by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Showtime Networks, Inc. today announced that they are joining the mixed martial arts fray, battling the largest MMA organization in the United States, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, for viewers.

In partnership with Pro Elite, Inc., Showtime plans on airing their first live MMA event on February 10, 2007.

While no specific schedule was mentioned, the announced commitment is to continue airing events through the year 2009, with all of the broadcasts available in high-definition in addition to standard-defintion.

In making the announcement, Ken Hershman, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sports and Event Programming at Showtime Networks, stated, “Having seen the great success of Ultimate Fighting Championship on basic cable and pay-per-view, we knew that this programming held great potential for Showtime.” He continued, “MMA is a global phenomenon that is impossible to ignore. This will be the perfect complement to our boxing franchise and we are proud to be the first premium network to embrace it. We can’t wait to deliver these action-packed events to our subscribers.”

The televised events on Showtime will be co-produced by Pro Elite, Inc.’s Douglas DeLuca (producer of Jimmy Kimmel Live) and Gary Shaw (former Chief Inspector of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Commission and long-time promoter of several major boxing events) along with Rumble World Entertainment’s Jay Dee Penn.

The inclusion of Penn is of particular note to MMA fans as his company promotes the Rumble on the Rock events in Hawaii that featured his brother, former UFC Welterweight Champion BJ Penn, in several early shows.