UFC introduces product that tracks punching statistics

October 23, 2018

The UFC has announced the launch of a first-ever UFC Force Tracker smart device for heavy bags.  According to a UFC press release, the launch is in partnership with CSG Taiwan Limited.  IMG negotiated the multi-year licensing agreement between the UFC and CSG Taiwan Limited.

Per the UFC press release, “[t]he UFC Force Tracker is a Bluetooth enabled smart device that records an individual’s speed, power and endurance when training with a heavy or free-standing punching bag.  The device connects with the Xforce Tracker mobile app for iOS and Android devices to record and store the user’s progress.  The mobile app also allows users to compare training statistics with others via the global online leaderboard.”

The device connects with the bottom of a heavy bag or the top of a free-standing punching bag.  The product is sold via retail at Walmart.com and other online and retail distributors in Europe and Asia.

Payout Perspective:

Statistics in sport is a rising industry and one can see this product being used in UFC Gyms as well as other MMA/boxing-type gyms.  The device can be used to track progress in training as well as there being a social aspect to compare use with others.  While it is not reported on as much as its PPV/sponsorships, the licensing of the UFC brand name and products is another source of revenue for the company.  In conjunction with its gyms, we could see more of these products being launched.

Deontay Wilder files appeal brief in Povetkin Meldonium case

October 22, 2018

Deontay Wilder filed its appeal brief in requesting that the court overturn the trial court’s ruling in favor of World of Boxing and Alexander Povetkin.  The appeal highlights an incongruent ruling by the court which appeared to defer to the World Boxing Council in its determination of Povetkin’s drug test failure.

The match between the two heavyweights was set by the World Boxing Council to take place in May 2016 in Moscow, Russia.  Wilder was training in England when he learned that Povetkin and tested positive for a banned substance.  Wilder decided to return to the United States instead of going to Russia believing that the fight was cancelled due to the failed drug test.  Povetkin and his promotion, World of Boxing claims that Wilder breached the contract when he failed to go to Russia for the match which prompted the WBC to cancel the fight.

In limbo is a purse of $7.15 million still in escrow.  The trial court granted World of Boxing’s request for the escrow money to be return.  Of course, Wilder believed that he should be granted his share of the money since Povetkin failed the drug test.  A lawsuit filed by the heavyweight champion ensued in which WOB and Povetkin filed counterclaims against Wilder.

From our post this past April:

In February 2017, a jury just took 32 minutes to determine that Povetkin took the banned substance Meldonium post-January 1, 2016, however that did not mean much in the outcome of this Summary Judgment motion.

One of the overarching issues in the lawsuit as to who is to blame for the failed fight in Russian in May 2016.  You might infer from the news of a failed drug test from Povetkin that it was the Russian.  However, Povetkin claimed that Wilder’s failure to appear in Russia forced the hand of the regulating body, the WBC, to call off the fight.

The WBC Bout Agreement takes precedent here as the Court examines the contract in applying basic contract principles.  But in its application, there seem to be things that don’t make sense.

“We begin by noting that the Bout Agreement contains no language mandating that each fighter refrain from ingesting banned substances.”

The inference one might yield from this sentence of the Court opinion is that tis ok to used banned substances.  Based on this, the Court held that Povetkin did not breach the Bout Agreement because it cannot conclude when/if he ingested the banned substance Meldonium. Obviously, this is opposite the jury finding.

The good news for Wilder is that there was no finding of a breach of the Bout Agreement when Wilder did not go to Russia for the fight with Povetkin.  The Court notes, “[t]here is simply no evidence that the WBC’s postponement decision was a “normal or foreseeable consequence” of Wilder’s actions, or that Wilder’s acts otherwise caused the WBC’s decision.”  Povetkin and World of Boxing sought $2.5 million in liquidated damages that was part of the Escrow Agreement.  “While the WOB Parties argue that it was Wilder’s failure to appear in Moscow, rather than Povetkin’s positive test result, that caused the WBC to postpone the Bout…no reasonable jury could indulge in the speculation that would be required to conclude that this was so,” stated the Court opinion.  It went on to state, “[B]ecause a reasonable jury could not find that any breach by the Wilder Parties proximately caused the WOB Parties’ damages, the Wilder Parties’ motion for summary judgment dismissing the WOB Parties’ claim for breach of the Bout Agreement is granted.”

As for the escrow funds, World of Boxing is entitled to its release held in escrow but no interest because no judgment was entered against Wilder.

The claims for defamation filed by Povetkin remain although they may be dismissed pending further movement in this case.

The Court opinion seems to fly in the face of the original jury finding that Povetkin took Meldonium post-January 2016.  The opinion seems to lean entirely on the WBC Agreement for its determination on its procedure in determining the status of Povetkin based upon his drug tests.  The Court quotes WBC Rules and Regulations when it notes, “the WBC may in its discretion consider all factors in making a determination regarding responsibility, relative fault, and penalties, if any.”

The WBC did not issue a ruling on Povetkin’s positive drug test until August 17, 2016.  It noted that it called the bout off and reserved any further ruling.  It then determined that it was not “possible to ascertain that Mr. Povetkin ingested Meldonium after January 1, 2016.  After two additional rulings by the WBC which opposed the August 17, 2016 ruling, it overturned the decision and stuck with its August ruling.  It based this on a study showing Meldonium having the ability to stay in one’s system for more than five months.  It also noted Povetkin had negative drug tests six other times.

The WBC seemed to be dragging its feet in this case as it put off the ruling on Povetkin despite the litigation moving ahead.  There’s also the issue of Povetkin’s positive test for ostarine which happened after the lawsuit began.  Yet, the WBC did not penalize him for this and even stressed negative drug tests notwithstanding the two positive tests for Meldonium and ostarine.

The appeal brief, which was filed in August 31, 2018, brought up the glaring disparity in issues regarding the WBC ruling and that of the jury trial.

Wilder notes that the WBC confirmed in its August 2016 ruling that the bout was called off due to Povetkin’s positive test.  In December 2016, Povetkin tested positive for another banned substance.  It issued a March 2017 ruling which doled out an indefinite suspension and a $250,000 fine.  But, in November 2017, it issued another ruling which amended the indefinite suspension to a fixed one-year fine and reaffirmed its ruling that it could not be found whether Povetkin ingested meldonium post-January 1, 2017.

Wilder points out that WOB’s attorney argued to the Court that “only the WBC, and not a jury, was competent to decide the issue, and that a jury verdict would merely be an advisory opinion.” Despite the trial judge’s disagreement, WOB attorney believed that the contractual agreement of the WBC would be the controlling factor in determining whether Povetkin took Meldonium.

However, Wilder believes that the District Court’s interpretation of the Bout Agreement was wrong.  Wilder argues that the “WBC does not have the discretion to resolve private disputes between parties to a contract.”  The Bout Agreement includes a clause which states that the parties “irrevocably accept and consent to the jurisdiction of” the District Court to “resolve any disputes arising out of” the Bout Agreement.” Wilder claims that whether or not Povetkin ingested Meldonium constituting a breach of the Bout Agreement is clearly a dispute arising out of the agreement, over which the District Court has exclusive jurisdiction.  Essentially, while the Bout Agreement gives discretion to the WBC, it does not supersede the authority of the courts to interpret the contract.  And Wilder argues, “[b]y cedeing the decision regarding whether Povetkin breached the Bout Agreement to the WBC,” it committed reversible error.  Additionally, the counterclaims filed by WOB and Povetkin reflect the authority of the courts over the WBC Bout Agreement.

Wilder also argued that even if the appellate court holds that the trial court was correct in holding that the WBC and not the trial court could determine whether the Bout Agreement was breached, it caused error in its application of the facts of the case.

Wilder cites the following press release from the WBC:

They also argue that the date of the bout is a material term in the contract.  Thus, whether or not the date of the bout was postponed is not relevant.  WOB asserts that Wilder breached the agreement due to his failure to fly to Russia for the intended fight.  Wilder cites several cases in which the exact date of the events is deemed essential to the terms of the contracts.

Following along the line of logic that the WBC had some authority in its contract, Wilder argues that the WBC delegated its duty to the trial court:

As a result, Wilder argues that the WBC applied a “strict liability” standard wherein if a jury found that Povetkin ingested Meldonium after January 1, 2017, he would be stripped of his mandatory challenger status which meant that his fight with Wilder would be off the table.

Wilder also indicates something amiss with what may be infers as a “quid pro quo” with Povetkin and the WBC. Pointing out the press release by the WBC, it seems as though if Povetkin paid his fine, he would be reinstated.

In a footnote of its brief, Wilder states that the trial court denied a request to reopen discovery on this limited issue but Wilder request this court again.

Finally, Wilder argues that he is entitled to the escrow property in the amount of $4,369,365 as a result of WOB’s breach of the Bout Agreement.

Payout Perspective:

This is a fascinating legal case premised on the basic tenets of a contract. The trial court’s decision to side with Povetkin and WOB in determining that the WBC would be the only entity capable of deciding whether Povetkin ingested Meldonium seems out of line with the job of the court to interpret the contract when a dispute comes before it. We have seen with the Austin Trout case that the Court has deferred to the drafter of the private contract despite the aggrieved party bringing a lawsuit. MMA Payout will continue to follow once WOB files its appellate brief.

Bellator 208 draws 521,000 viewers on Paramount

October 17, 2018

Bellator 208 on Paramount Saturday night drew 521,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event featured Fedor defeating Chael Sonnen in the last semi-final of the Heavyweight Grand Prix.

It was the second of back-to-back nights for the promotion.  The event also aired on DAZN.

In addition to Fedor and Sonnen, Benson Henderson defeated Saad Awad.

Payout Perspective:

Although 521,000 viewers does not seem that impressive, it is the best viewership since Bellator 199 this past May.  One might infer that there were more viewers since DAZN was an optional way to view the event.  The viewership suggests that Fedor is still a draw for many MMA fans.

DAZN signs Canelo to richest contract in sports

October 17, 2018

Canelo Alvarez has signed a 5-year, 11 fight deal worth $365 million with new streaming service DAZN according to ESPN.  The deal begins with Alvarez’s December fight against Rocky Fieldinng.

The deal is the richest athlete contract in sports history.  According to the ESPN story, HBO had the right of first negotiation and a “last-look” provision for Alvarez’s December fight and it made an offer for an HBO PPV event but decided not to match DAZN’s offer.

Alvarez fought Gennady Golovkin this past September on PPV.  It was his last fight under his promotional agreement with Golden Boy Boxing.  The event drew 1.1 million viewers for at a suggested PPV price point of $84.95.  DAZN’s streaming service is $9.99 per month and offers boxing as well as Bellator MMA.  It started its service in North America this past September featuring an Anthony Joshua fight.

Payout Perspective:

Perhaps following PBC’s strategy of paying up front in hopes of earning money in the end, DAZN has made a huge investment in Canelo Alvarez.  Arguably, he’s the only PPV draw in boxing since Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.  Signing with the streaming service marks another sign of the shift of how consumers watch sports.  The question will be how DAZN will be able to recoup on its investment and how soon.

ESPN Top Rank Boxing reports strongest telecast of 2018

October 16, 2018

ESPN Top Rank Boxing on Saturday night drew 2.245 million viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily. The event was the highest-rated live boxing telecast of 2018.

Ring.tv reports that the peak of the telecast drew 2.7 million viewers.  The main event saw Terrence Crawford put away Jose Benavidez, Jr. in the 12th and final round of their fight.

It drew 1.038 million viewers in the A18-49 demo according to Nielsen.

The ratings reflect the highest rating for an ESPN Top Rank Boxing telecast since Manny Pacquiao took on Jeff Horn in the first telecast of the partnership.

Payout Perspective:

This is good news for boxing and boxing fans as we have seen an expansion of boxing viewership.  While HBO has foreclosed its time in the sport, PBC on Fox, Top Rank on ESPN and now DAZN’s latest coup of signing on Canelo Alvarez for his next fight this December shows that the sport continues to grow.  With these latest ratings, we will see if Terence Crawford can make the next step in his career: pay-per-view star.

UFC welterweight accepts 2 year sanction for cocaine use

October 16, 2018

USADA has announced that UFC UK fighter Bradley Scott has accepted a two-year sanction for violating the UFC Anti-Doping Program.  Scott tested positive for cocaine metabolites per an in-competition test.

Via USADA press release:

Scott, 29, tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, as the result of a urine sample he provided in-competition on May 27, 2018, at Fight Night 130 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Cocaine is a non-Specified Substance in the class of Stimulants and prohibited in-competition under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, which has adopted the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List.

USADA conducted a thorough investigation into Scott’s case and determined Scott had not provided verifiable evidence regarding the circumstances that led to his positive test. Scott’s two-year period of ineligibility, the standard sanction for a first offense involving a non-Specified Substance, began on July 3, 2018, the date his provisional suspension was imposed.

The former TUF Smashes contestant will not be able to return to the UFC until July 2020.

Payout Perspective:

The finding should be a disappointment for the 29-year-old welterweight who is 3-5 in the UFC and on a 2-fight losing streak.  Arguably, cocaine should not be considered a PED but a recreational drug.  It would be interesting to know if Scott would be required to attend some sort of education regarding the drug to ensure he does not have an issue with the drug.

Boxer Austin Trout case moved to arbitration, casts concern on future of Ali Act

October 16, 2018

A Federal Court in Puerto Rico has dismissed boxer Austin Trout’s lawsuit against the World Boxing Organization for claims of violating the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.  The court determined that due to the signed contact, Trout must submit to arbitration.

Austin Trout Case Order on … by on Scribd

Trout claimed that the WBO had dropped him from the promotion’s ranking arbitrarily which affected his ability to receive a title shot.

The lawsuit landed in Federal Court in Puerto Rico after the boxing promotion moved the case to Puerto Rico where its offices are located.  Originally Trout filed the lawsuit in state court in New Mexico.  The WBO moved the case to Federal Court in New Mexico and then requested the venue change to Puerto Rico which the Court granted.

The WBO claimed that Trout was bound by the terms of his WBO contract which required that he arbitrate any disputes he had with the contract.  According to the contract, the WBO would handle the arbitration and any appeal would be heard by a grievance committee put together by the promotion.

Trout argued that the lawsuit should remain in court for two reasons.  First, Trout’s attorneys argued that the WBO waived its right to arbitration as it already appeared in the case and filed procedural motions for the case to be moved to federal court and then to Puerto Rico.  Secondly, Trout argued that his claims were based upon violations of the Ali Act which should be litigated instead of arbitrated.  Furthermore, it argued that the arbitration clause was invalid because the WBO would effectively “be both a party and a judge.”

The WBO moved to compel arbitration and dismiss the lawsuit.  In siding with the WBO, the Court indicated that the WBO’s contract which included the arbitration clause was valid and related to the dispute alleged by Trout and therefore it was a valid arbitration clause.  Trout unsuccessfully argued that there was ambiguity in the contract and with contracts of adhesion, they should be found in favor of the non-drafting party.  Here, Trout argued that the arbitration clause related to disputes with third parties whereas disputes directly with the promotion could be litigated.  Part of this argument was due to the WBO serving as the arbitrator in the matter.  However, the court found no ambiguity and that the contract availed the parties to arbitration on all matters.

As to the argument that the lawsuit was litigated by the WBO and as a result, it had waived its right to arbitration, the court argued that the sole responses made by the promotion in court were procedural and not substantive.  Hence, it had not participated in litigation of the case and did not waive its right to an arbitration.

There is no indication that Trout will appeal this decision at this point.

Payout Perspective:

The underlying issue in this decision is that claims under the Muhammad Ali Act could be arbitrated based on a contract signed by the parties.  This does not bode well for the possibility of the Ali Act Expansion to combat sports.  The reason being is that if the party drafting the contract (e.g., Zuffa) includes a provision that all disputes under the contract shall be resolved via arbitration, it might mute the effectiveness of the Ali Act.  While arbitration is a faster way to resolve disputes, in the Trout case, he was concerned with the ability for the WBO to be judge and a party.  One might foresee an MMA promotion including in its contract its ability to choose an arbitrator.  We have already seen that the UFC Anti-Doping Policy has chosen its own vendor and arbitrator.  It would likely do the same for any case claiming a violation of the Ali Act.  Unless there is an appeal, look for this decision to rear its head in the future.

Eddie Alvarez signs with ONE Championship

October 15, 2018

ONE Championship has signed Eddie Alvarez to a contract making the former UFC and Bellator lightweight to the Asia-based company.  According to the promotion’s press release, it’s a multiple bout contract.  Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Payout Perspective:

The signing is a coup for ONE Championship who may seek to extend its reach to North America.  Thus far, the company has grown exponentially since its start in the early 2010s.  It has Ben Askren and former UFC star Brandon Vera on its roster as well as several top fighters in Asia.  Alvarez joining the promotion should bolster fans of Alvarez in the U.S. which may, in turn, mean a foray into North America.

At 34, its probably the best possible deal for Alvarez.  He’s nearing the end of his peak earning as an MMA fighter and ONE is likely paying him much more than the UFC or Bellator would offer.  This may serve as an option for other fighters that may be nearing the end of their deal in the UFC or Bellator that there are other options in the industry.

Bellator 207 draws 416,000 viewers on Paramount Friday night

October 15, 2018

Bellator 207 on the Paramount Network Friday night drew 416,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  It was the first of back-to-back shows on the network.

The event featured the semi-finals of the Heavyweight Grand Prix as Ryan Bader made easy work of Matt Mitrione to make his way to the finals of the tournament.

Also on the card, Sergei Kharitonov looked impressive in his KO of Roy Nelson.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings have to be a little disappointing considering this was one of the semifinals for their Heavyweight Grand Prix.  Saturday night’s event will be an interesting look to see with PFL and Top Rank Boxing on ESPN going on at the same time.

Crawford-Benavidez fight draws big ratings on ESPN

October 15, 2018

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Saturday night drew a 1.6 metered market rating according to Nielsen which made it the highest-rated boxing telecast in 2018.  The main event which featured Terence Crawford scoring a 12th round KO of Jose Benavidez averaged a 1.8 metered market rating.

The main event was the highest-rated Top Rank bout and main event on ESPN.  The event took place in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.  The main event between the two unbeatens was heated as Crawford took a swing at Benavidez at the weigh-ins.

In the co-main event, Shakur Stevenson defeated Viorel Simion via TKO in the first round.  The event drew a metered 1.3 rating according to Nielsen.

Payout Perspective:

The telecast was the second-highest rated Top Rank event on ESPN to the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight which kicked off the Top Rank-ESPN partnership. The event went up against Bellator on Paramount and though we will not get the overall ratings until later on Monday, boxing beat MMA on Saturday night.  The question becomes whether Crawford can draw on PPV and outside of Omaha.

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