MMA Elite Hits Wal-Mart Shelves

November 28, 2008


Just in time for Black Friday, MMA Authentics’ MMA Elite brand hits the shelves at Wal-Mart Stores, with this picture coming from an Atlanta area store. This end product has been the result of a long process for MMA Authentics and one that wasn’t without political fallout. Support a MMA businesses and drop by Wal-Mart to pick up a shirt or two for Christmas.

Strikeforce “Greatest Knockouts” Premieres On NBC Saturday

November 28, 2008

SAN JOSE, Calif. —A special 30 minute episode featuring a collection of the 10 greatest knockouts in Strikeforce mixed martial arts (MMA) history will premiere on NBC Saturday night.

The all-new “Strikeforce on NBC” episode will showcase the handiwork of some of Strikeforce’s most lethal competitors, including reigning world middleweight (185 lb. limit) champion, Cung Le; two-time world MMA champion, Frank Shamrock; and superstars Kazuo “The Grabaka Hitman” Misaki and Duane “Bang” Ludwig.

Le’s classic knockouts of old rivals Mike Altman and Brian “Mr. Unbreakable” Warren will be displayed as will Shamrock’s 21 second decimation of longtime, bitter adversary, Cesar Gracie.

The NBC program consists of the following bouts:

* Cung Le vs. Mike Altman
* Frank Shamrock vs. Cesar Gracie
* Luke Stewart vs. Bryson Kamaka
* Joe “Diesel” Riggs vs. Eugene “The Wolf” Jackson
* Kazuo “The Grabaka Hitman” Misaki vs. Joe “Diesel” Riggs
* Duane “Bang” Ludwig vs. Tony “The Freak” Fryklund
* Terry Martin vs. Cory “The One” Devela
* Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello vs. David “Tank” Abbott
* Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello vs. Carter Williams
* Cung Le vs. Brian “Mr. Unbreakable” Warren

Fans have the opportunity to vote for their favorite knockout in a poll being hosted online at Strikeforce’s official website, www.strikeforce.com. Results of the survey will be displayed on the homepage next week.

“Strikeforce on NBC,” the first 52-week mixed martial arts series in network television history, 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.

More on UFC's German TV Moves

November 28, 2008

FreeFightVideos has a little more info on the UFC’s moves to establish a TV presence leading into a live event debut on mainland Europe. FFV details the spotty past of MMA/combat sports on German TV:

The Eurosport network which had some success with the K1 World GP and K1 Max series also failed with its attempt. The networks broadcast of Pride FC events resulted in mass complaints with the channel finally deciding to end its association with MMA in Germany. Exclusive PPV provider Premiere stopped airing live UFC events in 2006 after disappointing PPV buy rates.

The UFC looks to counter this past reticence towards MMA by signing a new deal to expose the masses in Germany to MMA. FFV first reported yesterday that Der Spiegel (via Baz Online)announced that the UFC will air its popular reality TV show “The Ultimate Fighter” on German broadcaster “Pro Sieben” starting from 2009.

As MMAPayout.com mentioned back in May, key in efforts to penetrating the market in Germany will be getting good television and using Germany as a more of a continental play. Ross Schneiderman of The New York Times also had an excellent piece on the risks as well as the opportunities of the Euro market.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2008

Every year on the fourth Thursday of November Americans gather to put aside their trials and tribulations and say thank you for their many blessings. As Melody Beattie observed:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

This site and me personally have been profoundly blessed over the last year and have much to be grateful for. Thanks to our loyal readers without whose support none of this would have been possible. A special thanks to Kelsey Philpott, Steve Curtis, Andrew Falzon, and Todd Martin for their contribuitions which make the site what it is. Last but not least, a very special thank you to Robert Joyner, whose tireless work defines MMAPayout.com.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,

God Bless,

Adam Swift

Psalm 100:4

Brock Lesnar …Action Hero?

November 25, 2008

Pop Culture website The Deadbolt has an interesting take on a possible future avenue for newly crowned UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar:

The interesting thing about Brock Lesnar as a future action star if he gets bitten by the Hollywood acting bug is that he’d be following in the footsteps of a few of his most famous WWE adversaries who have already made movies – Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and Goldberg, even Stone Cold who left a lasting impression with the big man in his final WWE bout. Now that Brock Lesnar has become a UFC Heavyweight champ after only four professional fights, he’s not going to be fighting forever. Since he’s 31, it’s doubtful we’ll see Lesnar hang around UFC until he’s 41. And like many who made it big inside the wrestling ring, he already has the acting skills from the WWE to make it in Hollywood. How far and to what degree is yet to play out.

The article mentions his predecessors in the WWE making inroads into Hollywood, but there is also the example of Randy Couture in MMA. While it is said that married couples have a seven year itch, Lesnar looks to have a 3 or 4 year itch, going from amateur wrestling to pro wrestling to football to MMA. One has to question how long for the MMA world he is. With all of the above said, an acting career for Brock would have to be seen as a longshot. His general disposition would not lend itself to acting, and he genuinely seems to be motivated in an athletic sense, something he wouldn’t get from acting.

Promoter's Spotlight: Monte Cox

November 25, 2008

It’s hard enough to operate one successful MMA promotion – let alone six – but Monte Cox, the man under today’s spotlight, has done just that.

Monte Cox has been described as “the gold standard in MMA” by UFC matchmaker Joe Silva not just because of the fact that he’s promoted over 500 MMA shows since 1996, but also because he’s managed nearly 60 fighters over the same period – winning seven UFC championship belts along the way.

Longevity and humility are two of the many words that come to mind in today’s spotlight and I sat down with Monte last week to get his thoughts on a variety of topics and issues relating to promoting and managing in mixed martial arts.

The Background

In 1995, Monte Cox, a former professional boxer and then newspaper editor, got wind that a “local tough guy” was about to participate in a “no holds barred” competition called Ultimate Fighting. He was intrigued by the sport and determined to give it a first-hand look.

Cox paid a visit to this local tough guy, Pat Miletich, whom at the time was training for his first competition – Battle of the Masters. Impressed with what he saw, Cox then agreed to accompany Miletich up to Chicago, Illinois to watch his fight.

Soon thereafter, Cox and Miletich returned home to Iowa with the idea to start their own promotion – one that would come to symbolize the longevity and success of both Cox and Miletich in the MMA industry, Extreme Challenge.

The relationship between the two would also serve as the catalyst for Cox to become one the sport’s best and most renowned fighter managers.

The Evolution of Cox’s MMA Business

Since the debut of Extreme Challenge in 1996, Cox has promoted over 500 shows and in 16 different states. If you’ve watched any live MMA in the Mid-West, chances are good that Cox promoted the show as his name is affiliated with many more organizations than just his flagship Extreme Challenge brand – XFO, ICE, Rock Town Showdown, Rumble on the River, and Adrenaline MMA…those are his too.

Even more impressive, however, is the fact that Cox has managed to promote a show at just about every type of venue and level of MMA possible. His events range from low-level MMA shows held at local clubs to high-level, million dollar revenue events at major sports arenas.

However, Cox is quick to point out that his aspirations are not to build any of his promotions into a direct competitor with the UFC, at the sport’s highest level.

“We have never tried to be the big show.” Cox said. “I want to be the show that people go to, to get exposure, to get attention, and then move on to the bigger shows – I don’t mind being the AA or the AAA.”

And there is a certain strategic value to promoting events at the A, AA, and AAA levels of the sport; Cox has essentially built himself a “feeder system” whereby fighters can work their way up from the amateur ranks, to the pros, and then in some cases all the way to the UFC. Not only has this feeder system allowed Cox to supply his organizations with fights, it’s also given him a way to develop fighters as a manager.

“A big difference between me and most of the managers out there is, I’m in [MMA] from the ground floor.” Cox said. “Rich Franklin, he started fighting amateur fights for me and then moved into the pros. I’ve picked every opponent [Franklin] has ever had.”

While the feeder system has played a large role in his success over the past 13 years in the industry, Cox credits his former mentor – an old boxing promoter out of Indianapolis, Fred Burns – with passing on perhaps the most vital approach to promoting and managing fighters: staying humble and trustworthy.

“Everyone liked Fred…that’s the guy that taught me how to do shows.” Cox said. “So, when I started, I said that I’m going to prove that you don’t have to be an asshole to be a promoter.”

“I just think that you treat people like you want to be treated” he added. “People know that when they deal with us, they’re going to be treated fairly.”

Cox’s reputation as a fair, level-headed businessman seems to be paying dividends as he is often approached by different parties looking to start new MMA promotions.

In 2007, the Russian M1 Management Group representing Fedor Emelianenko commissioned Cox to help them build and promote a new MMA organization in North America called M1 Global. While the two parties could never quite get on the same page, Cox regrets nothing as he was able to gain a host of new networking contacts that may allow him to expand his business in the future.

“I made a lot of connections at the CEO level“ Cox said. “That enabled me to cut through a lot of red tape on a bunch of levels. When I want something now, I call the CEO of the company – that guy would have never taken my call before.”

Cox was also fairly complimentary of the Russian management group that has helmed Fedor’s career.
“We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I don’t think anybody can say too many negatives about [Fedor’s] management – [Fedor] makes $2.5 million a fight” Cox said. “They’re very shrewd and they’ve done great deals for Fedor – this is a guy that’s probably made over $20 million in his career.”

After M1 Global was dissolved, Cox was approached by another syndicate looking to start a promotion – this time called Adrenaline MMA. In Adrenaline, Cox is given full control of a substantial budget, which allows him to “put together a show that [he] could never afford to do on [his] own.”

The promotion debuted in June with a live HDNet broadcast in front of a near-capacity crowd in Chicago and is now looking to up the ante with its second event on December 11th – ironically, an event that will headlined by Pat Miletich and also feature Ben Rothwell.

Adrenaline made waves through the MMA community last March when Cox signed both Rothwell and Tim Sylvia to multi-fight, six figure contracts. This led many, including myself, to question whether the current business model and economics of Adrenaline could support such large salaries. Cox argues that you need ticket sellers to be successful.

“You have to be smart in what you’re doing, but you have to look at who your ticket sellers are.” Cox said. “Pat Miletich is the greatest ticket seller that I’ve ever run into – the first show we did together he, himself, sold over 4000 tickets.”

Although Sylvia and Rothwell are both fighter clients on Cox’s management side, he also signed them along with Miletich as a means to leverage brand recognition. He’s aiming to compete at that next level just below the UFC along with the likes of Strikeforce , WEC, Affliction, and maybe the MFC.

Interestingly enough, the difference – according to Cox – between shows like Adrenaline and the Maximum Fighting Championship (an organization we featured in our first Promoter Spotlight) is the calibre of fighters used at every event.

“It depends on [the criteria you use to assess levels]: do you go by attendance, or do you go by profitability, or by the level of cards?” Cox said. “[MFC] is not going to call me up and be able to afford Ben Rothwell or Pat Miletich. The last Adrenaline show that we did in Chicago, we spent $600,000 and that’s at a different level than [MFC].”

The Trials and Tribulations of a Fighter Manager

Monte Cox represents another one of those businessmen that “gets it” when it comes to diversifying risk. Being a promoter and a manager has not only created synergies between both of his businesses, but the dual role has also acted as a career hedge of sorts.

“I’ve had years where the shows just weren’t doing well, but the management part was kicking ass” Cox said, and “I’ve had times where the shows just can’t lose, but I can’t get guys fights. So, you just don’t put your eggs all in one basket.”

Under the guidance of Cox, seven different fighters have reached the pinnacle of MMA – a UFC championship title – and so he understands the value of a manager in the fight game.

“I think that anyone that’s making six figures or close to six figures and is still negotiating and doing everything for themselves…that’s silly.” Cox said. “You take a regular guy that’s making $100,000 on his own; if he comes with me I’ll make him $150,000, I’ll take $30,000 of it, and he’s still ahead. Then he gets my support, my expertise, and my knowledge on top of it.”

With the sport’s rapid growth continuing through otherwise tumultuous economic times, the role of a fighter manager is gaining importance. Monte had some great advice for fighters currently searching for the right manager.

“If a guy wants to manage you, ask the guy ‘give me an example of somebody who’s in the same position I’m in right now and how you took them to a successful level.’” Cox said, and “if they haven’t done that then you’re at your own risk.”

The issue of fighter poaching is something of a bother for Cox who has put years of work and guidance into a fighter, only to see him sold on the possibilities of “greener pastures” somewhere else. The offending agent and the fighter are equal parts to blame, but Cox continues to follow his own moral compass.

“I’ve never gone to the UFC to find talent – I’ve found it years before” Cox said. “I find the guys that don’t have management, need guidance, and then take it from there.”

Payout Opinion

They say the true test of any businessman is the ability to replicate success – you’ve got to prove that your first success was not a fluke. In the case of Monte Cox, I think it’s safe to say that he’s proven his competence as both a promoter and a manager several times over.

He’s also an incredibly humble individual and that’s probably because his success is contingent upon his humility. His business depends upon his reputation as a nice, easy-going, and fair businessman.

This level-headed business approach of Monte Cox’s is something that I plan to take away from this interview and keep with me as I move up the MMA industry ladder.

Additionally, the most interesting part of the interview for those aspiring to follow in Monte’s footsteps probably came when I asked him for the top three challenges he faces as a promoter and as a manager.

As a promoter:

  1. Scouting and developing talent.
  2. Searching for consistency on a show-to-show basis.
  3. Finding new markets.

As a manager:

  1. The difficulties associated with watching a fighter fall from stardom.
  2. Watching out for the poachers.
  3. Finding loyal fighters.

You can check out the entire interview here.

Stay tuned for the next Promoter’s Spotlight coming soon!

GSP vs BJ: Does The Sport of MMA Sell?

November 25, 2008

The UFC has been making the press rounds in hyping up the showdown between lightweight champ BJ Penn and welterweight champ Georges St Pierre. From a sporting perspective this should be a fight of the year candidate, but UFC President Dana White also sees success on PPV:

White said last week’s UFC heavyweight championship bout between Brock Lesnar and Randy Couture is expected to set pay-per-view records for the organization. He thinks the Jan. 31 card could be just as popular, which would equate to more than 1 million buys.

“I’m just coming off a promotion where I got done saying it’s the biggest fight in UFC history in terms of most pay-per-view buys,” White said. “I truly believe this fight has the potential to break that. BJ and Georges are heavyweights when it comes to star power.”

The GSP vs Penn II fight should be a measuring stick as to whether the sport of MMA can sell as well as the spectacle of MMA. That is basically the argument that Dana White is making in stating that he expects the welterweight showdown to approach the sales of Lesnar vs Couture.

The Lesnar vs Couture fight was an intriguing match-up to be sure, but one that drew much more from the spectacle aspect than the sport. Lesnar’s appeal, in large part, is derived from the pro wrestling past that exposed him to much of the mainstream. Couture’s appeal has always lain greatly in his story more so than having an exciting fighting style. Couture’s battle against father time as well as his perpetual role as the underdog has driven much of the fan following he has derived.

The history of big sales on PPV is rooted more in spectacle than sport. Shamrock vs Ortiz 2 and Hughes vs Gracie as well as Brock Lesnar’s first two fights this year all did over 600k buys not based any kind of sporting element to the fights. None of the match-ups that drew such big numbers included the highest caliber of fighters facing off, with the Shammy vs Ortiz and Hughes vs Gracie fights both being huge mismatches on paper going in.

Conversely, true match ups of the highest caliber fighters are sometimes met with indifference. Anderson Silva vs Dan Henderson matched up two individuals that were both considered Top 10 pound for pound at the time and the PPV was met with indifference, doing 320 to 330k buys. Dana emphasizes the star power of St Pierre and Penn, but their star power is within the context of the MMA sphere, not as much with the mainstream like Couture and Lesnar. I’m sure the UFC will look to renew their ties with ESPN, mimicking the build up to Couture v Lesnar, but neither fighter has near the mainstream appeal of those two. That’s not to say that the fight won’t do very good numbers, just no the great numbers that Dana is expecting.

The UFC is planning a 24/7 style hype series for the GSP vs Penn 2 showdown but there will be an upper ceiling on the the numbers the fight will be able to do, based on the sporting angle being the hook for the fight. A number somewhere slightly above the GSP vs Serra 2 range (say 10 to 15% over that fight’s 550k buys) would be a more reasonable expectation. Approaching a million buys or surpassing Couture vs Lesnar look to be fanciful projections, or maybe just a case of a promoter promoting.

Fight Biz Quote: GSP

November 24, 2008

“When you’re a world champion you have to set your goal even higher. I don’t want to fight to be champion anymore because I’m already champion. I want to fight to become a legend in the sport, and that’s what this fight will give me,” the Canadian added. “I think if you ask somebody who’s the best pound-for-pound in the world, a lot of people would say it’s B.J. Penn. So, for me, it’s a great challenge as well.”

UFC Welterweight Champ Georges St Pierre, speaking with MMAWeekly, about what motivates him.

MMAPayout.com made the case in our review for UFC 87 that GSP could end up as the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) :

GSP is cleaning out and dominating the deepest division in MMA, a division with a history and legacy that can’t be matched at middleweight. The growth of GSP as a box office phenomenon shouldn’t be seen as a fluke or coincidence. The ticket buying public increasingly realizes the special place and time they have been lucky enough to have had bestowed upon them, as more and more fans recognize GSP is building a legacy. That legacy? Quite possibly one of being the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.

Favorito Takes a look at Round 5

November 24, 2008

Branding and marketing maven Joe Favorito fills in for Darren Rovell over at CNBC and takes a look at the MMA figurines being marketed by Round 5. MMAPayout’s Kelsey Philpott recently featured the collectibles maker and Favorito adds more perspective on the company. Favorito hit on the attractiveness of doing deals outside of the UFC purview:

The difference, says Damon Lau, Round 5 president, is that instead of going after the UFC brand, the company works directly with the fighters, allowing each athlete full creative control of the look of his figurine as well as the ability to sell sponsorship on its trunks. Round 5 also provides the athletes a per-unit commission that is four- to five-times the standard for the toy industry.

There are excellent merchandising opportunities outside of the UFC structure but the key is finding the ones that have the wide distribution that make the numbers make sense. Round 5 is good example of a company that has a highly rewarding that has broken through with wide distribution, with over 3,500 outlets nationwide for their offerings.

MMAPayout's Falzon Joins WAMMA Rankings Committee

November 24, 2008

MMAPayout.com’s own Andrew Falzon has recently been named as a voting member of the WAMMA Ranking Committee. The goal of WAMMA is to recognize the very best MMA athletes in each weight division, without regard to promotional affiliation. WAMMA Rankings are released on the 15th of each month (with slight variability depending on fight schedules) and compiled by the WAMMA Rankings Committee.

Based in New York City, Falzon has an extensive background in broadcast news and has appeared on FSN and HDNet as ringside reporter for the International Fight League, and as an editorialist on NBCSports.com.

Andrew Falzon is a regular guest on FoxNews.com’s FightGame and a contributor to MMAPayout.com. His writing has also appeared in FIGHT! Magazine and on ESPN.com.

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