December 2, 2016
I jumped on with Paul Gift and John Nash of Bloody Elbow for Show Money Episode 14. We mainly talk about the MMAAA and touch on Conor McGregor’s move to obtain a boxing license.
November 30, 2016
Fighters Georges St-Pierre, Tim Kennedy, Cain Velasquez, T.J. Dillashaw, Donald Cerrone and former Bellator MMA promoter Bjorn Rebney announced the formation of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA) at a teleconference Wednesday afternoon.
The MMAAA will focus on an association within the UFC. There were no specifics about the steps they will take to achieve an association, how they will address the UFC in seeking a settlement and how they are funded.
Rebney inferred the possibility of a labor strike if the UFC does not meet the demands of the MMAAA.
St-Pierre stated at the press conference that athletes in the UFC make just 8% of the revenues whereas athletes in other pro sports make close to 50% of the revenues.
— The MMAAA (@Themmaaa) November 30, 2016
GSP’s lawyer, Jim Quinn, was also in attendance. GSP is still in a contract dispute with the UFC although he maintains that he is a free agent.
Rebney, the former Bellator MMA head, stated that he was not being paid despite working on this idea for 2 years.
MMAAA has an office in Anaheim Hills, California and is registered as a 501(c)(6) under the Internal Revenue Code.
There are a lot of questions than answers that came out of this call. As brought up in the press conference, Creative Artists Agency, the rival to WME-IMG, will not be directly a part of the MMAAA per Rebney. However, CAA supports the athletes. Notably, GSP, Kennedy, Cain and Dillashaw are represented by CAA. Its hard not to think that a part of this fight has to do with the ongoing competition between the two top Hollywood power brokers. MMAAA is directed at the UFC. Will there be a point as to when and if it will look to aid Bellator, WSOF and other fighters? Also, will more fighters join the board which is comprised mainly of Americans? Will this create competition between MMAFA and PFA, two other groups seeking to organize fighters? Finally, how many fighters are speculating on this group by the inclusion of Rebney as a consultant? His track-record on dealing with fighters has been notorious.
We shall see.
November 28, 2016
A press release sent out Monday indicates that there will be a major MMA announcement this week. Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, T.J. Dillashaw, Donald Cerrone, Tim Kennedy and former MMA promoter Bjorn Rebney are linked to an “industry re-defining” announcement on Wednesday.
A conference call Wednesday afternoon will reveal the details of the announcement.
The speculation is that another MMA Association may be in the offing. Notably, GSP, Cain, Dillashaw and Kennedy are represented by CAA. Although I can’t confirm, Cerrone may be represented by CAA as well.
This will be an interesting announcement to learn about. If it is another take at organizing fighters, it will be the first with big-named fighters putting their name to it. MMAFA have had support from the likes of Jon Fitch, but GSP is one of the top-tier fighters in MMA. The other fighters are current UFC fighters. We may be seeing the rivalry between top Hollywood power brokers (WME-IMG and CAA) seeping into the world of MMA.
November 25, 2016
MMA Fighting reports that Daniel Cormier is out of UFC 206 with an injury. His title fight with Anthony Johnson is off although the initial plans appear to keep Johnson on the card.
This is the second time this year that Cormier has pulled out of a fight due to an injury. Cormier is coming off of a win at UFC 200 against Anderson Silva.
UFC 206 loses its main event and will have to find another. At this point, there is a featherweight matchup between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis and a welterweight bout between Donald Cerrone and Matt Brown as the top fights on the PPV.
Losing Cormier hurts the PPV as well as puts Johnson in a bad position. He is likely being asked to stay on the card to help the business-side of the event but will have
November 18, 2016
On Saturday night, Sergey Kovalev will take on Andre Ward in a much-anticipated fight for a variety of titles at light heavyweight and will answer the question as to who is the best pound-for-pound boxer. How will the HBO PPV do?
For combat sports fans, November is/will be an expensive month as Kovalev-Ward will be the third straight week for a PPV. Pacquiao-Vargas started the month, with UFC 205 next and now comes Kovalev-Ward. It may be argued that Saturday’s boxing event in Vegas will be the best PPV of the three. But, for the casual combat sports fan, will Saturday’s event be worth the money in a month where you could feasibly spend over $200 on PPV.
Another issue is that Kovalev-Ward comes on one of the biggest days for combat sports in some time. There are two UFC events and a huge Bellator card competing for eyes.
The allure of Ward, 30-0, facing Kovalev, 30-0-1, is tantalizing for boxing fans. Ward, the former Olympian, has been criticized for not taking on challenging opponents. He’ll get one in Kovalev. The Krusher looked invincible as he prepared for this fight but looked human against Isaac Chilemba as he was unable to knock Chilemba out.
It’s been an underwhelming year for boxing on PPV.
April 9, 2016 – Pacquiao-Bradley III: ~400K PPV buys
May 7, 2016 – Alvarez-Khan: ~450K-600K PPV buys
July 23, 2016 – Crawford-Postol: 50K-60K PPV buys
September 17, 2016 – Alvarez-Smith: >~300K PPV buys
November 5, 2016 – Pacquiao-Vargas: ~300K PPV buys
On another note, according to Lance Pugmire, Ward will make $5 million while Kovalev will earn $2 million for Saturday night.
The Alvarez-Khan number has been rumored to be anywhere from 300K to slightly under 600K and anywhere in between. But, the main point is that there has not been a blockbuster fight this year which has drawn truly big “Conor McGregor” numbers. Boxing is centered on the one fight whereas the UFC packages 2 or 3 big fights together. Still, it’s the one star (i.e. McGregor, Rousey) that does the huge numbers for the UFC. Even Canelo Alvarez, the next big hope for boxing on PPV, had an uneven year. While he may have done well in May against Amir Khan, he did not follow-up in September with a strong buy rate. We already knew that Pacquiao is trending down domestically while the hope is that he does better in Asia. As for Saturday, I do not expect Kovalev-Ward to do better than 300K PPV buys due to the aforementioned combat sports competition. In addition, there has been little lead-up for this fight by HBO. The shoulder programming has been less than previous HBO Boxing PPVs and the stars are less familiar to the casual viewer.
November 17, 2016
Attorneys for Deontay Wilder and Alexander Povetkin continue to joust in letters in the lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York. A February 2017 trial date may be nixed due to issues related to finalization of a protective order to iron-out discovery issues.
After a discovery conference, last week, the parties continue to dispute the contents of the order with the court.
The discovery fight centers around a number of issues. One is related to text and direct messages from the phones of Wilder and promoter Lou DiBella. Notably, attorneys for DiBella state that his phone was destroyed in a hot tub over 4th of July weekend. They indicate there are no responsive texts or direct messages from Wilder’s phone.
Attorneys for Povetkin and his promoter, World of Boxing, requests information concerning an injury suffered by Wilder in July 2016. The heavyweight champion’s attorney objected to the request citing it as not relevant and likely the believe that such production of information (if any) would not lead to discoverable information.
From the court record, it appears that the parties are seeking to fast-track the case to trial with little, if any motions, in the case. However, attorneys for Wilder filed a Motion to Disqualify the attorneys for Povetkin. The Motion was then withdrawn by Wilder’s attorneys. Despite the withdrawal, they cautioned attorneys for Povetkin that they would be violating professional responsibilities if they did not withdraw as trial counsel. The crux of the issue relates to two of the attorneys of record involved in the contract negotiations for the Wilder-Povetkin fight. The motion sought to disqualify the attorneys as well as bar them from potentially depose the attorney that they were involved in negotiations.
The lawsuit arises out of a cancelled fight and money sitting in an escrow account. Wilder was set to face Povetkin in Russia in May 2016. A contract was agreed to which included clauses that put over $4.3 million (a portion of payouts for fighters, as well as administrative fees, etc.) into an escrow account as well as a liquidated damages provision of $2.5 million for breach of contract. It was discovered that Povetkin tested positive for the use of Meldonium which Wilder believe cancelled the fight. As a result, he did not travel to Russia for a fight he did not believe would take place. Povetkin’s camp claim breach of the fight agreement since the governing body had to cancel due to Wilder not showing up in Russia. In addition, they claim that they should be entitled to their share of the purse in the Escrow account however, Wilder’s side has prevented the money from being disbursed without a court order.
The discovery fight is not new to many litigation attorneys. The trial judge will need to sort out the situation and allow time for the parties to obtain the information they believe they need to go to trial. It does seem like this case will go to trial although litigation is a game of chicken to see who concedes first.
November 16, 2016
USA Today reports that the November 5th fight between Manny Pacquiao and Jessie Vargas deliver “a little over 300,000” PPVs according to Bob Arum. The event was the first event in years without support without HBO as its PPV distributor.
Pacquiao defeated Vargas via unanimous decision and won a welterweight title in the process. Arum indicated that the buy rate was similar to Pacquiao-Bradley III last April. The initial report from ESPN on Pacquiao’s fight last April was between 400-500K PPV buys.
Pacquiao-Vargas: ~300K PPV buys
Pacquiao-Bradley III: ~400-500K PPV buys
Pacquiao-Mayweather: 4.4M PPV buys
Pacquiao-Algieri: ~300K PPV buys
Pacquiao-Bradley II: ~750-800K PPV buys
Arum intimated in the article that he will not need HBO as its PPV distributor based on the results of this event. If you saw the PPV, Arum is focusing on Asia for Pacquiao in terms of sponsorship and revenue. The card was stacked with Asian fighters and Chinese sportswear maker, Anta, was a visible sponsor for the event. We shall see if Top Rank can recoup some of its losses in the domestic market with international gains.
November 14, 2016
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. In this edition we take a look at UFC 205 taking place at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
McGregor wins lightweight title from Alvarez
Conor McGregor once again backed up his talk as he stopped Eddie Alvarez in the second round to win the UFC lightweight title. He now holds the featherweight and lightweight titles.
It was rather easy work for McGregor who displayed his power and showed no fear against Alvarez including dropping his hands and putting them behind his back.
McGregor cut a promo which included calling the UFC “cheap” for not providing him two belts immediately and apologizing to no one.
In all likelihood, McGregor’s next fight will be at 155 and he’ll likely have his choice of Tony Ferguson or Khabib Nurmogomenov.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 13, 2016
The champ champ pic.twitter.com/iprUKL0Ldx
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) November 13, 2016
Woodley, Wonderboy goes to a draw
Sometimes you have to wonder about coaching. Tyrone Woodley dominated Stephen Thompson in the first round on the ground and you could argue that his dominance deserved a 10-8 1st round. Yet, he neglected to attempt another takedown throughout the rest of the fight. Instead, Thompson was able to utilize his length and standup to stifle Woodley standing with the exception of a couple shots in the 4th round that almost stopped the fight.
An immediate rematch seems like the most logical thing although it seems unfair to a patient Demian Maia.
Jedrzejczyk dominates Kowalkiewicz
Joanna successfully defended her strawweight title with a 49-46 unanimous decision over Karolina Kowalkiewicz. It was a one-sided, 5 round fight with Kowalkiewicz winning a couple skirmishes but Jedrzejcyk earning 4 rounds.
Joanna Violence does not know who’s next but she plans to fight sometime mid-2017.
Attendance and Gate
UFC 205 eclipsed the previous record gate from UFC 129 in Toronto of $12 million. The Madison Square Garden debut drew $17.7 million with 20,427 in attendance according to a UFC official post-fight.
Conor McGregor, Yoel Romero, Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson earned the bonuses. McGregor and Romero won performances of the night and Woodley and Thompson won for Fight of the Night.
Promotion to the Fight
The UFC went all out for its debut including an ESPN Car Wash and various articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. There was local as well as national coverage promoting the event.
The Embedded episodes gave us a glimpse of the fighters getting ready for the fights focusing on the 3 championship fights. You have to wonder with all of the episodes at hotels the UFC does not have a partnership with a hotel chain.
Budweiser sponsored the 6-episode Embedded series. It also had the fighter prep point. Notably, Twinzz.com and IconicFace.com were in the Octagon as well. Both made appearances at UFC 204 in England. Twinzz.com is a hat manufacturer while IconicFaceoff.com appears to be a fantasy sports web site.
Qalo, a wedding ring manufacturer that touts silicone rings for the active person was a sponsor in the Octagon last night. It worked with Chris Weidman in leadup to UFC 205.
In addition, Monster Energy Drink had the center as well sharing a corner with 7-Eleven. MetroPCS, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Geico and Budweiser.
The upcoming movie, “Bleed for This,” the story of boxer Vinny Pazienza was featured during the PPV. The movie was introduced by Michael Bisping.
Tyron Woodley and Conor McGregor sported the Monster logo on their Reebok kits.
Reebok introduced New York-specific UFC 205 merchandise for this event. It also sold Conor McGregor-specific shirts including a “I Whoop People for Truckoads of Cash” shirt.
Odds and Ends
Probably the best UFC Prelims ever as the fights could be its own PPV. Look for it to eclipse the record-setting ratings of UFC 200.
Are MMA purists ok with the WWE-style promotion that McGregor has provided for this event? The fur coat and faking like he was going after Alvarez with a folding chair seems very much spectacle than reality.
Miesha Tate’s retirement seemed out of nowhere. She was still a top-ranked fighter but maybe she sees other opportunities on the horizon.
There should be a rule that all interpreters should not have man-buns as Yoel Romero’s did.
Kevin Gastelum did not make weight once again which eliminated his fight with Donald Cerrone from the card.
Despite the talk about blue chip sponsors partnering with the UFC, there were no big surprises. Budweiser the only real change although Bud Light has been a part of the UFC sponsorship.
One of the storylines from the newfound regulations in New York is the requirement that combat sports promoters needing to provide $1M coverage for brain injury for each fighter on the card. The UFC paid $1,675 per athlete which came out to $40,200 for UFC 205. Boxing promoters have been outspoken in speaking out against this measure which was a part of the law that would legalize MMA in the sport.
Apparently, Bruce Buffer knew he was reading the wrong decision in the Woodley -Thompson fight. However, he can only read what is on the judge’s scorecard. This is why he left the cage to confer with the judges.
No Trump at UFC 205, but there were other luminaries in the crowd including Demi Lovato and Odell Beckham, Jr. (the NY Giants WR also made a cameo in meeting Tyron Woodley on an episode of Embedded.)
Does McGregor really demand an ownership stake in the UFC, or is this just pure hype and bluster?
UFC 205 pulled over 2 million google searches on Saturday night which usually means a healthy PPV buy rate. Also over 1 million searches on Saturday were Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. Rousey searches likely due to the unveiling of the very good promo for her return on Friday, December 30th.
This event should flirt with the PPV record of 1.6 million PPV buys. Certainly, college football and the fact that many fans purchase the event at UFC.com could detract from the overall number. However, with 3 title fights on the main card including the company’s biggest PPV star, Conor McGregor, we should see a PPV buy rate around 1.5-1.7 million PPV buys
November 7, 2016
USADA has ruled that Jon Jones will serve a 1 year suspension after an arbitration on his drug test results last week. Jones’ suspension is retroactive to July 6, 2016 in which the results of an out-of-competition revealed banned substances.
The full ruling can be found here.
Jones’ took a Cialis-like sexual enhancement pill which, according to the 29-page ruling, he contends he had checked to see if it was on the WADA prohibited list, but he did not know the substance he took was contaminated. The ruling indicates that the actual drug he ingested was an 0ff-brand drug similar to Cialis.
Per the ruling, Cialis is not a prohibited substance and its purpose is to “enhance sexual not sporting performance.” The brand name of its active agent is Tadalafil. The Cialis pill is manufactured by Eli Lilly but the product Jones ingested was purchased from a web site named AllAmericanPeptide.com.
According to the ruling, Jones received the pills from a training partner but did not check as to whether or not they were really Viagra.
Despite claiming he did not know that the substance was contaminated, it did not persuade the panel.
Jones will still have to face the Nevada Athletic Commission and may serve an additional suspension or fine.
One year was the maximum suspension Jones faced from USADA because the banned substance fell under “specified” under the WADA Code which means that there are more likely to have a non-doping explanation rather than for PED purposes. Certainly, as ruled by the panel of three arbitrators, the contaminated substance is used for sexual enhancement and not for sports performance. Jones’ attorney, Howard Jacobs, had hoped that the arbitrators would have ruled that Jones would only receive a “reduction to no less than a reprimand” per the UFC Anti-Doping rules.
Instead, in an Epilogue to the ruling the panel writes that while Jones was not a “drug cheat” he is culpable for his actions which cost him a year and reportedly $9 million.
The USADA ruling is consistent with its mandatory penalty so there was no reduction for Jones unknowingly taking a contaminated substance. Despite the fact that Jones admitted to taking the contaminated substance and USADA knowing of the contamination, there was no mitigation of punishment. The ruling reflects the fact that USADA will be stringent as to keeping athletes responsible for what goes into their body. Jones will still need to appear before the Nevada Athletic Commission and this ruling my persuade the commission as to its punishment as well.
November 4, 2016
For those not aware, Manny Pacquiao will be taking on Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday. Without much buzz, Pacquiao returns to the ring which makes one wonder how many in the US will buy the PPV?
There are several factors that contribute to the general disregard for this event.
First, this is the first event in some time in which HBO has not been a part. HBO PPV has been the primary distributor of Pacquiao events with just one detour to Showtime (2011’s fight against Shane Mosley). HBO’s shoulder programming, primarily its 24/7 shows have helped promote his fights. Despite the fact that the story lines for the shoulder programming became repetitive and stale, they were still vehicles to promote the fight. On the bright side, Bob Arum will not have to pay the 7.5% fee (per Yahoo! Sports) it paid to HBO.
Despite the fact that the undercard has some interesting fights including China’s Zou Shiming and former fighter of the year Nonito Donaire, most (at least those in the US) seem to be passing on the PPV.
HBO is transitioning from Pacquiao as it searches for its next boxing star. Later this month, HBO PPV will air Sergey Kovalev versus Andre Ward in as big a fight as there can be this fall. HBO indicated that its budget limited it to invest in only one of the November fights and it chose Kovalev-Ward. While this excuse seems sound, it’s clear that the Pacquiao fight was less appealing. If Pacquiao would have agreed to fight Terrance Crawford, it would have been realistic to think that HBO would have found the necessary budget to do 2 PPVs in a month.
Secondly, Pacquiao’s comments about same-sex relationships has turned a portion of his fan base against him. Pacquiao bases his viewpoints on his religion and tried to backtrack from his offensive remarks. Yet, the damage was done as he lost his longtime sponsor, Nike, and HBO distanced itself from Pacquiao. The casual boxing fan may have been turned off by these comments and will boycott Pacquiao as a result.
Finally, Pacquiao’s PPV star is fading. Pacquiao is no longer the fierce, exciting fighter he used to be. Perhaps the fourth fight (which was likely his last exciting fight in recent memory) with Juan Manuel Marquez where he was knocked unconscious took it out of him but he no longer has the traits of the old Manny Pacquiao. Instead, he is the old Manny Pacquiao. After JMM, he has knocked down an inferior Chris Algieri (UPDATED: he did knockdown Bradley twice in April) but has not threatened to stop an opponent since. Notwithstanding his fight with Mayweather, Pacquiao’s last 4 fights have failed to muster more than 500K PPV buys.
It might be unfair to criticize an aging boxer for not being as good as he once was but it feels as though Pacquiao is hanging on to his career for monetary need. Of course, that is the story of boxing. His purse for this fight will be far less than his prior guarantees and Top Rank is banking on the fight being more of an international success in China than it will in the United States. Pacquiao will continue to fight and he will still have a core fan base that will support him. But, it’s clear that the days of his wild popularity of past him.