GSP, Rebney, UFC fighters announce MMAAA

November 30, 2016

Fighters Georges St-Pierre, Tim Kennedy, Cain Velasquez, T.J. Dillashaw, Donald Cerrone and former Bellator MMA promoter Bjorn Rebney announced the formation of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA) at a teleconference Wednesday afternoon.

The MMAAA will focus on an association within the UFC.  There were no specifics about the steps they will take to achieve an association, how they will address the UFC in seeking a settlement and how they are funded.

Rebney inferred the possibility of a labor strike if the UFC does not meet the demands of the MMAAA.

St-Pierre stated at the press conference that athletes in the UFC make just 8% of the revenues whereas athletes in other pro sports make close to 50% of the revenues.

GSP’s lawyer, Jim Quinn, was also in attendance.  GSP is still in a contract dispute with the UFC although he maintains that he is a free agent.

Rebney, the former Bellator MMA head, stated that he was not being paid despite working on this idea for 2 years.

MMAAA has an office in Anaheim Hills, California and is registered as a 501(c)(6) under the Internal Revenue Code.

Payout Perspective:

There are a lot of questions than answers that came out of this call.  As brought up in the press conference, Creative Artists Agency, the rival to WME-IMG, will not be directly a part of the MMAAA per Rebney.  However, CAA supports the athletes.  Notably, GSP, Kennedy, Cain and Dillashaw are represented by CAA.  Its hard not to think that a part of this fight has to do with the ongoing competition between the two top Hollywood power brokers.  MMAAA is directed at the UFC.  Will there be a point as to when and if it will look to aid Bellator, WSOF and other fighters?  Also, will more fighters join the board which is comprised mainly of Americans?  Will this create competition between MMAFA and PFA, two other groups seeking to organize fighters?  Finally, how many fighters are speculating on this group by the inclusion of Rebney as a consultant?  His track-record on dealing with fighters has been notorious.

We shall see.

Gastelum settles with NYSAC, will fight at UFC 206

November 30, 2016

Kevin Gastelum has settled his suspension with the New York State Athletic Commission and can now compete at UFC 206 next week.

Gastelum was issued a six-month suspension due to not making weight for his scheduled fight against Donald Cerrone.  Technically, Gastelum did not stand on the scale at the weigh-ins but it was due to the fact he was not going to make it.  Gastelum paid a $2,000 fine in lieu of the suspension.

As a result, he should be cleared to fight Tim Kennedy at UFC 206 next Saturday in Toronto.  The fight was announced prior to the issue with New York being cleared.  However, the settlement should allow for Gastelum to obtain a license to fight in Ontario.

ESPN’s Brett Okamoto first reported the settlement.

Payout Perspective:

Gastelum makes out pretty well considering he’ll have to pay $2,000 in order to make his show money for UFC 206.  In his last fight at UFC 200, he made $53,000 to show and $33,000 for his win.  Thus, the $2,000 fine is not much to make the fight at UFC 206.

UFC Fight Night 101 draws 686K, prelims 654K

November 30, 2016

UFC Fight Night 101 drew 686,000 viewers on Saturday night on FS1 per Sports TV Ratings.  The prelims which preceded the main card drew 654,000.

The main card (10:00-12:56 am ET) was headlined by Robert Whittaker taking on Derek Brunson.  Whittaker won via first round stoppage.  The event drew 342,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.  The 2 hour prelims (8:00-10:00pmET) drew 296,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.

The ratings are somewhat surprising considering the UFC weigh-ins on FS1 Friday drew a very good 297,000 viewers which is above average for a weigh-in on the network.

Notably, the Kovalev-Ward replay on HBO drew more viewers, 834,000 (391,000 in A18-49), than during the main card.  Also, the live fight of Lomachenko-Walters drew more viewers (761,000, 347,000 A18-49) than the live UFC event.


Payout Perspective:

It was the first time in a while that boxing on either HBO or Showtime drew better than a UFC event on FS1.  It was a free preview weekend for the premium cable channels which may be a reason although I am not sure if the Nielsen numbers include those not subscribed.  Still, good numbers for HBO, while the UFC event numbers were lower than the Fight Night average.  It is interesting that the main card and prelims were so close in viewership numbers.

Upheaval within PFA as Smith, Middlebrook withdraw support

November 29, 2016

Leslie Smith has written an open letter in which she states she is no longer supporting the Professional Fighters Association.  Per MMA Fighting, labor lawyer Lucas Middlebrook is also severing ties with the organization he helped found with agent Jeff Borris.

The information of a possible board of fighters was leaked to the media which appears to be the reason for the parting of ways.  Eleven names of current UFC fighters were revealed.

Smith stated that she helped compile a list of potential fighters to target for the board.  The list, according to Smith, was to be confidential but the names as well as other information about the PFA appeared in an MMA Junkie article.  She was also upset at the fact that the PFA intended to set up an agent advisory board in addition to the fighter board.

Smith wrote a letter about the situation in which she proposes the next steps in organizing MMA fighters.

Middlebrook left for the same disclosures made.  Borris does not know how the leak of information happened.

Payout Perspective:

Altruism or naivete on the part of Smith?  Smith is passionate about organizing fighters but it appears that there was a misunderstanding regarding her role with PFA.  Whether or not there was an understanding about the confidentiality of the information passed on by Smith is a question that someone at the PFA could answer.  Obviously, the Junkie article revealed a lot about PFA’s goals as well as the potential for a board.  This might be seen as showing its hand too early.  It also might be a way to gain some PR for the organization at a time when it needed to gain traction with fighters.  The concern about disclosing names for a board is that it might cause discord between the fighters and the UFC. Middlebrook leaving PFA also reflects a lack of cohesion in the organization less than 3 months into its venture.  With the anticipated announcement of another attempt to organize fighters coming up on Wednesday, PFA may lose steam even before it begins.

TUF 24 Episode 11 draws 304,000 viewers on FS1

November 29, 2016

The penultimate episode of TUF 24 drew 304,000 viewers on FS1 this past Wednesday per Sports TV Ratings.  It was the first time that the series scored over 300,000 viewers in 3 weeks.

The episode featured 2 semifinal fights which leads to the reveal of the winner of TUF 24 and faces Demetrious Johnson this Saturday.  In the first fight of the episode, Hirmasa Ogikubo defeated Alxandre Pantoja.  In the second episode Tim Elliott defeated Eric Shelton.  This sets up the final between Ogikubo and Elliott.

Per Sports TV Ratings, the event drew 155,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.

episode-11 Payout Perspective:

The ratings are down from last year’s 528,000 for TUF 22 Episode 11.  The ratings are good for this season especially when you consider that the episode was on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Ward-Kovalev draw 160K PPV buys

November 29, 2016

The Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev PPV drew just 160,000 PPV buys as first reported by Kevin Iole. also reported the PPV buy rate for last Saturday’s event.

Ward defeated Kovalev in somewhat of a controversial decision as unofficial scorers had the fight for Kovalev.

The ratings are lower than the reported Pacquiao-Vargas PPV buy rate earlier this month which drew 300,000 PPV buys.  It was the first time that Top Rank distributed its own PPV in some time.  The Ward-Kovalev bout was distributed by HBO.

Boxing PPVs 2016

April 9, 2016 – Pacquiao-Bradley III: ~400K PPV buys

May 7, 2016 – Alvarez-Khan: ~450K-600K PPV buys

July 23, 2016 – Crawford-Postol: 50K-60K PPV buys

September 17, 2016 – Alvarez-Smith: >~300K PPV buys

November 5, 2016 – Pacquiao-Vargas: ~300K PPV buys

November 19, 2016 – Ward-Kovalev – 160,000 PPV buys

Payout Perspective:

The PPV buy rate for Ward-Kovalev might have been impacted by the Pacquiao fight and UFC 205 as it would have been the third PPV this month for combat sports fans.  The buy rate may reflect the casual boxing fan’s consumer interest.  Among those in the boxing community, Ward-Kovalev was a matchup of two of the best pound for pound fighters in the sport today.  Yet, it drew less than most UFC PPV events.  The PPV buy rate ends a down year for boxing PPVs as it tries to move beyond Mayweather and Pacquiao on PPV.

UFC looking for $450M per year for 10 years in next media rights deal

November 28, 2016

The Sports Business Journal reports that the UFC is angling to ask potential buyers for $450 million per year over 10 years in its next round of media rights fees.  The company’s current deal, which ends at the end of 2018 is for $115 million for 7 years.

The article also states that the deal will seek to have the successful bidder to produce the UFC events.  In the past, the UFC had produced its shows in-house.  One of the under-the-radar things about Zuffa was the control of the brand for the UFC which included the production of the events.  You might argue that it’s this control that gave it such a strong brand awareness which may have gone to the eventual sales price for the company.

Via Sports Business Journal:

The package the UFC will take to market will include the rights to four annual broadcast windows that Fox now holds, six annual cable events and weekly programming on Fox Sports 1, plus the UFC’s over-the-top Fight Pass service. It is not expected to include the UFC’s lucrative pay-per-view business, which will likely be retained by WME-IMG. But some media executives believe any winning bidder will have more of a say in what matches will be part of the UFC’s pay-per-view events. Whether a network will share in some of the PPV revenue is a deal point that will be negotiated, sources said.

Payout Perspective:

Despite the retraction in spending by networks such as ESPN and the lukewarm ratings for Fox events this past year, the UFC is banking on the allure that its demo of young males with disposable income and the somewhat DVR-proof live sporting event will give it leverage in the new negotiations. But will the UFC be able to broker a 75% increase over its first media rights deal.  The deal would include additional cost to the network that purchases the rights as it will need to provide production costs for the events.  However, the article indicates that the network may have more influence on what events it may have.  This might provide some incentive for potential buyers.  I am surprised that Fight Pass will likely be included in the deal as there might have been opportunity to sell those rights on its own as is contemplated by the NBA’s LA Clippers.

Industry re-defining annoucement involving GSP, Rebney coming Wednesday

November 28, 2016

A press release sent out Monday indicates that there will be a major MMA announcement this week.  Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, T.J. Dillashaw, Donald Cerrone, Tim Kennedy and former MMA promoter Bjorn Rebney are linked to an “industry re-defining” announcement on Wednesday.

A conference call Wednesday afternoon will reveal the details of the announcement.

The speculation is that another MMA Association may be in the offing.  Notably, GSP, Cain, Dillashaw and Kennedy are represented by CAA.  Although I can’t confirm, Cerrone may be represented by CAA as well.

Payout Perspective:

This will be an interesting announcement to learn about.  If it is another take at organizing fighters, it will be the first with big-named fighters putting their name to it.  MMAFA have had support from the likes of Jon Fitch, but GSP is one of the top-tier fighters in MMA.  The other fighters are current UFC fighters.  We may be seeing the rivalry between top Hollywood power brokers (WME-IMG and CAA) seeping into the world of MMA.

UFC Fight Night 101 attendance, gate and bonuses

November 27, 2016

UFC Fight Night 101 drew 13,721 for a live gate of $2.2 million Australian dollars from Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia.  In addition, Robert Whittaker scored a double bonus on Saturday night.

It was the second event in Melbourne as the first event was last November’s UFC 193: Rousey v. Holm.  It was the company’s first event at Rod Laver Arena as 193 took place at Etihad Stadium.

According to its web site, the record attendance at Rod Laver Arena  is 16,183 for a Justin Timberlake concert in November 2007.

As for the bonuses, Robert Whittaker earned a Fight of the Night bonus with Derek Brunson for their main event battle.  Whittaker also received a Performance Bonus for his stoppage of Brunson.  Newcomer Tyson Pedro earned a Performance of the Night bonus for his submission of Khalil Rountree in the first round.  All received the standard $50,000 bonus.

The numbers were announced post-event.

Payout Perspective:

Aside from the main event and Pedro, there was not much to say about Saturday night’s event.  Most of the fights went to a decision and there was not much to say about any of the other fights.  The attendance does show that Melbourne fans deserve to be in the rotation for annual events in the city.

Holloway-Pettis head UFC 206 for interim title

November 26, 2016

MMA Fighting reports that the new main event for UFC 206 will be Max Holloway versus Anthony Pettis for the interim featherweight title.  The news brings an eventual shakeup in the UFC featherweight division.

Conor McGregor is the current featherweight and lightweight champion having won the lightweight title earlier this month in New York.  However, McGregor has not defended the 145 pound title since winning it last December.  Jose Aldo won an interim featherweight title this past July at UFC 200 due in part to McGregor refusing to fight at the July event.

It is unknown whether McGregor will be officially stripped of the title or if this will set up a matchup with the winner of Holloway-Pettis fight…or not.

Payout Perspective:

If another interim title is the plan for the UFC it seems short-sighted unless they have already contacted Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo about this decision.  I doubt this has happened.  McGregor has made it clear that he will not relinquish the 145-pound title.  Unless he’s made a 180 degree change of mind since winning on November 12th, the UFC is in for a PR fight (and maybe more) over the title.

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