Questions, Debt Remain from Shine Fights’ “Worlds Collide” event

August 31, 2010

As Shine Fights prepares for its first event since its cancelled show on May 15th, there remain unanswered questions, unfinished business and owed money from the failed “Worlds Collide” event in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Officially, Shine Fights’ May 15th event would have featured a boxer versus MMA fighter as Ricardo Mayorga was set to fight Din Thomas. However, boxing promoter Don King filed an injunction preventing Mayorga from fighting. Despite the injunction, the event could have gone forward. But, according to MMASpot.net, the North Carolina Boxing Authority shut down the event because it was discovered that Shine Fights did not have the requisite cash on hand for the fighter purses. The Authority indicated it was a state requirement for the purse money to be on hand prior to the event.

In its detailed account, MMASpot.net chronicles the problems leading up to the failed “Worlds Collide” event. Details reveal disorganization and chaos leading up to the May 15th event. Not only did Shine Fights misread the litigation threat posed by Don King, it financially overextended itself by failing to pay the venue and its fighters. According to Francis Gilpin of the Fayetteville Observer, the event venue in Fayetteville, the Crown Center, lost $42,000 in anticipation of the event.  The article states that efforts to recover the money from Shine Fights have been fruitless.

In addition to the Crown Center losses, fight officials, a physician and staff were not paid. On top of this debt, fighter salaries estimated to be as much as $75,000 had not been paid.

Many fighters on the card that night speculate that the promoters never had the money.

From MMASpot.net:

Jamal Patterson, who received forty percent of his contracted “show” purse, echoes many of the sentiments shared by other fighters that are still seeking payment, “I don’t think they ever had the money. If they did it would have been at the arena. [Shine Fights CEO] Devin [Price] made promises that he couldn’t keep.”

Shine Fights CEO Devin Price told MMA Junkie in July that all contracts had been fulfilled. Price cited contractual language stating that Shine Fights, “in its discretion,” could pay fighters 25%  of their stated compensation in the event of cancellation.

In an interview with MMA Weekly, Ron Foster, former matchmaker for Shine Fights spoke about the failed May 15th event.

Looking back on it all, Foster knows things could have been handled differently, but he doesn’t point fingers at anyone.

“Yes, I do believe that, but hindsight is always 20/20,” said Foster. “Of course you can look back at a situation after it has already happened and you can say ‘man if we would have done this different, if we would have just done that different,’ so hindsight is 20/20. It definitely could have been prevented.

“It wasn’t just negligence, it was the countless hours put into hyping up the fighters, it was everything. We put so much time and effort into everything; it wasn’t like we just overlooked small details. How does stuff happen that you just couldn’t prepare for?”

MMA Spot notes that some fighter contracts were never signed by Shine Fights officials:

One boxing commission official noted that in addition to the lack of payments to fighters, state commissions, and the venue, the fight contracts placed on file with the N.C.B.A. [North Carolina Boxing Authority] were not signed by the promotion. Whether intentional or unintentional the lack of a signature on the agreements leaves legal holes, in the event that a fighter did take legal action against the promotion.

Payout Perspective:

The detailed account of Shine Fights failed event in May reveals that Don King should not be the scapegoat for the canceling of the event. Based on the accounts, Shine Fights did not have the financial backing to pull off the event. Even though Ron Foster claims that they did not overlook small details, failing to abide by the governing authority’s rules providing fighter purse salaries was a major oversight. It is not clear why the Crown Center has not sued Shine Fights for breach of contract and/or to recover money owed to it. Similarly, I wonder why the fighters and/or their agents have not tried to sue Shine Fights. One can only speculate, based on the portions of the contract released to MMA Junkie,  that the terms in the fighter contract indicate that it was within Shine Fights’ discretion to pay fighters. It would be very interesting to see a fighter contract in its entirety to see the contract terms concerning cancellation.

A basic tenet of a written contract is that it must be signed by a party to the contract in order to make it valid (there are exceptions but are not relevant here). Shine Fights failure to execute its fighter contracts could show a glaring oversight or a willful omission. Certainly, the lack of signature could provide a loophole if a fighter does sue for breach of contract.

UFC 118 Aftermath: Storylines, Expectations, & Boston Media Impressions

August 31, 2010

This week, we’ll be taking a look at the storylines, expectations, and media expressions coming out of UFC 118: Edgar vs. Penn II, which was held at the TD BankNorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on Saturday, August 28th, 2010.

Setting Up The Storyline

UFC 118: Edgar vs. Penn II, was held at the TD BankNorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on Saturday, August 28th, 2010. It was the UFC’s first venture into the market, and president Dana White wanted to put on a big show for the city that he refers to as his adopted hometown. Dana White told ESPN:

“I’m going to bring the fight game back to Boston,” White says. “I’m going to bring back the excitement of big fights, the energy of it…Everybody’s always telling me, ‘Hey, I bet you can’t wait till you can bring the UFC to Madison Square Garden,'” Dana says. “No, I want the [expletive] Boston Garden, OK?”

The storyline and plot, it was all there. It literally could have been pulled right out of a Hollywood script starring Matt Damon or Ben Affleck.  Around the age of 17, Dana white began to seriously train for the sport which he loved so much growing up, boxing.  He fought in amateur bouts and found his calling when he was injured and started to help train fighters, which led to opening up a a gym in South Boston.

Dana and partner Peter Welch started to train inner-city youth from their gym and also started training adults in fitness classes during the workout fad.  Everything was going great for Dana in the boxing world until he had a run-in with the Boston Irish mob:

“I had kind of a run-in with Whitey Bulger and his guys,” he says. “They showed up at the gym looking for money. It was time to leave.” Consider this: Had the Irish mob not come along demanding a piece of his business, White might never have moved out of Boston and become involved with MMA.

Given the history in his hometown, Dana wanted to put on a huge event, even talking of possibly putting on another in Fenway Park (which seats 37,000) by summer of 2011.  Such an event would mark the companies first outdoor event in North America, and would only succeed the open arena event held in Abu Dhabi earlier this year. White was hopeful for a great turnout due to the proximity of near-by markets from the Northeast.

“One of the things I love about a Boston show is that you’re not just pulling people from Massachusetts, you’re pulling people from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, even New Jersey and New York,” he says. “We’re going to blow people away with how many fans come.”

Slow Ticket Sales Become A Concern

The storyline was set, and now all that was left was for the fans to show up and for the fighters to put on some great fights.  Though everything was in place for a successful event, White’s tune started to change a bit when he received some news about slow ticket sales, as he addressed the issue to the Boston Herald:

Tickets went on sale June 25 and as of last weekend about 11,000 tickets had been sold. The Garden’s capacity for the event will be 15,500.

“I was shocked that we didn’t sell out,” White told the Herald Monday. “Everybody is telling me that things are rough back there.”

Though the news wasn’t great, Dana White and the UFC knew they would have to scratch and crawl to try and fill the arena, even after throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park for a Red Sox game,  he was hopeful that walkup sales and the marketing done would be more than enough.

“We think it’s going to sell out,” White said. “I think we’re like a couple thousand away from it. But when we get down to a thousand, we consider that a sell out. We’ll do that from walkup (sales).”..

“Everything is great,” White said. “The fight card, the lead-up and now going there is all good stuff.”

White also spoke to Yahoo Sports on the issue:

“Without a doubt, if you asked me if one card would have sold out everything on the first day, it would have been this one,” White said of a slate that features a lightweight title rematch between champion Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn and a heavyweight tilt between boxer James Toney and Randy Couture. “But this is just another example of the economy. People are really hurting.”

Although the economy was a concern, encouraging news came from Boston.com, as they ran a lead-up story to the event which stated that UFC 118 was expected to generate $4 million in ticket sales and pump $6 million into the economy, which would be excellent numbers for the event.

It’s the Ultimate Fighting Championship, once a widely banned novelty decried as “human cockfighting,’’ now one of the world’s fastest-growing sports — a smash hit from Boston to Belfast to Abu Dhabi.

Newly sanctioned by Governor Deval Patrick and the Legislature amid the hunt for fresh revenue, the UFC will debut in Massachusetts Saturday at TD Garden as one of the highest-grossing events ever on Causeway Street. With box-office prices ranging from $75 to $600, the UFC’s inaugural mixed martial arts night in Boston is expected to generate nearly $4 million in ticket sales and pump an additional $6 million into the recession-racked local economy.

Boston Media Impressions of UFC 118

Boston.com writer Bob Ryan attended UFC 118, and wrote up a piece on his experience at the event which he titled “Ulitmately, this sport is a big hit”.  Here are some excerpts of the up and down experience from him:

It was a big night for Big Cheese Dana White, whose background includes significant time in South Boston. The sport was only recently legalized in the Commonwealth, and this territory was regarded as almost the Last Frontier for UFC, which has soared in popularity, thanks to both White’s zeal and his marketing savvy. Clearly, he has struck a chord. His enterprise is estimated by Forbes to be worth in excess of $1 billion and White has become a very wealthy man.

Bob Ryan then started to describe his experience at the event:

The big hook for UFC, if I understand things correctly, is that it is an all-encompassing form of combat. The bell rings and you assume a boxing stance. But UFC also combines wrestling and a wide assortment of martial arts. So a great deal of time in some matches is spent with the combatants groping around on the floor.
Fans paying several hundred dollars have clearly not come for the wrestling. Heavy boos rained down in three of the first four matches, which, admittedly, were, as one wag put it, the “batting practice’’ portion of the evening. Those matches were bor-ing.

He then went on to explain why he believes fans love the sport:

Now you can’t say everything goes. They did away with eye-gouging some time back. But kneeing and elbowing are prime tactics, and, c’mon, what’s so artistic about that? If you love a flat-out barroom brawl, replete with wrestling, kicking, kneeing, elbowing and, yep, punching, then this may be the sport for you. But to some, a little of that goes a long way. Frankly, after watching an evening of UFC, up close and personal, I came away with a better appreciation of boxing.

By the way, don’t let anyone kid you. Some of the fans may get off on the submission holds that can end bouts, but the biggest cheers come when fists are flailing with these flimsy gloves and blood starts flowing. Any time the ring physician examined a boxer who had been cut and there was the slightest hint he might stop the bout, the boos began. Nope, the punching is what matters most, and the show-stopper comes when a man gets on top of his opponent and starts punching his face in.

Dana White is obviously doing something right. The full houses nationwide and the hefty pay-per-views have made UFC a big deal. But it’s like a lot of other things in life: it’s not for everybody.

As a follow up to his piece, Ryan then appeared on television to talk some more about the event from “Sports Tonight” on Monday (courtesy of Fight Opinion):

CO-HOST: “Have you made the switch (to MMA)?”

BOB RYAN: “In all honesty, I’m just telling the truth. The biggest revelation I got from spending that evening at the Garden was how astonishingly BOOOOORRING this thing is. It is the most overrated… I do not remotely understand the appeal. There isn’t enough blood, there isn’t enough ACTION…”

DAN SHAUGHNESSY: “I mean, I don’t understand, the tickets are so expensive and it’s a young, you know, it trends very young demographic here. Who’s going to this thing? Where are they getting the money to go this thing?”

CO-HOST: “I have to tell you, I talked to some people, they saved up for a year. People knew they were coming. Literally $300 a ticket, he saved up, put the money aside, they knew it was coming and they put the money away.”

BOB RYAN: “You get the trappings of the WWE, you get the booming music, you get the lights and the flashing and you get the videos and you get the ring girls and all that stuff and you know Buffer in the ring and a BETTER Buffer.”

CO-HOST: “When Bruce Buffer is the highlight of your evening, OK, you’re not buying (into) it.”

BOB RYAN: “The things that you would think make it have appeal aren’t there. It’s not there. I don’t understand how people can be satisfied with so little [excitement].”

Not all Boston press was negative, as Yahoo Sports points out:

Between excellent sports-radio stations and powerhouse newspapers, Boston is huge on its sports. If you’re without a calendar, it’s August, there’s roughly 30 games left in the MLB season and the Pats are two weeks away from the season opener. So it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if UFC 118 got little coverage this week.

Instead, the town’s media has embraced the event like no other city in the U.S. has in the past. Both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe have had multiple staffers writing stories since early in the week. And even WEEI, one of the top-five sports-radio stations in the country, has devoted ample time to UFC guests and the event. It’s a great step forward for MMA.

Event Attendance, Gate, Theater Numbers, and Ratings Announced

– The show drew 14,168 fans (11, 205 paid, 2,963 complimentary) with a $2.8 million gate (roughly $1.2 million less than what was expected to be generated), which would rank 7th in 2010 trailing UFC 111 to UFC 116, which all had higher gate numbers.  MMAJunkie reports that nearly 4,000 tickets were purchased in the final week leading up to the show.

– The UFC Prelims special on Spike TV drew a series low of 1.1 million viewers, and the weigh-ins garnered 380,000 viewers, which were described by MMAJunkie as “pretty good” considering the timeslot.

– Wrestling Observer (subscription) commented on getting varying reports on theater attendance, ranging from 20 people to 100 people, stating that they did not do a good job at getting the word out and that there is no point in doing this if they are not going to promote it.

Lasting Impressions

Bryan Alvarez over at Wrestling Observer (subscription) comments on UFC 118 as a whole:

The show [was] heavily, heavily papered, and a $3 million gate. I would estimate between 5 and 10 percent of the building was still empty during the main event. As we’ve written a million times before, UFC tickets are too expensive. It’s funny because Dana blames the economy, but then he keeps ticket prices high. I have a lot of friends who would love to go to UFC but refuse to shell out $300 or more for tickets after the $75 and $150 tickets are snatched up almost immediately. It would be one thing if your ticket prices were high and you were selling out. But when your ticket prices are high and Dana White is giving them away left and right with various contests, and on show day there are empty seats in the building, it’s time to restructure the pricing tier. Bonuses of $60,000 were paid to Nate Diaz and Marcus Davis for Fight of the Night, Lauzon for best submission, and no knockout bonus was given as nobody was KO’d.

I left the show feeling bad for Dana White. As the story goes, he was run out of town years ago when the Irish Mob tried to shake him down for money. This was his chance to return a multi-millionaire, the king of the UFC, for the first show in his home market. And it was kind of lame.

Payout Perspective:

Though the high expectations were not met and the event fell a bit short compared to the other great events the UFC has hosted this year, this was still a successful show for them.  Having a gate above $2 million outside of Las Vegas is always a great news, specially going into a new market which can always be a bit tricky and unpredictable.  Dana White and the UFC attributed most of the difficulties due to how hard Boston was hit during the recession and how tough people have it there.

One begins to question why they held the event in Boston if they knew of the troubled conditions, but we must remember that this was a strategic step to enter a new market. In our Payout Perspective of UFC 118, Kelsey does a great job to point out that even if the event was a bit papered and attendance was not what was expected, the short-term financial losses could be negligible if they establish the Northeast as a growing market and expand their ever growing company and brand, not only stateside but world wide, as they continue to attack China, Brazil, and the Middle East to spread their product Internationally.

UFC 118: Prelims Draw .8HH

August 31, 2010

MMAPayout.com has learned the UFC 118 Prelims on Spike TV earned a 0.8HH rating on the strength of an average of 1.1 million viewers. The broadcast drew a 1.0 in both the M18-34 and M18-49 demographics.

The quarterly viewership was as follows: 1,204,000; 1,128,000; 1,062,000; 1,059,000

Payout Perspective:

This is the lowest rated UFC Prelim yet, but slots in just above the Aldo vs. Faber broadcast that featured Garcia vs. Sung Jung.

Event HH 18-34 18-49 Viewers
103 1 1.5 1.3 1,400,000
104 1.1 1.3 1.3 1,400,000
106 1 1.2 1.1 1,300,000
108 1 1.4 1.3 1,500,000
109 1.2 1.6 1.6 1,700,000
111 0.9 1.1 1.2 1,200,000
A v F 0.8 0.91 0.92 1,000,000
114 1.1 1.6 1.55 1,600,000
115 0.9 1.4 1.2 1,300,000
116 1 1.11 1.04 1,300,000
118 0.8 1 1 1,100,000

 

These broadcasts are proving to be a bit of a mystery where ratings are concerned. There’s little evidence to suggest the ratings are influenced by the fighters or calibre of match-ups on the broadcasts. The ratings themselves also do not seem to correlate with the interest shown in the PPV that follows. Just about the only thing that’s proven to be somewhat predictable about this entire series is that entertaining fights generally do see an increase in viewership over the course of a match (e.g., Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung put on 400,000 viewers throughout the course of the fight).

I think we might have to look towards the external operating environment to find an explanation as to why these ratings very so inexplicably.

Dana White to Address Oxford Union Society

August 31, 2010

The Associated Press is reporting that UFC President Dana White will address the Oxford Union Society Debate Club this October while in London, England to promote UFC 120.

Malcolm X has spoken there. So have Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.

 

And now Dana White will take the podium.

 

The UFC president will join a star-studded list when he addresses the famed Oxford Union Society on Oct. 13.

 

The 187-year-old society has been known for its ties to the upper tiers of politics, and past speakers include Sir Winston Churchill, Robert Kennedy and Yasser Arafat. The late Benazir Bhutto was once club president when she was a student, long before she was prime minister of Pakistan.

 

But sports figures have also won invitations. Recent speakers include soccer’s Diego Maradona, cricket’s Graham Gooch and Geoffrey Boycott, rower Steve Redgrave and boxer Chris Eubank.

Payout Perspective:

Dana White has become quite the highly sought-after speaking commodity as of late. In May, White was invited to attend the prestigious Microsoft CEO Summit and rub shoulders with the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and nearly 200 of the most important business leaders in the world. Oxford will now present an opportunity for White to address some of the world’s future business leaders.

The passion and energy with which White speaks may have won over the Summit crowd, but I’ll caution the same approach may not work at Oxford. The debate club will not go easy on White, and I fear he’ll need more than his standard clichés — e.g., the NASCAR analogy or “we run to, not from, regulation” — to survive the encounter.

Best of luck to him!

UFC 124: GSP v. Koscheck to take place in Montreal

August 30, 2010

MMA Junkie reports a venue  change for UFC 124 as Georges St. Pierre will have a chance to fight in his hometown of Montreal against Josh Koscheck. Original reports had UFC 124 taking place in Las Vegas.

Via MMA Junkie:

As it turns out, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre will rematch first-time contender Josh Koscheck in his backyard.

The marquee match-up will not take place in Las Vegas, as early reports suggested.

Instead, the promotion will return to Montreal’s Bell Centre for the event, presumably titled UFC 124, on Dec. 11. It’s the UFC’s fourth trip to the Canadian city.

Payout Perspective:

Placing UFC 124 in Montreal is a great move by the UFC. Not only will the venue be sold out, but expect Josh Koscheck playing the role of super heel leading up to the event.  It capitalizes not only on GSP’s immense popularity but on Montreal fans that hate Koscheck. As you may recall of his last appearance in Montreal at UFC 113, he was thoroughly booed during his post-fight interview even after Paul Daley hit him with a sucker punch. Of course, Koscheck insulted GSP and said that the Penguins would take the Canadiens out of the NHL playoffs.

Expect Koscheck, a native of Pennsylvania, to don a Penguins jersey in front of the pro-Canadiens crowd during his ring entrance in December.

Strikeforce Announces Nick Diaz vs KJ Noons II

August 30, 2010

After last weekend’s Strikeforce Houston event, Strikeforce and Showtime announced a couple of matches for their October 9th event in San Jose.  Marloes Coenen versus Sarah Kaufman (Women’s 135 lbs title)  and Matt Lindland vs Luke Rockhold. 

They also stated that Nick Diaz would be the headliner, but were not able to announce his opponent on Showtime.  A few days later, Strikeforce sent out an announcement declaring KJ Noons to challenge Diaz for his WW title.  Here are some of the promo material released within the past week:

Event Posters:

Strikeforce San Jose (Oct. 9th) Poster:

Strikeforce Diaz vs Noons II Banner:

Showtime Diaz vs Noons II – The Rematch Promo Video:

MMAPayout Perspective:

One criticism Strikeforce often receives is the lack of time they give themselves to promote upcoming cards, so it’s a good sign they have already started promoting this Oct. 9th bout as of last week.  In fact it was a hot topic taking into account it was fight week for one of UFC’s big cards which included James Toney, Randy Couture, BJ Penn, and Frankie Edgar.

The promotional video was released by Showtime and Strikeforce on Friday.  It’s purpose was to remind MMA fans how much genuine dislike exists between the two fighters.  As a promotional video, it did it’s job though I would expect the promo material to get better as we get closer to fight night.  This is one of those can’t-miss fights that Strikeforce has access to, so they must do their best to present it as such.  Interesting to point out that this video includes snippets of the original EliteXC brawl, before Strikeforce Nashville took place, between KJ Noons (and Jack Shields) and the Cesar Gracie team.

Expect more promos and buzz to build up for this fight in the coming weeks, as this event will be used to promote the EA Sports MMA video game, their Strikeforce MMA DVD release, and new branding strategy which will be in full display in the fall.  Banners for the event are already up on Sherdog and other MMA related websites.

UFC 118: Payout Perspective

August 30, 2010

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective! This week we’ll be taking a look at UFC 118: Edgar vs. Penn II, which was held at the TD BankNorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on Saturday, August 28th, 2010.

Edgar Stymies Penn, Maynard Awaits

Frankie Edgar proved that UFC 112 was not a fluke with his dominating performance over BJ Penn on Saturday. Edgar’s quickness and striking precision proved to be too much for the slower Penn – once considered among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and virtually invincible at lightweight.

Many are wondering what this fight will do to Penn’s legacy, but I also wonder where he goes from here. In a way, Penn’s situation resembles that of Rich Franklin at middlweight; Penn is good enough to be top three in the division and defeat most contenders, but has now lost twice to the champion. However, unlike Franklin, Penn really does not realistically have the ability to jump up a weight class.

Penn’s value as a draw cannot be understated. He also has some intriguing fights left at 155lbs – Gomi and Florian among them. Thus, I suspect he’ll remain at 155lbs for now.

Call me crazy, but I almost wonder if he couldn’t drop to 145 lbs and compete in the WEC. His value as a draw to that organization (combined with the potential size advantage at 145) is very appealing. Imagine: Aldo vs. Penn. The WEC would have to pay him well more than they compensate any other fighter, but it might be a worthwhile investment for Zuffa if he can bring some more viewers to the promotion.

Gray Maynard now awaits Edgar, and barring any injuries it’s probably a fight that happens in late December or January. Edgar isn’t the star PPV attraction that BJ is, but BJ wasn’t exactly a huge attraction until recently, either. Penn had generated just 225,000 buys at UFC 80 and 475,000 buys at UFC 84 before finally breaking through as a draw alongside St-Pierre at UFC 94.

Edgar must be marketed to the MMA fan in a different manner than most other titleholders: he isn’t the trash talking type, nor is he going to sell fights based on being known as an exciting finisher or dynamic fighter. Edgar is a blue collar worker that’s known for his great boxing and exceptional bicycle. Traditionally, that type of guy hasn’t been that well-received until a few defenses into his title tenure.

Edgar is a great fighter with ample character and has a great story to tell. The UFC’s biggest challenge in the coming months will be finding a way to tell that story to the fans in a compelling manner. Perhaps a Primetime expose is in order for both Edgar and Maynard – two of the lightweight divisions most talented, yet under-appreciated fighters.

Couture Embarrasses Toney, Ends Debate

Toney did a good job to promote the fight and insert a sliver of doubt in the minds of MMA fans everywhere, but Randy’s low single exposed Toney as an MMA fraud and signaled to the world that the fight was going to be far less competitive than most could have even imagined.

I believe this fight has settled the MMA vs. boxing debate, but probably not in the way most think. This fight did not prove that MMA is superior to boxing. How could anyone possibly claim such a subjective statement as fact? It’s ludicrous. Instead, what I think this fight did is help both communities reach the consensus that these are two very different – albeit closely related – sports.

Most within the MMA community would be the first to admit that a top-notch MMA fighter stepping into the boxing ring would not fair well. UFC 118 will probably go a long way towards persuading unconvinced boxing fans of the similar fate their best and brightest would experience stepping into the cage.

Did Couture vs. Toney win over any new fans? I have my doubts. Most boxing fans that dislike MMA saw this bout for the freak show it was, and they chose to pursue other entertainment alternatives for their Saturday evening. If this event turns out to have performed better than average on PPV  – which I believe is likely to be the case – it will have been due to the fact that the MMA community rallied to see the spectacle; one man representing the sport of MMA and millions of its fans.

UFC’s Debut in Boston a Success

UFC 118’s live gate of $3 million might be somewhat average for the organization’s debut in a major American market, but the event as a whole should be viewed as a resounding success. The UFC drew 15,575 to the TD BankNorth Garden for the event and another 30,000 on both days of the UFC Expo. The event itself may have been a little papered, but that matters little in the long run so long as fans are getting a live experience that is going to endear them to the sport for a lifetime.

Perhaps just as important as the live experience, the UFC also received a host of favorable press coverage in Boston from various media outlets, including the Herald and Globe. If casual fans weren’t interested in (or couldn’t afford to) attend the live events, they may have at the very least been persuaded to buy the PPV by the local media coverage.

Sponsorship Watch

Sinister made a splash at UFC 118 with the sponsorship of several fighters on the card, including James Toney. It wasn’t just that Sinister sponsored “The Dark Emperor,” but the fact that it used the sponsorship opportunity as an avenue to advertise its exclusive retail relationship with K-Mart. In addition to fighter sponsorships, Sinister also purchased presenting sponsorship status for the PPV broadcast.

I think a lot of people scoffed when they saw James Toney walking toward the ring with a large K-Mart logo on his chest, but I liked the strategy by Sinister. If you’re Sinister – if you’re any MMA apparel brand – you’ve got to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack. One way to do that is through distribution. Sinister doesn’t have the clout or the cash to gain access to Wal-Mart, but K-Mart is a willing partner looking to rejuvenate it’s own brand. The sponsorship strategy made a lot of sense for both parties.

The only critique I’ll make regarding the Sinister/K-Mart strategy was that the “only at” above the K-Mart logo was not as clear as it could have been, which might have led some people to believe that Toney was simply being sponsored by K-Mart (not that Sinister clothing was available only at K-Mart). Not a huge issue.

UFC: Mark Fischer to Head UFC Asia

August 29, 2010

Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta announced at the UFC 118 post-fight press conference that Mark Fischer has been hired as Executive Vice-President and Managing Director of UFC Asia.

A sports industry veteran, Fischer has spent the past 20 years working in Asia. Most recently, in 2009, he founded Sports & Entertainment Asia Ltd (SEA), which provides strategic marketing and representation services to sports properties seeking opportunities in China and other Asian markets. Prior to establishing SEA, Fischer worked for 12 years at the National Basketball Association (NBA), where he served as Senior Vice President and Managing Director of NBA Asia and was responsible for the development of the NBA’s businesses and operations throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

 

From 2003 to 2008, Fischer led the NBA’s explosive growth in China, overseeing the expansion of the league’s branding and basketball development initiatives in China. During this period, Fischer built NBA China’s on-ground operations in Beijing and Shanghai and cultivated more than 20 marketing partnerships with leading multinational and domestic brands. He spearheaded a full range of on-ground events such as the NBA China Games and other integrated media and marketing initiatives as well as established the NBA’s groundbreaking partnership with the Beijing Olympic Basketball Arena. These achievements, in combination with his pivotal role in a $253 million investment road show, led to the establishment of NBA China in late 2007 as a separate corporate entity valued at more than $2 billion.

 

Fischer joined the NBA and established NBA Taiwan, Ltd. in 1997 before being promoted to Senior Director of Marketing Partnerships and Events for NBA Asia, Ltd., a regional position headquartered in Hong Kong, in 1999.

 

Before his position with the NBA, Fischer worked as Vice President of Richina Media Holdings Ltd. in Beijing, where he established an advertising and sports marketing agency and launched Chinese editions of several foreign content publications.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC continues to gobble up as much talent outside the Octagon as it does inside the Octagon. Last year, the UFC tapped Digital Royalty’s Amy Martin as lead consultant for the company’s social media strategy. In May, the organization added former CFL commissioner and Adidas executive Tom Wright to spearhead its Canadian effort. Now, Fischer and his wealth of Chinese experience have been added to the fold.

There are only so many hours in a day. Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta can’t be everywhere and do everything for the UFC. Perhaps more importantly, Dana and Lorenzo cannot hope to understand the many nuances and complexities of every international market they’re seeking to enter. That’s why these moves are so important.

Kudos to White, Fertitta, and the UFC for having the wisdom to find and hire local market experts. Fischer may or may not know the MMA game, but I’m sure he’ll learn just as Tom Wright has.

Strikeforce Houston Payout Perspective

August 27, 2010

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective! This week we’ll be taking a look at the Showtime event headlined by newly crowned LHW Champ King Mo, as he makes his first title defense against Brazilian top prospect Rafael “Feijao”.

The event took place at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas and featured 4 fights (2 title fights): “King” Mo Lawal vs. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, [LHW Title]  Tim Kennedy vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza [Vacant MW Title], KJ Noons vs Jorge Gurgel, and Bobby Lashley vs Chad Griggs.  On the Sherdog streamed portion of the undercard, André Galvão took on fellow Brazilian veteran Jorge Patino and recently crowned KOTC HW Champ Daniel Cormier took on Jason Riley.

Payouts and Gate

TBA

Attendance

MMAJunkie reports that Strikeforce: Houston achieved an attendance of 8,635 which would have to be considered a successful first trip for Strikeforce into the Lone Star State.  The attendance number stands as second most attended event for Strikeorce this year.

– 11,757 spectators, “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum” (June)
– 8,635 spectators, “Strikeforce: Houston” (August)
– 8,196 spectators, “Strikeforce: Nashville  (April)
– 8,136 spectators, “Strikeforce St. Louis: Heavy Artillery” (May)
– 7,010 spectators, “Strikeforce: Miami” (January)
– 5,259 spectators, “Strikeforce: Los Angeles” (June)

Ratings

MMAJunkie reports that Strikeforce: Houston averaged 367,000 viewers with a 1.18 rating on Showtime last Saturday night, but peaked at nearly half a million viewers (470,000) with a 1.48 rating for the main event between Lawal and Feijao.  The numbers are very good for an event that didn’t feature any big names like Fedor or Herschel  Walker, but a key number to observe here is the peak number, which means more for Showtime because of the correlation between how many current and new subscribers are watching Strikeforce, which differs from the UFC, WEC, Bellator, and other promotions with TV deals (non-subscription channels) which are ad and rating dependent.

MMAJunkie points out where they fair, in terms of average viewers, compared to the other “Arena Series” Strikeforce events:

– 517,000 viewers, “Strikeforce: Miami” (January)
– 412,000 viewers, “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum” (June)
– 367,000 viewers, “Strikeforce: Houston” (August)
– 308,000 viewers, “Strikeforce St. Louis: Heavy Artillery” (May)
– 164,000 viewers, “Strikeforce: Los Angeles” (June)

Storylines Coming Out of Event

There were 4 major story lines coming out of the event this past weekend.

1) Three of Strikeforce’s Most Marketable Fighters Lose (King Mo, Tim Kennedy, Bobby Lashley)

  • Many are stating that Saturday night was not a good night for Strikeforce as 3 of their most marketable fighters lost their fight.  Then again, this is nothing new to Strikeforce having just recently seen Fedor Emelianenko, Dan Henderson, Gina Carano, Frank Shamrock, and Cung Le all lose within the past year.  What one has to take away from this is that new stars have to be developed and marketed in order to able to jump right in when a star falters.  A perfect example is the popularity Cris Cyborg and Miesha Tate have garnered after the “face of women’s MMA” Gina Carano lost and took a leave from MMA to try her hand in Hollywood.  This is a sport and no one can control who will win or lose, but having good matchups and developing your young or unknown talent will definitely soften the blow and keep the flow of the promotion going.

2) Bad Officiating Marred Yet Another Strikeforce Event

  • Josh Gross from Sports Illustrated does a great job at pointing out the poor officiating that was on display that night.

Referees are allowed to intervene at any point they want in a fight. They’re also allowed to restart bouts where they’ve been broken — usually when a fighter is the mount he or she is given the courtesy of reclaiming it.

Not tonight. Not according to Schorle, whose poor choice directly influenced the outcome of the fight.

  • Josh also points out the punch KJ Noons landed at the end of the first round and the knee at the end of the fight.

Noons last attack appeared to be a knee to the head while Gurgel (13-6) was down and after the referee had moved in to stop the bout, though replays in the arena were inconclusive and neither fighter said they knew for sure if or where it landed.

Gurgel refused to assign any blame to Noons, pointing instead at the referee.

3) The O2 Can Controversy

  • As rumors started swirling among the MMA media after some websites pointed out that both KJ Noons and King Mo used canned Oxygen, fans quickly started to use the words “cheaters” and pointing the blame at the fighters, but Mike Chiappetta of MMAFighting did a great job of getting the full story:

“Is there controversy about this?” Guerrero asked when reached by phone Monday morning. “The fighters didn’t use anything against the rules. When it’s something that’s not overtly prohibited or limited, it’s usually left up to the doctors at ringside, and we make the call on the spot. I think that’s what happened here.”

  • Nick Lembo, the legal counsel for the New Jersey Athletic commission also commented on the matter:

In New Jersey, it is not allowed, but not because of the boost it could give athletes.

“We wouldn’t have a problem with the oxygen per se but the canister could contain most any type of vaporized substance in addition to oxygen that could include banned substances and it would be impossible to ascertain such at that point in time,” said Nick Lembo, the legal counsel for the New Jersey state athletic control board.

4) King Mo Out For At Least 9 Months Due to Knee Surgery

  • Loretta Hunt from Sherdog.com was the first to report on the matter:

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal  will undergo knee surgery to replace both his anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee, which could sideline the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion for nine months, said his manager Ryan Parsons.

Sponsor, Promotion and Marketing Watch

– As the norm, we always want more marketing and promotion from most every Strikeforce event, and its a topic that they juggle everyday regarding their budget, resources, and strategic planning for each event, but I did see something that I thought was great, and that was the intro video to Strikeforce Houston on Showtime.  It was one of the better done videos that I have seen by Showtime other than perhaps the CBS Strikeforce Nashville intro.  At the moment, they shoot it and edit it 1 week out before the event and release it a day or 2 before, but they really need to release this 2-4 weeks before the event takes place.  It would be a great promotional tool to get everyone pumped up for the event.

– All the usual sponsors where there for this event: FullTilt Poker, Rockstar, GoDaddy, ClinchGear, etc.  As we like to point out here on MMAPayout, we always like to see more synergy between big sponsors and the promotions.  We got a little taste of that from GoDaddy.com this time around, as they held a giveaway for lucky fans to win 2 tickets to the Strikeforce Houston event.  We definitely want to see more of this from all of Strikeforce’s partners and sponsors.

– KJ Noons throws out first pitch at Houston Astros game.

– KJ Noons, Bobby Lashley, King Mo, and Tim Kennedy paid a visit to Houston’s Fisher House, VA Medical Center in Houston.

Twitter : Good news for Strikeforce here, as the key words “#Strikeforce” and “#Jacare” were top trends during the evening of the Strikeforce Houston event.

That would make it 3 out of the last 4 events that have trended on Twitter for Strikeforce, with the latest having “#Strikeforce”, “#Sarah” and  “#Slam” trending from the Strikeforce Challengers event from Tacoma Washington, where Sarah Kaufman emphatically defeated Roxanne Modafferi by way of a slam, which made the “ESPN Top 10 plays of the weekend”.  The Strikeforce: Fedor vs Werdum event also trended due to the shocking loss of HW great Fedor Emelianenko.

WEC 50: $275,340 Gate

August 26, 2010

The Staff at MMAJunkie are reporting that WEC 50: Cruz vs. Benavidez earned $275,340 at the gate on the strength of 1,861 in attendance.

This month’s WEC 50 event officially drew an attendance of 1,861 and a live gate of $275,340.

 

….

 

Of the 1,861 attendees, 371 received complimentary tickets. The average paid-ticket price was $148, and 280 tickets went unsold.

 

WEC 50 marked the WEC’s first event at The Pearl since WEC 45 in December, which drew 1,741 attendees for a $102,700 live gate.

Payout Perspective:

There are a few things you have to consider when looking at this number:

1.) The WEC is paid a site fee by the casino to host the event, which means the gate revenue doesn’t necessarily reflect what the WEC took home that evening.

2.) By comparison, the UFC’s last event at The Pearl was the TUF 11 Finale which drew 1,708 fans for a live gate of approximately $430,000.

When people question whether the WEC is making money on these shows, you’ve got to look a little more closely than just subtracting fighter payouts and production costs from gate figures (which, themselves, are misleading). The WEC is also generating material amounts of revenue from Versus in the form of a television rights fee and money from sponsorship sales to the likes of AMP, MusclePharm, Harley, etc.

The television ratings may have been less than what was desired, but that has little to do with short-term profitability.

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