The financial punch of delaying fights

February 29, 2012

Larry Pugmire of the LA Times reported on the financial impact of delaying boxing matches due to injury. Its an interesting article that shows the differences between MMA and boxing when faced with injuries.

As most know, 2011 was a year wrought with injuries for the UFC. Zuffa had to shuffle around PPV lineups and make accommodations for fighters. Already this year, Mark Munoz had to pull out of his network televised co-main event against Chael Sonnen.

The LA Times article looks at the millions that are lost when the main event of a boxing card is scratched due to injury. Most of the time, even if the other boxer can go, the fight is scrapped altogether instead of finding a replacement fighter.

One of the more egregious examples of losing money due to a late scratch was promoter Gary Shaw, who purchased a Ferrari with the site fee advance for the Lennox Lewis-Kirk Johnson fight in 2003. When an injury postponed the fight, an alternative fee structure was offered.

Via LA Times:

Tim Leiweke, president of AEG and Staples Center, then scratched the $3.4-million site-fee payment to Shaw and offered a new deal in which the promoter would collect money based only on how many fight tickets could be sold for a different Lewis matchup.

The most recent example is the anticipated Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto fight which was postponed earlier in February due to an injury to Berto. The rematch has tentatively been pushed to June.

A repercussion of the postponement of a fight to a later date is the depletion of live gate due to the fact that fans that planned to attend the original date cannot make it to the rescheduled date. Pugmire’s piece points to the Andre Ward-Carl Froch fight which was postponed due to injury. Many British Fans of Froch could not make the rescheduled date in Atlantic City.

The article also states that delaying a PPV is a headache since a new date has to be approved by satellite and cable providers. This also has to be coordinated with the site of the fight. The trickle down effect continues as fighters on the undercard must agree to the new date to keep the card together. This can place a huge burden on undercard fighters who don’t make a lot as it is.

Payout Perspective:

Even if a main event is scrapped in the UFC, Dana White will find someone to replace the injured fighter and make sure that everyone agrees to the new fight. Also, ample time is given to hype most of the main card of the PPV. The UFC did cancel its Montreal PPV far in advance to ensure that it could bring the city a quality night of fights. As most of us know, big boxing PPVs are based solely on the main event matchup and rarely is the undercard hyped. As outlined in the article, a delay of a boxing card is a financial burden for the promoters, their staff and fight camps.

The huge fees to hold the cards and the reliance solely on one fight are big issues promoters will need to address if boxing is to turn itself around. As for the UFC, it may be unfair to compare the two business models considering the amount of control Zuffa has with its fighters. If you are not at the top of the card, you may not have a say as to who or when you will fight next. One need only look at Frankie Edgar as a fighter that may be directed into his next fight.

Slice to host debut of Spike’s “Ultimate Fighter Fridays”

February 28, 2012

Kimbo Slice will host the premiere of Spike TV’s Ultimate Fighter Fridays which will show the best of the 14 seasons of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV. Spike TV hopes to counterprogram FX’s TUF and Bellator by utilizing the former TUF 10 competitor.

Via Spike TV press release:

Kimbo will discuss never-before-revealed details of his experiences on the show and provide insight into what went on when the cameras weren’t rolling during the filming of the “The Ultimate Fighter:  Heavyweights.” Season 10 was the highest-rated of all the 14 seasons on Spike, delivering an average of 3.4 million viewers per week.

Every week, “The Ultimate Fighter Fridays” will feature the greatest episodes from the 14 seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter.”  From Rashad Evans to Matt Serra, from Forrest Griffin to Kimbo Slice, “The Ultimate Fighter Fridays” on Spike TV will showcase all the incredible knockouts, unbelievable submissions, and tense drama from the hit Spike series.  The network will air special-themed editions of “The Ultimate Fighter Fridays” with input from fans.  To get their voices heard, fans can follow Spike on Facebook and Twitter to share what episodes they’d like to see.

Ultimate Fighter Fridays begin March 9th. Slice will host a night featuring Heavyweights from past TUF episodes.

Payout Perspective:

While some may not appreciate the counterprogramming tactics, Spike TV is taking advantage of the opportunity to utilize the UFC library. Having Kimbo Slice host the debut is another good move. Despite not being an ultimate fighter, Slice is a ratings grabber. Season 10 was one of the highest rated seasons in TUF history due to Slice. His May 2008 fight with James Thompson (remember the ear explosion) on CBS scored 1 million more viewers than UFC on Fox 1. Its a good way for Spike to kick off its Friday series.

UFC 144 Prelims: 1.5 million viewers

February 28, 2012

MMA Junkie reports that the UFC 144 Prelims on FX scored 1.5 million viewers. Saturday night’s two hour broadcast was the best rating for the program in its short time on the network.

Previously, UFC 143 garnered 1.4 million viewers and UFC 142 received 880,000 viewers. As far as competition for viewers on Saturday night, the prelims went up against NBA All-Star Saturday which is losing its luster despite good ratings.

Payout Perspective:

Encouraging numbers for the prelims on FX. It seems like people are adjusting to the move and the two hour coverage. According to MMA Weekly, the UFC Prelims averaged 1.41 million viewers over the 25 episodes for the 1 hour prelim show on Spike TV. So, the future looks bright for the prelims on FX.

UFC 144: Payout Perspective

February 27, 2012

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at UFC 144 from Tokyo, Japan with Zuffa’s first show in the country. The fans saw a great main event with Frankie Edgar defending his title versus former WEC titleholder Benson Henderson.

Henderson takes title from Edgar

It was worth the price of the PPV. A back and forth fight that saw the fight turn on a vicious upkick which rocked Edgar. Henderson was the aggressor despite Edgar landing more strikes. Edgar showed the heart of a champion but the size disparity was clear.

For Henderson, the win was redemption from the “Showtime Kick” almost 14 months earlier. How ironic that Anthony Pettis headkick of Joe Lauzon propelled him into a title shot against Henderson…the man he took the WEC belt from with that highlight reel kick.

For Edgar, it seemed too soon to ask about dropping a weight class. If anyone deserves a rematch, its Edgar, the guy that upset the legendary BJ Penn…and then dominated him to prove it wasn’t a fluke in the rematch. We’ll see what’s ahead but the initial outlook sounds like a move down to face Jose Aldo.

Bader gets win against overweight Rampage

A couple fights removed from reviving Tito Ortiz’s career, Bader took control of his own by defeating an unimpressive Rampage Jackson. This was not the best Jackson as he missed weight and claimed a knee injury as the reason. Still, a win is a win and gets Bader back on track.

For a guy that begged to be on this card, Jackson didn’t look like it. He was probably the most popular of the non-Japanese fighters on the card, yet it was clear he wasn’t at his best. Does this mean the end for him or does he get motivated once again for another run in the division.

Okami upset

Tim Boetsch came back from a 2-0 round deficit by knocking out crowd favorite Yushin Okami in Round 3. Okami was dominant in the first two rounds and looked like the guy that was supposed to fight Anderson Silva in Brazil. Unfortunately, he didn’t finish the fight and was upset. It stunned the crowd and Joe Rogan went nuts.

Attendance and Gate

A very good crowd for a Sunday morning in Tokyo. Although no numbers were made official, the UFC indicated that ticket sales were going well. There was a late surge in ticket sales and WOWOW confirmed at least 15K seats were sold (H/t: Tony Loiseleur of Sherdog). The Saitama Super Arena could house 22,000 for an event.

Bonuses

According to MMA Junkie, bonuses were $65,000 each and went as follows:

– Anthony Pettis – KO of the Night
– Vaughn Lee – Submission of the Night
– Edgar/Henderson – Fight of the Night

Sponsorships

The Octagon included some Japanese signage (WOWOW, Shindai and Unity) along with the core of Tapout, Xyience, Toyo, Corn Nuts and Bud Light. UFC Undisputed 3 and Jason Staham’s upcoming movie “Safe” also were in the Octagon.

Zach Arnold of Fight Opinion noted the lack of Japanese sponsors. Its interesting considering that in Brazil, there was more of a presence of Brazilian sponsors as they sponsored fighters.

Full Metal Jousting took a more active role as it sponsored the tale of the tape. As an aside, I’ve actually started watching the show after hearing about it. This article thinks it could be the next UFC.

No MetroPCS this time in the Octagon although it was still a named sponsor.

Anthony Pettis had Corn Nuts, Toyo Tires and Xyience as his prime in ring sponsors. Certainly, sponsors think highly of Showtime.

I think if more agents want to get more visibility for his fighter and their sponsors should tweet their sponsors:

Although not shown, the tweet includes a picture of Lauzon’s fight shorts. Its a good use of twitter and cuts out having to squint to see the logos.

Frankie Edgar had something similar.

Pre-Fight Hype

The Philadelphia Inquirer had a piece on Frankie Edgar prior to Saturday night’s title defense.

The UFC Countdown show was very good and gave a great profile on Benson Henderson’s background including his relationship with his mother. Henderson can definitely be a face for the UFC and his story could be much broader than just North American audiences.  Although it dedicated less time to this, the Jake Shields portion was very good as it talked about the death of his father.

As we covered here, the UFC did “person on the street” interviews about the state of Japanese MMA. It also brought back some of the memories of Pride for the hardcore enthusiasts.

GSP paid a visit to a Japanese martial arts school. Also in the video, Dana White visits the mayor. Roy Nelson also took a tour of Japan which included eating some exotic foods.

As we indicated previously, Rampage Jackson was promoted heavily for his return to where he made a name for himself.

NY Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck made a call to Frankie Edgar to wish him luck prior to his fight with Benson Henderson. As I stated in the earlier post, I thought Edgar was a Jets fan.

Post-UFC 144 Headlines

– The obvious headline is who’s next for the Smooth one? It looks like its Showtime although I wouldn’t be mad with a rematch with Edgar. I think Pettis gets the shot because its an easy sell for the eventual PPV. How many times will we see the Showtime Kick as a lead-in to the fight?

– What’s next for Edgar? It seemed like immediately after Edgar lost, he was being ushered into the Featherweight division. It was a close fight and he deserves a rematch for the belt. Yet, it almost was a foregone conclusion that he’ll drop down and get a shot at Jose Aldo. I’m not opposed to this, in fact I think they should actually make this fight at 155. But, I disagree with the circumstances in which Edgar is seemingly made to move on.

– What should Rampage do? When you look at the past couple years, God’s Street Soldier (a reference to his tat) is steadily declining. His return to Japan was promoted but his performance was hindered by a knee injury. Is it a matter of injuries or a matter of discipline? The UFC may have to consider what to do with Jackson next

– The UFC’s visit to Japan brought back memories of Japan’s MMA scene  and the problems surrounding it. Zach Arnold of Fight Opinion has much on this subject. It was also featured on both Spike TV MMA Uncensored and HD Net’s Inside MMA. Overall, most believe the UFC’s visit was a success. We’ll have to see whether or not it will make Japan an annual visit. And, what does this visit do, if anything, for the local state of MMA.

Odds and Ends

Disappointing night for Japanese fighters with Kid Yamamoto, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Yushin Okami. Okami especially disappoining considering he looked excellent through two rounds and then fell victim to the punches of Tim Boetsch.

Hatsu Hioki was one of the bright spots for Japanese MMA and is being considered as a potential challenger to Jose Aldo.

The interpreter did a great job at the weigh-ins and at the event. Either she had a great memory at the weigh-ins or she was making it up. At the event, she had a pad of paper to write things down as well as a spiffy pen topper.

Bart Parlaszewski shaved his sponsors and agency into his crooked mohawk. Do you get an extra bonus for this?

Very nice moment post-fight with Henderson finding his mom in the front row and her mom wanting an immediate picture of her son with the belt.

I may travel down to Tacoma and see if the UFC champ is minding the store at Peter’s Grocery this week.

While I was skeptical, the four hour PPV went well with only one match tacked on at the end (the Facebook match) as filler.

Conclusion

We may see a positive buy rate for UFC 144 considering the return to Japan, Rampage Jackson and the Edgar/Henderson title fight. Yet, with Edgar headlining in his past two fights, he’s averaged just 237,500 buys. Perhaps he wasn’t the problem as he faced Gray Maynard in both. But, UFC 136 was a rematch of a great fight and Chael Sonnen returned on the same card. And, it just received 225,000 buys.

The fact is, the lower weight divisions have yet to draw big numbers. Even with Rampage’s return to Japan, this card seemed like one for the dedicated fans and my guestimation would be around 275-300K buys.

UFC 144 Storylines: UFC Returns to Japan

February 25, 2012

MMAPayout will be taking a look at the storylines heading into UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson, which will be held at The Saitama Super Arena in Japan on Saturday February 25, 2012.


UFC Sells Out Long Awaited Return to Japan

UFC officials today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that ticket sales are still moving briskly for this weekend’s event at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, and the fight card is expected to sell-out all of the nearly 20,000 available seats.

Furthermore, UFC officials are so encouraged by the buzz surrounding UFC 143 that plans for a return to Japan are already under consideration, and multiple annual visits – as well as a version of “The Ultimate Fighter” – are also possible.  (MMAJunkie)


Quinton “Rampage” Jackson Misses Weight

Quentin “Rampage” Jackson missed weight by 6 pounds last night at UFC 144 weigh-ins. Jackson claims that this was due to an unspecified injury and as a result he will forfeit 20% of his show money to his opponent, Ryan Bader. (MMAPayout)


UFC Japan Sponsors Plus “Pay-to-Play” TV Deal with TV Tokyo, – Event Set To Air at 3AM in Japan

“This is why Dentsu backing UFC is so critical. A multi-year deal to promote shows in the country means nothing unless Dentsu, which has plenty of juice, can convince sponsors to back them to get the events on TV. If an outlet like TV Tokyo, which historically has plenty of pay-to-play examples for buying programming time, is taking a pass on the UFC… that spells trouble. WOWOW doesn’t cut it. You need a major broadcast TV network backing you or else you are going nowhere on a big scale in Japan.”

– TV Tokyo will air 90-minute highlight version of UFC Japan show from 3:15 AM to 4:45 AM JST after the show is done.

– Don Quijote & UFC Undisputed 3 are the TV sponsors.

– This was a last-minute deal by Dentsu. (FightOpinion)


MMAFighting Hit’s the Streets of Japan and Tests UFC Brand Strength and State of MMA

UFC 144 will mark the promotion’s first event in Japan in over 11 years, and its return to the “Land of the Rising Sun” has forced the MMA community to once again figure out just how healthy the Japanese MMA scene is. With that in mind, we hit the streets of Tokyo to find out whether the locals were UFC fans and why they think MMA has fallen on hard times in the country. (MMAFighting)

 

UFC 144 Marketing and Advertising

The UFC has been doing a pretty good job of sucking in those hardcore nostalgic MMA fans who hold Japanese MMA and their tradition in high regard.  Although some may have wanted the UFC to be held in a white ring and have a ramp with Lenne Hardt announcing the fighters, Dana White was not shy to remind MMA fans and Media that this isn’t PRIDE and that the Japanese promotion who was top dog only a few years ago is dead.

Having said that, the posters released for UFC 144 have been great, adding some of that Japanese and PRIDE feel to them while maintaining the UFC’s brand.  Key to the UFC this time around is to spread brand awareness and create some roots for future expansion into not only Japan, but Korea, Philipines, and China, who they feel have even more potential at the moment as untapped markets.  At this time, it’s going to take a good amount of time and effort to elevate the MMA scene in Japan to what it once was.

UFC 144 Poster + UFC 144 Rampage Poster:

 

Japanese fighter Megumi Fujii Tweeted an anime version of the UFC 144 Japan poster:


Rampage misses weight, does it matter?

February 25, 2012

Quentin “Rampage” Jackson missed weight by 6 pounds last night at UFC 144 weigh-ins. Jackson claims that this was due to an unspecified injury and as a result he will forfeit 20% of his show money to his opponent, Ryan Bader.

Ryan Bader seemed nonplussed by the fact Jackson missed weight by a considerable amount.

Via Fuel TV:

Jackson told his side of the story and had a message for Rich Franklin who, as a Fuel TV analyst, was critical of Jackson missing weight.

Payout Perspective:

Unlike Anthony Johnson, Rampage will likely get a pass for failing to make weight. However, Jackson was one of the big attractions for this card and the weight issue could mean he’s not at 100% which could affect his performance. In the end, missing weight might not impact attendance or buy rates but will affect Jackson’s salary. It may also create a rivalry with Rich Franklin.

On another note, Fuel TV sent out the above interviews covering the situation. Its another way for Fox to promote its presence on Fuel TV.

NY Giants’ Tuck shows support for Edgar

February 25, 2012

Super Bowl Champ and New York Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck phoned Frankie Edgar wishing him good luck in his title defense against Benson Henderson at UFC 144.

Via UFC Press Release:

Tuck, still reeling from New York’s championship win earlier this month, called to wish Edgar good luck before his highly-anticipated Pay-Per-View title fight tomorrow night. Having watched Edgar’s knockout victory over Gray Maynard at UFC 136 as inspiration before a big game this past season, Tuck and his teammates wanted to make sure Edgar knew that he had their support when he steps inside the Octagon® in Japan.

Payout Perspective:

Good crossover PR for the UFC although I thought Edgar was a Jets fan as he made back to back season appearances in speaking with the Jets. Of course the Giants are the Super Bowl Champs but where’s the loyalty Frankie? For the Giants, this has been an interesting off season of crossover appearances considering Tuck’s phone call to Edgar and Brandon Jacobs making a cameo on TNA Wrestling. The Tuck PR reflects the fact that there are crossover fans from the NFL and that the UFC should attempt to do more in cultivating this.

Spike’s “MMA Uncensored Live” Debut Draws 547,000

February 24, 2012

On Thursday night, Spike TV’s new MMA show, “MMA Uncensored Live”, made a successful debut drawing an average of 547,000 viewers to the network.

The debut airing on Spike TV earned a 0.4 HH rating, a 0.5 in M18-34, and a 0.62 in the M25-34. Overall, MMA Uncensored Live drew an average of 547,000 viewers. Comparing timeslots, MMA Uncensored Live was up +41% in M18-34 and +51% in M25-34 compared to last year.

MMA Uncensored Live focused on UFC 144’s return to Japan, where hosts Craig Carton, Nate Quarry and Mike Straka discussed the fall of one of MMA’s most famous promotions of all time, PRIDE Fighting Championships.  Honorary guests for the evening were Dan Henderson and “mystery guest” Nick Diaz.

MMA Uncensored Live is scheduled to air Thursday nights on Spike TV at 11PM EST.

***

Link: MMA Uncensored Live Debut Episode

WWE Earnings disappoint for Q4

February 24, 2012

The WWE announced its Q4 2011 results on Thursday and the earnings were described as disappointing. WWE earnings were lower for the fifth straight quarter.

The main culprit for the poor performance of the company was its film division and television licensing decisions according to Vince McMahon. In addition, costs from starting the WWE Network were cited as reasons for the softening of its earnings.

With respect to its film division, McMahon indicated that the company would utilize different strategies to try to bolster the division’s profitability but if that did not work, the WWE would be out of the film business. The WWE lost $12.2 million in the Q4 alone due to film impairment charges.

The television licensing decisions were based on the WWE’s decision not to distribute two of its properties, WWE Superstars and NXT, which have been showing online.

Via WWE press release:

Revenues totaled $112.9 million as compared to $122.5 million in the prior year quarter. Operating loss was ($13.1) million as compared to Operating income of $14.4 million in the prior year quarter. Net loss was ($8.6) million, or ($0.12) per share, as compared to Net income of $8.1 million, or $0.11 per share, in the prior year quarter. Excluding the impact of film impairments and network related expenses in the current year quarter, Adjusted Operating income was $3.1 million as compared to $14.4 million in the prior year quarter. Adjusted Net income was $1.8 million, or $0.02 per share, as compared to $8.1 million, or $0.11 per share, in the prior year quarter.

The WWE spent $4 million in Q4 on the creation of the WWE Network. However, the position on rolling out the new network was uncertain.

On the positive side, McMahon said during the earnings call that live attendance was up 7% for the quarter. Yet, this may be due to the fact that there were 11 fewer events in the quarter.

The PPV revenues were up 2% from 2010’s Q4 and up 6% over 2011. However, this can be seen as the result of a strong Wrestlemania PPV which is likely due in part to the return of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

(H/t: Seeking Alpha)

Payout Perspective:

While overall revenues were up from 2010, it was mainly due to the success of Wrestlemania 27. It also looks like the WWE may need to see a significant turnaround if it wants to remain in the movie business otherwise it may continue to see huge losses. The gloomy numbers may mean some downsizing of the WWE talent roster which traditionally comes after Wrestlemania.

The other notable news coming out of the earnings call was McMahon’s description of the WWE Network as “potential creation” of the network. This is interesting considering the prior hype for the network which included commercials for it on Raw and the initial belief that it would roll out by Wrestlemania this year. It looks like the WWE wants to make sure it gets it right before unveiling it. However, its sunk $4.0 million alone this quarter into the creation of the network and has committed staff and other startups to this venture in prior quarters.

It will be interesting to see how the WWE will try to turn things around. Based on the great  performance and impact last year’s Wrestlemania had on the WWE earnings, it will hope that this year’s Wrestlemania on April 1 will produce more of the same.

Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 Calls On NSAC to Adopt MMA “Bill of Rights”

February 23, 2012

In yesterday’s Nevada State Athletic Commission hearing, the Culinary Workers Union – who have long apposed the anti-union stance from Zuffa and Station Casino owner’s Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta – proposed the MMA “Bill of Rights” to the commission.

Here is the press release sent out yesterday after the hearing:

Today, the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 called on the Nevada Athletic Commission to adopt and enforce a “Bill of Rights for Professional Mixed-Martial Artists,” as a vital step toward protecting these athletes from abusive business practices and coercive contracts.

“Many athletes who compete in the sport of mixed-martial arts are subject to coercive contracts and exploitative business practices that are not allowed in professional boxing,” said Chris Serres, a research analyst with the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, an affiliate of UNITE HERE. “We call on the Nevada Athletic Commission to take a leadership role and push for the adoption of this `Bill of Rights” in every state where it is currently legal to hold mixed-martial arts events. If adopted and enforced, these ten rights would change the sport’s most egregious business practices.”

In testimony today before the Nevada Athletic Commission, the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 outlined the following exploitative business practices in the sport of mixed-martial arts:

· Long-term , exclusivity contracts that bind athletes to a single promoter, in some cases indefinitely. These contracts make it more difficult for athletes to negotiate higher pay and diminish the incentive of smaller promoters to bid for talented fighters

· Limited control over image and likeness rights. Professional mixed-martial arts fighters must frequently forfeit future revenue streams from DVD sales, video games, clothing and other merchandise, even after retirement.

· Lack of financial transparency. Under the federal Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (Ali Act), business promoters are required to make extensive financial disclosures to state athletic commissions. No such requirements govern MMA. As a result, fighters often have to negotiate in the dark and are unsure if they are being compensated fairly.

The “Bill of Rights for Professional Mixed Martial Artists” would grant mixed-martial artists similar protections currently afforded to professional boxers, who are already protected by a boxers’ Bill of Rights and the Ali Act. “There is no compelling reason why boxers are protected from exploitation, while mixed-martial arts athletes are not,” Serres said.

The Bill of Rights was inspired by conversations the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 has had with more than 50 mixed-martial arts athletes, and their agents, across North America.

The Culinary Union’s testimony before the Nevada Athletic Commission is available online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/82443511/Culinary-Workers-Union-Local-226-testimony-before-the-Nevada-Athletic-Commission

A copy of the “Bill of Rights for Professional Mixed Martial Artists” is also available online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/82245038/MMA-Bill-of-Rights

MMA Bill of Rights

 

Payout Perspective:

Some interesting thoughts here, especially bringing up the highly debated Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (Ali Act) and how that would impact MMA if ever adopted. Others in MMA have pushed for similar rights, but none have succeeded thus far.

Whether some points are credible or not, you have to wonder how effective the Culinary Union’s efforts have been in the past few months, repeatedly targeting the UFC.  If you recall, the union sent an email to the FTC supporting an investigation against the UFC and their business practices after they purchased Strikeforce from Silcon Valley Sports & Entertainment early in 2011.  The FTC investigation was recently closed after determining no wrong-doing on the UFC’s part.

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