By Mike Russell
It looks like the proclamation UFC president Dana White made a few months ago that CBS will likely go head-to-head with his promotion again in the near future was right on the money.
Sources close to the promotion that was recently brought back from the verge of death by Stratus Media Group, who acquired a 95 percent ownership stake of the company in June, have informed CagePotato.com that ProElite is in the final stages of negotiations for a multi-year television deal with Viacom that will see its events broadcast on both Showtime and CBS starting in the first quarter of 2012.
Viacom owns 20 percent, or approximately 11,991,172 of the 59,955,862 outstanding shares of ProElite (PELE), which are currently trading at 48 cents each after sitting at a penny for the past three years since EliteXC folded. At the height of EliteXC’s popularity, ProElite’s shares routinely traded at $15. A resurgence of the company aided by a deal with Viacom, would mean that for every dollar they can raise the stock purchase price by, the media conglomerate could stand to earn close to $12 million U.S.
In September 2008 Showtime Networks filed a public notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that stated their intention to enter into discussions to purchase ProElite to try to save the company from bankruptcy, but the deal never came to fruition. The company’s CEO at the time, Chuck Champion instead chose to sell off select limited assets, including fighter contracts and its extensive video catalogue to Strikeforce in an effort to bring the books back into the black, which he did with the transaction. Since then, the company, whose other assets include major stakes in the UK’s Cage Rage and Korea’s SpiritMC promotions, remained dormant until the Stratus Media acquisition brought it back from the ashes.
Showtime’s current deals with Strikeforce and M-1 will soon be over, effectively clearing the way for ProElite’s shows to be broadcast on its networks, which will in turn mean bigger name fighters signing with the promotion whose roster includes former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, The Ultimate Fighter season 3 winner Kendall Grove and UFC veteran Joe Riggs.
M-1 has two events remaining on its current deal and it is rumored that it will feature recently released Strikeforce heavyweight and former PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko on at least one of them. Strikeforce’s three-year contract expires in February 2012, but according to a source we spoke to, it could end sooner if Showtime deems the quality of events the UFC sister promotion is putting on is less than expected.
ProElite 2.0′s first event under its new ownership and the leadership of former ICON Sport T. Jay Thompson and Strikeforce matchmaker Richard Chou will take place August 27 at the Blaisdell Arena in Waikiki, Hawaii. Although Thompson has stated that the promotion is not looking to compete with the UFC, the deal with CBS and Showtime will position ProElite to do just that in the near future.
We will have more on the situation as it develops.