May 25, 2016
Zachery Light has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Bellator MMA and Viacom citing wrongful termination based on public policy. Light, a former MMA fighter and employee of Bellator, claims various wrongdoings while working under Scott Coker.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by Light’s attorney, William Crosby.
Light, a former amateur wrestler and MMA fighter, was hired by Bellator and worked under Bjorn Rebney. He became Bellator’s Talent Development Manager. The lawsuit states he was soon promoted to Talent Development Director. He was praised for his work and “received the highest ranking on his annual reviews.”
The Complaint notes a shift of business culture when Viacom acquired Bellator and Scott Coker took over.
Light alleges that in September 2015, he became aware of a number of instances in which Bellator “failed to observe and knowingly disobeyed laws enacted to protect the health and safety” of MMA fighters. Notably, the California law requiring a medical clearance examination by a licensed physician for participants in a MMA fight. Light claimed that “a reliable source” at Bellator 126 noted that Ryan Martinez’ blood and eye medicals that were submitted to the state of Arizona “were admittedly forged.” Martinez lost his fight to Nick Rossborough.
At Bellator 131 in San Diego, Light learned from “reliable sources” that “a number of fighters on the card had submitted California state-required medicals” by Adam Rendon. Rendon, the lawsuit claims, was not a licensed physician and this was in violation of California law. Bellator 131 was the first “tentpole” event of the Coker-era which featured Stephan Bonnar fighting Tito Ortiz.
The lawsuit claims that Light talked to Rich Chou, Bellator’s Vice President of Talent, prior to Bellator 126. Chou indicated to Light that he would follow up but when he did not here from Chou he approached Scott Coker. According to the Complaint, “Coker told plaintiff (Light) “to do what Chou told you to do,” without addressing these issues.” Light went back to Chou who, according to the lawsuit, stated he would be terminated if he (Light) “kept pushing the issue.”
Light went back to Coker to question about Rendon. According to the Complaint, Coker told plaintiff, “a lot of people at Bellator are going to lose their jobs next week. Do you want to keep yours?”
In addition, the Complaint claims that Coker pressured Light into promoting collusive fights in violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The lawsuit alleges that Coker disliked manager Anthony McGann. Rampage Jackson and Cheick Kongo were managed by McGann at the time and the Complaint claims that Light was instructed to “convince Kongo to fire McGann as his manager.” Light was influenced by Coker to have Kongo fire McGann and have him sign a new promotion agreement or he (Light) would be fired.
Light was instructed to arrange fights for McGann-managed fighters under contract in Bellator with opponents “who would convincingly defeat them.” This would apparently allow Coker the pretext to cut ties with McGann and his fighters. The lawsuit makes a point of indicating that “[s]uch collusive matches were tantamount to fight fixing…”
Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act whistleblower provisions, employees in privately held subsidiaries of publicly traded companies who assist in an investigation into an employer’s violation are protected from employer retaliation. Under the California Business and Professions Code, there is a similar provision claimed by Light.
Light also indicates that in “late 2014 and early 2015,” Mike Kogan was hired by Bellator in an executive capacity. Kogan, who Light alleges is a “close friend” of Coker claims that Kogan was “paid management commissions for fighters he represented in bouts that occurred with defendant Bellator.” This would be a “serious conflict of interest” and violation of California law.
The lawsuit states that due to stress-related to Coker and Chou refusing to follow laws and regulations and “requiring plaintiff to engage in illegal practices as a condition of keeping his job,” Light suffered an anxiety attack. The health scare occurred on April 10, 2015 after Bellator 136 on the campus of UC Irvine. He was taken to the emergency room and diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Light had to take an extended medical leave. He was cleared to return to work without restrictions on March 10, 2016 but was terminated on March 17, 2017 via a letter. He was advised that “his job was no longer available.”
This will be an interesting case as it goes forward. Since it was filed just yesterday, there’s still a lot to digest about the claims. As with many wrongful termination lawsuits, the allegations are salacious and may or may not be true. One would expect Bellator to deny the claims and file a motion to dismiss – none of which is earth-shattering. Obviously, the claims present a public relations issue as the company in support of amending the Ali Act to include MMA fighters are accused of doing things that oppose the protections claimed in the Ali Act. Also, the conflict between promoter and manager rears its head in another MMA promotion. We shall see about the veracity of the claims and how will Bellator address them.
MMA Payout will continue to follow.
May 23, 2016
B.J. Penn has been taken off of UFC 199 next week as a result of a violation of the UFC anti-doping policy.
The UFC has issued a statement found on its web site. A portion reads:
“The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) informed BJ Penn of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation. Penn disclosed the usage of a prohibited method – the use of an IV in excess of 50 ML in a six-hour period – during a March 25, 2016, out-of-competition sample collection. In accordance with the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, Penn has received a provisional suspension, and has been removed from his scheduled bout against Cole Miller on June 4 in Los Angeles.
The good news is that the MMA community does not have to fake like Penn’s return to the Octagon was a good thing. In fact, it was quite sad. If you watched his fight against Rory MacDonald in 2012 and then his return against Frankie Edgar in July 2014, you knew that the old BJ was no more and that he was done as an elite MMA fighter. His last fight against Edgar did not show any sign that he was competitive. In fact, he has not won a UFC fight since November 2010.
Unfortunately, Penn’s career and possibly his personal life is in turmoil. Penn was involved in a fight with a friend which resulted in an arrest. You might recall that his return to fighting was delayed due to sexual assault allegations. Earlier this year, the story took a weird turn as a former writer for his web site accused Penn of the assault on his girlfriend. With the possibility of a suspension due to his violation of the anti-doping policy, the future is murky for the former prodigy.
May 19, 2016
The parties in the Top Rank Boxing v. Al Haymon, et al. lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles has been settled. The parties filed a joint stipulation to dismiss the case on Wednesday. Terms of the settlement are confidential per the stipulation filed with the court.
Al Haymon and his various business entities were sued by Top Rank Boxing this past July as the promoter claimed that Haymon’s upstart Premier Boxing Champions violated federal antitrust laws as well the Muhammad Ali Act and California State Business Regulations.
Perhaps what precipitated the beginning of the end of this litigation was securing the opportunity to obtain documents (including financial information) from promoter Lou DiBella and his company DiBella Entertainment, Inc. It was claimed by Top Rank that DiBella was a “sham promoter” essentially working for Haymon.
Another theory which may have caused the two sides to settle would be the downturn of PBC. Ratings have been sluggish and reports of PBC seeping money seems valid. Also, investors filed a lawsuit in Kansas over a fund’s strategy to invest in PBC. Settling this lawsuit may negate the hefty legal bills the company is racking up.
A similar lawsuit filed by Golden Boy against Haymon continues in Los Angeles with discovery ongoing.
It will be interesting to see how much further the Golden Boy lawsuit goes. If they are to obtain documents from other promoters (like DiBella) in discovery, it could leverage into a favorable settlement. It is unknown if PBC would run the risk of continuing with defending this lawsuit if there is the possibility of losing a huge verdict.
May 16, 2016
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at UFC 198 taking place from Curitiba, Brazil where Fabricio Werdum took on Stipe Miocic for the Heavyweight title.
Miocic crowned Heavyweight Champ
Despite the massive crowd in favor of Fabricio Werdum, Stipe Miocic knocked him out in the first round. The KO stunned the massive crowd in Curtiba. For Miocic, it was an emotional win and he showed it when he returned back home to Cleveland. He also had a message for the city’s NBA team.
— UFC (@ufc) May 15, 2016
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) May 15, 2016
Cyborg does not disappoint in debut
The long-awaited debut of Cris “Cyborg” Justino did not disappoint the Brazilian fans as she overpowered Leslie Smith earning a TKO in the first round, just 1:21 in, despite a vehement protest from Smith. Smith took to social media after the fight to vent her anger.
The obvious question was whether Cyborg could make weight, which she did. Now, the next hurdle would be coming down another 5 pounds to challenge Miesha Tate for the bantamweight title. Of course, maybe there’s a fight out there at the 140 pound catchweight that could happen (i.e., Ronda Rousey).
It was a record crowd at Arena da Baixada in Curitiba Parana, Brazil as the announced attendance was over 45,000 (45,207 to be exact). It made it the 3rd highest attendance in UFC history according to the announcement on the PPV telecast. The tickets sold out in one day. No gate was announced which seems to be the norm for Brazil shows.
The bonuses of $50,000 went to Miocic, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Francisco Trinaldo and Yancy Medeiros. Trinaldo and Medeiros won for Fight of the Night which aired on the UFC Prelims on FS1 and Miocic and Souza earned performance bonuses.
Budweiser was in the center of the Octagon. Notably Nissan had signage in the octagon. Bud Light was also present in the Octagon along with Toyo Tires, EA UFC 2, Harley Davidson, MetroPCS, Fight Pass, and ads for UFC 199 and 200.
Budweiser sponsored the Embedded episodes and also had the fighter prep point. Bud Light was a big sponsor throughout the broadcast.
No Monster Energy Drink on the broadcast. This may be due in part that TNT Energy Drink had been a UFC sponsor in Brazil. According to this UFC press release, the Monster exclusive deal with the UFC, excludes Brazil.
Odds and Ends
This was a big show but think how much bigger it could have been with Anderson Silva-Uriah Hall.
Fans were given Werdum “faces” which had the former champ’s trademark smirk. He did it a couple times during the walk out. Werdum seemed like he had the time of his life until the fight started.
A subtle post-fight gesture for new champs is that they are given the champion’s “black” Reebok shirt. Miesha Tate was given it after defeating Holly Holm. Miocic was handed the shirt after his post-fight interview.
Matt Brown probably should never fight in Brazil again. He gave the Brazilian fans the Stone Cold Steve Austin treatment at weigh-ins. Although FS1 did not show it, there was footage of random fans taking shots at Brown on his walkout to the Octagon against Damian Maia.
Here’s the full Matt Brown walkout where you can clearly see him get hit by fans on 3 occasions. pic.twitter.com/GmvayRP4xk
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) May 15, 2016
Brown was submitted by Maia. The next day, his ex-coach takes a swing at him. Fortunately, authorities got a hold (literally) on the guy.
I know that there are practical reasons for this, but does anyone find it odd that Benson Henderson was once again wearing a UFC uniform in the corner of training partner, Bryan Barberena.
It looks like Jon Jones is really feeling it.
Man USADA really did a number on some of these guys
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 15, 2016
Big Nog was announced as the first UFC fighter to go into the company’s Hall of Fame this summer. Little Nog had a KO of Patrick Cummins as the featured fight on the early UFC Prelims on Fight Pass.
There were 500,000 google searches for UFC 198 on Saturday.
UFC 198 was a very entertaining card with some good finishes. But, did the Werdum-Miocic appeal to the casual viewers? Probably not. This was a card which was focused on Brazil. The attendance looked very good and the crowds (including at the weigh-ins) were great. However, the PPV buys for this event will likely come in around 325,000 buys.
May 11, 2016
Despite the ESPN report that the UFC was for sale, Dana White is denying the report that they are looking to sell the company.
Dana White told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the UFC is not for sale after a report from Darren Rovell released a report that Zuffa, LLC was in advanced talks with a prospective buyer. “The ESPN story is overblown. Darren Rovell is not a fan of facts. His facts could not be further off,” he told the paper.
Despite the denial, Rovell stands by his report which was released on Tuesday. He indicated that ownership enlisted Goldman Sachs to look into selling the UFC. Rovell notes that his sources claim that there are 4 potential buyers which are seeking to purchase the company.
It’s not the first time that Rovell and White have gone back and forth. Obviously, since Zuffa, LLC/UFC maintains that since it is a private company it does not release its financials, the company’s information is not open to the public and media to review. In the past, Rovell has goaded White into producing numbers to back up his claims.
Will the UFC sell? It would make sense especially with the volatility of the business and the company is doing well financially. But, does the denial serve as a mere assurance to its contracted fighters and business partners that nothing is going to change. Or, are we going to see a sale in the coming months?
May 10, 2016
Zuffa is in advanced talks to sell the UFC according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell. The transaction could land the current owners $4 billion.
There are at least four bids to purchase the organization including WME/IMG, China Media Capital, The Blackstone Group and Dalian Wanda Group.
Zuffa LLC headed by the Fertitta brothers and Dana White purchased the UFC for $2 million. The company is being valued at $3.5 to $4 billion.
The fact Zuffa is fielding multiple offers is interesting considering it is still dealing with an antitrust lawsuit filed by former fighters as well as potential lobbying expenditures if an amendment is made to the Ali Act which would include mixed martial artists. One would think that prospective buyers would be concerned with these issues since it would be there responsibility once acquired. Of course, the UFC has succeeded in getting MMA legal in New York and withstood another FTC investigation. MMA Payout will keep you posted on the prospective buyers.
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 26, 2016
In this episode of Show Money, I hop on with Paul Gift and John Nash of BE to talk about the McGregor holdout, the proposed amendment to the Ali Act and we discuss Paul’s recent interview with former FTC Commissioner Dr. Joshua Wright.
April 24, 2016
The Washington Post featured former UFC and current WSOF fighter John Howard in a piece about fighter pay in telling the news that an Oklahoma congressman is scheduled to sponsor a bill to amend the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (“Ali Act”) to include mixed martial artists.
Markwayne Mullin, a Republican representative from Oklahoma was a former fighter and will be the legislator leading the charge in Washington D.C. The Ali Act came with a threefold purpose but with the most known reason being to protect the rights and welfare of boxers.
Although no specifics were given about the amendments to the Ali Act, one would assume that most of the measures would be the same as those that were set out to protect boxers since 2000.
The WaPo article quotes Howard as making $25,000 for his December 2015 fight against Tim Means in the UFC. NSAC states he made $27,000. However, Howard goes on to state in the article that he had to pay training partners, his gym and other costs for training which left him with about $12,000.
Preemptively, as an independent contractor for the UFC, Howard still has to pay taxes on the $27,000.
MMA Fighters’ Association hopes that an association can be created to help assist fighters and see that adding MMA to protection under the Ali Act would be a step in the right direction. Rob Maysey, the founder, is one of the attorneys active in the current antitrust lawsuit filed by fighters against Zuffa. Maysey’s firm is one of the plaintiffs’ firm litigating the case in Nevada.
I was interviewed for this story but my part was cut out of the story. The news of a possible amendment may actually help fighters. Would fighters be willing to join an association (which likely means paying fee)? But, we shall see how the amendment would look and whether the Ali Act will see other tweaks to benefit fighters. The other question is whether this amendment would have enough support to have this passed. Also, how much opposition would such an amendment have by the UFC.
April 23, 2016
The MGM Grand Garden Arena drew 11,352 fans for a gate of $2.3 million.
Bonuses were awarded to Demetrious Johnson, Yair Rodriguez, Dannyl Roberts and Dominique Steele. Each earned $50K. Roberts and Steele earned the FOTN.
The event numbers were announced by the UFC at the post-fight press conference.
Of the already 4 UFC events this year at the MGM, the event did better than February’s UFC event which was converted to a Fight Night. It also did better than Lawler-Condit in January. However, not surprising, it came second to March’s UFC 196 which featured Diaz-McGregor. Notably, Jon Jones’ last event at the MGM was UFC 182 which drew 11,575 for $3.7M. Slightly more in attendance but its clear the tickets were more expensive for Jones-Cormier.