Cage Fighter Follow-up

October 24, 2008

MMAPayout.com has sought to get statements from all parties involved in the MMA Authentics – UFC dispute. MMA Authentics/Cage Fighter has issued no official comment on the dispute. MMAPayout.com contacted UFC VP of merchandising Randy Klein who declined comment. UFC Chief of PR Jennifer Wenk was contacted and has issued no statement at this time.

While there has been no official statement made, a highly esteemed MMA journalist spoke with several folks at the UFC and those sources confirmed the accuracy of our story. Their basic take is Cage Fighter did an unethical move to ace them out so they don’t want to do business with them.

MMAPayout.com will bring you more news on the situation as it becomes available.

UFC 90 Gate Tidbit

October 24, 2008

The UFC’s initial card in Chicago is being well received, as UFC 90 is doing solid business at the gate. As of Thursday, more than 10,000 tickets, ranging from $50 to $600, had been sold for UFC 90. The gate is fast approaching $3 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.

More on CageFighter Ban

October 23, 2008

In a follow-up to our report yesterday concerning the UFC’s ban of CageFighter, MMAPayout.com has spoken with a source with close ties to Wal-Mart that has been in contact with the corporation since the ban was enacted. An executive at Wal-Mart with knowledge of the negotiations was reportedly quoted as saying “the UFC felt they were just going to walk in and get it. They were unreasonable all the way across the board.”

The UFC’s attitude and actions may impact CageFighter in the short term, but may cause long term damage to present and future relationships with the retailing giant. Wal-Mart is a key outlet for the UFC when it comes to their DVD distribution. Bad relations with the Bentonville, Ark-based corporation could mushroom outwards from their apparel ambitions to their DVD business as well precluding future business opportunities between the UFC and Wal-Mart.

According to a report by John Joe O’ Regan of Fighter’s Only:

UFC sources told Fighters Only during the build-up to UFC 89 last week that a ban was on the cards, but no official statements were made.

The ban looks to have been formulated and enacted at the show itself, as there were no Cage Fighter shirts or signage in sight at the event.

UPDATE: CageFighter Follow-Up

MMAPayout.com has sought to get statements from all parties involved in the MMA Authentics – UFC dispute. MMA Authentics/Cage Fighter has issued no official comment on the dispute. MMAPayout.com contacted UFC VP of merchandising Randy Klein who declined comment. UFC Chief of PR Jennifer Wenk was contacted and has issued no statement at this time.

While there has been no official statement made, a highly esteemed MMA journalist spoke with several folks at the UFC and those sources confirmed the accuracy of our story. Their basic take is Cage Fighter did an unethical move to ace them out so they don’t want to do business with them.

Update:
MMA Authentics, owner of the Cage Fighter brand, issued the following statement to MMAPayout.com in regards to their ongoing dispute with the UFC:

MMA Authentics™ has a tremendous amount of respect for the UFC, its’ athletes and the business Dana White and the Fertitta brothers have pioneered in the sport of MMA. We are working towards a solution and hope to work with the UFC in the future to grow the sport to greater heights worldwide.

MMAPayout.com will bring you more news on the situation as it becomes available.

More On Warriors MMA Movie

October 23, 2008

We mentioned the MMA movie Warriors by Gavin O’Connor earlier in the week and the director sat down with Premiere magazine to give a few more details about the project:

What is your next film?
I am [working on] a movie called Warriors. When I finished Pride and Glory, Toby [Emmerich] said, “What do you want to do next?” I told him the story and he said, “Done!” We made the deal. I wrote it for New Line. New Line imploded. I called up Toby and said, “Please let me leave. I don’t want my script inherited by Warner Brothers because I don’t know if it is the right place to make the movie, and I don’t even know if they want to make it.” So he let me leave. And I set it up with Lionsgate.

So what is Warriors about?
The movie is about two estranged brothers that haven’t seen each other in 14 years, and they come back together and they are both mixed martial arts fighters. One of them, when we meet him, is a schoolteacher who is married. He has three little girls. His wife had a heart transplant so he is massively in debt. He starts fighting in what is called “Smokers.” They [happen] all over the country. There are guys [fighting] in parking lots in cages, and you can walk away with a couple of thousand dollars. The other brother we discover is AWOL from the Marines, and he has been arrested in Mexico and thrown in prison. Being a gringo in a Mexican prison wasn’t very easy, so he had to defend himself. The guy is an animal and was kicking everyone’s ass, and he became known as the king of this prison. Some guy got him out, and he traveled all around Mexico fighting these underground fights. And he ends up leaving there and going to see his father. Fourteen years before, he and his mother had left while the other brother and the father stayed. The father was an alcoholic and an emotionally abusive man, a Vietnam vet, ex-Golden Gloves fighter who taught his kids how to fight at a very young age. And the kid, Tommy, goes back to see his dad. Tommy is drinking now and [is a] pill popper. He comes home, and his father is a thousand days sober and is living a very different life. The story is about healing and forgiveness. There is a tournament called “Sparta” for the heavy weight championship of the world of mixed martial arts. It is a $5 million purse, and it is a 16-man grand prix tournament. And these two brothers are on a collision course to fight each other for the heavy weight championship of the world. And everything about their relationship, their past and their future is dealt with by communicating through violence.

CageFighter Banned From The Octagon

October 22, 2008

MMAPayout.com has confirmed a rift between the UFC and MMA apparel and collectible company MMA Authentic, best known for its CageFighter brand. MMAPayout.com has learned through multiple sources that CageFighter and other MMA Authentics brands have been banned from the Octagon and any UFC event.

The dispute is rumored to have arisen from a conflict over shelf space in Wal-mart stores. Sources told MMAPayout.com that CageFighter/MMA Authentics beat out the UFC for the valuable real estate in the nation’s top retailer. As a result Zuffa pulled the plug on MMA Authentics’ access to the Octagon in retaliation.

The UFC is able to take such measures by exercising Article 22.1 of the Zuffa Standard Contract, which states that “Fighter covenants and agrees that no wording, symbols, pictures, designs, names or other advertising or informational material… ii. of any sponsor in conflict or competition with Zuffa or any of Zuffa’s sponsors.”

According to the UFC Sponsor Request form sent out to all fighters and obtained by MMAPayout.com, “in addition to Affliction and the Xtreme Couture t-shirt brand, Cage Fighter, MMA Authentic, Familia Gladitoria and MMA Elite will also not be permitted. The Xtreme Couture Training Center is permitted provided, however, the logo must clearly refer to the mixed martial arts training centers and gyms.”

CageFighter and MMA Authentics has a impressive list of fighters who will be adversely affected by the ban. BJ Penn, Michael Bisping, Forrest Griffin, Marcus Davis, Brandon Vera, Urijah Faber, Sam Stout, Roger Huerta, and Chuck Liddell all have signature shirts available for purchase through one or more of the MMA Authentics brands.

Let The Free Agent Feeding Frenzy Begin

October 22, 2008

Dave Meltzer’s report on the imminent demise of the EliteXC in combination with the cancellation of the organization’s November 8th card have set the MMA world abuzz in the last 24 hrs. Despite the numerous warning signs, it’s safe to say that most within the community remain disappointed that yet another organization has perished. God only knows how long we’ll now have to put up with the same, old “sky is falling” routine…

Yet, I can guarantee you this – sky or no sky – there are a couple individuals within the MMA community that have been waiting months for this eventuality; and I can tell you they’re not the least bit surprised or disappointed.

After all, if you were Dana White, Tom Atencio, or Scott Coker, from yesterday to today, you’ve got one less rival to compete with. More importantly, you’re also about to embark on the biggest free agent feeding frenzy since Pride dissolved in early 2007.

As soon as some of EliteXC’s best and brightest become free and clear of their obligations, they’re almost assuredly going to be receiving multiple inquiries. So let’s take a look at the potential targets and strategies that Affliction, Strikeforce, and Zuffa may employ over the coming weeks.

Notable Fighters

With over 70 fighters signed to the EliteXC roster, there are great prospects and contenders at every weight class. However, the most notable fighters might include:

Heavyweight: Antonio Silva, Brett Rogers, Dave Herman, Jon Murphy, and the much-maligned Kimbo Slice
Light Heavyweight: Rafael Feijao
Middleweight: Robbie Lawler, Murilo Rua, Kala Kolohe Hose
Welterweight: Jake Shields, Paul Daley
Lightweight: Eddie Alvarez, Nick Diaz, KJ Noons, Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett
Featherweight: Wilson Reis

Affliction’s Strategy

Expect that Affliction will leverage their non-exclusive contracts and relatively exoribitant pay structure to lure many of the top free agents to its side.

And, if you’re Affliction and looking at a thin non-heavyweight roster, you’re likely going to be pursuing the lighter weights in order to round things out. What would Eddie Alvarez and/or Nick Diaz do for Affliction’s lightweight division? Both of these fighters are likely to respond well to the freedom that a non-exclusive contract provides – and, hey, the pay isn’t bad either.

This is where we’ll see if Atencio can keep good on his promise to lower fighter pay over the next few events. With a rumoured deal with CBS in the works, the whole MMA world will be watching.

The Zuffa Strategy

This one is a bit funny. On one hand, you’d expect Zuffa to sweep in and take its pick of the litter, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case if you look at the organization’s history in the free agent market. In fact, they’ve been quite cautious when it comes to ponying up the dough – Fedor Emelianenko and Joachim Hansen are just two of many examples.

Furthermore, I’m inclined to believe that the Zuffa doesn’t really consider Affliction as its long-term competitor. It’s quite possible that Zuffa may just decide to bide its time and wait for the collapse of Affliction before pouncing on the free agent spoils of the entire industry.

At any rate, I suspect that the UFC will try to leverage their brand (like they always do), their level of competition, and their organizational stability if and when they approach any free agent fighters. It’s not all about the money, not for everyone, and the UFC undoubtedly has the best all-around competition of any organization. Any fighter considering the UFC as a destination knows he’ll be facing top-notch competition, but he’ll also be paid according to his success.

The downside to the UFC’s roster management style is that there isn’t a lot of job security for those on a losing streak – that can scare fighters away. Then again, Dana White is just as likely to argue he doesn’t want those types of guys in his organization anyway.

In terms of targets, you have to think that Zuffa will be looking very closely at Jake Shields, Wilson Reis for the WEC, Rafael Feijao (someone they’d targeted from the IFL earlier), and the wealth of heavyweight prospects that Elite had like Antonio Silva, Brett Rogers, Dave Herman, etc.

Personally, I hope to hell they can sign Eddie Alvarez. Show of hands, BJ vs. Eddie, anyone?

The Strikeforce Strategy

The forgotten third partner in all of this would seem to be Strikeforce. They’ve shown in the past their willingness to co-promote and thus I suspect that might be a chip on their bargaining table. They’ve also demonstrated the ability to compensate their high-level fighters at a competitive level (re: Cung Le’s base of approximately $250,000).

I cannot envision them competing for a fighter that both Affliction and Zuffa are interested in, but they could become a player for the mid-level guys that are looking for organizational stability, job security, non-exclusivity, and competitive pay.

Any one of Elite’s former heavyweight prospects would be attractive to Strikeforce; additionally, Robbie Lawler as an opponent for Cung Le is a distinct possibility.

Fight Biz Quote: Jose Suliaman

October 22, 2008

“I oppose 100 percent this ultimate fighting. It has taken boxing to the era of the caveman and the Roman circus. These are not ancient times. This fighting is fed to those fans who like aggression, blood and illegality. They are not boxing fans. Boxing fans have class.”

Jose Sulaiman, head of the World Boxing Council (WBC) sanctioning body, fanning the flames of some false war between boxing and MMA.

ProElite Violates Loan Terms, CBS/Showtime May Seek Remedy

October 22, 2008

ProElite made another filing with the SEC recently, basically stating that CBS/Showtime feels ProElite has violated the terms of its loans (which required certain bank balances be kept). The total amount of loans outstanding from CBS/Showtime to ProElite was $6.3 million. What is interesting is the possible remedies that CBS/Showtime can make under the terms of the loan. CBS/Showtime may, within three business days, exercise rights and remedies that include:

(a) exercising any and all rights as beneficial and legal owner of the Company’s assets;
(b) selling or assigning the Company’s assets in whole or in part;
(c) granting a license or franchise to use the Company’s assets in whole or in part;
(d) suing, demanding, collecting or receiving in Showtime’s name and money property or receivable on account of or in exchange for the Company’s assets; or
(e) exercising all voting powers of ownership pertaining to the Company’s assets as if Showtime were the sole and absolute owner thereof.

Basically, there could be some major movement possible in the short term unless there some legal challenge by ProElite investors.

The Four Horsemen of the EliteXC Apocalypse

October 22, 2008

With apologies to Grantland Rice….

“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky in Sunrise, Miami, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Petruzelli, Shamrock, Shaw, and Lappen. They formed the crest of the EliteXC team which galloped over the precipice at the Bank Atlantic Center that night as 8,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering implosion of a promotion”

On Death
The card from Sunrise represented the death of many things: the death of the Kimbo myth, the possible death of Ken Shamrock’s days at the top of the card, and lo and behold two weeks later, the death of the promotion itself. A confluence of events, some of their own doing and some not, gathered a foreboding momentum that ultimately signaled the end of the road for EliteXC.

In the span of a week-end EliteXC would go from Friday night basically having a deal to be purchased by CBS in the bag…to a Monday Morning Radio show appearance by Petruzelli that would bring the whole house of cards collapsing around the organization. In between those two points you had Shamrock looking to get his pay bumped, receiving a mysterious cut on his eye that would knock him out of the fight, Petruzelli moving into the main event, EliteXC executives allegedly loading up on on incentives to Petruzelli to affect the flow of the fight, and capping it off with Petruzelli knocking out Slice in a fight that lasted about as long as the pre-fight instructions from the ref. Having their main draw getting knocked out was a blow in and of itself that could have doomed the CBS deal but Petruzelli’s case of loose lips while live on radio delivered the coup de grace in sinking the EliteXC ship. A rapidly deteriorating situation only worsened with the comments of Jeremy Lappen and Gary Shaw, whose attempts at crisis management seemed woefully inept. When the final news came in Monday the phrase “sad end to a sorry episode” rang true.

On Pestilence
What to think when looking back at the time of EliteXC on the MMA scene? Should they simply be written off as a total plague upon the MMA house, to paraphrase Shakespeare? While many would be quick to do so, EliteXC did bring many things to the landscape that were welcome. The re-emergence of Frank Shamrock on the national scene is one, both for his fighting and overall entertainment abilities. Frank would give lip service to being the best 185’er out there despite that clearly not being the case, but at this stage of his career that isn’t really the point. Under the EliteXC banner (with co-operation from Strikeforce), he was able to put on some entertaining grudge matches with Cung Le and Phil Baroni. Neither fight was of great importance in some mythological rankings, but they provided a lot of the sizzle and just enough of the steak that makes for a well promoted and enjoyable fight. Having a forum for a fighter like Nick Diaz was another benefit. The UFC may have tired of Diaz but I never did and his having a high profile venue for his fights was a good thing in my book.

Another calling card for the time of EliteXC in MMA will be the increased profile of women’s MMA in the US. With here performance on the May and October CBS cards, Gina Carano was able to cement herself as a bankable entity in the MMA game, a role for females that heretofore would have thought to been impossible. While the spotlight has shone brightest on Carano, other female fighters have been able to see increased exposure through the auspices of EliteXC. While the UFC has been adamant about not offering women’s MMA, the EliteXC exposure for the women will ensure that the ladies will have better opportunities available to them, and will live on even after the promotion breathes its’ last gasp.

On Destruction and Famine
Left in the wake of the EliteXC failure are the various remnants of regional promotions that were a portion of EliteXC. The promotional braintrust behind outfits like Rumble on the Rock, Icon, King of the Cage, and Cage Rage will spread back out across the landscape, like so much diaspora. The fighters of EliteXC will do much the same. These folks will do what they do best: promote and fight respectively. There can be little doubt of the destruction and paucity of options at the national level, but the spreading of promoter and fighter talent will hopefully lead to something more encouraging on a regional level.

UFC 89 Draws 2.6 Million Viewers on Spike

October 21, 2008

UFC 89: BISPING VS LEBEN SPARKS BIG RATINGS

FOR SPIKE TV

Network Telecast Ranks #2 In All Key Male Demos Among Ad Supported

Cable For Its Time Period

New York, NY, October 21, 2008 – Spike TV headed across the pond to telecast a UFC fight card that featured middleweights “The Ultimate Fighter 3” champ Michael Bisping and “The Ultimate Fighter 1” standout Chris Leben and garnered tremendous ratings with fans back in the United States. UFC 89: Bisping vs Leben which premiered on Saturday, October 18 from 9:00 PM – Midnight, ET/PT (same-day tape delay) from The National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England drew an average audience of 2.6 million viewers. The telecast peaked with a 3.7 rating in M 18-34 and a 2.3 household for an average of 3.4 million viewers during the 11:30 – 11:45 PM quarter hour.

Overall, the Spike telecast reached 2.6 million people with a 2.7 rating Men 18-34 (771,000), a 2.5 rating in Men 18-49 (1.4 million), and a 1.7 HH rating. Despite facing heavy sports competition, UFC 89 on Spike TV ranked #2 in M 18-49, M18-34 and M 25-34 among ad-supported cable for its time period.

Other ratings highlights included:

* Versus the same time period YAGO, UFC 89 was up triple digits +451% in M 18-34 +398% in M 18-49, +338 % in P 18-49 and +190% among average audience.

* Compared with UFC 86 & UFC 87 which premiered earlier this month, UFC 89 out-performed both telecasts by +80% and +46% in average audience respectively.

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