Showtime is selling what's known as EliteXC in a public auction, looking to recoup some of its investment in the money-losing operation. Among the assets for sale is the contract of the well-known MMA personality Kimbo Slice (real name Kevin Ferguson).
Technically, the pay network is selling the assets of EliteXC's parent ProElite. Showtime's owner CBS Corp. made an initial $5 million investment in the company in early 2007. But the publicly traded ProElite suffered an operating loss of $24.3 million over the first six months of this year.
Showtime has aired a series of EliteXC events since early 2007, while the CBS network has carried three "Saturday Night Fights" broadcasts. A fourth was scheduled in October, but didn't take place.
Seeking to capitalize on the soaring interest in MMA among young men, Showtime joined with ProElite in late 2006 to launch EliteXC (short for Elite Xtreme Combat). Like several other failed challengers, it hoped to compete with UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), the most successful mixed martial arts business.
UFC would seem to be a candidate to participate in the coming EliteXC auction, where the contracts of at least 14 fighters, including Kimbo Slice, are up for bid. Also for sale are several brand names in addition to EliteXC, and a video library.
UFC did not immediately respond to a call or an e-mail seeking comment.
A public notice of the ProElite sale has it taking place on the morning of Nov. 17 at the Hughes Hubbard & Reed office in Los Angeles. Showtime can pull the plug at any time, however.
In addition to airing matches on Showtime and CBS, Los Angeles-based ProElite has produced live events and operates several Web sites.
Showtime declined comment. A call to ProElite CEO Chuck Champion was not immediately returned.
Showtime had held some unsuccessful discussions this fall with ProElite about a possible acquisition. It was able to take control of its assets as ProElite was unable to pay back loans totaling $6.3 million. An SEC filing indicates ProElite had less than $550,000 in the bank.