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.
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.
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.
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.
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
– 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?