Payout Perspective: UFC 127

March 1, 2011

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective! This time we look at UFC 127 which took place at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia. The main event saw a draw between Jon Fitch and BJ Penn. In the other featured bout, Michael Bisping defeated Jorge Rivera after an illegal knee and a questionable decision to continue the fight.

Fitch-Penn Draw

Although one judge had Jon Fitch beating BJ Penn, the other two judges scored the fight a draw resulting in a majority draw decision. Two judges scored the fight 10-8 for Fitch in the third which caused the draw. While the draw may not be the most questionable call of the night, it was an interesting matchup with both fighters displaying their strengths. At the end, it had BJ bummed, and contemplating retirement and Fitch uncertain of the direction of his career.

Bisping illegal knee drops Rivera, then KOs Rivera

Michael Bisping is a sensitive guy. At least that’s how he started his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. He certainly displayed this characteristic after his illegal knee put Jorge Rivera on Dream Street. Perhaps the knee was due to the emotion of the trash talk videos Rivera made in ramping up to the matchup. Inexplicably, the ring doctor and ref did not take control and stop the fight. Instead, they asked Rivera if he could continue. What do you think would be the response? Rivera was game enough to hold off Bisping momentarily before the stoppage. After the fight was when the real fireworks began as Bisping spat at Rivera’s corner as well as middle fingering the crowd (or someone in the crowd but the camera panned away). Bisping’s actions caused a mention on ESPN’s Sportsnation.

In recent memory, when most bad blood fights happen (except Rashard-Rampage); the fighters are professional in squashing whatever beef they had after the fight. Bisping looked like he would do the same, but he decided to rub it in. Even Paul Dailey thought the illegal knee was unprofessional. The UFC has decided to punish Bisping for spitting at Rivera’s corner, not for the knee.

All of the bad blood stems from the trash talk and videos made between the two. From a fan perspective, the hype is great and it’s definitely motivation to watch a fight (which frankly did not look too exciting on paper), but as professional fighters they have to know that what’s said to hype the fight can’t be taken personal. Yet, both camps (Alchemist-Wolfslair) are still issuing statements calling out the other.

For Bisping, Vito Belfort and Chael Sonnen (assuming his career is thawed out by the UFC) have already requested to fight him. Does anyone else think it should be Bisping calling out Belfort and/or Sonnen?

Last minute fill-in Ebersole becomes feel good story of UFC 127

Self-proclaimed journeyman Brian Ebersole upset Chris Lytle in his debut in the UFC. It was great to see Ebersole’s raw emotion on two specific occasions: as Ebersole readied himself to enter the Octagon for the first time and at the end of the fight. The cameras caught Ebersole realizing his dream–good TV.  Ebersole was unique as seen with his cartwheel kick, shaved chest and wearing headgear to the ring. Great visibility for Hayabusa-Ebersole’s sponsor.

Bonuses

Fight of the Night honors went to Ebersole and Chris Lytle for their fight.

Former TUF cast member, Kyle Noke won Submission of the Night honors with an early choke out of Chris Camozzi.

Mark Hunt won KO of the night with his second round beat down of Chris Tuchscherer. It was also featured on ESPN’s Sportsnation.

Each fighter earned an additional $75,000 to their pay. (H/t MMA Junkie)

Attendance and Gate

As previously reported, UFC 127 was a success as it set the record for attendance for UFC events outside of North America. 18,136 fans attended for a gate of $3.5 million.

Facebook/ION/PPV

For the first time, the UFC aired its fights over three platforms: Facebook, TV and PPV. The ION broadcast garnered 714,000 viewers according to MMA Junkie. This is down from the 829,000 viewers of ION’s initial broadcast in January. This is a significant downturn from the UFC 126 prelims on Spike TV which garnered an all-time best of 2 million viewers.

Despite the decrease in viewership for UFC 127, fans had the opportunity to watch more fights. The drawback was that you had to switch from your computer, to finding the ION channel (again) and then switching to PPV. Not the most convenient for the casual fan.

Sponsorship Watch

SafeAuto Insurance – This was the first of several times this year where SafeAuto will be on the mat and ring posts for the UFC since it became an official sponsor.  It also sponsored Dennis Siver in his upset victory over George Sotiropoulos.

Lids –The hat store, a new sponsor to the UFC, was presenting sponsor of the Tale of the Tape. Interesting to see it becomes involved in MMA sponsorship.

Gamefly.com, the Netflix of video games, and new shooter game Killzone3 were prominent sponsors with the former having its logo on the center of the ring and the latter on the ring posts.

US Marines sponsored the mini-Fitch and Penn Keys to Victory segment. This is a nice segment that they started at 126. It’s a new way to get sponsor visibility during the PPV.

Dethrone Royalty – Surprisingly, there were a lot of positive comments about Jon Fitch’s walkout shirt which depicted a dog.  It definitely was a nice alternative to the usual fare.

Public Relations for 127

Like other places where MMA is trying to penetrate the market, some local newspapers wrote negative pieces (here and here ) about the sport in general. The Herald Sun had an especially ignorant rant on MMA.  For the UFC’s part, it conducted a PR tour in December. The tour consisted of going out into the community, working out at local gyms and giving interviews to local press. Educating the public on the sport is the key for it to make inroads in new markets.

The UFC contributed to the relief efforts for Tropical Cyclone Yasi which caused widespread flooding in Australia. The UFC held an auction featuring UFC memorabilia with funds going toward flood victims. It also matched the fight purse of James Te Huna, who donated his fight purse to the relief efforts. This was a good move by the UFC in recognizing an opportunity to help the community. It shows that it is more than just flying in, making money and leaving.

In the less serious department, during fight week, the UFC had multiple greet and grin opportunities as UFC fighters visited a rugby team, went surfing at Bondi Beach and the UFC Octagon girls visited the zoo.

Storylines Post-UFC 127

- What now for Fitch and Penn? Is a rematch in the future and does anyone want it? Both sides seemed dejected afterward. Fitch wants a shot at the Shields-GSP winner but that is unlikely. Although Penn wondered about hanging it up, it would be hard to see him going out like this.

- Siver upsets Sotiropoulos. Dennis Siver’s win over George Sotiropoulos in front of his homeland crowd stopped Sotiropoulos’ march to the top of the 155 contender list.

- Zhang wins. A preliminary bout with potential major implications. Tiequan Zhang dropped down to 145 pounds and submitted Jason Reinhardt. Zhang, coming off an upset loss needed a victory here. It’s not too big of a stretch to say that Zhang’s success will make it easier for the UFC to create inroads into China. With the global expansion of the company, it would benefit the UFC if Zhang does well at 145. In his post-fight interview he noted that he doesn’t feel pressure to grow the Chinese market but believes the UFC will be in China.

- Judges do it again. Not only was there questionable scoring made in the main event and sketchy decision-making by the ring doctor and ref in the Bisping-Rivera fight,  the judges got it wrong in the Nick Ring-Riki Fukuda fight. Dana White said as much as he tweeted that Fukuda would receive his win bonus despite the loss.

- Australian crowd. The Aussie crowd showed its knowledge of MMA and was into the fights. The attendance reflects the popularity of the sport down under. It was announced that a possible stadium show in Australia could happen in the future. Australia could be marketed as an annual destination stop for the UFC.

Odds and Ends

- Other than the draw, what received more attention for Jon Fitch: his shirt or his diet?

- Speaking of t-shirts, I thought BJ Penn’s shirt/banner, “Aloha Mate” with Mate upside down was pretty clever. Penn was a fan favorite in Sydney.

- Did you know Kyle Noke was “The Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin’s bodyguard?

- Sonnen and Belfort use email and twitter to lobby for a potential matchup with Michael Bisping. Doesn’t anyone use a cell phone to text anymore?

8 Responses to “Payout Perspective: UFC 127”

  1. Diego on March 2nd, 2011 6:42 AM

    Sonnen must be frothing at the mouth to fight Bisping. Bisping is the only guy in the UFC who can make Sonnen a “face” and rehabilitate him in the eyes of the fans. It’s a good fight for Bisping as well because if he wins it’s hard to deny him a title shot . Although with Bisping’s mediocre takedown defense and Sonnen’s strict steroid regimen (twice weekly shots, yum!) it should be an easy victory for our favorite bacne covered felon from Oregon over the king of can-dish-it-out-but-can’t- take-it.

    I think that fight should be held deep under the ocean in the belly of a sunken sub. No need for a PPV. Just let me know who wins. Or better yet, don’t.

  2. Steve on March 2nd, 2011 8:10 AM

    “Surprisingly, there were a lot of positive comments about Jon Fitch’s walkout shirt which depicted a dog”

    That is Fitch’s dog Bricks. He is featured prominently on Jon’s twitter and youtube accounts.

  3. Jason Cruz on March 2nd, 2011 8:32 AM

    Steve,

    I thought it was his dog, but was not sure. Its a pretty cool shirt. It shows that Fitch had some input in his walkout wear. I wonder if more fighters had input on their wear if they’d go with skulls,etc.

    Diego,

    Agreed. Although, the yammering between the two would be entertaining. I liked Bisping when he was on TUF…but, there is something about him that keeps rubbing me the wrong way. Belfort-Sonnen would make a better fight.

  4. Diego on March 2nd, 2011 10:24 AM

    MMAJunkie is reporting and average of 714k viewers on Ion for the prelims which is down from an average of 829k for UFC 125 (also on Ion so we can compare apples to apples). Since UFC 125 did ~300k buys that suggest that 127 will do below 300k. I think someone at MMAPayout estimated ~225k which may prove to be accurate.

    Any idea of how the card trended in social media?

  5. Machiel Van on March 2nd, 2011 10:42 AM

    More should definitely be made about the doctor failing to call the fight. I think it’s funny that part of both camps’ responses concern how the knee either should’ve resulted in an “automatic DQ”, as believed by Rivera’s camp, or the point deduction was enough, as per Bisping’s. The problem is that the rules are at the mercy of the interpretation of the officials. This is the way of many sports (i.e. referees making “right” or “wrong” calls), but in a dangerous sport like MMA the doctors need to step up and make the call, not giving a damn about the possible ire of fans or fight promotions. If I had been that doctor, I would’ve called that fight the moment Rivera was obviously unable to get up. It’s not the same thing as giving someone five minutes to recover from a groin strike. The fighters’ camps are acting like the rules are concrete and ALWAYS enforced in the same manner, when in reality they are handled per situation. The benefit of the ambiguity of the rules is that it allows options (rigidly enforced rules would not neccesarily work in a sport like MMA where anything can and does happen, as one rule can’t necessary be applied in the same way to each fight), and the option the doctor should’ve taken was to stop the fight. I would argue at that point that it is up to the commission whether it is a DQ or a NC, although the referee sometimes makes the call (which I absolutely do not think is their role, as DQs and NCs relate to a fighter’s record, not their safety).

  6. Machiel Van on March 2nd, 2011 10:44 AM

    Also, where’s the article about the delay of the second quarterfinal fights of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight GP? Definitely a payout issue, I mean “Bellator CEO Rebney featured on WSJ.com” but no article about the Grand Prix delay?

  7. Machiel Van on March 2nd, 2011 10:53 AM

    Just seems incredible to see a guy lying there like that, and then as a medical professional decide “oh, I’ll just ignore all the cutting edge research on CTE going on right now, of which I should be completely aware as a fight doctor, and just see if he’ll be OK to continue.”

  8. Diego on March 3rd, 2011 2:58 PM

    Machiel,

    This knee and the kick to the groin that Tuscherer took in his fight with Napao both left me wondering why the hell we bother having doctors. In both cases the fighters were clearly affected, and I’m sorry but 5 minutes may be fine for a stray finger in the eye but not for this. Both fights should have been stopped there. At the very least the cornermen should be allowed to check on their fighter to help him/her reach a decision.

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