Interview with FightMetric creator Rami Genauer

September 30, 2010

MMA Payout had the opportunity to get in touch with Fightmetric creator Rami Genauer. He was gracious enough to answer some questions about his company. Earlier this month, Fightmetric was chosen as the stat provider of choice by the UFC.

1.  What is your background?

 My educational background is in political science and media studies, and I started out my career as a journalist, covering Congress and politics. I also did some sports writing, which is how I first got interested in sports data. Prior to starting FightMetric, I worked as a corporate strategy consultant. Much of the work that went into creating FightMetric drew from that experience in designing data collection methodologies, performing quantitative analysis, and mining data sets.

2.  How did you come up with the concept for FightMetric?

FightMetric started because I was writing articles about MMA and thought it was strange that there were no data to use beyond wins and losses. In writing about other sports (mainly baseball), you find yourself drawn to performance statistics in nearly every article. Because of this, I took it as a challenge to try and conceive of what an MMA statistics system would look like. The goal of the system would not be to merely produce numbers that are anecdotally interesting, but to inject some science into this sport. With the right system, we could create data used to advance the understanding of the sport and create meaningful and powerful metrics.

There was about six months of testing hypotheses, defining methodology, creating a data collection regime, and analyzing the outputs for accuracy and utility before we officially scored our first fight. It started as something fun to try and to satisfy my curiosity, but the reception to it was so great, it has turned into something much larger.

3.  When was it first utilized by an MMA show?/When was it first used by the UFC?

 We started hearing announcers reference our numbers in early 2008, but UFC 87 was the first time we worked directly with the UFC. 

4.  Did you approach the UFC or did they approach you?

We have a great working relationship with the UFC. There are some things we come up with on our own that we pitch to them and some things that they will ask us for that we do per their request.

5.  Is this a computer program you developed specifically for MMA?

I should clarify that FightMetric is not a computer program; it’s just the name of a company that provides statistics and analysis services. But yes, the system was developed specifically for MMA. As we’ve learned, MMA is a complex and unique sport. Attempts to cut corners by borrowing ideas from other sports have largely failed because of the unique nature of MMA. There’s enough here to keep us busy for a while.

6.  Can you tell us the growth of your business? How long has it taken to get to where you are at now as a company?

The company is a little more than three years old. It started as more of a hobby, but it became clear very quickly that this was something people wanted. We’ve grown tremendously during a brief amount of time and are looking forward to innovate in this space for a long time to come.

7.  Have fighters/fight camps asked for the data to use in their training?

Yes, there are several camps that utilize the data. They use it to optimize training and supplement scouting of upcoming opponents.

8.  How many full-time (part-time) employees do you have?

We are a lean, global operation. We have a few full-time employees, but the vast majority of the people who work for FightMetric do it part-time wherever they live. At this point, I think we have as many people working for us outside the US as we have domestically.

9.  Do you see FightMetric being used for fantasy type sports?

Yes, we have already done more than a year of research and development in the fantasy space. FightMetric is a proud member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. We presented at the FSTA conference in June and were awarded the Best Pitch of the show. As anyone who tries to think about it will find, MMA presents a lot of challenges to fantasy gaming. For a variety of reasons, the traditional fantasy game models people play in other sports break down when you try to apply them to MMA. We looked at everything from baseball to bass fishing to find games that worked, but in the end, we’ve had to invent entirely new models to produce a game that plays consistently and is still fun. By utilizing sound game theory, real-life testers, and a whole lot of trial-and-error, we’ve come up with some great solutions.

Strikeforce Hires AllElbows to Produce Diaz vs Noons II Three-Part Documentary

September 29, 2010

In a press release today, Strikeforce announced a three-part documentary series titled “Collision Course: The Path to Diaz vs. Noons II”.  The first episode premieres today on Sherdog.com and then will be available on Strikeforce.com and Youtube.

With cameras in the camps of bitter rivals Nick Diaz and KJ Noons, STRIKEFORCE presents Collision Course: The Path To Diaz vs. Noons II – an in-depth, three-part documentary series that provides exclusive, insightful, behind-the-scenes access to the lives and training camps of perhaps MMA’s fiercest rivals as they prepare for a must-see Oct. 9 rematch presented by Rockstar Energy Drink at HP Pavilion, live on SHOWTIME®.

Each episode will premiere online at Sherdog.com, exclusively for a two-hour period, followed by widespread distribution on the web, including Strikeforce.com.

Premiering tomorrow/Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT, Episode 1 recaps their first fight on Nov. 7, 2007, which ended in controversy when Noons won a disputed, upset first-round TKO over Diaz in a thrilling, give-and-take brawl. Each fighter has since gone undefeated and animosity between the fighters has grown.

Episode 1 also provides the fighters’ thoughts about a heated verbal exchange in the cage after an event in Hawaii in 2008 in which they both registered separate victories.  Noons believes Diaz disrespected his family, while Diaz apologized, claiming that he wasn’t the instigator. Finally, the episode will shed light on the events that lead to this anticipated rematch.

STRIKEFORCE: Diaz-Noons II is the main event of a stacked fight card on Oct. 9, LIVE on SHOWTIME (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).  The world championship doubleheader also features undefeated Sarah Kaufman (12-0) defending her STRIKEFORCE Women’s Welterweight (135 pounds) World Title against No. 1 contender Marloes Coenen (17-4).

Payout Perspective:

Back in August, MMAPayout pointed out the criticism Strikeforce receives for the lack of promotion and time it typically gives to their future events.  We noticed a change in philosophy back in August when they announced the Oct 9th event headlined by Nick Diaz vs KJ Noons II, and it appears they are following that same strategy by announcing the Dec. 4th card headlined by Dan Henderson and “Babalu” Sobral this month, giving themselves around 8-10 weeks to promote the event, instead of the typical 4-6 weeks that we have seen in the past from the transitioning promotion.

Along those same lines, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker told MMAPayout that  E. Casey Lendon and Esther Lin (who both form AllElbows.com) would be assigned some promotional duties for the Oct 9th event.  Since then, we have learned that Leydon (Director and Editor) and Lin (Producer and Writer) have been working on a three-part documentary series for Diaz vs Noons.  AllElbows has been around the MMA industry for quite some time, making a splash years ago for ProElite (EliteXC) and has worked with various MMA promotions such as UFC, EliteXC, Shark Fights, and Strikeforce to name a few.  Lendon and Lin’s work is highly regarded within the industry and Strikeforce’s decision to get them closer integrated to the promotional side of the business is a great move to aid an area that was lacking and criticized in the past by the fans and media.

Sing and Dance with GSP: St. Pierre appears on zany variety show in the Philippines

September 29, 2010

As part of its UFC promotional tour in the Philippines, Georges St. Pierre appeared on an episode of Showtime, a popular music/variety show on Filipino television. Watching the video is…interesting.

Payout Perspective: 

Although the appearance looked awkward, very awkward, GSP did a great job in trying to play along with the cast. According to Rafe Bartholomew, an American journalist, the show is on a major network in the Philippines and is very popular. “It’s kind of like an America’s Best Dance Crew type show. Pretty much everyone who goes on it has to give a sample of their dancing or singing,” said Bartholomew, who authored Pacific Rims, a book about the Filipino passion of basketball.

The world of MMA needs more ambassadors to the sport like GSP if organizations like the UFC want to expand the sport globally. On this tour, GSP had public workouts and met with boxing champ Manny Pacquiao. UFC promotional tours like this reflect the UFC strategy of expansion into Asia. GSP is the face of the UFC brand and it made sense to send him to the Philippines. When Chuck Liddell visited the Philippines in 2008, he was met by huge crowds of fans which show the immense popularity of the UFC in the country. The Philippines is an untapped source of fans and a key area of focus in expanding its brand into Asia.

UFC 119 Prelims score high of 1.36 million viewers

September 28, 2010

MMA Payout has learned that ratings for the UFC 119 Prelims airing live on SpikeTV were up garnering a high of 1.36 million viewers. The Sept. 25th broadcast competed with Saturday night college football for viewership.

The prelims earned a household rating of 1.2 in the M18-49 demographic and 1.3 in the M18-34 category. The average audience of the broadcast garnered 1.3 million viewers.

The quarter hour/viewer numbers are as follows:

1,182,000 viewers

1,359,000

1,290,000

1,196,000

Last month’s UFC 118 Prelims scored a low of 1.1 million viewers whereas UFC 119 rated 6th in viewership out of the 11 UFC Prelim shows according to MMA Junkie.

Payout Perspective:

The numbers show a slight increase in prior prelims airing on SpikeTV. The two preliminary fights shown on SpikeTV were likely two of the more entertaining fights on Saturday night. Mittrione and Dolloway won bonuses for their performances in the prelims. The prelims did well against college football Saturday night even with an interesting matchup between Oregon State and Boise State on ABC.

Who is the Biggest UFC PPV Draw? – Conclusion

September 28, 2010

Welcome to the final part of our series on the biggest draws in the UFC.  We’ll wrap up the series by exploring several of the issues involved in PPV buys and estimation that make the process of determining a fighter’s draw difficult.

I tried to break things down into coherent sections, but I suspect this will still seem like a laundry list of problems instead of a single piece.  We’ll start with some issues in selecting our sample.  Then, we’ll move on to some of the important factors that have been overlooked in our analysis so far.  We’ll wrap up with some methodological issues, including the use of regression analysis.

SAMPLE SELECTION ISSUES

Selection of Fighters. Probably the most common complaint was the list of ten fighters used in the analysis, with Tito Ortiz and Frank Mir being the missing fighters brought up most often.  I intentionally avoided the issue by outsourcing the blame to Derek Jenkins for his great piece at Yahoo! Sports.  SBNation member truck came over when Bloody Elbow picked up part 5 of the series and gave a nice illustration about why Mir should be on the list.  Here’s part of my response to him from the comments:

This is the “art” of estimation, as opposed to the “science” part with the numbers. The selection of fighters to include is, to some extent, always arbitrary. Even if I give you a set of criteria that we all agree is reasonable, that set of criteria is still arbitrary. In all honesty, I basically decided to outsource the blame for that arbitrariness to Derek Jenkins. His piece, along with some of Jonathan Snowden’s writings about Silva being a terrible draw, were the foundation of this series. Also, one of the responses to the first piece, maybe on the Sherdog forums, was that I could use the same methodology and make Jason Brilz look amazing; I was planning on using someone in the middle, like a Marcus Davis, in the final piece.

Marcus Davis has had a ton of fights in the UFC, so I’ll go ahead and use Jason Brilz as the example.  Using the same methods that were in part five, I’ll give you the results for Brilz.

Average buys for all UFC PPVs since 2008 that do not feature ANY of the ten fighters:  308,000

Fighter Average PPV buys for cards featuring fighter Difference from “baseline” average
Jason Brilz 592,000 284,000

Brilz was on three PPV cards – UFC 96, 103, and 114.  None of those cards are included in the baseline and all happened 2008-present, making the criteria consistent with what we used in part five.  Looking back at those tables, this would put Brilz ahead of Randy Couture (265K), Chuck Liddell (242K), and Anderson Silva (222K).  Now, if I tried to argue that Jason Brilz is the 7th biggest draw in the UFC, you should laugh at me… and rightly so.  I love watching him fight, but any ranking that lists Brilz as a top draw for the UFC has some serious problems.

In part five, I provided some additional justification for the list of fighters.  Since 2006, only one UFC PPV has not featured at least one of the ten fighters on the list, Rich Franklin, or Matt Hughes.  There’s certainly room to include a few other fighters in the analysis, but there are very few fighters that Zuffa allows to consistently headline cards.  Frank Mir and Tito Ortiz are certainly on that list, though it will be interesting to see if that continues in the future.

Selection of Cards.  There are two big issues with selecting cards to include in the analysis, but only one seemed to get much attention.  The first issue is whether or not to include international pay-per-views.  These are generally regarded as weaker cards and air live in the afternoon and on tape-delay at night.  There have also been rumors for a long time that fighters who receive a PPV% try to avoid fighting on international cards since they perform worse than domestic cards; but, the fighters with a PPV% are usually considered the bigger draws.  I kept all the cards in because I typically see overall averages reported in the MMA media, and these include international cards.  Basically, it was a decision to keep some consistency with the numbers that you typically see reported elsewhere.

I’ve only seen someone mention the second issue once, which was SBNation member S.C. Michaelson commenting when Bloody Elbow picked up part five of the series.  Here’s what he said:

Also, just going through your data It seems like you have some bad data. You list Ortiz/Machida as the main for UFC 84. It’s not. It’s wasn’t even 2nd billing match. That was Silva/Jardine. So Machida gets credited for that buyrate even though he wasn’t a) a draw at that point and b) in the top two matches.

Emphasis added.  This is an excellent point, and I’m surprised it didn’t get more attention.  Perhaps a bit surprising, however, is that Machida is the only one on the list for whom this is a major issue.  St. Pierre, Penn, Couture, and Liddell were already established fighters at the top of UFC cards by 2006.  An argument can be made that this problem applies to Griffin and Evans for the 2006-present numbers, but they both came with a significant fanbase from The Ultimate Fighter; however, it’s hard to argue that either fighter was not a headliner since 2008. Lesnar and Jackson came in as headliners, even if they were not always in the main event.  Silva won the middleweight title in his first PPV appearance and second UFC fight, coming off a destruction of Chris Leben at UFN 5 on Spike.

That leaves Machida.  Here are the cards he’s fought on:

  • UFC 67 – Unaired prelim against Sam Hoger
  • UFC 76 – 2nd fight on main card vs Nakamura
  • UFC 79 – 2nd fight on main card vs Sokoudjou
  • UFC 84 – 2nd fight on main card vs Ortiz
  • UFC 94 – Co-main vs Thiago Silva
  • UFC 98 – Main vs Rashad Evans for title
  • UFC 104 – Main vs Mauricio “Shogun” Rua I
  • UFC 113 – Main vs Mauricio “Shogun” Rua II

One can argue that Machida shouldn’t get credit for PPVs where he was on the unaired prelims or low on the main card (i.e. before he became popular).  That basically means his fights from UFC 94-present, since he wasn’t considered a big name when he fought Ortiz (which is part of why Zuffa made the match, as it was known that Ortiz was going to test the waters as a free agent).  Re-running the numbers using only UFCs 94, 98, 104, and 113 bumps him from 572,000 average buys to 644,000 buys.  However, UFC 94 was headlined by GSP-Penn II and drew high above any other Machida event.  If we take out UFC 94, we are left with three cards headlined by Machida with an average buyrate of 552,000.  That drops him 20,000 buys lower than our previous estimate for 2006-present in part 5, so our original estimate was still pretty good.  The 2008-present number in part 5 was 610,000, which is 34,000 lower than the 644,000 just mentioned, but the number in part 5 includes the fight against Ortiz, which was on a card with 475,000 buys.

IMPORTANT FACTORS THAT WERE IGNORED

Promotion. I have no doubt that the promotional push by Zuffa has a significant impact on PPV buyrates.  The first season of The Ultimate Fighter is a great example of Zuffa’s promotion at its best.  The season was used to reach new viewers on Spike TV and build a fight between coaches Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell.  The finale was broadcast live on Spike about ten days before the pay-per-view with Couture-Liddell II.  For a while, Zuffa seemed to use Ultimate Fight Night events live on Wednesdays to build interest in that weekend’s PPV.  TUF is still used to build interest in a fight between the coaches at the end of the season.  A recent strategy is to air two prelims live on Spike to increase last-minute buys of the PPV.  Countdown shows are used before most shows, but Primetime shows are only used for the biggest fights.  Primetime shows create a major problem – the shows likely increase the buyrate, thus making the featured fighters bigger draws… but only the biggest draws get a Primetime show in the first place.

All of these factors are hard to account for in any analysis, but it needs to be done if you want an accurate, precise number for a fighter’s draw.

Timing of Events. The timing of both Zuffa and non-Zuffa events matter here.  Non-Zuffa events can clutter the schedule and potentially give “too much” free MMA, discouraging PPV buys.  Occasionally, a UFC PPV goes up against a big boxing PPV, as MMA Payout reader Brain Smasher pointed out in the comments to part 5 about the Franklin-Belfort fight at UFC 103 going head-to-head with Mayweather-Marquez in Mayweather’s return bout from retirement.

While the non-Zuffa events can cause distortions in PPV buyrates, a bigger issue is the timing of other Zuffa events.  We’ve seen situations where UFC PPVs are scheduled about three weeks apart.  However, to really control for the timing of the event, we would have to go one step further and distinguish between events that happen on the same cable/satellite billing cycle and which ones are spread over two billing cycles.  Having multiple events in the same billing cycle for viewers likely has a bigger impact than if the same situation (number of events and time between events) were spread over two billing cycles.

Strength of Card. Michael Rome raised this issue in the comments to part one.  Here’s his comment:

How does this take strength of card into consideration, or does it at all?

Someone like Rashad Evans benefits enormously from being on a card like UFC 92 with 3 main events, whereas Randy Couture headlines against Mark Coleman with no help on the rest of the card.

Similarly, until this past weekend, the UFC made sure to help out Anderson Silva by pairing him with other big superstars to keep him happy with his pay.

Rome’s point is a huge problem with any analysis, and any method for dealing with strength of card is going to be somewhat arbitrary.  A special case that is commonly brought up is including UFC 100 in any analysis, since that card was stacked and did an astounding 1,600,000 buys (making it a huge outlier).  His example with Couture is an excellent illustration of how a potentially bigger draw looks worse in our analysis, since the bigger name may be expected to carry a card on his own, while some of the other fighters – such as Evans or Silva – often get paired on cards with other notable fighters, which should provide an extra bump in the fighter’s numbers that is not due to the fighter.

When trying to look at strength of card, a more subtle issue arises.  Strength of card is not simply about the fighters who appear on the card; it’s also about what fights occur.  It’s easy to imagine that a card with St. Pierre and Silva making title defenses will get fewer buys than a card with a St. Pierre – Silva superfight.  So, even if you wanted to estimate strength of card with a regression model, you’ll need to find a way of distinguishing between fighters appearing on the same card against other opponents and against each other.  I’ll address this issue a bit more in the Regression Models section below.

Title Fights and Title Bump. This issue also came up in the comments to part one, and Kelsey wrote a nice piece on the title bump a while back.  Here’s part of my response from the comments section:

With the dominant champions in most classes (including BJ Penn until recently), it may be hard to get a number on the title bump. To get at the title bump for a fighter, you would hope to see X buys for a fighter before they’re champion, an increase up to Y buys while champion, and then a drop back down between X and Y buys after the fighter loses the title. LHW seems to be the only weight we could hope to see that, but it’s been plagued by very short title reigns recently which might not provide a good estimate.

The title bump is a complicated issue if you really want to get at a causal effect.  Title-holders are regarded as the best fighters in their divisions, so it’s not clear if a title bump is because viewers want to see the best fighters or if it’s because they simply care more about title fights than non-title fights.  Also, if you lose a title and your PPV buyrate drops, it’s not clear if it’s because of the loss (which resulted in you no longer holding the title) or because your subsequent fights will often not be title fights.  You can try to tease this apart a bit by looking at the next fight and whether it was a title shot (immediate rematch) or not.  But, again, there’s a problem here – an immediate rematch is more likely to happen after a close fight or a controversial ending.  In those cases, the former champion still has a claim to being “the best” in the division.

My suspicion is that there are (at least) two big elements to the title bump.  First, it’s easier to convince casual fans and non-fans to sit down and watch a title fight, since it’s perceived as watching “the best” (which is generally true).  Second, the title reign leads credibility to the fighter’s abilities, and I think this has played a big role with Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin, as the title reign negated any remaining sentiments that they were nothing more than good-not-great fighters who got unwarranted attention for being reality show winners.

METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES

Using Mean PPV Buys.  This is one of the more interesting criticisms I’ve seen raised, generally with the implication that “people who know what they’re doing” use median instead of mean, since the mean can be skewed by outliers.  In practice, you typically want some measure of average (whether it’s mean or median) and a measure of spread.    We probably think differently about a fighter who consistently draws 600,000 buys and a fighter who draws 300,000 buys half the time and 900,000 buys the other half of the time.  Assuming both fighters have been on an even number of cards, the mean and median for both fighters is 600,000 buys.  Typical measures of spread are variance or standard deviation (the latter being the square root of the former) and confidence intervals (which are computed using standard deviation).  In our hypothetical example here, the first fighter has zero variance in his buyrate, but the second fighter’s variance is positive.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that median can be just as misleading as mean.  Suppose our second fighter has been on nine cards. Four of his first eight fights drew 300,000 buys, and the other four drew 900,000 buys.  So, we see a pattern that he either gets 300,000 or 900,000 buys.  If his 9th fight gets 900,000 buys, his median draw is 900,000 buys.  If his 9th fight instead gets 300,000 buys, his median draw is 300,000 buys.  If we use mean, his draw is either 633,000 or 567,000 buys, respectively.  In this case, mean is much more informative than median.

In all honesty, I used mean PPV buys as the measure because that’s what I see reported in the MMA media in discussions about fighter draws.  I could have included standard deviation or 95% confidence intervals, but they’re not very helpful here.  The standard deviations here are pretty damn big.  Using the Jason Brilz example from above, here’s what you’d see if I reported the output from statistical software (and decided not to round my numbers off to the nearest thousand):

Average PPV buys for cards with Jason Brilz –     591,666.7

Standard error –                                                                229,280.3

95% confidence interval –                                            [-394,846.7 , 1,578,180]

Number of observations –                                           3 (UFC 96, 103, and 114)

For practical purposes, all most people care about from these numbers is that (i) his average is about 592,000 buys and (ii) his buyrate fluctuates a lot (which you can see with the huge standard error), meaning he’s not consistently drawing 592K+ buys.

Regression Models. This part will be a bit more technical than the other sections, but I’ll try to keep it fairly accessible.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll try to get a response to you fairly quickly.

Regression models are a great tool, and many have brought them up as a way of controlling for a lot of the issues we’re dealing with.  One reason I would tend to avoid using regression is that I suspect many readers have no experience using them, though I think Kelsey has provided a very intuitive description of regression analysis.  Once we make the decision to run some regressions, we start running into problems.  I described some of them in the comments to part two in response to reader Eric Nitsch:

The statistics nerd in me says you should toss these things into a regression with a bunch of dummy variables, but that may not even be possible with all the interaction terms you would want to include (since they end up being the numbers you’re really interested in) because of the relatively small number of UFC PPVs (which gives our sample size). You lose a degree of freedom for each additional thing you estimate. For instance, say you want to see the draw for Lesnar, the draw for St. Pierre, and then you want to see what they pull together (since they’ve been on two cards together). OK, run a regression with a dummy for Lesnar, a dummy for GSP, and a dummy for having both on the card. When you try to do that for all the possible combinations that we’ve seen (Penn & Silva, Couture & Liddell, etc), you start losing degrees of freedom rapidly. We can easily come up with a list of important factors driving PPV buys that’s longer than the number of UFC PPVs we have… but tossing all of those into a regression isn’t possible because you need more data points (i.e. UFC PPVs) than parameters that you are trying to estimate (eg. Lesnar, GSP, and Lesnar-GSP draws).

The main thing is that you need to be very careful in interpreting the output from any regression, as it may not be telling you what you think it’s telling you.  When you run a regression using only dummy variables, you may be tempted to interpret the results as providing means.  Sometimes, this is true.  Here’s a simple example.  Using the data from 2006-present, I can run,

PPV Buys = B0 + B1*Lesnar

Where Lesnar = 1 if Lesnar fought on the PPV and Lesnar = 0 if he did not fight on the card.  You get

B0 = 498,300  (33,087.99)

B1 = 508,700  (109,740.5)

The numbers in parentheses are the standard errors, in case you’re interested.  For a card without Lesnar, the regression tells us we should expect B0 + B1*0 = B0 = 498,300 buys.  For a card with Lesnar, we should expect B0 + B1*1 = B0 + B1 = 498,300 + 508,700 = 1,007,000 buys.  If you go back to part three and look in the first table, these are exactly the numbers you see after rounding to the nearest thousand. Recall that in part three, we were comparing average of cards without a fighter to cards with the fighter.   In that analysis, we just looked at means.  So the regression here is just giving us the means we had before.

The issue with interpreting the regression coefficients is that the interpretation is based on “holding other things fixed.”  Seeing how things worked out nicely above, you might be tempted to run a similar regression with a dummy for each of the ten fighters.  You would run,

PPV Buys = B0 + B1*Lesnar + B2*GSP + B3*Liddell + B4*Evans + B5*Jackson + B6*Griffin

+ B7*Machida + B8*Penn + B9*Silva + B10*Couture

and expect it to give you the same results we saw in part five.  It won’t.  I’ll paste the regression output for 2008-present at the bottom for those who are interested.  It looks nasty since I don’t feel the need to reformat it, but the results should be clear if you have any experience with regressions.

Final Comments

We’ve finally hit the end of the series.  We started in parts 1 & 2 with the numbers that you typically see in the MMA media.  In part 5, we finally got to a reasonable baseline of 200-250,000 buys for a UFC PPV without a big draw and were able to get an estimate of how many PPV buys each of the ten fighters on our list bring beyond this baseline.  In our final piece, I’ve tried to go over some of the many problems encountered if you want more precise estimates.

As for me, a new semester is beginning, which will decrease the time I can devote to these pieces.  I’ll still be around to respond to comments and have a few ideas for future pieces that I’ll be working on in whatever spare time I can find.  Thanks for reading!

Results from regression on the following model:

PPV Buys = B0 + B1*Lesnar + B2*GSP + B3*Liddell + B4*Evans + B5*Jackson + B6*Griffin

+ B7*Machida + B8*Penn + B9*Silva + B10*Couture

=================================================================================

Source                  |       SS       df       MS              Number of obs =      34

————-+——————————           F( 10,    23) =    4.33

Model            |  2.1121e+12    10  2.1121e+11           Prob > F      =  0.0018

Residual          |  1.1221e+12    23  4.8789e+10           R-squared     =  0.6530

————-+——————————           Adj R-squared =  0.5022

Total               |  3.2343e+12    33  9.8008e+10           Root MSE      =  2.2e+05

——————————————————————————

ppv_buys        |      Coef.   Std. Err.      t    P>|t|     [95% Conf. Interval]

————-+—————————————————————-

liddell              |   167049.1     147391     1.13   0.269    -137852.3    471950.6

evans             |   213727.2   123626.7     1.73   0.097    -42014.22    469468.5

rampage         |   283804.5   148840.9     1.91   0.069    -24096.38    591705.4

forrest             |     157770   136196.1     1.16   0.259      -123973    439513.1

machida          |   176701.5   121627.1     1.45   0.160    -74903.21    428306.3

penn             |   152011.3   113508.3     1.34   0.194    -82798.43    386821.1

a_silva             |   138784.7   123387.2     1.12   0.272    -116461.1    394030.6

couture           |   110967.6   145147.2     0.76   0.452    -189292.2    411227.5

brock              |   590756.4   122131.5     4.84   0.000     338108.1    843404.7

gsp                |     321508   119255.3     2.70   0.013     74809.52    568206.4

_cons             |   265446.9    73573.9     3.61   0.001     113247.7    417646.1

——————————————————————————

Showtime on MTV: WEC star on MTV’s “The World of Jenks”

September 27, 2010

WEC lightweight contender Anthony “Showtime” Pettis appearedon the new MTV reality/documentary show “The World of Jenks” on Monday night. This is good timing as it was recently announcedthat Pettis will face Benson Henderson for the WEC lightweight championship on December 16th.

The episode focuses on Pettis’ life and training leading up to his fight in March with Danny Castillo at WEC’s event in Columbus, Ohio last March.

Pettis has an interesting and tragic backstory. His father was murdered in 2003, when Anthony was just 15 years old. Martial arts served as a refuge for him, and kept him focused when he could have easily gone down the path to drugs and gangs, as some of his family did. (via Cagewriter)

Payout Perspective:

I enjoy the sports reality shows where you get to hear about the behind the scenes back story of an athlete. I recall watching an episode of  MTV’s True Life which featured mixed martial artists.  One of those fighters happened to be Frankie Edgar. Ironically, it was shot in lead up to his matchup with Gray Maynard. Can Pettis be the next success story?

For Pettis, this is great exposure for the casual fan to get to know him and his story. It is also a great way to promote the WEC and its card later this week and Pettis’ fight in December.

This is yet another great example of MMA moving into mainstream consciousness.

Strikeforce Inks Latin American TV Deal With SPACE TV

September 27, 2010

It was reported earlier this year that Strikeforce programming distributor Shine International had inked a deal with Turner to televise events in Latin America. MMAPayout has now learned that SPACE TV (Canal SPACE) will be televising Strikeforce programming exclusively in Latin America and the Caribbean starting with the Shamrock vs Diaz event this Wednesday, September 29 at midnight, with a replay set for Sunday morning at 10 AM.

SPACE TV Schedule:

September 29, 2010 : Frank Shamrock vs Nick Díaz
October 6, 2010: Evangelista Billy vs Mike Aina
October 13, 2010: Robbie “Ruthless” Lawler vs Jake Shields
October 20, 2010: Joey “Smokin” Villaseñor vs Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos
October 27, 2010: Gina “Conviction” Carano vs. Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos
November 3, 2010: Tim Kennedy vs Zak Cummings
November 10, 2010:  BillyEvangelista  vs Jorge Gurgel
November 17, 2010: Tyron “T-Wood” Woodley vs  Rudy Bears
November 24, 2010: Cung Le vs Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith
December 1, 2010: Marius Zaromskis vs Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos
December 8,  2010: Sarah Kaufman vs Tayako Hashi
December 15, 2010: Lavar Johnson vs Loloho Mahe
December 22, 2010: Dan Henderson vs Jake Shields
December 29, 2010: Alistair “Demolition Man” vs Overeem Brett Rogers
January 5, 2011: Roger “Relentless” Bowling vs Bobby Voelker
January 12, 2011: Robbie “Ruthless” Lawler vs Renato “Babalu” Sobral

Payout Perspective:

Strikeforce has had it’s mind set on expanding as a global brand after they inked a deal earlier this year with Shine International, when Shine made an announcement that they would be selling more than 70 hours of Strikeforce’s mixed martial arts (MMA) programming in six markets across Europe, Australia and Latin America.

SPACE TV is distributed in all of Latin America and the Caribbean, including countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Columbia,  Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Mexico.  SPACE not only shows high level combat sports such as world class boxing and now Mixed Martial Arts, it also has a deal with the NBA and televises Hollywood blockbuster movies and various TV shows. SPACE TV was acquired by Turner Broadcasting Systems (a division of Time Warner) in 2007, in a package deal with channels such as Fashion TV, HTV, Infinito, I.Sat, Much Music, and Retro.  It is now currently being packaged with the previous mentioned channels along with TNT, TCM, truTV, and Tooncast.  The deal with SPACE will open up the Latin American and Caribbean market for the Strikeforce brand, set to reach millions of new viewers and for the most part, introduce the sport of MMA to new fans.

UFC 119: Payout Perspective

September 27, 2010

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective! This week we’ll be taking a look at UFC 119: Mir vs. Cro Cop which was held at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana on September 25th. The event was headlined by a heavyweight tilt between former UFC Champ Frank Mir and Pride OWGP Champ Mirko Cro Cop.

Mir finishes Cro Cop in otherwise uneventful main event

Frank Mir ended a fairly lackluster main event with a bang when he delivered a crushing knee to the chin of Mirko Cro Cop. To that point neither fighter had managed to do much damage. The crowd booed consistently throughout the match, seemingly to break with applause only when referee Herb Dean intervened to separate the numerous stalls in the clinch along the cage.

If you subscribe to consumer psychology and believe in the recency effect, this event may be remembered for the dramatic knockout in the main event. However, given the volume of discontent currently visible on many blogs and MMA forum boards, it’s more likely to be remembered as an average event at best.

The win over Cro Cop won’t be enough to immediately establish Mir as the next in line after dos Santos, but it does provide the UFC with a solid fighter for a contenders bout in the future. He’ll also be available for a rubber match with Lesnar should Lesnar be defeated by Velasquez next month; an event that would provide the UFC with an extremely lucrative non-title PPV event.

TUF winner Bader takes next step, defeats Nogueira

The Ultimate Fighter has had a difficult time developing top-tier talent over the last few seasons, but Ryan Bader appears to be an outlier. Bader is 12-0 (5-0 UFC), an excellent wrestler with solid ground and pound, and an evolving stand-up game with decent power. His victory over Rogerio Nogueira wasn’t overwhelming, but he showed that he definitely belongs in the UFC’s top ten.

Prior to UFC 119, it was largely speculated that Jon Jones would face the winner of Nogueira-Bader. However, I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense at this point in time. Jones is not only at another level than Bader, but a win over Bader wouldn’t advance Jones’ career as much as a fight with someone like Forrest Griffin or even Thiago Silva. Plus, if you look at this from the perspective of continuing to develop Bader, it might be in the UFC’s best interest for him to fight someone else (perhaps also a Griffin or T. Silva).

UFC 119 meets mixed reviews

The jury is still out on UFC 119. I’ve heard and read everything from it was the worst UFC event of all-time to it was a solid card given the names and caliber of fighters involved.

I, myself, don’t think it was even close to the worst UFC show of all-time — I still think that’s UFC 72 — but I do see where some people are coming from. The card featured a host of decisions and a few grappling matches towards the end of the night that probably tainted how the entire show was perceived by most.

In fact, I’d argue the card was probably at a disadvantage to begin with. I’m inclined to believe that most people wrote the night off before it even began due to its lackluster main event and the absence of any truly compelling match-ups. Sometimes that’s a good thing, because it takes the pressure off the fighters and removes some of the expectation placed on an event. UFC 108 and 109 come to mind as events without great main events or compelling match-ups that ended up delivering entertaining fights. UFC 119 just wasn’t on that level.

However, I don’t think the performance of UFC 119 — the value it provided for fans or PPV buys it generated for the company — is an issue or cause for concern. The UFC is going to have bad, good, and great events just like any other sports property. The fans will continue to return so long as the UFC can consistently deliver a compelling reason to purchase the events. For example, this show certainly won’t prevent anyone from watching UFC 121 next month or dissuade them from UFC 124 in December.

This is interesting to me, because I think it underscores the continued development and growing sophistication of MMA fans. The hardcore fan is obviously quite well educated about the sport, but we’re now seeing similar levels of awareness from the average and casual fans (i.e., they are able to discern fights with good potential from fights with bad potential).

There’s definitely both a glass half-full and glass half-empty view to this trend for the UFC. If you’re an optimist, you see growth and a deeper level of awareness which should translate to an eventual expansion of the dedicated/hardcore fan base (your bread and butter). If you’re a pessimist, you’re perhaps disappointed that the influence of the UFC brand is slowly waining – people are no longer buying just because it’s a UFC fight.

Strong Prelim Show May Boost PPV Buys

The UFC 119 buyrate is expected to be relatively weak compared to the last eight events that have all done over 500k buys, but the stellar set of preliminary fights broadcast on Spike might help to boost the show’s bottom line. The Mitrione-Beltran slug fest went all three rounds and likely gained pretty well on viewership; and, despite the rather short nature of the Dolloway fight, his submission of Joe Doerksen was also impressive.

If you combine theose two bouts, it’s more than possible that the UFC did enough to convince additional households to purchase the fight card. It’s very tough to quantify any of the Prelim’s potential impact, but we’ll at least have an idea if it might have helped when we get the quarterly ratings this week.

Sponsorship Watch

This is often my favorite segment, but today I’m going to keep it short.

The one thing I really wanted to mention was the addition of Boost Mobile as a sponsor on the mat and cage padding. Boost has been slowly increasing it’s investment in MMA over the last year; most notably with it’s sponsorship of Rampage Jackson back at UFC 114. It appears the brand will be the presenting sponsor for UFC 120, so look for plenty of signage that evening. I’d also expect, seeing as it’s a Spike TV broadcast, that Boost will purchase some additional ad inventory to further activate it’s new found relationship with the UFC.

I’ll be watching this with a keen eye over the next couple of months to see where this relationship goes. The UFC is a potentially incredible platform for a mobile phone operator to advance on that coveted 18-34 demographic; especially one such as Boost that doesn’t require users to sign contracts.

UFC 119: Attendance, Gate, & Bonuses

September 25, 2010

MMA Junkie and MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani report attendance at UFC 119 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana scored 15,811 fans for a live gate of $1.8 million. According to officials, the figures are a success and larger than expected.

Bonuses of $70,000 were handed out to C.B. Dolloway (Submission of the Night), Matt Mitrione and Joey Beltran (Fight Night bonus) and Sean Sherk and Evan Dunham (Fight Night bonus). Note, the lone KO of the night by Frank Mir was not awarded the KO of the night.

Payout Perspective:

UFC 119 was a disappointing night despite the attendance/live gate. Two of the three bonuses were awarded to fights that were on SpikeTV. The third bonus was a disappointing decision since many thought that Evan Dunham had won, including Dana White. I applaud the UFC for not awarding KO of the night. It was a passive way of sending a message. The Mir/Cro Cop main event was not entertaining at all.

Really: EA Sports picks fight with UFC in new trailer

September 25, 2010

EA Sports latest trailer hyping its video game, EA Sports MMA, takes a shot at what it perceives to be a slight about its game by UFC Executive VP Bob Gold.

EA Sports used the following portion of the quote in the trailer:

“…there is nothing in that game that would entice me or anyone I know that’s an MMA fan to buy it.”

After a montage of its video game, EA responds to the quote at the end of the trailer with one word:  Really?

The full context of the quote according to Bloody Elbow via gamespot.com:

“We have a lot of respect for them, but there’s nothing in that game that would entice me or anyone I know that’s an MMA fan to buy it. If you want stars, the best organization, the best graphics, you’re going to stick with what you bought last year because this game is even better. And the fact that we didn’t cheat or cut corners in 2010, I think our fans are going to be very happy.”

The statement was made last February prior to the release of UFC Undisputed 2010. Gold spoke about how EA was not really into MMA and couldn’t get the licenses that the UFC had in developing its game.

EA Sports MMA comes out October 19th.

Payout Perspective:

EA Sports takes advantage of Gold’s comments in order to advance its own product.  I think EA does a great job in highlighting what it has that UFC Undisputed does not have. With EA Sports MMA, there is more of an international feel and you have the ability to perform moves that are illegal in the UFC (head stomps and soccer kicks). Overall, a great promotion for its video game especially since UFC Undisputed has not reached its expected sales goals.

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