UFC announces ‘Go Big’ seasonal campaign

August 26, 2015

The UFC announced a ‘Go Big’ Seasonal Campaign with a live launch event open to the public set for Friday, September 4th with many of the fighters featured this fall appearing.

The event will take place at the Grand Garden Arena and will be streamed on ufc.com.  The event will be the pre-cursor for UFC 191 set for next Saturday.

Go Big

Via UFC press release:

UFC champions Ronda Rousey, Daniel Cormier, Conor McGregor, Robbie Lawler, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rafael Dos Anjos, as well as top contenders Alexander Gustafsson, Carlos Condit, Luke Rockhold, Donald Cerrone, Dan Henderson, Holly Holm and Vitor Belfort will be among the more than 20 fighters participating in the launch event.

Payout Perspective:

It appears that the UFC will be branding its quarterly fights with slogans.  At the beginning of the year, ‘The Time is Now’ was the campaign.  It might have helped with the first three PPV cards of the year doing better than anticipated.  With the quality of fights and number of events occurring in the last quarter of 2015, the UFC is taking the opportunity to rally its fans (and fighters) with a public event and perhaps gain some momentum for one of the weaker PPV cards of 2015.

Combate Americas announces live events geared toward Hispanic audience

August 26, 2015

Combate Americas announced a monthly live event promotion on Spanish language cable station NBC Universo (formerly mun2) according to a press release.  Combate Americas, the first-ever U.S. Hispanic MMA sports franchise was founded by one of the UFC’s founders Campbell McLaren.

NBC Universo is the modern sports and entertainment cable channel for Latinos according to a press release announcing the live events.  On Tuesday Combate Americas announced the kick-off of “Road to the Championship,” an MMA fight series that will air live on NBC Universo.

The Combate Americas reality show was the first fight-themed program ever to win a major television award – “Best Variety or Reality Series,” at last year’s 29th Annual Imagen Awards.  The show was a hit with U.S. Hispanic viewers.

NBC Universo is available to approximately 39,326,000 pay television households which is almost 34% of those with TVs in the US.

Payout Perspective:

Building on the success of its reality show, the MMA promotion seeks to attract the Hispanic millennials which are the fastest-growing U.S. demographic according to the press release.  The show appears to be positioned for success as it is airing on a network geared toward the younger Hispanic demographic.  You might recall Oscar De La Hoya announced his own network at the beginning of the year which would carry combat sports including boxing and MMA that would cater to young Hispanics as well.  Although nothing has come out of De La Hoya’s network, he has brokered a deal in which RingTV.com (owned by De La Hoya) would stream live fights starting in September.  His Golden Boy Promotions also worked a deal with Southern Californian-based Estrella TV to air fights after its deal with Fox Sports 1 ended.

UFC Fight Night 74 draws 796K viewers, prelims draw 542K

August 25, 2015

Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night 74 airing on FS1 drew an average viewership of 796,000 according to Nielsen sources.  The prelims which preceded the main card drew 542,000 viewers.

The peak during the main card occurred in the last quarter hour of the event 9:45-10pm when it drew 970,000 viewers.  The main card for UFC Fight Night 74 went up against NFL Preseason Football on Fox and WWE’s Summerslam.  The NFL game between the Titans and Rams drew 4.345 million viewers and scored the most in the adult 18-49 demo according to Deadline.com.

Yet, the Sunday night card fared well despite dropping in viewership from two Saturday ago.  The Fight Night viewership average is at 872,000 952,000 viewers.

The prelims actually saw an increase from UFC Fight Night 73 drawing 542,000 viewers.

UFC Fight Nights 2015
Main Card Prelims
UFC Fight Night 59 2,751,000 908,000
UFC Fight Night 60 913,000 775,000
UFC Fight Night 61 1,200,000 813,000
UFC Fight Night 62 617,000 280,000
UFC Fight Night 63 389,000 304,000
UFC Fight Night 66 575,000 286,000
UFC Fight Night 67 813,000 713,000
UFC Fight Night 68 950,000 782,000
UFC Fight Night 70 (prelims on FS2) 909,000 223,000
UFC Fight Night 71 801,000 543,000
UFC Fight Night 72 508,000 292,000
UFC Fight Night 73 1,159,000 306,000
UFC Fight Night 74 796,000 542,000

UFC Fight Night 74

Payout Perspective:

On a rather busy Sunday night, the UFC had a decent viewership and the prelim viewership actually increased compared to the last two UFC Fight Night cards.  The main event was disappointing due to the injury to Oliveira.  However, much of the rest of the fights on Sunday were entertaining.

Johnson agrees to counseling and donation after gym incident

August 25, 2015

MMA Fighting reports that Anthony Johnson has agreed to seek counseling and make a donation to a women’s charity after an incident with a woman at his gym.  The UFC hired an outside law firm to investigate the incident after Johnson posted a rant on social media about the incident.

The UFC released a statement on Monday announcing Johnson’s agreed moves after the incident and investigation:

Following a thorough investigation by a third-party law firm, UFC® is extremely disappointed with Anthony Johnson’s recent actions, as the organization does not tolerate behavior of this nature from any athletes under contract with the UFC. Johnson personally apologized to the woman he verbally offended at a Florida gym last week and for the insensitive comments he made on social media afterwards. The woman accepted Johnson’s apology and indicated a desire to put this unfortunate matter behind them. In order to ensure these situations do not happen in the future, Johnson has agreed to participate in counseling and UFC will support him through this process. Johnson has also agreed to make a donation to a Florida-based women’s charity.

Johnson will remain on the UFC 191 card to face Jimi Manuwa.

The investigation was likely a result of Johnson’s prior history as it relates to women.  A restraining ordered was issued against him by the mother of his children.  However, that was subsequently dismissed.

Payout Perspective:

A good result from the incident or putting a band-aid on a huge gash?  What would have been an appropriate measure might have been to have Johnson pay for anger management counseling (because it appears that what he needs), make a donation to a women’s charity and pay for the woman’s gym fees for an entire year.  Not to be cynical, but I would think that the latter penalty (paying for the gym fees) would have been the most immediate and appropriate result out of this whole debacle.  It was clear that the UFC needed to resolve this matter prior to fight week as it would have been hanging over the promotion of a card that looks very soft on paper.

What I find interesting in the UFC statement is that there is no mention that the law firm investigating the incident or the UFC reviewed the UFC Code of Conduct for athletes and made a determination as to whether there was a violation.  One might suggest that Johnson agreed to the counseling and donation in lieu of an actual determination of a violation.  In that case, I would think it should still be mentioned.  If no mention, it will not be in the mind of the fighters and/or their representatives.  Moreover, it would not seem that there would be any repercussions from a violation of the code.

Pro-UFC editorial dumps on Culinary Union

August 24, 2015

The Las Vegas Review-Journal ran an editorial in its Saturday’s edition entitled, “UFC should knock out phony Culinary organizing bid.”  The editorial take shots at Culinary Local 226, a staunch opponent of the Fertitta brothers and the UFC as it criticizes the latest efforts by the union to assist unionizing UFC fighters.

The editorial lashes out against the union citing that it has failed to unionize the Fertitta-owned Station Casinos “because of hostility, harassment and bad-faith tactics.”  It also describes a “political blockade in New York” which has prevented the legalization of MMA in New York.

The editorial is surprisingly devoid of valid, well-written, articulate and clear arguments articulating the point that the Culinary Union is bad and the Fertittas and the UFC are the victims.  Instead, there are a lot of conclusions without evidence.  To top it off, the editorial ends with the reference that the union should “tap out.”  There is no real call to action or what will happen if the Culinary Union continues.

Payout Perspective:

There are ways to use the media to get your point across.  Obviously, the editorial is pro-UFC and anti-Culinary Union.  Yet, it is so blatant and without reason that it just smacks of propaganda.  Certainly, the UFC could have provided a far better article and/or placement than a hastily written editorial.

Zuffa appeal offers opportunity for court to address First Amendment issue in sports

August 24, 2015

Earlier this month the UFC filed its appeal brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals with respect to its dismissed lawsuit against New York.  The appeal focuses on Zuffa’s claims that MMA is protected by the First Amendment and that Plaintiffs have standing to press their challenge that the law prohibiting MMA in the state is unconstitutionally vague.

For those that are subscribers to the Sports Business Journal, I provide a lengthier in-depth analysis of the implications of Zuffa’s First Amendment appeal as a guest columnist in this week’s edition.

This past spring Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York dismissed Zuffa’s lawsuit which attempted to overturn the law banning professional mixed martial arts in the state.  The UFC retained former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement to handle the appeal which was filed this spring in the Second Circuit.

The two primary issues that Zuffa focuses on in its appeal is its First Amendment claim that MMA deserves free speech protection and that the statute is unconstitutionally vague.

We will focus on the First Amendment appeal in this post and address the vagueness claim in another post later this week.

In its appellate brief filed on August, it argues that live entertainment, including MMA is presumptively entitled to First Amendment protection when performed in front of a live audience.  This is based on the belief that implicit in the statute prohibiting MMA in New York according to Clement, is that the New York law restricts live MMA but does not prohibit the practice of MMA in gyms and training facilities across the state.  Thus, the district court, as Clement writes “missed the forest for the trees.”  Essentially, Judge Wood evaluated the law banning pro MMA in the state from the aspect as to whether MMA is inherently expressive when not part of a live performance.  Clement asserts that it is “backwards” rationale.  “As the Supreme Court has confirmed time and again, performing before an audience is what brings conduct that might not otherwise be expressive within the scope of the First Amendment,” writes Clement.  The brief goes on to further argue that “a law that singles out for prohibition public exhibitions of perfectly lawful conduct is plainly problematic…”

It’s clear that MMA falls within the ambit of free speech and so Clement argues that the state of New York cannot contend that the message MMA live events convey is not entitled to First Amendment protection.  He goes on to argue on behalf of the UFC that the district court dismissed the First Amendment claim, in part, due to the fact that even though live MMA conveyed a “particularized message,” it must be “understood by those viewing it.”  Clement negates the belief citing the fact that whether the conduct involves lives performance before an audience, the case law suggest that there is no other need for further inquiry.  As stated above, the law specifically addresses live MMA and since the law specifically seeks to regulate live MMA, there should be no further evaluation as to whether the audience will understand the particular message.

The response brief from New York will be filed the first week of November.  At that point, the UFC will have a chance to reply to the response brief.

Payout Perspective:

The appeal before the 2nd Circuit will not be decided until sometime in 2016 (if that) as the appellate court does not have a hard timeline to make a decision.  If the court determines that MMA deserves First Amendment protection, it could have bigger implications than just MMA as one might conclude that sports in general could receive First Amendment protection.  Moreover, it may impact technology like live streaming phone apps such as Periscope and Meerkat.  If MMA, and sport by extension, is determined to have First Amendment protection, then what would prohibit an individual from live streaming an event for others to watch online?  Another broader issue also addresses the intersection of a league’s intellectual property versus First Amendment protection.  We have seen leagues and its sponsors attempt to use Periscope with the eventual hope of monetizing it and take advantage of its content.  If the general public is allowed to stream sporting events using their phones, leagues and sponsors face an issue.

Although this was not brought up as a big issue, MMA Fighting’s Marc Raimondi was prohibited from using Periscope during fight week leading up to UFC 189.  It was later clarified to him (according to Raimondi in a subsequent tweet) that he just could not Periscope during the actual night of the fight.  For those wondering, I had reached out to the UFC to see if it had an official policy on live streaming its events.  I did not receive a response.

MMA Payout will keep you posted on the appeal.

UFC Fight Night 74 attendance, gate and bonuses

August 23, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the attendance, gate and bonuses from UFC Fight Night 74 from Saskatoon, Canada.  The numbers were announced at the post-event press conference.

The bonuses were awarded to Patrick Cote, Josh Burkman, Felipe Arentes and Frankie Perez.  Each earned $50,000 each.  Arantes and Peres drew the Performance of the Night while Cote and Burkman won Fight of the Night.

The event drew 7,202 and a live gate of $717,000.  The SaskTel Centre houses 15,100 for hockey and 14,370 for a center stage concert.

Despite having more in attendance (7,539), the night in Saskatoon did better in gate than Nashville ($454,551) at UFC Fight Night 73.

Payout Perspective:

Perhaps the most shocking event of the night was the sudden retirement of bonus winner Perez.  If you are going to retire, you might as well end on top.  The gate fared well for the UFC’s first event in Saskatoon.  It will be interesting to see ratings for the event as it went up against WWE’s Summerslam and NFL Preseason football on Fox.

ESPN covers Summerslam Sunday

August 23, 2015

While there is a Sunday night UFC Fight Night from Saskatoon, Canada airing on FS1 DSunday night, the event might be overshadowed by WWE’s Summerslam which will air at the same time as the live MMA event on the WWE Network and through PPV.

The WWE has received support in promoting this event from ESPN which is airing live at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York where the company is holding three sold out events which started last night with the WWE’s developmental arm NXT holding an event.  In addition to Sunday’s Summerslam, the company will air Monday Night Raw from the same venue.  Former WWE commentator and current ESPN anchor Jonathan Coachman was a central part of the coverage.

According to Forbes.com, there was some controversy as to whether ESPN should cover the WWE event.  However, the company decided to make the decision to cover it for a variety of reasons.  Forbes.com touched on the fact that ESPN is losing subscribers and covering the WWE is a way for ESPN to attract more viewers.  Earlier this year, ESPN aired Brock Lesnar’s decision as to whether he would sign with the UFC or stick with the WWE.  It also produced a documentary featuring WWE superstars.

Strategically the WWE has offered a free month of WWE Network for non-subscribers which should boost viewership.  The offer is an almost quarterly strategy to entice curious fans to sign up.  As of the last earnings call, it appears that paid subscriptions are doing well and offering the free month is one of the reasons the sub numbers have progressively increased.

Payout Perspective:

This summer, ESPN has done live remotes at unique sporting events across the nation to give little known events some notoriety.  This, of course, is a little different.  In the past, ESPN has covered Wrestlemania in the past but never in a serious capacity.  ESPN’s involvement in covering Summerslam is great for the WWE.  In year’s past, the company’s biggest card of the summer was held in Los Angeles but interest had waned.  This year appears to have had a resurgence and part of that has to be due to ESPN’s involvement.  Brock Lesnar was on the network earlier in the week and you may recall he indicated that Vince McMahon was a better promoter than Dana White.

Based on the attendance from Saturday and the anticipated attendance for the next two events, it appears that the WWE has found a new home for Summerslam.

Rousey files for “DNB” trademark for apparel

August 22, 2015

Ronda Rousey has filed to trademark “Do Nothing B—-“ and “DNB,” the acronym for her new venture.  The trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office were filed on August 3rd by Rousey’s trademark attorney, Deborah Greaves.

The trademark DNB will be for “Headwear; Hooded sweatshirts; Sweatshirts; T-shirts” according to the application filed with the USPTO.

DNB is the acronym for “Do Nothing Bitch,” a phrase Rousey coined in leadup to her fight at UFC 190 with Beth Corriea.

Rousey sold DNB t-shirts with a portion of the proceeds going to nonprofit Didi Hirsch 501c3 for their work in mental health services & for women with body image issues.

Just landed back in LA from Rio and I’m shocked and moved to see so many of you getting behind my represent.com/ronda campaign. You already know how much this message means to me, and it’s heartwarming that it means something to so many of you too. To say thanks, I’ll be sending some signed shirts to buyers at random in 24 hours! Get your shirt at represent.com/ronda (link in bio!)

A photo posted by rondarousey (@rondarousey) on

The initial goal of the t-shirts (at $24.99 each) were to sell 1,000 but it appears that they have sold 56,798 as the date of this writing.

Payout Perspective:

Both trademark filings will take at least 3 months before they are assigned to a trademark examiner that will assess the marks to see if there is a likelihood of confusion with any other marks as well determine whether they pass other tests.  “Do Nothing B—“ might face scrutiny since the term “b—-“ may be considered “scandalous, offensive or immoral.”  That is likely a judgment call by the examiner and Rousey’s attorney could challenge an adverse ruling.

There are other “DNB” trademarks but they appear to be in other industries (i.e., they are not selling t-shirts, etc.) so it may be unlikely that “DNB” gets stopped due to the other holders of the DNB trademark.  If the examiner deems it worthy of a trademark there will be a period in which it will be open to the public to view it and file any objections to the mark.  If no objections, Rousey will own the “DNB” trademark with respect to clothing.  Based on the trademark we may see more clothing coming out under this brand or perhaps she will guard against anyone attempting to make money off her trademark.

Its not the first time that athletes have trademarked phrases based on things that come up during interviews or while in action.  For WWE fans, the company filed for a trademark of “Suplex City” with the USPTO the day after Wrestlemania this year after Brock Lesnar yelled it out during his main event match.

Rousey announces Holm fight for UFC 195

August 21, 2015

Ronda Rousey announced her next opponent on ABC’s Good Morning America Friday Morning. In a surprise, Rousey announced that she would be facing Holly Holm at UFC 195 on January 2nd.

The news is a bit of a swerve considering most, including Rousey, post-UFC 190 believed she would be facing Miesha Tate in December at UFC 194. However, Rousey delivered the news on GMA.

“She is definitely my biggest challenge to date so I’m super excited about it,” Rousey told GMA.

ronda-rousey-to-fight-holly-holm-at-ufc-195-1108383-TwoByOne

Holm was a much heralded pickup for the UFC and many believed she would be groomed to face Rousey someday.  That day is coming sooner than most expected.

Payout Perspective:

Holm is an attractive opponent for Rousey in more ways than one. While many will not believe Rousey’s claim that she is the “biggest challenge” to date (rather the next challenge), Holm has a boxing background that might pose some problems for Rousey’s straight ahead style of standup. If nothing else, there’s the proverbial “puncher’s chance” that Rousey might be caught with a punch. Of course, the actual marketing of the fight will help as well. Holm has a good backstory and is appealing. While looks should not be factored into selling a fight, with women’s MMA it is even though people do not want to admit it. As opposed to UFC 190, there will be a portion of fans that will want to see this fight not only for Rousey but also for Holm.

It should be mentioned that Rousey’s announcement happened on ABC’s Good Morning America instead of ESPN. It’s clear that this is targeting women and the casual fan. One would also think that this is a way to introduce Rousey to more mainstream industry executives that could place here in movies. Perhaps a Disney Captain Marvel role for Rousey in the future?

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