Barao out of main event at UFC 177

August 29, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Renan Barao is out of tomorrow’s UFC 177 main event against T.J. Dillashaw.  Barao passed out while attempting to cut weight for Friday’s weigh-ins.  As a result, former Bellator champ and newcomer Joe Soto gets the shot tomorrow night.

Soto was set to take on Anthony Birchak on the prelim card.  Now, he gets the title shot on Saturday.  The sudden change is another hit to a card that has been harshly criticized for the lack of star power and interesting fights for a PPV.

Payout Perspective:

Even before the news of Barao needing to be replaced, this card was a hard sell. Realistically, I’m not sure how much the loss of Barao cost PPV buys unless people wanted to see the rematch.  Now, we may assume less people are likely to pay for a Soto-Dillashaw main event.  The UFC is not going to cancel the card and its not feasible to convert the card to an FS1 show.  So, the UFC will have to rely on its hardcore base for buys.  While we thought that UFC 174 was the low-water mark for UFC PPVs, it looks like 177 will be lower.

Latest round of court filings in Zuffa-New York lawsuit

August 24, 2014

Late last week Zuffa and the State of New York have filed its opposition to each party’s motions for summary judgment.  The responsive briefing is the continued litigation in the UFC’s quest to legalize professional MMA in the state.

As you may recall, both parties filed Motions for Summary Judgment.  New York filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in hopes of dismissing the remaining claim by Zuffa that the New York law that bans professional MMA is unconstitutionally vague.  Zuffa’s Motion for Summary Judgment would essentially strike down the law and preclude New York from its enforcement.

In its opposition to New York’s Motion for Summary Judgment it claims that it has standing to raise its challenge to the New York statute.  The argument is in direct rebuttal to New York’s assertion in its moving papers that Zuffa had no standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place since it could not claim injury.   Zuffa contends that it does have standing since it was the “object” of the state regulation.  Here, Zuffa argues that it was a direct object of the law as it is prohibiting professional MMA in the state.

In addition, it rebuts New York’s contention that there was no injury (and thus no standing).  The first was the claim that Zuffa had no plans to hold an event in New York and thus there was no injury.  The second contention was that Zuffa had no agreement with an Exempt Organization in the statute (which would allow for it to hold an event in the state). However, Zuffa argues that it “has taken all steps – short of violating the criminal law – to hold a professional MMA event in New York and it need not put itself in legal jeopardy to establish standing.”  In fact, in its brief, it indicates it has secured a date at Madison Square Garden for 2015.  It also cites that the UFC had discussions with the WKA (“World Kickboxing Association”), an Exempt Organization under the New York law, about working together to hold a UFC event.  Zuffa contends that there was a “meeting of the minds” about putting together professional matches in New York.

The opposition papers from Zuffa also argue that the statute in question is vague as to whether it is enforceable on Indian reservations in New York.  Specifically, Zuffa argues in its pleadings that “it is interested in promoting events on Indian reservations in New York – particularly if it is unable to do so elsewhere in the state.”

New York responds to this assertion about its enforcement of a state statute on an Indian reservation (which as many know, Indian reservations are governed by federal law).  New York argued that it has dominion over “offenses on Indian reservations within the State of New York to the same extent that it has over offenses commented elsewhere in the State.”

In addition, the papers also argue over the vagueness of the statute as it pertains to amateur MMA and the New York liquor statute which allows licenses at events.

Notably, New York is seeking to strike some of the evidence which Zuffa attached to its initial Motion for Summary Judgment stating that it is inadmissible for a variety of evidentiary reasons (e.g., lack of authentication, hearsay, irrelevance, opinion, etc.).  The court will have to determine New York’s motion to strike prior to determining how to rule on Zuffa’s motion.  Some of the evidence New York would like to have stricken from consideration is the issue with the differing interpretations of the law banning professional MMA in the state by multiple government officials.

AG Brief by JASONCRUZ206

Zuffa's Opposition.PDF by JASONCRUZ206

Payout Perspective:

The legal argument continues.  Zuffa appears to have the clearer arguments in the opposition briefing.  However, New York is seeking to strike the evidence which appears to be the most damaging – the multiple interpretations of enforcement of the law.  This would undercut the argument that the statute is unconstitutionally vague since a portion of the legal argument is that the multiple interpretations of the law by the same officials that are to enforce it is evidence that the law is vague.  If that evidence is wiped from the record, there’s less for the court to consider. We will see how each side responds to the opposition briefing.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Alvarez given unconditional release from Bellator

August 19, 2014

Bellator has released Eddie Alvarez from his contract with the organization per a company Media Alert.  The media advisory also includes a statement from Alvarez.

Via  Bellator media advisory:

Bellator President Scott Coker has released a statement regarding Eddie Alvarez:

“We’ve granted Eddie his unconditional release. Eddie is free to explore the free agent market, we hold no matching rights, and we wish him the best in the future. We sat down with Eddie and his team a few times, and it became pretty clear early on that he just wasn’t interested in fighting for Bellator in the future. We want guys in this organization that want to be here, and after the history Eddie and the former regime had here at Bellator, we decided to move on. We wish Eddie the absolute best of luck with whatever is next for him. It’s a new chapter for everyone involved.”

Eddie Alvarez has also released a statement:

“This was a long process but it’s a decision that everyone seems happy with. I think it’s important to say that I am genuinely thankful for my time at Bellator. I know that sounds a little crazy given everything I went through, but I’ve fought there since 2009, and have been involved in some really amazing fights. The staff there always treated me great, and I’m going to miss seeing a lot of those familiar faces around for sure. Myself and my team had some really good discussions with Scott, but in my heart I knew I was ready to move on and start the next chapter in my career.”

Payout Perspective:

This move is probably not surprising to most following the situation since it was clear Alvarez wanted out and Coker likely wanted a clean break from the old regime. Releasing Alvarez under “amicable” terms lets Bellator move on without having to answer any more questions about the Alvarez situation and it allows Alvarez to move on with his career.  We’ll see if his career continues in the UFC or somewhere else.  The one negative for Alvarez here is that he loses leverage with the UFC in negotiating a contract since the UFC is the only place (with the money) where he can land.

UPDATED: 3pm 8/19/14.  And just like that Alvarez is in the UFC.

Jones-Cormier showdown postponed to UFC 182

August 12, 2014

It was officially announced on FS1’s America’s Pregame that Jon Jones is out of UFC 178 due to a leg injury and his title fight with Daniel Cormier has been postponed until the January 3, 2015 card.  In its place, Demetrious Johnson will face Chris Cariaso for the flyweight title.

The news of Jones’ injury stalls the momentum between the Jones-Cormier feud which was amplified by last week’s media day brawl at the MGM Grand.  It followed with “hot mics” picking up some unrefined banter between the two which was not to be for public consumption.  Yet, it perked everyone’s interest.

Now, it appears that the UFC will replace this hot feud with another title fight featuring Johnson.  Of course, the last time Johnson headlined (at UFC 174), it was the lowest PPV output in 10 years.

Payout Perspective:

UFC 178 will still have Connor McGregor on the card so there is still buzz to be made.  However, replacing Jones-Cormier with Johnson-Cariaso is a disappointment (and its neither Johnson or Cariaso’s fault).  Unfortunately for Johnson, he has yet to translate into a PPV draw and his June showing at UFC 174 reflects the fact that he is not a main eventer.  On the bright side, both Jones and Cormier will get time to nurse their respective injuries so that they will be fresh for UFC 182 on Jan. 3rd 2015.

UFC 175 draws 500K-545K PPV buys

August 8, 2014

MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer reports that UFC 175 did between 500,000 – 545,000 PPV buys according to various cable sources.  It’s the best showing on PPV since UFC 168.

UFC 175 featured Ronda Rousey defending her title against Alexis Davis and Chris Weidman defending his against Lyoto Machida.  Interesting enough, UFC 168 featured Rousey and Weidman although in higher profile matchups: Miesha Tate and Anderson Silva.

The 500-545K PPV buy rate is the highest for 2014 which saw its lowest PPV buy rate in 10 years in UFC 174.

UFC 2014 PPVs

Payout Perspective:

Initial reports of this PPV hitting 500K buys appeared to hold up.  It should be considered a positive and reflects the successful duo of Rousey and Weidman.  The obvious difference from 168 is that the opponents were higher profile.  It’s expected that we should get them again in December with Weidman-Belfort and the possibility of Rousey-Carano.

New York and Zuffa file Summary Judgment Motions in lawsuit

August 2, 2014

The state of New York and Zuffa filed Motions for Summary Judgment in the ongoing lawsuit which seemingly has no end.  The filings, which were filed Thursday of last week, each hope to bring a resolution to the lawsuit filed by Zuffa in November 2011.

As most know that have been following this legal fight, Zuffa and other named plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General of New York in an effort to strike down the existing legislative ban on professional MMA in the state.  The Court dismissed most of Zuffa’s claims including a legal claim suggesting it infringed against its First Amendment rights.

The remaining claims before the Court are whether the statute is unconstitutionally vague and the state liquor law which allows for liquor to be sold at events.  Both parties have requested the Court to rule in its favor on the remaining claims.

For New York, it is requesting the Court to dismiss the challenges made by Zuffa.  If granted, the case would effectively be over pending an appeal to the Circuit Court.

For Zuffa, it is requesting the Court to strike down the law banning professional MMA in the state.  This would effectively allow for professional MMA in the state since the law would no longer exist.  Of course, we’ll speculate on this later.

The standard for a Court to grant a Summary Judgment has the party filing the motion having to prove that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact” and that the person bringing the motion “is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Basically, the Court must find that based on the facts presented, there is no reason to hear anything else about the dispute because the facts show there is no dispute.  This certainly can be a tough threshold for any party bringing a motion.

New York’s Summary Judgment Motion

New York strategically argues that most of the named Plaintiffs must be dismissed because they have no standing.  Essentially, they cannot bring the lawsuit because there is no injury (i.e., damages).  In this scenario, if there are no damages, there is no standing to bring the claim.  Plaintiffs cannot bring a claim on hypothetical damages, rather the damages must be “actual and imminent.”  New York argues that most of the named Plaintiffs including Jon Jones, Gina Carano, Frankie Edgar, Matt Hammill and Brian Stann do not have the requisite standing because each have not suffered an actual injury and thus have no damage claim.  The parties had agreed that Jones, et al would not be deposed if they would not provide any evidence of the vagueness allegation.  Thus, New York now brings the motion to dismiss them.

It argues that the “only still surviving Exempt Organization,” the World Kickboxing Association (WKA) has only a “tentative” relationship with Zuffa.  It also points out that Zuffa and WKA have no formal agreement to run an event or future plans to do so.  Thus, Zuffa cannot claim injury.

Arguing that the Plaintiffs have no standing means the Court does not need to rule on the substantive legal issue-whether § 8905-a, the law banning professional MMA (or the New York “Liquor Law” which prohibits licensees who serve alcohol for on-premises consumption) is unconstitutionally vague.

While this may be cynical, arguing the procedural issues rather than the substantive content allows the Court an “out.”  Courts would not have to decide on the constitutionality of a law if the procedures to address the actual issue are not met.  Rather, Courts could allow the legislative branch the chance to address the law.  And, as we know Zuffa has been trying to do this for a while with no success.

If you are looking for a recent case that reflects a Court ruling on procedural grounds rather than substantive, look at the U.S. Supreme Court case which ruled on California’s Proposition 8.  In that case, the Supreme Court did not rule on the legal issues as it determined that the private parties that brought the lawsuit had no “standing” to bring the lawsuit because they had no injury.

Here, New York argues that the Plaintiffs have no “standing” to bring the lawsuit because they lack the requisite “injury.”

Zuffa’s Summary Judgment

Zuffa filed its Summary Judgment motion seeking that the Court determine that Section 8905-a and the New York Liquor Law is unconstitutionally vague as to professional MMA.  It cites the uncertainty of state officials as to the application and interpretation of the law.  It notes oral argument in which the Attorney General for New York admitting that professional MMA could be sanctioned by an Exempt Organization under the law.  The AG later explained away his statement.  Zuffa also argues that the law is vague and it encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

Zuffa’s moving papers hammer away that the law banning professional MMA has many interpretations and these multiple interpretations even trip up those that enforce the rules.

Payout Perspective:

The following summary is just a cursory look at the papers and does not even delve into the deposition excerpts and exhibits.  At this point, we’ll wait on the opposition briefs which should include more declarations and deposition transcript excerpts.  And then there will be more in the reply to the opposition briefs.  The final pleadings for the motion will not be filed until early September.  Based on the amount of paper to read, one might not expect a decision until December, or early 2015.

But let’s assume New York wins and the case is dismissed.  Zuffa will have to consider its options which may include an appeal to the Circuit Court on the decision.  It would cost more money and take much longer and unless there is movement in Albany, no MMA in New York.

But what if the Court sides with Zuffa and grants its motion for summary judgment?  This would mean that the law banning MMA will be determined unconstitutional and essentially strike down the law.  One might expect a stay and/or the state of New York filing a preliminary injunction to stay the ruling in an effort to appeal the ruling.  The effect of an injunction would be a way to prevent pro MMA in the state before an appeal to the ruling is heard by another Court.  The last time most of us heard about a preliminary injunction was in the Eddie Alvarez case.  In the meantime, legislators in New York that are anti-pro MMA could draft new legislation which would clarify the vagueness issue and have it ready for Albany in 2015.  We could be completely off on this scenario and we haven’t even seen opposition briefs but I thought I’d throw this theory out there.

MMA Payout will have more on these motions in the coming days.

UFC on Fox 12: 2.5 million viewers

July 29, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that Saturday’s UFC on Fox 12 main card received a Live plus Same Day rating of 2.5 million viewers.  The rating falls in line with Fox shows during the summer and is better than UFC on Fox 11’s rating this past April.

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 12 received a 1.5 rating and 3 share. The peak occurred during the main event overrun at 3,427,000 viewers.  The event featuring Robbie Lawler defeating Matt Brown was first in all of the key demos for the organization.  Men 18-34 (1.3), Men 18-48 (1.5), Men 25-54 (1.7) and Adults 18-49 (1.0).

ufc on fox 12

Payout Perspective:

The ratings improved slightly from the summer event for Fox the past two years.  Notably, Lawler was on the July 2013 show last year too.  And, even though there was a title fight in 2013, it was Demetrious Johnson.  It seemed like the Lawler-Brown fight had a little more interest.  It also may have helped that the prelims were on the network as well.  The prelims scored an average of 1.3 million and the audience built through the evening.

UFC on Fox 12 overnight rating: 2.02 million viewers

July 27, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that the overnight ratings for Saturday’s UFC on Fox 12 drew an average of 2.02 million viewers in overnight ratings.  According to Television By Numbers, it tied with NBC for highest rated show on network television in its time slot.

UPDATED 07/28/14:

UFC on Fox 12 scored an 0.8 in the 18-49 demo.  Although tied with NBC, it had more viewers.

The ratings only count for the 5:00pm-7:00pm (8-10pm) time slot and does not account for the 30 minute overrun when the bulk of the main event took place.  Its anticipated that the rating should go up with the inclusion of the additional time.

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:  2.02 million

Payout Perspective:

The last two summer events were less than stellar and the ratings reflected this with UFC on Fox 4 (Vera vs. Rua) and UFC on Fox 8 (Mighty Mouse vs. Moraga) doing 2.36 million and 2.38 million respectively.  Saturday’s event had a little more interest with a fight between two fan-friendly fighters.  Before we scrutinize the ratings, we should probably wait for the overrun numbers as UFC on Fox 4 and 8 ratings include the overruns.  At this point, it’s unfair to critique the show since we may see it surpass the ratings of the last two summers.

Nick Diaz back with the UFC

July 24, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Nick Diaz has signed a three fight contract with the UFC.  Diaz indicated he is looking to return early 2015.

Dana White tweeted out the evidence of the signing.

Best quote from Diaz after signing: “I’ve been doing a whole lot of not getting punched around-type stuff,” Diaz told UFC.com.

The move brings a fighter back with tons of baggage but is someone that people are interested in seeing.

Payout Perspective:

Despite being on a two fight losing streak, Nick Diaz is a fighter the UFC needs and is a PPV quality fighter.  One need only look at UFC 158, his last fight against GSP, where his rant about “wolf tickets” and other musings helped the event garner 950K PPV buys and stellar ratings for its Prelims, weigh-ins and post-fight show.  Sure, GSP was his opponent, but it was Diaz playing the villain that had viewers wanting to see weigh-ins and see what would happen on the post-fight show.

Many are drumming up dream opponents for Diaz (namely Anderson Silva), but we will have to see who he is willing to face before getting too excited.  Regardless, the signing adds “PPV depth” to the roster.

Belfort license allows Belfort-Weidman at UFC 181

July 23, 2014

Vitor Belfort was granted a conditional license by the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Wednesday.  The issuance of the license allowed the UFC to announce Belfort-Chris Weidman at UFC 181 set for December 6th in Las Vegas.

With his attorney, Belfort appeared at the Commission hearing to discuss the application for license.  The Commission asked Belfort about a failed February 7th test for testosterone.  He claims he took a larger dose the day before to compensate for missing his biweekly prescribed TRT treatment due to traveling.

Granting Belfort his license came with conditions.  Namely, the commission could test Belfort extensively including blood and urine for the rest of the career.  Belfort would have to pay for the testing.

The commission voted unanimously to give a conditional license to Belfort.

(H/t: MMA Junkie)

Payout Perspective:

For those wondering, Belfort’s attorney Michael Alonso, works at the same firm that represents the UFC in other matters.  Belfort was told the day before the hearing that he’d have the shot against Weidman so I do not know if there was a feeling that despite his second failed drug test; Belfort would be issued a license.

Was the punishment fair?  Belfort will have to stay clean with the extensive drug testing and with him paying for this the commission will not have to expend additional resources here.  The announcement of the fight seemed almost instant after the license was granted.  I realize the UFC talked with Belfort (and Weidman) about the fight but it seemed interesting timing.

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