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.

6 Responses to “UFC 119: Payout Perspective”

  1. Brain Smasher on September 27th, 2010 6:03 AM

    Anyone who think this or even UFC 72 is the worst UFC ever need to watch UFC 33. By far the worst ever and the biggest disaster ever for the UFC because it was the first event in Vegas and first event back on cable tv. Imagine 3 5 round decisions, 3 3 round decisions, and one of the two finishes of the night was the most boring fight ever in the UFC where Jutaro Nakao got under hooks on desouze at the start of the fight and latched onto the fence and held him there for 5 minutes. The 8 fights lasted so long (129 minutes of actual fighting) that many cable viewers had the main event of Tito vs Vlady cut off because it ran over the allotted time.

    UFC 119 fights were not that bad. There were a lot of good fights even if some were hurt by bad judges.

  2. Machiel Van on September 27th, 2010 8:38 AM

    I remember UFC 72 for the absolute barn-burner between Clay Guida and Tyson Griffin.

    Kelsey you are right, there is no cause for concern. It sounds funny, but a poor showing at UFC 119 was really the best time for a lackluster event for the UFC. August was very successful, and most assumed the buyrate would be low, so there were less people watching the boring moments of the event. Since the UFC’s next PPV includes Brock Lesnar and the heavyweight title, it won’t matter that UFC 119 was lackluster, since Lesnar will bring the fans right back. It would be interesting to see if the UFC turns this into a strategy: air weaker PPV cards that must occur when all the belts and available PPV draws are booked up right before the next Lesnar fight so that the impact on interest is minimal, than chase the Lesnar fights with another great event so momentum remains red hot.

  3. Ben on September 27th, 2010 5:11 PM

    Another great aspect that wasn’t mentioned was when Matt Mitrione dumped his manager Malki Kawa live on TV. Malki is a cancer for the sport of MMA he is full of lies and deceit. He has the rep of a conman around Las Vegas and Miami trying to sign fighters under contract of other managers. Karma is bad news Malki is about to get flushed down the tiolet by the sport of MMA. He claims to have a bachelors degree and all these important connections which are both false. Why is he representing low levels fighters then?

  4. MMA Onlooker on September 27th, 2010 9:52 PM

    I can’t remember the whole card but the worst fight I can remember was Tim Sylvia Vs Arlovski (I believe the 3rd one). 5 rounds of absolute terrible stand up in a heavy weight title fight. After that we were subjected to the joke of a fight between Tito and Shamrock. And the kicker, they pulled Wanderlei Silva (when he was in his prime) into the ring to have a stare down with Chuck and we all know how that worked out.

  5. Kelsey Philpott on September 27th, 2010 10:54 PM

    I didn’t get to hear the Mitrione interview until Monday morning, which is why it wasn’t addressed.

    The sponsorship game is complicated. Yes, $5,000 isn’t a lot of money, but Mitrione isn’t exactly a known or followed commodity. The fact that he was going to fight on the Prelims in front of one million plus people should have counted for something, but there are never any guarantees in terms of impression opportunities.

    I’ve seen what Bloodyelbow has posted on the issue – jumping on the Economics of MMA series – but I think they’re more than a little off on their angle and some of their supporting arguments regarding fighter pay.

    I can’t help but be reminded of a post made by Watch Kalib Run a few months ago talking about the unacceptability of fighter pay in the UFC; referencing the number of millionaire fighters. It’s just sensationalism.

    Fighter pay is certainly a hot button issue in MMA — that’s why it keeps cropping up over and over again — but remember there are always two sides to a story and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

  6. Six on October 10th, 2010 8:14 PM

    I don’t mind sub-standard “filler” cards but they shouldn’t charge the same price as the big cards.

    Jardine vs Ortiz shouldn’t be $60.00 .. (maybe $9.99?)
    But Lesnar vs. Dos Santos should be.

    I think thats an insult to MMA fans intelligence and a rip-off.
    Im not going to pay top dollar to watch 2 over the hill fighters looking for another payday or their gimmick fights like… James Toney or Shaq.

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