Kennedy latest to speak out on fighter pay

June 29, 2013

The issue of fighter pay continues on as Tim Kennedy made statements about how he could make more money emptying trash cans than fighting in the UFC.

Kennedy stated on the Grappletalk podcast that while he will be making $70,000 at UFC 162, he would only be taking home $20,000 after expenses.  He also chastised MMA web sites for regurgitating UFC propaganda.

Kennedy went into damage control mode stating that his comments were taken out of context.  He said on the podcast that “the UFC doesn’t pay very well.”  Apparently, that was interpreted incorrectly.

Via MMA Junkie:

“The intent of these statements was to highlight that professional fighters incur significant expense associated with their preparations to fight and that fighter compensation is still not on par with other major sports.

“Unfortunately, I made statements that alluded to how the UFC in particular pays its athletes,” he wrote. “This was particularly offensive as Zuffa has taken better care of me than any other organization, even giving me a bonus for being amusing on Twitter. My choice of words was poor, not properly informed, and did not match my intent. Additionally, my comments were taken out of context. “

Criticism of fighter pay usually occurs after your career in the organization is over.  Kennedy’s first fight with the UFC is Saturday.  Kennedy joins John CholishJon Fitch and Jacob Volkmann as UFC fighters that have spoken out about fighter pay.  The only difference between the four is that Kennedy is the only one that was currently on the roster when he talked about UFC pay.  Cholish retired, Fitch and Volkmann were released.

Travis Browne chimed in with an interview with MMA Junkie in which he stated that while he respects Kennedy, Browne realizes what he signed up for when he signed on with Zuffa.  While he’s not making top money, he’s content with his UFC salary.

Former UFC Fighter Nate Quarry gave his opinion on the subject.  In an interview with Bloody Elbow, Quarry talks about fighter pay, sponsorships and the possibility of a union to address these issues.

While Quarry does not believe a union will occur, he would like to see the fighters get a 3 fight contract with a no cut clause from the UFC.  Quarry is against the sponsorship tax as he told BE that one of his sponsors at the time, basketball brand And 1, ceased sponsoring him once the UFC stated it would require it pay the organization $50,000.  While the Zuffa arguments that a sponsor fee would preclude lower paying brands and facilitate more blue chip sponsors to the UFC, Quarry indicates that it’s not happening.

With the latest public comments on fighter pay, does Zuffa care?

Payout Perspective:

Fighters not satisfied with their pay?  Sounds like just about everyone else that has a job.  As has been outlined numerous times, the life of a fighter is difficult and while it may seem like they have made it by being in the UFC, its obvious that there are financial realities for those not at the top of the card.

Quarry’s explanation of the realities of fighter pay are sobering and offer a glimpse of what he had to do to make ends meet.  Of course, he’s retired and has had some time to think about his time as a fighter.  Kennedy’s responses to the line of questioning on the podcast may be honest but not prudent for the longevity of his career in the UFC unless he wins all his fights.

Could all of this talk about fighter pay be helpful in creating a change.  Or maybe Dana White will just bury anyone that talks out about it.  Kennedy will be an interesting case.  He has served in the U.S. military and should be respected.  So, White may not be able to dismiss Kennedy that easily unless he loses this Saturday.  Yet, his comments may make Zuffa concerned.  Its obvious that there’s a portion of fighters that are not content with their pay.  Maybe its not the actual pay but the amount of times they are chosen to fight.  Certainly White will have some comments this week about the issue.

The Ultimate Fighter: China next international stop

June 29, 2013

Bloody Elbow reports that China will have a version of The Ultimate Fighter franchise.  Registration and tryouts for the show will happen in multiple countries in the coming months.

No coaches have been selected at the moment and Featherweights, Lightweights and Welterweights will be invited to try out although specific weight divisions for the show have yet to be announced.

TUF Finals will be held at the Venetian Hotel in Macau and will be available for all to see.  In China, TUF will be broadcast on LiaoNing TV which is one of China’s national pay satellite television networks.

Payout Perspective:

The announcement is not really a surprise as Zuffa is trying to tap into the Chinese market.  Its show last November was a first step and a TUF series in China is another step in setting a footprint into the market. This time last year Lorenzo Fertitta indicated that there was no set strategy for China.  But, with the Macau show and now this announcement, this falls in line with the Zuffa strategy of introducing the key demos to its product through its television product which it hopes will garner a following which Zuffa will follow up with a live event.  The unknown of Chinese fighters for this show and what stars will coach will be interesting to watch unfold.  Moreover, we shall see how the ratings will do for this show.


Mayweather-Alvarez a sellout

June 28, 2013

ESPN’s Dan Rafael reports that the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v. Canelo Alvarez fight set for September 14th has sold out. All seats for the fight sold out in less than 24 hours and has broken the record for all-time live gate for boxing.

The gate, which may draw close to $19 million depending on the number of comps will surpass the old record held by Mayweather and Oscar de la Hoya.  Tickets ranged from $350 to $2,000 per seat for the fight which will be at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Payout Perspective:

The hype tour has started and Golden Boy and Showtime is going all out for this event.  The 11 city promotional tour will cost over $1 million.  Despite the lofty costs, Golden Boy/Showtime it will pay off.  One need only look to the quick sellout for evidence of this.  There’s no indication how many tickets hotels/casinos bought but the bottom line is that the event sold out in less than a day which was the likely hope/strategy in promoting the fight.


Fightmaster Episode 2: 545,000 viewer average

June 27, 2013

MMA Fighting reports that the ratings for Bellator’s Fightmaster have increased 26% from initial debut to an average of 545,000 viewers for a 0.4 rating.  This week, episode 2 did not run opposite the NHL.

Via MMA Fighting:

The number is hardly a major success given Spike’s prime time average rating for the prior week was 700,000 viewers and this is first-run original programming. Still, this has to be somewhat welcome given the first episode only did 432,000 viewers, which Spike executives blamed on the NHL playoffs.

According to the article, the key demos of 18-34 and 35-49 were strong for the second episode.  


Payout Perspective:

Maybe a sigh of relief from SpikeTV as the ratings corrected itself if we take into consideration the NHL competition.  Still, the rating is lower than prior week which has to still draw some concern.  As the series progresses and viewers get to know how the episodes will run, we will see the amount of retention and increase (or decrease) in viewership.  


Spike TV obtains rights to Glory Kickboxing

June 27, 2013

A Spike TV press release sent out this morning announced that Glory Sports International (GSI) will debut on the network starting in the Fall of 2013.  Two hour kickboxing events will air in prime time on select Saturday nights.

Via Spike TV press release:

“We are thrilled to partner with GSI in bringing Spike TV’s audience the incredible action and intensity of GLORY’s fight league, which feature the best kickboxers in the world,” said Slusser. “Viewers will quickly see this as the perfect complement to our coverage of Bellator, the world’s leading tournament-based MMA promotion.”

“Spike has established itself as the home of combat sports in a way that is unique. Its audience will expect the most exciting ring action and we promise to deliver it,” said Whitaker. “Glory kickboxing is the next big thing and Spike clearly knows something about spotting aces in the sports programming space.”

GLORY Sports International is the world’s premier stand-up fighting league, staging events across the globe. The fight series includes multi-man tournaments, along with traditional, single bouts.  The most elite kickboxers in the world fight for GLORY including Tyrone Spong, Gokhan Saki, Semmy Schilt, Nieky Holzken, Yuta Kubo, Giorgio Petrosyan, Daniel Ghita, Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjasky and Albert Kraus.

Payout Perspective:

CBS Sports Network had signed a multi-fight television deal with Glory and recently held an event in New York this month.  According to Mike Chiapetta of MMA Fighting, CBS Sports Network will air one more Glory show in September.  Another interesting tidbit, is that PPV is in the promotion’s future.  For Spike TV, this will bolster its lineup of combat sports which it hopes will attract the 18-34 male demo.  It could be a risk considering that many viewers are not familiar with kickboxing.  In the past, Spike TV had pursued K-1 to no avail.  But, the thought appears to be that if they are into MMA, they should like kickboxing.  Its a calculated risk but perhaps a good one as the organization has put on competitive shows in the past.


Bellator-Alvarez case will not go to trial until late 2014 at earliest

June 26, 2013

The “Joint Proposed Discovery Plan” filed with the Court in the Eddie Alvarez-Bellator case reveals the sobering reality of the judicial system.  Among the dates set by the Court, a pretrial conference will occur sometime after  September 15, 2014 which would mean an actual trial in the case would not occur until late fall 2014 or even early 2015.

The Court held an initial status conference this week which included the rendering of a “Joint Proposed Discovery Plan” which essentially lays out the plan on litigating the case.  This includes the written discovery and a plan on how many people will be deposed by each party (each side will have a maximum of 10 depositions).  It also includes a time for expert reports and expert depositions.

A pretrial conference may take place “any time after September 15, 2014 and after resolution of any dispositive motions (motions to dismiss claims)” according to the Order.

At that pretrial conference, the Court will likely appoint a Court date.  Thus, it’s most likely a trial would not commence until late 2014 or even 2015.

Another interesting note that has come out of the case is that the parties have agreed to a Discovery Confidentiality Order which may prevent the public from seeing documents deemed confidential by the parties.

Another interesting point was the status of the settlement talks which occurred prior to the filing of the discovery plan.  Bellator had offered Alvarez two PPV level fights with the first being a shot at the lightweight title currently held by Michael Chandler.  Alvarez declined the offer and countered with just one fight for Bellator.  This stalled the negotiations.

Payout Perspective:

And this is why Alvarez should not have stated that he was not going to settle with Bellator.  A trial date at best would not happen until the fall of 2014 (Alvarez will be out of action for 2 full years if this happens) but this does not even include any scheduling delays or motions to continue a trial date which are norms in litigation.  The parties have already noted that there may be scheduling issues with third parties (UFC?) and “disputes regarding designation of documents as confidential.”  Thus, there are already logistical obstacles and it’s still June 2013.  We shall see how this progresses and if the parties will look to settlement discussions.  But, in my opinion, the parties will want to conduct some discovery and depositions before any further discussions on settling occur.

Paulie-Broner fight score 1.3 million on Showtime

June 25, 2013

Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports reports that Saturday night’s Paulie Malignaggi-Adrien Broner fight scored 1.3 million viewers on Showtime.  The ratings reflect an uptick in ratings for Showtime and a budding star in Broner.

It was a free preview weekend for Showtime although the 1.3 million ratings is premised upon the number of Showtime subscribers. Currently, Showtime has somewhere north of 18 million subscribers.

Paulie-Broner was the second highest ranked fight on Showtime with only the Miguel Cotto-Austin Trout fight from December scoring higher.  In fact four of the highest rated boxing events have occurred in the past 10 months.

UPDATE:  As pointed out below, the average for the fight was 890K viewers with the peak at 1.3M.

Payout Perspective:

Broner’s HBO fight with Gavin Rees in February earned 1.4 million viewers making “The Problem Child” a cable ratings success as his two fights have been the highest rated this year.  The ratings reflect Showtime’s surge in its boxing portfolio.  With Canelo-Mayweather picking up steam for September which will undoubtedly include a 360 series and other sorts of promotion hype, boxing is doing well for the network.  With Broner, Showtime may have found the successor to Mayweather.

Tate takes it down for ESPN

June 25, 2013

MMA Junkie reports that Miesha Tate will pose nude in the annual ESPN “Body” issue.  Last year, Ronda Rousey was featured in the issue last year.

The Body Issue has athletes posing in artful ways in the nude.  San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, Denver Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried and 77 year old golfer Gary Player are among the individuals posing in this year’s issue available July 12th.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Via Wikimedia Commons

Payout Perspective:

Imagine if Cat Zingano did not get injured, would Zingano get the ESPN shot?  Its hard to fathom that she would but that may just cynicism as to how this whole thing has played out for Miesha Tate.  Despite her loss, the Washington native gets national exposure in one of the better selling issues ESPN The Magazine has each year (honestly, I do not have the exact numbers but the magazine will be showing naked people…I assume it sells better than a feature on the New York Yankees).  The exposure comes at an opportune time as it gives Tate mainstream publicity and a chance to promote the upcoming season of TUF.  It will also give Tate and Rousey something to (trash) talk about in promoting their fight.


Corona retail promotion is boxers on bottles

June 24, 2013

The Sports Business Journal reports that Corona is affixing faces of familiar fighters on lines of bottles starting in mid-August.  The boxers are Miguel Cotto, Bernard Hopkins, Peter Quillin, Erik Morales, Abner Mares and Danny Garcia.

The fighters will be included in 18-packs in 32 states distributed primarily to Hispanic accounts. The promotion starting in August will run through October.  Three commemorative bottles will be included in the 18 packs.

Via @RealMiguelCotto

Via @RealMiguelCotto

According to the SBJ (subscription required), this will be the first time that Corona will build a retail promotion around boxing.  In a way, Corona’s promotion concedes the fact that Tecate has been successful with its in-store retail promotions (i.e., $25 rebate coupon for certain Pacquiao fights if fans bought Tecate can products).

Corona distributor Crown Imports signed on as a Golden Boy Promotions sponsor and its the company’s first major in-store promotion.  Golden Boy sees the opportunity to activate in 50 states which gives it a bigger reach than Tecate’s previous in-store promotions which were narrowly targeted.

While the promotion seeks to target the Hispanic market with a direct emphasis on Mexican Independence Day in September, the bottles feature two Mexicans (Morales, Mares), two Puerto Ricans (Cotto, Carcia) and two African Americans (BHop, Quillin).

Payout Perspective:

The promotion not only features the fighters but taps into the cultural pride.  Notably, it hopes to capitalize on a fight featuring Miguel Cotto in mid-September.  What about that other fight happening on September 14th between Canelo Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather?  While it would have made the most sense, there were obstacles from having the two featured on bottles.  First, at 22 years of age, Canelo Alvarez is too young to appear in beer ads per U.S. beer industry rules.  Mayweather declined to appear on the bottles.

While a survey reveals Corona is the preferred imported beer among Hispanics in the U.S., we will see if this promotion aids Golden Boy’s upcoming fights.  Moreover, will the promotion see a return on the costs expended for it.

Cowboy signs with NASCAR driver’s agency for representation

June 24, 2013

MMA Junkie reports that Donald Cerrone has signed on with NASCAR driver’s Kevin Harvik’s agency – Kevin Harvik, Inc.  The signing is the company’s first MMA client.

Harvick is a big fan of MMA and has been seen at UFC/Fox events as part of the new “synergy” of cross promotion between Fox’s sports properties.

Cerrone indicated that he hoped that Harvik’s professionalism and contacts with blue chip sponsors.  Cerrone is the third Harvik client as the company switched from race operations to professional athlete management.

Cerrone explained his decision via MMA Junkie:

“That’s what I think we need in the sport,” Cerrone said. “We don’t need, ‘Hey, my brother knows a little bit about fighting. He can manage you.’ I see a lot of that in the fight game — guys that know nothing but think they can make a dime by just managing people, and it’s crazy to see. In the NFL, you don’t just have your uncle call up the NFL and say, ‘Oh, I need to do a Nike deal.’ That happens a lot in MMA.

Payout Perspective:

Although Cerrone’s intentions seem valid, the decision to sign with Harvik does not seem to agree with his statement.  Harvik’s company is new and Cerrone is the first MMA client.  Moreover, the company switched over from race operations to athlete management.  The point being is that if Cerrone is seeking experienced representation then Harvik may not be it.  Does Harvik have the contacts, know the market and the MMA sponsorship game?  If the answer is that he does have sponsorship contacts interested in sponsoring an MMA fighter then Cerrone is making the right decision.  But, if this professional relationship is based on a personal friendship its the same scenario that Cerrone describes above.

We’ve seen this recently with Jay-Z forming his own athlete representation company, Roc-Nation, and quickly signing Kevin Durant, Robinson Cano and Victor Cruz.  Obviously, Harvik’s company is much smaller but the idea of experience equaling monetary results is a theory that may be tested.


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