By Eric GargiuloShowtime and CBS pulled off one of the biggest coups in sports by signing away Manny Pacquiao from HBO Sports.
Pacquiao, the most recognisable active boxer in the sport will leave HBO for the rival network. As part of the agreement, CBS will regularly promote Pacquiao and other Top Rank fighters on network broadcasts. Cross promotion would seem logical with Strikeforce since Showtime airs Strikeforce events. New exposure in front of an audience of hardcore and casual boxing fans could make a huge difference for the MMA promotion that could not even break 10,000 at its last live event.
The timing of this couldn’t be any better for Strikeforce. Strikeforce announced a Grand Prix Heavyweight tournament earlier this year which will air on Showtime. The tournament was influenced in part by Showtime’s success with the Super Six tournament as well as Japanese MMA tournaments. While the tournament has already generated a big buzz in the MMA world, outside of MMA nobody really cares about it.
Imagine what would happen if Showtime aired a few Strikeforce videos promoting guys like Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, and Josh Barnett? The boxing fans that love knockouts get a quick taste of Strikeforce and all of the sudden you have more exposure to a potential new fan base than you could get anywhere else. Strikeforce wins big!
There are plenty of other opportunities for cross promotion. As part of the Showtime/CBS/Top Rank deal, CBS will air a countdown special for each of Pacquiao’s next fights. Maybe you take someone like Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, who is also the K1 kickboxing Grand Prix champion and have him train with Pacquiao on the special? Maybe you put on an MMA/Strikeforce exhibition on a Top Rank boxing show? Maybe you have a hybrid show with Top Rank mixed with boxing and MMA fights featuring Herschel Walker? There are a few different possibilities which all end with Strikeforce going to another level.
MMA reporter Dave Meltzer recently said on a podcast that Strikeforce is eying a pay per view at the end of 2011. Logical thinking would conclude that the pay-per-view would be the Strikeforce Grand Prix final fight. Of course everything would have to fall into place because a final of Big Foot Silva vs. Andrei Arlovski isn’t going to sell a lot of shows. However, with the right main-event and help from Top Rank, CBS, and Showtime, a Strikeforce pay-per-view could be a viable event.
This is exactly the break that Strikeforce needed. It appeared that Strikeforce may have peaked and up until now with casual MMA fans. Unless the UFC starts co-promoting shows with Golden Boy and Floyd Mayweather, they aren’t getting this type of exposure anytime soon. Not that Strikeforce is going to be a serious threat to the UFC with this move, but it could definitely penetrate a bigger chunk of the MMA market place with a strong commitment from Showtime to include them in Manny Pacquiao and/or Top Rank promotions.
Strikeforce has done a tremendous job of creating interest in just the first few weeks of 2011 with recent shows and announcements. Between the news of the tournament, release of the brackets, and a fantastic Showtime Diaz vs. Cyborg special, the MMA company is definitely going in the right direction. If that direction leads them to the Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosely fight…well even better.
This post originally appeared at Camel Clutch Blog.
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