The departure of Ken Hershman from Showtime Sports makes an already murky picture even cloudier for the future of MMA on the network.
During Hershman’s tenure with the cable giant he championed mixed martial arts as a viable product and helped sign deals with both EliteXC and Strikeforce.
Now that Hershman is gone, what exactly does that do for Strikeforce’s immediate future on Showtime?
“To me, it’s back to business as usual with Showtime because there’s a lot of other people there that we dealt with that love MMA,” Strikeforce official Scott Coker told MMAWeekly’s Erik Fontanez on Thursday.
The words “business as usual” have to be taken with a grain of salt, however, because that same statement was echoed by UFC president Dana White after Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, purchased Strikeforce earlier this year.
Since that time business at Strikeforce has been anything but usual, and with a slew of their mainstay stars now signed to deals in the UFC, most wonder if the brand and promotion are going to be viable at all beyond 2011.
Currently, Strikeforce and Showtime are in negotiations to determine if they will stay in business together beyond the current contract that is rumored to run through March 2012.
Coker, who founded Strikeforce several years ago, is hopeful the brand will stay alive and that they can continue to do business with Showtime.
“Hopefully we’ll have an answer soon and Strikeforce will continue. I’m hopeful because I know that both sides want to attempt that,” Coker stated.
Nothing has been determined yet regarding Strikeforce’s future with Showtime, but a decision is expected to be made in the next few weeks. Showtime is currently seeking a new head for their sports division with Hershman’s exit to work for rival cable network HBO, where he takes over as president.
Regardless of Hershman’s exit, Coker was happy to work with him for the time that they did, and he says the former Showtime executive was instrumental in many of the deals that got MMA onto Showtime as well as network television with CBS.
“I’m thankful to Ken for putting MMA on Showtime, and CBS. He was really the catalyst to make all that happen,” said Coker.
For now, Strikeforce will focus on its upcoming Challengers show, as well as their Melendez vs. Masvidal fight card coming up on Dec. 17 in San Diego. Beyond that it appears nothing is set in stone for Showtime or Strikeforce.
(Additional reporting by Erik Fontanez)