Few individuals wield as much power in battle sports as Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza, particularly now that Bellator MMA is now under his umbrella.
With a robust lineup of boxing talent as part of Showtime Championship Boxing and Bellator Mixed Martial Arts, Espinoza is ultimately seeking to grow both brand names after formerly working with Bellator President Scott Coker when he was the main owner behind Strikeforce.
Just just recently, Bellator Mixed Martial Arts announced a move from the Paramount Network to CBS Sports Network as the ViacomCBS-owned promotion changed broadcast homes, getting to a larger variety of channels.
In addition to that, Bellator MMA now has the capability to potentially air programs on extra networks in the ViacomCBS household, consisting of CBS and Showtime.
Espinoza sat down with Mixed Martial Arts Fighting ahead of the Showtime Boxing pay-per-view this weekend where the Charlo twins– Jermell and Jermall– will take center stage in a set of fights from the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.
Showtime Boxing Coordinating With Bellator Mixed Martial Arts
As an answer to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Bellator Mixed Martial Arts in fact partnered with Showtime Boxing for a residency at the Mohegan Sun resort in Uncasville, Conn., where both promotions have been placing on programs for the past couple of months.
The shared home for boxing and MMA has helped Showtime and Bellator test fighters for COVID-19 while creating a bubble of sorts to ensure professional athlete health and safety during the pandemic.
So far the entire run has been a success, allowing Espinoza to work closely with Coker for numerous occasions with more planned in September and October.
” I don’t want this to come across the wrong way since I wouldn’t explain the environment as great for anyone, but it was a nice way to get back in organization with Scott Coker,” Espinoza stated about the present shared residency. “Our group had been in business with Scott back in Strikeforce, which was a very effective run.
” Scott has a number of the exact same team members, and to be able to come together and team up and get our feet wet again, not necessarily in the very same occasions, however in the exact same atmosphere and coordinate protocols and handing off to one another, it’s an excellent re-introduction. It allowed us to reacquaint ourselves with our respective services. I think it’s a great first step to all the numerous methods we’re planning on working together in the future.”
Working with Scott Coker Again
As part of the corporate restructuring after Viacom and CBS combined in 2015, Bellator Mixed Martial Arts was brought under Espinoza’s leadership.
Espinoza states he invited the opportunity to work once again with Coker, especially after a successful run together throughout his time as the head of Showtime Sports when the network was home to Strikeforce.
While he’s typically known for his operate in boxing, Espinoza delighted in the opportunity to work in MMA once again with hopes that he prove that there does not necessarily require to be a rivalry between the 2 sports so one can be successful.
” I think our entire team was thrilled because we have always been really proud with what we achieved with Strikeforce,” Espinoza stated.
” I believe there’s constantly been this rivalry between boxing and MMA.
Bellator MMA on CBS or Showtime?
With the current announcement of Bellator’s relocate to CBS Sports Network beginning on Oct. 1, the natural concern was the capacity for programs airing on either CBS or perhaps Showtime?
While nothing has been identified right now, Espinoza thinks it’s only a matter of time before Bellator could possibly promote a card on a variety of various ViacomCBS networks, not to discuss the marketing possibilities.
” I think the expansion of Bellator shows across all ViacomCBS is most likely in the long run,” Espinoza stated. “I think it applies to boxing. I believe one of the most interesting elements of the merger is having now a range of different outlets from CBS network to CBS Sports Network, throughout all the various Viacom outlets and after that with streaming, with Paramount Plus, with Showtime on the premium and streaming side, there’s now an opportunity to actually spread combat sports across a whole variety of platforms both in series of the material itself and likewise in regards to the promo.
” We’ve begun to see that a bit with the Charlo pay-per-view, where we have actually gotten a great deal of support across the board from Viacom networks. We have actually gotten some actually high profile terrific assistance from CBS from the NFL games this past weekend, most significantly throughout the Houston Texans game on CBS, which is terrific with the Charlo’s as their house market. I believe we’re visiting more and more of that.”
Showtime Boxing and Bellator Co-Promoted Shows
With Showtime Boxing and Bellator Mixed Martial Arts currently sharing a residency at the Mohegan Sun, it seems like a natural fit that the 2 promos could ultimately place on a card together.
Espinoza concurs that putting on a card that features both boxing and Mixed Martial Arts is definitely a possibility with a wide variety of other concepts that might see the two brands collaborate in the future.
” I think it is extremely possible in the long run that we do absolutely promoted occasions, back-to-back events, even combined occasions as soon as it’s realistically possible,” Espinoza discussed.
” The structure would be quite comparable. The logistics of the cage would be pretty comparable. As quickly as we have the opportunity, I believe you’ll see some of that either after the DAZN deal or in conjunction with the DAZN deal or anywhere we can fit it into business design. The business as a whole is dedicated to the growth of Bellator long term and if boxing can assist add to that, then it’s all the better for everyone.”
Scott Coker vs. Dana White
Of course, Espinoza has a long history dealing with Coker, however he likewise experienced a quick marketing relationship with UFC President Dana White when the mega-fight in between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor came together in 2017.
As the head of Showtime Sports, Espinoza represented Mayweather, while White was side-by-side with McGregor.
In the after-effects of that occasion, Espinoza and White have shared more than a couple of harsh words for each other. That said, Espinoza doesn’t spent much time thinking about White or his specific business practices. He just chooses working along with Coker, who is a completely various type of promoter.
” I have not invested a whole lot of time studying the UFC’s viewpoint and their method, but I know Scott and I know our method, and I understand how Scott approaches things as evidenced by his 20- plus years in battle sports,” Espinoza stated. “What our groups have in common in Bellator and Showtime is really the fighter-first mindset. We believe in respecting the fighter, raising the fighter and doing whatever to put the fighter out front in the most positive light possible.
” Personally, from throughout this company, Scott actually feels the same way. There is a tremendous quantity of respect for anyone who gets in the ring or in the cage and puts their efforts on the line because type of personal method, and we want to honor that and elevate that. That’s the philosophy and that’s an option. If there’s something if you talk about Scott throughout his career, that’s something individuals will point to is the fact that it’s not about Scott. It’s not even about the organization as much as it has to do with raising the fighters and honoring the nobility and the nerve that it takes to commit yourself to this way of life in fight sports.”
Throughout the years, White has come under fire for the way he’s attacked some of his professional athletes in the media. Simply recently, the UFC president took goal at previous interim light-weight champ Dustin Poirier when he couldn’t pertain to terms with the promo for a planned battle versus Tony Ferguson
” Listen, I like Dustin,” White said about Poirier in September “I’m not going to sit up here and state anything unfavorable about Dustin. He’s a great kid. I do not know if it was he didn’t want to combat in Abu Dhabi or what his deal was, he didn’t wish to combat. There’s a lot of different methods to refuse a battle.
For whatever factor, he didn’t want to take this fight.
Clearly, Espinoza could not deal with Poirier or that specific situation however he understands the differences with how he handles company with his fighters similar method Coker does at Bellator.
” Truthfully, you can be really successful in this business without having to turn to negativity,” Espinoza said. “By honoring people, honoring their contributions to the sport, I don’t wish to make us seem like Kid Scouts. We’re not best and there are conflicts occasionally, but I think Scott thinks as I do, business transactions are best kept personal as much as possible and the part that requires to be out front are the fighters and their dedication and their stake in the fight.
” That’s evident in Scott’s approach, Bellator’s technique, throughout the organization which’s what draws people to Scott and to Bellator is that approach and that viewpoint.”
Freak Program Battles in Boxing
While Espinoza is proud to promote the upcoming Charlo twins pay-per-view through Showtime Boxing, it’s impossible to overlook some of the other fights being discussed in the sport today.
Social media superstars Logan and Jake Paul are all of a sudden being discussed as possible opponents for championship level boxers. According to boxing insider Dan Rafael, DAZN as soon as considered UFC champ Khabib Nurmagomedov and Jorge Masvidal as “premium” challengers for potential fights versus Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
If any of those matches ever happened, it wouldn’t be the very first or last time boxing or Mixed Martial Arts promoted a star in a top-level battle. Mayweather and McGregor placed on one of the most significant pay-per-views of perpetuity in a bout where the unbeaten previous boxing champ was a huge favorite– and eventually won the battle by TKO.
Espinoza can’t state he’s planning to promote any of those sort of battles in the future, however he’s not as fast to dismiss them as absolutely nothing more than a money grab. He simply wants to ensure promoters involved with those fights are distinguishing Logan Paul dealing with Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition as a far cry from the included bout this weekend with Jermall Charlo against Sergiy Derevyanchenko.
” I’ll inform you, I shake my head at sort of when they’re dealt with as the very same thing,” Espinoza explained.
” It might not be my cup of tea, however I do not begrudge it. Where I think it does a disservice to the sport is where you’re putting the 2 on the very same platform and you’re expecting two different audiences to cross-pollinate. In my experience what that results in is truly sort of missed out on chances and disappointed expectations between the 2 different audiences rather than cross-pollination. They are two various things and they should not be presented as the same.”
He might not be prepared to ink the Paul bros to an unique agreement, but Espinoza can’t reject the home entertainment value in seeing them battle. That said, he likewise understands it’s not the same as enjoying two of the very best boxers clashing in the ring or a high profile Mixed Martial Arts fight like those happening in Bellator.
” The Paul’s certainly have a big fan base,” Espinoza stated. “To be truthful, the very first Paul-KSI fight, I was in fact impressed by the level of boxing. This was not a celebrity boxing match. These were guys who had actually clearly hung around in the gym and had some skills.
” It’s not at the level of a Showtime Champion Boxing but they were okay. They had fundamental skills. They definitely worked hard and it was entertaining. Once again, one is apples, one is oranges.”