UFC will be 3D Thursday

February 28, 2011

MMA Junkie reports that UFC on Versus 3 will be in 3D for the first time in its history. Only those with 3D-capable TV sets through dedicated 3D channels will have the opportunity to see the event in 3D.

Via MMA Junkie:

“We’re really excited to start broadcasting UFC events in 3D,” UFC President Dana White stated. “UFC is ahead of the curve when it comes to introducing new technology, and we think UFC fans will really enjoy seeing fights in 3D.”

The 3D broadcast features a separate production crew and equipment.

Todd Harris and Kenny Florian will announce the 3D broadcast in addition to the regular crew of Goldberg and Rogan.

Payout Perspective:

As we wrote in our UFC 126 Payout Perspective, we had a hunch the UFC would head to 3D soon. It will be interesting to see how the broadcast would look in 3D. If you have a 3D TV and plan on watching the event, we’d like to hear from you after the event. From what I’ve seen of the new 3D TV technology, it is very nice, but if you need to wear special glasses to view the matches, I don’t foresee this growing in widespread popularity.

Fight Club OC a success

February 28, 2011

Fight Club OC, a Southern California promotion featuring boxing and MMA opened up to a successful night of fights last Thursday. Promoter Roy Englebrecht reported a sellout of 1,568 fans, a gate of $60,000 and all 10 luxury suites were sold.

As MMA Payout reported in December, local SoCal promoter Englebrecht moved his successful promotion from the Irvine, CA Marriott to a 23,000 square foot facility known as The Hangar on the grounds of the Orange County Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa, CA.

The Sports Business Journal ran a piece on the new space and its luxury suite deal:

For $1,600 an event, those buyers receive 12 tickets a show — six ringside seats and six elevated chairs in the suite to watch the fights unobstructed — plus food, soft drinks and alcohol, wait service, three parking passes and other perks.

A good sign for Englebrecht as the suites were sold out. Not too bad for about $134 per person.

Payout Perspective:

When we first reported on the concept, we wondered about the luxury suites and the overall attendance figures. Looks like it was a success and hopefully for Fight Club OC, its bimonthly shows continue to post solid numbers. It would be interesting to know if fans were more interested in boxing or MMA (or both) when they decided to attend the show. Regardless, a nice sign for local combat sport cards.

UFC 127 attendance: 18,186 fans; $3.5 million gate

February 27, 2011

MMA Junkie reports that attendance figures show that UFC 127 drew 18,186 fans for a gate of $3.5 million. UFC exec Marshall Zelaznik made the announcement at the post-UFC 127 press conference.

Via MMA Junkie:

The numbers marked a significant increase over the $2.5 million reported gate generated by the 17,831 attendees to the UFC’s 2010 debut in Australia.

While attendance figures outside of North America are rarely certified by local commissions, the reported figure marks the highest total ever claimed by the UFC for an event outside of North America.

Zelaznik said the marks also qualified as the fastest sell-out in both Acer Arena and ticket broker Ticketek history.

While Canada has proven one of the UFC’s most lucrative markets – as witnessed not only by the massive gates of several trips to Montreal and Vancouver but also the 55,000 seats and $11 million gate expected for April’s UFC 129 event in Toronto – Zelaznik said Australia is quickly becoming a favored destination as well.

Zelaznik indicated that an Aussie stadium show is a future possibility.

Payout Perspective:

An impressive number for the UFC and a great sign for the globalization of mixed martial arts. Its interesting that the UFC appears to be a hotbed in Australia. I could see future UFC events and backing an annual Australia show with a fan expo. The long flight and time change are obvious obstacles, but the UFC has shown its commitment and the fans have responded. UFC 129 will undoubtedly surpass UFC 127’s attendance record but the numbers are still very good. I am a little skeptical about stadium shows and I would have held off on announcing a stadium show until seeing how UFC 129 turns out.

NSAC cuts out of competition drug testing

February 26, 2011

MMA Junkie reports that due to budget cuts, the Nevada State Athletic Commission has eliminated out of competition drug testing. This type of drug testing is thought to be a strong deterrent to performance enhancing drugs in pro competition.

Via MMA Junkie:

With state governments around the country tightening their belts amid a widening recession, the NSAC’s budget for out-of-competition testing was reduced to $12,000 (from $18,000) in fiscal year 2009-2010. Regulators then asked the commission to give back all of the money before the year’s end, (NSAC Executive Director Keith) Kizer said.

In fiscal year 2010-2011, there is no money in the NSAC’s budget for out-of-competition drug testing, though athletes are still tested either the day prior to an event or immediately following it, and sometimes both.

The enforcement gap has nevertheless prompted the commission to get creative in coming up with the money to reinstate the program. One solution expected to be addressed at a meeting early next month is to draw a portion of funds from the amateur combative sports program, which pays for some of the safety and administrative costs associated with amateur boxing, kickboxing and MMA. The program is funded by a “ticket fee” assessed by the NSAC at professional events that is separate from the commission’s live gate fee, which takes a percentage of the money generated by ticket sales. The ticket fee amounts to .50 per ticket with live gates totaling less than $1 million, and $1 per ticket above that figure.

Commissioners will decide during the March meeting whether to lobby legislators on changing the NSAC’s funding statutes for the next state budget, which runs from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013. Nevada legislators are working to close a $2.2 billion dollar shortfall in the state’s general fund, which has prompted governor Pete Sandoval to recommend harsh cutbacks in education and government spending in his budget proposal.

Payout Perspective:

The out of competition testing was a way that the commission would keep fighters honest even when not training for an upcoming fight. The elimination of this does not mean that fighters will immediately use PEDs, but it takes away a deterrent. Although I think that the out of competition drug tests are valuable, I do not think the NSAC should shortchange amateur programs to fund this testing. In a time when states are crunching budgets, a lot of tough choices will need to be made.

Shark Fights Signs TV Deal With HDNet, Set To Debut With March 11 Event

February 25, 2011

MMAPayout has learned that budding promotion, Shark Fights, has signed a TV deal with HDNet and is set to debut on the network with their next scheduled event on March 11th, headlined by Matt Horwich vs Danillo Villefort.

Here is the rumored card for Shark Fights 14, set to debut on HDNet:

Shark Fights 14: Horwich vs Villefort
March 11, 2011
Fair Park City Coliseum in Lubbock, Texas

– Matt Horwich (26-17) vs. Danillo Villefort (12-3)
– Houston Alexander (11-6) vs. James Irvin (15-8)
– Mike Bronzoulis (11-2) vs. Todd Moore (13-4)
– Alex Cisne (5-1) vs. Eric Davila (18-10)
– Sean Shakour (3-0) vs. Joseph Sandoval (4-0)

Payout Perspective:

The budding promotion based out of Texas is coming off it’s PPV debut back in September of last year, where the event was headlined by Keith Jardine, as he took on MMA and Strikeforce veteran Trevor Prangley. The PPV event also featured Houston Alexander vs Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Danillo Villefort vs Joey Villasenor, and Paul Daley vs Jorge Masvidal (both signed by Strikeforce after the event).

Back in September, MMAPayout featured Shark Fights CEO Brent Medley, as he talked about PPV expectations, their strong fan-base in Texas, and their financing to put up a big PPV event so early in their development.  Shark Fights has taken their second big step in the last 12 months by signing a TV deal with HDNet, who has helped promotions like MFC, Titan Fighting Championship and XFC gain great exposure on the platform. You have to like what HDNet is doing as well, signing promotions with strong regional support who have signed marketable fighters to headline their events along with strong regional prospects.  The uncertainty in Japan has brought a halt of Japanese MMA stateside, but HDNet is doing a great job a mitigating the issue with the recent pickups.

Yankee uses MMA to get into shape for spring training

February 24, 2011

WSJ reports that new Yankee Catcher Russell Martin utilized mixed martial arts training to get into shape for spring training. Martin, a native of Montreal, used GSP’s gym to help him get into shape for baseball.

Via WSJ:

…Martin went over to the gym where Mr. St. Pierre trains, and sought out his world-renowned trainer, Jon Chaimberg.

Mr. Martin did not do any actual fighting or sparring. but he did watch the MMA fighters train, saw several fights and hung out with Mr. St. Pierre.

Payout Perspective:

Similar to the NBA’s Roy Hibbert, here is another example of  a professional athlete using MMA to get ready for their sport. The article ties in GSP since Martin, who is from Montreal, sought out MMA training in his hometown–and found where GSP trains.

The MMA fitness industry is growing along with the sport. Not only are we seeing the UFC get into the gym business, but there are fitness videos and a fitness magazine with a focus on an MMA workout.

H/T: Fight Lawyer

Connecticut considering bill to legalize MMA

February 23, 2011

The Hartford Courant reports that lawmakers are considering the introduction of a bill that would sanction mixed martial arts.

Via the Hartford Courant:

State Sen. Joan Hartley, a Democrat from Waterbury who co-chairs the public safety committee, asked at a hearing Tuesday how MMA differed from the professional wrestling shows staged by the Connecticut-based World Wrestling Entertainment. “We’re not scripted entertainment,” responded Marc Ratner, vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Las Vegas-based company that promotes most of the top-ranked MMA matches. “These are real fights.”

Hartley said she is open to the idea of sanctioning MMA matches, provided the regulatory requirements don’t burden the state’s budget.

“This bill will put mixed martial arts on an equal footing with boxing, allowing the thousands of MMA fans in Connecticut the opportunity to watch their pastime without leaving the state,” state Rep. Matthew Lesser told the legislature’s public safety committee Tuesday afternoon. “In addition, it would generate economic activity and should be revenue positive.”

A 5 percent tax on MMA gate receipts would bolster the state’s bottom line, Lesser said.

Forty-six states currently sanction MMA competitions. Massachusetts joined the list last year. Vermont and New York are two of four states that have not. And that, say proponents, provides an opportunity for Connecticut, given its proximity to a large base of fans in the Empire State.

Payout Perspective:

A very positive article about the possibility of legalizing MMA in Connecticut. The article did not provide an opposing view on the legalization of MMA with the exception of the usual “human cockfighting” quote. The backers of this bill see this as a way to stimulate the state’s economy. While they are realistic about how much it can assist, they also realize that the state can take advantage of New York’s ban on MMA and solicit the UFC, Strikeforce or other organizations to sponsor events instead of New York.

H/T: Robert Joyner via twitter

Showtime Sports & M-1 Global Announce “M-1 Challenge: Damkovsky vs. Figueroa” Live On Showtime

February 23, 2011

As MMAPayout reported last week, Showtime and M-1 announce that the “M-1 Challenge” 3/25 event taking place in the U.S. will be televised live on the network.

SHOWTIME Sports and M-1 GLOBAL announced today an upcoming mixed martial arts (MMA) event entitled M-1 Challenge: Damkovsky vs. Figueroa featuring two M-1 GLOBAL title fights. The bouts will air LIVE on SHOWTIME on Friday, March 25 at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).

Artiom Damkovsky will defend his M-1 Challenge Lightweight (155 lbs.) championship against Jose Figueroa, while Tyson Jeffries and Magomed Sultanakhmedov will battle for the vacant M-1 Challenge Middleweight (185 lbs.) belt from Constant Center in Norfolk, Va.

In other action, Alexander Sarnavskiy will take on Josh Bacallao in a lightweight scrap and Vinny Magalhaes will fight an opponent to be named in a light heavyweight (205 lbs.) matchup.

“I am extremely happy about the venture between M-1 Global and SHOWTIME. There is no better TV network for M-1 than SHOWTIME. And no better market to seriously compete in than the U.S.,” said Vadim Finkelchtein, co-founder of M-1 GLOBAL.

“Our ability to televise quality boxing and MMA fights at the highest level has been aided tremendously by our commitment to showcasing prospects and lesser known international stars on our feeder series like ShoBox: The New Generation and STRIKEFORCE Challengers,” said Ken Hershman, Executive Vice President and General Manager of SHOWTIME Sports. “M-1 Challenge events fit perfectly into that mold and will enhance our mixed martial arts offerings even further.”

Mauro Ranallo will call the action from ringside with Pat Miletich serving as analyst. The telecast will be produced by Chuck McKean and directed by Craig Farrell.  The executive producer of SHOWTIME Sports is David Dinkins, Jr.

For information on SHOWTIME Sports programming, including exclusive behind-the-scenes video and photo galleries, complete telecast information and more, please go to the new SHOWTIME Sports website at http://www.sho.com/sports.

Payout Perspective:

Negotiations between M-1 Global and Showtime have been ongoing since September of last year, and after several months of back-and-forth negotiations, it looks like the deal is now finally official.  The first televised event will be on March 25, held at the Constant Center in Norfolk, Va, where multiple M-1 Challenge titles will be on the line as Artiom Damkovsky defends his title against Jose Figueroa and Tyson Jeffries and Magomed Sultanakhmedov fight for the vacant Middleweight belt.

One interesting note from the press release is that Mauro Renallo and Pat Miletich will call the action on March 25, a fan-favorite combination for many fans who typically work on the Strikeforce Challenger events along side with Stephen Quadros.  Showtime using only a two man booth to televise an MMA event is something that they have not experienced much in the past, but many have clamored.

UFC 127 prelims: airing on ION and Facebook

February 22, 2011

MMA Junkie reports that prelims for UFC 127 will air on ION television as well as stream live on the UFC’s Facebook page. Two fights will stream on Facebook and then three more will air on ION.

 Via MMA Junkie:

 UFC officials recently announced that two bouts from this weekend’s event stream on Facebook (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), and then ION Television carries an additional pair of fights (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

The UFC made a January debut on ION Television, a small network that allowed the promotion to bypass its cable deal with Spike TV. A two-fight lineup for the UFC 125 event scored 829,000 viewers, about half of what the UFC traditional draws for “UFC Prelims” specials on Spike TV.

Via UFC Press Release:

This is the second time UFC prelims have aired on ION, as three UFC 125 bouts were featured on the network in January. Saturday’s UFC 127 prelims will reach almost 100 million U.S. households, giving UFC fans the opportunity to watch three exciting UFC bouts leading in to the UFC 127 Pay-Per-View event.

“We are excited to give UFC fans three great fights on ION this Saturday,” UFC President Dana White said. “By putting the UFC 127 prelims on ION, we are bringing the fastest-growing sport in the world to almost 100 million homes.”

Payout Perspective:

The prelims will return to Spike TV as the channel will have the UFC 128 Prelims in March. No word on whether further matches will be on Facebook for UFC 128 although it will be likely. With Jones-Rua as the main event of 128, there will undoubtedly be a lot of promotion going into the PPV.

It will be interesting to see how this multi-platform approach will work. Will the time difference play a factor in viewership? Will Spike TV or Versus run counterprogramming (e.g., Zuffa related content) opposite ION’s prelim broadcast as it did for the UFC 125 prelims? The key thing is that more fights are being aired to fans which give the sport more exposure.

Sponsorship Spotlight: XBox 360

February 22, 2011

MMA Payout had the opportunity to contact Mary Renouf of the Global Brand Marketing department of XBox for a Q&A about its recent sponsorship of Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson at UFC 126.

Johnson defeated Kid Yamamoto in the second match ever aired on UFC’s Facebook page.

MP: How did you decide to sponsor Demetrious Johnson? Was it in part due to the proximity of Johnson’s gym (AMC Pankration in Kirkland, WA) to the Microsoft campus?

XBox: When Xbox decides to get behind a person or brand, we spend a significant amount of time getting to know who they are on a personal and professional basis. We want to ensure their brand aligns with our Xbox brand and values. Demetrious Johnson (DJ) made sense on many levels – he participates in a sport that many of our core gaming consumers enjoy, he is a core gamer himself, spending a lot of his free time playing Xbox and is also a local! Xbox is a big supporter of Seattle (Washington) athletics – we sponsor the Sounders, Seahawks, Storm and Mariners. We don’t just look at these being sponsorships, but more importantly as “partnerships” that support the local area. DJ’s sponsorship fits into our local athlete support plans as he grew up, resides and trains in the Northwest.

We actually asked our consumers ahead of time for input, posting a question on Facebook about their interest in Mixed Martial Arts and in “Mighty Mouse.” What we learned is that our fans were really excited about Xbox getting behind the sport and such an exciting fighter who continues to succeed even with his “underdog” status. Given that his brand and values aligned very closely with ours, we felt he was a great ambassador for the sport of MMA and Xbox.

MP: Did his reps contact Xbox?

XBox: DJ’s team did contact us regarding some possibilities, and after spending time getting to know him, we thought this would be a great partnership but weren’t quite certain when we would release this announcement.

MP: Was the sponsorship planned? Did you target Johnson, or was the plan to sponsor a UFC fighter and Johnson was available?

Xbox: We specifically selected DJ for this partnership. Blindly sponsoring an individual just for the sake of getting in front of a potential target audience isn’t something that we take lightly as our brand values are very important to us. We have reviewed a few other UFC fighters in the past and determined it wasn’t the right time or fit to jump into this area.

MP: Did the sponsorship occur before or after it was known that Johnson would be fighting on air on Facebook?

XBox: The decision to announce the sponsorship occurred after the UFC confirmed the Johnson fight would be streamed on Facebook. Xbox is a big player in the social space, and we are always looking for ways to reach our target market within these networks. We felt it was a great way for us to give our 6.5M Facebook fans a chance to watch the fight in an environment in which they are already comfortable. Knowing this was only the second time ever that the UFC would broadcast a fight live on Facebook, we thought it was a great opportunity to keep our brand on the cutting edge of digital entertainment.

MP: What are the terms of the sponsorship (a year, a number of fights, etc.)?

XBox: We typically don’t share sponsorship information publically. We do feel DJ has tremendous potential inside and outside of the Octagon, and we look forward to being part of the journey.

MP: What does the sponsorship entail? (T-shirts, signage, appearances, ads, etc?)

XBox: For the first event (UFC 126), we supported DJ with promotion of the event, inclusion in our social communities and T-shirts for him and his team. In the future, you can look for DJ in other Xbox experiences such as digital programs, live events, etc.

MP: Does Xbox 360 foresee sponsoring other fighters?

XBox: It’s really too early to say at this point. We have spent time learning about the sport and its fighters and are still assessing what makes the most sense for our brand and what meets the needs of our consumers.

MP: How about sponsorship in the UFC or other MMA organizations?

XBox: We are focused right now on DJ and potentially a few other fighters that fit our brand and target audience. We don’t necessarily see this carrying over to the overall organizations, but we will closely monitor the effectiveness of these programs to determine the best direction for the future.

MP: Does Xbox plan on doing any promotions for the UFC Fight Night in Seattle in March?

XBox: We don’t have anything planned at this point in time.

MP: How does sponsoring Johnson advance your marketing strategy to your key demographics?

XBox: Our core Xbox consumers love action-packed experiences, both in game and in real life. They also have above average use of the Internet as an entertainment source. As we are always looking for new ways to offer this part of our fan base the chance to do both – enjoy a great entertainment experience in the digital space – we viewed this as a very positive opportunity.

MP: What has been the response to the sponsorship of Johnson? Positive, negative, too soon to tell?

Xbox: Our fans are a very vocal group – in fact, our brand has one of the highest levels of fan engagement of all brands on Facebook. That being said, we were very pleased with the reception of this program. Within thirty minutes of announcing the partnership, we had hundreds of comments on our Facebook post, including things such as “The greatest sport ever is being sponsored by the greatest game system ever!” and “Thanks for making great games and supporting awesome fighters like DJ.” They are definitely clambering for more activation in the MMA space.

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