Versus picks up 'The Contender' from ESPN, to air 'Muay Thai' spinoff
By Christopher Rocchio, 07/11/2008
It's been knocked down twice now, but The Contender apparently isn't down for the count just yet.
Three months after ESPN canceled The Contender after airing its last two editions, Versus has ordered the fourth season of the boxing-themed reality competition series, Daily Varietyreported Friday.
"When you have the opportunity to bring a top brand with an established following to the network, and the ability to work with someone with a proven track record such as Mark Burnett and DreamWorks, you jump at it," Versus executive Marc Fein told Variety.
When ESPN decided against renewing The Contender for a fourth season (the show's first season aired on NBC), executive producer Jeff Wald had stated that Mark Burnett Productions and DreamWorks were "in the process of making another deal." Versus has ordered 11 one-hour episodes of the series and a two-hour finale, according to Variety, which added the fourth-season will debut in December.
"We're the show that refuses to die. We're like the fighter that keeps getting off the mat to fight on," Wald told ESPN.com in a Friday report. "We're excited to be on Versus."
Burnett and DreamWorks are currently in talks with Hall of Fame boxer Sugar Ray Leonard to return as host and mentor for the fourth-season, Variety reported. Third-season trainer James "Buddy" McGirt is also expected to reprise his role.
The Contender's fourth season will film in Singapore, according to Variety, and focus on 16 cruiserweights from around the world -- pitting U.S. boxers against international fighters.
In addition to The Contender's fourth season, Variety reported Versus also acquired the rights to The Contender Muay Thai -- a spinoff that was filmed in Singapore and focused on international Muay Thai kick boxers.
The Contender Muay Thai -- which consists of 14 one-hour episodes and a two-hour finale -- is scheduled to make its U.S. debut on Thursday, July 31 at 10PM ET/PT. It follows 16 kick boxers who were eliminated in weekly, five-round pro bouts until an international champ was crowned, Variety reported.
The Contender Muay Thai was produced by Imagine Omnimedia in association with Mark Burnett Productions and DreamWorks.