"Boxing is Bullshit" Or: Why MMA is King of Combat Sports

August 31, 2009

“Boxing is bullshit.”

Paulie Malignaggi, disgust written all over his face, all over his body language, repeated the mantra:

“Boxing is bullshit.”

With those words, Paulie Malignaggi summed up the feelings of so many combat sports fans, and answered exactly why it is that boxing is commonly referred to as a dying sport, especially in terms of comparison with its more dynamic sibling, Mixed Martial Arts.

Malignaggi had fought a close fight against Juan Diaz in Diaz’s hometown of Houston, Texas, one which most observers, including this one, thought he had taken by a round or two.  Unfortunately for Paulie, the only observers that counted, the judges, all saw it the other way, with one judge laughably awarding ten of the twelve rounds to Diaz.

Although Paulie and his supporters were complaining of a robbery, this was too close a fight to fit that description; still, that one judge’s scorecard — ten rounds to two — sticks in the craw as so egregious (if you watched the fight, there’s simply no way to reasonably explain the score) that it should in the future become some sort of shorthand reference to the corruptibility of judicial scoring in boxing.  Given Malignaggi’s heartfelt and memorable post-fight promo, this might indeed come to pass.

Boxing is bullshit, everyone has known it for decades, and now there’s a boxer screaming it in the ring after he’s on the losing end of a decision he believes he deserves.  Fans watching — even those who believe Diaz won — know that ten rounds to two is a travesty.  The worst part about this is how unsurprising it all is.  Boxing fans have actually become conditioned to expect a screwjob if a fight goes the distance.

If asked to name the promoter to have gained the most from boxing’s skulduggery many would probably name Don King, but I want to suggest another: Dana White.  Much has been made of all that UFC and Dana White have done right in terms of growing their business, but I wouldn’t underestimate the value to UFC in all that boxing has done wrong.  At the very least, in a parallel universe where over the last 15 years the top boxers fought the top boxers, and decisions were not obviously corrupt, UFC would have had a much more difficult time making inroads against the established sport.  We’ve reached the point now, in 2009, where boxing matches that would have been placed on ppv a year or two ago, and would have provided at least some level of competition against UFC, are now airing on HBO pay cable.

On September 19, there’s going to be a lot of talk about MMA (UFC 103) vs. boxing (Mayweather/Juan Manuel Marquez) as the UFC and Mayweather pay-per-views go head-to-head, but the fact of the matter is that discussing the ppv battle at that level of generality, MMA vs. boxing, is either ignorant or disingenuous.  It’s not MMA that’s huge; rather, it’s UFC whose business is booming.  Likewise, what Mayweather is able to draw on ppv has no relation at all to the state of boxing’s health.  I fully expect Mayweather to outdraw 103 on ppv (based primarily on UFC’s lackluster line-up), perhaps significantly, and for the “Bible of Boxing,” The Ring, to make way more of it than it deserves, but the real story was told last week, in Houston, Texas, for anyone bothering to listen.

UFC 102 Payouts

August 30, 2009

MMAPayout.com has learned from the Oregon State Athletic Commission that the total disclosed payroll for UFC 102 was $1,285,000. The fight by fight breakdown:

  • Antonio Nogueira ($250,000 + $150,000 = $400,000) d. Randy Couture ($250,000)
  • Thiago Silva ($29,000 + $29,000 = $58,000) d. Keith Jardine ($55,000)
  • Jake Rosholt ($13,000 + $13,000 = $26,000) d. Chris Leben ($30,000)
  • Nate Marquardt ($40,000 + $40,000 = $80,000) d. Damien Maia ($28,000)
  • Brandon Vera ($35,000 + $35,000 = $70,000) d. Krzysztof Soszynski ($8,000)
  • Aaron Simpson ($9,000 + $9,000 = $18,000) d. Ed Herman ($24,000)
  • Gabriel Gonzaga ($60,000 + $60,000 = $120,000) d. Chris Tuchscherer ( $10,000)
  • Mike Russow ($10,000 + $10,000 = $20,000) d. Justin McCully ($15,000)
  • Todd Duffee ( $5,000 + $5,000 = $10,000) d. Tim Hague ($7,000)
  • Mark Munoz ($12,000 + $12,000 = $24,000) d. Nick Catone ($5,000)
  • Evan Dunham ($7,000 + $7,000 = $14,000) d. Marcus Aurelio ($13,000)

UFC 102: Payout Perspective

August 30, 2009

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This week we’ll be taking a look at UFC 102; an event held this past Saturday, August 29th at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. The card was headlined by a heavyweight bout featuring Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrgio Nogueira.

UFC 102: The Numbers

Dana White announced during the post-fight press conference that total attendance for the event was 16,088 for a live gate of $1.92 million. It’ll be interesting to see what the comp figures are, because the organization had only sold about 10,000 tickets coming into Thursday.

Fight Bonuses of $60,000 each were awarded as follows:

  • Fight of the Night: Antonio Nogueira vs. Randy Couture
  • Knockout of the Night: Nate Marquardt
  • Submission of the Night: Jake Rosholt

Fighter payouts may or may not be disclosed. MMAPayout.com is in the process of getting the information from the Oregon State Police Gaming Control.

The PPV numbers for UFC 102 won’t be in for another two weeks or so, but most are predicting the fight to do well less than UFC 100 (1720k) and UFC 101 (850k+). However, the baseline comparison for UFC 102 very much appears to be something in the mold of UFC 88 , which did 480,000 buys:

  • The event was another first-time show in a new state (Atlanta, Georgia).
  • The main event was also a non-title fight featuring an aging UFC legend.
  • UFC 88 received similar press coverage and promotional push.
  • UFC 88 attendance (~14,000) & gate ($2.6 million) reflect a similar level of event size and interest as UFC 102.

Here are some of the factors that could influence UFC 102’s buyrate:

  • + The UFC is riding a very strong wave of momentum this year: UFC 94, UFC 100 weekend, UFC 101, and the video-game have done wonders for their brand and increased their core fan base.
  • + Media coverage was probably better than what it was in Atlanta for UFC 88, but not at the levels of UFC 100 or 101.
  • — Non-title fight. Historically they’ve done far less in terms of buyrates.
  • — Second of two UFC PPV cards in the span of the three weeks (especially relevant in a down economy).
  • — Lack of a strong second headline: Jardine vs. Silva is a great fight, but neither men have a following.

The momentum is probably the biggest factor and will likely push UFC 102 beyond its baseline comparison and above the 500,000 mark. Yet, I have a hard time believing that we’re going to see UFC 101 type levels out of this event primarily due to the non-title nature and the fact that it’s the second UFC PPV card in less than three weeks. I’d estimate a range between 450-600k.

Business Storylines:

Nogueira returns to form of old, still a contender: Nogueira looked far superior to the man we saw face Frank Mir last new year’s – no hint of the staph infection and surgery that might have impeded his previous octagon performance. He demonstrated some excellent boxing skills and remarkable ground positioning in the victory, and with this performance Nogueira must be considered a serious contender. However, White was non-committal during the post-fight as to whether Nogueira would fight the winner of Lesnar-Carwin in November.

– Couture signs new contract, many interesting fights still available: Randy Couture has re-signed with the UFC for a term of 28 months and 6 additional fights. There remain a host of interesting fights for Couture, and not just at heavyweight. The possibility of dropping down to 205 and facing the likes of Anderson Silva, Tito Ortiz, or even Lyoto Machida, at some point, is very interesting.

Couture’s legend is only growing and the UFC cashed in big time tonight, not only with the Nogueira fight, but also in re-signing one of their top draws for another six bouts.

Prospect watch: The performances of Todd Duffee, Jake Rosholt, and Aaron Simpson have given fans something to really look forward to in the future. Duffee adds some much needed size to the UFC’s heavyweight division, and aside from Carwin is maybe the only other heavyweight out there that can match Lesnar’s power. Rosholt demonstrated a marked improvement in his stand-up and brings a wrestling pedigree that could potentially allow him to become a serious threat to Anderson Silva. Simpson also displayed a great deal of wrestling prowess and raw power at 185.

The emergence of these three really highlights the importance of prospect development for the UFC; something MMAPayout.com revisited last week with “UFC Roster Moves Make Dollars and Sense.

– Affliction returns: It didn’t take long for Affliction to make an appearance at UFC 102; the first televised event featured Brandon Vera emerging from the locker room dawning familiar black Affliction attire. In the coming weeks we’ll see more from the clothing maker as Paul Daley is set to wear the gear for his debut at 103.

– UFC banner policies loosening?: A small note here. The UFC a while back put into place a new regulatory policy regarding fighter sponsorship banners that required each banner to be of a particular size and colour in addition to placing the venue name and UFC logos in certain places. A few fighters – Demian Maia most notably – had different sized signage and even multiple banners. It will be interesting to see whether this is addressed by the UFC going into UFC 103 in Dallas.

Event taxation likely makes 102 the last UFC event in the state for a while: The City of Portland and Oregon State Police Gaming Commission will charge a combined 12% gross receipt tax on the event. The UFC raised its ticket prices in order to compensate for the exorbitant tax, but ticket sales suffered as a result (especially in one of the hardest hit economies of the US). Unless something changes it could be a while before we see the UFC back in Oregon; especially with all of the new states and countries coming on board to host an event.

UFC 102 saw the debut of the organization’s new fighter vlogs: In the absence of Dana White’s popular youtube videos – which he has stopped ostensibly because he was receiving criticism in regards the lavish lifestyle he lives – the UFC has started following around some of its headliners like Randy Couture.

It’s the next best move for the organization in the short term – continuing the viral marketing is key – and in the long term it’s probably the wiser choice. The UFC, as a continually expanding corporation, needs to consider de-emphasizing White as the face of the UFC and replacing him with the actual product: the fighters. Ultimately it’s the action that drives the business, and the more interest the fighters can derive, the better their events will fare.

UFC 102 high on entertainment value: This event had something for just about everyone and was truly one for the ages. If Nogueira-Couture isn’t among the top ten fights in UFC history it’s certainly close. The stunning knockout power of both Nate Marquardt and Thiago Silva had people jumping out of their seats. The sheer athleticism of Rosholt, Simpson, and Duffee left mouths gaping.

It’s disappointing in one sense simply because it will likely come to light that UFC 102 was viewed by far fewer people than were UFC 100 or 101. Nonetheless, this event probably managed to add even more fans to that ever increasing UFC PPV baseline.

Couture Re-signs with UFC

August 29, 2009

Randy “The Natural” Couture put on a performance worthy of his legendary status in the sport on Saturday night, and now he’s been rewarded with a brand new contract that will extend his association with the UFC for another 28 months and 6 fights.

Both Dana White and Couture shared the news with the press following his UFC 102 bout.

While no future opponent has been named, Couture has been open about the possibility at returning to light heavyweight in search of “interesting fights.”

UFC 102 Post Fight Press Conference – LIVE Tonight

August 29, 2009

LIVE streaming coverage of the UFC 102 Post Fight Press Conference will be available tonight shortly after the main event has ended (approximately 1AM ET / 10PM PT) by clicking the UFC 102 tab.

Countdown to UFC 102 Rating, Viewership Increasing

August 28, 2009

Last night’s Countdown to UFC 102 on Spike TV did 523,000 viewers.

The UFC has averaged just over 732,000 viewers this year for it’s Countdown program on Spike, which represents a 19.53%  increase over last year’s average of 613,000. 

This year’s average doesn’t include UFC 94’s Primetime show for St-Pierre vs. Penn II, which was basically like Countdown to UFC on steroids; the three episodes cost Zuffa $1.7 million to produce and brought in total, original viewership of over 2.3 million (880k, 825k, 662k).

Payout Perspective:

This week’s result, while not spectacular, isn’t terrible. I don’t think anyone expected the interest to be as high for 102 as 101 or 100; this card comes on the heels of a long summer, it lacks a title fight, and the news of slow ticket sales have already kind of perked everyone’s ears.

Just to add a little bit of context here: Countdown to UFC 88 did 423,000 (with 480k PPV), Countdown to UFC 91 with Lesnar vs. Couture did 537,000 (with 900k PPV), and UFC 97 did 774,000 (with 650k PPV). 

What does that tell us? The correlation between Countdown’s and PPV figures isn’t exactly perfect.

What should we expect from UFC 102 then? I look at UFC 88 as an example of the type of event we might see out in Portland: a non-title event featuring a UFC legend on the back nine of his career; just an average gate of $2-2.5 million (UFC 88 did 2.6 million); and PPV buys in the range of 450-600k (UFC 88 did 480k PPV).

I’d be extremely shocked if the event was any better thank 600k, but these are unpredictable times. This is definitely an event, though, that’s going to give us more information about how many fans the UFC has managed to convert the past six months because there’s been little hype relative to the series of fights its following.

UFC 102 Weigh-ins – LIVE Today @ 7PM ET / 4PM PT

August 28, 2009

MMAPayout.com will feature LIVE streaming coverage of the UFC 102 weigh-ins, available today at 7PM ET / 4PM PT by clicking the UFC 102 tab.

Interview with WEC's Harris (Part I)

August 28, 2009

MMAPayout.com recently had the chance to chat with WEC General Manager Reed Harris in regards to a variety of topics. It wasn’t really your typical question and answer interview, but more a meandering conversation between two MMA enthusiasts.

Below, part one of the interview largely discusses the business consequences of the WEC’s decision to postpone WEC 43, a bit of their strategy for 2009, how the organization plans to separate and distinguish itself from the UFC, and sets the record straight about the merger talks.

Enjoy.

KP: Everybody has focused on the reasons why you’ve cancelled the event but from a business perspective, what were the consequences for the WEC in cancelling the event? In terms of some costs or obligations to the venue, the city, hotels, flights, and things like that.

RH: Certainly there were a lot of discussions with the venue and there were also some fairly significant costs to postpone the event. So, it was something that we didn’t do lightly.

The main issue for us was that this fight had a lot of implications for us in terms of future events. We want to have the winner of this fight, fight Jamie Varner, and we felt that if we substituted someone in for Ben Henderson then it would almost as if we really couldn’t do that fight as an interim belt.

The anchor for the entire show was going away, and not only that but there are also other injuries on the card that I really can’t discuss. The notifications of those injuries all happened for us within a 24hr period. One of the other guys on the main card got injured and these are the type of injuries where, like in Henderson’s case, the doctor said, “look if you can take 2-3 weeks off you can be fine.” It wasn’t a break for him, it was a sprain.

KP: You looked at the consequences of cancelling the event – some of the costs, venue discussions, and those are pretty big – but on the other hand, the consequences of moving forward with the event, without Henderson and Cerrone, were also pretty extreme and not just for 43, but for future events.

RH: The focus of this show was to build the lightweight division. Obviously we’ve done a really good job with our 135 and 145 divisions, so now we want to start building the lightweight division at the end of this year; and, also adding the 125lbs. division. But without that [Henderson vs. Cerrone] fight, it almost kind of deconstructed our entire plans as far as what we want to do.

It was a tough decision, but we decided that if we could postpone it, we would bring the entire card back; meaning that none of the fighters are going to suffer as far as losing fights. And, the other thing we did is we talked to the fighters themselves – all the fighters on the card. I didn’t receive any real push back from any of them in terms of the delay and how it might affect their training. Some of the guys had to look at their schedules. For example, one of our guys, Eddie Wineland, is a fireman and he had to look to see if he was available, but he said, “Yeah, I’m good for the 10th.”

One of the things we’ve been doing for 3-4 months – I’ve said this publicly – is that we’ve been talking to Versus about going to Saturdays for our shows. We want to do that and versus was working on that for us, for either the November or December show. So we then came back and said, look we can make that work in October as well. In fact it was one of the only dates we could get: October 10th.

KP: Well, it makes a lot of sense in moving to the Saturday, not just because it’s a great “fight night,” but also because you’ve got the NFL on Sundays in the fall which is really tough to compete with I should think.

RH: Yeah, very tough! We don’t want to do that! You know, the stuff we do actually makes sense! [Laughs]

And I’m being totally honest with you when I say, I’ve never had a discussion with anyone from Versus about the TV thing. I can tell you that we’ve seen this – the DirecTV and Versus posturing – with FOX and Comcast last year. Comcast was saying that FOX was being unreasonable, and FOX was saying, “if you ever want to watch American Idol again, call Comcast and complain.” The whole thing was just a positioning thing for negotiation of payments.

Versus has really been a great partner for us, and our goal is to work with them to get as much exposure as we can.

KP: Has there ever been a consideration on the WEC’s behalf to move to bonafide network TV like CBS, FOX, ABC, etc.? The UFC has been hesitant largely because of the rights fee issue, but is the WEC in a better position to accept an offer from one of these networks? Especially considering it might provide the perfect platform to build the WEC brand and ready the company for PPV events.

RH: We’re always open to discussing anything, regarding business. However, I can tell you that we’re in a really good situation with Versus and I really don’t see that changing. They’ve been a great partner for us, and we’re actually in the process of actually working through another deal with them. I doubt seriously if that would change.

KP: The UFC has a lightweight division with BJ Penn and so many of the great fighters there, it really begs the question: do you feel as though the WEC operates in the shadow of the UFC and how do you steer the WEC away from that and build your own brand and separate yourself from the UFC?

RH: Well, to be honest, I’ve always felt like we’ve operated in the shadow of the UFC, because they cast a large shadow. What we’ve done though, and this was Dana’s idea, was to focus on the lighter weights which would allow us to focus on coming out from that shadow and also build a unique brand – something home to the best lightweight fighters in the world. I think we’ve done that over this last year or so.

The 155 division, we’re in the process of building, and we’ve actually signed new people which I can’t really discuss right now and we’re constantly looking for new talent.

If you talk about fighters in general, BJ Penn was fighting in Hawaii before UFC picked him up. My goal is to find the next BJ Penn that’s at a gym somewhere here in the United States or abroad, working out, building his record, and looking at an organization like the WEC.

We’ve done this with 35 and we’ve done this with 45 – we’ve got the best divisions in the world in those two weight classes. We control almost all the fighters, in those classes, that are ranked in the top ten. So, that’s our goal for the 55 division and soon also the 125lbs division, focus on those four divisions, and build our brand that way

KP: I’ve noticed other things too: the blue octagon, different commentators, and the different feel of a WEC event.

RH: I think our events are pretty dynamic. Our fighters are faster and they tend to be in really, really good shape. The fights are faster and more aggressive; and that’s kind of where we’re going with our brand. If people tune into our show, they’re going to see the best fights in the world.

MMA is a big sport and one of the things we’re trying to do is have meaningful fights and meaningful divisions. When you look at one of our cards, one of the reasons we wanted to save that fight because it had implications for the future, but also, if you look at the undercard, we’ve got guys at 155 fighting for contention spots. I think one of the things that we do differently – and the UFC – than a lot of the other organizations is that we’re not just doing one-off fights. To have our guy fight a guy that nobody has ever seen fight in our organization before – all of a sudden they’re fighting for a title.

KP: There was talk of a UFC-WEC merger – and it came from Dana White…!

RH: Here’s what Dana said! We talked about it. He was asked at a Q&A: had they ever talked about merging the UFC and WEC. He said, “yeah we’ve talked about it,” but I can tell you that we talk about everything.

We’ve had all kinds of discussions about how to best position the WEC and there’s absolutely no discussion at this time about merging us with the UFC. You look at it mathematically and it would be impossible for them to do it with their current roster already at about 200 people.

To get those guys the fights they need – typically you need to get 3-4 fights a year – is tough. That’s one of the reasons why we eliminated the heavier weight classes, we couldn’t during 6-8 shows keep our guys busy. Now that we’re going to 10 shows next year, with four divisions, it will allow us to keep all those guys. And the thing is, you can’t just do title fights, you have to do other fights to build the division and also build the contenders for the belt.

I’ve had a number of discussions with Joe Silva about it and there are absolutely no plans at this time to merge the two companies. The sport is big enough to support two organizations, wouldn’t you agree?

KP: Well, I think that’s up for debate in terms of having mainstream two organizations. I think, right now, the market has proven that it cannot support more than one UFC.

RH: I think you’re right, because I think the UFC will always be the dominant force and the biggest. But, I think the WEC certainly has the potential to be a close number two – our television ratings are very good and we’ve got huge ratings down in Mexico. We are from a numbers standpoint, the number two organization in the world right now. We’re out gating and out televising any other company out there.

UFC 102 Pre Fight Press Conference Video Now Available

August 27, 2009

The UFC experienced technical difficulties with the live stream of this afternoon’s press conference, however, complete video coverage of the UFC 102 Pre Fight Press Conference is now available in the UFC 102 tab or by clicking here.

MMA Industry Expanding, ChokeoutPoker.net

August 27, 2009

MMAPayout.com has talked at length about MMA’s ability to move beyond the sport and create a lifestyle all of its own. The sport has spawned an entire industry of related training facilities, clothing, equipment, nutritional supplements, movies, music, video games, and now, it seems, the sport has even inspired a poker website.

The following is a press release from ChokeOutPoker.net (analysis below):

ChokeOutPoker.net is a new hybrid lifestyle online poker brand that caters to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fans around across the globe. The site will make its official launch Friday, Aug. 28, to coincide with its sponsorship of “HDNETFIGHTS PRESENTS M-1 GLOBAL: BREAKTHROUGH”, a live HDNet telecast airing at 10 p.m. ET.

 

The online poker educational site was built to appeal to the hip, old-school affluence and lifestyle personified by such iconic figures as Hugh Hefner, Steve McQueen, and Ernest Hemingway.

 

“Think Maxim meets poker meets MMA and that pretty much embodies ChokeOutPoker.net,” said Michael Lynch, CEO of Templar Consulting, the exclusive marketing agent for ChokeOutPoker.net.

 

ChokeOutPoker.net is currently accepting pre-registrations and will offer exclusive promotions featuring autographed MMA gear, fight tickets, and personalized MMA training sessions that will include some of the biggest names in MMA.

 

“Our close association with MMA will allow us to separate ourselves from the more traditional sites that often have a stale and stuffy atmosphere,” said Lynch. “Choke Out Poker will have an edgier and more hip demographic that will offer its players a more relaxed community.”

 

During its pre-registration period, ChokeOutPoker.net is currently offering a drawing to win signed fight gear along with a “Beat and Eat” training session lunch with MMA legend Pat Miletich.

 

Showing a strong commitment to the MMA community, ChokeOutPoker.net sponsored a total of seven fights earlier this month at the M-1 Challenge in Amsterdam, Holland. Thanks to strong performances of Team USA East fighters John Doyle and Shamar Bailey as well as Team England fighters Scott Hewitt, Simon Phillips, Matt Thorpe, Tom Blackledge, and Dave Keeley, Choke Out Poker fighters went a combined 7-0.

 

Rooting the fighters on in Amsterdam was Lynch, a former Chief Operating Officer with the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts. Lynch gives Choke Out Poker a highly-visible marketer that is well-known and well-respected within the Mixed Martial Arts industry. A guest on such popular MMA shows such as HDNet’s Inside MMA and Fox’s Fight Game, is excited about his latest endeavor.

 

“When I was first approached by ChokeOutPoker.net several months ago, I jumped at the chance to be involved with the first educational poker site that combines the fun of free poker and the excitement of mixed martial arts,” said Lynch. “My partner Ron Hansen is an avid poker player with tremendous industry contacts. It is a perfect fit for all involved.”

Payout Perspective:

The website is bound to draw mixed reactions from the MMA world.

Both MMA and poker are compatible in the sense that they share the same target audience. The reason why sites such as FullTilt and UltimateBet have sponsored various fighters and leagues is because they want to target that 18-34 male demo, flush with disposable cash just waiting to be lost (or won…) at the table. There’s good potential for a website that can properly integrate MMA and poker with various other things that are all stereotypically associated with males in this demographic (i.e., the Maxim demo).

However, the trick is that the MMA-Poker experiment has to be done properly. If the website appears to be a cheap gimmick designed to capitalize and piggyback off of the success of MMA, it will draw a rather cool reception from fans; and therein also lies a long-term concern.

The surging popularity of any brand or entity is going to encounter copy-cats and cheap imitations; the result often being an over-saturated market which dilutes the value of the original. Thus it’s important to be somewhat selective in the associations that the sport makes with various other industries.

After all, as Al Ries will attest, the power of a brand is inversely related to its scope. 

Note: the relationship between ChokeOutPoker and M-1 Global. The website’s executive marketing agent, Michael Lynch, is the original founder and COO of WAMMA, an organization that had extensive ties to Affliction/M-1 and also crowned Fedor Emelianenko its first ever champion in any weight class.

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