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Posted: Wednesday February 4, 2009 4:46PM; Updated: Friday February 6, 2009 11:29AM

Strikeforce completes deal to buy limited ProElite asset

Story Highlights

ProElite CEO Chuck Champion confirmed Strikeforce's limited asset purchase

Strikeforce obtains some fighter contracts and the option for others

The deal calls for up to 16 Showtime-televised events a year; first one is April 11

By Josh Gross, SI.com

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Kimbo Slice and Seth Petruzelli
EliteXC's last event on CBS was "Heat," where Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson (right) lost to Seth Petruzelli.
Tom Casino/EliteXC

ProElite, Inc. and California-based Strikeforce have finalized the transaction for a limited asset purchase, SI.com has learned.

ProElite CEO Chuck Champion, who has been criticized for his handling of a sale that put the company's fighters in limbo for four months, confirmed the news Thursday.

ProElite, a publicly traded company that promoted mixed martial arts under the EliteXC banner, fought hard to avoid filing for bankruptcy after shutting its doors in October. The deal with Strikeforce includes the following elements:

With Strikeforce:

• Strikeforce and ProElite agree to a limited asset purchase, including some fighter contracts and options for additional fighter contracts

• Strikeforce obtains library footage for EliteXC events

• Strikeforce obtains licensing of the ShoXC brand name

With CBS:

• Paid off debt to CBS/Showtime

• Showtime remains a partner with ProElite, same ownership stake

Moving forward ProElite will not dissolve, as was previously expected. The company will continue to promote MMA events, primarily under the King of the Cage brand, though it still owns the rights to EliteXC-branded events. ProElite has a television deal with Fox Sports that needs renegotiating for previously-taped fights. It has yet to be determined what it will do with other promotional brands.

Strikeforce and Showtime have agreed to a new multi-year deal, which calls for 16 possible dates per year on the premium television network. The first is set for April 11 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., the home base for Strikeforce and its promotional partner, Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment. The main event for the card has yet to be released.

In March 2006 Strikeforce, a longtime kickboxing promoter, ventured full-bore into MMA with the sport's first regulated card in California history. A then-record of 18,265 fans inside San Jose, Calif.'s, HP Pavilion watched Frank Shamrock knock out Cesar Gracie.

Strikeforce has been the exclusive provider of martial arts programming to ESPN since 1995. After entering the MMA promotional business, Strikeforce gained increased exposure through deals with television partners including HDNet, Showtime pay-per-view and NBC, which launched the first-ever 52-week MMA series on one of the four major television networks.

Through its partnership with Showtime and later CBS, which, in 2008, agreed to broadcast four live EliteXC events on primetime, EliteXC gained a tremendous amount of visibility. However the company, first led by CEO Doug DeLuca, hemorrhaged tens of millions of dollars during its 22 months in operation.

In September 2008, Showtime, which owned a 20-percent stake in ProElite, entered into preliminary negotiations to purchase a controlling interest in the company. When those negotiations failed, funding dried up and the company was forced into hibernation.

Beginning with Rumble on the Rock, ProElite purchased numerous MMA promotional brands around the world, including King of the Cage, Cage Rage, ICON and Spirit MC. While these companies remained in operation, the focus was on EliteXC, which held 17 events starting with its first card Feb. 10, 2007.

EliteXC's third card with CBS on Oct. 4 was also its last as a promoter. Headlined by the controversial Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson, the event made headlines with discussion surrounding the legitimacy of the main event between Ferguson and Seth Petruzelli.

After debuting May 31, 2008, to an audience of 6.5 million viewers, EliteXC's ratings on CBS fell significantly in its second effort drawing just 2.7 million last July. In its final event, viewership numbers bounce back nicely, with an average audience of 4.5 million.

MORE PROELITE

GROSS: Q&A with ProElite CEO Chuck Champion

 
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