The continued fight for MMA in NY

April 23, 2013

The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) is running an in depth perspective on combat sports this week and one of the articles asks whether this will be the year New York finally sanctions MMA.

The article points to several inferences that could position the bill to legalize MMA for a vote in Albany this year.  This includes the state senate passing the bill to legalize MMA by a vote of 47-14, comments made by Governor Andrew Cuomo in support of MMA and64 members of the Assembly co-sponsored the MMA bill (12 short of the needed for the bill to be made into law).  The most telling inference is the fact that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told the New York Daily News that MMA will “probably” be legalized but did not indicate when this might occur.

An interesting take on the fight to legalize MMA in New York is the position that the lobbying efforts of Zuffa has hurt the overall effort due to the strong opposition against Zuffa. Namely, the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York questioned whether if Zuffa played a “smaller role” would MMA have already gained legal status.

A vote on the bill to legalize MMA must take place before the legislature ends on June 21st.  But, the Assembly’s Democrats will decide on the bill’s fate at the annual Democratic Conference in May.

With the article coming out this week in the Sports Business Journal and the indication that the bill would be decided (whether to vote or not) in the next couple weeks, it was likely that opponents would voice their opposition and will speak out about the bill on Tuesday.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see how the legislature will play out this spring.  If a bill is turned away this year, the litigation efforts will likely not provide any help this year as well.  Even though the New York Attorney General conceded in court proceedings that the statute may allow an exempt third party to sanction professional MMA, it has taken a hard line in not entertaining a settlement in the lawsuit if one of the concessions is allowing professional MMA in New York.  Despite the financial benefits of MMA in the state, the opposition remains stiff.  The union opposition to Zuffa has definitely come back to hurt it in trying to legalize MMA in New York.

New York digs in against Zuffa in Motion to Dismiss

April 22, 2013

The Zuffa-New York litigation continues on despite reports last month that the parties had entered into negotiations to settle the case.  MMA Payout has learned that the New York Attorney General cancelled the settlement conference citing it would not agree to professional MMA in the state under any circumstances.

As a result of the cancelled settlement conference, the parties submitted supplemental briefing on New York’s Motion to Dismiss in response to the issue of whether under section 8905, the statute banning MMA, a professional MMA event would be permitted if it is sanctioned by one of the martial arts organizations listed in the statute and how that interpretation would affect New York’s Motion to Dismiss.

In its Supplemental Briefing, New York contends that even if a professional MMA event could be sanctioned by an exempt organization listed in the statute, it would still not be permitted.  New York cites the New York State Athletic Commission, the regulatory body governing the exempt organization in the statute, in arguing that the intent of the statute did not contemplate MMA.  The NY State Athletic Commission sides with the defendants in this interpretation.

Moreover, New York argues that regardless of the unambiguous nature of the statute, the Court must look to the actual intent through the legislative history.  The state goes on to cite that the intent of the law was to ban Ultimate Fighting and that sanctioning of such activities was not contemplated at the time of the creation of the statute.

Zuffa frames its opposition to New York’s Motion to Dismiss argument on the basic premise of whether it has pled sufficient facts for its claim that the New York statute banning MMA is unconstitutionally vague.  It also counters New York’s supplemental briefing with the transcript from the Motion to Dismiss hearing where the New York AG states, “[I]t looks as if one of these exempt organizations could sanction a mixed martial arts event.” (Page of 5 of Plaintiffs’ Response to Defendant’s Supplemental Memo of Law).  Zuffa goes on to outline the number of interpretations the state of New York has had regarding the New York statute.  As a result, the number of interpretations suggests that the Court cannot dismiss its claims.

Payout Perspective:

While most thought that the lawsuit would come to a happy ending for the UFC in terms of a settlement that is not the case.  Although a reading of the statute would suggest that an exempt organization identified in the statute would be able to sanction a UFC event, New York has come back to argue that despite the reading of the statute…that’s not how it should be read.  Furthermore, despite what appears (via the transcript) that the AG admits that the statute could have an exempt organization sanction an MMA event, New York argues otherwise.

As we recently learned in the Alvarez-Bellator lawsuit, settlement negotiations do not necessarily mean the parties will settle.  Of course, we also learned that it’s hard to dismiss a case on a party’s Motion to Dismiss.  The Court has yet to render a decision.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

UFC on Fox 7 paydays: Henderson, Mir top roster

April 21, 2013

MMA Junkie reports the UFC on Fox 7 salaries with Benson Henderson and Frank Mir earning the most. Surprisingly, Nate Diaz earned only $15,000 for his KO loss to Josh Thomson.

Via MMA Junkie:

Benson Henderson: $200,000 (includes $100,000 win bonus)

def. Gilbert Melendez: $175,000

Daniel Cormier: $126,000 (includes $63,000 win bonus)

def. Frank Mir: $200,000

Josh Thomson: $95,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)

def. Nate Diaz: $15,000

Matt Brown: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)

def. Jordan Mein: $16,000

Chad Mendes: $56,000 (includes $28,000 win bonus)

def. Darren Elkins: $24,000

Francis Carmont: $38,000 (includes $19,000 win bonus)

def. Lorenz Larkin: $23,000

Myles Jury: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)

def. Ramsey Nijem: $14,000

Joseph Benavidez: $66,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus)

def. Darren Uyenoyama: $12,000

T.J. Dillashaw: $28,000 (includes $14,000 win bonus)

def. Hugo Viana: $8,000

Jorge Masvidal: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)

def. Tim Means: $10,000

Anthony Njorkuani: $36,000 (includes $18,000 win bonus)

def. Roger Bowling: $12,000

Yoel Romero: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)

def. Clifford Starks: $8,000

Payout Perspective:

Notably Gilbert Melendez earned $175,000 for his UFC debut. Henderson’s $100K/$100K payday is part of his new contract with the UFC. Its a step up from his $39K/$39K deal he had last December. Somewhat of a surprise was Nate Diaz’s $15K for his fight Saturday. In Diaz’s last fight against Henderson in December, he earned $50K. Diaz, a former TUF winner that earned a “six figure contract” with the UFC, changed managers prior to this fight. Saturday’s payday could be a result or repercussion of the manager change.

UFC on Fox 7: 3.31 million viewer average in fast overnights

April 21, 2013

MMA Fighting reports the ratings for UFC on Fox 7 were down slightly from UFC on Fox 6 as it received an average of 3.31 million fans for a 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demo.

The fast national ratings gages the 8-10pm timeslot and does not cover the overrun in which most of the main event took place.  Moreover, it does not calculate the west coast time zone as it only looks at what Fox showed between 8-10pm and not 5-7:40pm, the actual time the event was shown live.  

The fast overnights for UFC on Fox 6 were 3.77 million and a 1.8 rating for the 18-49 demo.

In the end, UFC on Fox 6 in January received an average viewership of 4.4 million viewers with the main event of Mighty Mouse Johnson versus John Dodson.

Saturday night’s televised card had much more depth and featured a back and forth fight between lightweight champion Benson Henderson edging Gilbert Melendez.  It also showed that the audience grew with each fight.

Via MMA Fighting:

The show had consistent growth, with the Jordan Mein vs. Matt Brown fight doing 2.59 million viewers, the Josh Thomson vs. Nate Diaz fight doing 3.18 million and the Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir fight doing 3.73 million.

The show finished second overall among the networks, losing to CBS, which aired a first run airing of Vegas and a replay of The Mentalist in the time slot. But in the 18-49 target demo, over the first two hours, it more than doubled second place ABC (1.5 to 0.7).

Payout Perspective:

The MMA Fighting article suggests that the NFL’s help in promoting its event was a contributing factor in the decrease in ratings.  It notes that four Fox events during the NFL season were above 4.2 million whereas Fox events outside of NFL season were only 2.4.  Of course, the quality of fights may have contributed to this.  Notably, August’s UFC on Fox 4 featured Brandon Vera vs. Shogun Rua and May’s UFC on Fox 3 featured Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller.  

In the end, is the UFC gaining on mainstream fans with its Fox relationship?  Adam Swift evaluates the relationship and determines that, at this point, the UFC has solidified itself as a good niche sport.

Will the creation of Fox Sports 1 help straighten out the confusion with platforms or continue it? This would depend on whether Fox execs anchor UFC programming on FS1. Moreover, there is still time for the UFC to make inroads into the mainstream. It just has not done so as of yet. The question is whether there is a timeframe that the UFC or Fox has in its projections where the UFC will develop into a mainstream sport. Of course, the definition of mainstream is another discussion itself.

UFC on Fox 7 attendance, gate and bonuses

April 20, 2013

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and gate for the UFC on Fox 7 was 13,506 for a gate of $1.333 million.  In addition, $50,000 bonuses were given for Fight of the Night and two KOs as there were plenty of knockouts but no submissions.

The bonuses were as follows:

Fight of the Night:  Matt Brown vs. Jordan Mein

KO of the Night:  Josh Thomson

KO of the Night:   Yoel Romero

Payout Perspective:

A great prelims and main card that was certainly PPV worthy.  An interesting night with no submissions and a healthy amount of KOs.  Not a good night for the Skrap Pack as Nate Diaz took a stiff leg kick from Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez lost a tough split decision to Benson Henderson.  Overall, an exciting night of fights on FX and Fox.

HBO’s Donaire-Rigondeaux scores 1.1 million viewers

April 20, 2013

Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports reports that HBO’s showing of Nonito Donaire versus Guillermo Rigondeaux scored an average of 1.1 million viewers last Saturday night.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael reports that Nonito Donaire’s purse was $1.32 million while Guillermo Rigondeaux made $750,000.

The event took place at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in an interesting setup where the ring was on stage and most of the audience was on one side of the ring. Rigondeaux dominated the 2012 Fighter of the Year despite being put down by Donaire. Still, the Cuban fighter had enough to outpoint Donaire.

In addition, the TUF 17 Finale scored a 1.7 million viewer average the same night.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings reflect a positive trend for combat sports. Fight Club OC, the Southern California boxing promotion run by long-time promoter Roy Englebrecht received its largest gate for its bi-monthly fight series run out of Costa Mesa, California. Its Thursday, April 11th card had a gate of $61,013. Pretty good for weeknight.

The fight kicks off a spring of loaded boxing events on either HBO or Showtime. With Golden Boy publicly severing ties with HBO, it appears that both networks are amplifying its boxing coverage which is good for fight fans.

TUF 17 Prelims on Fuel: 236,000 viewers

April 19, 2013

The Wrestling Observer reports that the Ultimate Fighter 17 Prelims on Fuel TV garnered an impressive 236,000 viewer average.  The TUF 17 Prelims was the second most watched program in Fuel TV history.

In addition, the weigh-ins the day before scored 126,000 viewers which made it the third most watched weigh-ins in Fuel TV history.

Payout Perspective:

Good numbers for the Prelims as the Fuel TV portion featured mainly TUF 17 contestants.  Last December, TUF 16 Prelims only garnered 96,000 viewers so either fans wanted to watch some fights or they knew of the quality of fighters this season.  Once again, the surging Fuel ratings reflect the fact that the UFC will be an anchor for FS1.

Court denies Bellator’s Motion to Dismiss Alvarez Counterclaims

April 18, 2013

The United States District Court for the District Court of New Jersey has denied Bellator’s Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaims of Eddie Alvarez. The litigation between the two sides will continue.

Bellator had brought a Motion to Dismiss Alvarez’s Counterclaims for Tortious Interference with a Prospective Economic Advantage and Breach of Contract. Judge Jose Linares held that Alvarez’s claims survived the Motion to Dismiss standard in that his factual allegations raised a right to relief. This does not mean that Bellator could not eventually win, it just means it cannot win at this stage of the litigation.

With respect to the Tortious Interference claim, Bellator had argued that Alvarez could not prove it had done anything with malice. A prerequisite of the claim. It also argued that Alvarez’s claim must fail because the contract match was privileged.

Although Bellator supported its original arguments with case law, the Court noted that those cases occurred after the Motion to Dismiss stage. Thus, seeking support with the cases was of no relevance for this motion.

Bellator also argued that the contract offer should be privileged and cited a case which appeared to be on point. However, that case was a state law case which the federal court did not have to follow. Moreover, the case cited by Bellator related to correspondence in which counsel threatened litigation. The Court here distinguished that case as Alvarez claims Bellator, in bad faith, matched the offer made by Zufa.

The Court noted that it would not make a factual determination whether Bellator had a “legitimate business-justification” for proposing a purported match to Alvarez. Factual determinations such as these are not determined at the Motion to Dismiss stage.

With respect to the Breach of the Court held that despite Bellator’s assertions, Alvarez identified the contract for which it alleges Bellator breached. Furthermore, the Court determined that it “adequately alleged” that Bellator breached the duty of good faith and fair dealing in which it claims to have matched the Zuffa Offer in spite of “neither having the ability or the willingness to actually match the offer.”

 Payout Perspective:

The lawsuit continues. The threshold for prevailing on a Motion to Dismiss is tough if the claims made contain a sufficient enough of facts as Courts tend to want the case to prevail on the merits. Its interesting that the Opinion of the Court did not address the “malice” requirement in Alvarez’s Tortious Interference claim. Rather, it focused on the case law Bellator cited to distinguish it from the present case. Its likely that the two sides will exchange discovery and move on to the deposition phase.

Nike releasing Jon Jones shoes, shirts on Friday

April 18, 2013

FighterXFashion reports that Nike will be releasing shoes and shirts for UFC Light Heavyweight Champion John “Bones” Jones this Friday.  Shoes will be released in limited quantities at select NikeTowns in New York and Las Vegas and online at Nike.com.

Jones is one of three UFC fighters with a Nike contract and is the only fighter to have his gear released for public consumption.

via FighterXFashion

via FighterXFashion

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see how sales of Jones gear will do and whether the sales will determine if the swoosh will look to other UFC athletes to sponsor for future retail opportunities.  The hope for Nike is to gain some momentum for Jones’ upcoming title defense so fans will be wearing those t-shirts in the crowd at UFC 159.

GLORY signs deal with CBS Sports Network

April 17, 2013

MMA Fighting reports that kickboxing organization GLORY has signed a multi-fight television deal with the CBS Sports Network.  Two GLORY events will be aired on the network starting with an event on April 21st.

Via MMA Fighting:

GLORY 7 from Milan, headlined by Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Hafid El Boustati, will air via tape delay on the network on Sunday, April 21 at 1:00 a.m. ET.

CBS Sports Network will also air GLORY 8 via tape delay from Tokyo on May 5, which will feature a one-night, single-elimination featherweight (143 pounds) tournament.

Payout Perspective:

The GLORY signing continues the trend of networks looking to combat sports as a way to supply its content.  Spike TV looked to K-1 to fill the UFC void but low viewership nixed the deal before it really began.  It will be interesting to see how GLORY will do on CBS Sports Network and how much patience it will have with the programming choice if it does not produce ratings with the first two events.  The day and timing of the airing of the first GLORY doesn’t really help with ratings and we will see how much CBS Sports Network will do to promote it.

 

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