Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino

Cristiane Justino (blue glove tape) vs. Marloes Coenen for Invicta’s featherweight championship belt. Pic by SHERDOG.COM -click for source- Credit: Dave Mandel

Ever since Strikeforce’s last event in January and a little before that, rumors have been circulating as to who will replace the late promotion as Showtime’s MMA partner. The latest news as quoted from Showtime Executive Stephen Espinoza is that at present, they’re exploring their options, but due to the busy boxing schedule, MMA won’t be an option until next year.

However, it’s still an intriguing idea and I’d like to cover the most likely candidates that could become the next MMA promotion on Showtime. The criteria are promotions with a history and are rising. Here we go:

10. Tachi Palace Fights

Since its’ inception in 2009, Tachi Palace Fights has been putting on fights regularly at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino, with the exception of the early part of this year when the Indian Reservation council decided to pull MMA then reversed their decision. The promotion has a roster of regional fighters, a regular following, and champions in most of the major weight classes.

The disadvantages is that the promotion only holds cards at their aptly named home base and only holds fight cards every few months. More than likely, Showtime will want to hold fight cards more frequently than every quarter, probably every two months or so depending on whether they want to have another ShoXC or ShoMMA series of rising stars in the sport. They would probably also want the fights to take place at more then just the Tachi Palace, and turning it into more then the regional stepping stone promotion they are right now.

9. International Fighting Championship

The International Fighting Championship started in 1996 and was actually one of the groundbreaking promotions in the regulation of MMA. It was also the starting point for fighters such as Nick Diaz and Rich Franklin who had been champions at some point in the promotion.

Another thing going for it is that it has champions in all major weight classes including a cruiserweight championship they created at 230 pounds including two women’s weight classes. There are however disadvantages in that the promotion has been around almost as long as the UFC and has nowhere near the following only being a minor circuit promotion. Showtime would want to build some momentum immediately which is something the IFC may not be able to do, not to mention they just came off a two year layoff.

8. Gladiator Challenge

UFC fighter, Rashad Evans

UFC fighter, Rashad Evans

Gladiator Challange is another promotion that has been around for a while and has some vets in their champions list, including the likes of Rashad Evans and Dan Severn. They put on fights on a regular basis and have champions in most of their weight classes. For those weight classes they don’t have champions in, they have a contenders list.

Once again they share a common problem with most established minor circuit promotions, such as fan base, etc.. It becomes a matter of trying to promote a name that really isn’t known for high caliber competition.

7. King of the Cage

King of the Cage has been through a long history in MMA. They started out in 1998 and were able to thrive by promoting their events on Indian Reservations. It was also the only promotion to survive ownership under ProElite, was in partnership with MTV to create Bully Beatdown, and spent time on HDNet (now AXSTV).

Currently they are broadcast on cable channel MAVTV. They certainly have a lot in that they have champions in every weight class (including some that don’t even exist under the unified rules), have a women’s division, and regularly have their vets return for fights. However, like most of the minor circuit promotions, they may not be able to make the jump from minor to major quickly.

6. Titan Fighting Championships

Titan Fighting Championships is one of the promotions I believe has an actual chance of being signed by Showtime. Despite the fact the promotion was supposed to have been bought out by Resurrection Fighting Alliance, Titan FC continues to put on regular fight cards with exciting fights with rising stars and veterans in the MMA industry.

Most of their fights have taken place in Kansas and Missouri but have also taken place elsewhere. Presently they are broadcast on AXSTV. A few of the downsides is that they don’t have any championships at present and rely a little too much on former UFC fighters like Tim Sylvia, making their marketability a slight problem, and their roster a little stagnant.

5. Legacy Fighting Championship

Having started out in 2009, Legacy Fighting Championship has been doing nothing but rising ever since. The Texas based promotion this year alone has put on eight different fight cards with three more planned before the end of the year. With the recent cuts by the UFC, LFC has signed vets like Leonard Garcia but at the same time built their own stars like former boxer Holly Holm.

They currently broadcast on AXSTV and have a good number of big name sponsors such as Corona Light and the Texas National Guard. Their only downside is that like Titan FC they do not regulate any championships, something easy to fix.

4. ONE Fighting Championship

ONE FC Pres, Victor Cui

The rise of ONE Fighting Championship is arguably one of the most meteoric in MMA. The promotion was pulled together by businessman Victor Cui, and has risen to dominate the Asian MMA market. While it has signed some international MMA stars, they have concentrated on Asian MMA stars and developing their rosters from talent in the region.

Currently they broadcast on ESPN Star Sports and host fight cards on a regular basis. The only downside is that Espinoza has stated that due to what happened with Showtime and M-1 Global, they are no longer interested in signing a foreign promotion because of time zone issues. However, if there was a foreign promotion to be signed, OFC would be it.

3. Resurrection Fighting Alliance

Resurrection Fighting Alliance is another promotion that has risen to prominence in its’ short existence by putting on several amazing fight cards. Based out of the UFC’s hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, it has managed to create it’s own talent, and put an emphasis on resurrecting the careers of vets like Joe Stevenson.

It’s buyout of Titan FC allowed them to now broadcast on AXSTV and while it has put on fights featuring UFC vets, it has also created its’ own stars like Steve Mocco. It’s amazing that a promotion only two years old has made this much progress. While it only has championships in flyweight to featherweight, that’ll probably change really soon, adding value to the brand.

2. Xtreme Fighting Championships

This is probably the most likely promotion to be signed by Showtime that Espinoza hasn’t mentioned by name. Broadcast on AXSTV, the Florida based promotion has several traits that defines it from other promotions, including holding the Florida MMA attendance record at 11,000 at XFC1: Dynamite.

It also has gone into venturing outside of its’ southeastern US territory into places like New Mexico and has gained traction with its’ grassroots persona. It is best known for introducing the world to Nick Newell, when he won their lightweight championship. While they only regulate championships in the lower weight divisions, that has been some changes with the addition of women’s championships and a tournament in place to crown their new featherweight champion.

1. Invicta Fighting Championships

The reason this promotion is on top of the list is because it’s the only promotion that Espinoza has mentioned by name as a possibility for Showtime. The unique all women’s promotion was founded in 2012 by multi-promotional executive Shannon Knapp, who decided to create a promotion that would truly care about female fighters, considering that the UFC at the time was not friendly towards the concept of women’s MMA.

As of right now, the promotion has most if not all the big name women’s fighters not signed by the UFC. They have champions in four of their five weight classes, including Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino at featherweight. Both sides have assured the public that Invicta’s close working relationship with the UFC will not interfere with any agreement that may happen as did happen with Strikeforce.

Think of any other promotions that may make it onto Showtime? Leave a comment!