Arianny Celeste in November issue of Playboy

August 25, 2010

Dana White confirmed speculation that UFC ring girl Arianny Celeste will be appearing in Playboy. In an interview with MMA Fighting on Wednesday, White was asked about about a picture Celeste put on her twitter page which appeared to be a picture of the Playboy offices. White acknowledged that Celeste would appear in the November issue of Playboy.

Payout Perspective

Celeste becomes the second UFC ring girl (Rachel Leah was the first) to appear in Playboy. During the interview, Ariel Helwani astutely points out the WWE’s successful working relationship with Playboy in which several WWE Divas posed nude for Playboy. The WWE-Playboy relationship garnered record magazine sales for Playboy.

The UFC hopes record sales for Celeste’s issue. Not only will Celeste expose the audience to the world of MMA, it will elevate her status as well. It could mean more opportunities for Celeste in the future. Playboy hopes that the Celeste cover will equate to record sales similar to the WWE Divas.

Dana White talks Shane Carwin

August 25, 2010

MMA Fighting had the opportunity to speak with Dana White after Wednesday’s pre-fight press conference for UFC 118. White was asked about the Shane Carwin story.

White on Shane Carwin:

I don’t know enough about it to go into it in depth…But, I know he came up on like a BALCO-type list.  On a list of guys who did it. But, this guy’s [Carwin] fought in the UFC a long time, under regulation and has never tested positive for anything…not a good time for Shane and his family for sure. We’ll see how this whole thing plays out.

Payout Perspective:

Without going into specifics, White supported Carwin and emphasized the fact that the heavyweight contender has never tested positive in the UFC.  Its interesting that this is the first time we’ve heard as far as an explanation for Carwn’s name being linked to steroid use. It is nice to know that Carwin’s employer supports him and White does a good job of reiterating the facts rather than stir the speculation. But, there will come a time where Carwin must face the media and explain himself.

CMA Proposes Ban on MMA Prizefighting

August 25, 2010

The Canadian Press is reporting that the Canadian Medical Association is calling for a ban on mixed martial arts prizefighting in Canada.

Delegates at the CMA’s annual meeting voted Wednesday to have the doctors group seek a government ban on the sport.


The vote came after often contentious debate among 250 doctors at the meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont.


Those in favour of trying to deliver a knock-out punch to MMA say the sport puts fighters at risk of severe head trauma and other injuries that could have lifelong effects.


They argue that unlike sports like hockey and skiing, the intent of mixed martial arts is to incapacitate one’s opponent.

Payout Perspective:

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national body which represents doctors across all of Canada’s provinces and territories, including the British Columbia Medical Association. The CMA has also been calling for a ban on boxing since 2001.

This news isn’t something to worry about immediately. The CMA, alone, does not have the clout to tear down MMA, but it’s certainly something that opponents of the sport will point to when evaluating the sport in the future (whilst, I can only assume, leaving out relevant empirical studies like those done at Johns Hopkins).

Perhaps, the most disappointing part of this news is that the CMA’s justification for banning the sport of MMA is likely to mirror that of the BCMA – a group of supremely educated individuals and many of whom that have admitted to not having seen a live event or thoroughly examined the health of MMA fighters in any meaningful, scientific manner.

Who is the Biggest UFC PPV Draw? – Part 3

August 25, 2010

This is the third part of our series on which fighters are the biggest UFC PPV draws.  In parts one and two, we compared the average buys for cards featuring specific fighters against the average buyrate for all UFC pay-per-view cards.  In today’s installment, we’ll begin using slightly more complex numbers to get handle on a fighter’s draw.

Overview: One of the common debates among MMA fans concerns which fighter is the biggest draw.  From the business side, a fighter’s draw shapes PPV expectations (and, subsequently, PPV revenues) and should play a major role in sponsorships for both the given fighter and every other fighter on the PPV.  In this series of articles, we’ll examine several intuitive ways that one can estimate a fighter’s draw and examine the wide variation in these estimates.  We’ll be focusing on the ten fighters that Derek Jenkins identified as the biggest draws in a recent article at Yahoo! Sports.

Today’s Comparison: Average PPV buys for cards without a fighter versus average PPV buys for cards with a fighter

The Number

One of the numbers will be the same as in part one – the average number of buys for cards featuring a given fighter.  Instead of comparing this to the average number of buys for all UFC pay-per-views, we’ll use a new number – the average number of buys for cards that do not feature the fighter.

We’ll discuss the reasons below, but we’ll look now at the numbers from 2006-present and 2008-present.

The Fighters

As mentioned in the overview, we’ll be using the ten fighters that Derek Jenkins identified as the biggest draws: Brock Lesnar, Georges St. Pierre, Chuck Liddell, Rashad Evans, Quinton Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Lyoto Machida, BJ Penn, Anderson Silva, and Randy Couture.

The Data

We’ll still be using the PPV buys for all UFC pay-per-view events from UFC 57 (Couture-Liddell III) to UFC 116 (Lesnar-Carwin), and we will continue to do so throughout the series.  You can view the PPV buys for events up to UFC 107 in our Blue Book.

Average buys for all UFC PPVs since 2006: 545,000

Fighter Average PPV buys for cards without fighter Average PPV buysfor cards with fighter Difference
Brock Lesnar 498,000 1,007,000 509,000
Georges St. Pierre 514,000 682,000 168,000
Chuck Liddell 534,000 600,000 66,000
Rashad Evans 539,000 577,000 38,000
Quinton Jackson 529,000 669,000 140,000
Forrest Griffin 533,000 602,000 69,000
Lyoto Machida 540,000 572,000 32,000
BJ Penn 545,000 539,000 -6,000
Anderson Silva 562,000 456,000 -106,000
Randy Couture 546,000 530,000 -16,000


Average buys for all UFC PPVs since 2008: 581,000

Fighter Average PPV buys for cards without fighter Average PPV buys for cards with fighter Difference
Brock Lesnar 507,000 1,007,000 500,000
Georges St. Pierre 528,000 889,000 361,000
Chuck Liddell 584,000 550,000 -34,000
Rashad Evans 561,000 693,000 132,000
Quinton Jackson 560,000 735,000 175,000
Forrest Griffin 566,000 691,000 125,000
Lyoto Machida 576,000 610,000 34,000
BJ Penn 576,000 603,000 27,000
Anderson Silva 589,000 530,000 -59,000
Randy Couture 581,000 573,000 -8,000

Mathematical Side Note: Averages were rounded to the nearest thousand, which can make some numbers presented above appear to be nonsense.  For example, the overall average for UFC PPVs since 2006 is 545,000.  The average for cards without BJ Penn over the same period is also 545,000.  Mathematically, this means that either (i) the average for cards featuring BJ Penn is also 545,000 or (ii) BJ Penn did not appear on any cards.  BJ Penn obviously did fight on UFC PPVs, yet his average is 539,000, which seems impossible.  This discrepancy is due to rounding.  The actual overall average for all PPVs since 2006 is 544,545.5 (over 55 events), while the average for cards without Penn is about 1,000 buys higher at 545,425.5 (over 47 events); both numbers, however, get rounded to 545,000.  Penn’s average is 539,375 buys over 8 events.  You can then verify that 539,375*(8/55) + 545,425.5*(47/55) = 544,545.5, which shows that the averages presented are mathematically accurate and the discrepancy is due to our rounding.

Payout Perspective


In all the tables in this series, we’re presenting the fighters in the order that Jenkins’ article ranked them.  Now, we’ll instead use the numbers above to rank the fighters based on each column.


SINCE 2006                  SINCE 2008

  1. Silva                      Silva
  2. Couture               Liddell
  3. Penn                     Couture
  4. Machida               Machida/Penn (tie)
  5. Evans
  6. Liddell                  Griffin
  7. Griffin                   Evans
  8. Jackson               Jackson
  9. St. Pierre             St. Pierre
  10. Lesnar                   Lesnar


SINCE 2006                  SINCE 2008

  1. Lesnar                   Lesnar
  2. St. Pierre             St. Pierre
  3. Jackson               Jackson
  4. Griffin                   Evans
  5. Liddell                  Griffin
  6. Evans                    Machida
  7. Machida               Penn
  8. Penn                     Couture
  9. Couture               Liddell
  10. Silva                      Silva


SINCE 2006                  SINCE 2008

  1. Lesnar                   Lesnar
  2. St. Pierre             St. Pierre
  3. Jackson               Jackson
  4. Griffin                   Evans
  5. Liddell                  Griffin
  6. Evans                    Machida
  7. Machida               Penn
  8. Penn                     Couture
  9. Couture               Liddell
  10. Silva                      Silva


It’s worth noting at the outset that it is not a coincidence that the first set of rankings is the exact opposite of the other two; similarly, the second and third set of rankings should give the same order.  If you go back to part one in the series, we mentioned the following weakness of using the overall average of PPV buys as a comparison:

Makes good draws look worse and bad draws look better. Consider Brock Lesnar, whose worst PPV did 600,000 buys.  His five PPVs in the dataset sold 600K, 625K, 1.01 million, 1.6 million, and 1.2 million.  These PPVs drive up the overall UFC average, which is what Lesnar is being compared to here.  A better comparison for Lesnar is to compare his average PPV buyrate to the average buyrate for all UFC PPVs that do not feature Lesnar.  Similarly, weaker draws like Anderson Silva look better because their lower buyrates pull the overall average buyrate down.

In these rankings, we’re directly addressing that issue.  Lesnar is a strong draw, so he pulls the overall buyrate up.  When we take his numbers out (which we are doing here), the average buyrate for the remaining cards will drop.  Similarly, when we take Silva out, the average buyrate goes up.  Using any of these three rankings should therefore provide the same order (of course, the first set of rankings lists the worst draw first and the best draw last).

Quick Thoughts

There’s not much of a difference if we include the 2006-2007 numbers.  The only change in rankings is that Chuck Liddell drops a few places (from 5th to 9th) if we only look at PPVs since 2008; given the string of losses that Liddell accumulated in this time, it’s not a huge surprise that he lost a bit of his draw.

Looking at the last set of rankings, we can start to make sense of fighter draws in an intuitive way.  Lesnar obviously came into the UFC with a built-in fan base from his years in WWE.  Fans have watched GSP evolve from a top contender into an elite top pound-for-pound fighter, which has likely built up the interest among fans along the way.

With Quinton Jackson, it’s easy to forget that he came into the UFC at the top of the card, even if most UFC fans didn’t know who he was.  He’s only been in two fights that were not the main event – his UFC debut against Marvin Eastman at UFC 67 (headlined by Silva-Lutter) and his third fight against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92, which also featured the title bout between Griffin and Evans and a co-main event of Mir-Nogueira.

The next two fighters on the list are probably a bit surprising to older MMA fans, but they represent the UFC fan base built by The Ultimate Fighter, as newer fans have watched as Griffin and Evans went from UFC hopefuls on The Ultimate Fighter to UFC champions.


The Number

Average PPV buys are the most basic numbers we can use to determine a fighter’s draw.  Today, we’re comparing the average number of buys for cards that feature a fighter to the average buys for cards that do not feature the fighter.  Since we’re now looking at a different set of numbers than in parts one and two, we’ll take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of these new numbers.



The “right” comparison. I used the quotation marks around “right” just to point out that the right number to use depends on what you’re trying to figure out.  When we try to figure out how big of a draw a fighter is, the most natural answer is to look at what the buyrate looks like without the fighter and see how many additional buys he brings when he’s on the card.  That’s exactly what we’ve done here, and we see that a card with Brock Lesnar brings an extra half-million buys over a card without him.

(Some) Evidence of the anti-draw. In part one, we mentioned that one problem with using the overall average number of buys essentially requires some fighter(s) to be worse than average, which occasionally gets interpreted as a fighter being an anti-draw.  We also explained why you can’t really draw that inference from those numbers.  However, we can start to make that inference here but only partially.  We still have the problem that we’re comparing one fighter’s average against the other top draws, so it’s still misleading to claim someone is an anti-draw.  Nonetheless, we do have some evidence to speculate what the buyrate would look like for a card without Anderson Silva, and it’s about 60,000-100,000 more buys than a card that he’s on.  As in part one, the problem remains that this number implicitly assumes that one of the other ten fighters on the list takes Silva’s place on the list.  We’ll revisit this issue in parts five and six.


No consistent baseline. The big problem with this approach is that we can’t really compare fighters anymore, since they’re not being compared to the same baseline.  To put things more concretely, everyone except Brock Lesnar is being compared to a baseline that includes Lesnar’s pay-per-views.  While we do get a much better idea of the “right” number when it comes to a given fighter’s draw, it becomes much more difficult to draw any other conclusions.


Aggregate information. We discussed in part one how aggregating data – as we’ve done here – can be a strength or weakness.  In part two, we had a chance to compare aggregate numbers to the year-by-year breakdown.  With the numbers we were using, there wasn’t a huge difference, but the aggregate results got rid of the somewhat large variation that we saw in the year-by-year breakdown.

Up Next

In part four, we’ll break down these numbers by year.  This breakdown will let us see how much of a difference aggregating our data makes.  Then, we’ll go back to a consistent baseline, but one that eliminates many of the weaknesses we discussed in part one.   In particular, we’ll be using a new baseline that doesn’t compare one fighter against the other nine on the list.


Fedor Deposed and an Affliction attorney withdraws from M1/Affliction case

August 24, 2010

Last week we gave you an update on the case involving M-1 and Fedor Emelianenko suing Affliction for breach of contract due to Affliction abruptly canceling its third PPV.

According to Marc Hines, the attorney for the plaintiffs, Fedor and Fedor’s manager, Vadim Finkelstein were deposed two weeks ago in Southern California. Fedor’s deposition took one day and he utilized a court interpreter to respond to questions. “I thought our guys came across really well. We are really pleased with their testimony,” said Hines of his clients.

Hines stated that Todd Beard, the former co-owner of Affliction, will be deposed this week.

Also, Judd Burstein, the  high profile New York attorney that served as co-counsel for Affliction has filed a motion to withdraw as its counsel. Burstein had represented Affliction for a little over a month as on July 20th the court granted Burstein’s application to represent Affliction. According to court filings, Affliction determined it “unnecessary to employ two sets of counsel in this matter.” A motion on this issue will be heard on November 1st. Hines indicated that Fedor and M-1 would not oppose Burstein’s motion for withdrawal. The law firm of Silverstein & Huston remains as attorneys of record for Affliction.

Shine Fights give fans chance to pick matchups for PPV

August 24, 2010

Shine Fights announced that its fans will have the chance to vote online to decide first round match-ups for its eight man, one night lightweight grand prix tournament on September 10th. The fights will be on PPV.

From MMA Fan House:

Shine Fights announced its lightweight tournament earlier this month and has added a wrinkle with the fan balloting. In a release from the promotion, Shine said it wants to become “MMA’s most fan-friendly organization” and believes allowing fans to pick the first-round bouts heads it down that path.

The eight competitors for the tournament have already been chosen. But fans can set the matchups they want to see in the first round and e-mail those to According to the promotion, the fight combinations that get the most votes will be the ones used in the tournament’s opening quarterfinal round.

“Every MMA organization tells fans what fights they are going to see, even though the fans are the ones paying the money,” said Shine Fights COO Jason Chambers. “We are saying, ‘You are buying the pay-per-view, you are buying the tickets, so you tell us what you want to watch. We feel it’s one of the most unique opportunities fight fans have been given to date.”

Payout Perspective:

The concept of fans choosing matches is not a unique idea. In professional wrestling, the WWE has used a Viewer’s Choice format when deciding match-ups. Fans would go to the WWE web site to vote on what matches they would like to see that night. Of course, since it is pro wrestling once matches are voted on, the outcome is likely discussed and choreographed. Still, the concept of fan interaction is similar.

Since its last attempt at a show failed, Shine has to do something to regain fan interest in its product.

The novelty of playing matchmaker should attract fans. The opportunity to have perceived control over what you watch is appealing from a fan standpoint. One issue that may come up is name recognition. Will a casual MMA fan know these fighters. Although the fighters include vets from other organizations, is that enough. Will Shine promote the eight fighters so that there can be some semblance or reasoning when picking the match-ups.

Shine hopes that the marketing strategy of a one night, survive and advance, winner take all tournament will give fans a reason to purchase tickets and the PPV.

Strikeforce Houston: 367,000 Viewers

August 24, 2010

The Staff at MMAJunkie are reporting that Strikeforce: Houston averaged 367,000 viewers on Showtime last Saturday night, but peaked at nearly half a million viewers for the main event between Lawal and Cavalcante.

Overall, the event, which took place Aug. 21 at the Toyota Center in Houston, averaged 367,000 viewers.

The event, which marked Strikeforce’s debut in Texas, featured a pair of title fights; Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante defeated former light-heavyweight champ Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal via TKO, and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza edged Tim Kennedy via unanimous decision for the vacant middleweight bout.

The organization’s peak audience – 470,000 viewers – came approximately two hours into the broadcast to coincide with the Lawal vs. Cavalcante main event.

Payout Perspective:

The 367,000 viewers is a solid figure, but not overly impressive. Junkie points out this show sits right in the middle of the five Arena Series events that Strikeforce has held this year. The most highly rated show coming from Herschel Walker’s MMA debut in January at Strikeforce: Miami with 517,000 viewers. The most poorly rated show was Strikeforce: Los Angeles in June at 164,000 viewers.

What does this number tell us? Nothing, really. It’s good, but not great. If viewed as part of the bigger picture, it suggests that Strikeforce has yet to really achieve any sort of consistent growth in its television audience. However, it’s more than fair to point out that the only promotion that’s consistently been able to grow its television audience over the last few years is the UFC.

Even if Strikeforce can overcome its marketing and operational issues, it’s still going to take time to develop a foundation.

Tapout and Fathom Co-Promoting for UFC 118

August 23, 2010

Tapout Clothing and Fathom Events will partner to host the new UFC 4-Pack promotion at UFC 118. Purchasers of four tickets to UFC 118 at any Fathom Events-sponsored showing in the U.S. will be eligible to receive a free Tapout t-shirt.

Payout Perspective:

Co-promotions are probably under-utilized in sports today, but I tend to think we’re going to see an increase in their number over the next few years as companies look to maximize the impact of activation while also minimizing cost and risk. This particular promotion happens to work because Tapout is the presenting sponsor of UFC 118 and Fathom decided the event was big enough to show and promote in theaters. has talked about the value of the Fathom Events theater distribution deal in the past. Tapout now has the opportunity to leverage the same exposure vehicle to not only further tie its brand to the UFC, but also increase general awareness and interest of the brand on its own.

Compustrike CEO talks Phone App and Fantasy League

August 22, 2010

Compustrike is owned and operated by CEO Bob Canobbio. The company provides a computer program producing  MMA statistics such as punches thrown, takedowns and attempted submissions.

The Manorville, NY company is an offshoot of Compubox – the program that provides punch statistics for boxing.

Canobbio spoke with MMA Payout recently about his company, how he got started and Compustrike’s phone app and the possibility of creating a fantasy MMA league.

Growing up Canobbio loved sports and stats. He played Strat-O-Matic – a sports simulation game, as a youth. He recognized that boxing did not really have statisitics. So, in 1985, he developed a computer program and founded Compubox.

Recognizing the same need in MMA, Compustrike was born. “It’s been 3 years since we started. Being in the stat business with Compubox, I could sense the growing popularity of MMA and decided to get a [computer] program written.”

Compustrike’s First Show

The first show was on June 23, 2007, a CFFC (Cage Fury Fighting Championship) show involving Kimbo Slice in Atlantic City. It was Slice’s first MMA fight and he submitted former boxer Ray Mercer.

According to Canobbio, Compustrike was well-received. Although the Slice fight was on PPV, it did not get much viewership. But, web sites picked it up [Compustrike stats] and ran with the numbers.

Compustrike provides live stats for Strikeforce and HD Net Fights. “We were shopping it around and we approached them,” Canobbio said of its working agreements with the two organizations. Compustrike has provided stats to the UFC since late 2007. Compustrike does not provide UFC stats cageside. It does it off site.

A Message from Mark

Canobbio recalls providing stats for Yahoo Sports covering the UFC event featuring Chuck Liddell versus Keith Jardine in Anaheim in 2007 when he received an email from Mark Cuban. Out of the blue, Cuban emailed Canobbio about providing stats for HD Net Fights. Canobbio believes that Cuban must have seen Compustrike’s work for Yahoo Sports.

Canobbio’s selling point to MMA organizations is that Compustrike would be able to show statistically how fighters score points in MMA. It also would serve to educate new fight fans to MMA. Canobbio also points out that statistics lend credibility to MMA as a legitimate sport.

How it Works

Compustrike works through the use of two operators using a laptop computer with a keypad for each. Canobbio notes that every operator is an MMA fighter that understands the types of strikes, takedowns and submissions in MMA. Each operator is assigned to watch one of the fighters. Canobbio states that Compustrike is accurate with only a two percent margin of error. “If it wasn’t accurate, we would hear about it,” says Canobbio. Quality control is performed after fights. Canobbio reviews fight replays to ensure accuracy.

Canobbio employs 5 full-time employees for Compustrike in addition to his employees at Compubox. Canobbio’s main job is researching, compiling statistics and writing previews for upcoming events. His son, Nicolas, serves as its general manager designing and maintaining its web site.

Canobbio says that Compustrike will provide live stats cageside to at least 20 shows this year plus “off-site” stats for the UFC and other shows for its web site.

Phone App

In addition to its live events, Compustrike plans to launch a live stat app for cell phones. It will provide real-time stats straight to your phone. Nicolas developed the live app. Canobbio said it is testing the phone app “in house” at UFC 118. He hopes that the phone app will launch next month.

MMA Fantasy Game

Canobbio stated that he’s received inquiries about creating an MMA fantasy game utilizing the statistics Compustrike compiles.

Payout Perspective

Statistics are a part of sports. One of the interesting points Canobbio makes is that statistics provide legitimacy to MMA. As we continue to watch PPVs and fights on television, statistics are creeping into the analysis of the announce team. For instance, Anderson Silva’s come from behind win over Chael Sonnen is more amazing if you looked at the complete stat domination Sonnen had over Silva.

It will be interesting to see at what price point Compustrike will sell its phone app. What type of demand will there be? It will be a telling measure of importance MMA fans have on statistics.

We are three weeks away from fantasy football season…and the NFL season. Can sport fans get up for an MMA fan league based on stats? An MMA fantasy league may get fans interested in fighters they would not normally be interested in such as with players for fantasy football. It may also spark interest into the nuances of mixed martial arts such as how long fighters fight on the ground versus standing up, submission attempts and dominant positions.

WEC 50: 316,000 Viewers

August 20, 2010

The Staff at MMAJunkie have reported that WEC 50: Cruz vs. Benavidez II garned 316,000 viewers airing on the Versus network this past Wednesday, August 18.

Wednesday’s Versus-televised WEC 50 event scored an average audience of 316,000 viewers. today confirmed the ratings information with an industry source.

Payout Perspective:

If accurate, these ratings are a bit of a disappointment. Cruz nor Benavidez are incredibly strong draws, but this card was lined with talent and intriguing match-ups that should have garnered decent interest among fight fans. WEC 50 is now the lowest rated WEC card since the company had it’s break-through event nearly two years ago at WEC 34 with Faber and Pulver as headliners.

While this probably isn’t the scenario Zuffa hoped for following the WEC’s excellent PPV debut in April, the poor ratings haven’t exactly been unexpected, either. Zuffa wanted to make a splash on the PPV scene and brought out the big guns from the UFC to do so, but with great potential reward usually comes great potential risk. Using UFC assets to promote a brand-less WEC PPV event was likely to cause more than a little bit of confusion in the mind of the consumer.

Aldo vs. Faber had the look, feel and quality of an event that fans could have easily mistaken for a UFC card. The ratings would seem to indicate that many fans did make that mistake.

However, it’s important to reserve total judgement until after this next event. The most accurate indication of whether the WEC gained any material equity from its PPV debut will come with WEC 51 in which the company will depend on all the new stars it has been building to carry a card without Urijah Faber. That’s the litmus test.

Even if WEC 51 is a disappointment, I’ll still caution folks not to get too carried away. I understand the penchant for pessimism around the MMA community – there’s little tolerance for anything other than a resounding success – but let’s look at this objectively: the WEC is profitable and always delivers an entertaining card. There are going to be bumps on its road to success, but as long as it’s making money and putting on great cards, it has plenty of time to learn from its mistakes, experiment, and find the right set of marketing tactics to increase its popularity.

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