UFC 235 Payout Perspective

March 6, 2019

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  In this edition, we take a look at UFC 235 at The T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jones dominates Smith

Jon Jones did not have the best day at the office but he thoroughly outclassed Anthony Smith to retain his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.  There was no threat by Smith to Jones throughout the whole 5 rounds and the Bones cruised to a unanimous decision.  Smith stated that he was “nullified” by Jones during the fight which seems like the most appropriate description of the fight.

Of course, Jon Jones cannot escape controversy.  An almost soccer-kick to a grounded Anthony Smith could have cost Jones but he missed. Then, another knee to the head that landed could have cost Jones the title.  But Smith decided to continue and despite not taking the way out to win the championship, he was applauded by the announcers.

Jones now has a choice of opponents from the Light Heavyweight division although there doesn’t seem to be anyone that pops out as someone fans want to see.

Usman wins middleweight title

Kamaru Usman took the middleweight title away from Tyron Woodley with an impressive battering of the former champ.  Arguably, Usman had 2 or 3 “10-8” rounds which underscored his dominant performance.

Usman’s victory makes him the first fighter of African descent to hold a world title in the UFC.  He now is scheduled to face Colby Covington in defense of the title.  If that falls through, Ben Askren might be another name waiting in the wings for a shot.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

UFC 235 drew 14,790 fans for a gate of $4,035,156.50 as announced at the post-fight press conference.  It was the 6th best announced attendance and gate at T-Mobile.  It was not a full house, but decent attendance and a good gate.

The bonuses went to Pedro Munhoz and Cody Garbrandt for Fight of the Night. Johnnie Walker and Diego Sanchez earned Performance Bonuses for their respective stoppages.  Each earned $50,000.

Ticket demand was pretty big for this event as the average resale price for UFC 235 was $409 as of Monday of Fight week.  The cheapest get-in ticket was $137.

Promotion of the Event

While it may have gone under the radar, the UFC is utilizing the new Instagram feature which allows videos on its platform.  The company has been doing it for the past several events.  This time around one of the features included Jones-Gustafsson 2.  Getting people to see fights for free on multiple platforms (i.e., YouTube and Instagram) helps promote the fighters and more importantly the PPV.

There was no press conference involving the featured fighters during Fight Week which may be due in part to protect Jon Jones from questions regarding USADA.

Jones’ drug tests were revealed leading up to his fight against Anthony Smith.  Two out of five tests revealed show positive for the same banned substance in Jones’ system.  The UFC’s Jeff Novitzky answered questions during the media scrum which included his support of the Nevada Athletic Commission’s statement.  The two talking points of interest stressed by Novitsky was that the tests reveal no re-administration of the drug and that there would be no performance enhancing benefit.

Colby Covington went to Vegas to raise a ruckus and he did a pretty good job of doing it.  He crashed Kamaru Usman’s open workouts, he tracked down Dana White while gambling, showed up at UFC 234 and caused a disruption post-fight with Kamaru Usman and then round 2 in a buffet line in Vegas according to Covington.  The former interim welterweight champion looks have Usman next.

Sponsorships

Trifecta was utilized much more in the Embedded episodes as Anthony Smith openly talked about how it has helped him with nutrition.  In addition, they were on the mat in the Octagon.

It also sponsored the Fight Card prep.

Also, in the Octagon was Nemifor, the Amazon original mini-series, “Hanna,” betting site PariMatch, P3, the video game Dead Red Redemption II, Modelo, Monster Energy, convenience store Rebel, BodyArmor, Toyo Tires and Monster Energy in the center.  Also, broadcast partner ESPN+ had signage on one of the posts.

The UFC announced a multi-year marketing partnership with Devour as its “Official Frozen Meal of UFC.”

Although there was no major announcement, the UFC entered into a partnership with Heed, a data analytics company that specializes in fan engagement.  Presumably, the promotion will be working with Heed to develop information based on research which would appeal to the UFC’s target demo.  Heed, according to its web site, works on facilitating engagement with youth.

Metro by T-Mobile activated through its social media by having its own watch show.

Ratings

UFC Prelims on ESPN: 1.4 Million (first overall in original cable telecasts for Saturday)

Payouts

Payouts for the event can be found here.  Both Woodley and Jones earned a flat $500K as defending champions while challengers Kamaru Usman and Anthony Smith received flat fees of $350K.

Reebok Promotional Guidelines Compliance Pay

Jon Jones: $40,000 def. Anthony Smith: $30,000
Kamaru Usman: $30,000 def. Tyron Woodley: $40,000
Ben Askren: $3,500 def. Robbie Lawler: $20,000
Weili Zhang: $3,500 def. Tecia Torres: $5,000
Pedro Munhoz: $10,000 def. Cody Garbrandt: $5,000
Zabit Magomedsharipov: $4,000 def. Jeremy Stephens: $20,000
Johnny Walker: $3,500 def. Misha Cirkunov: $5,000
Cody Stamann: $4,000 def. Alejandro Perez: $5,000
Diego Sanchez: $20,000 def. Mickey Gall: $5,000
Edmen Shahbazyan: $3,500 def. Charles Byrd: $3,500
Macy Chiasson: $3,500 def. Gina Mazany: $4,000
Hannah Cifers: $3,500 def. Polyana Viana: $3,500

Odds and ends

ONE FC sent congratulations to Ben Askren as he made his UFC debut.

UFC unveiled the first PSA of its Opioid campaign in conjunction with the Trump Administration.


Dave Meltzer reported that Mickey Gall passed out while cutting weight during fight week which may have attributed to his loss.

Bad night for refs.  Marc Goddard broke apart Usman and Woodley a couple times when Usman was working.  Herb Dean may have stopped the Robbie Lawler-Ben Askren fight prematurely and then he had the issues with the Jon Jones illegal strikes.

But Lawler was classy despite the confusion.

 

Conclusion

It’s clear that the ESPN relationship has helped with viewership for the UFC as the prelims hit one of its biggest highs since starting the pre-PPV cards.  It also drew over 1M google searches on Saturday which may mean PPV success for the event.  While UFC 232 drew an estimated 700,000 PPV buys featuring Jones, this event did not have as much controversy as this past December’s card. I would suspect that due to Jon Jones’ return we will see an uptick over the norm of PPV buys and get a buy rate of around 450K buys.

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