Ortiz-Sonnen drew 2.2M viewers on Spike TV

January 26, 2017

Bellator 170 drew 2.2 million viewers for the main event between Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen on Spike TV on Saturday night.

The Paul Daley-Brennan Ward fight drew 2 million viewers as well.  The entire 3  hour telecast drew 1.5 million viewers in adjusted DVR+3 ratings.

Notable DVR+3 main events for Bellator on Spike TV:

Rampage Jackson-Satoshi Ishii at Dynamite 2 (June 2016): 1,040,000 viewers (entire fight)

Kimbo Slice-Dada 5000 at Bellator 149 (February 2016): 2.9 million viewers

Liam McGeary-Tito Ortiz at Dynamite 1 (September 2015): 891,000 viewers

Kimbo Slice-Ken Shamrock at Bellator 138 (June 2015): 2.8 million viewers

Tito Ortiz-Stephan Bonnar at Bellator 131 (November 2014): 2 million viewers

Arbtitration yields 2 year suspension for UFC’s Felipe Olivieri

January 25, 2017

In its second arbitration since the institution of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy,UFC Fighter Felipe Olivieri was handed a two year suspension after he was provisionally suspended for an Anti-Doping Policy Violation on March 10, 2016.

The decision can be found here.

The suspension is due to a failed out of competition test on January 11, 2016 while he was training Brazil.  Notably, Olivieri’s brother died 5 days prior to the test occurring.  Also of note, the test results were not discovered until after his January 30, 2016 fight against Tony Martin in which he lost by 3rd Round TKO.  He took an in-competition test that night and those results were negative.

On March 4, 2016, the results of the A sample from the January 11th test came up positive for the presence of methyltestosterone metabolites, 5alpha-tetrahydromethyltestosterne and 5betatetrahydromethyltestosterne.  On March 29, 2016, the B sample came back positive for 5alpha-tetrahydromethyltestosterne and 5betatetrahydromethyltestosterne.

Among his defenses, Olivieri challenged the accreditation of the lab that analyzed the tests as on June 24, 2016, WADA issued a press release announcing that it had suspended the accreditation of the Rio Laboratory “due to a non-conformity with the International Standard for Laboratories. Olivieri’s legal counsel argued that the samples had been mishandled by the lab staff and the chain of custody had been compromised citing the WADA suspension.

Under objections from Olivieri’s attorney, a Utah lab confirmed the results from the Rio Lab.  Of course, Olivieri’s attorney claimed that the samples were already compromised and they could not render a conclusive result.

The arbitration panel stated that the fact that the suspension occurred in June 2016 and the results of the test happening on March 2016 does not negate the results.  The panel noted the Utah lab had confirmed the Rio Lab’s results.

In the end the arbitrators determined Olivieri had failed to provide an acceptable explanation of why there was a positive result for testosterone.  There were no mitigating circumstances and thus the “appropriate sanction” per the arbitrator was a 2 year suspension which will end on March 9, 2018.

Payout Perspective:

This is the second arbitration result that yielded a result favorable to USADA.  While Olivieri’s attorneys had procedural arguments to the reasons for his drug tests, they did not provide the ultimate answer for the arbitrator which was why Olivieri had the presence of testosterone androgens in his system.  Perhaps his attorney was seeking a possible reduction of a two year suspension for the 31 year old fighter.  Unfortunately for Olivieri, not only will he have to serve a suspension, he is out of pocket the legal fees necessary to challenge his Anti-Doping Policy Violation.

Netflix acquires rights to Hogan v. Gawker documentary

January 25, 2017

Netflix has acquired the worldwide rights to the documentary “Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.  The documentary is about the case that brought down media company Gawker due to a short video it published of a sex tape involving the former wrestler.

As you may recall, a jury handed Hogan a $115 million verdict which brought Gawker and its founder Nick Denton to bankruptcy.  It also destroyed the career of A.J. Daulerio who has been negotiating a settlement with Hogan although he would like the right to write his own book (presumably) about the case.

The documentary is screening in the Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Documentary Competition.

Payout Perspective:

The purchase of the rights reflects the aggressive nature of Netflix strategy to go after intriguing content.  It continues to pick up subscribers and its original productions are gaining notoriety. The case and its characters are primed for more than this documentary as you might expect more retellings of the trial.

Payout Exclusive: Interview with Alliance MMA’s Robert Haydak and Suckerpunch Entertainment’s Bryan Hamper

January 25, 2017

MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with Alliance MMA’s Robert Haydak and Suckerpunch Entertainment’s Bryan Hamper.

The two spoke about the acquisition of the fighter management company and how it helps both companies going forward.

Among the top-level fighters Suckerpunch represents includes Max Holloway, Joanna Jedrzejczykand Germaine da Randamie.

Haydak, president of the publicly traded MMA company stated that he knew of Suckerpunch from his previous relationship with them as the head of his own promotion. “I’ve known them for a number of years.  We have a good working relationship.  I’ve watched their company grow since Cage Fury (Haydak ran Cage Fury prior to establishing Alliance MMA).  I have a lot of respect for them and a lot of their top athletes.”  Bryan Hamper, head of Suckerpunch MMA, added, “We fell in love with the model [of Alliance MMA].  We really felt it was a fit the way going forward.”

Hamper noted that the internal production staff of Alliance MMA would help its stable of young up and coming fighters: “We can now film our fighters using high quality content and send our videos.  It’s no longer cell phones.  It’s a better finished product to market.”

Suckerpunch currently has 103 athletes.  “We have less than 3% performing in Alliance MMA,” said Hamper.  “The lionshare of the company is in the UFC, Bellator and Invicta.”

Hamper stated that the Alliance MMA acquisition is “not an exclusive deal.”  He explained that any of its fighters are still free to fight on regional cards that are not associated with Alliance MMA.  Hamper noted that the management company tries to be selective with its representation.  “We have an internal system of where guys are at.  For us it’s not about volume business.  We want to bring in high-character guys.”

“Working with Alliance MMA gives us the bandwith to expand,” said Hamper.  According to Hamper, the acquisition will free up Suckerpunch to go after more prospects while Alliance MMA will assist with the corporate work.  “We will really focus on sponsorship engagement.”  Hamper noted that Suckerpunch recently secured several sponsor and appearance deals for UFC interim Featherweight Champ Max Holloway outside of the octagon.  He notes that sponsorship deals are still out despite restrictions made by the UFC.

“We think we have 15 guys on the cusp of being in the UFC,” Hamper said of the current state of his prospects.  He indicated that he would like to bring on 10-15 clients a year.  “We have the ability to market them like our top-rated fighters.”

“Suckerpunch under Alliance MMA will continue to operate under their own brand,” said Haydak.  “Their brand identity is not going anywhere.”  Similar to its other acquisitions, Alliance MMA has purchased the company but the acquired business will operate under its own name.  He indicated that the company will likely add more assets to the publicly traded company.  “Obviously, taking a look at our business plan, we are continuing our strategy in 2017.  There will be several acquisitions made this year.”

Under the new owners, Suckerpunch will continue with managing its fighters.  Hamper added, “[R]ight now, we’re looking at our growth perspective going forward.  We are excited about the growth and making sure our top prospect guys are getting looks in 2017.”

The two addressed the potential issue of the acquisition of the management company conflicting with also being a promoter of MMA events.  This may be an issue if legislation to the expansion of the Ali Act to MMA is passed.

Hamper reiterated that, “Less than 3% of our athletes are competing for Alliance MMA [promotions].  It’s a very small piece.”

“Definitely it’s something we considered when looking at this acquisition,” Haydak stated.  “We are monitoring the Ali Act.  Less than 3% of Suckerpunch fighters fight within Alliance.  If the Ali Act (is expanded), it would not happen to have impact on our operations.  A lot of promotions are managing athletes.  We are completely transparent.  We are putting the athletes first.”

Hamper added, “From my perspective, transparency is a key element.  Opponents and matchup approvals come from athletic commissions.  We’re governed by athletic commissions.  I think we’re taking broad steps.”

An expansion of the Ali Act would create a firewall between managers and promoters.

Bellator 170: 1.374M viewers on Spike TV

January 24, 2017

Bellator 170 drew 1.374 million viewers on Saturday night on Spike TV per Sports TV Ratings.  It peaked at 1.85 million viewers during the Chael Sonnen-Tito Ortiz fight per Spike TV.

Sports TV Ratings notes that it drew 703,000 in the A18-49 demo.

Spike TV notes that the co-main event between Paul Daley and Brennan Ward drew 1.7 million viewers.  The 3-hour broadcast ranked first in cable with men 18-49 in the timeslot.

Payout Perspective:

The event drew less than Bellator 149’s average of 1,964,000 viewers but 170 was the highest-rated event on Spike since last February’s event.  The event shows the drawing power of the elder MMA fighters.  Certainly, the promos for the fight between Sonnen and Ortiz helped promote the event and drew 1.85 million for their fight.  The peak viewership for the main event was slightly more than the 1.8 million that tuned in for Tito versus Stephan Bonnar in November 2014.

UFC sets PPV record in 2016, but where are big cards in 2017?

January 23, 2017

In the latest Wrestling Observer (subscription recommended), the PPV buys have been recalibrated to 1,009,000 buys.  The original estimate had the July event at 1.1 to 1.2M PPV buys.

Despite the downgrade of PPV buys for the July event, the UFC set a PPV record with 5 events in a calendar year going over 1 million PPV buys.  Boxing had two years (1996 and 2011) where 3 PPVs topped 1 million buys.

UFC 196, UFC 200, UFC 202, UFC 205 and UFC 207 all went over the 1 million mark.  Conversely, three shows (UFC 198, UFC 201 and UFC 206) drew less than 250,000 (see MMA Payout Blue Book).

Payout Perspective:

The obvious concern for 2017 is without McGregor (for a portion of the year) or Rousey, where will the UFC find a PPV that could draw over 1 million PPV buys.  Certainly, July’s International Fight Week should bring a show close to 1 million with the return of Jon Jones and perhaps a couple title fights.  But, there does not seem to be another big card on the horizon.  With the new owners having an earnings mandate of $275 million in EBITDA by June 30th to receive a contingency payment of $175 million.  It will be hard to do this without any big events in the first quarter of 2017.

Ortiz’s $300K tops Bellator 170 salaries

January 22, 2017

Tito Ortiz made $300,000 in his final fight of his MMA career at Bellator 170 Saturday night.  Ortiz defeated Chael Sonnen in the first round of the main event.

Sonnen made $50,000 for his part in the main event.

The California State Athletic Commission disclosed the following payouts for Saturday’s event (via MMA Junkie):

T

ito Ortiz: $300,000 (no win bonus)
def. Chael Sonnen: $50,000

Paul Daley: $50,000 (no win bonus)
def. Brennan Ward: $50,000

Hisaki Kato: $30,000 (includes no win bonus)
def. Ralek Gracie: $33,000

Emmanuel Sanchez: $40,000 (includes $20,00 win bonus)
def. Georgi Karakhanyan: $24,000

Derek Campos: $34,200 (includes $15,000 win bonus)
def. Derek Anderson: $7,800

Jacob Rosales: $4,000 (includes $2,000 win bonus)
def. Ian Butler: $1,500

Mike Segura: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Tommy Aaron: $2,000

James Barnes: $4,000 (includes $2,000 win bonus)
def. Rob Gooch: $2,000

Curtis Millender: $4,000 (includes $2,000 win bonus)
def. Johnny Cisneros: $2,000

Colleen Schneider: $6,000 (includes $3,000 win bonus)
def. Chrissie Daniels: $4,500

Henry Corrales: $28,000 (includes $14,000 win bonus)
def. Cody Bollinger: $2,500

Guilherme Vasconcelos: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. John Mercurio: $2,000

Keith Berry: $3,000
vs. Kevin Casey: $10,000

Alex Soto: $5,400 (includes $3,000 win bonus)*
def. Demarcus Brown: $2,300

Chinzo Machida: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Jamar Ocampo: $1,500

Jalin Turner: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Gabriel Green: $2,000

Jack May: $4,000 (includes $2,000 win bonus)
def. Dave Cryer: $2,000

Daniel Rodriguez: $3,075 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Christian Gonzalez: $1,350*

Payout Perspective:

It looks like Tito’s Bellator contract had him making $300,000 per fight if you look back at his other fights with the organization.  His last fight in the UFC he earned $250,000.  Unfortunately for Christian Gonzalez, he missed weight and had to forfeit a portion of his purse.  He was one of the lowest paid fighters on the card which makes it worse.  Notably, a pattern of top of the card Bellator fighters with no win bonus and others on the mid-card making a win bonus which is half their show money.

Winter departs UFC Fight Pass post

January 20, 2017

Eric Winter, the UFC Fight Pass executive that was hired to spearhead the growth of the digital over the top network announced that he was leaving the company Friday.  Wither cited family reasons as the need for the departure.

Winter wrote a lengthy note (via MMA Junkie) as for his reasons for his departure, namely his two young children.  He also spoke glowingly about the UFC.  He was hired from Yahoo! Sports in June 2015 to oversee the content and growth of UFC Fight Pass.

There is no word as to his replacement.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see how the new owners address the opening.  Fight Pass has expanded since Winter arrived and the news of Netflix a robust increase in subscriptions in its latest earning report should mean that the platform has more room to expand with more individuals becoming comfortable with the over the top platform.  Then again, there has been a push to curb costs so we shall see if there will be continued original content of a pull back from the expansion.

Golden Boy-ESPN announce TV deal

January 20, 2017

Golden Boy Promotions and ESPN have entered into an agreement to air the promotion’s fights on the sports network according to ESPN. The first of 42 fights will begin airing in March.

The events will take place on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights which will mark a return to boxing on ESPN.

Tecate will sponsor the series which will air on ESPN2 and be simulcast in Spanish on ESPN Deportes. The agreement has scheduled 18 fights in 2017 and 24 in 2018.  There is an option for a third year.

Notably, the ESPN article indicates that the exclusivity provision with ESPN and PBC was eliminated as part of the settlement with Top Rank Boxing’s antitrust lawsuit last year. Golden Boy’s lawsuit against Al Haymon continues with a pending motion for summary judgment yet to be decided.  The trial is set for March, the week prior to the debut of Golden Boy on ESPN.

Payout Perspective:

This is a good sign for boxing with increased exposure for Golden Boy’s stable of fighters.  It also brings into the question of the whether Premier Boxing Champions will return to ESPN this year.  The deal will rely on sponsors than a license fee and we can see Tecate as a presenting sponsor with others to help fund the series.

Former WME-IMG exec takes position with Trump Administration

January 20, 2017

Chris Liddell, the global CFO at WME-IMG has taken a post with the newly installed Trump Administration as reported by Deadline.com and the Hollywood Reporter.

As we know, WME-IMG purchased the UFC this past summer.  Ari Emmanuel, the former Hollywood agent for President Donald Trump, met with Emmanuel shortly after he was elected president.  The substance of the discussions was not made public.  Despite their relationship, Emmanuel is considered someone that supports Democrats.

Liddell will take on the role of adviser and has been named an assistant and director of strategic initiatives for the new administration. He had provided advice to President Trump in appointments during the post-election transition.

Payout Perspective:

The appointment is key if you are one to connect dots.  The expansion of the Ali Act to include combat sports (i.e., MMA) is still an active bill in the House.  The UFC is opposed to this legislation and has lobbied against it.  The appointment of Liddell to a post within the Trump Administration might be the death knell for the success of passing this bill.  While we might believe that all parties will have an open mind on the bill, you have to wonder if a former executive of the company that owns the UFC would advise the President to veto such legislation if it got to that point.  More likely, the bill gets buried before even getting to the Senate.

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