Report: Ortiz vs Babalu For Affliction Vegas Card

July 29, 2008

Steve Cofield of Yahoo Sports is reporting that Tito Ortiz vs Babalu Sobral is in the works to co-main event the Affliction card from the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Sources have told Yahoo! Sports that free agent Tito Ortiz will fight Renato “Babalu” Sobral in the co-main event at Affliction’s next fight card, on Oct. 11 at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus in Las Vegas. The main event will feature a heavyweight bout between WAMMA champion Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski.

Ortiz would represent the best draw on Affliction’s roster as far as mainstream visibility, drawing PPV buys, and pulling a decent gate. Ortiz has been linked to the Affliction group in the past through his involvement with Donald Trump, who is an equity partner in the Affliction group.

The Ortiz vs Bablu fight is far from a done deal. Ortiz is just coming out of his no complete time after his Zuffa contract and Tito is sure to drive a hard bargain for his services. Cofield elaborates on the window for negotiations:

Atencio also indicated that he didn’t think Affliction could speak with Ortiz until Aug. 4 because of a 60-day non-compete clause in Ortiz’s UFC contract. Ortiz’s last fight for UFC was on May 24 at UFC 84. If the 60-day clause is accurate, the deal ended last weekend. Atencio said the biggest stumbling block for an Ortiz deal would be the financial terms.

Cofield also indicated that Affliction would be using the services of Roy Englebrecht as the promtor of record for the Vegas card. Such a move would save time and money, as the company would not have to go through the licensing process with state athletic commission.

Couture Book Tour Hits SoCal

July 28, 2008

Randy Couture is currently in the midst of doing a national tour to promote his book, Becoming the Natural. Those in the Southern California area will get a chance to buy the book and get it signed early this week. Randy will be at the Virgin Megastore at Hollywood and Highland Monday evening at 7pm, at the Torrance Borders Tuesday at 7pm, and Long Beach Barnes and Noble Wednesday at 7PM for book signings.

Co-Author Loretta Hunt will be joining Randy at tonight’s Hollywood signing.

MMA & Immigration Law

July 28, 2008

The AmLaw Daily recently profiled Richard Wilner, an immigration attorney in California who’s clients include Manny Pacquiao and Wanderlei Silva. In addition, Wilner also serves as outside counsel to EliteXC. The article provides an interesting look at some the challenges foreign nationals face in entering the country to compete in MMA:

What’s required legally to get foreign nationals into the country for fighting purposes?
You have to demonstrate that these people are athletes who have sustained national or international acclaim in their sport. I do that by providing objective evidence in the form of certificates, awards, gold medals, and other forms of verification from organizations that conferred those awards [to show that] this person is the recipient. A lot of this stuff needs to be translated on tight deadlines as fight cards have a habit of changing at the last minute.

Once that’s done then they’re ready to brawl stateside?
No. There’s also a process overseas whereby [foreign fighters] go in to interview at the appropriate [U.S.] consulate…to determine if there’s any other reason why they shouldn’t be allowed into the U.S. So if someone has a criminal background that may render one inadmissible. Prior negative immigration history can also be taken into account. A lot of times, just like any client, they don’t tell you until their visa has been denied that they may have had some previous issues.

I take it that affects the business side, the marketing of a fight?
Absolutely. Most fight promoters are aware of the costs that will increase as a result of bringing a foreign fighter in. Sometimes I also have to do visas for their corner people. I have to demonstrate that support personnel have previous experience with the fighter and they’re not displacing an American worker. People think that anyone can be a cut man, but it’s actually a pretty specific science.

Doing Business in the Amateur Market

July 28, 2008

While the professional MMA market is usually the most high profile, there are many business opportunities in the amateur levels of MMA, especially as regulation spreads. John Moody of Tristatefighter.com spoke with Scott Morgan of New Breed Fighters about his moves in the amateur market of the Northeast. Moody boils down how the expanded amateur market will lead to a better finished product:

New Breed Fighters is a growing amateur MMA fight organization based in Berlin, New Jersey which allows first time fighters a chance to grow physically and mentally in the cage before turning pro. With nine cards in 2008, young fighters get a large number of fights in a short period allowing for rapid growth.

Morgan speaks on varying topics as they relate to the amateur ranks. Morgan looks to have an eye towards expansion on a national basis:

I expect the top amateur MMA fighter will come from our region, consequently producing the best pro fighter from our region of the country. I am looking to flip flop things for now. Once I get to a certain level here, I have aspirations to take it to three other regions around country where I will establish same thing. Have four regional champions around the country and eventually bring them all together for one large show to develop one national champion for New Breed Fighters. It is a development program. We call it “one step closer.” Once step closer to your goals and dreams.

Comparing Merch Deals: UFC vs WWE

July 28, 2008

While the discussion over the UFC’s merchandising and ancillary rights contracts has died down somewhat, the contract continues to cause concern for athletes and agents in MMA circles. Dave Meltzer compared the UFC’s merchandising pacts with those of the WWE, a promotional and business model that the UFC seems to be modeled after, in the print version of his Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

There’s a lot of controversy in the MMA world regarding UFC trying to get fighters to sign merchandising agreements, which, among other things, would give UFC the right to market the wrestlers in perpetuity. The agreements are similar to those in this company (the WWE), which UFC is following the lead in when it comes to merchandising fighters. However, the situation is very different. The top fighters are balking at things like percentages offered and life-long marketing, which would include after they leave the company. In WWE, the contracts you sign to wrestle and merchandise deals are mandatory while UFC is trying to now get people under contract to sign new deals from scratch with merchandising. Plus, almost all fighters of any note have representation, while in WWE, a large percentage, perhaps as high as half, don’t employ representation. UFC fighters up to this point didn’t get bonused for things like DVD sales of shows they are on. WWE wrestlers get a percentage, sometimes tiny but a percentage nonetheless of anything they appear in. If you appear in a match on somebody else’s DVD, you get a piece. All wrestlers and former wrestlers get itemized quarterly merchandise reporters and breakdowns. Wrestlers don’t get anything from matches that are replayed on television. UFC fighters don’t get anything from all the repeats of their fights on television either.

The WWE deals are mandatory while the UFC is trying to get fighters to sign new deals, but that is clearly the end game for the UFC. The WWE model for marketing rights has proved to be a bonanza and one that Zuffa would be keen to replicate. A closed system with all merch rights being controlled by the UFC is the most economically attractive for Zuffa. Such a model would be similar to those done by the other major sports leagues, who tightly control what brands are associated with their teams and players. In-House Zuffa product or those designated as official providers, like TapouT, will become the major players for things like Apparel.

They aren’t able to retroactively apply the new marketing paradigm to those under contract but those just coming in to the company are a whole other matter, and should serve as the means to implementing this closed system strategy . The merch deal will likely become a pay-to-play issue for those looking to fight in the UFC, a mandatory step for entry into the biggest MMA company in the world. There will be a mix of merch-contracted fighters vs non-contracted fighters for the foreseeable future, but over time that will increasingly tilt towards an all merch-contracted labor force for the UFC. The time frame for such a conversion is probably over a 5 to 7 year time period.

EliteXC: Building To Make Them Buy

July 28, 2008

Fresh off of EliteXC’s Saturday night card, talk has turned to the October card and possible match-ups between Carano vs Cyborg, Diaz vs Noons, and possibly Kimbo vs Rogers. While these are certainly exciting match-ups, putting them forth as possible match-ups for the October card is a bit misguided. Doing these fights on free TV would go against the strategy laid out by DeLuca as it relates to EliteXC’s television and PPV strategy:

Doug DeLuca: Absolutely, the Pay‑Per‑View model is the goal for most people in this sport. So, yes, it’s our goal, too. The exact plan is broadcast television drives the Pay‑Per‑View. It builds stars. SHOWTIME to CBS. CBS to Pay‑Per‑View. Build stars, build the interest in the stars, let people know even more that these fighters – the guys and gals — are people and they have real stories and make people care about them and drive the Pay‑Per‑View. So that’s absolutely the goal. As far as timing goes, you’ll probably see a Pay‑Per‑View from us early in ’09.

If the network deal with CBS is all about building stars, then they will not be putting them into a position to fail before the company can cash in on their investment. Carano vs Cyborg, Diaz vs Noons, and Kimbo vs Rogers are match-ups they need to build into moneymakers, not provide as fodder for free TV. The October card will more than likely be used to build towards the supposed 09 PPV. With the need to get the ratings back up, the question will be can EliteXC get a rating while simultaneously putting on match-ups that build to a PPV? Will they have to fast forward a match-up that could possibly draw PPV interest in order to salvage the CBS deal?

UPDATED: EliteXC Ratings Down 40%, 1.9 on Overnights

July 27, 2008

The overnight ratings are in and it doesn’t look good for EliteXC’s second CBS card.The numbers :

And there really still isn’t much to say except for this: EliteXC Saturday Night Fights without any buzz surrounding Kimbo Slice performed much worse without Kimbo than it did with him. CBS initial foray into MMA didn’t draw a slew of viewers but at least performed well in the 18-49 and 18-34 demos.

That airing back on May 31, 2008 scored 4.3 million viewers and a 1.9/6 among 18-49 year olds and since the Kimbo Slice bout for that airing aired past primetime (11p) the most viewed portion wasn’t included. But lacking any Kimbo anticipation, last night’s fights pulled a mere 2.62 million and a 1.0/3 from 9pm-11pm.

Not a good number at all for EliteXC, the 4.3 to 2.6 million viewer drop represents a 40% dip from May. That number may increase slightly as all the markets come in but would still have to be below expectations. While the numbers are down, it is unsure what effect this number will have on the planned October CBS show. With CBS/Showtime’s increasing ownership stake in ProElite, EliteXC would look to have a wider leeway with respect to the ratings number.

UPDATED: Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter is reporting the show got a 1.9 rating on the overnight. When all markets finish reporting in the numbers should bump up a tenth or two for either a 2.0 or a 2.1. This would fall into the low 2 range that MMAPayout.com felt would be a decent number for the show, per our show preview

Rating Expectations
Without the high profile fighters of the first card, ProElite and CBS are both admittedly coming into this card with muted expectations. While a rating somewhere in the 2.5 range would be an excellent overall rating for the show, they are probably looking at somewhere in the low 2’s. Anything below a 2 would have to be a troubling sign to both Elite and CBS and a cause for concern.

EliteXC Review

July 27, 2008

With their second card on CBS, EliteXC looked to build up new stars to supplement the duo of Gina Carano and Kimbo Slice. While I don’t feel that any of the fighters came out of the card with that kind of high profile name, EliteXC has to be happy the results. With strong wins for Nick Diaz, Cris Cyborg, and Robbie Lawler, EliteXC has something to work with in building towards future cards on CBS and possibly PPV.

From the production end, things went very smooth for EliteXC. Much of the superfluous filler that was a hallmark of their debut show was cut out, and the fights flowed fairly smoothly. They were able to fit their show into the allotted time with plenty to spare, which should keep the local affiliates happy. The announce team did a very solid job, given to hyperbole at times but nothing beyond what would be expected of in-house announcers. The producers did a smart thing by using cageside segments with Gina Carano and Kimbo, keeping their profile high and hyping their return to CBS in October. The night of fights was also aided by all of their CBS fights going to definitive finishes.

Nick Diaz looked strong on the card, with the crowd giving the fight a certain energy that translated well to TV. While the fight wasn’t high on the technical scale it, it was the kind of sloppy boxing that is easy to understand and embrace for a casual crowd. In my preview I stated that this was a squash match designed to get Diaz over, and it played out that way to a T. Diaz was able to put on a stand-up flurry for almost the entire fight, one that got the crowd excited and most likely the televised crowd as well. If folks weren’t aware of Diaz coming into the fight, this made him a star to the causal crowd.

The logical match up for Diaz would be KJ Noons but what show do you do that on? Noons and manager Mark Dion have been reluctant to sign a long term deal with EliteXC, and Elite has responded by not putting their 160lb champion on either of their network shows. Do the parties come to some kind of deal and they put Diaz vs Noons on the October Card or do they delay and hype match-up until they get on PPV? That would seem to be almost too long, but Dion may leave them no choice if he wants to drive a hard bargain.

Cris Cyborg put on a striking clinic in her fight with Shana Baszler. With Carano set to fight on the October card, they may look to build towards a Cyborg-Carano fight on their early 09 PPV they mentioned at Tuesday’s conference call. They can probably do a quick turnaround on Cyborg and have her fight a soft touch to lead into the Carano fight. Carano is star, and the crowd will rally around her in a match up against the Ivan Drago-esque Cris Cyborg. In looking so strong, Cyborg came off as a credible threat to the resident female superstar, Gina Carano, which can translate to PPV buys. Carano-Cyborg would be a study in contrasts that would be very sellable, with the muscle bound Brazilian Killer facing off with the All American girl with the milk and honey good looks. I think they are already reserving a cageside seat for Mrs. Cyborg at Gina’s October fight.

Jake Shields looked impressive in his submission win over Nick Thompson. Shields was able to dominate Thompson and finish him early in the first round. Shields has a style that isn’t the most television friendly, so to speak, so his performance was the best possible result for everybody, well everyone except Nick Thompson. EliteXC has to feel like they dodged a bullet with this fight and actually came out if it with Shields looking very strong. Questions remain on where you go from here with Shields, with their being a paucity of options at Welterweight. Paul Semtex Daley and his exciting stand-up game may be one option.

Robbie Lawler put on another slugfest for the fans on network TV. Lawler’s withdrawn demeanor may hold him back from breaking out as a major star for the company, but he has been featured twice on network television putting on exciting fights featuring some entertaining stand-up. One has to think he has built up some goodwill with the fans, who know that if they see him on a card they are going to see a good action fight.

For the October Card, EliteXC will have their two superstars in Kimbo and Carano, but it is doubtful they will be put into challenging matches. The rumored opponent for Carano is Kelly Kobald, who shouldn’t be perceived as too much of a threat. Loretta Hunt of Sherdog says that their is a short list of possible opponents for Kimbo, including Dave Herman, Brett Rogers and others. Either of the two mentioned seem to have too much of a chance of upsetting the apple cart before EliteXC can cash in on Kimbo-mania, PPV style. With enough time passed since his loss to Buzz Berry, they could put Ken Shamrock in to provide someone with name recognition to feed to Slice. The other Shamrock brother, Frank Shamrock, has also stated he may like to get a piece of Robbie Lawler for the EliteXC middleweight title on the October card. Carano, Slice, The Shamrocks, and a twice CBS featured Lawler would make for a good ratings draw for EliteXC on their next network card. Taking the long view, the match-ups they seem to be setting up for the planned PPV include Carano vs Cyborg, Diaz vs Noons, and possibly Slice vs Rogers.

The folks at EliteXC and CBS now go into a waiting game, as the ratings come in over the next couple of days. Many online lamented the lack of buzz for the fights, but CBS did a good job of advertising the show in-house. The second installment of EliteXC received heavy rotation of their ad spots the last two weeks through-out CBS’s prime and daytime schedules, as well as on their week-end sports programs. We will have to wait and see if their lack of penetration of other mainstream media or lack of internet buzz foretell a ratings letdown.

EliteXC Live Notes

July 26, 2008

EliteXC looks to be doing some time management as they are going with tape delay on the Showtime Coverage. The Reis vs Caraway was taped before the show went live and then lead off the cable portion of the card. More than likely they will go straight to the Eilers vs Bigfoot fight immediately after this one so as to be sure to fit in the heavyweight title fight. Nope, Feijao is up next. They have had some early finishes so they are looking good on the making the 9pm window to start the CBS portion.

The cage advertisers don’t seem to be as high profile tonight. Mickey’s, Burger King and Capcom video games, major cage advertisers last time around, don’t look to have bought cage signage this time. Gamespot has signage on the mat. VAS, a apparel sponsor that advertises heavily on the ProElite website, has corner signage as well as RockStar Energy Drinks. Code of Silence also a sponsor.

Scott Smith Interview. Affliction t-shirts are a no-no on EliteXC but Xtreme Couture is Okay. Go Figure.

Those at the arena put attendance at about 85% of capacity, which is around 8k.

CBS portion of the card is live. Pretty nice hype segment setting up the main event. Showtime event just ending….poor time management to not have the Showtime card over by the time they started the CBS portion, they will have to do a better job with the network coverage. The first punch night goes off at quarter after.

Gina Carano on hand to watch Cyborg vs Baszler. Mazagatti with a questionable call. . Again, something that wasn’t under their control hurts EliteXC. They seem a bit snake bit. Cyborg looked like a wrecking machine, and will make a good black hat to face off with the white hat Gina. Carano talking up a fight with Cyborg. They are pushing the October 4th show, and Gina’s net fight, never to early to do that I guess.

Frank Shamrock with an MMA primer, which will be needed for the noobs because Thompson vs Shields is up next. The average joe needs to be told they are just rolling around on the ground. Jake Shields with a quickness. Quick, decisive win….. that was all they could really ask out of this slot. In a slot that could have put a sleeper hold on the crowd, the instead got a quick choke that got Shields over.

Kimbo get some face time. They are doing a good job of reminding you who the stars are, while at the same time trying to build some new stars on tonight’s card. The October card looks to be from Fort Lauderdale, Kimbo country.

If they go under on their time, they would be better off showing the Feijao fight as opposed to either of the seeing bouts left. Feijao may have a bright future with the company, something that can’t be said of the fighters in the other bouts. Giving the crowd another KO wouldn’t hurt, either.

Diaz is up next. The promo makes him out to be a nice guy, while the commentators are making him out to be a bad apple, they need to work on consistency. The hometown crowd reaction is getting Diaz over big. Nice Staredown.

Now that was a round……stand up war. Nice performance by Diaz. He looked like a million bucks in this fight. It should be fun to hear him on an open mike. The announcers are selling Diaz big. That could not have played out any more perfectly for EliteXC.

Other than the slight hiccup false finish in the Cyborg fight they couldn’t have asked for things to go any smoother. I don’t know if that translates to getting a rating but those that did watch should come back for more.

EliteXC does a little counter-programming of their own…showing Anderson Silva signing autographs in the crowd.

Back and forth round fought the entire time on the feet. Crowd kind of ebbed but stayed in it. Lawler saw his own blood, and then Lawler made Smith see stars. Just punished Smith to the body with knees, setting up the win. Nothing that will set the world on fire, but an impressive win by Lawler.

They will make it in under the 11pm hour, which will keep the affiliates happy. The two important things I mentioned in my preview – definitive finishes and good time management- they passed with flying colors. Only thing they can do now is wait for the ratings.

TapouT Announces Kimbo Slice Sponsorship

July 26, 2008

KIMBO AND TAPOUT PARTNER TO CREATE EXCLUSIVE APPAREL LINE

Grand Terrace, CA (July 28, 2008) – TapouT, the premier mixed martial arts apparel, gear and lifestyle brand, announced today that the company will sponsor MMA superstar Kimbo Slice and create a joint apparel line under the TapouT brand. TapouT will be Kimbo’s exclusive apparel sponsor.

“Kimbo is the real deal,” said Mask, TapouT Founder. “He is the ultimate underdog who kept his nose to the grindstone and rose up to become one of the most well-known MMA fighters out there. Kimbo is tough, but full of heart, and we’re excited to take him from the cage to the clothing.”

“I want to thank the whole TapouT FAM for taking an interest in me and team Kimbo,” said Kimbo Slice. Also thank you guys for allowing us to be a part of your FAM…and the tightest gear out there. Hey man, my team is psyched, team Kimbo is psyched.”

Further details on the Kimbo/TapouT apparel line will be announced in the coming months.

About TapouT

An independently operated and owned mixed martial arts lifestyle company, TapouT boasts a sought-after apparel line for MMA enthusiasts, sponsors the best MMA Fighters (Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, etc.) and stars in a hit TV reality show “TapouT,” which kicks off season two on July 30 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on VERSUS (and launched July 24 on VERSUS ON DEMAND). TapouT is also the exclusive apparel sponsor for Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter” through 2011.

TapouT’s passion for the sport has turned into a full-on underground culture, as the TapouT crew, Mask, Punkass and Skyskrape, extend the growing popularity of MMA through their presence at the most extreme events, supporting fighters and offering the hottest, edgiest apparel for men and women. Their distinctive logo graces everything from hats, tees and car windows, to their special limited edition 2007 Toyota Tundra TapouT truck. The TapouT logo has become so noteworthy that its most devoted fans are tattooing it on their bodies, demonstrating the ultimate in commitment.

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