UFC 159: Payout Perspective

April 30, 2013

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 159 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey where Jon Jones defended his Light Heavyweight title against Chael Sonnen.

Jones takes care of Sonnen, now must heal toe

It was the outcome that most had expected.  Despite Sonnen’s promos, Jones did what was needed to stop Sonnen with a few seconds left in Round 1.  It was a good thing, because if he didn’t, it would have been interesting what may have happened for Round 2.  Jones could not have gone out there with his toe pointed in an opposite direction.  

Now, the question is how long will Jones be out and who will be next for him.  Anderson Silva? Lyoto Machida? Alexander Gustafsson?  We will see.

For the “Gangster,” I hope to see him in a suit as an analyst.  

ufc-159-poster

Nelson KOs Kongo

Jones does what he does and Nelson does what he does – knock people out.  While Nelson asked for a title shot, it’s likely he gets at least one more fight before there’s serious consideration.

Bisping beats Belcher after eye poke

Michael Bisping showed once again why he should receive a title shot.  The TUF alum beat up Alan Belcher but the fight was stopped after a nasty eye poke which was the second gruesome thing on the PPV next to Jones’ toe.  

Bisping must now wait in line once again for a shot.

Attendance and Gate

As reported earlier, attendance at UFC 159 placed second in terms of UFC events at the venue with Hardy vs. GSP being first.   UFC 159 reported attendance of 15,227 fans for a $2.7 million gate.

Bonuses

This event’s bonuses were $65,000 each as opposed to the UFC standard of $50,000.  As reported earlier the bonuses were as follows:

Fight of the Night:  Healy vs. Miller

KO of the Night:  Nelson

Submission of the Night: Healy

Sponsorships

-The Octagon included the usual sponsors:  TapouT, MetroPCS, Toyo Tires, Xyience, UFC Gym, Harley Davidson, Dodge, MusclePharm, Alienware, UltimatePoker.net and Bud Light.  It also included local sponsor Modell’s Sporting Goods.

-UFC Gym sponsored the prep point.  UFC Fit was also prevalent last week at UFC on Fox 7.  The move into fitness is a reason that Reebok may be a potential sponsor.  Could this be one of the reasons why Dana White met with Reebok officials? Also interesting that a potential Reebok deal may happen and just a few months ago Rampage Jackson could not wear Reebok logos in the Octagon for his last fight.

-Representatives from Doritos were also present as it may have a potential interest in sponsorship.

-Ronda Rousey was featured in a MetroPCS commercial shown during the Prelims.  It was also revealed that she signed a one year deal with Xyience

-Jones was sponsored by Nike and had his signature shoes released the week before the event.  The shoes sold out quickly although there were limited quantities.  Jones actually threw out his shoes to the weigh-in crowd on Friday.  He also wore Monster headphones, another UFC official sponsor, at the weigh-ins, to the ring and even when he sat on the stool being interviewed post-fight.  

-Sonnen wore a TapouT blue ring robe with a Modell’s patch on the arm.  It was reminiscent of boxers or pro wrestlers and appropriate for Sonnen.  

-An ironic sponsor for Sonnen was VA Mortgage Lending.  As you may recall, Sonnen plead guilty to money laundering in a mortgage fraud case during his realtor days in Oregon. While Sonnen’s actions were not related to VA Mortgage Lending, its still strange that you would want to have it as a sponsor because it reminds people of what happened in the past.   

-Phil Davis had a couple throwback sponsors:  Affliction and Lugz

Pre-Fight Hype

When you talk about hype, Chael Sonnen comes to mind.  The Ultimate Fighter was to serve as the 12 week promo piece for this fight but it was actually Sonnen’s banter the week or so after the TUF Finale that served as the real promotion for UFC 159.  

I really enjoyed the UFC Countdown show this time around especially the Alan Belcher-Michael Bisping back and forth.  Perhaps, Bisping can pick up the “King of MMA Smacktalk” when Chael Sonnen retires.

This card produced a couple interesting articles on the issue of race.  Tim Marchman wrote an article on Deadspin and Tomas Rios wrote one for The Pacific Standard which explores the issue and whether Chael Sonnen uses race to gain fans.  We explore the public relations aspects of Sonnen here.  When challenged on the subject of race on ESPN’s Dan LeBatard show, Sonnen deflected the direct issue and seemed genuinely uncomfortable about talking about it.  This was something unusual for Sonnen who was on in each appearance he did for the promotion of UFC 159.  

Odds and Ends

– Darren Rovell sent a tweet Saturday night which stirred the pot for defenders of the UFC. Rovell indicated that the UFC may have lost its “edge” based on the fact he knew someone that purchased a ticket for $50 with a face value of $553.  UFC PR’s Dave Sholler tweeted defending the UFC and its attendance indicating that it mattered and then Dana White sent a tweet professing that its numbers are improving and would prove it by sending it to the ESPN Sports Biz guy.  We will see if Rovell gets that information.  We’ll have more on this interesting story later.

– The card was deemed “cursed” by Joe Rogan for the various stoppages due to injury.  This started with two stoppages due to injury during the Prelims and continued with Alan Belcher’s eye poke and then Jon Jones’ toe.  And of course, we get a full on brawl in the stands caught on camera during Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”  No word on the deep voiceover between rounds during Bisping-Belcher but it seemed fitting for what happened during the night.

– Sarah McMann v. Sheila Gaff was aired on the prelims twice on FX as a result of filler.  But, the fight was the first women’s fight not hyped for the fact it was a women’s fight in the UFC.  McMann disposed of Gaff quickly.  

– Leonard Garcia-Cody McKenzie was the only fight not aired.  McKenzie indicated he was going to take some time off for personal reasons.  Garcia may be on his way out of the UFC.

Conclusion

The card was not as interesting on paper as last week’s UFC on Fox 7 and it played out that way in reality.  Sonnen did his usual work to hype the fight but many believed that it was a mismatch from the start.  The unusual issues during the card confirmed its demise as probably one of the strangest in some time.  Although Nelson’s KO and Healy’s submission were highlights, the rest of the night proved so-so.  A buy rate of 500K would be a success here and many probably bought it because they were fans of Sonnen and/or Jones as the supporting card lacked intriguing matchups.

Varner and Hendricks partner with Reebok; is UFC next?

April 29, 2013

UFC fighters Jamie Varner and Johny Hendricks have entered into a partnership with Reebok in which each will compete at The Spartan Race May 18th in Burnet, Texas. In addition, UFC head Dana White indicated that he met with Reebok heads Monday in what may be a sponsorship deal with the UFC.

Varner and Hendricks have a trip planned to Reebok Headquarters for some product research and development. Their agent, Oren Hodak at KO Reps, stated that both fighters were excited to join forces with the apparel giant.

On Saturday, Dana White indicated that there was a possibility that the UFC and Reebok could enter into a sponsorship agreement (via MMA Junkie). White tweeted he had a meeting with Reebok reps today.

Via KO Reps

Via KO Reps

Payout Perspective:

A Reebok sponsorship with the UFC could be interesting and a step in the right direction when it comes to blue chip sponsorships. It is still unknown if Reebok will become an “official” sponsor or whether there are plans for additional activation. For Varner and Hendricks, the deal coincides with their involvement in The Spartan Race, an event sponsored by Reebok.

UFC explains reinstatement of Mitrione

April 29, 2013

The UFC has provided an official statement on the reinstatement of Matt Mitrione.  It came a day after the UFC announced his return to the Octagon in July.

The UFC issued a statement indicating that Mitrione received a “significant monetary penalty.”  Still, the timing of the fight announcement and communication concerning the lifting of the suspension seemed out of order and lessened the credibility of the UFC Code of Conduct.

MMA Fighting explained the reasons for the initial suspension:

Letting these comments go without any company reaction would not only give more ammunition to the company’s political enemies, but also undo work they had done with organizations who they were friendly with. Only a few hours after the show aired, the UFC issued a statement.

Here’s a portion of the UFC statement on Mittrione after lifting the suspension via (MMA Fighting):

“The organization finds Mr. Mitrione’s comments offensive and wholly unacceptable and–as a direct result of this significant breach of the UFC’s code of conduct–Mr. Mitrione’s UFC contract has been suspended and the incident is being investigated.”

Dana White also weighed in on the situation and explained the reason for the fine as opposed to suspending him.  He also indicated that Mitrione apologized privately but did not make him make a do a public apology.  However, Mitrione apologized and chose to issue a public statement (via Bloody Elbow).

Payout Perspective:

As MMA Fighting points out, it appears that the swift suspension was just to investigate what happened rather than it being punitive.  Once the UFC determined what happened, a fine was levied and the suspension was lifted.  The question is whether it could have just put Mitrione on leave and investigate the matter and then announce the suspension.  The reason being is that a suspension and then touting the UFC Code of Conduct weakens the implied bite of a suspension under a Code of Conduct violation.  Yes, Mitrione was disciplined and it appears that he was genuinely sorry for his comments but the timing and handling appears as mangled as Jon Jones’ toe.

What was the gain in announcing Mitrione’s fight prior to the announcement of the reasons for reinstatement?  It could have announced the fine, and then do the announcement.  It does sound nit-picking but it would be a reflection to the fighters how the UFC will handle such situations.

UFC 159 attendance, gate and bonuses

April 28, 2013

MMA Junkie reports that the attendance announced for UFC 159 was 15,227 fans for a gate of $2.7 million. In addition, bonuses were $65,000 each up from the “standard” $50,000 which were announced earlier this year.

The attendance was second highest at The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey with UFC 111: GSP v. Hardy ($4 million/$17,000).  UFC 159 placed right in front of UFC 128 where Jones won the title against Shogun Rua at UFC 128.

Bonuses were up to $65,000 each and as follows

Fight of the Night:  Pat “Bam Bam” Healy vs. Jim Miller

KO of the Night:  Roy Nelson

Submission of the Night:  Bam Bam Healy

A good debut for the Strikeforce alum Healy as he gets an extra $130K to take home.

Payout Perspective:

Darren Rovell sent out an interesting tweet Sunday about the event and whether the UFC has lost its “edge.”  Not surprisingly, it received a return tweet from Dana White.  I’ll let you wonder how that went.  We’ll discuss this a little later this week.  But, a part of the discussion had to do with attendance at events.  Based on the announced numbers, it does look like the card did well financially.  As for the bonuses, I did not read an explanation for the raise but good for the fighters.

The PR of Chael Sonnen

April 27, 2013

For MMA fans the thought of professional wrestling is beyond comparison with the real sport of the UFC.  Yet, if you want to see pro wrestling in MMA, you need only look to Chael Sonnen.

Anderson Silva you absolutely suck.” – Chael Sonnen post-fight Octagon interview at UFC 136.

In my opinion, the best start to a promo in UFC History with GSP’s admonishment of Matt Hughes: “I’m not impressed by your performance,” coming in second. Sonnen liberally uses old school pro wrestling microphone techniques to add a unique spin to get his point across.

While we may scoff at Sonnen’s antics, his brash, trash-talk has grabbed himself headlines and main events.  How is it that Sonnen was on the short list of fighters sought to replace an injured Dan Henderson at UFC 151?  At that time, Sonnen was competing in the Middleweight division.  He was chosen (after Lyoto Machida) because the UFC knew he was reliable to sell the fight.

When Jones passed on taking the match with Sonnen, UFC 151 was off and Jones and Greg Jackson took the brunt of the blame for the cancellation.  Sonnen took to social media to call out Jones and rail on the champ.  Seeing this as an opportunity, the UFC put Jones and Sonnen together as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter.  Hoping for the social media beef to continue on television, the adversaries actually became friends on the show.  As a result, the ratings did not do as well as expected. Thus, no momentum was gained from the show to the fight.  Yet, Sonnen has picked up the banter for UFC 159.

Sonnen has done the media rounds from The Jim Rome Show to ESPN. He’s bragged, he’s boasted, he claims to be making $10 million in the Jon Jones fight.  Is it because of the delivery that no one seems to challenge Sonnen on his proclamations?

He’s helped promote this fight despite receiving little assistance from the champion.  But then again, does the one man sound-bite need a partner?

Sonnen’s unabashed mouth has paid dividends for his career.  He will eventually become a full-time talking head for the UFC…and will be the best at doing that job.  He looks the part on the set of UFC Tonight of television anchorman.  He’s composed, articulate and even if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it sounds like he does.

chaelsonnen081310

While there have been claims that Sonnen may use inferences of race in promoting himself to subtly remind people that he is white and his opponent is not, it is hard to verify the truth or falsity of the claim.  Old school pro wrestling is known for racial insensitivities (YouTube any wrestling promotion in the 1970s-80s…90s…) and you will find the divide between good and bad may be based just on that.  We’re not saying this may be the cause for the inferences of race, but its a possibility.  But, the defense or the accusations of race baiting are set aside here. The purpose is to address the promotion ability of Sonnen.

In the end, will Sonnen sell pay per views as he claims he will?  Let’s take a look from when he first had the chance to get an extended amount of time in front of a microphone – his fight at UFC 117 with Anderson Silva.

UFC 117: Sonnen-Silva I – 600,000 PPV Buys

UFC 136:  Sonnen-Stann – 225,000 PPV Buys

UFC 148:  Sonnen-Silva II – 925,000 PPV Buys

This does not include Sonnen’s fight with Michael Bisping at UFC on Fox 2 in January 2012.  Still, Sonnen sold UFC 117 almost all by himself.  He put the heat on Silva and almost pulled off the upset. I suggest watching the documentary “Like Water” to see that fight from Silva’s perspective.  Silva did assist in providing some heat to the rematch at 148.  Yet, Sonnen was still the center of attention.

However, UFC 136 seemed like an anomaly.   It marked the return of Sonnen from suspension.  It was headlined by Maynard-Edgar and Aldo-Florian yet only received 225,000 buys. UFC 159 should do well because of Sonnen’s constant sell for the fight and Jones’ ability to fight.

Do people tire of Sonnen’s gimmick?  Yes.  Will people stop watching him because of it?  Probably not.  Sonnen’s tactics in promoting fights are questionable but one thing is certain, he makes his presence known and tries his best to make you take notice.

Golden Boy partners with Brooklyn’s Barclays Center

April 26, 2013

The Sports Business Journal this week had an article on the emergence of boxing at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. The steady stream of fights is a result of a 3 year deal with Golden Boy Promotions which is using the new venue as a home base on the East Coast.

So far, Golden Boy has had two events at the Barclay’s Center. In October, Devon Alexander defeated Randall Bailey.  This past March, Bernard Hopkins defeated Tavoris Cloud.

In the October 2012 event, Golden Boy gave away 1,000 tickets to anyone that showed up at the Barclays Center that had a Brooklyn address on their ID.  Despite the comps, it sold 9,636 tickets for a gate of $750,000.  The Hopkins fight garnered a gate of $611,974 from 9,377 tickets sold according to the SBJ article.

Its third fight at the Barclay’s Center is this Saturday with Brooklyn’s Zab Judah fighting Danny Garcia.

Via Wikimedia

Via Wikimedia

The hope for both Golden Boy and the Barclays Center is that the fights will condition fans to expect fights at the venue, which in turn will lead to consistent attendance.  However, this has been met with mixed reviews as the article quotes Kathy Duva, the CEO of Main Events (you may also recall see filed a Declaration on behalf of Bellator in the Eddie Alvarez preliminary injunction hearing) as she has attempted to hold events at the  Prudential Center in New Jersey and determined that “two or three times a year (for events) is overdoing it.”

But, Golden Boy’s strategy continues and its done through the inclusion of local fighters on its undercards and having main event fighters make appearances.  Notably, having fighters sit courtside at NBA Brooklyn Nets games and having the Barclays Center show them and flash a reminder on its scoreboard of their upcoming fights. The Nets have also given the fighters its NBA gear to wear as a cross-promotion of products.

Showtime and Barclays collaborated on a marketing strategy to promote its boxing at the venue — something that does not usually happen.  As a result, the parties have compiled a database from the initial events and discovered approximately 1,100 people have purchased tickets to the two events.  It also determined that 70 percent of those were male with an average age of almost 43.  Also 46 percent were married.

Payout Perspective:

In the competition for market share of the boxing world between Golden Boy and Top Rank, it will be interesting to see how the battle for New York shapes up.  Top Rank has promoted shows in New York although its business model focuses on the market (promotion and content) rather than the building according to Top Rank head Todd DuBoef.  Its most recent event, Donaire-Rigondeaux from Radio City Music Hall sold out (5,600 seats) and had a gate of about $400,000.

But, the Barclay’s Center-Golden Boy business partnership is unique from the perspective that the Brooklyn building is new and likely wants to keep occupied.  Golden Boy would like to set a footprint in the market and promote its known fighters while cultivating prospects.  Obtaining information on the ticket purchasers is valuable to gauge the audience that it is consuming its product.  Like other professional leagues, obtaining this data helps with targeting marketing campaigns and advertisers.  One would obvious think that the overarching need is for promotion and quality cards to keep fans coming back for more.  Does this strategy foreclose other regions of the country where an appearance could receive a bigger attendance due to the novelty of the event?  It also appears that quarterly fights at the venue may place consumer fatigue (as Kathy Duva indicated) on boxing fans unless there are compelling match-ups on the cards.

The Wrestling Post – Wrestlemania 29 earnings

April 25, 2013

Variety reports that Wrestlemania 29 set a record in earnings with $72 million.  This year’s event bested last year’s Wrestlemania in Miami which earned $67 million.

The $72 million figure includes ticket sales and PPV buys.  The event was up $5 to $70 (in HD).  Early PPV estimates have it at 1 million with the possibility of it hitting 1.2 million PPV buys. Attendance at MetLife Stadium set an attendance record of 80,676 fans.  

Payout Take: Obviously, the increase in the PPV price may have helped bolster the earnings figure.  Also, tickets for the event were likely more than the usual WWE event.  Still, the $72 million figure is a good number for the event and should help jump start the fiscal year.  We shall see with the earnings report coming out next Thursday.

All is forgiven? Mitrione back in UFC

April 24, 2013

MMA Junkie reports that Matt Mitrione will be fighting Brendan Schaub at UFC on Fox 8 this July.  After the UFC announced his suspension on April 8th for his comments on transgender fighter Fallon Fox, it appears he is no longer suspended.

As you recall, Mitrione’s comments on The MMA Hour which were directed at Fox drew the ire of the UFC as it issued a statement suspending Mitrione for a violation of the UFC Code of Conduct.  The UFC even released a copy of its Code of Conduct as an apparent sign of transparency and a caution to other fighters.

It appears that Mitrione’s suspension has been lifted as just 16 days after the infraction, the UFC has set him up for a summer fight.

Payout Perspective:

Hopefully the UFC will address the situation and the reasons why it lifted its suspension of Mitrione and did not address the conditions for its reinstatement.  Its an obvious question and whether Mitrione has done his penance or if he has met with UFC officials to discuss what happened, an explanation should occur to satisfy the LBGT community and others that his comments may have offended. For the UFC, an explanation also would serve notice to the rest of the roster that the Code of Conduct is not an idle document and a suspension will not be in name only.

Rousey signs Xyience sponsorship deal

April 24, 2013

Ronda Rousey has signed a one year sponsorship agreement with official UFC sponsor Xyience.  The monetary terms of the deal were deemed confidential.

Via Xyience press release:

Rousey will appear in advertising, on point-of-purchase materials and on the brand’s website. She will also make appearances at beverage trade and consumer events.

“Ronda’s excellence in athletic performance is only part of what makes her a huge inspiration to athletes and fans,” explains John Lennon, XYIENCE’s president. “She is a fearless agent of change within MMA, whose passion for her sport and dedication to achieving her goals embodies the spirit of our brand’s philosophy: Power to Win. We are proud to be associated with such a talented and articulate athlete.”

According to Lennon, XYIENCE Xenergy has attracted a large number of female consumers – approximately one-third of its consumer base. “According to research that we conducted in early 2012, females’ preferences for Xenergy included its superior flavor and the fact that it is sugar- and calorie-free. Ronda is an excellent spokesperson who will be an integral part of XYIENCE and communicating our brand message to this growing audience.”

Payout Perspective:  

Rousey’s in Octagon sponsors in her UFC debut was the UFC and Xyience.  The announcement makes this official.  Its likely that Xyience will utilize Rousey more so than most of its male UFC fighters.  It will be interesting to see what other sponsors Rousey will obtain.  One has to think that she’d pick up some more mainstream sponsors considering her retention of a Hollywood agency and the publicity she’ll have with the upcoming TUF series on FS1 in September.

Updated UFC on Fox 7 ratings: 3.7 million

April 23, 2013

MMA Fighting reports that the final UFC on Fox 7 ratings from this past Saturday scored a 3.7 million viewer average for a 2.2 rating.  The overnight ratings indicated a 3.31 million viewer average.

The ratings are less than December’s UFC on Fox 6 which featured Henderson in the main event.  The Seattle show received 4.39 million viewers for a 2.5 rating.

By itself, the Henderson-Melendez match which mostly aired during the time overrun scored 4.96 million viewers for a 2.7 rating.  This was lower than Henderson-Diaz (5.7 million) and Johnson-Dodson (5.2 million)

Via MMA Fighting:

The positives were in the demographics, as in the Male 18-34 age group, the 2.2 rating was more than double the combined average of ABC, CBS and NBC programming in competition (1.0). FOX also outrated the other three major networks combined in Males 18-49 (2.7 to 1.6) and Males 25-54 (2.8 to 2.2). One thing notable from these numbers is that the show did far stronger numbers with males 35-49 than those who were 18-34, the latter of which is UFC’s usual prime demographic.

The numbers reflect that Saturday’s event was 3rd lowest rated UFC on Fox event out of 7.  The article suggests that the NFL cross-promotion of the UFC events aids in UFC viewership for its network events.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are somewhat disappointing considering this UFC on Fox card was one of the best cards the UFC’s has had on Fox.  In fact, it has overshadowed this Saturday’s PPV.  But, how much does the NFL influence have over UFC events?  Fox bumpers during each and every NFL broadcast during the season and a controversial skit demonstrated the UFC-Fox synergy.  And based on the numbers it looks like the NFL’s influence helps with UFC viewership.

 

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