The SHOWTIME Mixed Martial Arts announce team, led by play-by-play broadcast veteran Gus Johnson, Mixed Martial Arts experts Mauro Ranallo and Stephen Quadros and MMA legends Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich will combine to create one of the most experienced and versatile groups in the history of the sport. The announcement was made today by Ken Hershman, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Sports & Event Programming, SHOWTIME, at a Los Angeles press conference kicking off the premium network’s new relationship with leading MMA promoter Strikeforce.
The group will work in various combinations on both Strikeforce championship telecasts and on the yet to be named up-and-comers’ series.
“I am thrilled with the announce team we’ve assembled,” said Hershman. “The depth of talent, in terms of professional fight experience and live broadcast polish, is unmatched in the industry.
“As the first premium television network to regularly deliver live MMA events, SHOWTIME has taken the lead in presenting the sport with the respect and integrity it deserves. We take pride in delivering unparalleled coverage of this dynamic sport. And now, our broadcast team is unparalleled as well.”
Johnson will be the lead play-by-play announcer and host for the Strikeforce telecasts on SHOWTIME, beginning with the first live event on April 11 (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast) that features Frank Shamrock against Nick Diaz in the main event of a five-fight telecast. The versatile Johnson will be joined on April 11 by analysts Ranallo and Miletich.
A practicing mixed martial artist who studies Shing Yi Kung Fu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and boxing, Johnson joined SHOWTIME Sports in January 2009 as the lead play-by-play announcer on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING. In addition, Johnson continues his work with CBS Sports as play-by-play announcer for the network’s coverage of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championships (since 1995) and the National Football League (since 1998).
“This is a great opportunity to be part of the most rapidly growing sport in America,” said Johnson. “MMA is a sport that, in a few years, can become one of the most dominant sports in the country because the kids love it. I think MMA is going to continue to flourish and SHOWTIME is the perfect network to foster its development on television.
“I don’t think there’s a better team out there that can deliver the intensity of the moment while entertaining the core MMA fan and enlightening new comers.
Johnson, who called boxing for CBS Sports and Madison Square Garden Network, was the voice of CBS ELITEXC SATURDAY NIGHT FIGHTS in 2008. He continues as an active member of the CBS Sports broadcast team.
Always quick with a quip, the renowned Ranallo will lead the play-by-play duties on the up-and-comers’ series.
The colorful Canadian previously worked blow-by-blow for EliteXC and ShoXC telecasts on SHOWTIME and was an analyst on CBS ELITEXC SATURDAY NIGHT FIGHTS. From 2003-2006, he has provided play-by-play for pay-per-view broadcasts of Japan’s legendary Pride Fighting Championships into the North American marketplace.
“I am very excited to be a part of the new SHOWTIME team,’’ said Ranallo, who also is the current lead anchor of the Fight Network, host of Fight Network Radio on Sirius/XM 98 and host of “The MMA Show” on the SCORE Network in Canada. “MMA is the purest form of competition featuring the greatest athletes in the world and I look forward to working with a very talented crew in providing the soundtrack for what I know will be some amazing fights.”
Known throughout the world as “The Fight Professor,” Quadros has been involved in the martial arts for decades. He was the editor of two fight magazines, trained competitors in both kickboxing and MMA and has an extensive broadcasting resume that includes Pride Fighting Championships, K-1, the International Fight League and ShoXC on SHOWTIME.
As an actor, the talented Quadros has had guest roles on numerous TV shows, including “C.S.I. Miami’’ and “Without A Trace.’’ Quadros was a guest lead when he fought Chuck Norris on the season premiere of “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
On the other side of the camera, Quadros functioned as fight technical advisor for two films for Warner Bros. (“Exit Wounds,” “Cradle 2 The Grave”).
“To me, working in the MMA industry has always been a great job,’’ the respected Quadros said. “So far I’ve been very fortunate to have been around the world, commentating on the best fighters and the best contests.
“But now with the partnership between Strikeforce and SHOWTIME, two of the most professional and enduring entities in the modern sports world, my confidence is at an all-time high.
“It’s a dream come true to be aboard a venture of this magnitude alongside people who I hold in the highest regard. Let the games begin.”
If he had his way, Shamrock, who also was an analyst on CBS ELITEXC SATURDAY NIGHT FIGHTS, would fight and commentate on April 11.
Arguably the most physically gifted individual to step in the cage, Shamrock has been dubbed by the press as the “closest thing mixed martial has to Muhammad Ali” for his combination of versatile skills and quick-witted mind games he has so often used to gain a sharp advantage over his opposition.
During an illustrious career, Shamrock has taken out the likes of former UFC poster boy Tito Ortiz as well as MMA legend, Bas Rutten. His 16-second submission of former Olympic gold medalist Kevin Jackson on Dec. 21, 1997 set a UFC record for stoppage of a fight.
“Great coaching and dedication to my art has allowed me to accomplish extraordinary things in my 15-year career,” said Shamrock, who has held multiple world titles and records. “At 36-years old, I feel that the greatest opponent facing me in the cage is Father Time. My work as a fighter is far from over, and on April 11, you’ll all see that.
“But one of my dreams has always been to work behind the mic as a sports analyst and to share my passion for martial arts with the world. I am honored to be part of the SHOWTIME announce team. These guys are, in my opinion, the best team in sports television. Under the guidance of Executive Producer David Dinkins, Jr., and my mentor Al Bernstein, I am confident that I can provide championship commentary for a great many years to come.”
Miletich is the founder of Miletich Fighting Systems, a premier MMA training academy in Bettendorf, Iowa, which includes amongst its trainees some of the most talented and popular fighters in MMA, including former Icon Sport and EliteXC champion Robbie Lawler.
Known as “The Croatian Sensation,” Miletich has been fighting professionally since 1995. Last year, he returned from a two-year layoff to knock out Thomas Denny in the second round (December, 2008). Miletich holds a third degree black belt in Shuri-ryu karate and has trained with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Sergio Monteiro, earning his BJJ black belt from Oswaldo Alves.
“I am very excited to be part of the SHOWTIME team,” said Miletich. “I know Scott Coker very well and he and his Strikeforce outfit have been putting on quality fights for a long time. Strikeforce and SHOWTIME are a terrific match and I am looking forward to contributing in every way that I can.”
Over the years, Miletich has served as guest commentator on Fox Sports Net and HDNet among others.
“I feel very comfortable in front of the camera,” he continued. “It’s going to be fun to be a regular part of the on-air team on such a high-profile show. The key for me is the support system. With guys like Gus Johnson and Mauro Ranallo quarterbacking the commentary, it’s going to be very natural for me.”
One of the most likable fighters in the sport, Miletich is the Vice President of Fighter Relations for the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts.
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Showtime Networks Inc. (SNI), a wholly-owned subsidiary of CBS Corporation, owns and operates the premium television networks SHOWTIME®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL® and FLIX®, as well as the multiplex channels SHOWTIME 2™, SHOWTIME® SHOWCASE, SHOWTIME EXTREME®, SHOWTIME BEYOND®, SHOWTIME NEXT®, SHOWTIME WOMEN®, SHOWTIME FAMILY ZONE® and THE MOVIE CHANNEL® XTRA. SNI also offers SHOWTIME HD®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL® HD, SHOWTIME ON DEMAND® and THE MOVIE CHANNEL® ON DEMAND. SNI also manages Smithsonian Networks, a joint venture between SNI and the Smithsonian Institution. All SNI feeds provide enhanced sound using Dolby Digital 5.1. SNI markets and distributes sports and entertainment events for exhibition to subscribers on a pay-per-view basis through SHOWTIME PPV®.
Strikeforce is a world-class mixed martial arts cage fight promotion which, on Friday, March 10, 2006, made history with its “Shamrock vs. Gracie” event, the first sanctioned mixed martial arts fight card in California state history. The star-studded extravaganza, which pitted legendary champion Frank Shamrock against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Cesar Gracie at San Jose’s HP Pavilion, played host to a sold-out, record crowd of 18,265. Since 1995, Strikeforce has been the exclusive provider of martial arts programming for ESPN and, after 12 years of success as a leading, world championship kickboxing promotion, the company unveiled its mixed martial arts series with “Shamrock vs. Gracie.” Since then, it has co-produced one of the first SHOWTIME PPV mixed martial arts event in history with its world championship “Shamrock vs. Baroni” card on June 22, 2007 followed by the first-ever mixed martial arts event at the world-famous Playboy Mansion on September 29, 2007.