UFC – Topps introduce digital trading card app

June 30, 2016

The UFC announced the launch of its digital trading card app with Topps trading cards.  Topps UFC KNOCKOUT 16 will feature UFC stars and include performance-based contests updated in real-time during live UFC events.

The app which is available on select iOS and Android devices debuted Thursday.

Via UFC press release:

New digital cards and sets will be released daily in UFC KNOCKOUT. The app will feature a variety of trading cards with unique artwork, including digital versions of athlete memorabilia and autographs.

Topps has been a long-time partner of the UFC.  One might expect more of these partnership activation as we head into International Fight Week.

Payout Perspective:

Topps will still release regular cards but the digital cards are a sign of the possible future of collector’s cards.  It’s an interesting idea to get the younger demo involved.  But, I still miss the cards with the hard gum inside.

TUF 23 Episode 11 draws 447,000 viewers

June 30, 2016

The Ultimate Fighter 23 episode 11 drew 447,000 viewers on FS1 Wednesday night.  The viewership is higher than the season average.

The 11th episode averaged 285,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo per Sports TV Ratings.

In the women’s semifinal, Amanda Cooper defeated teammate Lanchana Green via rear naked choke.

Episode 10

It should be noted that last week’s Episode 10 which was moved around to accommodate soccer last week drew 167,000 viewers (88,000 A18-49).  The DVR +3 numbers for Episode 10 last week drew 228,000 viewers for a 2:30amET telecast of TUF Episode 10.  The overnight rating (Live +SD) drew 107,000.

The season average on FS1 is 377,000 viewers.  Last weeks’ time change hurt the average.

Payout Perspective:

TUF was second to the 10:00pm ESPN Sportscenter (855,000) in the 10-11pm time slot per Sports TV Ratings.  The Episode 11 rating is slightly better than last year’s TUF 21 11th episode.

UFC-Joe Hand renew PPV distribution partnership

June 29, 2016

The UFC announced a multi-year’s partnership with commercial PPV distributor Joe Hand Promotions.  Financial terms were not disclosed.

Joe Hand Promotions will continue as the exclusive domestic distributor for UFC PPVs.  The company serves as the agent for the UFC in selling UFC PPVs to bars, restaurants and casinos.  It essentially sells licenses for businesses to air PPVs.  The fee varies per size of commercial establishment.

Via UFC.com announcement:

“Our relationship with UFC is one of the longest and most valued in the history of Joe Hand Promotions. The UFC is the largest Pay-Per-View provider in the world with unparalleled leadership and we are proud to be their partners,” Joe Hand Jr. said. “We look forward to growing our customer base together and bringing the excitement of the UFC to even more commercial locations.” ` `

In light of UFC 200, Joe Hand is offering a free conference call to help commercial owners effectively market next Saturday’s PPV.

Payout Perspective:

While its rarely discussed as we mainly focus on PPV buys, it’s Joe Hand’s job to sell UFC PPVs to commercial establishments.  As we indicate, the fees vary based on the establishment.  As we head into the biggest week of the year for the UFC, Joe Hand is expected to maximize the number of establishments that purchase a license to show 200.

Rampage main event at Dynamite 2 draws over 1M viewers

June 29, 2016

Rampage Jackson’s win over Satoshi Ishii at Dynamite 2 on Spike TV Friday night drew 1,040,000 viewers per Nielsen.  The main event peaked with 1,140,000 viewers.

Overall the 3-hour broadcast on Spike TV Friday night drew 675,000 viewers in adjusted DVR+3 ratings. In overnight (Live + SD) ratings, Dynamite 2 drew 601,000 viewers.

In addition, Bellator Kickboxing which aired immediately after Dynamite 2 drew 439,000 viewers.  The main event featuring Joe Schilling-Hisaki Kato drew 624,000 viewers and peaking with 642,000.  The overnight ratings for Bellator Kickboxing drew 418,000.

Payout Perspective:

The adjusted rankings and viewership during the respective main events are very good.  Obviously, June 2015’s tentpole event fared much better as Slice-Shamrock peaked at 2.1M viewers which was the best in company history.  However, Dynamite 1’s highest quarter hour this past September drew 930,000 viewers.  The Rampage Jackson fight drew better despite the overall average of the event doing less than September’s Dynamite event.

Sage Northcutt secures Reebok deal

June 29, 2016

Sage Northcutt has signed an individual sponsorship deal with Reebok.  The UFC lightweight made the announcement via his twitter.

Northcutt, who was found on Dana White’s UFC Fight Pass reality show, came to the organization with a lot of hype.  His youthfulness, good-looks and overall optimism made him a target from the grizzled MMA fandom that loathe all of these traits in a fighter.

Controversy also arose regarding Northcutt’s starting pay.  It was revealed that he made $40,000 to show and $40,000 to win at UFC Fight Night 80 in December.  It was just his second fight with the company.

Northcutt is coming off of a loss to Bryan Barberena at UFC on Fox 18 in January.

He fights next week at UFC 200.

Payout Perspective:

Despite coming off of a loss, Reebok is banking on Northcutt’s marketability and appeal.  Northcutt is young and has some time to grow into a contender in the UFC.  The deal makes sense considering it occurs the week before the biggest week of the year for the company.  Also, add the fact that Reebok is set to reveal updates to its fight kits for International Fight Week.

Rousey named “30 Most Powerful Women in Sport”

June 28, 2016

Ronda Rousey was named one of the 30 Most Powerful Women in Sport according to Adweek.  In this inaugural list, the selections will be celebrated at the Clio Sports gala in New York on July 7th.

Those selected reflect the influencers, industry leaders and record breakers in their respective sports. The list includes athletes, leaders within the C-Suite and personalities working within sport.  Notably, the WWE’s Stephanie McMahon was named on this list.  Danica Patrick, Serena Williams and golfer Lydia Ko are among those on the list.

Via Ad Week:

As the UFC has made headway in the American sports consciousness, Ronda Rousey has given the sport the one thing it’s been lacking: a bona fide superstar.

Payout Perspective:

Despite what many “pure” MMA fans think of Rousey, she is a mainstream star.  Even though she has not fought since last November and does not have another fight scheduled, she has used her sport to propel her to a career in movies and a brand ambassador.  Will her next fight in the octagon determine her future on this list?

Penn receives 6 month suspension for anti-doping violation

June 27, 2016

B.J. Penn has agreed to a six-month suspension as a result of a violation of the UFC anti-doping policy.  The suspension will be retroactive to March 25th, the date he admitted using a banned IV.

Penn admitted to the violation during an out-of-competition sample collection.  Penn claimed he did not know of the rule.  As a result, his return to the octagon at UFC 199 was scrapped.  Due to his admission and full cooperation with USADA’s investigation, he received the reduction in suspension.

Payout Perspective:

A fairly short suspension for Penn as he could return this fall.  We are seeing that its beneficial to settle with USADA rather than fight a suspension.  One would think Penn’s admission and cooperation helped with the relatively short penalty.

Bellator Kickboxing draws 418,000 in second event

June 27, 2016

Bellator Kickboxing on Spike TV Friday night drew 418,000 viewers which is an increase from its debut.

Per Sports TV Ratings, it drew 210,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.  The event aired (10:59pm-12:40am) immediately after Bellator 157.

In April, Bellator Kickboxing drew an average of 346,000 viewers.  It averaged 464,000 for the first hour and peaked with 730,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

We will update this with more information on the ratings but one might suspect the first hour of Bellator Kickboxing was bolstered by Dynamite 2.  Even though the overall Dynamite 2 rating may have disappointed, an average of 418,000 viewers for kickboxing on Spike TV is very good.  It’s a nice start for Bellator’s Kickboxing promotion and shows that there is a potential market for the sport.

Dynamite 2 draws 601,000 viewers on Spike TV

June 27, 2016

Bellator 157: Dynamite 2 drew 601,000 viewers on Spike TV Friday night per Nielsen.  The event is a 25% drop from September 2015’s debut of the MMA/Kickboxing show on the network.

Bellator 157 featured Rampage Jackson facing Satoshi Ishii in the main event.  Jackson won via split division in an uninspired catchweight matchup.

Bellator 157

The event was in increase from last week’s Bellator live event but is the lowest-rated tentpole event since Scott Coker created these quarterly events.

Notably, last June’s tentpole event drew 1,580,000 viewers on Spike TV.  The event featured Ken Shamrock facing Kimbo Slice.

On another note, Sports TV Ratings reports that the one-hour special honoring Kimbo Slice which preceded Dynamite 2 drew 416,000 viewers.  It drew 222,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.

Payout Perspective:

The Kimbo Slice lead-in to Dynamite 2 seemed to have helped, somewhat, with the ratings.  The College World Series on ESPN (Coastal Carolina/TCU) won the time slot (Dynamite ran at same time) in the sports cable TV ratings with 888,000 viewers.  The ratings for Dynamite 2 have to be disappointing and the question arises whether the MMA/Kickboxing mix is something combat sports fans want to see.

Boxers spar in court over failed bout agreement

June 26, 2016

Although Deontay Wilder is scheduled to fight Chris Arreola on Fox next month, he’s embroiled in a court battle against Alexander Povetkin and his promoter, Andrey Ryabinskiy due to a purported failed drug test which scratched the fight between the two.

On June 13, 2016, Wilder filed a lawsuit against Povetkin, Ryabinskiy and World of Boxing, LLC (“WOB”) for breach of contract and seeking the court for a declaratory judgment.  In addition to the money that has been put up in escrow for the fight

10 days later, World of Boxing, Povetkin and Ryabinkiy (“WOB”) filed sued against Wilder, Lou DiBella and DiBella Entertainment, Wilder’s promoters.  WOB is filing claiming causes of action for breach of contract as well as defamation.

Both lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District for the Southern District of New York.

Wilder and DiBella Entertainment, Inc. v. World of Boxing, LLC and Alexander Povetkin

The lawsuit claims breach of contract against WOB and Povetkin.

The facts, as told by Wilder’s attorney are below.  Also added, are additional facts from the WOB lawsuit which we identify as well.

  • The World Boxing Council (“WBC”) ordered Wilder and Povetkin (as the mandatory challenger) to begin negotiations for Wilder’s mandatory title defense of his WBC World Heavyweight Championship.
  • No agreement could be made and a purse bid was ordered. WOB won the purse bid at a price of $7.15M.  Notably, the WOB lawsuit claims DiBella’s bid was for $5.1M.
  • The agreed payout would include 10% of the amount bid ($715K) to the winner as a bonus and then a 70-30 split thereafter. But, the parties still had to negotiate other parts of the fight including drug testing.  The amount would also cover a 3% WBC sanction fee.
  • According to the WOB lawsuit, Wilder would receive $4,504,500, Povetkin $1,930,500 and the winner would receive $715,000.
  • Wilder’s side wanted to institute a drug program conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (“VADA”).
  • Negotiations continued but suspicions by Wilder’s camp about Povetkin’s use of performance enhancing drugs increased.
  • With the parties at an impasse, the WBC stepped in and instituted an agreement on April 6, 2016. In the agreement, the drug testing program included VADA testing under the “WBC Clean Boxing Program.”
  • Since WOB won the purse bid, the fight was to take place in Moscow, Russia on May 21, 2016.
  • An agreement was signed on April 11, 2016. A copy is attached to the Wilder Complaint and is below.
  • On April 19, 2016 an Escrow Agreement was entered into in which $4,369,365 was put into an Escrow (identified as Chicago Title in the WOB lawsuit). The Escrow Agreement contained a (confidential per Wilder’s attorneys) liquidated damages provision.
  • Povetkin tested positive for Meldonium in an April 27, 2016 test.
  • The WBC issued a ruling that the fight would not take place as scheduled.
  • Wilder’s side advised the Escrow Agent not to disburse any of the money in escrow until it received a “joint instruction from the parties or a non-appealable order from a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Word of Boxing, LLC, et al. v. Deontay Wilder, et al.

The WOB lawsuit mitigates the finding that Povetkin tested positive for Meldonium.  This substance was the same one that tennis star Maria Sharapova tested positive for and has received a two-year ban from the International Tennis Federation.  In the UFC, Islam Makhachev tested positive for Meldonium and was pulled from the UFC on Fox 19 card.  The ban on Meldonium was instituted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”) on January 1, 2016.  It was added to the list of banned substances and notice was given to athletes three months earlier in September 2015.

However, earlier this year, WADA acknowledged that there was a lack of clear scientific information on excretion times.  Thus, this new revelation may actually overturn certain notices of infraction.  In fact, this was noted by WOB’s attorneys in its lawsuit.

It argues that Meldonium found in Povetkin’s sample were traces and could not impact an athlete’s performance.  It should be noted that both “A” and “B” samples found Meldonium.  Povetkin admits to using Meldonim in 2015, prior to its ban.  But, the facts reflect that he had a negative sample in April 7 and 8, 2016 but then tested positive in an April 27, 2016 sample.

WOB’s breach of contract claim cites that Wilder did not allow the WBC, the governing body for this fight, make a determination on the Povetkin drug test.  Rather, Wilder and his promotion decided not to participate which WOB claims as the breach.

It also cites a breach of the escrow agreement with respect to the monies lodged in an Escrow Account which was to pay for the purses.  WOB claims that since the bout did not occur, it should receive its money back from the trust but Wilder has “taken actions to prevent Chicago Trust from releasing such funds…including through a letter directing Chicago Trust to refrain from disbursing the Escrow Property to World of Boxing.

The defamation claim is rather unique as it claims Wilder and his promotion arm instituted a “Smear Campaign” against Povetkin.  The WOB Complaint lists multiple news reports where it claims Lou DiBella and his promotion provided the outlets with false statements.  WOB claims Povetkin did not cheat or lie and the “trace amounts” in Povetkin’s April 27, 2016 sample do not support the fact that he attempted to do so per the WOB lawsuit.  WOB claims the statements were made to avoid their contractual obligation of Wilder having to fight in Moscow, Russia.

WOB is seeking $34.5M in its lawsuit.  It is looking for the $4,369,365.000 in the Escrow Account and its defamation claim seeks $10 million.

Bout Agreement

Payout Perspective:

Leave it to boxing to provide us with some of the more unique contractual legal issues in the sport.  There is an issue of who breached the contract between the parties.  Should Wilder have a claim due to the positive drug test from Povetkin?  Or, does Povetkin side have an argument against Wilder for not following the WBC procedures?  One has to think that Povetkin has a right to appeal the VADA ruling especially with the uncertainty of Meldonium.  But, we see that the contentious negotiations between the parties have now spilled over into the courts.  Wilder has found another fight in lieu of Povetkin.  But, does Povetkin have a claim against Wilder for blocking funds to be returned to them in Escrow?  It’s clear there is a liquidated damages provision in the Escrow Agreement of $2.5 million as both sides seek that it damages.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

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