UFC lightweight back after 6 month USADA suspension

October 31, 2018

On Monday, USADA announced that UFC lightweight Polo Reyes has accepted a six-month sanction for violation of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.

Reyes tested positive for ostarine after an out-of-competition test on March 8, 2018.

Via USADA press release:

Reyes, 33, tested positive for ostarine following an out-of-competition test conducted on March 8, 2018. Ostarine is a non-Specified Substance in the class of Anabolic Agents and prohibited at all times under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, which has adopted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.

Ostarine, also known as MK-2866 and Enobosarm, is a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) that is illegally sold worldwide as a performance-enhancing substance. Ostarine is not currently available as a prescription medication in any country, and its unauthorized use may carry serious side effects. Nonetheless, ostarine has been found as a declared and undeclared ingredient in many dietary supplements. More information about the risks of ostarine can be found through a USADA athlete advisory.

Following notification of his positive test, Reyes provided USADA with information about two dietary supplement products he was using at the time of the relevant sample collection. Although no prohibited substances were listed on the supplement labels, testing conducted on independently sourced, unopened containers of the products by the WADA-accredited laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah, indicated that they contained Ostarine.

Reyes is the first UFC fighter to have his suspension announced after serving it.

Payout Perspective:

Since coming to the UFC in 2015, Reyes has had two Performance of the Nights including his last fight in January 2018 where be beat Matt Frevola via KO/TKO.  Notably, Reyes worked with USADA to determine the cause of his failed test.  With the suspension behind him, Reyes may continue his lightweight career with the company.

HBO’s BAD draws 500K viewers for Danny Jacobs feature

October 30, 2018

HBO’s Boxing After Dark drew 500,000 for the main event per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The main event saw Danny Jacobs beat Sergiy Derevyanchenko by split decision to win the IBF Title.  In addition, Heather Hardy defeated Shelly Vincent to win the WBO women’s featherweight title in first fight of the telecast. The fight which featured the part-time Bellator fighter boxing drew 442,000 viewers.  In the semi-main event Alberto Machado made quick work of Yuandale Evans as he took out the Cleveland native in the first round.  The short fight drew 543,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

The second fight last just two minutes so it’s hard to compare with the main event which drew 500,000 viewers.  The Jacobs fight went to decision with the New York native getting the win and a possible chance at Canelo Alvarez in the future.  The viewership for BAD was down as the company exits the boxing business.

UFC Fight Night 138 draws 531,000 viewers

October 30, 2018

UFC Fight Night 138 drew 531,000 viewers on FS1 Saturday night according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The prelims drew 237,000 viewers on FS2.

The last part of the prelims aired on FS1 and drew 159,000 viewers in the 20 minutes it was on the network.  The main card saw a 12-minute overrun for the featured fight of Anthony Smith defeating Volkan Oezdemir.

The post-fight show drew 299,000 viewers on FS1.

The event was the promotion’s first in Montcon, New Brunswick Canada.

2018 Fight Nights Main Card
   
UFC Fight Night  124 1,285,000
UFC Fight Night 125 839,000
UFC Fight Night 126 893,000
UFC Fight Night 127 FP
UFC Fight Night 128 956,000
UFC Fight Night 129 870,000
UFC Fight Night 130 552,000
UFC Fight Night 131 517,000
UFC Fight Night 132 FP
UFC Fight Night 133 754,000
UFC Fight Night 134 492,000
UFC Fight Night 135 596,000
UFC Fight Night 136 FP
UFC Fight Night 137 607,000
UFC Fight Night 138 531,000
   

Payout Perspective:

Relatively similar ratings for Saturday night’s Fight Night than most over the course of this year.   The UFC went up against College Football, the World Series and one of HBO’s final events on the network.

 

Zuffa files Reply Brief supporting its right to seal docs in Antitrust case

October 29, 2018

In its latest filing, Zuffa has filed its reply in support of its motion to seal parts of the opposition brief filed by the plaintiffs in response to the company’s motion for summary judgment in the Antitrust lawsuit.

Zuffa filed a Motion to Seal certain documents that are being used in support of its Motion for Summary Judgment.  The promotion included justifications for sealing each of the documents it requests.

Zuffa Motion to Seal by on Scribd

Plaintiffs argue that the documents are not commercially sensitive information.  In its brief, Plaintiffs cite testimony from Zuffa’s attorney Michael Mersch about a hypothetical contract, testimony related to Lorenzo Fertitta’s deposition concerning financial information and wage share.  Plaintiffs argue that there is no confidential information contained in the testimony sought to be sealed. Zuffa also requests portions of expert reports to be redacted.  This includes plaintiffs’ expert report from Hal Singer and its own expert Robert Topel.

Plaintiffs Opposition by on Scribd

Perhaps one of the more salient arguments in Plaintiffs argument is that many of the passages that Zuffa seeks to redact are old.  Essentially, the information that Zuffa seeks to seal are remnants of the past and do not contain trade secrets because they no longer contain information that is subject to the current business landscape.

The Reply is its response to the Plaintiffs’ seeking to unseal certain documents filed in support of the brief filed by the fighters suing Zuffa. Plaintiffs’ opposed the motion for summary judgment filed by Zuffa seeking to dismiss the fighters’ claims against the promotion.  But, although Zuffa has unsealed and unredacted certain documents, there still remains a giant portion still unavailable for viewing.

Zuffa Reply ISO Motion to Seal by on Scribd

In its Reply Brief it reaffirms that it properly identified documents that it was sealing and met the legal burden for documents needed to preclude.

Additionally, they claim that the documents sought to seal are specific and would pose competitive harm to the company as they would divulge confidential business information and strategy.  Zuffa also rejects Plaintiffs argument that the information sought to seal is old and already public knowledge.

The Court will decide whether Zuffa carries its burden to show that the records it seeks to seal “articulate compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings,” providing ‘articulable facts’ that favor secrecy and that those interests outweigh the presumption of public access to judicial records.

While it has been underscored in this briefing, the right of access by the media is a viable argument for the Court to look at the sealing of documents critically.  The Reply includes several tweets from John Nash and articles for Paul Gift which discuss the Zuffa antitrust lawsuit.  Certainly, the attorneys have taken just a survey of the reporting going on here as media here is just an afterthought from both legal sides.

The recent reversal in ruling in the Hunt-Zuffa lawsuit which sealed Bout Agreements.  In the Order which granted the sealing of documents, the Court stated, “[D]efendants claim that the agreements contain proprietary information, and that competitive standing with MMA promoters.  The court finds that defendants have identified compelling reasons that warrant sealing the exhibits…”  This does not seem compelling at all.

How will this all shake out?  If you take the Hunt ruling into consideration, it would seem that despite the “compelling” standard for sealing documents, the Courts skew toward finding any excuse to seal a document.

UFC Fight Night 138 attendance, gate and bonuses

October 28, 2018

UFC Fight Night 138 took place Saturday night in Moncton, New Brunswick Canada.  Anthony Smith led the bonus winners with his main event finish of Volkan Oezdamir.

Also winning bonuses last night were Don Madge, Nasrat Haqparast and Thibault Gouti. Madge earned his performance bonus with a headkick KO over Te Edwards.  Haqparast and Gouti earned Fight of the Night. Haqparast earned the decision win.

In the promotion’s first appearance in Moncton, the event drew 6,282 fans for a gate of $692,000 Canadian dollars.

Payout Perspective:

An impressive night for Smith as he defeated the #2 ranked Light Heavyweight in the UFC.  The attendance and gate are on par with what you would expect from Fight Night events.  But, the pacing once again for these events make it as undesirable to watch as an extra inning baseball game.

Edgar out, Rodriguez in against Korean Zombie at UFC Fight Night 139

October 26, 2018

ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reports that Frankie Edgar has pulled out of his November 10th fight against the Korean Zombie at UFC Fight Night in Denver.  According to the report, the UFC has already found a replacement for Edgar in Yair Rodriguez.

Ironically, Rodriguez had been cut by the UFC in May after contractual and booking issues with the company.  He was to face Zabit Magomedsharipov in August but due to injury that fight was scrapped.

Edgar won his last fight against Cub Swanson in Atlantic City this past April 2018.  Chan Sung Jung has fought just once since returning from mandatory military service in 2017 as an injury has kept him out of the octagon.

Payout Perspective:

Rodriguez coming in on short notice for this featherweight bout will be an intriguing fight for KZ.  It is surprising that Rodriguez took the fight considering he had issues with the company which precipitated his short dismissal from the promotion.

WWE posts 3rd Quarter results, will hold event in Saudi Arabia

October 26, 2018

The WWE announced its third quarter results for the year on Thursday morning.  It also confirmed that it will go forward with an event in Saudi Arabia despite the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The WWE addressed the controversial in today’s earnings release which called the killing “heinous” but stated that as with other US companies that are continuing operations in Sauid Arabia, the WWE decided to “uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event.”

When asked by analysts today on the earnings call, Vince McMahon stated, “[i]t’s a very sensitive subject.  I think our statement says what we wanna say.”  In recent weeks, the WWE promoted the event without indicating that Crown Jewel on November 3rd would take place in Saudi Arabia.  The event will be the second in Saudi Arabia as the WWE held, “Greatest Royal Rumble” this past April.  The reason for the events in Saudi Arabia boil down to the massive amounts of revenue for the company.

The WWE earnings for the third quarter beat analyst expectations as Wall Street predicted Earnings Per Share of 21 cents.  The company announced an Earnings Per Share of 37 cents on revenue of $188.4 million.  Subscriptions to the WWE Network grew 9% to more than 1.66 million.  The media division increased 9% to $142.1 million due license fees and sales of ad and sponsorships.

Revenue at live events dropped this quarter by 15.5% to $26.7 million due to fewer events and an 8% decrease in North American attendance.  International events saw an even bigger decrease of 18% in average attendance.  In consumer products, revenue declined 18% to $19.6 million due to new revenue recognition standards and lower sales of merchandise online and at WWE venues.

WWE shares are at $75.68, down approximately 2.18% as of Thursday afternoon after hours trading.

Payout Perspective:

The Saudi Arabia event which will be held November 3rd likely will help with company’s revenue, but there will be a public relation hit based on the controversy surrounding the death of the Washington Post journalist.  The partnership with Saudi Arabia caused controversy as women couldn’t participate in the country.  But, the WWE has signed a 10-year agreement with Saudi Arabia and estimates $50 million of incremental revenue and more than $15 million in operating income to the company.  The infusion of cash will please shareholders.

 

The WWE has done well with its media division as shows like Total Divas and Miz & Mrs have increased license fees and sales of advertising and sponsorships.  Aside from its media division, the WWE has seen a decline in operating income in the other sectors of its business.  The decrease in attendance likely caused, in part, the lower revenue in the consumer products.

MMA Trade? UFC and ONE looking into swapping Johnson for Askren

October 24, 2018

ESPN reports a potential trade between MMA promotions UFC and ONE.  The deal would have Demetrious Johnson moving to ONE while Ben Askren would head to the UFC.

The trade would have Johnson and Askren released from their respective promotional contracts in order to sign with the other promotion.  Both have fights left on their contract which is the obstacle for Johnson and Askren.

Also, they are independent contractors which means that neither would have to comply with the “trade” since there would be nothing binding each to the deal.  But, it seems as though both fighters are willing to comply.

For the UFC, this could mean that the company is doing away with the 125-pound division.  Before losing the title to Henry Cejudo, Johnson had been dominant as he broke the record for most consecutive title defenses.  Cejudo has been discussing a superfight with bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw.  But, the flyweight division has produced little, if any spark to the promotion since its inception.

Askren has been dominant in ONE’s welterweight division since joining the company in 2014.  He won the ONE Welterweight Championship in just his second fight in the promotion.  He’s had 4 straight title defenses of his championship.

ONE appears to be making moves to become more visible in North America.  Former Bellator and UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez signed with ONE to a lucrative deal.

Two recent articles by John Nash and Paul Gift on the promotion cast doubt on the company’s finances so the Singapore-based promotion will be something to keep eyes on.

Payout Perspective:

The “trade” seems good for both sides.  Johnson, who believes that the UFC has not promoted him correctly, will get a change of scenery and perhaps the marketing push and new opponents that he desires.  Askren will get a chance to test himself against a tough welterweight division.  It’s been clear that Askren has outclassed his opponents and with a UFC roster full of worthy opponents, he should be given some interesting matchups.

UFC announces PSAs to support Trump Administration campaign on Opioid Abuse

October 24, 2018

The UFC has announced it is working with the Trump Administration in combating Opioid addiction.  It will launch a public service announcement addressing the Opioid crisis.

President Trump’s Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse was announced on Wednesday at the White House.  The Administration secured $6 billion in new funding over two years to fight opioid abuse.

The UFC announced that it would create a public service campaign to bring attention to opioid addiction.

Via UFC press release:

UFC made the announcement today at a ceremony at the White House, in which President Donald J. Trump signed into law H.R. 6, also known as the SUPPORT For Patients And Communities Act. The legislation is intended to help opioid treatment and recovery initiatives, improve prevention of opioid abuse, and bolster efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs. UFC joined federal lawmakers and representatives of other major U.S. companies at the White House ceremony, where they pledged their commitment to combat the opioid crisis, which has left a mark on nearly every American family.

“Opioid addiction does not discriminate,” said UFC President Dana White. “Millions of Americans are impacted by this tragic crisis. UFC is committed to helping President Trump in the fight to end opioid abuse.”

UFC’s public service campaign is expected to roll out before the end of the year and will utilize UFC athletes, the company’s massive social media reach (75 million followers), and its popular live events to spread the message of prevention, treatment, and recovery relating to opioid addiction.

Payout Perspective:

This is the first partnership with The White House by the promotion and reflects the relationship President Trump has had with Dana White.  While not overtly political, UFC Fight Pass will be airing a program focusing on President Trump’s involvement in MMA.  The President also met with Dana White and Colby Covington earlier this year.  White also spoke at the Republican National Convention supporting Trump.  We will see how involved the promotion will be in the coming 2 years as the President nears the 2020 campaign.

PFL 8 draws 144,000 viewers

October 24, 2018

The Professional Fighters League playoffs this past Saturday on NBC Sports Network drew 144,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The 8th event this season took place in Washington, D.C. on Saturday with the winners heading to the New Year’s Eve Finals in New York for a chance at the $1 million price for each weight division.  Saturday night’s event was highlighted by welterweight Ray Cooper as he won his welterweight semifinal matchup against Handesson Ferreira via first round TKO.  Cooper will face Magomed MagomedKirmov who defeated Bojan Velickovic in the other semifinal on Saturday.

PFL 1: 116,000 viewers

PFL 2: 150,000 viewers

PFL 3: 146,000 viewers

PFL 4: 101,000 viewers

PFL 5: 112,000 viewers

PFL 6: 138,000 viewers

PFL 7: 136,000 viewers

PFL 8: 144,000 viewers

While they are not the biggest ratings, Saturdays numbers improve upon the first set of semifinals in Long Beach.   The event went unopposed from Bellator or the UFC so this likely helped the bump in viewership.

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