Rovell Looks at Bud Light's UFC Experience

July 16, 2009

CNBC’s Darren Rovell took note of the fallout coming out of UFC 100, especially in respect to the disparaging words of Brock Lesnar towards one of the UFC’s primary sponsors, Bud Light:

In terms of official sponsors getting blindsided, this one takes the all time cake. When Anheuser-Busch took the risk of associating with the UFC, who ever thought that risk included having its competitor get the nod after one of the biggest fights in the organization’s history?

The idea of pumping up Coors Light when they presumably didn’t pay him wasn’t a good idea. But the question as to what Lesnar owes UFC’s official sponsors is a good one. Lesnar did what he did because he felt that, as the biggest star in UFC, he deserved his cut of what the UFC was making. This comes at a time when the UFC is now asking those who sponsor fighters to give the organization a cut so it’s harder to ambush official sponsors who don’t chose to sponsor the fighters. From the UFC’s standpoint, the brands that sponsor the fighters are getting a cheap deal aligning with the brand without having to pay up. From the fighter’s standpoint, any cut the UFC gets could take away from their pay and could restrict the amount of companies willing to still pay the fighters.

Lesnar’s move was outrageous, but it wasn’t an “in the heat of the moment” reaction as he might have you believe. There’s a reason he did what he did. And it brings to a head the question of when companies buy rights to be an official sponsor, what do they get? And what do the athletes deserve? No matter what the answer is to that question, I know this. Bud Light didn’t deserve Lesnar’s “Silver Bullet” surprise.

Rovell notes the tough spot this has put Bud Light in. This wasn’t the first misstep in the Bud/UFC relationship. Bud noted their displeasure with the homphobic rant put forth by UFC Prez Dana White and intimated that the issue was addressed with White as something that went against their company policy of inclusiveness. The UFC also recently used a loophole in their contract with Bud to bring Mickey’s as a primary sponsor of TUF and the subsequent TUF Finale. While the deal was permissable, it also sullied the tight brand association that Bud Light had been building with the UFC product. The latest episode with Brock paints the UFC as something of a “problem child”, but at the same time a problem child that is a prodigy at delivering the desirable demos that Bud is looking for. If the child is a temperamental genius, Bud Light must be feeling out the level of temperamental they can live with to enjoy the genius.

Another interesting facet of Rovell’s piece is his discussion of the fighters role in the UFC/Bud Light relationship. Rovell discusses the expectation of athlete’s to share in teh Bud/UFC relationship. To this point, Bud Light’s direct sponsorship of athletes has been limited. Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Rachelle Leah, Miguel Torres, and Efrain Escudero are the UFC fighters to this point who have negotiated deals with Bud Light. The company hasn’t done much in the way of widespread sponsorship of athletes, instead choosing high profile folks like Chuck and anderson, or ones that hit a particular market like Miguel and Efrain. Even for the few offered deals by Bud the numbers involved leave something to be desired according to those familiar with negotiations, as not everyone who Bud Light approached took them up on their sponsorship offer due to the dollars being offered not being commensurate with the corporate resources of Bud, sources indicate to MMAPayout.

The evolving relationship of Bud light with the UFC and its ties to individual fighters should be an interesting situation to track for the future as a bell weather of the future role of blue chip sponsors for the UFC and their fighters.

Dana Declares War, EA Responds, Online Media Not Buying Zuffa Spin

July 14, 2009

While much has been writtern about the EA MMA ban imposed by the UFC, Dana White made his first public comments about the new policy at the UFC 100 post fight press conference. White echoed the sentiments of UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta in saying EA’s earlier rejection of the UFC was the impetus for the ban:

We go out there and do this thing, and it’s successful, and now [expletive] EA Sports wants to do a video game. Really? That’s not what you told us a year-and-a-half ago. You told us you’d never be in business with us. They wouldn’t even take a meeting because mixed martial arts disgusted them. This wasn’t a real sport. Boy, that got over that real quick, didn’t they?…I’m not tap-dancing around this thing or whatever. I’m telling you straight-up, I’m at war with them right now. That’s how I look at it…You won’t be in the UFC

The reaction from the online community was one of skepticism. Steve Barry of MMA Convert gives voice to the disconnect some are seeing with White’s war declaration:

Now, who knows if EA did in fact tell the UFC to take a hike or not, they may very well have, but as MMAPayout points out, developing their own MMA game wasn’t something EA all of a sudden decided to do just because they sold a few million copies of THQ in the first few weeks of its release. They’ve at the very least been planning it for well over a year. In fact, I wrote a post about them being in talks with Randy Couture to appear in the game back on May 13, 2008.

No, it doesn’t really matter, but it’s just another example of Zuffa bending the truth to spin an ugly situation in their favor. And quite frankly, it’s starting to get old especially when the majority of people listening don’t know any better.

Ryan Harkness of Fightlinker gets to the heart of the matter, as well:

That’s what’s so fucked up about all this: Dana’s whole article is 100% FUCKING SPIN. And it’s pretty epic spin at that. Typically you don’t see this level outside of politics, which is what I find so creepy about the whole thing. Dana White is basically trying to create an emotional justifications for the dickish things the UFC is doing. And his giant posse of fans are lapping it up and repeating it, not even questioning why in this ‘war’ with Electronic Arts, the only ones taking any damage are fucking fighters.

Now some of you are still gonna side on the UFC with this one and say it’s their right … nay, solemn duty … to drive their enemies before them and hear the lamentations of their women. To you I ask if you’ve lost sight of what you’re cheering for: the success of the sport and the ability for it’s participants to make a fair wage or just the success of the UFC regardless of how petty and vindictive they become?

That last part was bolded for emphasis, in that that is the very essence of what is so distasteful about the UFC’s policy. The war declaration by Dana seeks to set them up as some kind of defender of the MMA faith, defining at their own discretion who the heretics and infidels are, and what holy wars should be waged. It is an appeal to those of blind and unquestioning faith, not reason.

EA Sports Chief Peter Moore made his first comment on the ban, noting that there is already a playable build of the EA MMA game, something not possible if they just green-lighted the concept in the wake of the THQ game’s success like Dana White claims:

I also saw the first playable of EA SPORTS MMA while at Tiburon last week. We have a team of incredibly hardcore fans of the sport working hard and making excellent progress, and we look forward to delivering a title in 2010 that we believe will provide further focus and attention to the sport.

I know there has been some recent discussion about EA SPORTS bringing a challenger to this sport. I love mixed martial arts, and we’ve been working on a game concept since I came to EA two years ago. I have great respect for the organizations and individuals that have invested in the sport’s growth over the past decade – so this is one that is near and dear to me and I’m excited to see such good progress to date. I trace my MMA video game roots back to my support of Crave’s UFC title on the Dreamcast in 2000, and have been a fan ever since. Our title will bring both innovation and further authenticity to mixed martial arts, not to mention a strong global publishing network that will help spread the sport’s popularity around the world.

SHINE FIGHT PROMOTIONS POSTPONES SHINE 2

July 14, 2009

MIAMI, FL (USA) – Shine Fight Promotions (Shine Fights) announces a brief postponement of Shine 2: American Top Team vs. The World, a groundbreaking fight card sure to make history in MMA event programming. Due to pending television broadcast deals along with other extras, the organization thought it best to briefly stall the historic event.

“Currently, we are closing numerous television deals across the globe along with some other added value incentives for our fighters and fans so it was best to push our date back a month,” said Shine Fights CEO, Devin Price. “We are extremely sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused our fighters and the greatest fans in the world, Shine Fights fans!”

Headlined by five-time UFC veteran and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace, Roan “Jucao” Carneiro versus UFC and Pride veteran Jorge “Macaco” Patino, this fight is the definition of beef. With a pre-existing rivalry already in the air this bout will be a war for bragging rights in Brazil spilled into the bosom of Miami.

With the remaining bouts including: Ryan Healy, Luiz Firmino, Falvio Alravo, Jean Silva, Carlo Prater, Milton Veria, Junior Assuncao, Jadson Costa, Micah Miller, Vennesa Porto, Ingene Gomez, and Hertbert Goodman, this will be one this the most stacked cards of world-class athletes to ever hit Miami.

American Top Team is one of the largest and most active Mixed Martial Arts (“MMA”) teams in the world. The team has over 1,000 members, more than fifty of whom compete professionally in MMA, Western Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Submission Grappling, Wrestling, and Muay Thai events all over the world. American Top Team has rapidly developed a reputation of success and has consistently produced many MMA and BJJ champions on an individual and team basis. Named the best place to train in MMA in the state of Florida and recognized as a champion making team by UFC President Dana White, American Top Team is the premier source for quality MMA athletes in Florida. By placing the majority of the card with American Top Team fighters, this card truly pays homage to Floridians filled with hometown pride.

Roan “Jucao” Carneiro was one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s rising stars when he entered the promotion in April 2007 against Rich Clementi at UFC Fight Night 9. That bout resulted in a hard fought unanimous decision victory that showcased his hardnosed style. A loss to Jon Fitch two months later was then redeemed by a win over B.J. Penn protégé, Tony DeSousa and then back-to back losses to Kevin Burns and Ryo Chonan. The last loss sent Carneiro out of the UFC and his first return to the cage is now within Shine Fight Promotions. Having battled some of the best fighters in the world, Carneiro is ready to get back on the road to redemption.

Jorge “Macaco” Patino defines the word MMA veteran battling professionally since 1995. From the inception of MMA, Patino has been in the mix battling within the vale tudo (anything goes) circuit in Brazil. From the outset, Patino began his career with nine straight wins with six of the nine captured in the first round. Making his debut outside of Brazil in the UFC, Patino fought Pat Miletich for the Lightweight Championship at UFC 18. What ensued was a whirlwind tour that took Patino to Japan and all over the continental U.S. where he maintained his reputation as an elite fighter.

UFC 100: A Voice of Reason

July 14, 2009

By Kelsey Philpott

It’s safe to say that the MMA community was holding its breath this weekend as the world watched the UFC’s centennial offering. The event on Saturday night was essentially MMA’s biggest opportunity yet to show the world what it’s all about.

How did it fair? That’s up for debate. Most look to the general media impressions, but not surprisingly they’re mixed as always. Some thought the show was outstanding, others were concerned about issues of safety and sportsmanship, others still were appalled by its “barbarism.”

The issue of barbarism and no rules, no holds barred fighting has been addressed. There’s no need to talk about it again other than to simply say that some people will never like this sport and never agree with this sport.

Aside from the odd individual stuck in 1993, the most common reaction I’ve encountered from UFC 100 is one of disappointment over the two most controversial incidents of the night: Henderson’s late shot on Bisping and Lesnar’s post-fight “antics,” as they’ve been described.

So, allow me to be the voice of reason and say yet again, there’s no need to panic.

The Henderson Shot

The Henderson shot, everyone will agree, was uncalled for; worse still, he admitted it was intentional following the fight (only to back track at the press conference). However, for as much as people might like to deny it, Henderson’s shot is grudgingly a part of the sport.

It’s a frenzy in there and sometimes an opportunity to finish a fight only comes about once – if you miss it, you may lose.

The real concern I have with the Henderson shot is that it again highlights the inadequacy of MMA’s officiating. Mario Yamasaki, one of MMA’s “best” officials, was in a terrible position during that stand-up exchange. He was a good three meters away and moving backward whilst the fighters were circling away from him; he was never in a position to do anything about a potential knockdown or knockout. 

To blame the fighter, in this case Henderson, for finishing the fight is to ignore the true problem in this situation. It’s Henderson’s responsibility to fight until the bell or a stoppage. Most fighters can manage to show restraint, but sometimes it’s not possible; and that’s where the official needs to step in and do his job.

While a fighter has the duty to be respectful of his opponent, it’s not the job of a fighter to protect his opponent.

Also important is how the public will perceive the shot. In this case, it’s probably more a case of par for the course from MMA: it was a huge knockout that’s already made highlight reels across the globe. Those that were turned off by the punch were likely to be turned off by just about anything the UFC had to offer that night.

Where MMA could get into trouble is in having something like Henderson’s shot become a consistent part of the sport; which, again, places a great deal of importance on the officiating.

The Lesnar Tirade

Lesnar’s lack of respect for his opponent, the fans, the sport, its sponsors, and its biggest organization was wrong – it was a slap in the face to the integrity and respect that MMA has come to stand for, something the MMA community prides itself on.

The truth of the matter, however, is that in the grand scheme of things it was a mistake that really isn’t going to cost MMA anything. Argue all you want that Lesnar damaged the reputation of the sport on Saturday, that MMA “lost” as the result of his actions, and that the UFC will suffer – none could be further from the truth.

More correctly, this type of behaviour, occuring on a consistent basis, from anyone of MMA’s stars, could be damaging for the sport. Its combat nature and checkered past subject MMA to a more severe scrutiny than most sports, thus maintaining its sportsmanship and integrity is of a long term importance.

However, it’s equally important not to lose sight of the fact that Lesnar likely now understands what is and what is not acceptable in MMA; his gaff completed the transition of Lesnar “the entertainer” to Lesnar “the fighter”. He now has the opportunity to learn from his mistake and will likely become a better ambassador of the sport because of it.

Further, in that 30 second quip Lesnar managed to become a polarizing entity the likes which MMA has never seen. People aren’t going to stop watching Lesnar, they’re going to start watching Lesnar just so they can see him get his ass kicked.

The UFC and Bud Light might be pissed, but secretly they’ve got to be happy that an increase in exposure for both their brands is likely to result out of Lesnar’s little tirade.

The real question I have been asked – and the one I’m asking myself – is, is MMA becoming too much like pro wrestling? 

I would argue no. Last time I checked, MMA is very real and nothing is contrived or scripted. It may “hype” the odd fight, but it doesn’t create a storyline to prop up fake fighting. More importantly, every sport tries to “hype” itself, not just MMA.

Sports fans are constantly inundated with “storylines” from the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL on a daily basis. Those leagues milk every non-sport related story to the maximum, because for as sad as it is to say, that’s what helps the sport sell. Why on Earth do you think they call it a human interest story? Terrell Owens and Manny Ramierez are walking storyline controversies. Kobe and Shaq is still a story ESPN leads with…five years later. Then you get into personal rivalries such as Crosby and Ovechkin or Tiger and Phil. I could go on…

The point is MMA is going to need a mix of that sport and real-life drama in order to get to the next level. Some may call it “pro wrestling flair,” I simply call it the way things work.

In terms of drama, the only true difference between MMA and other sports is that MMA is still trying to establish itself – it’s still walking that tight rope. MMA needs to be careful, and so should Brock Lesnar. He doesn’t have to change absolutely – that would dilute much of what makes him so appealing – he just has to be mindful of where that line is.

Ultimately, though, Lesnar will learn from his mistake; the MMA community will learn from his mistake; and, the outside world will slowly to come learn about MMA, as the result of Lesnar’s mistake.

Fighter Salaries Revisited: More Sponsorship Tax & EA Ban Analysis

July 13, 2009

By Kelsey Philpott

The recent kerfuffle due to the new “sponsorship tax” that the UFC has levied against companies looking to sponsor (read: advertise with) UFC fighters has brought me back to some pieces I did last summer on addressing the problems behind MMA’s compensation system.

It should come as no surprise that fighter pay is still an issue in the sport: the issue of pay or “compensation” is and probably forever will be a hot button topic.

Why? People, much like corporations, are inherently greedy and always want more.

It’s funny, too, because some of the very same individuals that are clamoring for better pay and benefits as employees are sometimes the principles being served by those “greed, money-grubbing” agent corporations that are trying to “shaft” their own employees in order to maximize shareholder wealth.

This is the way of the world.

The compensation issues within MMA seem to be just a small part of a much larger issue: the perceived fair and ethical treatment of the fighters in general. It’s a very large blanket issue that covers safety, contract transparency, property and likeness rights, non-fight work requirements, and compensation, amongst others.

Lately, the sponsorship tax and EA MMA ban have become lightning rods for the fair and ethical treatment issue.

The Sponsorship Tax

To most, the UFC has come across as greedy and monopolistic in its efforts to charge potential fighter sponsors a reported semi-annual $100,000 fee to advertise their brands on the apparel of UFC fighters. Furthermore, the organization appears vindictive in trying to ban the collective fighter community from signing with EA’s MMA video game.

However, from the UFC’s perspective, it feels its actions are completely justified.

The UFC is the platform by which sponsors are trying to reach a particular demographic. By levying a sponsorship tax, the UFC feels it is accomplishing two goals: a.) it’s bringing the cost and value of sponsorship back to its equilibrium level, and b.) it’s bringing back a bit of lost control over its brand image and appearance. The UFC also felt slighted by EA Sports in the past and is now looking to protect its interests and those of its loyal partner (THQ) by helping to keep all fighters under the same “UFC umbrella.”

The two sides are on opposite ends of the spectrum here, and in looking for a solution, we’re best to start in the middle (where else, right?).

Probably the best solution to meet both the interests of the fighters and the UFC in regards to sponsorship is for the UFC to become a sponsorship middleman in a sense (I know…there’s a part of the MMA community cringing right now, but read on).

While fighters should be free to seek externally negotiated endorsements, the UFC and the fighters could be best served through implementing a program whereby the UFC acts as an intermediary to seek out and assign sponsorships to those fighters in need. In turn, the UFC could take a percentage not only for its service, but also as a platform fee.

The benefits of such a plan are numerous:

1.) The UFC would retain enough control and influence over what appears on its telecasts to properly shape its image as it sees fit. In the process it receives a platform fee and helps return the cost of marketing to what it feels is the equilibrium.

2.) The fighters benefit from the extensive network base of the UFC, and they’re likely to receive a greater sum of money in the long-run as a result of the UFC’s help.

3.) The percentage of each individual sponsorship – as opposed to the $100,000 fee – that goes to the UFC would also mean that the smaller players on the sponsorship scale aren’t totally eliminated from the equation. Further, the UFC could cap the gross amount of sponsorship tax at $100,000 so as to not penalize the big boys any further.

4.) In retaining those smaller sponsors, it’s also easier for the undercard and preliminary fighters to round out their pay. More options, more money essentially.

It seems like an even-keeled way to meet the interests of both the UFC and its fighters; quite reminiscent of a suggesting made last year around this time.

What about the EA ban?

The UFC’s animosity towards EA and the loyalty towards THQ is understandable – nobody likes a bandwagon jumper. After all, it’s reasonable to be loyal to those that helped you to get where you are. However, there’s a difference between loyalty and bridge-burning.

The UFC can no longer afford to give the finger to everyone that might have pissed them off a few years ago. If the sport is going to grow, the community as a whole – not just the UFC – is going to have to accept the fact that people are going to change their minds about MMA. And, really, isn’t that the point: to convince people that MMA is legitimate and that they should want to be involved with the sport?

Furthermore, the UFC cannot afford to limit their talent pool by imposing bans on future fighters – that’s why it’s an empty threat. The UFC has shown great precedence for going back on its word in regards to fighters they’d “NEVER” sign, but let’s be honest: there’s no such thing as NEVER in this business. If the UFC wants to have the best of the best, they’ll go out and get them “eventually” and that includes anyone that signs with EA.

Besides, competition is a good thing. A competing title is going to eliminate developmental complacency and spur innovation. You’ve also got to figure that enough intellectual piggy-backing will occur that the MMA community ends up with excellent video game representations of the sport – something which has proven to be a valuable marketing and awareness tool for other sports.

Lorenzo Fertitta Comments on EA Ban

July 12, 2009

Steve Silver with the Las Vegas Sun was at the UFC Expo and transcribed Fertitta’s response to questions from fans, including a response to a question about UFC seeking to banish fighters no currently with Zuffa from future UFC employment if they sign with the EA MMA game: the

Q. If a fighter signs with EA Sports, will they be banned from the UFC?

Fertitta: “There is no such thing as banned, but this is something that does get under my skin and Dana’s skin because when we had the opportunity to go out and build a video game who do you think the first people we called was? EA Sports… We sat in the room with them and I would have cut a worse deal just to be with EA Sports. I wanted them so bad. They looked at them and they told us they didn’t think MMA was a sport. This was three years ago. They said the UFC was irrelevant and that we were wasting their time. So we went down the street and did a deal with THQ and they thought MMA was a sport. So we stick with the guys who stick with us. Now the UFC video game has been a massive success with three million copies sold. And guess what EA wants to do? They want to do an MMA game now… If you are young fighter coming up, it just makes sense to stay under the umbrella of UFC companies, sponsors and marketing to ensure yourself a cut of the action for the rest of your life.

Lorenzo Fertitta seems to hedge his bets publicly about what is going on with this EA ban. The UFC is having a Michael to Fredo moment with fighters that want to sign with MMA, but the public face they are putting on it is something they are blunting. Joe Silva has been dispatched to do bidding of the UFC and spread the word to agents and managers that signing with the EA game will make you persona non grata within the Zuffa universe. Fertitta’s words seek to glaze over this concept but that is what is taking place. The UFC’s beef with EA is leaving the fighters and their welfare as so much collateral damage, something that Zuffa brass seems infinitely comfortable with.

Blogger Ivan Trembow also takes aim at an example of Zuffa truthiness (Zuffiness?) with Lorenzo saying the UFC’s success with THQ was the impetus for the EA game by noting that the EA game was in the works before the UFC THQ game ever came to market:

That is some nice revisionist history ……. The launch (and sales success) of UFC 2009: Undisputed came in May 2009. EA Sports has been working on an MMA video game since 2008, and multiple media outlets wrote about it in 2008, including MMA Payout and the Wrestling Observer.

The UFC’s management was fully aware of the existence of EA’s MMA game in 2008, as that was one of the major reasons that the UFC threatened its roster of fighters into signing away their lifetime exclusive video game rights for free (ie, to ensure that they couldn’t appear in EA’s game).

Gross, Folkes, Rossen On Sponsor Tax, EA-Gate

July 9, 2009

Josh Gross of Si.com does some excellent reporting on the sponsor tax and EA MMA UFC situations. Gross’ sources pinpoint the bone of contention for the UFC and the impetus for the change of policy for the sponsor tax:

After discussions intensified inside Zuffa regarding companies such as Full Tilt Poker gaining less-than-cost advertising access for live UFC productions — thus becoming de facto event sponsors by splashing fighters from head to toe with their logo — the decision came down less than a month ago that sponsors would be required to pay a $100,000 licensing fee directly to the UFC for the right to feature their brand on fighters.

It looks like the sponsors were focusing on the micro (the fighters) at the expense of the macro (the UFC), with the UFC deciding to cannibalize the fighters take to shore up their own sponsorship issues. The Full Tilt aspect is interesting. While the sponsorship issue has just recently come to a head, the issue has been germinating for some time, rumblings through the MMA grapevine back in January and February marked the first time i first heard word of it. This time period dovetails with the which Full Tilt seemed to be on the outs with the UFC and would be shortly shown the door. During this time period, multiple sponsors were contacted about the policy, with word getting back to agents and the filtering through to the media, via reports here on MMAPayout.com as well as MMAJunkie’s Fight Biz Column. Some sponsors were alerted of a possible change but not made to fee at this time, indicating that the fee may have been phased in. The January/February time was also when the first rumors of a fracture between the UFC and Full Tilt were reported here on MMAPayout.com. Full Tilt first entered the Octagon with Randy Couture’s return to the Octagon, but they quickly became ubiquitous.

Ben Fowlkes of Cage Potatoe brings the funny, also brings the money when it comes to on the mark analysis of how this Sponsor tax will affect sponsors, fighters, and managers:

So they’ll (small sponsors) bow out, which leaves the heavy-hitters and the “official” sponsors like Harley-Davidson and Bud Light, who went through the UFC and not individual fighter agents/managers in the first place. Fewer eligible sponsors means less competition, which, when combined with the cash those relatively few sponsors are already paying to the UFC, means smaller sponsor payouts to fighters.

Now that we know who’s winning (the UFC, official sponsors) and who’s losing (everyone else), the question becomes, is this ethical? The UFC would argue that it is, because they are the ones providing the platform, the exposure, and the means of communication for sponsors to get their message out. It’s their house, they built it, so they get to make the rules.

At the same time, the UFC is essentially taking money out of fighters’ pockets, and they know it. If they can convince all sponsors to go through them and not fighter agents, they will have turned a fighter revenue stream into a UFC revenue stream, while at the same time gaining more control over both fighters and sponsors.

Jake Rossen of ESPN/Sherdog also sees the devastating impact the tax will have on lower card fighters:

For brands paying out hundreds of thousands to top-level athletes, this makes some sense. But if that blanket $100,000 fee applies to undercard laborers, the UFC is cutting off its own feet. Midtier fighters who struggle to make $15,000 or $20,000 a fight view MMA as a viable career because sponsor money makes training, living and eating realistic. The UFC has built an arena that allows advertisers to subsidize income, which effectively lowers its bottom line: The organization actually has third parties paying its employees and offsetting costs. Isn’t that enough?

A better question for the UFC: Is it ever enough?

Kudos to Rossen, Fowlkes, and Gross for putting these stories in their cross-hairs. The sponsor tax and EA ban are stories that should be covered. As much as these guys should be hailed, we also should take to task those who have just completely taken a pass on any kind of print coverage of these issues on their websites. MMA Weekly seems to have made nary a mention of the controversies in their usually all encompassing coverage of MMA. Ignoring the issue probably keeps their credentialing safe, but it does a disservice to their readership. MMAWeekly is hyping up the UFC press conference on their website, maybe during the press conference they can bring up some of these questions.

Also lacking in coverage have been the content partners at MMAJunkie and Yahoo.com. Steve Sievert at MMAJunkie helped break news on the sponsor tax situation back in January/Februaury, but the site has done no follow up since Sam Caplan’s piece shed new light. That is disappointing. Also totally forgoing any coverage has been the Yahoo team of writers and bloggers. Since they now sell themselves as covering UFC (as opposed to MMA) and have their own PPV distribution deal with the UFC, the question to ask is are you being served by Yahoo’s coverage? I don’t think so, not very well at all. While the usual Yahoo gameplan for covering controversial UFC topics is to bring up the subject and then offer a ham-handed defense of the UFC’s tactics, even that mode of attack has seemed to go by the wayside this time.

eTopps Enters the Octagon with Ultimate Fighting Championship® Cards!

July 9, 2009

As the sport of Mixed Martial Arts grows in popularity, eTopps is proud to partner with the premier organization in the industry to offer Ultimate Fighting Championship® eTopps cards! eTopps is the exclusive online trading card of UFC®, and will begin offering special limited-edition cards in brilliant eTopps technology featuring the most dominant fighters in the UFC®, commemorating their performance in some of UFC®’s biggest events. These cards will be the most beautiful, most premium UFC cards available anywhere!

The First Offering Begins at 4:00 PM on Monday, 7/13, Following UFC 100!

Beginning Monday, July 13, the first eTopps Ultimate Fighting Championship® cards will be available for purchase at 4:00 PM (ET) via online offering . These first cards of the collection will feature fighters who competed in the historic UFC 100, they will be available for one week, and will be sequentially numbered to limited quantities.

The eTopps UFC® collection will return on Monday, August 10, following UFC 101 and once again capture dominant fighters from this event! Ongoing we will continue to offer special eTopps UFC® cards paying tribute to the Octagon’s most dominant fighters, legendary names, current champions and breakout performers!

To learn more please visit www.etopps.com

(Thanks to MMAMadness for the tip)

Maysey Further Explains Benefits of MMAFA

July 8, 2009

MMAPayout.com recently sat down with Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association head Rob Maysey to clear up a common misconception of MMAFA and elaborate further on the benefits of the organization.

One thing that often gets misinterpreted with MMAFA is the thought that it is a union, or that it will necessarily lead to o a union. Such is not the case, according to Maysey:

No, organization is not the obvious precursor to a union, though organization is the precursor to virtually any successful venture. I am a member of the American Bar Association (ABA), and have been for years. The ABA is not, has never been, nor does it intend to be a union of any kind. That said, membership in the ABA provides benefits to members that individually, they could not obtain on their own. By approaching providers on behalf of the entire membership of the ABA, the ABA is able to obtain group discounts on a variety of benefit plans and from service providers and vendors. Individually, these discounts would be unobtainable. By leveraging its collective membership, the ABA is able to provide its members with a number of benefits including discounts on insurance plans, hotels and rental cars, and from various vendors and service providers. Membership in the ABA also provides members with a network and platform in which to hone their skills and to gain notoriety in any chosen field by writing articles for ABA publications, by chairing committees, and by networking with members. The ABA also leverages its collective membership by effectively lobbying congress, submitting draft proposals of laws for consideration, and participates in litigation by filing amicus briefs. Again, without the backing of its membership, none of these things is possible. By bringing attorneys together in one association, the ABA has created a very powerful and influential vehicle that not only provides benefits to its members, but also plays an active role in shaping the law.

Another example directly related to the mixed martial arts industry is the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC). The ABC isn’t a union of any sort, nor do they intend to be. The ABC, however, plays a central role in shaping the sport by adopting uniform rules which are voted upon and approved by each of its constituent members. Additionally, by coming together under one association, the ABC was able to create a “badge of distinction” that they then auctioned off to private enterprise. This distinction came in the form of the “Official Certified Database for Mixed Martial Arts,” and this “official” recognition was sold to Mixed Martial Arts, LLC. This is value created solely by virtue of the individual commissions coming together under one umbrella to recognize one official database. No individual commission would have been able to auction off such recognition, but together as a group, they created value to private enterprise that didn’t exist before.

The World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts (WAMMA) provides another example in the Mixed Martial Arts industry. While not truly an “association,” WAMMA fashions itself an “alliance” between its promotional and advertising partners. WAMMA, by assembling this alliance, aims to profit by creating brand value in yet another “badge of distinction,” in this case, recognition as a WAMMA champion. By assembling the alliance and promoting its brand, WAMMA aims to profit by selling advertising to sponsors and by gaining corporate sponsorship for its rankings and belts. If WAMMA is unsuccessful in assembling a wide enough “alliance,” no value will be created.

In terms of the MMAFA, organization is the precursor to group licensing, branding, and effective lobbying. Large revenue streams are being claimed by private enterprise in the form of corporate sponsorships, advertising, memberships, and branded products. Talent isn’t even in the market for the vast majority of these revenue streams at all, because they don’t have a group to present to the corporate sponsors and gear providers, and they don’t have a group vehicle on the web to present to advertisers. Talent also has virtually no role in shaping the sport in which they compete, and in terms of influence, rank even below media. By coming together under one association, fighters will have a central voice in matters that impact the sport.

The model being utilized by the MMAFA has proven remarkably successful, over and over, and will provide its members with the same kinds of benefits, publicity, and protections as enjoyed by athletes in all of the other major professional sports. The MMAFA aims to maximize the influence and earning capacity of its members in the amazing sport of mixed martial arts. Unlike all other industry groups, the MMAFA is truly an association formed for the benefit of its members. The trademarks, logos, website, domains, and all other property of the MMAFA will be held in trust for the collective benefit of MMAFA members. Modeled closely after the Major League Baseball Players’ Association and the Screen Actors Guild, the MMAFA will be led and directed by its members and their elected member representatives.

The MMAFA provides its members with a brand that can be monetized through the sale of merchandise, and through licensing to third parties. The MMAFA also provides the following to all of its members:

· Media platform and publicity vehicle to promote and publicize the activities of our members;

· Revenue maximization through merchandising and licensing of collective brand; and

· Lobbying, and if necessary, litigation vehicle.

The future direction of the MMAFA is determined solely by the members. I am not a member, nor am I an owner. Thus, it is necessarily presumptuous of me or anyone else to speak as to the direction the members will choose at some future date.

Some overstate the role of litigation in the overall structure of MMAFA, Maysey defined the role of litigation within MMAFA…

Litigation is not a goal of the MMAFA, but as you saw with the EliteXC complaint prepared by the MMAFA, an association provides an effective litigation vehicle for its members. The career of a professional mixed martial artist is relatively short in duration. Thus, professional mixed martial artists must maximize their earnings potential during their peak athletic years. Litigation is an expensive, time-consuming process, and for the vast majority of professional mixed martial artists, not a viable option. The MMAFA will provide its members with a litigation vehicle, should litigation be necessary or desirable to improve the condition and status of its members in the mixed martial arts industry.

Maysey also gave a detailed look at how MMAFA would add untapped revenue streams for fighters as well as provide other benefits:

I believe the MMAFA can provide all members with revenue streams they don’t currently enjoy at all, and by capturing this revenue, the MMAFA seeks to provide all of its full members with health and other benefits. As the MMAFA matures, members decide how to allocate excess revenue, including the possibility of distributions to the members. Currently, in the mixed martial arts industry, private parties in the form of gear and apparel providers, community websites, media sites, and others profit from the personalities of the athletes who make this sport great. Very little of this ancillary revenue is returned to the talent at all. The MMAFA provides a vehicle to capture a large portion of this ancillary revenue for the talent—the one element consistently sought out by the general public.

Consider two potential tradeshow possibilities. This example is just a hypothetical used to show how various aspects of the industry currently operate, and to show why fighters on the whole receive a small fraction of the revenue they generate.

The first tradeshow is run and organized by a private enterprise, which pays a handful of fighters a small sum to appear at the tradeshow, and seeks to entice other fighters to attend by offering free admission. This private company then advertises the presence of the fighters to attract corporate sponsorships, advertising, and paying attendees from the general public.

The second tradeshow is presented by the MMAFA. All profits derived from this tradeshow go the members, less only the expenses of organizing the show. In the first example, fighters will collect approximately 5% at most of the profits derived. In the second example, the fighters become the owners of the event, and retain all profits.

The MMAFA has already prepared the stage, provided the infrastructure, and the tools necessary for fighters to do all of these kinds of things for themselves—and thus, keep the majority of the revenue derived.

UFC Allegedly Threatening Particpants in EA MMA Game

July 1, 2009

Hot on the heels of banning a fresh new crop of apparel sponsors, the hits keep on coming in regards to the draconian moves of the UFC. The newest measure involves blackballing from the UFC any current non-Zuffa fighter that signs with the EA MMA game and then seeks at a later date to sign with the UFC:

The most recent controversy came to light when managers were reportedly warned that if their fighters appeared in EA Sports’ upcoming MMA video game, they would never fight in the UFC again. The UFC and game developer THQ recently released UFC: Undisputed for the PS3 and Xbox, which has since gone platinum.

In the leadup to Undisputed’s release, the UFC threatened to cut rising star Jon Fitch, and his teammates, when he refused to sign over lifetime video game portrayal rights, for free, to the UFC. Fitch and the Fertitta’s eventually came to an agreement and the fighter returned to the roster, appearing on the untelevised undercard on his next scheduled fight.

The rumor was first reported on the Underground and later confirmed by MMA Agent Ken Pavia.

The move is one that shifts the general opinion of the UFC from that of “That is a gangster move” (in a fawning “I Love Dana White’s Ruthlessness” mindset that some adhere to) to a “That is a gangster move, hmmm…let me refresh myself on what those RICO statutes cover” mindset. But I digress….

While this move is seemingly par for the Zuffa course, it isn’t exactly fresh material. The same threats were made when the IFL were enlisting fighters for their inaugural season. If fighter that appeared in the EA MMA game becomes available , White (much like Jon Fitch during the THQ debacle) will likely lack the courage of of his convictions and follow the money in making his decision to sign a fighter or not. In the meantime it adds to a general pall of animus and retribution in the air towards and coming from the UFC brass.

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