Le, Quarry and Fitch file lawsuit against Zuffa

December 16, 2014

Attorneys for plaintiffs on behalf of Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Northern California in San Jose, California on their behalf.  A press conference held Tuesday afternoon announced the lawsuit which was filed earlier in the day which may add more plaintiffs to the lawsuit.

Three plaintiffs’ firms with significant experience in antitrust and class action litigation are the attorneys of record with two others assisting as well.  At this point, the UFC has issued a brief statement indicating its aware of the lawsuit but has not been served with it or had a chance to review it.

Cung Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC is the 63 page Complaint that maps out the claims of a UFC monopoly and monopsony which is in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act according to the Plaintiffs.

Below is a portion of the press release from the announcement today:

The lawsuit filed by fighters Cung Le, Nathan Quarry and Jon Fitch, who seek to represent a class of similarly situated current and former UFC professional combatants, alleges that the plaintiffs are victims of the UFC’s illegal scheme to eliminate its competition in the sport of MMA and suppress compensation for UFC Fighters from bouts and fighter identities and likenesses.

According to plaintiffs’ counsel Benjamin Brown, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, “The UFC was built on the battered bodies of MMA fighters who have left their blood and sweat in the Octagon.  Those fighters are entitled to the benefits of a competitive market for their talents.”

The lawsuit targets defendants Zuffa LLC, the Las Vegas-based company that conducts business as the UFC. Zuffa is primarily owned by billionaires Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, along with the UFC’s front-man, President Dana White.  White has publicly boasted about the success of the UFC’s alleged illegal scheme, allegedly claiming that “there is no competition” because “I am the grim reaper[.]”

The lawsuit claims that the UFC’s alleged anti-competitive acts, in particular its actions over a period of years,have made and maintainedthe UFC asthe onlyoption for MMA fighters who want to earn a viable living in the profession.

“All UFC Fighters are paid a mere fraction of what they would make in a competitive market,” said Brown.“Rather than earning paydays comparable to boxers – a sport with many natural parallels –MMA fighters go substantially under-compensated despite the punishing nature of their profession.”

Above all, the lawsuit alleges thatthe UFC prevents fighters from working with other MMA promoters, mounting self-promotional efforts of their own or signing with outside sponsors – monopolistic practices that suppress fighters’ incomes.

According to named plaintiff Cung Le, of San Jose, Calif., an internationally acclaimed MMA combatant, “Because  of the UFC’s coercive practices, competitive market forces have been strangled, future earnings power of the athletes is stripped away, and purses to the fighters are artificially depressed.”

The lawsuit alleges that the UFC has pursued an aggressive strategy of depriving key inputs to potential rival promoters or merging with them to maintain its monopoly position.  The complaint alleges “exclusionary scheme” to impair and foreclose competition, whereby the UFC deprives potential competitors in the fight promotion market access to elite MMA fighters, premium live event venues and sponsors.

According to plaintiffs’ co-counsel Michael Dell’Angelo, of Berger & Montague, P.C., “the lawsuit alleges that the UFC has engaged in an illegal scheme to eliminate competition from rival MMA promoters by systematically preventing rivals from gaining access to ingredients critical to successful MMA promotions, including by imposing extreme restrictions on UFC Fighters’ ability to fight for rivals during and after their tenure with the UFC.  The UFC also takes the rights to fighters’ names and likenesses in perpetuity.  As a result of the UFC’sscheme, we allege that UFC Fighters are paid fraction of what they would earn in a competitive marketplace.”

The lawsuit alleges that as a result of these and other anti-competitive acts, including the UFC’s acquisition of rival Strikeforce, the UFC has maintained control of more than 90 percent of the revenue derived from live MMA bouts nationwide.

The lawsuit also alleges that the UFC has retaliated against fighters who have worked with or who have announced intentions to work with rival promoters or sponsors by refusing to book their bouts and/or eliminating them from key UFC promotional activities such as advertising campaigns and video games.

“UFC’s threats are taken seriously by fighters because they know that a UFC ban will substantially diminish, if not end, their ability to earn a living at their chosen profession,” said plaintiffs’ co-counsel Joseph Saveri of Saveri Law Firm, Inc.“These MMA professionals deserve the right to take back their careers.”

In their complaint, the Plaintiffs claim that the UFC has been able to suppress compensation “to a very low percentage of the revenues generated from bouts.”  The Complaint claims that UFC fighters are paid “approximately 10-17% of total UFC revenues generated from bouts.   They claim that all fighters “have had their compensation artificially reduced due to the anticompetitive scheme challenged in this Complaint.

In addition, the Complaint challenges several clauses that Plaintiffs’ claim exist in standard UFC contracts including the “Exclusivity Clause,” the “Champions Clause,” (allowing UFC to extend a champion’s contract for as long as they are champion), the “Right to Match Clause” (recall Eddie Alvarez lawsuit), “Ancillary Rights Clause” (granting UFC exclusive and perpetual worldwide identity rights of contracted athlete) and the “Sponsorship and Endorsement Clause” (allows UFC sole discretion on approving sponsors and endorsements of fighters).

The attorneys declined comment on how much they would be asking (likely due to the fact that the actual amount of damages has yet to be quantified by an expert) in terms of monetary relief although the statute in which they are suing under allows for treble damages (three times the actual amount of proven damages)

Cung Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC

Payout Perspective:

The press conference did not provide a lot of granular information but one must assume that was done on purpose.  Since the Complaint was filed today, the lawsuit and everything that comes with it begins.  The process for a lawsuit, especially one that will be detailed, complex and may involve more plaintiffs will take years and lots of money to litigate.  Cohen Milstein, one of the law firms representing the plaintiffs, was selected as one of the “most feared plaintiffs’ firms for 2013 and 2014 by Law360.  Suffice it to say, the attorneys filing this Complaint and litigating this matter are very good at what they do.  The UFC will have good lawyers as well.

It will be interesting to see how many other fighters decide to join the class.  We assume that there are more that will join based on the amount of law firms that are joining together on this matter. We will see what happens if there is a groundswell of fighters that will join the lawsuit.

MMA Payout will have more info on the lawsuit in the coming days.

UFC on Fox 13 draws 2.27M in overnight ratings

December 14, 2014

Television By Numbers reports that UFC on Fox 13 drew 2.27 million viewers in overnight ratings Saturday night.  It drew a 3 share and 0.9 rating.  It placed second in network viewing with the old holiday classic of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer drawing over 5 million viewers opposing the UFC.

UFC on Fox Ratings

UFC on Fox 1: 5.7 million

UFC on Fox 2: 4.57 million

UFC on Fox 3: 2.25 million

UFC on Fox 4: 2.36 million

UFC on Fox 5: 3.41 million

UFC on Fox 6: 4.22 million

UFC on Fox 7: 3.3 million

UFC on Fox 8: 2.38 million

UFC on Fox 9: 2.9 million

UFC on Fox 10: 3.22 million

UFC on Fox 11: 1.98 million

UFC on Fox 12: 2.5 million

UFC on Fox 13: 2.27 million

UFC on Fox 13

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are off 10% from last December.  The 2.27 million viewers do not account for the overrun from 7PT/10pm ET-7:30PT/10:30pm ET. The main event aired during the overrun so one might expect this number to rise here.  Coming in second to the holiday classic cartoons on network TV is not out of the ordinary since this happened last year too.  MMA Payout will have more on the complete ratings for the event as we get it.

Report states fighter lawsuit against UFC imminent

December 13, 2014

Bloody Elbow is reporting that an impending lawsuit to be filed presumably by current fighters under contract by the UFC against the organization for violations of U.S. antitrust law.

Although no specifics were given in the report, the fighters that will seek class action status will seek millions of dollars along with treble damages (three times the actual amount) pursuant to relevant antitrust laws.

The report indicates that law firms renowned for its expertise in major class action litigation are attached to this lawsuit.  Basically, these are serious claims filed by serious people.

Payout Perspective:

From an outsider perspective, one might assume that the Reebok deal was the last straw for fighters in their decision to take legal action against the UFC.  The Ed O’Bannon trial which held in favor of the plaintiffs (although currently being appealed) and the NLRB decision which held that Northwestern football players could form a union are two of the recent legal opinions which we presume have aided the plaintiffs’ decision to file this legal claim.  If fighters currently under contract with the UFC are plaintiffs, it presents a really curious (also, awkward) issue.  Will these plaintiffs continue with the UFC during and after this lawsuit?  Moreover, will the UFC allow for them to be a part of any further cards in the UFC?  Obviously, that depends on the fighters.

Once the Complaint is filed, MMA Payout will provide you with more information.

UFC 181: Payout Perspective

December 9, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 181 which took place at the Mandaly Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

CM Punk signs with UFC

Usually we start off with the main events, and there were two very good ones, but the big news coming out of the PPV was the announcement that Phil Brooks (the artist formerly known as CM Punk – the WWE owns the trademark and we’re not sure if terms of his settlement included continued use of the name) has signed with the UFC.  Brooks is 36 and has no formal experience in MMA unless you count his training in BJJ and Kempo.  Recently, Brooks talked about a variety of health issues he had while in the WWE as well as the indication he has had a lot of concussions (12 or 13 per the Cabana podcast).  The concussions do not even count the ones that were not medically recorded.  We will definitely talk about this more but as it relates to business, this is a calculated risk for the UFC.  It should bolster a UFC for the sheer curiosity from former WWE fans.

Lawler edges Hendricks for UFC title

Robbie Lawler started and finished the second fight with Johny Hendricks in a flurry.  And it might have been the last flurry in the end that solidified the win for Lawler.  Maybe Hendricks fell into the same trap of confidence as he did when it appeared that he had defeated GSP.  Hendricks had turtled up in at least two rounds allowing Lawler to seemingly pound away at him.  Even if the blows did not hurt, the appearance made it seem that Lawler had the advantage.  In the end,  Matt Hughes had the opportunity to put on the belt for the new champion.

Although a third fight would make sense, Rory MacDonald was in attendance and should be the next in line to challenge for the belt.

Showtime crisp in title defense

Anthony Pettis is good.  That’s an understatement.  Despite a shaky first round against Gilbert Melendez, Pettis took advantage of a shot from Gil and quickly secured a guillotine.  He’s now subbed Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez with ease.  It’s clear that Pettis is the tops of this division.  Pettis is athletic and quick and if he avoids significant injuries (wrote this before news of his hand), he can be a force in the UFC.

Up next for Pettis should be Khabib Nurmogomedov who showed up at the press conference to ensure Showtime knew who he was.

Attendance and gate

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and gate at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The attendance announced post-event was 9,617 for a gate of $2.488 million.  The last event at the Mandalay Bay was UFC 170 in February 2014 for Ronda Rousey-Sara McMann.  That event drew 10, 217 for a gate of $1,555,870.

Promotion for the Fight

UFC Embedded was the main driver once again and offered some good background on Hendricks-Lawler and Pettis- Gil.  It also covered the Pettis Wheaties box cover announcement and the Reebok uniform announcement.  Hendricks’ sponsor, Bass Pro Shops, received some exposure as Johny was seen shopping for a rifle at the outdoor sporting goods store.

The UFC released Hendricks-Lawler I online which one must consider was one of the best fights of the year.

UFC 181 sported a comic book theme with the fight poster.  A nice change from the usual face offs.

ufc 181

UFC 181 was slated for movie theaters once again.

Sponsorships

In the Octagon were Wargaming.net, Alienware, Matefit.me, Fram, Musclepharm, Metro PCS, Harley Davidson, Air Force Reserve (a Robbie Lawler associated sponsor), Toyo Tires and Bud Light in the center.

Johny Hendricks had a new sponsor for the fight, Zak Products, an official NASCAR sponsor.

Hendricks and Pettis, already sponsored by Reebok, wore the brand into the Octagon.  Perhaps the Pettis walkout shirt is a glimpse of what to expect from the brand in July.

Dynamic Fastener made its presence known in the Octagon.  Hopefully, viewers will figure out what it does before it goes away in July.

Harley Davidson had a promotion where the winner of the Travis Browne-Brendan Schaub fight won a Harley.  For those that didn’t watch, Browne won the motorcycle.

Odds and ends

Raquel Pennington-Ashlee Evans Smith ending was a cliffhanger of sorts since FS1 cut to commercial as Pennington had the choke on Smith and it was not clear what had happened.  I recall the same thing happening with Dan Henderson-Shogun Rua.

Great wins for Todd Duffee and Josh Samman, the latter with a great headkick KO of Eddie Gordon. Gordon wore a legalize MMA shirt into the Octagon as he fights out of Matt Serra’s gym in New York.

There was some foreshadowing about 181 by Dana White on the Jim Rome Show.

Another interesting question in light of the Reebok deal.

Urijah Faber took what is becoming a normal spot as the final bout on the UFC Prelims.  It’s interesting that he’s becoming a mainstay in this position but according to Dave Meltzer he chooses to be on FS1 rather than PPV because more people watch.  It makes sense considering he is a name, can draw viewers to the FS1 prelims and is a good bridge to the PPV telecast.

Interesting that they dropped the lights for Pettis-Gil but not for Hendricks-Lawler.

The production for the promos for UFC 182 and UFC 183 were great and showed more of a entertainment edge to them.

A good read on referee Mark Smith, who is a retired Air Force pilot.  Only coincidence that Air Force Reserves was a sponsor on the Octagon mat.

Conclusion

UFC 181 was one of the best cards of the year.  From the Prelims to the main event, it came through with action fights, KOs, submissions and a surprise announcement.  Does that mean it will cash in with PPV buys?  Google searches were high on the search terms UFC and CM Punk in the U.S. as both were trending 3rd and 6th respectively with over 100K searches each.  While this does not necessarily equate to buys (e.g. Manny Pacquiao registered over 500K searches yet scored a reported 300K PPV buys), we should see UFC 181 doing well and above this year’s PPV average.  Look for somewhere between the 400-500K range.

Phil Brooks aka CM Punk signs with the UFC

December 8, 2014

In a surprise announcement during Saturday’s UFC 181 PPV, former WWE pro wrestler Phil Brooks (aka CM Punk) announced that he has signed with the UFC. He indicated that he would have his first in 2015.

Unlike WWE pro wrestler and former UFC fighter Brock Lesnar, Brooks does not have a pedigree in a combat sports discipline although it is documented that he has trained extensively in Jiu Jitsu and Kempo Karate. Lesnar had a legitimate background prior to entering the Octagon.   He also did one fight outside of the UFC before signing.

There is much debate on the signing as Brooks stated that this is his new career.  This, despite a recent announcement he was assisting in writing a comic book for Marvel.  He did not give many details about where he would train and when his first fight would be.

Post by UFC.

For those wondering, PPV buys for notable debuts of fighters with not a traditional MMA pedigree are as follows:

UFC 81 – Brock Lesnar (Noguira-Sylvia main event) first fight 600K

UFC 113 – Kimbo Slice (Machida-Rua main event) 520K

UFC 118 – James Toney (Edgar-Penn II) 570K

Payout Perspective:

While it should be respected that Brooks comes at this opportunity with respect, it seems like a “bucket list” thing to do.  The fact is he is 36 years old with notable health issues (outlined as recently as the infamous Colt Cabana podcast) entering a tough sport.  Regardless of what you may think of pro wrestling, it is a rough business that takes a physical toll on your body.  And thus, this won’t go well inside the Octagon.  However, if you are looking at the spectacle aspect of this, it should draw some casual, crossover fans.

And while a lot of people within MMA and pro wrestling know of CM Punk, don’t look for his signing to grab a ton of new fans.  What would be interesting is to see if the UFC can sign Brock Lesnar and put him on the same card as Brooks?  Is the signing an act of desperation by the UFC, strategy to keep him away from a potential Bellator signing or a desirable business move?

What will be interesting to see is whether Brooks will comment on things like drug testing in the UFC, the new Reebok uniform deal and the lack of a union for fighters?   Those things are much more interesting to know about than what will actually happen in the Octagon

UFC-Reebok announce 6 year sponsor deal

December 2, 2014

The UFC and Reebok announced the long-awaited fight uniform deal which will commence during International Fight Week July 2015.  The announcement came with many interesting details.

The UFC touted the announcement as its biggest non-broadcast contract ever.  Financial terms were not disclosed for the 6 year partnership which makes Reebok the exclusive uniform supplier and commercial outfitter.

One of the most compelling details of the deal is that fighter compensation will be tied directly with the UFC fighter rankings.  The rankings are often criticized, and there is no exact science to determine how fighters are ranked.  Moreover, unsaid but inferred from the structure, unranked fighters will benefit, little, if any from the deal.

Via ESPN:

The pay structure will allocate funds per fight, based on a tiered ranking system. Champions will receive the largest payment, followed by fighters ranked Nos. 1-5, 6-10, 11-15 and unranked. UFC’s official rankings are voted on by media outlets and are overseen by the company.

Starting with UFC 189, which coincides with International Fight Week, there will no longer be fight banners or any other types of sponsors aside from Reebok.  Fighters will be able to ascertain sponsorships outside of the Octagon but cannot be sponsored by any other company leading up to a fight or during it.

The UFC indicated that aside from “costs associated” with the sponsorship, the money goes directly to the fighters.

Here’s what we should expect at UFC 189 via MMA Junkie:

At each UFC event after the July rollout, a newly established team of UFC equipment managers will distribute to each fighter and cornerman a Reebok gear bag with fight shorts, walk-out jerseys, hoodies, T-shirts, fleece tops and bottoms, headwear, socks and shoes, among other items, which will be used throughout fight week and are intended for the athlete to keep after the event.

In addition, there is a charity component of the deal as a portion of the revenue from the UFC-Reebok line of products goes to Fight for Peace, a nonprofit aligned with the sportswear manufacturer.

The UFC indicated it had reached out to UFC fighters about this deal before it was announced.

The deal does not dismiss other sponsors, but one might assume that agents and managers will have a harder time finding sponsors for fighters outside of a UFC event.  Moreover, one of the prime attractions for most sponsors, the logo on the shirt/shorts, will go away.

Payout Perspective:

This is an interesting deal that will certainly garner scrutiny in the days to come.  For top-level fighters and current champions, the deal is favorable for them.  Of course, these are not the fighters to be concerned with as they have always be taken care of from various sponsors.  But, for those fighters that appear on prelims and Fight Nights, this new change could be a concern.  There are many unknowns at this point on what the pay structure will look like and only time will tell to see how fighters will benefit.  How much money will be allotted to fighters?

MMA Payout will have more on this deal.

UFC and Reebok to announce fighter uniform deal

December 2, 2014

MMA Junkie reports on a special announcement occurring this morning involving the UFC and Reebok.  The announcement will reveal the UFC’s long awaited, anticipated uniform deal.

MMA Payout will have more details after the press conference.  The live stream for the conference is at MMA Junkie.   It is expected that Ronda Rousey will be the center of the uniform deal as the UFC indicated this several months ago.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, & Holiday Shopping Guide (2014)

November 28, 2014

In the spirit of the holidays, MMAPayout would like to share some great Black Friday and Holiday deals for our readers who have held off on their shopping to save a couple of bucks. Please feel free to share any other deals you find in the comments section. Enjoy!

EA Sports UFC:

EA_UFC_2014_Cover

Sony PS Store – $13.99 (with PS+), $19.99 (without PS+) for PS4 – (Digital Copy)

Microsoft Store – $13.20 (with Xbox Live), $39.99 (without Xbox Live) for Xbox One – (Digital Copy)

Amazon – $29.99 for PS4, $33.56 for Xbox One – (Physical Copy)

What makes this a great deal is that EA has not stopped supporting the game since the initial launch back in June. With slow sales and the fact that most video game companies don’t typically continue to update their game after the first few months, it has been a welcomed surprise how much work EA has continued to put into the game.

Not only have they continued to release patch after patch to fix the initial broken game-play, which negatively impacted its critic scores, but they’ve also continued to add more UFC fighters and content.  With that said, EA just recently announced that they will be releasing UFC Legends DLC in December.

 

WWE 2K15:

Sony PS Store – $39.99 on PS3, $59.99 on PS4 – (Digital Copy)

Microsoft Store – $29.99 on Xbox 360, $59.99 on Xbox One – (Digital Copy)

Amazon – $47.42 for PS4, $59.96 for Xbox One – (Physical Copy)

 

MMA/Boxing Apparel and Gear:

Site: www.ufcstore.com
Coupon Code: BLKFRI15 and BLKFRI20
Discount: 15% off (over $50) and 20% off (over $100)
Duration: Now

Site: www.ufc.tv
Coupon Code: FNF25 on November 24th, none needed on November 26th.
Discount: 30% off Fight Pass and 1 year subscription to UFC Mag w/ purchase of 1 year subscription
Duration: Now through December 1st

Site: www.tapout.com
Coupon Code: BF25
Discount: 25% off, free shipping orders over $75
Duration: Now

Site: http://secure.gracieacademy.com/
Coupon Code: n/a
Discount: 20% off, free shipping
Duration: Now through December 1st

Site: http://www.ringside.com/
Coupon Code: BFRI25
Discount: 25% off
Duration: Now

Site: http://shop.wwe.com/
Coupon Code: FRIDAY
Discount: 80% off merchandise, 20% off orders, free shipping on orders over 15$
Duration: Now until Nov 29th

Site: http://www.rootsoffight.com/
Coupon Code: n/a
Discount: 15%-50% off
Duration: Now through December 1st

Site: www.62gear.com
Coupon Code: black
Discount: 20% off orders over $30. Free shipping orders over $50
Duration: Now through November 29th

Site: http://www.breakpointfc.com/
Coupon Code: BPBLACK
Discount: 30% off
Duration: Now through December 1st

Site: http://www.cagesidemma.com/blfrsa.html
Coupon Code: n/a
Discount: Various sales
Duration: Now through December 2nd

Site: www.combatcorner.com
Coupon Code: n/a
Discount: 40% off
Duration: Now

Site: www.gameness.net
Coupon Code: n/a
Discount: Various sales
Duration: Now

Site: www.mmawarehouse.com
Coupon Code: n/a
Discount: 15-65% off
Duration: Now

Site: http://www.mmaoverload.com/
Coupon Code: n/a
Discount: Various sales
Duration: Now

Site: www.ringtocage.com/
Coupon Code: 30BFOFF14
Discount: 30% off, free shipping on order over $25
Duration: November 26th through December 1st

Site: http://rdxsports.com/
Coupon Code: BLACKFRIDAY
Discount: 20% off
Duration: Now until Nov 30th

Standard & Poor’s revises Zuffa outlook to negative

November 20, 2014

The Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service has revised Zuffa, LLC’s financial outlook to negative from stable on weaker operating performance.  It has indicated that it anticipates a 40% decline in EBITDA in 2014 and credit measures will weaken due to the decline.

In a press release disseminated by S&P, it stated that the negative rating reflects its “belief that Zuffa’s operating performance will deteriorate significantly in 2014, resulting in very weak leverage in the high-5x area.”

In addition to the change to the negative outlook it is affirming its “BB-“corporate credit rating.  The “BB-“ credit rating was assessed last month.  The concern for Zuffa is that a negative outlook may mean that S&P may lower Zuffa’s “BB-“ rating.

More from the press release:

“The negative outlook revision reflects our updated forecast for 2014 EBITDA to decline approximately 40% (compared to a decline of 30% previously), primarily due to a change to a marquee fight card in the fourth quarter of 2014 as a result of another fighter injury causing anticipated pay per view (PPV)  buys and event ticket prices to decline further, as well as higher remarketing expenses for the event, and additional costs related to the company’s international expansion,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Stephen Pagano.

S&P now expects Zuffa’s cash flow/debt leverage to increase to the “high-5x area at the end of 2014.”  In its October 2014 report, it had predicted Zuffa to be in the 3 range.  The cash flow/leverage is based on a scale of 1-6 with 1 being minimally leveraged to 6 being highly leveraged.  Zuffa is now pegged as 5 whereas S&P had forecasted it being a 3.

Payout Perspective:

Obvious bad news for Zuffa as the change in outlook is based on Cain Velasquez’s injury forcing him to drop out of UFC 180.  It ties in directly to the assumption that the PPV buy rate will be low once again – an issue that Dana White recently acknowledged.  What the change in outlook to negative means is that it will increase the cost of borrowing by Zuffa.  As the company falls deeper into debt, its ability to obtain credit will get harder.  The forecast painted by S&P reflects the fact that it no longer believes that the company will be able to turn it around this year or next to address its debt obligations.

With the new lower, negative outlook on its debt, Zuffa will have a lot of pressure to forge new television pacts overseas and push the profitability of Fight Pass.  We may also see initiatives like a formal drug testing policy put off if costs are too high.  We will also see if Zuffa attempts to address the issue of fighter injuries which causes the instability and uncertainty of events.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Bellator 131 – Payout Perspective

November 18, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we are taking a look at Bellator 131 from the Valley View Casino in San Diego, California.

Ortiz defeats Bonnar in “spectacle”

This fight was sold outside of the cage but inside the cage there was not a lot to say about it.  In the end, Ortiz defeated Bonnar via split decision and perhaps the most entertaining part about these two is the clowning of Bonnar and the middle fingers of Ortiz after the fight.

The famous (or infamous) lead-up to this “grudge match” was the in-cage promo a couple months back where Bonnar confronted Ortiz with that guy in the mask that was revealed to be someone 95% of the casual viewing MMA audience had never seen.  Thus, the reveal meant nothing.  Still, the two promoted the fight to the point where the actual fight (luckily) became secondary.

A quick look at twitter reveals that Ortiz is looking to King Mo next.  Let the trash talk/tweets begin.  As for Bonnar, perhaps he turns on the masked man for his next fight.

131

Brooks defeats Chandler for lightweight title

In what was the most competitive and real fight of the night, Will Brooks defeated Michael Chandler to win the vacant lightweight world title.  Brooks did it with a solid punch to Chandler’s temple which essentially knocked out Chandler on his feet as Chandler made gestures as if he did not know where he was eventually turning his back from Brooks and causing the stoppage.  Brooks and Chandler are two fighters that Bellator needs.  While Ortiz and Bonnar are spectacle, Brooks and Chandler are sport.

Attendance and Gate

No official announcement has been made on the attendance and gate at the Valley View Casino.  However, there are unconfirmed reports of the attendance being 8,100 with a gate of over $400,000.  The Valley View Casino has a max capacity of approximately 18,000 but some of that was taken out due to the enormous set, stage and ramp.  Regardless, it has to be one of the biggest crowds and gates for the organization.

Salaries

As reported, Sunday night, the salaries disclosed by the California State Athletic Commission had Ortiz ($300K) and Bonnar ($100K) as the biggest earners for the night although Ortiz was fined $2,500 for his antics post-fight.  The salaries show that Ortiz can still demand top dollar for his services while Bonnar’s pay is a step up from his time in the UFC.

Promotion of Fight

The Viacom-owned company utilized its resources in order to hype this “tentpole” event.  It used its sponsor Dave & Busters for a couple events to promote the fight including a meet and greet which featured ex-UFC stars.  It even announced that Wanderlei Silva would be in attendance at the pre-fight party on Friday even though the company had to retract that after contractual issues with the UFC prevented Silva’s appearance.

SpikeTV ran three shoulder programs to promote Bellator 131 and most centered on Ortiz-Bonnar.  Spike ran a one hour Countdown show which focused a significant portion on Ortiz-Bonnar and then Brooks-Chandler and Manhoef-Schilling.  The Countdown dedicated the first half hour or so on Ortiz-Bonnar and showed the Justin McCully incident again and again.  But, it lacked specifically spelling out the “wrong” that Ortiz did to McCully.  If it did, I just did not get it.  It then had a special dedicated to Ortiz and then another one specifically for Tito and Bonnar to have a “sit down face-to-face.”

Sponsorships

In the cage, Bellator’s sponsors included Dave & Busters, pre-pay cell phone company Cricket Wireless, Monster Energy, Gold Bond Ultimate, Everlast, Attack Poker and Miller Light had the center of the cage.  The mat also had something for the new Spike App.

Odds and Ends

-Bellator’s video packages, new stage, big screen and walkouts were all great things that added to the “big event” feel.

-Mo started swimming after his win.  I don’t recall this a trademark celebration.

-ESPN’s Matthew Berry is the signature spokesman for Dave & Buster’s?  Fantasy sports is that popular.

-In promoting Melvin Manhoef during the Countdown show, Bellator showed footage from Japan of Manhoef knocking out Mark Hunt.  Good timing since Hunt was the main eventer at UFC 180.  Irony because Manhoef was laid out by Joe Schilling on Saturday.

-There was a Goldberg (Bill not Mike) citing at the event.  Really.  George Lopez citing too.  Really.

-Joe Warren doing play-by-play during the Mike Richman-Nam Phan fight was a nice touch.

Conclusion

The event had a big event feel and it seemed like a step up for the company.  While it does have a “pro wrestling” feel, the presentation draws you in to watch.  The question will be can it promote non-UFC fighters in the upper levels of its cards.  Ortiz and Bonnar are past their prime inside the cage.  Certainly, they can sell fights but the question will be whether others can pick up where they will leave off. In the end, Bellator 131 was a strong showing and if it’s a sign of things to come in how Bellator will present its quarterly big shows, Bellator, under Coker, will be a strong number 2 promotion.

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