UFC 190 draws 900,000 PPV buys

August 27, 2015

Dave Meltzer writing for MMA Fighting reports that UFC 190 featuring Ronda Rousey and Beth Correia drew an estimated 900,000 PPV buys.  The number would make it the third PPV event this year to draw 800,000 buys.

UFC 189 featuring Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes drew 1 million buys according to UFC.com.  Other estimates have the July 11 PPV less than 1 million.  Regardless, it’s the second straight PPV that has done well based on just 1 fighter.  UFC 189 it was all Conor McGregor and UFC 190 was all Ronda Rousey.

Perhaps supporting the contention that Ronda Rousey’s star is brighter than ever is that there were no noteworthy fights on the UFC 190 main card.  Despite the fact the show went over 3 hours, there was nothing great on the card besides Rousey.  There were two TUF Brazil final fights and Shogun Rua-Little Nog.  In comparison, UFC 189 did have another title fight between Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler to entice fans to buy the PPV.

UFC 190 joins 189 and 182 as top events that have drawn 800,000 PPV buys or more.  No PPV event went over 600,000 in 2014.  In 2013, only 2 events (UFC 158 and UFC 168) went over 800,000 PPV buys.

Ronda Rousey PPVs (via MMA Payout Bluebook)

UFC 157 – vs. Liz Carmouche: 450,000

UFC 168 – vs. Miesha Tate (co-main): 1,025,000

UFC 170 – vs. Sara McMann: 350,000

UFC 175 – vs. Alexis Davis (co-main): 545,000

UFC 184 – vs. Cat Zingano: 600,000

UFC 190 – vs. Beth Correia: 900,000

Payout Perspective:

Early indicators from most outlets reflected the fact that UFC 190 did well on PPV.  The prelims drew 1.3M viewers and google searches topped 6 million.  All of these indicators would point to the fact that Ronda Rousey is, arguably, the top draw in the UFC.  The card had little to support her and she was able to garner 900,000 fans.  The PPV buy rate also reflects the fact that her star is gaining steam.  One might expect her to draw similar numbers when she faces Holly Holm at UFC 195.

Zuffa appeal offers opportunity for court to address First Amendment issue in sports

August 24, 2015

Earlier this month the UFC filed its appeal brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals with respect to its dismissed lawsuit against New York.  The appeal focuses on Zuffa’s claims that MMA is protected by the First Amendment and that Plaintiffs have standing to press their challenge that the law prohibiting MMA in the state is unconstitutionally vague.

For those that are subscribers to the Sports Business Journal, I provide a lengthier in-depth analysis of the implications of Zuffa’s First Amendment appeal as a guest columnist in this week’s edition.

This past spring Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York dismissed Zuffa’s lawsuit which attempted to overturn the law banning professional mixed martial arts in the state.  The UFC retained former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement to handle the appeal which was filed this spring in the Second Circuit.

The two primary issues that Zuffa focuses on in its appeal is its First Amendment claim that MMA deserves free speech protection and that the statute is unconstitutionally vague.

We will focus on the First Amendment appeal in this post and address the vagueness claim in another post later this week.

In its appellate brief filed on August, it argues that live entertainment, including MMA is presumptively entitled to First Amendment protection when performed in front of a live audience.  This is based on the belief that implicit in the statute prohibiting MMA in New York according to Clement, is that the New York law restricts live MMA but does not prohibit the practice of MMA in gyms and training facilities across the state.  Thus, the district court, as Clement writes “missed the forest for the trees.”  Essentially, Judge Wood evaluated the law banning pro MMA in the state from the aspect as to whether MMA is inherently expressive when not part of a live performance.  Clement asserts that it is “backwards” rationale.  “As the Supreme Court has confirmed time and again, performing before an audience is what brings conduct that might not otherwise be expressive within the scope of the First Amendment,” writes Clement.  The brief goes on to further argue that “a law that singles out for prohibition public exhibitions of perfectly lawful conduct is plainly problematic…”

It’s clear that MMA falls within the ambit of free speech and so Clement argues that the state of New York cannot contend that the message MMA live events convey is not entitled to First Amendment protection.  He goes on to argue on behalf of the UFC that the district court dismissed the First Amendment claim, in part, due to the fact that even though live MMA conveyed a “particularized message,” it must be “understood by those viewing it.”  Clement negates the belief citing the fact that whether the conduct involves lives performance before an audience, the case law suggest that there is no other need for further inquiry.  As stated above, the law specifically addresses live MMA and since the law specifically seeks to regulate live MMA, there should be no further evaluation as to whether the audience will understand the particular message.

The response brief from New York will be filed the first week of November.  At that point, the UFC will have a chance to reply to the response brief.

Payout Perspective:

The appeal before the 2nd Circuit will not be decided until sometime in 2016 (if that) as the appellate court does not have a hard timeline to make a decision.  If the court determines that MMA deserves First Amendment protection, it could have bigger implications than just MMA as one might conclude that sports in general could receive First Amendment protection.  Moreover, it may impact technology like live streaming phone apps such as Periscope and Meerkat.  If MMA, and sport by extension, is determined to have First Amendment protection, then what would prohibit an individual from live streaming an event for others to watch online?  Another broader issue also addresses the intersection of a league’s intellectual property versus First Amendment protection.  We have seen leagues and its sponsors attempt to use Periscope with the eventual hope of monetizing it and take advantage of its content.  If the general public is allowed to stream sporting events using their phones, leagues and sponsors face an issue.

Although this was not brought up as a big issue, MMA Fighting’s Marc Raimondi was prohibited from using Periscope during fight week leading up to UFC 189.  It was later clarified to him (according to Raimondi in a subsequent tweet) that he just could not Periscope during the actual night of the fight.  For those wondering, I had reached out to the UFC to see if it had an official policy on live streaming its events.  I did not receive a response.

MMA Payout will keep you posted on the appeal.

Sports sponsorships on the rise but who is benefiting?

August 20, 2015

The International Business Times wrote a feature on the state of sports sponsorships in smaller leagues including the UFC.  Overall, it provides a good overview of the current state of sports sponsorship using the UFC’s recent deal with Reebok as anecdotal information.

The article leads with Stitch Duran’s dismissal from the UFC and includes an explanation from the UFC’s Lawrence Epstein later in the story.

The article addresses the issue of sponsorship clashes between athletes’ personal sponsors and the official sponsors of the leagues and organizations in which they participate.  The most recent example involves track and field athlete Nick Symmonds who was left off the US roster for this month’s 2015 World Championships in Beijing.  Symmonds, a middle-distance specialist won a silver medal in the 800 meters at the 2013 World Championships and is a two-time Olympian.  Yet, the U.S. Olympic team is a Nike sponsor (a reported $500M deal with USTAF) and Symmonds has an individual sponsorship with Brooks Running among others.  As a result, he was left off the team to the consternation of Symmonds.  He estimates that his income is 3 percent from the U.S. Track Team with 10 percent coming from prize money, 10 percent from personal appearances and the rest coming from corporate sponsorships.  The New York Times detailed the sponsorship spat between the runner and the U.S. team as the chasm between the athlete and organization highlights the current push/pull of the business of sports.  It indicated that an athlete like Symmonds could draw $250K-$350K a year which is still below the wages earned by NFL or NBA players.  But, Symmonds’ earnings are probably more than a lot of UFC fighters.

Similar to the UFC-Reebok outfitter policy, the U.S. Olympic Track Team allows for its athletes to wear non-Nike gear but requires them to wear it during designated times (i.e., competitions, ceremonies and other official functions.)  As we know, UFC contracted fighters are allowed to wear other sponsors but cannot wear them during fight week and/or other times where it is promoting a UFC event.

IBT notes that Nike and Adidas (and Reebok since it is owned by the 3 stripes) are spending more money than ever on sponsorships.  Per research firm IEG, in North America, corporate sponsorship spending across all sports jumped 21 percent from $12.38 billion in 2011 to a projected $14.98 billion in 2015.

As IBT outlines in its article, “small leagues” like the UFC and U.S. Track and Field, there is a disparity not readily made up through earnings.  The article notes that the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL negotiate sponsorships and athletes obtain 50% of the revenue via the league’s collective bargaining agreements per sports management professor Dan Rascher.  Of course, the four leagues have unions which represent the players of the league so that there is some facet of representation when leagues enter into these types of agreements.  Any problems with the sponsor deals, the athlete can contact a union rep.

Lawrence Epstein was quoted in the IBT article.  He stated that despite lower payouts versus past individual sponsor deals, “companywide deals provide fighters with stable sponsorship money” as well as facilitate long-term growth for the UFC.  He indicated that 15 UFC fighters will have individual contracts with Reebok by year’s end which indicates that four more UFC fighters will have individual deals.  Currently, 11 fighters have individual deals.

He also stated that Duran wasn’t fired because of his comments about the Reebok deal.

Via IBT:

“Unequivocally, his [Duran] comments had nothing to do with him getting let go. I can’t be more firm on that. There are a variety of reasons that he was let go but nothing to do with his comments on Reebok,” Epstein said. “He’s trying to paint this thing as, he said some stuff about Reebok and as a result, he was let go. It’s just not true. That’s not the reason why he was let go. I can’t be more clear on that.”

Payout Perspective:

The IBT article is an interesting look at the disparity of earnings between established team sports and smaller counterparts.  What should be noted is that sponsorship spending is on the rise in sports which one might conclude that there are good opportunities for athletes to make extra revenue through sponsors.  The UFC, like U.S. Track and Field, have brokered sponsorship deals which include substantial exclusivity that forecloses out opportunities for its athletes.  The response by the UFC, as stated by Epstein, is that these deals provide stability for its fighters and will help the product in the long run.  This is great if most of the contracted fighters are still with the UFC in the long run.

As for the continued repercussions of the Stitch Duran fallout, it is becoming a he said/he said sort of battle.  Epstein contends Durant’s dismissal had nothing to do with his comments about Reebok yet he the timing of Durant’s departure is clearly not coincidence.  Furthermore, White’s “shifting the conversation” about the Stitch departure lends one to think it had to be about Reebok.

Lesnar’s ESPN comments sparked by twitter query

August 19, 2015

Brock Lesnar is making the rounds on behalf of the WWE as it promotes the company’s second-biggest event of the year, Summerslam, at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York.  The biggest news to come out of Lesnar’s appearance was his comments that Vince McMahon is a better promoter than Dana White.

The statement itself is not that controversial.  The 38-year-old Lesnar signed a lucrative deal with the WWE and as he said he upon announcing the  re-signing with the WWE he gets paid full-time for working part-time.  So, for him to take the side of the WWE is not that extraordinary.

But the reason for the question by ESPN was based on a twitter back and forth between Dana White and a fan in which White stated that wrestling is “fake.”  Well, of course it is.  And there’s no dispute there.  Yet, we should probably go all the way back to the source for the response: some guy on twitter.  The question asked by the guy to White is to whether UFC PPVs should be priced at $9.99 like WWE PPVs.

Obviously the second half of the tweet may be tongue in cheek as both White and twitter guy know its fake.

One might assume the question was based on whether the UFC should go to the WWE model of placing its PPVs on Fight Pass like the WWE has done or whether the UFC should charge its fans a discounted rate for PPVs that do not have big stars appearing on them.

White told the twitter follower that wrestling is “fake” and one might read into that response that based on its scripted finish the price point should reflect accordingly.  Still, the back and forth seems rather innocuous.

As with most of White’s tweets, it did not go unnoticed.  WWE Champion Seth Rollins chimed in with a response to White’s “fake” comments.

Fast forward to yesterday in which ESPN hosted Lesnar. The question which got MMA web sites to sit up at their keyboards and take notice was the now infamous White tweet that wrestling is fake.  Lesnar responded with perhaps an honest response in stating that McMahon is a better promoter than Dana White and explained the differences between UFC and WWE.

Payout Perspective:

I would argue that the UFC and WWE business models are similar but not the same. It’s clear that the WWE has taken a big step with its WWE Network as opposed to what the UFC is doing with Fight Pass.  The WWE received steep criticism from the outset with its plan as it essentially invested heavily into the over the top network while planning on moving its PPVs to the platform. Not only did this deteriorate its PPV business, it put off its previous distributing partners that received a revenue split from the PPVs.  The distributors still receive a PPV cut, but it is less than before.

The question about whether UFC PPVs should be $9.99 needs to be addressed because it’s such an illogical question from the start. The UFC business model is predicated on the success of its PPVs. While the company receives revenue from event gates, merchandise and Fight Pass subscriptions among other revenue streams, PPVs remains one of the biggest pieces of the UFC financial pie. Starting this year, it increased its PPV price point $5 to $59.99 which likely meant an increase in PPV revenue. To suggest it cut UFC PPVs by $50 so more people can afford it seems way off the business model. Yet, it’s not wrong for someone on twitter to ask. And perhaps White’s response was appropriate as he was making the point that its business of real fighting is different from the WWE’s.

But, as with anything on twitter, it exploded into more.  While most web sites, including this one, are picking up Lesnar’s comments, the underlying cause for the news is predicated on non-news.  A question from someone on twitter that escalated.  It’s an obvious commentary on the state of what is news nowadays.

ESPN picked up the twitter back and forth from White and asked Lesnar. Thus, what was an innocuous question about lowering PPV prices turned into Lesnar calling out White on ESPN. Of course, just a few months ago, Lesnar showed up in LA at UFC 184 with White and entertained thoughts of going back to the UFC. So, it’s unknown how personal White will take the slight. In the past, McMahon has taken swipes at the UFC with no response by White. One might expect nothing more to come of this since the WWE would like to have Ronda Rousey make another appearance at next year’s Wrestlemania in Dallas. Thus, a working relationship between the two companies is warranted for that to happen.

But then again, someone might ask another question of White on twitter which may once again be blown out of proportion.

Checking in on Spike’s re-branded Friday night

August 17, 2015

On March 13th Spike TV re-branded its Friday night with a mix of Bellator MMA, Glory Kickboxing and Premier Boxing Champions on its network.  MMA Payout takes a look at how it’s done in ratings 6 months in.

“Friday Night Lights Out” began mid-March with PBC on Spike to promising ratings.  The inaugural event drew 869,000 viewers on March 13th.  Since its debut, PBC has aired on Spike TV 4 more times and has not drawn as many viewers.  Excluding this past Friday’s event, it has drawn an average of 664,000 viewers.

PBC on Spike
869,000 3/13/2015
569,000 4/24/2015
772,000 5/22/2015
446,000 6/12/2015

Glory Kickboxing has aired 4 times since March.  It has not done as well as you’d expect with just one show eclipsing 400K viewers.  In its 4 shows it has drawn an average of 320,000 viewers.

Glory Ratings Date
20 359,000 4/3/2015
21 488,000 5/8/2015
22 152,000 6/5/2015
23 284,000 8/7/2015

In comparison to Glory’s events on Spike during the same time period in 2014, you can see that Glory did better last year than this year.  In 3 shows from April 2014 to August 2014, it drew an average of 450,000 viewers.  We note that the last show in this time period was in June and Glory did not air another event until November 2014.  You might recall Glory was on PPV last June.

Glory (2014)
15 354,000 Apr-14
16 498,000 May-14
17 487,000 Jun-14

Bellator MMA has aired 6 times since March 13th and on the heels of its June tentpole event which featured Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock, it has averaged 820,000 viewers.

Bellator Ratings Date
135 607,000 3/27/2015
136 655,000 4/10/2015
137 594,000 5/15/2015
138 1,580,000 6/19/2015
139 764,000 6/26/2015
140 722,000 7/17/2015

This time period last year, Bellator MMA aired seasons with 10 shows from March 2014 to August 2014 with the last one in July 2014.  It drew an average of 642,000 viewers.  Bellator aired its first PPV during this time period.

Bellator (2014)
113 507,000 3/24/2014
114 711,000 4/1/2014
115 830,000 4/7/2014
116 572,000 4/11/2014
117 617,000 4/18/2014
118 701,000 5/5/2014
119 511,000 5/1/2014
120 PPV 5/1/2014
121 668,000 7/1/2014

We note that not every Friday has aired one of the three combat sports.  Below is a list of dates without a combat sports event on Spike TV.

March 20th

April 17th

May 1st

May 29th

July 3rd

July 10th

July 24th

July 31st

Payout Perspective:

So far through 6 months of its new revamped lineup there are a couple things to draw from the ratings.  First, Glory Kickboxing needs help.  One might suggest that the co-promoted Bellator/Glory event in September should help Glory.  Yet, for one reason or another, the sport is not gaining traction with viewers.  Secondly, Bellator MMA seems to be on the rise.  While we cannot conclude that Bellator MMA is substantially better under Scott Coker, the ratings suggest that it is drawing more viewers.  The last “season” of Bellator drew respectable ratings and this year it remains consistent.  Add the stable ratings to the quarterly tentpole event and you can see the room to grow for the brand.

As for PBC on Spike TV, the ratings are on par with Bellator events.  One might think that PBC is not as concerned with Spike ratings as it is on so many networks at this point.  The bigger fights are likely going to be on NBC or ESPN.  With the fights it is putting on Spike TV at this point, it is likely happy with the ratings.  We shall keep watch on how ratings continue on Spike TV Friday nights.

Silva suspended one year, fined $380K by NSAC

August 13, 2015

MMA Junkie reports that Anderson Silva was suspended one year and fined $380,000 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for multiple banned substances found in his system leading up and after UFC 183.

Silva’s suspension is retroactive to the date of UFC 183, so he would be available to compete in the state of Nevada on January 31, 2016.

The $380,000 fine is based upon his $200,000 win bonus and 30 percent of his $600,000 fight purse for his bout with Nick Diaz Super Bowl Weekend.  Silva reportedly made a total of $800,000 at UFC 183.

Michael Alonso, Silva’s attorney requested leniency on Silva prior to the commission’s deliberations.  Silva’s defense, in part, to positive findings in his pre and post-fight drug tests related to taking a sexual enhancement supplement.  The commissioned issued the 12 month suspension based on inconsistencies in the testimony and the perceived lack of remorse on the part of Silva.

Notably, Alonso’s firm also handles intellectual property work for Zuffa.

Payout Perspective:

Based on the defense put on today on behalf of Silva, one only has to shake their head as to whether they thought they had a chance at persuading the commission.  Silva’s expert did not have the information to support the contention that there were traces of the banned substance, drostanolone, in the sexual enhancement drug the fighter took which allegedly caused the failed test.  Recall that his reps requested more time to prepare for today.  The suspension pegs an asterisk next to Anderson Silva’s legacy.  Perhaps not because of his failed test but of the subsequent denial and today’s hearing.  Time does heal all wounds and one might think that Silva can be an ambassador for the UFC in the future.  But his fight career might be over.  At this point, its recommended that he stay out of the public’s eye for now.

UFC 194 set for MGM Grand featuring Aldo-McGregor

August 10, 2015

Yahoo! Sports reports that the long-awaited fight between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor will take place on Saturday, December 12th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Speculation arose that this fight would take place at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas as part of huge extravaganza which would include Tate-Rousey III and perhaps one more title fight.  It grew more credible when the MGM indicated a conflict on December 5th for a concert.

The bantamweight title fight should be supported by another spirited Embedded series as well as other shoulder programming on Fox Sports 1 as well as mainstream promotion.

Payout Perspective:

White indicated that the MGM “moved Heaven and Earth” to get Aldo-McGregor for the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  On December 12th, “Heaven and Earth” will change places (h/t if you get that reference) as we hope the two bitter rivals stay healthy enough to finally meet in the Octagon.  Moving UFC 194 one week may help as it avoids College Football Championship weekend.  The Army-Navy game is scheduled for that Saturday.  The annual rivalry plus regional college basketball and regular season NBA would be the only competitors for that Saturday as no boxing events have been announced so far.

We will see if they add another big fight for 194 to help support the card.  Also, Rousey-Tate III and Rockhold-Weidman look to be headlining UFC 195 January 3rd.

UFC 190: Payout Perspective

August 3, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 190 taking place at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.

Rousey ends Corriea in 34 seconds

Ronda Rousey showed her dominance once again by knocking out Bethe Corriea in just 34 seconds.  It was not the most technical of fights, but Rousey showed power in her hands by flattening Corriea.  While many are calling for Cyborg, it looks to be the trilogy with Miesha Tate this December.

Shogun-Little ‘Nog

It was billed as a rematch of one of the best fights in Pride that occurred 10 years ago.  The 10 years took a lot out of each as the first round had a lot of action and slowed considerably over the next two rounds.  Many fans thought that a failed guillotine attempt would have won the fight for Little ‘Nog but Rua pulled out the unanimous decision once again.  Both will continue to fight but I am not sure if that is the best idea for each.

Attendance

Although announced as a sellout, UFC 190 at the HSBC Arena drew 14,723.  As seems to be a constant with Brazilian cards, a gate was not announced.

Prior PPV events at HSBC Arena

UFC 142 – 10,605 (Aldo v. Mendes)

UFC 153 – 16,844 (A. Silva v. Bonnar)

UFC 163 – 13,873 (Aldo v. Korean Zombie)

Bonuses

Demian Maia, Shogun Rua, Antonio Rogierio Nogueria and Ronda Rousey.   Maia and Rouse yearend Performances of the Night while Rua and Little Nog earned Fight of the Night.  Each earned $50,000

Promotion of the Fight

The UFC Countdown show offered a little more than usual as Ronda Rousey talked about her father after Bethe Corriea’s comments regarding Ronda committing suicide when she beat her.

Rousey also gave an insightful interview during an Embedded feature.

There had to be some concern about the promotion of this fight since it would be in Brazil.  Rousey still did Jim Rome and some other U.S. outlets but not as many as if she were here in the states.  Yet, it appears to have done well.

Sponsorships

The Octagon sponsors included Budweiser, Fram, Sports Authority, Reebok, the movie, “Straight Outta Compton,” Tai-Chi Panda, Brazilian outlet Combate and TNT Energy Drink (like most Brazilian events) had the center of the Octgaon.

Tai-Chi Panda is a video game.  A commercial and its web site featured Ronda Rousey.  The UFC women’s bantamweight champion also wore a Monster Energy logo on her Reebok kit.  Rousey also had a new MetroPCS commercial which featured her mother and the horsewomen.

“Straight Outta Compton” had the fighter prep point and the trailer was shown prior to the Rousey fight.

Odds and ends

Placing the TUF Brazil Finals on the main card was not the best idea.  A lot of discontent from fans and people tuned out.  People seemed mad that the Ronda fight did not start until past 10pm PT.

The TUF Brazil contestants wore generic UFC shorts except for a panel which included sponsor TNT Energy Drink.  One might assume that this was a deal brokered by TNT and/or TNT paid for the spot on the shorts.

The UFC Fan Voting was shown after each fight as it is another way that the UFC can engage fans during the PPVs.

A lot of tweets from mainstream stars in support of Rousey displayed throughout the night and on Dana White’s twitter feed.

The WWE sent a thank you to Ronda Rousey after she dedicated her fight to Roddy Piper.

Corriea had a good gimmick with stating that she wanted to beat all of the Four Horsewomen including Ronda. But, we all know that Rousey is so much better than her other stablemates. The award for the worst tweet of the night goes to Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza for continuing a trend of leaders of an organization badmouthing another promotion’s event.

The award for best tweet of the night goes to the WWE’s Seth Rollins for responding to a tweet from Dana White who was badmouthing (or perceived to be) another promotion’s product.

The tweet from Rollins is in response to White telling a twitter follower that WWE is fake. Rousey had 6 million google searches over the weekend. YouTube highlights also did well:

Conclusion

UFC 190 will tell us whether Ronda Rousey can carry a PPV.  Rousey has not done as much media as she would have if the fight was in the U.S.  But, it still received a ton of searches over the course of the weekend.  It was the number one trending topic overall in the U.S. during the PPV.  Certainly, the casual fan was searching the internet for the 34 second clip of Rousey winning.  This may be a problem when it comes to future Rousey PPVs as fans might just wait to see the fight on Vine…or ESPN.

Notwithstanding the future ways of purchasing (or not purchasing) a Rousey PPV, Saturday’s event will be telling as to whether UFC 184 was just one good night.  Corriea was not a strong opponent for Rousey despite the trash talk.  The question is whether that even matters.  It didn’t seem to matter for Conor McGregor at UFC 189. 

Dana White indicated that UFC 190 was trending better than UFC 189.  It’s hard to say what numbers he might be looking at although one might think pre-buys for the PPV might be one. Couple that with the perceived correlation that google searches equate to PPV success and UFC 190 might be a PPV hit.  I was originally thinking that this PPV would do 400K-500K PPV buys.  However, it appears that it may well have exceeded this.  Anything above 700K would be outstanding considering there was virtually nothing else supporting Rousey’s fight.

Should the UFC suspend the Diaz brothers or Khabib?

August 2, 2015

Ronda Rousey was the big story in the UFC last night with her 34 second victory at UFC 190.  However, the second biggest story in MMA on Saturday night may be a scuffle caught on video between the Diaz brothers and Khabib Nurmogomedov at a WSOF event in Vegas.

The raw footage (via MMA Interviews) shows Nick Diaz throwing a beer at Khabib and the group that he was with while security made an attempt to break up the fight.  Although security was able to break up the groups before anything big occurred, a small scuffle broke out before the Diaz brothers left the premises.

UPDATED:   More of the entourage brawl as the two sides fight inside Planet Hollywood.  Not a good look if you are the UFC.

Dana White was asked about the incident at the post-UFC 190 conference but could not comment about it since he did not have all the information surrounding the incident.  Obviously, the UFC will need to investigate the incident and gather facts about what went down.  The question is whether or not the UFC will suspend any of the contracted fighters involved.

The UFC Fighter Conduct Policy which the fighters (likely) agree to when signing their deals would govern a situation like this.

From the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy:

Fighters shall conduct themselves in accordance with commonly accepted standards of decency, social conventions and morals, and fighters will not commit any act or become involved in any situation or occurrence or make any statement which will reflect negatively upon or bring disrepute, contempt, scandal, ridicule, or disdain to the fighter or the UFC.

This contractual provision reflects the UFC’s broad requirement that its contracted fighters act in a legal, ethical, and responsible manner and avoid conduct detrimental to the integrity of the UFC organization.

Standard of conduct:

“…Responsible conduct advances the interests of the sport and the fighters.  Conversely, irresponsible conduct by a fighter tarnishes the reputation of both the affected fighter and the UFC and undermines the positive image set by other fighters.”

The policy goes on to list instances which fighters may be disciplined.  While the fight may not necessarily fit into one of the examples, it’s clear brawling at a public event (especially at another promotion’s event) can be construed as a violation.

World Series of Fighting has banned the Diaz brothers from all WSOF events following Saturday night according to MMA Fighting.

Payout Perspective:

The key language of the policy is that a violation of the fighter conduct policy “may” result in discipline.  The UFC could conclude, after an investigation, that the scuffle was inconclusive as to which group started it (sure the video shows the Diaz beer throw but what might have happened before) and may not assess a suspension.  But should the UFC suspend the fighters since its clear this is bad for the image of the UFC?  Clearly, this incident can be construed as a violation of the standard of conduct policy.

Nick Diaz is likely suspended due to failing his drug test this past February so the UFC might actually tack on another suspension in addition to whatever might happen to Nick with the NSAC.  As for Nate Diaz and Khabib, we shall see what the UFC does.

Can Rousey carry another UFC PPV?

July 31, 2015

How will UFC 190 fare Saturday?  It’s the second straight event where Ronda Rousey is the selling point for the PPV.

The last time out, Rousey and Cat Zingano drew approximately 590,000 PPV buys at UFC 184 in February.  It was a success considering the undercard was not very strong.  We predicted 184 to draw between 350,000-375,000 PPV buys.  However, with the event in Los Angeles, there was a good amount of media coverage which probably helped.  She drew 1 million google searches on fight night and another 200,000 on Friday.

Prior to UFC 184, she drew only 350,000 PPV buys for UFC 170 against Sara McMann.

This time around the UFC is garnering some google searches.  Perhaps a bit of those searches have to deal with the passing of Rowdy Roddy Piper and that Rousey has indicated that he is dedicating her fight to his memory.  Rousey, a pro wrestling fan, drew her nickname from Piper.

August PPVs are not usually strong so UFC 190 should be interesting.  Last year, the UFC cancelled August’s UFC 176.  In 2013, the UFC had two August PPVs UFC 163 (180,000 PPV buys) and UFC 164 (270,000 PPV buys) which drew a combined 450,000 PPV buys.  In 2012, a Benson Henderson-Frankie Edgar fight drew just 190,000 PPV buys. (All PPV buys via MMA Payout Blue Book)

Payout Perspective:

One might expect that UFC 190 will exceed the past 3 August PPVs.  However, there are several things going against the PPV.  First, the lack of media hits for Rousey this week.  Maybe it’s unfair to compare the exposure she received with a PPV in Los Angeles, but clearly being in Brazil did not help.  Even the Embedded episodes seem to come out a little slower this time around.  Second, Saturday night PBC will hold its first major event on ESPN with Danny Swift fighting Paulie Malignaggi.  It will be interesting to compare the UFC Prelims ratings on FS1 with the boxing ratings on ESPN as the two overlap.  Will combat sports fans defer to boxing instead of paying $60 to watch Rousey likely destroy her opponent?  We shall see.

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