We're all just looking for that experience, that energy that comes from a really well-matched, competitive fight regardless of the form of combat.
Thomas: You've stated Showtime has not yet closed the door on MMA content. As a stop-gap, do you think something of this magnitude engaged on the Showtime platform?
Espinoza: I think so. I think what we established with boxing and Strikeforce and what we're continuing now is that we are the home of high-level combat sports. It's been Strikeforce in the past and boxing all along, now it's just boxing. We're looking to get back into MMA or some other form of combat sports, conceivably. But I think what we want to become known as is the home of high quality, exciting combat sports, period, regardless of what it is.
Showtime is also looking at women's MMA promoter Invicta as a possible way back into MMA. Per Fox News Latino:
"The hesitation right now is really we're investigating the market," said Espinoza. "The real question is... given the TV landscape as it stands now, the MMA landscape, is there a demand for more MMA on television? I have my doubts because there's quite a few hours already being programmed.
"[Invicta] knows how to make noise and do good sized events on a budget," Espinoza said. "It would be interesting to see what they can do on a bigger platform."
Here's hoping Showtime gets back into the sport. They're a major player and with their backing it's possible Invicta could expand from WMMA into men's MMA as well.