The Promotional Value of the Pettis Kick

December 17, 2010

Anthony Pettis became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter on Thursday, December 16 when in the 5th round of his WEC lightweight championship fight he leapt from the ground, pushed off the cage, and delivered a roundhouse kick to the face of a stunned Ben Henderson and dropped him to the floor.

Naturally, my reaction was “Nice kick. I wonder how much it’s worth?”.

Payout Perspective:

I’ll point out that the promotional value of the Pettis kick depends on the assumptions made. It’s nearly impossible to come up with an accurate number because there are so many factors that influence a UFC PPV event purchase decision. Yet, I always enjoy estimating the value of fights and performances simply as an exercise to further my understanding of how the fight game works. So, let’s have some fun and play with it a little:

UFC

The promotional value of this kick to the UFC will be determined by a number of things: increased interest in the UFC, its PPVs, its live events, it’s television events, and its merchandise. However, for simplicity’s sake let’s just look at the number of people influenced by Pettis to watch his next fight. In this case the short term is far easier to estimate than the long term (just know that the more success Pettis comes to have, the more this kick will continue to add value to the UFC in the future).

I’ll start with asking a simple question: how many people were watching the fight last night? We’ll know in a few days, but the peak viewership was likely in the 500,000 to 750,000 range. Now let’s make two assumptions:

1. Nearly everyone that saw last night’s event has been motivated to watch Pettis his next fight.
2. The UFC will get 1 PPV buy from every 10 of those fans (this is consistent with the notion of 10 fans per viewing party)

This gives us 50,000 to 75,000 PPV buys as the result of Pettis’ performance (the kick being the last thing that most fans remember is very influential here). The calculations then are as follows:

- 50,000 x $49.99/2 =  $1.25 million
- 75,000 x $49.99/2 =  $1.9 million

*Note: under the terms of the UFC’s agreement with PPV companies, it receives approximately half of that $49.99 (although I understand that the UFC is starting to earn a more favorable term here).

Now, it’s here that we need to adjust our estimate based on the likelihood that those watching the WEC show are the types that buy UFC cards every time out. In other words, how do we know those 500,000-750,000 fans watching WEC (most likely semi to hardcore fans) aren’t the types that buy every PPV anyway? It’s a valid consideration. So, let’s assume that 50% of those watching the WEC card would have been on the fence as to whether to buy Pettis’ next fight. The new estimated value of the kick is then probably closer to $625,000-$950,000.

MMAPayout.com’s Jason Cruz rightly points out that the UFC will use this kick in a host of future promotional videos, Spike TV Countdown Shows, ESPN SportsCenter, and other PR efforts in order to convince casual fans that missed the fight that Pettis is a dynamic and exciting fighter worthy of challenging for the belt. It’s plausible, depending on how much they push Pettis’ kick and dynamic abilities that this could translate into as few as 25,000 PPV buys or as many as 50,000 more. This adds an $625,000 to $1.9 million to the value pie.

Thus, we arrive at an estimated short term promotional value of the kick at between $1.25 million and $2.85 million.

Pettis

The value to Pettis is harder to determine. Immediately he received a $10, 000 bonus for fight of the night. I’d also venture to guess he’ll be given a sizable discretionary bonus from Zuffa (anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000). However, in moving to the UFC, we have to be careful to separate the extra value Pettis will receive as the result of that kick from what he would have received just because of the move itself.

The easiest way to estimate this is perhaps to just take a percentage of the UFC’s value. The UFC typically pays out ~20% of its gross revenue to the fighters and this translates to anywhere between $250,000 to $570,000 over the medium term. I say medium term because there’s going to be a lag between what the UFC earns due to Pettis and what Pettis earns due to himself (as the result of contracts that lock him into a certain compensation set for a period of time).

Don’t forget sponsorship value too. Pettis will be a hot commodity for his fight with the winner of Edgar vs. Maynard.

Conclusion

The kick was incredibly impressive. It’s moments like that which make this sport so incredible. It’s also more support for the idea that the key to developing PPV draws is finding those with immense and entertaining fighting ability. All the charisma and good looks in the world cannot match the selling effect of a beautifully timed jumping roundhouse kick off the fence. It all starts and ends with fighting ability. Everything else comes second.

Perhaps the only thing I would have changed is the fact that it happened in the WEC. Imagine the value of that kick if it happens in the UFC (or even for the WEC in an earlier show). I also think this kick (and the card as a whole) is demonstrative of the value the WEC’s divisions will add to the UFC.

9 Responses to “The Promotional Value of the Pettis Kick”

  1. Tweets that mention The Promotional Value of the Pettis Kick : MMAPayout.com: The Business of MMA -- Topsy.com on December 17th, 2010 11:47 AM

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bob Ross, MMA Payout and Phil Dawson, mma.ly. mma.ly said: The Promotional Value of the Pettis Kick http://bit.ly/fbngDZ (MMA Payout) #fb [...]

  2. Matt C. on December 17th, 2010 1:48 PM

    Great stuff. Very interesting breakdown.

  3. BrainSmasher on December 17th, 2010 2:47 PM

    It would have been better if it was a KO. I dont think this would be as valuable if this was a UFC PPV. But more valuable if this was on the UFC on Spike. The WEC brand will confuse those who dont know there is a merger. So they will be lost during the transaction. Also being the WEC on Vs there weren’t as many viewers which Kelsey alluded to.

    This also shows what MMA has that boxing dont. Creativity. Nothing close to this can ever happen in a high level boxing match. This wasnt some mismatch in a low level promotion where a fighter can do whatever he wants. This was round 5 of a title fight in a top 3 promotion. Boxing is stuck with the same match the fans have seen a million times before. You seen one boxing match you seen them all. MMA you are only limited by your mind. I expect a lot of boxing fans to say to themselves “bxing will never have anything like that”. Even after 17 years there are still fights with stuff never seen before moves. From this kick which is only second best IMO to Yves vs Thompson to Imada’s inverted reverse triangle.

  4. Machiel Van on December 17th, 2010 2:57 PM

    My favorite move of all time is still Ryo Chonan’s flying scissor heel hook against Andrson Silva at PRIDE Shockwave in 2004. It was one of the most creative and incredible finishes in MMA history.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYN6U_85YCI

  5. Machiel Van on December 17th, 2010 2:59 PM

    THAT is Anderson Silva’s last true loss, not the DQ against Yushin Okami, and THAT is how you beat Anderson Silva: with the craziest moves in the world.

  6. BrainSmasher on December 17th, 2010 3:45 PM

    I have always felt that fight was a work.

  7. el chango on December 17th, 2010 5:58 PM

    Pettis has been climbing as a star. World of Jenks helped grow his “brand”. Last night, He only added to the momentum that has been building for him. The UFC machine will make him a huge star if he becomes UFC champ.

  8. Stan on December 20th, 2010 9:23 AM

    obviously would have been better for Zuffa if it was on a Spike card, it has bigger audiences, however ESPN gave it a nice bump both as the #2 play of the day on Sports Center Thursday night and then about a 30 second dedicated highlight of it on Friday morning Sports Center. During the Friday morning SCs they did an explanation of what the win meant for Pettis going forward and obviously “UFC” was used to discuss the title shot he earned.

    all-in-all good publicity

  9. Michael on December 20th, 2010 1:25 PM

    Imagine Machida had thrown that kick (to become LHW Champion) when he was on top of his hype :)

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