Dethrone dispels rumors of demise

May 18, 2011

MMA Payout had the opportunity to catch up with Nick Swinmurn, founder of clothing brand Dethrone Royalty. He clarified rumors that the clothing brand may be in trouble.

MP: Is there any truth to internet rumors that Dethrone is in financial trouble? Any idea where the rumors may have started?

Dethrone: Definitely no truth to the rumor. The rumor started couple of weeks ago when Jon Luther of FightHype tweeted out that his sources had told him Dethrone was going under. I sent him an email out of curiosity asking if he could share what he had heard. His “source” had apparently heard that “Dethrone inventory was being discontinued” and therefore the company was shutting down. I told him I have no idea what inventory being discontinued would mean other than in the usual context of discontinuing a particular item. He said he didn’t know what it meant either but that his source was always right. We went on to have a good conversation about Dethrone and the industry in general.

The other development that he referenced was Shane Carwin posting on the Underground that he was parting ways with Dethrone. This was true, our annual deal was set to expire end of May and when we couldn’t come to terms on an extension that was acceptable to both sides during March he asked to be released from his deal two months early in order to be able to have the UFC Expo and Countdown Show to help attract a new sponsor. We had no problem with that. We have a great relationship with Shane and was simply a matter of him being able to get more money elsewhere which we would never stand in the way of.

MP: Any issues with sponsorship of athletes? Do you still have your stable of UFC-Strikeforce fighters? Are you looking to add in the near future?

Dethrone: Jon asked if we had any issues paying sponsorships, this was on May 5th. I explained to him that we always have and always will pay every fighter we sponsor within seven days of the fight. By May 5th we had paid all four of our fighters from UFC 129 in full. I’d go out on a limb and guess they were probably the only 4 fighters on the card who had been paid in full by that point as the fight was less than a week earlier. We don’t do sponsorships we can’t afford. We have personal relationships with the fighters we sponsor and don’t understand how some brands can watch a guy put it all on the line while promoting their product and then take weeks or months to pay them. We don’t jump from fighter to fighter, we’ve been with our guys for a long time. Our fighter roster includes Phil Davis, Gray Maynard, Josh Koscheck, Cain Velasquez, Jose Aldo, Jon Fitch, Ben Henderson, Nate Diaz, Matt Wiman, Joe Stevenson, George Sotiropolous, Charles Oliveira, Ed Herman and Kyle Kingsbury. We also sponsor boxer Robert Guerrero and radio host/truck racer Jason Ellis. You are welcome to ask any of their managers regarding our payment times and financial stability.

We had sponsored Gilbert Melendez and Nick Diaz until our UFC agreement limited us to Zuffa fighters last summer. Now with the merger we are once again looking into the possibility of sponsoring Strikeforce fighters.

MP: How is the business? What are the future plans of the business?  More shirts? Anymore crossover promotions with major league teams like you did this past year with the Warriors? (e.g., any promos with the A’s or Giants)

Dethrone: The business in general is doing great. It’s been just over two years since we launched the brand. We knew this was a longterm opportunity, not a get rich quick scheme. We have planned and budgeted accordingly. We’ll be moving into our new headquarters this summer. We just received our new collection of shirts last week and will be rolling those out right away, we have a new collection every 2-3 months. We have a Dethrone race truck driven by Jason Ellis in the Lucas Oil Offroad Series that runs until December. We will be continuing our relationship with the Golden State Warriors next season and have had discussions with other teams as well. We’re always on the lookout for new opportunities to promote and extend the brand.

It’s not an easy business and definitely not a get rich quick opportunity, which I think are probably the two biggest misperceptions about the apparel industry to outsiders. You can’t just slap your logo on a couple of fighters and watch the cash roll in, but with patience and planning it can be an exciting and rewarding industry.

OC Promoter promoting four events in 48 hours

May 18, 2011

Roy Englebrecht of Fight Club OC will be promoting four events in 48 hours this weekend in Southern California. He will be doing two shows Thursday, one on Friday and another Saturday.

Via Fight Club OC press release:

This marathon run of shows begins on Thursday, May 19th with two, yes, two shows on the same evening. Englebrecht will promote two private shows, the Rumble On The Range at Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank and the NAIOP Night At The Fights at the Hyatt Regency Irvine, and will split his staff so that both shows will be covered. Both of these private shows are sold out. Then on Friday, May 20th they will be the lead promoter in a co promotion with Golden Boy Promotions for a Fight Club OC Special Edition show to air on Telefutura, from The Hangar at the OC Fair & Event Center. A crowd of 1,200 is expected for this show. The 48 hour run will end on Saturday night May 21st with the first Fight Club OC all MMA show co promoting with BAMMAUSA, also from The Hangar at the OC Fair & Event Center, where a crowd of 1,000 is expected.

Payout Perspective:

Its always interesting to see the viability of local promotions and it appears that the SoCal scene is doing well. With four shows in 48 hours, Fight Club OC may be stretching itself out but it seems like there is a market for both boxing and MMA. The co-promotions with Golden Boy and BAMMA are good signs that the quality of fights should be competitive and entertaining.

Authentic Brands Group Announces SVP Media and Entertainment

May 18, 2011

NEW YORK, May 18th, 2011 – New York based intellectual property company Authentic Brands Group has named Mike Straka senior vice president of media and entertainment to head up strategic content initiatives for brands including TapouT, TapouT MPS, Silver Star, Iron Star, Sinister, Hitman Fight Gear and Marilyn Monroe.

“Straka’s expertise in multimedia will help grow our content offerings and distribution across all of our brands on multiple platforms,” said Jamie Salter, chairman and CEO, ABG. “His demonstrated body of work in MMA has made him one of the most respected broadcast journalists in mixed martial arts today. We are looking forward to having Mike Straka represent our brands in all forms of media and entertainment.”

“Mike has been a huge supporter of MMA and TapouT throughout the years,” said Dan “Punkass” Caldwell, president and co-founder of TapouT. “We are excited to have him on our team and look forward to collaborating with him as we continue to be the leading MMA apparel and lifestyle brand.”

A former vice president and executive producer at FOX News Digital, Straka brings nearly twenty years of major media experience to ABG and will be responsible for building strategic media partner- ships for ABG brands, and head up content channels that will serve to make, TapouT Radio and ABG’s partners the premier destinations for mixed martial arts news and entertainment coverage.

“This is a dream job for me,” said Straka. “MMA is my passion and TapouT is the leading brand in MMA lifestyle and entertainment. To be a part of the vision set upon by the late Mask and his partners Punkass and Skyskrape more than ten years ago is an honor. Authentic Brands Group is a company that cultivates the type of entrepreneurial spirit and environment that I thrive in, and I’m up for the challenge.”

In addition, Straka will represent ABG and TapouT on all forms of media, analyzing fight cards, break- ing UFC® news and interviewing the fighters.

While at FOX Straka was responsible for video operations, vendor relations and online programming, and he was the host and executive producer of “Fox Fight Game,” one of the first weekly MMA pro- grams dating back to UFC 32.

Most recently, Straka was the host of “Fighting Words with Mike Straka” on HDNet, a one-on-one interview program featuring the biggest names in MMA, including UFC president Dana White and a rare interview with UFC chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, as well as dozens of sit-downs with the world’s greatest MMA fighters.

Zuffa’s Former WEC Staff Takes Over Strikeforce

May 17, 2011

All it took was two events after the Strikeforce purchase was announced for Zuffa to take over the Strikeforce promotion and replace the staff, quickly disproving the “business as usual” motto tied to the acquisition two months ago.

According to MMAPayout sources, May 9th, 2011 was the last day Strikeforce was an MMA  promotion under Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, their previous owners who sold the budding promotion to Zuffa, LLC.  A few days after 5/9, Scott Coker and Peter Dropick met with the old Strikeforce staff individually to inform them that their services would no longer be required to avoid operational overlap and inefficiencies. A couple of staff members were offered positions to join Zuffa, but accepting the job would required a move to Las Vegas, which was not seen as a desirable move for those that were already established in Northern California. Those few opted to stay in the Bay Area instead.  Those that were willing to relocate and accept an offer from Zuffa were not offered a position.

As MMAPayout reported last month, Strikeforce employees were aware that after the April 9 event, staff changes were going to be made by early May and Zuffa would complete the process around early July, when most Strikeforce staff is expected to have worked their last days under the promotion.  Rich Chou was let go a few weeks ago and was replaced by former WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby.  Former WEC VP Peter Dropick will now do most of the heavy lifting for Strikeforce, as he was assigned to help run the promotion shortly after it was purchased.

It is still unclear what Scott Coker’s role will be going forward, but he will still be the figurehead of the promotion as long as they are up and running. It’s said that part of Scott Coker’s contract, besides a guaranteed job with Zuffa, included a clause that states he does not need to relocate to Las Vegas and could continue to work from his San Jose office, though that could not be confirmed upon publishing this article.  Former WEC PR director Dave Sholler has been traveling with the Strikeforce staff helping promote their events since the purchase was announced, and will continue to spearhead the PR efforts for upcoming events.  He flies to Dallas this week to meet up with Scott Coker, Herschel Walker, and Josh Barnett for a press tour in order to promote the second leg of the Heavyweight Grand Prix event in June.


Payout Perspective:

In post mergers and acquisitions, these type of layoffs are expected and it’s no difference in this case.  In fact, considering the situation regarding the Strikeforce TV deal with Showtime – which will be up around February/March of 2012 – it makes perfect sense.  During that time, Showtime will have the option of extending the TV deal, which would keep Strikeforce alive for the span of that deal.  Without an extension, many in the MMA industry believe the promotion could be folded as early as second quarter of 2012.  Negotiations between Zuffa and Showtime should heat up in the upcoming months leading up to the expiration date of the current TV contract.

Behind the scenes, Strikeforce is continuing to sign young prospects (Yuri Villefort, Maximo Blanco) and popular veterans (Keith Jardine, Jeff Monson) to fill up their cards, since they have a heavy schedule planned with Showtime for the remainder of the year.  During recent contract negotiations, fighters have stated that they only spoke to Zuffa personnel (no one from Strikeforce) and that everything ran a bit smoother behind the scenes since the takeover.  Fighter manager Monte Cox told that Zuffa wasted no time in making changes:

“We didn’t get per diem [money]. We didn’t get mileage [money]. They just didn’t pay those things for the undercard…. Now there’s per diem. Now there’s travel. Now there’s three nights for a hotel. Instantly that all changed. For those guys, it’s a homerun.”

Along with increasing incentives for undercard fighters, Zuffa has done away with amateur fighters in the prelim slots, which will in fact help many in the Strikeforce roster who complained that they weren’t getting enough fights.  The extra room will allow to book more fighters already under contract, though Showtime will continue their policy not to air the prelims.  As a result, the UFC was looking to package those fights into another outlet for the fans, and although Facebook is a likely destination, nothing has been officially announced or confirmed yet.

No matter what type of outcome the Showtime TV negotiations produce, it appears that Zuffa  has their personnel ready to either keep the promotion running or start the merge process, a move similar to what the WEC experienced just a year ago.  Luckily for the former WEC staff, they are on the other side of the merger talks this time around.


Round 5 signs licensing agreement with Bruce Lee Enterprises

May 17, 2011

Round 5 collectibles announced today that it has signed an exclusive global licensing agreement with Bruce Lee Enterprises to produce Bruce Lee-themed collectibles, toys and games until 2015.

Via Round 5 press release:

“We are honored to be working with a brand with such a storied legacy as Bruce Lee,” Lau said. “We feel that we can use this opportunity to broaden the reach of both Bruce Lee and Round 5 into the niche collectible and mainstream arenas as there is already so much synergy between our brands.”

Shannon Lee, President & CEO of Bruce Lee Enterprises and daughter of Bruce Lee, believes Round 5 is the perfect partner to carry her father’s legacy into the 21st century.

“We are constantly approached by companies that want to create products under the Bruce Lee name, but we always knew we wanted to wait until we found a company that would adequately compliment my father’s legacy,” said Lee. “We are so very proud to have found Damon Lau and Round 5, we believe that Round 5 will honor my father’s name and create products that will respect his legacy.”

Development on Bruce Lee products has begun and Round 5 expects Lee products by the fall of 2011.

Payout Perspective:

As you may recall, in addition to Bruce Lee, Round 5 has a licensing deal with the UFC. This move helps Round 5 in the combat sports market as Bruce Lee is still a very popular figure amongst fight enthusiasts. For Bruce Lee Enterprises, its a good move considering the work and exposure Round 5 has received working with the UFC.

Bellator 44: 325,000 viewers

May 17, 2011

This past Saturday’s Bellator 44 on MTV2 drew the largest audience of its season with 325,000 viewers tuning in. The telecast also delivered the network’s highest M18-49 rating in the time period according to an email sent by MTV2.

Bellator 44’s strong showing was up 90% in P18-49, 23% in M18-34 and 77% in overall viewership. The replay delivered 145,000 viewers which is more than the original showing of Bellator 41.

Payout Perspective:

A very solid showing and good news for Bellator. The ratings, including the replay, show a breakthrough in the mediocre ratings. Bellator 44 ran relatively unopposed to any other live sports on television so maybe that helped. It will be interesting to see if Bellator can continue this week with the ratings.

UFC Gym opens in Corona, Hawaii Next

May 16, 2011

MMA Weekly reports that the UFC and BJ Penn will partner to open a UFC Gym in Waikiki, Hawaii. The official announcement was made during the grand opening of the third UFC Gym in Corona, California.

Via MMA Weekly:

With Penn’s name attached to this new gym, one can only wonder if more fighters will follow his lead and partner up with the UFC and its gym brand around the country.

UFC vice president of community relations Reed Harris confirmed that Penn is only the beginning. In the coming years, the UFC and its gym brand plan to partner with other marquee fighters to open more gyms in several communities.

Penn indicated that the gym will have programs specifically for children. The initial plan is to have the gym in place by early to mid-2012.

The UFC and Penn have been working for a couple years to establish a gym affiliated with the former lightweight champ in Hawaii. An article from the Honolulu Star Advertiser states that the UFC was also working with Georges St. Pierre about establishing a UFC Gym in GSP’s native Montreal.

Payout Perspective:

The idea of UFC Gyms affiliated with its stars is a creative way to keep extending the UFC brand. With the names of fighters attached to the gyms, it could only help with name/brand awareness. Establishing a gym in Penn’s native state can only help with Hawaiian fans. Penn is very popular in Hawaii and one can only imagine the number of memberships the UFC could sell at a UFC/Penn Gym.

Cablevision offers MMA channel

May 16, 2011

The Sports Business Journal reports that Cablevision is launching a channel focusing on MMA. Fight Now! will be offered on Cablevision’s sports and entertainment tier beginning May 24th.

Cablevision’s sports and entertainment tier is currently in 100,000-130,000 homes. The channel will only be offered on Cablevision for its New York audience. A bit of irony considering the ban on MMA in the state.

A description of Fight Now! from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association web site:

Fight Now!, America’s first 24 hour television channel dedicated to giving viewers a front row seat, seven days a week to experience the very best in boxing, wrestling/grappling, mixed martial arts and other combatant styles; along with top notch “fight theme” movies, documentaries and wrap around news coverage makes Fight Now! the untimate TV destination for fight fans.

The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) states that Randy Couture is a minority owner in the channel.  The channel does not have a deal with the UFC although Couture is quoted as being hopeful of developing a relationship with the UFC.

Via SBJ:

The channel will include all combat sports — including boxing and wrestling — but will focus on mixed martial arts.

“What Speed is for motorized sports, we’ll be for combat sports,” Garrow said.

Channel Zero is backing Fight Now TV, which will be based in New York City. Channel Zero is an independent Canadian broadcaster that has launched 10 TV channels in Canada, including one called Fight Network.

Fight Now! has plans to develop original shows for the channel as well as showing complete live or taped events every night. There are no big ad deals at the moment although executives indicated that it is in talks with several companies.

Payout Perspective:

This will be an interesting glimpse into what could be the future of the UFC. While the channel will not be available to many homes, it should be an interesting look as to how viewers and advertisers respond to the channel. Will there be more people willing to upgrade to Cablevision’s sports and entertainment tier? Will advertisers be willing to spend its ad dollars on a non-UFC product? For the UFC, it will be a look at the demand for a 24 hour channel.  If Couture is able to talk the UFC into providing content, the channel may find some success. But, it may be hard to start-up a channel without the UFC content.

UFC offers bonuses under new Twitter policy

May 15, 2011

The UFC announced this past week at its UFC Fighter Summit that it will offer bonuses to fighters using their twitter accounts. MMA Fighting reports that fighters will receive bonuses based on the number of their followers and the creativity of their tweets.

As most have pointed out, the new policy comes with some risk as other leagues have found out regarding the downside of twitter (see e.g., Rashard Mendenhall, Reggie Bush).

Via MMA Fighting:

Starting June 1, UFC and Strikeforce fighters will be divided into four categories, based on how many Twitter followers they currently have. At the end of each quarter, three fighters from each category will be awarded a $5,000 bonus. The three winners will be based on who has gained the most followers since the start of the quarter, who gained the highest percentage of new followers and who wrote the most creative tweets. White will be the judge of the last category.

At the conclusion of a full calendar year, the UFC will end up paying $240,000 a year to its fighters for their Twitter usage.

Payout Perspective:

This is another step by the UFC in embracing social media. Its a creative way to actively request fighters to promote themselves while passively promoting the UFC. The twitter policy gives the fighters a chance to build their own brand while promoting the UFC. There are obvious pitfalls as well as having tweets taken out of context. UFC head Dana White has had twitter feuds with fans and fighters (see Tito Ortiz).

I surmise that the UFC required the fighters attend some “social media seminar” to educate the fighters on twitter (i.e., refrain from tweeting on controversial topics such as politics, religion, racist remarks). Also, erasing tweets does not erase them (see Matt Hasselback).  It will be interesting to see if there will be more twitter feuds between fighters. That could be entertaining…or annoying.

Overall, a good way to incentivize fighters to help out in the promotion of the UFC.

Paul Heyman helping Carwin for UFC 131 Countdown show

May 15, 2011

According to Shane Carwin’s twitter and the Wrestling Observer former pro-wrestling promoter Paul Heyman is producing Spike TV’s UFC 131 Countdown show.  Heyman originally was scheduled to assist with Brock Lesnar and now is helping Carwin.

According to the Wrestling Observer (subscription required), Heyman was hired by the production company producing the UFC Countdown shows and not by the UFC. Heyman’s relationship with Lesnar probably helped in getting him the job. Heyman last produced spots for EA Sports MMA featuring the likes of Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez.

Payout Perspective:

Since Lesnar was forced out of UFC 131, Spike asked if Heyman could help with Shane Carwin. As the Wrestling Observer noted, it couldn’t hurt that Heyman, a master of promotion from his pre-WWE, ECW days, help UFC guys with cutting promos. While it appears that Heyman’s involvement is limited to this one show, it will be interesting to see how different it is from other Countdown shows. Is this a move by Spike to bring more of an entertainment aspect to its UFC content? TUF ratings have been down and a part of the reason is the lack of characters for viewers to follow.  Of course, Heyman’s involvment could have been as a favor for Lesnar.

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