Leben suspended one year for failed drug test

November 30, 2011

Chris Leben has been suspended by the UFC for one year for use of painkillers. Instead of dismissing Leben, it appears the UFC will assist Leben in trying to rehabilitate the middleweight.

According to the USA Today, Leben tested positive for Oxycodone and Oxymorphone on November 5th. Leben lost to Mark Munoz that day at UFC 138. Leben also tested positive for the steroid Stanozolol at UFC 89. Ironically, both tests, and fights, occurred in Birmingham, England.

For his part, Leben acknowledged his problem and released a statement through the UFC:

“I would like to make it known that I fully accept this suspension and apologize for embarrassing the UFC, my friends and family, and sport of mixed martial arts. I’m learning that I’m my own worst enemy sometimes. I can’t succeed in the Octagon or in life behaving this way. I’ve got to make some real changes over the next year and I’m going to focus on getting my life and career back on track. Again, I’m sorry to the UFC and fans that’ve supported me since my days on The Ultimate Fighter.”

Payout Perspective:

For as much as this is a personal problem for Leben, it is a public relations issue for the UFC. Both Leben and the UFC handled it with tact, openness and there seems to be hope that there will be a future for Leben in the UFC.

We have seen in the past the UFC dismiss fighters that have failed drug tests. In this case, while Leben is a repeat offender, the UFC has shown support for him. The fact that Leben released a statement through the UFC shows Leben has accepted his problem and is willing to receive help.

Via the USA Today:

“If he needs professional help, we are going to be there for him,” Zuffa President Dana White said Monday in a statement. “We want to see him succeed not only in the Octagon, but in his personal life.”

Perhaps its the fact that the UFC is now partners with Fox and there are more eyes on how the UFC handles drug testing issues. It could be the type of drug that Leben tested positive. Many professional wrestling fans realize that pain killers have been a major reason for the deaths of many performers. Certainly, the UFC could have released Leben citing his failed drug test and the fact that he is a multiple offender. Yet, from a public relations standpoint, it seems callous to drop Leben, an individual with a self-destructive past, without offering some type of help. It will be interesting to see if this will be the start of a UFC-type Wellness Program similar to the WWE program.

For more info on the subject, Fight Opinion has a detailed article with text of an interview Dr. Johnny Benjamin did with Mauro Ranallo on the use of pain killers in MMA.

Bellator 59: 265,000 viewers

November 29, 2011

MMA Junkie reports that Bellator 59’s ratings this past Saturday received an average of 265,000 viewers. A replay of the event Saturday night received an average of 136,000 viewers.

Bellator also ran an encore showing of the much talked about Alvarez-Chandler fight from Bellator 58. The replay received an average viewership of 237,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

Although Bellator 59 was slightly lower than 58 (269,000 viewers), the numbers are steady. The slight decline this past weekend is likely due to the long weekend and holiday shopping. But still the numbers for the replay of the Alvarez-Chandler fight shows an increase in fan viewership.

ION Television to air UFC 140 Prelims

November 29, 2011

Heavy.com is reporting that ION Television will run the prelims for UFC 140 on December 10th. Spike TV will carry the prelims for UFC 141 on December 30th in what will be the last UFC live televised event on the network.

The UFC aired its prelims for UFC 125 and 127 in January and February 2011 respectively. The prelims on ION had the lowest viewership out of all of the UFC Prelims. The prelims, airing on Spike TV, for UFC 136, 137 and 139 have suffered from low ratings.

Payout Perspective:

Its a little odd to move the prelims for UFC 140 to ION and then back to Spike TV for UFC 141. Its not clear if there was a programming conflict or by choice but it creates an issue for the casual fan. Of course, fans will need to check their local listings when the prelims for UFC 142 airs on FX or Fuel TV. With the switch to Fox in 2012, UFC Prelims will air on three different networks for three straight cards. Certainly, UFC will hope that the programming will stabilize once it moves to the Fox family.

UPDATE: It looks like that Spike TV will be airing the Video Game Awards on December 10th which is the reason for the UFC’s move to ION.

Survey: UFC has growth potential but some still skeptical

November 28, 2011

The Sports Business Journal released its results from its annual reader’s survey. While the UFC received some praise, the most telling result was whether sponsors should align its brand with the UFC.

According to the industry publication, of the 1,158 respondents to the question: “If you were a chief marketing officer, would you align your brand with the UFC?” 55 percent of the readers said it would not align its brand with the UFC. 28 percent of the respondent believed it would fit its demo while the other 16 percent had no opinion.

Another survey question indicates that its believed that sports sponsorship will increase slightly in the next five years.

Despite the result that many would not align its brand with the UFC, other responses were positive. Readers ranked the UFC third as a sports property/organization with the most potential growth. Of almost 1,500 respondents, 14 percent ranked the UFC behind the MLS and NHL. It also ranked fourth behind the NFL, MLB and the NHL as the most innovative property. It ranked ahead of the MLS and NBA.

Payout Perspective:

While the results do not define the future of the UFC, or MMA in general, the Sports Business Journal is regarded as an informative source in the sports industry. Its read by many mainstream sports people and I would gather that they are just being introduced to the world of mixed martial arts. The UFC-Fox deal certainly will help with the education and we will see how it will do in next year’s survey. While the UFC is receiving recognition for its growth potential and use of new media, it still seems as though skeptics are concerned about the violence in the sport. This could hurt with the future of landing mainstream sponsors despite its ties with Fox. With the belief that sports sponsorship will increase its spending in the future, the biggest hurdle that the UFC much face if it is to garner sponsors is educating a mainstream audience about its sport.

NeuLion-UFC introduce new UFC.tv phone app

November 26, 2011

NeuLion, Inc. has introduced an all-access mobile phone app for the Android platform. The app allows Android users to stream UFC PPVs.

As one might recall, NeuLion and UFC entered into a partnership which would enhance UFC.tv.

Here are the features of the UFC.tv app via UFC and NeuLion joint press release:

-Live streaming of Pay-Per-View events, weigh-ins and press conferences

-Multiple live video and audio feeds during the broadcast: English, Spanish, Red Corner and Blue Corner

-Ability to score the fight in real-time and get an aggregate of every vote

-UFC fighter index sortable by weight class. Each fighter’s profile has key stats — wins/losses, height, weight, etc.

-Access to the UFC Fight Library of video

-Free videos including: event countdown shows, fighter interviews, press conferences, event previews, fighter workouts and other UFC free video content
TV schedule

-Video highlights and VOD events

-Constantly updated news section featuring articles about the latest UFC fighters, events, interviews and profiles of fighters

Payout Perspective:

The Android app makes sense considering Android made up 44 percent of mobile app downloads in 2010.. While this app definitely allows for continued growth for the UFC audience, the price points remain the same for PPVs. Unless you are on the road, paying for a UFC PPV on your phone for the same price as you would have to pay at home seems disproportionate. Still, it appears that there is access to free content which might make this app something UFC fans may seek to download.

MMAterial Facts (11/25/11) : Black Friday Edition

November 26, 2011

Welcome to this week’s edition of MMAterial Facts, where we feature articles from around the MMA community.

This week’s MMAterial Facts:

Courtesy of Bellator Fighting Championships (Fight of the Year Candidate)

– Fowlkes: The Indestructible Daniel Cormier (MMA Fighting)

“The first kid begins to cry less than an hour into practice. Everyone can see it coming. That trembling lower lip, that frustrated stomp of the feet. When the tears finally start, twisting his face into a little ball of anguish, no one seems particularly surprised.

“No crying today,” says his coach, Daniel Cormier. Is there even a hint of sympathy in his voice? There is not. Neither is there anger nor impatience. There is only a sense that this is what we are doing because this is what must be done, and crying never won a single wrestling match.”

– When Fedor met Satoshi Ishii on NYE; card will not air on broadcast TV (Fight Opinion)

“The scuttlebutt coming out of Fedor’s decision win over Jeff Monson in Russia is that he will fight on the Inoki NYE card at Saitama Super Arena against Inoki-managed/owned-in-Japan fighter Satoshi Ishii. On paper, the fight makes sense for both parties. Fedor sees it as a chance to get a win, as ugly as it may be, over a relatively green fighter and an easy payday plus TV rights in Russia. Inoki’s camp views it as a chance to get Fedor back in Japan (where he’s the most valued, still) and that Ishii can somehow make the match ugly enough to get a decision win as long as Fedor doesn’t tag him early and knock his ass out.”

Redeeming Filipino: Phillipe Nover Bellator 59 exclusive interview (MMA Mania)

“I’m not the next Anderson Silva, I’m not the next Georges St. Pierre. I have my own type of style and I like to take things from different people. I like to take different movements and styles and stuff but I’m not trying to be the next Georges. I’m not trying to be the next Anderson, I’m the next Phillipe Nover and that’s what I’m gonna live up to.”

– Rampage Jackson vs. Ryan Bader Booked For UFC 144 In Japan (MMA Convert)

“So it looks like Rampage Jackson is going to fight in Japan after all.

But it won’t be against Shogun Rua or even Stephan Bonnar. Instead, Rampage will take on Ryan Bader at UFC 144. Lorenzo Fertitta confirmed the news with ESPN.com.”

– Jens Pulver’s 2011 Videogame Holiday Buyer’s Guide (MiddleEasy)

“The holiday season is upon us and with the jingling bells, festive lights and awkward family gatherings a veritable avalanche of amazing games are at our gamepad worn fingertips. With many choices comes great responsibility, so what games will you spend your hard earned holiday windfalls of cash on? We recruited Jens Pulver to help you answer this very question. After hours of contemplation and debate, Jens and MiddleEasy compiled the following items that should be at the top of every gamers list and at the bottom of every tree. This is Jens Pulver’s Holiday Buying Guide-Only at MiddleEasy.com.”

– Dana White: The UFC Is Going On With Or Without Me (FightLine)

“This is McDonald’s man. This thing goes on forever without me,” White asserted. “Is it different without me? Yeah, maybe it’s a little different, but they don’t need me, man. This thing’s goin’ on without me or with me.”

– MMA Black Friday: 7 Things That Money Can’t Buy (Cage Potato)

“From revolutionizing the MMA landscape with a kick the way the Miami Dolphins did with a Wildcat Offense a few years ago to several strangely fascinating videos, Anderson Silva has provided more entertainment than a Chael Sonnen Says F*ck Canada or at Least This Reporter Who Lives There” Chael Sonnen interview. These are memories that will last a lifetime, or three if you’re Cheick Kongo.”

– Grappling with Issues – 11/25/11 (Five Ounces of Pain)

“I’m torn. On one hand, Rua vs. Henderson was unquestionably excellent – a “Fight of the Decade” type affair. On the other, it would be nearly impossible to top from an entertainment standpoint. To expect a repeat performance would akin to telling Leonardo Da Vinci to paint another Mona Lisa rather than enjoying the masterpiece he’d already put on canvas. Like Lambert I suppose I’ll say I’m open to the idea if divisional contendership dictates it but otherwise I’m content with having seen one of the greatest fights in MMA history, letting each man move on to new challenges (especially with Henderson likely only having a few more years in the sport).”

– Dan Henderson Doing His Part for Thanksgiving and Christmas (5thRound)

“Thanks to Dan Henderson and the generous fans that purchased the ‘Hendo UFC 139 Walkout Tee’ he wore this past Saturday in his epic battle against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, almost 8,000 people at the San Diego Rescue Mission and the Denver Rescue Mission will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with their loved ones. “

– Vadim Finkelstein: We will offer the UFC a fight between Velasquez and Fedor (LowKick)

“We are determined to move forward, and would like to offer the UFC a fight between Cain Velasquez and Fedor Emelianenko. M-1 Global would take a full responsibility of organizing the fight sometime during 2012 in Moscow, Russia. I can guarantee Dana White great revenue from this fight, and a record-breaking attendance. M-1 Global is ready for dialogue, and would be happy to consider an option of organizing such tournament with combined efforts. I will make an offer to “my best friend” pretty soon, so we’ll see what he has to say.”

– Michael Chandler discusses epic win over Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 58 (TheFightNerd)

“Fight Nerd correspondent Rodolfo Roman got to speak with newly crowned Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler after his four round war with Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 58 last Saturday. Chandler discusses winning his first national belt, preparing for Alvarez, and his future as champion. The fight had obviously taken a heavy toll on Chandler as, during the interview, one of his facial wounds reopened.”

– Where Does Dan Henderson Fall on the List of All-Time MMA Greats? (BleacherReport.com/MMA)

“There is no one to be ashamed about on that list. He also holds victories over Misaki and Wanderlei Silva. That means of his eight losses, there are only five fighters he hasn’t redeemed himself against.

Henderson is currently on a four-fight win streak, including winning Strikeforce’s light heavyweight championship and stopping Fedor Emelianenko. Now Henderson’s future is up in the air. “

Strikeforce Challengers 20: 143,000 viewers

November 25, 2011

MMA Junkie reports that last week’s Strikeforce Challengers 20 on Showtime scored a lowly average of 143,000 viewers. The numbers indicate the lowest rating for the series as well as a 30 percent decrease from the previous Strikeforce Challengers edition which averaged 203,000 viewers.

The show received a 0.42 household rating (via Wrestling Observer, subscription required).

The show featured Ronda Rousey submitting Julia Budd with an armbar. Replays were gruesome as Budd’s arm was bent a way it should not have. In addition, Lumumba Sayers knocked out Antwain Britt in the first round.

Payout Perspective:

With Bellator and the UFC holding cards on Saturday night, Strikeforce Challengers seemed overlooked. This does not bode well for the series and we will see what impact the dismal ratings may have for the future of Strikeforce on Showtime.

NBC Sports announces boxing programming in 2012

November 23, 2011

Boxing will be a new addition to NBC Sports programming in 2012. NBC Sports Network (now known as Versus until 2012) will debut NBC Sports Network Fight Night on Saturday night January 21, 2012 from Philadelphia.

The Fight Nights will be produced on a quarterly basis with fight nights in January, March, June and December in 2012.

Via NBC Sports Network press release:

NBC Sports Group will work with Main Events (Promotions) and Hall-of-Fame matchmaker J Russell Peltz on a multi-promoter strategy for NBC Sports Network Fight Night designed to produce the best quality fights. It is a strategy in which any promoter can participate to get their boxers involved in these programs.

“This is a unique approach to have multiple promoters competing to put fights on NBC Sports Network,” said Jon Miller, President, programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “That, coupled with the legendary matchmaker J Russell Peltz serving as our quality control expert, ensures that boxing fans will enjoy exciting and competitive matches.”

(H/t: Bad Left Hook and Boxing Insider)

Payout Perspective:

It was once rumored that the UFC would land with NBC/Versus. It looks like NBC Sports has chosen boxing to bolster its sports content for 2012. This will be interesting to see how it will compete with HBO, Showtime and ESPN offerings of boxing programming. The multi-promoter approach will be another interesting component of its Fight Nights. How much will NBC Sports Network be able to promote these fighters for a casual audience to tune in? Will NBC Sports invest programming to market the fighters prior to the Fight Nights? We will see how successful these programs will be for the NBC Sports Network and whether it will expand in the future.

Bellator 58: 269,000 viewers

November 22, 2011

MMA Junkie reports that Bellator 58 held this past Saturday scored an average of 269,000 viewers. Bellator 58 tied for highest ratings this season and is an  impressive number considering it went up against UFC 139.

Despite the competition from the UFC, Bellator ratings doubled from last week.

Via MMA Junkie:

An additional 160,000 viewers watched an immediate replay of Bellator 58, meaning a total of 429,000 viewers watched the event on fight night.

The company does not release viewership numbers for the preliminary streams, but a source close to the promotion said the figure was up 97 percent from the previous week’s total.

Payout Perspective:

Very good numbers for Bellator which were aided by Hector Lombard and the Chandler-Alvarez fight. The replay earned solid numbers likely from the social media buzz of the Chandler-Alvarez fight. The ratings could be a sign that Bellator can compete with the UFC. But, more likely, its a sign that the UFC promoted its Fox debut so much that 139 was an afterthought that did not get a lot of promotion. Based on the UFC on Fox’s numbers, the Bellator ratings increase for its stream and show are impressive but must be tempered considering how big the Fox debut was for UFC (and for Fox).

UFC 139 Prelims: 1.2 million viewers

November 22, 2011

MMA Junkie reports that the UFC 139 Prelims on Spike TV scored an average of 1.2 million viewers. The pre-PPV fights received a 0.9 household rating and won its time slot among male viewers in the 18-34 demographic.

The UFC 139 Prelims were second among males in the 18-49 demographic for the time slot.

The prelims ranked 20th all time among airing the UFC Prelims on Spike TV and ION Television.

Payout Perspective:

Since September’s UFC 135 Prelims, which received the third all-time highest rating (1.6 million), the UFC Prelims have dropped.Even though it did well in its time slot in key demos, comparing UFC 139 Prelims to its predecessors shows that the numbers are decreasing. We may be experiencing some MMA fatigue as some have suggested. The last three prelim shows have ranked no higher than 20th (out of 27 shows) in the history of the UFC Prelims.

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