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Showtime Exec Talks Scrapping 'Strikeforce Challengers,' Keeping 'M-1 Challenge'

The main difference between the old and new Strikeforce deal is the cancellation of the Challengers series in favor of quality fight cards from top to bottom, says Showtime Sports executive vice president Stephen Espinoza.

"Instead of having two stand alone events," Espinoza said Monday on The MMA Hour. "To make it into one huge night of MMA action."

Espinoza made the announcement with UFC president Dana White and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker last Thursday that Strikeforce will continue producing events for Showtime.

Espinoza says it made more sense to focus on building both the main and preliminary portions of the Strikeforce cards. Strikeforce undercards are often non-televised/streamed and figure minimally in Strikeforce's long-term plans.

But starting with the Jan. 7 event headlined by Luke Rockhold vs. Keith Jardine, all the preliminary bouts will air on Showtime Extreme leading into the featured bouts on the primary Showtime channel.

Currently, the deal calls for Strikeforce to produce up to eight events in 2012. Showtime then has to make the decision to whether or not continue the agreement.

"We have an option to do additional events beyond that," Espinoza said.

In addition to working with the UFC, Showtime also carries M-1 Challenge events. Although UFC and M-1 are competitors, M-1 will likely continue producing events for Showtime as well.

"We are in discussions with M-1 to continue our relationship and we actually hope that we are going to be contiuning for at least another year," Espinoza said. "And things looks good that we are going to be able to do so."