Wandy vs Rampage 3 to Super Saturday?

September 24, 2008

Kevin Iole has it on good account that Wandy vs Rampage 3 may be moved to the BJ vs GSP undercard:

A very good source told me on Tuesday he expects Jackson and Silva to fight Jan. 31 (Super Bowl weekend) in Las Vegas in UFC 93. It’s a very fluid situation, but it’s almost certain it won’t happen in November and it’s very unlikely for December.

This is solid thinking by the Zuffa braintrust. As we elaborated on in our post from yesterday, the Super Saturday show will be the most vulnerable of the three show stretch starting in November. If they are wanting to bolster any card, BJ vs GSP would look to be the one. Adding another high profile match-up to BJ vs GSP will help at the gate and also make the card a must buy for any PPV stragglers that may have thought of passing on the card. The UFC doesn’t want a repeat of last year’s Super Saturday card, which only did a $2.5 million gate. The UFC may still have to battle a sinking economy come UFC 93 time, but loading up on the card will give the card the best chance at success.

The Jackson Silva fight had been rumored for November on the undercard of Brock vs Randy. MMAPayout put forth the notion in our UFC 88 wrap-up that Brock vs Randy is a “one fight” card if there ever was one. That one fight will carry the day, with the strength or lack thereof of the rest of the card having little impact on the final buyrate. The back story of Couture’s Return as well as the Pro Wrestler going for gold will drown out anything else that they can put on the card, media and promotion-wise. You are only going to see an extremely marginal increase in PPV sales by putting another attractive bout on the card. Placing a fight like Rampage vs Wanderlei on the card would be wasteful, as that fight can be mined for maximum drawing ability by placing it elsewhere.

UFC 91 Ticket Sales Update

September 23, 2008

Dave Meltzer of Yahoo reports that low end tickets are gone for the big UFC 91 showdown:

All $75 and $150 tickets went quickly on the Internet presale late last week.

All $300 tickets were gone by Sunday, so the only seats left are for $500, $750 and $1,000, with plenty available at the two highest prices. But never fear, you can still get the former $75 tickets for as “low” as $241 from scalpers.

All told, heading into the week, 7,500 tickets were sold for roughly $2.5 million.

Having three shows in Vegas over the span of two and a half months, each demanding premium pricing, may lead to a point of diminishing returns when it comes to the performance of the UFC at the gate. Brock vs Randy should yield a record gate, but possibly at the expense of a lower than the norm figure for the New Year’s card, and subsequently the Superbowl card.

The lesser than normal gates for such high profile cards can be mitigated to some degree by the seeming inability to do higher numbers elsewhere, but that wouldn’t necessarily be true of the BJ vs GSP showdown. BJ vs GSP could easily do a $5 million gate if held Canada.

The last of the three cards, BJ vs GSP, would seem to be the most at risk, but it does have it’s own built-in advantages that may help it overcome a poor showing at the ticket window. Both BJ and GSP are known for having large contingents of fans come into Vegas from their respective homelands to support their favorite sons. Smart money would have promotional efforts being rolled out as we speak, four and a half months ahead of time, in Canada and Hawaii to maximize the turnouts from these two areas.

Omaha to Get UFC Pay-per-view Event?

September 23, 2008

Catching up on some of the news that hit during our down time, this particular post on Fight Night from Omaha by Steve Cofield caught my eye:

UFC president Dana White was giddy about the support shown for the event telling the Omaha News-World the city got itself a future pay-per-view event.

It seemed like a statement that begged a follow-up question that never came. Asking the logical follow-up would yield the part being left out……that they probably earned a WEC PPV, not a UFC PPV show.

The event at the Omaha Civic Auditorium drew 9,103 and did an arena record gate of $700,000. Which is great for a mid-level show during the middle of the week for free TV, but for the UFC PPV shows you are looking at a $1.75 to $2 million gate at minimum to even start talking about hosting a PPV. They could play the larger venue in the Omaha area, the Qwest Center, but it is highly questionable if they could do sufficient numbers there. Portland just got aced out of hosting the Randy vs Brock showdown even though that show would have done in the $2 million range, which was no match for a $5 million+ payoff at the gate in Las Vegas. Omaha can’t compete at either level, which makes them hosting a UFC PPV nonsensical.

A better fit for Omaha would be a possible WEC PPV, a concept which Dana White recently discussed with Kevin Iole at Yahoo. Omaha and their $700k gate would compare favorably to other non-Vegas venues for the WEC such as Albuquerque and Sacaramento, who have recently hosted cards. If they can get the folks of Omaha to buy in to the WEC brand they probably won’t hit the $700k figure, they can do respectable and profitable numbers.

Great Expectations: Can UFC 91 Top 1 Million Buys?

September 23, 2008

During the conference call announcing Randy Couture v. Brock Lesnar as the main event of UFC 91, Dana White predicted that the event would do in excess of one million buys on pay-per-view. White’s prediction is rumored to be based on internal marketing research that found the fight was the most anticipated the company could deliver, even more anticipated than a potential showdown between Forest Griffin and Chuck Liddell (that eventually went down in flames courtesy of Rashad Evans) or a dream fight between BJ Penn and Georges St. Pierre scheduled for January.

Of course public predictions, focus groups, and gut reactions aside, the fact remains that only one pay-per-view in UFC history has topped one million buys. That fact alone is enough to make any prediction of one million buys questionable. However, that said, if there is a fight on the horizon that can become the second fight to break the one million buy mark, this is it.

It seems safe to assume that Couture’s two fights last year coming off a similar year long layoff represent a safe baseline. Those fights averaged 530,000 against two opponents who were anything but proven draws. To make things easy, let’s assume that Couture fighting anyone in the UFC is worth at least 500,000 buys.

Brock Lesnar’s pay-per-view debut drew 650,000 buys in February. That is an impressive number standing alone, but beyond the headline, the event reportedly drew 300,000 first time buyers, presumably from the ranks of WWE. If any significant percentage of those 300,000 first time buyers were converted into UFC fans (or at least Brock Lesnar in the UFC fans), then the effect on buy rates moving forward would be dramatic. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that is the case with Lesnar’s second pay-per-view event reportedly drawing 625,000 buys (with the help of GSP-Fitch) and the noticeable uptick in pay-per-view numbers following UFC 81 which suggests that a number of those first time buyers may have came back to the UFC for more than Lesnar.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that Lesnar can deliver 300,000 buys from outside of the company’s core audience. That put’s UFC 91 at 800,000 buys. What are the missing ingredients needed to put the event over the top? Mainstream media exposure, which the fight is almost certain to receive, and a dedicated big ticket marketing push from the UFC, which the event is already receiving.

The question is what is that push worth? Only two previous events have received the magnitude of the mainstream push anticipated for Lesnar-Couture: UFC 66: Liddell v. Ortiz II and UFC 71: Liddell v. Jackson II.

UFC 71 was given the big event treatment on ESPN during Memorial Day weekend with a push that led to a euphoria surrounding the event’s pay-per-view potential. White publicly stated that weekend that he expected the fight to do one million buys on the strength of the mainstream exposure. Ultimately, the event drew only 675,000 buys, perhaps offering a cautionary tale on the value of a mainstream push. Without the ESPN rub, based on Liddell’s track record, that event was likely to do in the 500,000 buy range, meaning ESPN was good for 175,000 extra buys.

UFC 66 is something of a different animal to get a hold of analytically. The event received a similar, if not greater and more sustained, push. However, setting a benchmark for the event without the hype is more difficult. Liddell and Ortiz were the company’s two top stars and were guaranteed to draw big numbers with or without the mainstream push. Given that Ortiz and Shamrock drew 750,000 buys at UFC 61 earlier in the year without the benefit of much of a mainstream push (at least not that I recall), it seems fair to say that the added mainstream push was worth somewhere around 250,000 buys.

Assuming that the same level of effect for the push of Lesnar-Couture, combined with Couture’s baseline of 500,000 buys and Lesnar’s added 300,000 buys, that would put UFC 91 at between 975,000 and 1,050,000 (ironically the number drawn by UFC 66).

This number will be closely watched not just because of the great expectations surrounding the event, but for what the number will say about the current state of the sport. Given the decline of the broader economy this year and UFC’s flat pay-per-view numbers, the event will provide an interesting heat check for the MMA industry. Is MMA still hot enough in the mainstream to pop a big number or has the industry cooled slightly in the middle of what appears to be a prolonged consolidation phase in its growth cycle.

Iceman in the Philippines Followup

September 23, 2008

You can check out video of Chuck’s Filipino tour at the UFC website. They also have a write up on his visit as well a conversation with Lorenzo Fertitta on possible shows for the UFC in The Philippines for 09.

A show in the Philippines, the home of boxing superstar and national icon Manny Pacquiao, is a no-brainer for the diehard fight fans of the nation, whom Fertitta describes as having “a deep understanding of the sport.” Summer of 2009 is being projected for the UFC’s initial foray into Southeast Asia, with the plan not only to showcase the company’s established stars, but to also give the event a local flavor.

“It will be a combination of bringing over some of our stars and then hopefully having some local Filipino fighters, and maybe bringing in some of the guys from Japan and South Korea,” said Fertitta, who believes the UFC’s success in the country can be boiled down to a couple key elements.

Donruss Announces Red Alert Trading Cards

September 22, 2008

Exclusive Red Alert 3 Trading Cards Featuring MMA Superstars Randy Couture and Gina Carano

Free With Pre-Order of Red Alert 3 on Xbox 360

Available now at GameStop, pre-order your copy of Red Alert 3 for Xbox 360, and you’ll receive two limited edition Donruss Red Alert 3 trading cards when you pick up your game. These awesome cards from the trading card industry’s leading manufacturer, Donruss, feature two of the biggest stars from the world of Mixed Martial Arts, UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy “The Natural” Couture as Allied Commander Warren Fuller, and undefeated EliteXC superstar Gina “Conviction” Carano as the deadly Soviet Commando Natasha. These cards will only be available at GameStop stores nationwide and online, while supplies last.

“We have done several promotions over the past two years with EA, exposing their audience to trading card collecting,” said Carl Braun, Director of Games for Donruss. “It’s obvious that a very high percentage of trading card collectors play video games but we also know the video game player is an ideal trading card collector. With Command & Conquer Red Alert 3, one this year’s biggest releases, and MMA being the fastest growing sport in the world, this was a great way to work with EA again to bring collectors closer to Gina Carano, Randy Couture, and Command & Conquer.

Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 ships this fall on PC and Xbox 360. Mr. Couture and Ms. Carano will star in the Command & Conquer franchise’s trademark live-action movie sequences, alongside a diverse group that includes a host of award-winning actors, action stars, science fiction legends, up-and-coming starlets from around the globe and mixed martial arts fighters.

The cast of Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 follows (in alphabetical order by last name): Gemma Atkinson (the UK’s Hollyoaks), Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Hunt for Red October), Andrew Divoff (LOST), Kelly Hu (X2, The Scorpion King), Jenny McCarthy (Scream 3, former Playboy Playmate of the Year), Ivana Milicevic (Casino Royale), Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean), J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man, Juno, Burn After Reading), Autumn Reeser (The OC, Valentine), Peter Stormare (Prison Break, Armageddon), George Takei (Star Trek, Heroes), and two of the most recognizable names in competitive mixed martial arts Randy “The Natural” Couture (former UFC Heavyweight champion) and Gina “Conviction” Carano (Undefeated Elite XC fighter, American Gladiators).

The Donruss Trading Card Company is a leading manufacturer of sports and entertainment trading cards, produced under the Donruss, Playoff, Leaf, Score and Americana brand names. As the second oldest trading card company, Donruss has established a well-deserved reputation in the realm of sports collectibles. Donruss is known for pioneering the Rookie Card phenomenon and manufacturing the finest, high-end trading cards available at any price.

UFC Fight Night 15 Payouts

September 22, 2008

Nate Diaz — $40,000 ($20,000 to show, $20,000 to win)
Josh Neer — $9,000
Diaz defeated Neer via split decision

Clay Guida — $26,000 ($13,000 to show, $13,000 to win)
Mac Danzig — $15,000
Guida defeated Danzig via unanimous decision

Alan Belcher — $26,000 ($13,000 to show, $13,000 to win)
Ed Herman — $16,000
Belcher defeated Herman via split decision

Eric Schafer — $12,000 ($6,000 to show, $6,000 to win)
Houston Alexander — $13,000
Schafer defeated Alexander via submission (arm triangle choke) in round one

Alessio Sakara — $34,000 ($17,000 to show, $17,000 to win)
Joe Vedepo — $3,000
Sakara defeated Vedepo via knockout (head kick) in round one

Wilson Gouveia — $36,000 ($18,000 to show, $18,000 to win)
Ryan Jensen — $4,000
Gouveia defeated Jensen via submission (armbar) in round two

Joe Lauzon — $20,000 ($10,000 to show, $10,000 to win)
Kyle Bradley — $4,000
Lauzon defeated Bradley via technical knockout (strikes) in round two

Jason Brilz — $6,000 ($3,000 to show, $3,000 to win)
Brad Morris — $4,000
Brilz defeated Morris via technical knockout (strikes) in round two

Mike Massenzio — $6,000 ($3,000 to show, $3,000 to win)
Drew McFedries — $16,000
Massenzio defeated McFedries via submission (kimura) in round one

Dan Miller — $10,000 ($5,000 to show, $5,000 to win)
Rob Kimmons — $5,000
Miller defeated Kimmons via submission (rear naked choke) in round one

Total Payroll:$307,000

Courtesy of MMAMania.com

Silva Contemplating Retirement

September 22, 2008

Michael David Smith at MMAFanhouse comments on the rumors going around the net that Anderson Silva may be contemplating retirement:

I suppose I can see where Silva might feel that way: He has completely cleared out the middleweight division in MMA, to the point where there really aren’t any good fights left for him at that weight, and he has suggested that he’d like do new things, including fight Roy Jones in a boxing match. Maybe, at age 33, he’s just ready to move on.

Losing a top three pound for pound fighter will hurt the sport, but Anderson taking leave of the UFC would have a negligible effect on business. As great as Anderson has performed in the Octagon, his performance at the box office has been almost inversely proportional.

While researching the PPV numbers for our most recent segment on Inside MMA segment, Anderson’s lack of PPV punch jumped out. Measuring PPV draws since the explosion of MMA in early 2006, Silva has been a consistent under-performer on PPV. Anderson Silva has averaged 337,500 buys when heading up a PPV. The shows without him in the line up did an average of 525,238, a drop of -37.5%.

It may be hard to believe but the UFC PPV buying public looks to go out of its way to not buy Anderson on PPV, judging on the numbers. Even a nondescript card like UFC 78, headlined by Rashad Evans vs Michael Bisping, did better on PPV than everything on Anderson’s PPV resume, barring his fight against Travis Lutter.

His under performance wouldn’t be such a bad thing if he weren’t scheduled to receive a large bump in pay after renegotiating his contract at the beginning of the summer. When factoring in base pay, PPV percentages, and bonuses, Silva will make a low seven figure salary when performing on PPV. Paying Silva like he is a PPV draw when he isn’t is going to be hard to explain when guys that DO draw come up for renewal and are being offered comparable numbers.

Fedor Instructional Book Released

September 22, 2008

Victory Belt Publishing came out last week with an instructional book authored by top heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko. The book tries to give the reader a comprehensive look at Fedor’s keys to success, judging form the following product description:

In Fedor, the undefeated, undisputed heavyweight MMA champion of the world unveils for the first time his trademark striking and grappling techniques through descriptive narrative and more than 2500 step-by-step color photographs. Detailing dozens of throws, punching combinations, cardio workouts and ground and pound techniques, this book leaves no stone unturned.

Victory Belt has put out similar instructional books in the past featuring such MMA stars as Randy Couture, BJ Penn, and Karo Parisyan. You can pick up a copy of Fedor for yourself at Amazon.com, among other online retailers.

Expanding the Base: UFC, Affliction Trying to Broaden MMA's Demographic

September 22, 2008

In this election year, “the base” is an often repeated phrase. In politics, a candidate’s core supporters form his base. The challenge faced by Senators McCain and Obama in the race for the Presidency is to maintain the support of their base while expanding their appeal to a broader constituency, namely the independents who will decide the election.

The “politics” of MMA are no different. MMA has found a solid base of its own in the form of the 18-34 male demographic that comprises the vast majority of the sport’s current niche following. That demographic has been the foundation of MMA’s growth over the last three years, but for the industry to continue to grow the sport’s appeal must expand further into the mainstream of American culture. The UFC and Affliction are both aggressively courting the crossover audience necessary to broaden the sport’s reach beyond 18-34 males, but the companies have identified decidedly different target audiences for expansion.

The UFC’s initiative is built around former WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar and the company is banking on his crossover appeal to WWE fans to propel his UFC 91 showdown with the returning Randy Couture to the top of the pay-per-view charts. The pro wrestling crossover has been well documented by MMAPayout.com, as has the company’s public embrace of the theory, at least by Zuffa’s UK President. The company is reportedly planning a cross-promotional effort with WWE and TNA similar to the one that proceeded Lesnar’s octagon debut in February. Those efforts helped draw 650,000pay-per-view buys, including a reported 300,000 first time buyers which presumably were largely pro wrestling fans.

Affliction has chosen to target a different potential crossover audience through its partnership with Golden Boy. Many have intuited that boxing and MMA fans are natural crossover audiences, however, the data to this point has not bore that out. Boxing traditionally draws an older demographic which Affliction hopes to attract through mixed MMA and boxing cards. Boxing also draws better among minorities than MMA which is generally viewed as a young white male demographic. It remains to be seen how receptive boxing fans will be to MMA (and vice versa), but the promotional power of Golden Boy gives Affliction its best chance to crossover into the sport’s demographic.

The respective approaches illustrate a deeper difference in philosophy by the two companies. The UFC has clearly staked itself as an entertainment brand, while Affliction has leaned more toward a traditional sports promoter. Entertainment/profitability come first, sport comes second. That philosophy explains why Ken Shamrock fought Tito Ortiz twice in 2006 and why Lesnar, and his 2-1 MMA record, will face Couture for the Heavyweight Title.

Affliction on the other has spent considerable money to assemble the best available mixed martial-artist, regardless of their potential as draws, with the goal of promoting the best (i.e. most competitive) fights. Despite the inclusion of entertainment elements like live musical performances on its events, the company has focused on the athletic/competitive aspect of MMA over the pro wrestling style hype that the UFC has built its success on.

The bottom line is that at some point, MMA’s audience has to become more than just 18-34 white males if the sport is going to fulfill the aspirations of its proponents. That demographic is good enough to make the UFC a sustained entertainment brand, perhaps on par with WWE, a staple of cable and pay-per-view television that enjoys periods of increased popularity every ten years or so but is largely relegated to a devoted niche audience. But it is not enough to create the next NASCAR or NFL, a lasting sports brand entrenched in mainstream popular culture.

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