Anti-Doping Policy will not announce drug test violations until resolution of case

September 30, 2018

ESPN reports that the UFC has made changes to its anti-doping policy wherein USADA will no longer announce fighters that have been put on provisional suspension until there is a resolution of the case.

According to the UFC, it will not announce a drug test failure until the case is resolved.  The rule will prevent putting fighters in false light as drug cheats wherein some of the failed tests are a result of a contaminated supplement.  Thus, some of the athletes did not intend to use a supplement for advantage but received a drug test failure due to something not labeled properly.

As a result of contaminated supplements, several athletes have filed lawsuits against supplement manufacturers and distributors due to serving UFC Anti-Doping Policy suspensions.  In addition, USADA had to address the issue of compound pharmacies when several Brazilian athletes failed drug tests.  These types of pharmacies make their own supplements instead of receiving them from the manufacturer.

One of the reasons for the change is the number of athletes that have failed tests due to unintentional use.

Payout Perspective:

The move is a step in the right direction for the UFC but it will be hard to explain the unexpected disappearance of a fighter from events and/or lack of activity.  This will spur people to believe that there is a violation pending.  But the move seeks to protect athletes from the media and others to jump to the conclusion that the athlete is a cheat.  The amendment was made with little notoriety and apparently without input from the athletes which is a concern for those interested in the rights of the fighters.

USADA forces suspended fighter to take DQ in Muay Thai event

September 29, 2018

As part of being suspended from the UFC as part of violating the UFC’s Ant-Doping Policy, you cannot participate in other combat sports-related activities.  Adam Hunter learned this lesson as he was disqualified from a Muay Thai Competition in June 2017.

Hunter has not even made an appearance in a UFC Octagon as he was suspended prior to his debut in August 2016.  According to the USASDA release, he had participated in the 2017 Ontario Provincial Muay Thai Championships whil serving his two year suspension:

Hunter, 34, initially accepted a two-year period of ineligibility and loss of results in October of 2016 by USADA and the British Columbia Athletic Commission after a sample he provided during an out-of-competition test on August 11, 2016, tested positive for a tamoxifen metabolite, boldenone metabolites, methandienone metabolites, a drostanolone metabolite, and clenbuterol.

Despite signing an Acceptance of Sanction form, Hunter went on to compete in the 2017 Ontario Provincial Muay Thai Championships on June 10, 2017, thereby violating the terms of his sanction. Upon investigating the circumstances of the violation, USADA concluded that Hunter was operating under the mistaken belief that his participation in the event would not be a violation of the terms of his sanction.

After fully considering the circumstances that resulted in his participation in the Ontario Provincial Muay Thai Championships, USADA concluded that Hunter’s level of fault in this matter was low and that an additional period of ineligibility was not warranted. Per the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, however, Hunter’s results from the event have been disqualified.

Payout Perspective:

This is the first case where we see USADA reaching outside the UFC.  One would think that you may compete in other sports outside of MMA, but it appears that serving the suspension reaches throughout other sports where drug testing may become involved.  This is tough for Hunter since he’s never fought in the UFC but has been disciplined twice by the organization.

Details of Lorenzo Fertitta deposition in Zuffa Antitrust Lawsuit

September 28, 2018

The deposition of Lorenzo Fertitta was included in Plaintiffs’ Opposition Brief to Zuffa’s Motion for Summary Judgment to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit.  In contrast to the deposition of Dana White, Fertitta’s disclosed testimony offers a sobering recount of his old business.

Fertitta discussed the acquisition of the WEC:

Fertitta explains that he didn’t believe that the WEC was a competitor but a regional promotion that featured lighter weight divisions.  The testimony infers that Fertitta did not believe that the UFC was obtaining a rival but adding on to its offering by accessing lighter weight divisions.

Fertitta was asked about the Ali Act and the reasons why boxing adopted the legislation.  When asked about the glut of titles, he indicated that he was not concerned with the commissions regulating the sport but the consumer confusion with so many titles.  This infers the mindset Fertitta had with the business.  Rather than be concerned with any administrative issues, he was more concerned about the business side of the titles.

The attorney deposing Fertitta walked him through a text he received from Dana White regarding the negotiations they had with Gilbert Melendez.  You may recall these were contentious as Melendez was a contender in the lightweight division and the UFC had to match the rights offered by Bellator.

The pertinent section which is intriguing is a part of the text from White:

“….cut throat nasty business like you see in movies.  Good s—t homie.  Congrats.”

We are offered a bit of the text but the response from Fertitta is redacted.  After it was read, there was a break.

It would have been interesting to see the response from Fertitta.  Based on White’s text, we can infer whatever maneuvering executed by Fertitta worked.

Depo of Lorenzo Fertitta by on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

In contrast to Dana White’s deposition where he indicated he was a “genius,” Fertitta’s deposition seems mundane.  There is not a whole lot we can gather from the testimony that is not redacted.  From the information available, it does not look like Fertitta lost his cool or went off script.  He would make a good witness on behalf of Zuffa.  Fertitta’s dealings don’t address much of the detailed day-to-day work as White but it offers some information on behind the scenes of the company.

TUF 28 Episode 5 draws 174,000 viewers on FS1

September 27, 2018

The Ultimate Fighter 28 episode 5 drew 174,000 viewers on FS1 Wednesday night via Nielsen according to ShowBuzz Daily.

The fight of the telecast saw Michel Batista dominate Josh Parisian for a two round unanimous decision.

Episode 5 is the lowest-rated TUF 28 episode to date coming off of the highest-rated Live +SD TUF 28 episode.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings thus far reflect the lack of interest in watching this show live.  Rather, it seems to pick up its most viewers when people record it.  We shall see what becomes of the franchise when it moves to ESPN.

HBO leaving boxing busines

September 27, 2018

The NY Times reports that HBO is leaving the boxing business after 45 years in the business.  HBO’s vice president of sports, Peter Nelson, made the announcement to HBO Boxing production staff Thursday morning.

According to the NY Times, Jim Lampley will remain on with HBO while Max Kellerman, Harold Lederman, Andre Ward and Roy Jones, Jr. will depart the network.  Nelson indicated that based on audience research, boxing was no longer a factor when subscribing to HBO.

The competition for boxing on television has increased in recent years.  Most recently DAZN launched its over the top platform this past Saturday with Anthony Joshua fighting Alexander Povetkin.  The company has signed a stable of boxers to fill its platform with content in addition to select Bellator MMA events and Combate Americas.  ESPN signed a deal with Top Rank which cut out a big piece of HBO’s roster of boxers.  Top Rank is now on ESPN and ESPN+.  Despite questions regarding its controversial business strategy, PBC has signed a lucrative deal with Fox to air its event on the network.

Payout Perspective:

The decline in viewership for boxing events on HBO and the increased competition was likely the nail in the coffin for boxing on the network.  There have been many memorable moments on HBO and it will be a shame to see it go.  But the reality is that the competition from other forces which center on combat sports and the network’s commitment to other areas of programming meant that this business decision was reasonable and probably best for the company.

NLRB dismisses Leslie Smith’s claims against Zuffa

September 26, 2018

MMA Junkie’s Steven Marrocco first reported that former UFC fighter Leslie Smith had her NLRB complaint against Zuffa dismissed last week per Smith’s attorney Lucas Middlebrook.

Per a report from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Middelbrook plans to appeal.

Smith filed the charging letter in May of this year based on unfair labor practices against the UFC.

Leslie Smith Charging Letter by on Scribd

In June, the NLRB Investigation on Zuffa determine that the charging letter had merit and would file a complaint against Zuffa in Federal District Court.  The NLRB could have filed an injunction against Zuffa which would have prohibited the company from designating its contracted athletes as independent contractors and make them statutory employees.

Post-decision, NLRB Region 4 where the charging letter was filed, was instructed to send the case to D.C. for review.  Smith’s attorney believed that this was politically motivated.

Payout Perspective:

This is a stunning turn of events for the NLRB to dismiss the matter after there appeared to be merit to Smith’s claims.  MMA Payout has made a FOIA request on the charging to determine if there is any explanation for the dismissal.  The case had been dormant since being sent to D.C. and one can only wonder what went on during this process.

UFC-BIXLER announce licensing deal for athlete-inspired jewelry

September 26, 2018

The UFC announced a multi-year licensing agreement with BIXLER, North America’s First Jeweler.  The deal grants Bixler the rights to manufacture and distribute the UFC and MMA athlete-inspired jewelry in the United States and Canada as well as worldwide via the UFC Store online.

IMG negotiated the partnership on behalf of the UFC.

Via UFC press release:

This collaboration, which launches today [Tuesday], offers an expansive selection of rings, cufflinks, necklaces, bracelets and earrings for men and women. With prices starting as low as $89, the initial product offering will include the following collections:

• UFC Elements, featuring UFC colors and stackable designs;
• UFC Classics, featuring the UFC signature logo and glove icon;
• UFC Octagon®, featuring the iconic shape and design elements;
• UFC 25th Anniversary, limited edition designs;

Designs include subtle engravings and gemstones such as ruby, white sapphire, light citrine, and black and white diamonds to accentuate the pieces. Sterling silver styles, finished in black rhodium plating, with black onyx elements offer a modern and masculine edge to the men’s collections.

The launch will coincide with UFC 229 as the UFC and Bixler will unveil collections featuring eagle designs for Khabib Nurmagomedov and Irish pieces designed for Conor McGregor.

Payout Perspective:

I’m not sure the level of interest this will garner but this definitely is a niche area.  $89 is not expensive when it comes to jewelry.  Then again, you have to be a big fan to get UFC-inspired jewelry.

Canelo-GGG II draws approximately 1.1M PPV buys

September 25, 2018

Canelo-GGG II on September 15th drew approximately 1.1 million PPV buys per a report by ESPN which probed multiple industry sources regarding the buy rate.  The report would mean that the rematch fell short of the original fight between the two.

With a suggested retail price of $84.95, the event generated at least $94 million in the United States for the HBO PPV telecast.  The first fight between the two drew 1.3 million buys.  The rematch generated more revenue since the price point was higher.

Golden Boy, the promoters for the event, stated they would not release its official buy rate information but indicated between the gate, PPV buys and digital sales, it did better than their first bout.  The live gate at the T-Mobile Arena drew 423,473,500 from the sale of 16,732 tickets.

Payout Perspective:

The ESPN report notes that streaming PPV increased since the last fight so that may attribute to the low PPV rate.  Regardless of being 1.1 or 1.3, the fight produced and will likely garner a trilogy.

UFC Fight Night 137 draws 607,000 viewers, Prelims 243,000

September 25, 2018

UFC Fight Night 137 drew 607,000 viewers on FS1 Saturday night while the Prelims on FS2 drew 243,000 according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The main card featured Eryck Anders taking on Thiago Santos.  Anders was unable to continue and Santos won via TKO after Round 3.  The prelims airing on FS2 featured Charles Oliveira getting another bonus of the night for his submission of Christo Giagos.  The prelims also saw the final fight for Evan Dunham as he lost to Francisco Trinaldo via KO.

UFC Fight Night 137 took place at the Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Payout Perspective:

The main card started on FS2 as there was an overrun from the Texas Tech-Oklahoma State football game.  As a result, the main card didn’t start on FS1 until 10:41pm ET.  The ratings for this show are better than the last time the UFC visited San Paulo in October 2017 (558,000 viewers for the main card).  The viewership is also better than the last two Fight Night shows on cable.

Dana White says he is a genius in deposition testimony

September 24, 2018

On Friday, Plaintiffs in the Zuffa Antitrust Lawsuit filed their Opposition Brief to the company’s Motion for Summary Judgment.  Of the multitude of exhibits filed in support of the brief are three exhibits with excerpts from the deposition of Dana White.

White’s deposition took place in August 2017 in Las Vegas.

Deposition of Dana White – V 1 by on Scribd

Deposition of Dana White – V 2 by on Scribd

Deposition of Dana White – V 3 by on Scribd

Some of the deposition excerpts came highlighted which correlates with some of the points made in the brief.

As one might imagine, a lot of ground was covered during White’s deposition.  In the excerpts of the deposition that the public can view, the questions look at acquisitions of other organizations, his role as a fight promoter, contracts and other issues.  The fighter attorneys played videos during White’s videotaped deposition in which they played excerpts of interviews where is being interviewed.  The attorneys asked about the answers in the videos.

The deposition took place just a couple weeks prior to The Money Fight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather there was some discussion about him being a boxing promoter in light of the matchup.

Some interesting tidbits:

There was some interesting testimony for White where he agrees with a 2013 interview where he said that other promotions were AAA (i.e., minor leagues) to the UFC.  He affirmed this interview testimony as of 2017 (and likely today).

He gave a round-about answer to whether he was being truthful as a promoter.  The inference was that there is puffery when promoting fights although he did not want to make it sound that he was outright lying.  In this excerpt, he throws some shade at Bellator.

Dana White stated that he believed OneFC to be a grassroots promotion but has grown into a big-time organization.  He testified that he gets question when in Asia whether the UFC is like OneFC.  Perhaps with the news that Eddie Alvarez may be heading to OneFC, he might be correct.

 

Dana White is not a fan of Bloody Elbow.  When asked about the web site, he asked if it was the web site that doesn’t interview people.  He does not believe them to be credible.

When asked about distributions at the end of 2009, he did not really know the owners’ payout, of which he would receive a piece.  He thought it was $305,000 but he was corrected by the attorney as he was informed it was $305 million.  When he realized this, he stated, “Oh Awesome.”

When asked about how the company was paying for the contributions for which he was receiving millions, he stated he is the “fight genius” and the “promotion genius” but he did not know about the distributions.

Payout Perspective:

Certainly some of the more interesting subjects was likely redacted.  White was prepared for the deposition and did not waver when pushed on some questions.  In the testimony that we can see, he was careful on what he said and how he said it.  Perhaps the “genius” comments may have been over the top but also may have related to something earlier in testimony.

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