Silva signs new deal with UFC; done with Nike

October 27, 2014

Anderson Silva has signed an unprecedented 15-fight deal with the UFC according to Combate.  The Brazilian web site also reports that Silva is no longer being sponsored with Nike but is talking with Adidas about a potential sponsorship.

It’s highly unlikely that the 39 year old Silva will fulfill the 15 fights on his new contract. Silva indicated that he had 7 fights left on his previous contract before the UFC “canceled” that contract in favor of the longer term deal.  It’s clear that the deal will more likely allow Silva to work in some ambassador role for the company after he decides his time in the Octagon is done.

As for ending the relationship with Nike, it appears that the Beaverton, Oregon company may be getting out of the MMA sponsor business.  With the recent news that they severed ties with Jon Jones, we may see the end of the swoosh in the Octagon.  The potential for another Oregon-based (US HQ) company, Adidas, may be on the horizon for Silva.

Payout Perspective:

We’ll see how many more fights are in Silva before he decides to retire.  Obviously, this past weekend’s appearance showed his massive popularity among Brazilian fans and an asset for the UFC to keep around even after he’d done fighting.  As for the potential Adidas sponsorship, it will be interesting to keep an eye on as the three stripes has been creeping into the UFC sponsor game with Robbie Lawler and Luke Rockhold having signed deals this year.

UFC 179 attendance and bonuses

October 26, 2014

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and bonuses from UFC 179 which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The event drew a report 11,415 as it was the third PPV event the company held in Brazil.

The attendance and bonuses were announced at the post-fight press conference.

The bonuses were $50,000 each and were as follows:

Fight of the Night:  Chad Mendes-Jose Aldo

Performances of the Night: Fabio Maldonaldo and Gilbert Burns

Payout Perspective:

It was the biggest attendance for an event in Brazil this year.  Of course, it was the only PPV held in the country this year.  The bonuses included a KO (Maldonado) and a submission (Burns).

UFC responds to Le’s demand for apology

October 24, 2014

There is more fallout from the Cung Le suspension and subsequent rescission as both Le and the UFC have made statements about what has transpired.

Le has demanded an apology from the UFC for what it has done to his name and reputation.  In a Facebook post from his representatives, Le and his management offered statements about the situation:

Le:   “I am extremely happy with the UFC’s decision to rescind my suspension. I believe the issues raised in regards to the testing procedures as well as the manner in which the results were determined by the UFC clearly support my assertion that I did not use any performance enhancing drugs. I am also happy to take away the fact that the UFC has decided to make the proper changes in their testing procedures which will now ensure that no athlete will ever have to endure the same hardship. While I feel vindicated in this matter, the UFC’s press release does little in the way of an apology of which I believe I am rightly owed after unfairly enduring the public’s scrutiny. Their decision to announce me as a user of performance enhancing drugs with little thought to the accuracy of the testing or proper procedures has caused my family and I great pain; that we have now come to know was completely unnecessary had the proper care been taken to ensure my test results were in fact valid proof of impropriety.”

AMR:  The evidence of my client’s innocence was overwhelming in this instance and the UFC’s decision to forego any further action and exonerate him is proof positive of that. We hope that my client will not now forever be associated with illegal doping especially now that he has been completely cleared of any wrongdoing. Regardless of the UFC’s decision, we are left to wonder if this whole matter should have ever happened at all but we do now know several things for certain: 1) my client did not take any performance enhancing drugs, 2) we questioned the propriety of the testing procedures before the UFC announced their initial suspension; 3) sports doping tests should be left to impartial third party experts, and 4) the UFC should have confirmed and evaluated my client’s test results before dispensing discipline and making inaccurate statements that could permanently tarnish Cung’s previously pristine reputation.

The absence of a formal apology, in light of the recent “medical advice” the UFC received, which prompted them to lift his suspension, is outrageous. Moreover, the insinuation that my client will not be disciplined due to “the [mere] lack of conclusive laboratory results”, is a clear attempt to deflect responsibility and cloud my client’s innocence, when, in fact, the mistakes that were made resulted solely from the UFC’s reckless and premature actions and decisions.

The UFC’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Lawrence Epstein spoke with the L.A. Times about rescinding Le’s suspension.  Epstein stated that UFC did not offer an apology to Le because the act of the rescission was sufficient.  Although he stuck up for the testing in Macau, he did not concede that the UFC took any missteps in handling the drug testing for the event.  “There was nothing wrong with the test, it just wasn’t the right test,” said Epstein to the LA Times about its protocol for the event.

Payout Perspective:

Le’s demand for an apology is part sticking his chest out (figuratively) and also part reputation management.  As we alluded to in a previous post, the UFC statement does not apologize to Le and many may believe that while Le’s suspension was lifted, it was due to a technicality and did not address whether Le actually took illegal substances.   With the tests thrown out, Le now wants an apology from the UFC since he claims to not have ever taken illegal substances.  And perhaps he is owed one.  Epstein, who is a lawyer, did not think it necessary to apologize to Le.  And even with the comments to the LA Times, the UFC is trying to save face despite the inference that its drug policy is broken (or maybe never fully formed to be broken).  Epstein admits in the LAT article that the UFC is not in the “drug testing business,” yet they are the de facto regulator if there is not a governing body in the region.  Moreover, the UFC defamed Le based on the facts we know.

I did not expect the UFC to make a formal apology and while we may see the UFC and Le work together in the future, an apology may not be forthcoming any time soon.

TUF 20 Ep 5 lows; UFC Tonight’s highs

October 24, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the fifth episode of TUF received an average viewership of 509,000 viewers.  In addition, MMA Payout has learned that the Wednesday night’s UFC Tonight scored an all-time high on FS1 with 242,000 viewers.

First, the 5th episode of TUF featured Felice Herrig defeating Heather Jo Clark in the fight of the episode.  It was one of the lowest output for this season although it did go up against Game 2 of the World Series on Fox.

TUF 20 Episode 5

UFC Tonight sported its highest viewership average ever with 242,000 viewers in the 8pm ET time slot Wednesday.  It was the debut of Daniel Cormier as the official co-host.

Payout Perspective:

There was a lot of press promoting Cormier’s debut so that might have played into the big ratings number.  As for the TUF episode, the low number was likely considering it going opposite the World Series.  The show also came off a two-week hiatus so that might have contributed to a sluggish number

Belfort never tested by NAC

October 23, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that the Nevada Athletic Commission has never tested Vitor Belfort since his appearance before the commission in July.  Instead, the commission indicated that the state of California would handle the drug testing since it appears that Belfort’s next fight would be in California.

Although there has not been any official fight announcement for Belfort-Chris Weidman, Ariel Helwani’s interview with NAC head Bob Bennett seemed to indicate that Weidman’s next title defense would occur in the state.

You may recall that the NAC granted Belfort a conditional license for a fight that was to take place in December in Nevada but for Weidman’s hand injury which caused the current delay in that fight.  The NAC told Belfort in July that he would be subject to extensive drug tests (both blood and urine) throughout the rest of his career as a result of a failed drug test this past February.

California State Athletic Commission executive officer Andy Foster indicated that he would test Belfort but nothing has yet to be planned.  Foster stated that the tentative plan was to test Belfort “three-to-five times” at random before the fight as well as fight night.

Payout Perspective:

Well this doesn’t look good for the NAC.  Certainly, the NAC could have said they intended to test Belfort but Weidman’s injury did not make it an immediate need.  But, not only does it appear that the NAC was just giving the public “lip service” about its hard line about fighters that break the rules, it now is passing off this responsibility to California. In addition, the article states that Belfort appeared willing to go through the testing as he had given the NAC all of his contact information.  For the NAC to not at least conduct one test between July and now is a disappointment.  Not only does it show that it did not follow through with its word of random testing, it is a sign to fighters that there is a possibility that they can get away with things like this.

Bellator 129 Live + 3: 683,000 viewers

October 22, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source the Live +3 rating for Bellator 129 saw an increase to 683,000 viewers.  The Live +3 peak jumped to 948,000 from 780,000.

Bellator 129 saw the biggest rise in Live + 3 ratings of season 11.

Bellator 129 live +3

Payout Perspective:

Bellator 129 was not a great card and it was reflected in the ratings.  The increase in viewership in the DVR ratings reflects the possibility that many DVR the fights so that they can determine whether or not to watch the entire show.  Or, like most of us strapped for time, hear about the fights and decide which ones to watch later on.

HBO Boxing tops events so far in 2014

October 22, 2014

ESPN’s Dan Rafael tweeted out the top live, first-time airings of boxing events for 2014.  Notably, the top 10 are all HBO events.

  1. Chavez-Vera 2 (HBO) 1.39M (peak 1.53M)
  2. GGG-Rubio (HBO) 1.304M (peak1.323M)
  3. Crawford-Gamboa (HBO) 1.208M (peak 1.286M)
  4. Marquez-Alvarado (HBO) 1.198M (peak 1.322M)
  5. Donaire-Walters (HBO) 1.088M
  6. Provodnikov-Algieri (HBO) 1.017M
  7. Salido-Lomachenko (HBO) 1.017M
  8. Kovalev-Agnew (HBO) 1.006M (peak 1.048M)
  9. Postol-Aydin (HBO) 1.002M (peak 1.1M)
  10. Kovalev-Caparello (HBO) 990,000 (peak 1.052M)
  11. GGG-Geale (HBO) 984,000 (peak 1.048M)
  12. Pascal-Bute (HBO) 982,000
  13. Garcia-Herrera (Showtime) 972,000
  14. Stiverne-Arreola 2 (ESPN) 940,000

Payout Perspective

We note that these television ratings are for the fights only and not the entire block of time.  A couple of the HBO events had two fights in the top 14.  Notably, Donaire-Walters were the semi-main event for GGG-Rubio.  Also, Salido-Lomanchenko were on Chavez-Vera 2.  Also interesting is that NBC Sports Network and the quarterly fights held on Saturday on NBC did not crack the top 14.  It had previously scored over 1 million viewers for its Saturday afternoon events.

Cain out of UFC 180 due to injury

October 21, 2014

The UFC announced that Cain Velasquez is out of UFC 180 with a right knee injury.  As a result, Mark Hunt is stepping in to replace him to face Fabricio Werdum for the interim Heavyweight title.

The knee injury suffered by Velasquez occurred during training on October 16th or 17th.  According to MMA Fighting, he will have surgery on his right knee on Thursday.  The article states that Dana White hopes that Velasquez will be able to return by March.

Velasquez and Werdum served as coaches on TUF Latin America which was to culminate in their fight on November 15th.

The UFC announced that customers can request a refund for the event due to Cain’s injury.

Payout Perspective:

Another marquee fighter beset by injury causing a substitution to a main event.  Velasquez’s injury is a blow for the event as he was a key for the Mexico City audience.  It’s clear that the substitution will affect the PPV buy rate.  The injury is a disappointment considering the sellout and the fact that the UFC had partnered with Fathom Events to have the event in movie theaters.  In his place, Mark Hunt gets the opportunity against Werdum.

Cung Le suspension lifted by UFC

October 21, 2014

The UFC announced Tuesday that it has rescinded the 12 month suspension of Cung Le.  The news comes as a surprise considering Le and the UFC were heading to arbitration over the suspension.


At UFC Fight Night Macao on August 23rd, UFC contracted with an independent drug testing laboratory in Hong Kong to perform urinalysis testing on all fighters on the card.  Additionally, UFC requested the laboratory to test blood samples from 4 fighters for human growth hormone (HGH), erythropoietin (EPO) and testosterone.

One of the athletes who had his blood tested was Cung Le.  The laboratory results from Le’s blood test were sent to the UFC and showed that his blood had a total HGH level outside the reference range.  Based on such results, UFC officials determined that Le had violated his promotional agreement and the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy.  Consequently, UFC decided that Le should be suspended from unarmed combat competition for 12 months.

Following the announcement of Le’s suspension, UFC officials have been provided with medical advice regarding the elevated total HGH present in Le’s system.  In accordance with such medical advice, UFC has determined that Le’s elevated total HGH by itself does not prove that he took performance-enhancing drugs before the August 23rd bout.  As a result, UFC has informed Le that his suspension is rescinded.

Le had requested an appeal of his suspension, and was entitled to arbitrate the drug test results and suspension.  However, based on the lack of conclusive laboratory results, UFC officials deemed it appropriate to immediately rescind the suspension without the need for further proceedings.

The UFC organization has always been a leader when it comes to testing for performance-enhancing drugs in combat sports.  All UFC athletes know they are subject to drug testing by an applicable state athletic commission, an international governing federation, or by an independent laboratory contracted by the UFC when no regulatory body is overseeing the event.  In those cases where regulatory oversight is unavailable, UFC voluntarily chooses to adhere to the highest level of athlete health and safety protocols similar to if the event were being held in the state of Nevada.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that the UFC did not want to go to arbitration as it would have likely exposed the UFC’s drug testing policy (or lack thereof).  Le’s attorney Steve Pacitti and manager Gary Ibarra stuck with the situation despite the overwhelming public perception that Le was guilty.  Of course, the rescission does not mean that Le was not guilty of taking illegal substances, it’s just that the process for testing this was faulty.  As an advocate for Le, Pacitti and Ibarra spelled out Le’s case with the facts of the situation.  Namely, the lab that gathered the samples was not a WADA-approved lab.  Also, the taking of the sample from Le occurred at a time when his hGH levels were naturally high and a WADA required test was never conducted on the sample.  All of this information appears to have mounted in favor of Le and the UFC’s decision to rescind the suspension.  With the suspension lifted, we will see how ready the UFC will be to book Le for another fight.

The UFC must recognize that its current drug testing policy is shaky at best.  The fact that it was unclear what process for appeal Le had reflects the need for the company to sit down and spell out a comprehensive policy for its fighters.

Bellator 129 posts lowest ratings of season

October 21, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that Friday’s Bellator 129 received a season low of 564,000 viewers with a peak of just 780,000.  It was the worst output of the season for Bellator.

Bellator Season 11 overnight ratings

Bellator 123:  667,000

Bellator 124:  771,000

Bellator 125:  742,000

Bellator 126:  656,000

Bellator 127:  609,000

Bellator 128:  668,000

Bellator 129:  564,000

Bellator 129 ratings

Payout Perspective:

The ratings should be of no surprise considering Friday’s card was the weakest this season.  In the main event Paul Bradley defeated Josh Neer.  Also on the card Houston Alexander fought Virgil Zwicker to a draw.  The peak occurred at 10:26 p.m. The overnight average and peak are substantial off the season averages.

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