April 29, 2016
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. Better later than never, we write about UFC 197 taking place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena with the return of Jon Jones.
Jones takes care of OSP
Jon Jones returned to the UFC octagon to handily defeat Ovince St. Preux via unanimous decision. OSP was a late replacement for Daniel Cormier and did his best, but it was clear that he was in there against a far superior opponent. OSP’s cardio was not ready for a 5 round fight and he wasn’t able to do much against Jones. It seems unfair to criticize OSP since he stepped up on late notice. But, he was given a chance and was unable to capitalize.
For Jones, it was a good fight to get back into fighting. It was his first fight since January 2015. Next is a showdown with Daniel Cormier as the main event for UFC 200.
Mighty Mouse is still good
Say what you will about Demetrious Johnson, there were two fighters on the card that you may argue are the best for pound in the world. Only one looked like it. Johnson dispatched of former Olympian Henry Cejudo in round one of the defense of his Flyweight title.
There is no one left in the Flyweight division for Johnson. Perhaps a rematch against Dominick Cruz would be the most compelling fight to help Johnson draw an audience he deserves.
Attendance and Gate
The event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena drew 11,352 fans for a gate of $2.3 million as announced at the post-fight press conference.
Also announced the presser, the $50,000 bonuses went to Demetrious Johnson, Yair Rodriguez, Danny Roberts and Dominique Steele.
UFC 197 Weigh-Ins on FS1: 184,000
UFC Pre-Fight Show on FS1: 218,000 viewers
UFC 197 Prelims on FS1: 835,000 viewers
UFC Post-Fight Show on FS1: 279,000 viewers
UFC 197 Payouts
Jon Jones led the roster making $500,000 (with no win bonus) followed by Demetrioius Johnson ($195,000).
The rest of the payouts are here. The payouts do not include the Reebok sponsor pay.
Promotion of the Fight
Jon Jones almost did not make this fight as he was cited once again for a traffic infraction. This time, it caused him to violate parole and spend a couple days in prison. Ironically, Daniel Cormier pulled out of the fight soon after Jones’ legal troubles. Instead of a Jones-Anthony Johnson showdown, the pick was Ovince St. Preux.
Henry Cejudo made pro-UFC comments about Conor McGregor. He then clarified the comments which seemed a little more confusing. The fact that he was the guy that said he would not fight in Nevada so long as Nick Diaz was suspended makes his comments this week uneven. Granted, he’s entitled to his opinion and just because he’s supported Diaz does not mean he has to support Conor.
The Embedded episodes focused on the return of Jon Jones, OSP, Mighty Mouse and Cejudo. It also included the Pettis brothers training at the same time as Jones in preparation for the fight.
Reebok, Harley Davidson, EA UFC 2, Toyo Tires, MetroPCS, Monster Energy Drink, Bud Light, mobile app game Mobile Strike were in octagon sponsors with Monster taking the center.
Jon Jones had a Monster sponsorship patch in addition to his Reebok gear. He also held a Monster can after the fight in an old school way of promoting the drink.
Some notables: Jon Jones wore his sponsor, nutrition products company, GAT during an open UFC workout and it was captured on Embedded.
Luke Rockhold was seen in the crowd at UFC 197 sporting an Adidas hat. Prior to the Reebok deal, Rockhold had a deal with Adidas. Of course, since the two companies are linked, there was likely no problem with Rockhold wearing the hat.
Odds and Ends
Was it odd or great promotion that Daniel Cormier served as the color commentator for the Jones-OSP fight?
Was it me, or did it seem like OSP did not believe he was going to win this fight?
Demetrious Johnson is on Twitch. One would think that he could connect his video game interest with MMA fans for more popularity.
Former UFC lightweight champion, and the only UFC fighter to grace the cover a Wheaties box, Anthony Pettis has lost his last 3 fights.
Cody East, the fighter found by Dana White, was stopped by Walt Harris in round 1 on the Early Prelims on UFC Fight Pass.
Even without Conor McGregor appearing at this event, it seemed like the biggest news was his “retirement” and then the UFC taking him off of 200.
There were only 50,000 google searches for UFC 197 nationwide the Friday before the event. This does not bode well if we are to assume the searches relate to interest and the interest relates to PPV buys. Jon Jones is not a standalone PPV star like Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey. OSP is not someone anyone knew. Moreover, Mighty Mouse is not a PPV draw. This event likely ends up with 350,000 PPV buys as many had predicted.
April 25, 2016
The Sports Business Journal reports that Reebok will unveil new UFC apparel starting at UFC 200 this July. Fighters were made aware of the tweaks earlier this month at the UFC Fighter Summit.
Fighters were able to give feedback on the new apparel to people within Reebok’s new combat sports division at the Summit
The Reebok kits were unveiled last July to mixed reviews and were subject to wide criticism. According to the SBJ article, the new apparel includes a jersey that includes more of the UFC logo across the chest, color to the shorts and grants the fighters more color choices. A total overhaul is scheduled for 2017.
— Bill King (@Bill_KingSBJ) April 25, 2016
The article is free to non-subscribers I believe and I think it is an interesting read. It quotes managers John Fosco and Malki Kawa about the deal and what it means for fighters. Fosco likes the deal while Kawa does wish there was a way “to compensate the fighters a little bit better…” The obvious omission from the article I believe was any word whether pay structures would be tweaked as well. It does not appear so. While the Reebok brand is changing its kits to appease athlete feedback, it does not address the financial payouts. The new revamped unis are a positive for Reebok and the UFC as one might consider this may help with retail. But, the bottom line of compensating fighters still seems to remain status quo.
March 13, 2016
TriStar Gym has signed a deal with Reebok according to MMA Fighting. The gym made famous by the likes of Georges St. Pierre will now have its fighters sponsored by the official brand of the UFC.
Based out of Montreal, Quebec, TriStar becomes the second gym to be sponsored by Reebok. Late last year, Reebok signed a deal with Ireland’s SBG Gym – the home gym of Conor McGregor.
The deal expands Reebok’s Combat Training division as it appears that the clothier will now be worn by fighters training from TriStar.
Financial terms of the deal were not mentioned.
An interesting move by Reebok to target gyms with its brand. This likely means that we should see more of the Reebok brand in other MMA organizations. It also shows that Reebok is committed to its alignment with MMA.
March 7, 2016
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at UFC 196 which took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. In the main event, Conor McGregor took on Nate Diaz.
Diaz chokes out McGregor
Despite being a late replacement, Nate Diaz used his length and superior jiu jitsu skills to end the mystique of Conor McGregor with a second round tap out of the featherweight champion. The fight was back and forth in the first round with McGregor making the best of the exchanges. However, Diaz’s boxing skills took over in round 2 as he touched up McGregor who seemed to gas out. This became apparent once McGregor attempted to take Diaz down. Once it was to the ground, Diaz secured a rear-naked choke and McGregor tapped quickly.
It was very interesting how some in the media spun the loss to applaud McGregor into doing something most would never try. ESPN’s Chael Sonnen stated that McGregor’s star was brighter after the loss. It’s clear that the UFC does not want to lose the luster of a fighter that earned them two straight attendance and gate records in 2015 and has helped resurrect its PPV business. McGregor still can be a dominant fighter in the lower weight classes. But, any dreams of winning titles in 3 or 4 divisions is over.
For Diaz, his career should take off. He should receive a “money fight” next with either a top welterweight or maybe even a title shot at 155.
Tate chokes out Holm for title
According to the scorecards going into Round 5, Holly Holm led Miesha Tate 38-37 after winning 3 rounds but losing Round 2, 10-8 on all of the scorecards. Tate knew that she had to win Round 5 and try to submit Holm. She secured a takedown and was able to get Holm’s back and sink in the rear-naked choke. Holm attempted to fight it off but eventually went unconscious to the choke.
The loss showed Holm’s inability to defend a rear-naked choke. The deficiency in her jiu jitsu should be worked on before Holm returns to the octagon. Based on how great this fight was, I do not think anyone would be mad if we saw this fight at UFC 200.
For Tate, you have to be happy for her. She was contemplating retirement and was likely never going to get a shot at the bantamweight title so long as Ronda Rousey was the champion. Due to Holm’s upset in November, it opened the door and Tate walked right through it. Of course, Ronda Rousey is likely waiting for her this fall if she survives her first title defense.
UFC 196 drew 14,697 for a gate of $8.1 million according to the post-fight press conference. Another impressive outing in Vegas with McGregor as the headliner. It was the least attended of the three but was a higher rate than UFC 189’s $7.2 million.
The bonuses went to McGregor, Diaz (x2) and Tate. Each earned an additional $50,000 per bonus which means Diaz drew $100,000 for Fight of the Night and Performance Bonus of the Night.
Unfortunately, the performances of Teruto Ishihara and Vitor Miranda did not get them extra money.
Conor McGregor became the first UFC fighter to make a reported $1 million. Despite the fact that he stated in a CNBC interview he would make over 10 times that amount, it is mere speculation. In addition, Holly Holm and Nate Diaz both earned $500,000. Diaz made an additional $100,000 for his double bonus. Miesha Tate was the only one of the four to make less than $100,000 without a bonus ($46K/$46K). Of course, with Tate’s Performance bonus she made $150,000.
Diego Sanchez was the only other fighter to make more than $100,000 at UFC 196. The rest of the payouts can be found here.
Promotion of the Fight
For a show that had its main event fall out within two weeks before, the UFC did an excellent job in putting together a compelling fight. The press conference between McGregor and Diaz at the UFC Gym in Torrance was great as over 20K tuned into YouTube to watch it live. Now, over 2.9M have viewed the pre-fight presser. I’m sure not as many saw his brother and GSP in the infamous “wolf tickets” presser but it was as entertaining, if not more entertaining.
The Embedded episodes, sponsored by the new UFC video game, featured McGregor and also caught up with Diaz. It also followed Holm and Tate.
On the Jim Rome Show, Dana White promoted the fight and stated he did not like the Holm-Tate fight for the specific result that occurred. Holm-Rousey II was the fight the UFC wanted. If that happens, there will not be as much build for it since both will have a loss.
Conor McGregor appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Obviously, the jinx was in effect. Fanatics (a company McGregor has a sponsorship deal with) and UFC.com.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 23, 2016
CNBC did an interview with McGregor and Diaz in which Diaz walked off. Frankly I would have too. It attempted to be cute and informative but ended up just being condescending and stupid.
MetroPCS, 7-11, Monster Energy Drink, Harley Davidson, Toyo Tires, the movie Hardcore Harry, Bud Light. Monster had the center of the Octagon.
McGregor wore a Monster Energy Drink patch on his Reebok shorts.
The fight clock and prep point were sponsored by EA UFC 2.
Notably, Harley Davidson renewed its sponsorship agreement with the UFC as they announced it at the beginning of fight week. One of the unique parts of the new deal was viewing parties at Harley Davidson dealerships across the country. During the FS1 prelims, it showed a live viewing party at a Harley Davidson dealership in San Diego. UFC fighter Ricardo Lamas made an appearance at the viewing party.
Odds and ends
The weigh-ins revealed a new camera view on the scale which is a “go-pro” look at the fighter on the scale. Maybe it is to get the anxious look on a fighter’s face looking to make weight.
Speaking of “go-pro” cameras, the cutmen wore them as they were also sponsored. The question should be whether the cutmen get a “cut” of the sponsorship money. Remember Stitch.
5 million google searches for UFC 196 on Saturday night. On Friday, there were 100,000 searches and Nate Diaz had another 100,000 for Diaz on Thursday.
On a night that Tate wins the title, Ronda Rousey garnered 100,000 google searches.
UFC Fight Pass offered 20% off to fans wanted to purchase the PPV on its digital platform. This may be a test for the future as the company would receive a greater part of the gross revenue from PPV purchase. Even with a discount, the UFC probably cleared more than sharing with a PPV distributor.
Tom Lawlor wore a fake McGregor tattoo at weigh-ins.
Since I’m from Seattle, this is great. I understand most of the rest of the world it probably means Tate is trying to be a heel.
— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) March 7, 2016
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) March 6, 2016
NAnyone else notice McGregor steal a lyric from Jay-Z at the end of the first Embedded, “I’m not a business man…I’m a business…man.”
It did not go unnoticed that Royce Gracie (who just fought in Bellator) made an appearance on Embedded as he met McGregor.
Speaking of the Embedded series, will McGregor command a full rental mansion in Vegas when he returns for UFC 200 or will he have more of a scaled back Penthouse suite?
Not sure EA intended for its cover to have two fighters coming off of losses when the video game debuts.
The UFC gambled with both McGregor and Holm. While this may be a short-term gain for the company, it could be a long-term worry. The substitution of Nate Diaz proved to be the right replacement but the wrong result. With Tate winning the belt, it means a possible Rousey-Tate III. But it also negates a Holm-Rousey II which could have proved to be big business if Holm remained undefeated until Rousey returned. But for UFC 196, the amount of press and buzz for this event makes me think we see another McGregor fight drawing close to 1 million PPV buys. With the loss, can he continue to draw these numbers past. We will see.
February 22, 2016
MMA Junkie reports the pay from the UFC-Reebok Athlete Outfitting policy. With his 30th fight for the company, Donald Cerrone led the Fight Night roster with $20,000, the most of any fighter Sunday night.
Via MMA Junkie:
Donald Cerrone: $20,000
def. Alex Oliveira: $2,500
Derek Brunson: $10,000
def. Roan Carneiro: $5,000
Dennis Bermudez: $10,000
def. Tatsuya Kawajiri: $5,000
Cody Garbrandt: $2,500
def. Augusto Mendes: $2,500
Chris Camozzi: $10,000
def. Joe Riggs: $10,000
James Krause: $5,000
def. Shane Campbell: $2,500
Sean Strickland: $2,500
def. Alex Garcia: $2,500
Oluwale Bamgbose: $2,500
def. Daniel Sarafian: $5,000
Anthony Smith: $5,000
def. Leonardo Augusto Leleco: $2,500
Nathan Coy: $2,500
def. Jonavin Webb: $2,500
Ashlee Evans-Smith: $2,500
def. Marion Reneau: $2,500
Lauren Murphy: $2,500
def. Kelly Faszholz: $2,500
Shamil Abdurakhimov: $2,500
def. Anthony Hamilton: $2,500
The total payout for UFC Fight Night 83 was $125,000. This was the lowest payout for 2016. Thus far, the Athlete Outfitting Program has paid out $810,000. In 2015, it paid out $3,180,000 for an overall total of $3,990,000.
Based on a look at the Fight Night roster, most of the fighters have 5 fights or less for the company. This makes some sense since Fight Night events are geared more to the younger, less-experienced fighters on the UFC roster. Cerrone, of course, is a savvy veteran with a ton of fights under his belt. Unfortunately for him, with the exception of a title challenge or winning a title, he has topped out for Reebok payouts.
January 31, 2016
The UFC announced its payouts from the Reebok sponsorship deal. The apparel company paid out $137,500 for Saturday night’s event with UFC vets Anthony Johnson, Ryan Bader and Jake Ellenberger cashing in.
Via MMA Junkie:
Anthony Johnson: $15,000
def. Ryan Bader: $15,000
Ben Rothwell: $5,000
def. Josh Barnett: $5,000
Jimmie Rivera: $2,500
def. Iuri Alcantara: $10,000
Bryan Barberena: $2,500
def. Sage Northcutt: $2,500
Tarec Saffiedine: $5,000
def. Jake Ellenberger: $15,000
Diego Ferreira: $2,500
def. Olivier Aubin-Mercier: $2,500
Rafael Natal: $10,000
def. Kevin Casey: $2,500
Wilson Reis: $5,000
def. Dustin Ortiz: $5,000
Alexander Yakovlev: $2,500
def. George Sullivan: $2,500
Alex Caceres: $10,000
def. Masio Fullen: $2,500
Randy Brown: $2,500
def. Matt Dwyer: $2,500
Damon Jackson: $2,500
def. Levan Makashvili: $2,500
Tony Martin: $2,500
def. Felipe Olivieri: $2,500
As we know, the Athlete Outfitting program pays fighters based on time served with Zuffa which would include WEC and Strikeforce when both entities were owned by the UFC.
Fighters with 1-5 fights: $2,500
Fighters with 6-10 fights: $5,000
Fighters with 11-15 fights: $10,000
Fighters with 16-20 fights: $15,000
Fighters with 21 fights or more: $20,000
Title Challengers: $30,000
Barnett receives only $5,000 despite his lengthy career and the fact he would likely garner much more than $5,000 in sponsorship money if there was no Reebok deal. He has 9 UFC fights spanning back to 2000 but his time in Strikeforce was pre-Zuffa. Similar to Barnett, it was Ben Rothwell’s 9th UFC fight despite being a long-term pro. The $137,500 reflects the fact that most of the fighters on the card have less than 10 fights and there were no title fights making this a relatively inexpensive night for Reebok payouts.
January 19, 2016
The Boston Herald’s Jack Encarnacao wrote about the UFC’s uniform deal with Reebok prior to the company’s event on Sunday night. The article includes some enlightening comments from UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta.
Fertitta addressed the issue of withholding five-figure payments from some fighters after they violated the UFC Outfitting Policy. This stems from December’s UFC on Fox event where Donald Cerrone, Nate Diaz and possibly Rafael dos Anjos were fined for not abiding by the uniform policy. The UFC did not officially name these fighters although it was noted that the three fighters had variations of the uniform (or did not wear a Reebok-sponsored clothing) during fight week.
Fertitta told the Herald that it was not fair for fighters not to comply with the new policy. He also stated that the UFC doles out more money to its fighters than it receives in royalty payments from the Reebok arrangement. The goal is to one day have Reebok synonymous with the UFC.
In addition to Fertitta, the Encarnacao spoke to Reebok brand president Matt O’Toole about the deal. He was bullish about the partnership stating that not only does he believe that the deal will appeal to those who train but as a lifestyle brand.
It’s clear from the article that the UFC and Reebok are dedicated to the partnership. Also clear is that there is no way to fact check whether or not Fertitta’s claim is correct in stating that the UFC is paying out more than it is receiving from Reebok. We do not challenge the veracity of Fertitta’s words, but since the UFC is a private company, there is no independent source to determine its accuracy. The deal as stated in the article and previously by other outlets if worth $70 million.
The first six months of the deal has proven to be a learning experience for Reebok to say the most. We will see if Reebok can right its wrongs in the next six months of the deal. Certainly, the UFC and Reebok are hoping that over time, people will warm up to the deal.
January 7, 2016
For the first time under the UFC Outfitting Policy, 3 fighters were essentially fined due to infractions of the policy. The fighters participated at UFC on Fox 17 this past December.
According to Bloody Elbow, one of the fighters was Donald Cerrone as he apparently acknowledged the fine over twitter. Cerrone, who had official sponsor Monster Energy Drink on his shorts, also had a part of his old Muay Thai shorts sewn in. Per BE, it is an homage to his grandmother. BE also suggests that Nick Diaz and Rafael dos Anjos may have been the other two fighters to be flagged since they either did not wear Reebok apparel or another sponsor at the weigh-ins.
(h/t: MMA Junkie )
The “payment reductions” or fines depending on how you would like to characterize them will draw the ire of many. Uniform violations happen all the time in the NFL and it appears that the UFC will follow suit in enforcement. We will see if any other fighters will challenge the policy this year.
December 28, 2015
In July, the UFC officially added Reebok as the company’s exclusive clothier. No longer would contracted fighters wear non-UFC sponsors on their shirts, shorts or hats as “fight kits” would be issued for each fighter. In addition, we said goodbye to fight sponsor banners. The overarching issue was the new pay structure which drew the most criticism.
The official policy was outlined by the UFC. The launch was self-gratuitous and felt out of place for an MMA organization. Judge for yourself.
Since the inception of the UFC-Reebok relationship, there has been criticism on the operation and execution of the sponsorship. The sponsor payouts for Reebok would now be based on the amount of fights within the company. Overall, this meant a loss of revenue for fighters. From our post earlier this year:
Fighters with 1 to 5 bouts will receive $2,500 per fight; 6 to 10 bouts get $5,000; 11 to 15 bouts get $10,000; 16 to 20 bouts get $15,000; and 21 bouts and above get $20,000. As it previously indicated, title fights would receive more. Challengers will receive $30,000 and Champions will receive $40,0000.
The sponsorship deal also left out cut people. Thus, cut men such as Stitch Duran were “cut” out of the sponsorship payouts from Reebok as they lost out on the previous sponsors they once had. Duran spoke out about this fact and was summarily dismissed from the UFC soon thereafter. Whether or not Duran’s comments were planned, the UFC suffered a PR hit as they let one of the more known cut people go.
Dana White addressed the Duran firing in an FS1 interview and was unrepentant about the dismissal. Rather, he used the old technique of switching the conversation (i.e, whether or not Duran was a friend of White; something Duran stated in an interview) in his interview with Karyn Bryant.
Sara McMann indicated that she would look into hiring an attorney as the Reebok deal may be unfair to women. No word on a lawsuit as of yet.
The rollout of the Reebok jerseys saw many glaring misspellings. Reebok attempted to address these issues. However, the mishaps continued through the year.
The start of the Reebok sponsorship has been one public relations problem after another. We shall see if the company rights itself in 2016. As for now, MMA fans have yet to warm up to Reebok as the company’s official sponsor.
December 18, 2015
Welcome to the annual MMA Payout countdown of MMA business/legal stories for the year. We start off with the year of Jon Jones.
Jones started off the year with a resounding defeat of rival Daniel Cormier at UFC 182. It was a big PPV for the company as the promotion for the fight was centered on just Jones-Cormier as opposed to past fight cards where other fights were co-promoted.
The media day brawl in August 2014 really set this fight up as one to watch. In addition, the promos were great as you might recall they included the Jones-Cormier dustup on ESPN which was off live tv but caught by the cameras. The UFC hyped the fight with a special entitled, “Bad Blood” which was aired on FS1 and replayed on FX. There were extensive radio buys and TV commercials for this event.
Notably, it was also the first time that a UFC PPV increased its price for $59.99 HD.
The PPV reportedly drew 800,000 buys which set off what was a big year for PPV for the company.
Shortly thereafter came the revelation that Jones tested positive for cocaine. He did a rather dramatic interview with Fox Sports 1 to explain himself. Jones even considered a lawsuit against NSAC for invasion of privacy as a result of the release of the drug test. For his part, Jones spent just one night in a rehabilitation facility to address his issue of using cocaine. The UFC fined him $25,000 for violating the UFC Code of Conduct Policy. As we now know, these deterrents did not help.
In April, Jones was involved in a hit-and-run car accident in Albuquerque as he left the scene in which a pregnant woman was injured. His notoriety was one of the reasons that he was sought by Albuquerque Police as an off-duty officer at the scene recognized Jones because the officer was a fan of the UFC. A warrant was issue for his arrest and he voluntarily turned himself in.
Jones’ UFC career hit the bottom. Reebok terminated his individual sponsorship contract. According to Darren Rovell, he was the first athlete to lose two shoe/apparel deals within 8 months. The UFC suspended him indefinitely and stripped him of the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. Thus, Daniel Cormier won the vacated Light Heavyweight Title at UFC 187 in May.
Sitting on the sidelines, Jones was able to avoid jail time by entering a plea deal this past September. During the time away, Jones did public service which included speaking with young kids.
John Adams MS students paid very close attention, they were even taking notes. Honored to possibly enhance a life pic.twitter.com/jqGXu6dYd6
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) December 2, 2015
In October, the UFC reinstated Jones as the rehabilitation of his image continues.
We should expect Jones to return sometime in 2016. Whether it’s at UFC 198 in New York (assuming the event goes forward in the state) or UFC 200 in Las Vegas, the UFC will get one of its top tier fighters back in action. If UFC 182 was any indication, a rematch with Cormier could be a monster PPV.