Latest “Strikeforce on NBC” Episode Draws Record 1.1 Million Viewers

October 24, 2008

SAN JOSE, Calif. —Last Saturday’s episode of “Strikeforce on NBC” generated over 1.1 million viewers, a new high for the first-ever 52 week mixed martial arts (MMA) series in network television history, according to Nielsen Ratings.

The record number of viewers shattered the previous high of 949,000, which was recorded on May 9th.

The all-new, 30-minute program showcased the drama-filled light heavyweight (205 lb. limit) rematch between former South African National Wrestling Champion, Trevor Prangley (18-5), and former world championship challenger, Anthony “A-Train” Ruiz (21-12), which took place at Strikeforce’s second event at the world-famous Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California on September 20th.

“It’s obviously great to see our product growing substantially on the network, but it’s more than just that,” said Strikeforce Founder and CEO, Scott Coker.  “The consistently strong ratings we’ve seen are a sign that the sport of MMA is flourishing and continuing to gain new fans as its visibility grows on national television.”

“Strikeforce on NBC,” which premiered on April 12th, airs every Saturday, immediately following NBC’s hit poker tournament series, “Poker After Dark” (check local listings).  MMA legend Ken Shamrock and award-winning ESPN announcer, Lon McEachern, co-host each program and provide expert, play-by-play commentary.

This Saturday’s “Strikeforce on NBC” episode will mark the premiere of the classic Strikeforce world lightweight (155 lb. limit) championship showdown between rival superstars Josh “The Punk” Thomson (16-2) and “El Nino” Gilbert Melendez (14-2), which took place at San Jose’s HP Pavilion on June 27th.

About Strikeforce:

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 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.  On April 12th of this year, Strikeforce launched the first-ever 52 week MMA series on one of the four major television networks in The U.S. – NBC.

Billboard Rec Sports DVD Chart – 11/1/08

October 24, 2008

The Billboard Recreational Sports DVD Chart for the week of November 1st:

1 NHL: Sidney Crosby: On The Ice And Beyond
2 WWE: Unforgiven 2008
3 UFC: The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rampage Vs. Team Griffin
4 2001 FedEx Orange Bowl National Championship
5 TNA: Knocked Out
6 Bejing 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony
7 UFC 85: Bedlam
8 Beijing 2008: Michael Phelps Inside Story Of The Beijing Games
9 NFL: History Of The Dallas Cowboys
10 WWE: The Life And Times Of Mr. Perfect

A Sit Down with GSP (Video)

October 24, 2008


UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre spoke with Mike Straka of Fox News Fight Game for an extended sit down interview. In a sport that still sometimes faces a perception problem, GSP comes across in the interview as quite possibly the best public face possible for MMA and the UFC. GSP exudes a classiness and appeal that should make him the public face of the UFC for the next 8 to 10 years.

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.

Affliction, the Media and MMA

October 23, 2008

Last week, as a rather sizable media contingent waited for a tardy Donald Trump to begin the joint Affliction/ M1/ Trump media press conference, something happened that surprised the media in the room – and showed a distinct lack of media savvy.

A tall blonde woman, working for one of the three organizations represented, announced that those organizations with mic flags had to remove them, and replace them with Affliction mic flags.

What’s a mic flag? It’s that square little box that sits just below the top of the microphone, trumpeting the presence of a particular news outlet at the scene of a story.

So being the polite guests that they were, the guys from FoxNews.com’s Fight Game, NBCSports.com and a foreign news agency promptly complied.

While the mic flag is a staple of brand reinforcement for agencies in the broadcast world, in the MMA world, they are even more important. To have mic flags from mainstream media outlets sitting just below the mouth of an MMA executive helps bring their brand or organization into the mainstream, as well.

But instead, there were three “Affliction” mic flags just beneath Tom Attencio and Donald Trump, making it look like a shill press conference – when it was not the case.

Is it a big deal? Not really. But like a fighter who need to work on his stand-up, it’s just one of those little indicators that MMA organizations need to improve their media game.

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.

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