The San Jose-based Strikeforce promotion has announced through a press release that it has reached an agreement to acquire select assets from ProElite, Inc. including the library of EliteXC’s fights as well as certain fighter contracts.
“This is a tremendous development that will bolster the Strikeforce roster and allow us to produce even more competitive matchups between top fighters,” company CEO and Founder Scott Coker is quoted as saying in the release. “Some of these athletes have been on the sidelines for a while now and are eagerly waiting to return to competition. We look forward to providing them with the opportunity to do so in the next few months.”
The imminent deal was first reported by SI.com’s Josh Gross and later confirmed by FiveOuncesOfPain.com having been contacted by two sources Thursday afternoon who revealed that an agreement to acquire ProElite’s assets by Strikeforce had just been completed.
Five Ounces of Pain has been informed that the crown jewel of the deal for Strikeforce are ProElite’s existing television contracts with CBS and Showtime. Strikeforce currently has an early Sunday morning half hour time slot on NBC that was acquired through a time buy. Sources expressed to us that Strikeforce had been close in December to finalizing a deal with NBC to televise live events but that the agreement was never completed.
It is now believed that with the agreement to acquire assets now completed, Strikeforce could begin airing live shows on CBS within the next several months. Sources have also indicated that CBS is enthusiastic about the prospect of working with Strikeforce and encouraged ProElite to finalize a deal with the promotion. The pressure from CBS was applied even though Strikeforce had not made the highest monetary bid of the three companies that ProElite was engaged in talks with. CBS and Showtime are also said to have been impressed by the fact that Coker has financial backing from the same group that owns the San Jose Sharks and the HP Pavilion.
According to Gross, the deal includes some fighter contracts as well as well as options for additional contracts. Strikeforce will also reportedly acquire the rights to the ShoXC brand name. Additionally, Strikeforce has apparently paid off ProElite’s debt to CBS with Showtime also retaining its ownership stake in the Strikeforce-owned ProElite.
Despite the announcement that Strikeforce has acquired fighter contracts from ProElite, it is uncertain whether those contracts are truly transferable. Despite the uncertainty, it is still possible that a large group of fighters that competed for EliteXC could be featured on Strikeforce shows. Multiple agents and managers have informed us that they would be eager to encourage their clients to enter into new agreements with Strikeforce that would assuage any legal concerns of transferability.
The prospect of a combined Strikeforce and EliteXC talent roster that is backed by CBS could produce a legitimate competitor to the industry leading Ultimate Fighting Championship. Top fighters currently on the Strikeforce roster include Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le, Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson, and former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. EliteXC’s current roster includes Gina Carano, Kimbo Slice, heavyweight prospect Brett Rogers, EliteXC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler, former Strikeforce middleweight champion Frank Shamrock, EliteXC welterweight champion Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Eddie Alvarez, and Rafael Feijao.
ProElite has not promoted a show under the EliteXC banner since an Oct. 4 Saturday Night Fights telecast on CBS. With the company having financial problems, a deal for CBS to acquire ProElite had been in the works and was reportedly close to being finalized.
However, CBS pulled out of negotiations amid reports that last-minute injury replacement Seth Petruzelli was paid not to take his main event fight against Slice to the floor. ProElite canceled a planned Nov. 8 Showtime event in Reno soon after and suspended operations.
The company executed mass layoffs and has been dormant ever since. Showtime, which was owed over $6 million by ProElite, had planned a November asset auction of ProElite’s assets but ultimately moved to cancel it. Reports surfaced soon after that remaining ProElite executives and attorneys were attempting to complete a sale of the company.
In addition to Strikeforce, companies such as Mark Ecko and Sun Entertainment as well as separate groups led by King of the Cage promoter Terry Trebilcock and former EliteXC executive Jeremy Lappen are all believed to have been involved in negotiations to varying degrees. FiveOuncesOfPain.com had previously reported in December that a deal was close to being completed but such an agreement never materialized.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 4:04 p.m. ET on Feb. 5 to reflect Strikeforce’s reponse to our request for comment. It was updated a second time to reflect Strikeforce’s confirmation of the deal.