May 16, 2013
The Ultimate Fighting Championship video game franchise made its debut towards the end of what many of its fans now refer to as the “Dark Ages” for Mixed Martial Arts. The successful venture occurred just a few months before current owners, Zuffa LLC, purchased the MMA promotion from the near bankrupt Semaphore Entertainment Group.
During this time, the struggling MMA promotion was still sporting a black-eye from politicians and mainstream media who labeled it “human cockfighting”. This was a time before “cage fighting” was fully regulated, sanctioned, or accepted throughout the country. Due to the circumstances, not much was expected from the UFC’s initial foray into the video gaming world.
The self titled release was first made available on a console that many critics and fans now say was ahead of its time, the Sega Dreamcast. The UFC poster-boy and brand ambassador at the time, Tito Ortiz, was a no-brainer as its first cover athlete. The game was first developed by Anchor Inc. for the Dreamcast and released on August 29, 2000. A follow up release was then developed by Opus for the Sony PlayStation (PSX) on November 13, just a few months later. The game was even ported to the Game Boy Color on November 27, just weeks after the PSX release by Fluid Studios. All three versions were published by Crave Entertainment.
To the surprise of many, the game was well received by fans and critics. Popular video game outlet IGN gave it score of “9.1 – Amazing” and was awarded the “Editors Choice” tag. Metacritic, who takes the scores from all major outlets and computes an average score, scored it an 88 out of 100. The game on it’s own merit proved to be a success, but it did more than just provide good game-play to video game fans. Due to word-of-mouth and rave reviews, it served as a tool to introduce the UFC and MMA product to an untapped market. It was the first step the UFC had taken towards trickling into the mainstream, where they could reach young teens and commence the process of converting the non-MMA fan. The video-game playing teen demographic back in the early 2000′s eventually evolved into a sizable portion of what has become key to the UFC’s growth over the years, the elusive male 18-34 demographic.
Much of the success the first UFC video game obtained can be attributed to one key decision… or stroke of luck, depending on who you ask. SEG made the decision to license their product to Crave Entertainment and selected a relatively small Japanese video game development start-up, Anchor Inc.
- The Anchor Inc. Era
Anchor Inc. is a Japanese video game development & CG animation production studio, founded on October 1996. The small development group, which has employed a staff of anywhere between 25-50 throughout the years, was founded by Masahiro Onoguchi and his brother Kohichi Onoguchi. Before starting Anchor Inc, Masahiro Onoguchi worked at Namco, one of the most prestigious Japanese game development studios. While at Namco, he worked on classic fighting games such as Tekken and Soul Calibur. After leaving Namco, Onoguchi worked for a small company, DreamFactory, which was founded by some of the people from Namco and Sega. His strong relationship with the group led to providing animation and support for the Virtua Fighter game series, an original 3-D fighter title released for Sega consoles.
Anchor Inc’s first release was Fighter’s Destiny for the N64, which was produced in cooperation with Namco. Their next release would be their first full-fledged in-house release. The title of that game was “Ultimate Fighting Championship” and was set to release on the Sega Dreamcast on August 2000. Anchor Inc. would go on to release some of the best MMA & WWE games ever developed for that era, though they never made another UFC game after their initial full release.
- THQ Crosses Path With the UFC
With the amount of success and popularity the Japanese MMA promotion PRIDE had amounted in recent years, game publisher THQ decided to acquire the PRIDE video game license from Dream Stage Entertainment. The next step in THQ’s MMA venture was to find a developer to work on the game. Ironically, because of the success the first UFC title had achieved, THQ reached out to Anchor Inc. to develop their PRIDE game a few months after Ultimate Fighting Championship was released. As you can imagine, Anchor Inc was more than thrilled to take on the 2-year project, which involved creating the PRIDE video game engine from scratch.
“Yes. With UFC for the Dreamcast, Anchor was given more attention outside of Japan. When we got the Pride project, we were excited because Pride is very well known in Japan. We got the feeling that we’d be recognized as the Pride developers. UFC was a popular overseas event at the time of our developing the game, so we didn’t really know about the fighters or the skills. But Pride is held in Japan, so we know the fighters, events, etc. We’re more attached to Pride than we were to UFC.”
When “PRIDE FC: Fighting Championships” was ready to release, it had much hype from gaming and MMA enthusiasts. The game walked away with IGN’s PS2 simulation and fighting game award of E3 in 2002 and only created more hype to the much anticipated Anchor Inc follow-up. After it was released in February 2003, the game got many positive reviews but the lack of a few game-play options drew some minor critiques. IGN gave it a score of “8.0 – Great” while Metacritic scored it a 77 out of 100. In the end, the game became a classic, just like the previous Anchor Inc release.
- The Crave Entertainment Era
Crave Entertainment will forever be known as the first video game publisher to release a UFC game, but it released many games for multiple consoles for over a decade. Crave was founded in 1997 by Nima Taghavi and was based out of Newport Beach, California. After the successful release of “Ultimate Fighting Championship”, Crave quickly began to work on a sequel. Since Anchor Inc was busy working on their PRIDE FC video game, Crave partnered with another Japanese developer, DreamFactory, for the release of “UFC Tapout”. Interestingly enough, DreamFactory was the company Onoguchi worked for before founding Anchor Inc after leaving Namco.
UFC Tapout was released for the XBOX on February 2002. The game received some high scores though there were some mixed reviews from the critics. GameSpot gave Tapout a score of “8.3 – Great”, though Metacritic computed a score of 77 out of 100, which was a similar score the PRIDE FC game received one year later. The game eventually became the official Xbox Magazine 2002 Editors Choice Award winner. Though the game had some flaws from the original Dreamcast title, the release by DreamFactory was another success for Crave.
The next step for Crave was to release a PS2 version of the game, which they titled “UFC Throwdown”. This time around, Crave teamed up with Genki, Capcom Production Studio 3 for the release. The reviews were not as pleasant as previous releases and Metacritic computed a score of 68 out of 100 for the game.
After the PS2 release, Crave focused on the Tapout sequel for the XBOX.
“Tapout 2 will feature a completely overhauled core game engine. ‘With the changes in the engine, an enhanced AI, upgraded career mode, and new fighting moves, we’re practically putting the gamer right in the middle of The Octagon,’ said Rob Sandberg, senior producer at Crave Entertainment. ‘Tapout 2 will look and play noticeably different from any previous version, and I think fighting game fans will be very impressed.”
By the time “Tapout 2″ was released for the XBOX on March 2003, Crave Entertainment had lost the UFC video game license. The game ended up being published by TDK Mediactive, though it was still developed by DreamFactory. Metacritic computed a score of 66 out of 100, continuing it’s ratings slide from the first two games it had released.
Crave continued to release games for multiple gaming consoles after the partnership with the UFC ended. It was eventually acquired by Handleman Corporation in 2005 for $95M. Four years later in 2009, it was sold to Fillpoint for only $8.1M due to Handleman’s bankruptcy proceedings. As has become the fate for many video game companies that went through the recession, Crave Entertainment eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
- The Post Anchor Inc Era
After Tapout 2 was released by TDK Mediactive for the XBOX in 2003, TDK did not retain the UFC video game license. This time around, UFC partnered with video game publisher Global Star and previously used development group “Opus” for the PS2 follow-up to “Throwdown”. The game once again received mixed reviews and Metacritic computed it’s lowest score to date, 54 out of 100 for a UFC game. As it turns out, this would end up being the last video game release for the UFC before going on a 6 year hiatus.
Many fans and critics pin-point losing Anchor Inc. studios to THQ and the PRIDE FC game as the culprits for the downward slide of the UFC video game franchise. As it turns out, not only was PRIDE stealing some of the UFC’s best fighters at the time, it also took an essential component of what made the UFC’s first release such a big hit, the small video game development group Anchor Inc.
Anchor Inc’s Onoguchi said the following about the UFC games that were developed after their departure:
“Not fun at all. I want to be honest. First, I don’t like the gameplay at all. And it seems that they put in more modes and features to cover up the lack of gameplay.”
Video game critics shared a similar view:
“Overall, UFC: Tapout 2 has some strengths, but they’re the same strengths that the previous Tapout game had. The game doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre, and the game’s AI flaws make it a very dull single-player experience. Even devout fans of the sport would be better off with the previous Tapout game, or, if they own a PlayStation 2, THQ’s Pride FC.”
The next UFC game would not be released until 2009, by none other than THQ… which we will continue in part 2 of this series.
Tapout (XBOX – 2002)
Throwdown (PS2, GC – 2002)
Tapout 2 (XBOX – 2003)
Sudden Impact (PS2 – 2003)
NOTE 1: Throwdown, Tapout 2, and Sudden Impact cover art features the late UFC Hall of Famer Charles Lewis, Jr., aka “The Mask” from the “TapouT” clothing brand. He is also also an unlockable fighter along with Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta.
NOTE 2: Before there was Ronda Rousey or even Gina Carano, there was Erica Montoya. The UFC was so close to featuring Montoya as the first female fighter in the UFC, that she was put into the UFC Sudden Impact video game as a fighter, which released in 2003. In fact, the UFC was strongly considering a bout between Erica Montoya and Shelby Walker for UFC 51 in 2005, but the match never materialized.
May 13, 2013
Eddie Alvarez produced via twitter a document he claims Bellator altered after he had agreed to the terms of the renegotiation period. Alvarez stated that Bellator changed the matching issue from “all terms” to “material terms.”
— Edward Alvarez (@Ealvarezfight) May 12, 2013
In the October 30, 2012 letter from Bellator to Alvarez sent via email and Certified Mail, the letter states in reference to matching terms with Zuffa: “Upon receipt of such an offer, you are thereafter obliged to produce to Bellator a true copy of the proposed agreement with Zuffa, LLC at which time Bellator shall have fourteen (14) business days from receipt of the full agreement to consider whether it will match the material terms of the offer.” (our emphasis in bold and italics). In a subsequent letter, the sentenced was changed from material to all.
Alvarez had noted this change during his interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour and on MMA Junkie Radio. He essentially cited this as an unethical business practice.
Bjorn Rebney responded to Alvarez’s claims in an article on MMA Fighting. The November 1, 2012 letter was produced which stated “all terms” instead of material terms was produced in the article. Rebney refuted Alvarez’s accusations stating that he was aware of the language and that Alvarez’s attorneys were aware as well. Rebney also responded to several issues regarding pay concerning Zach Makovsky, Cosmo Alexandre and whether or not Bellator attempted to sign Leonard Garcia.
The letter produced by Alvarez attempts to show that Bellator amended terms without his knowledge. Rebney indicated that this is not true and that Alvarez’s attorneys had the chance to review the letters. Did Alvarez’s lawyers not see the November 1st letter? Based on what the Court has opined in the Preliminary Injunction, will the “material” vs. “all” terms matter? If you recall, the Court indicated that it would apply a common sense approach to matching terms. Regardless of one might think, this lawsuit is going to start to heat up. Moreover, arising out of the lawsuit are PR issues which Rebney, Bellator and Viacom must address and determine how to put out the fires. By implicating other issues with fighters, we might see Makovsky, Alexandre and Garcia get pulled into this lawsuit as witnesses.
May 9, 2013
After tweeting his displeasure for his legal troubles, Eddie Alvarez made his appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday to give his side of the story in the Bellator battle. He also made an appearance on MMA Junkie radio Tuesday pleading his case.
Although he said he didn’t know too much about law when talking to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Alvarez gave a legal update on his case. To be fair, Alvarez correctly stated that the case was in the discovery phase.
The MMA Hour interview came after tweeting about Bellator and how Bjorn Rebney was a “grunt” and that Viacom and Spike are “idiots.”
But the bulk of the interview on The MMA Hour dealt with the legal case and a rehashing of the contract matching issue which the Court denied in Alvarez’s motion for a preliminary injunction in January. A favorable ruling would have allowed Alvarez to negotiate a contract with the UFC and leave Bellator behind. However, the Court decided that the factual issue of whether or not Bellator matched the terms of the UFC contract would be determined at a later date. Alvarez stated on MMA Junkie radio that he didn’t expect the Court to grant the Preliminary Injunction.
On MMA Junkie Radio, Alvarez indicated that he talked with Bellator in New Mexico in an effort to settle the case but stated that he could not reveal the substance of the communications. Legally speaking, the settlement discussions are confidential and governed by certain evidentiary rules.
Alvarez claimed that Bellator changed words in his original contract which included an addendum which waived a renegotiation period and allowed an exclusive negotiating period with Zuffa. However, Alvarez claims that a term in the addendum was changed from “all terms” in to “material terms.” The documents do not appear to be in the legal filings in the case. Alvarez indicated he would post the documents on twitter which shows the different terms. However, as of the time of this writing, the documents have not been posted.
Alvarez stated his case well but the issues he argues doesn’t do anything other than the possibility of getting him into more legal troubles. The “matching” issue was already decided by the Court at the Preliminary Injunction in that there would be no decision on the matching issue. Its definitely the Court punting on a key issue in the matter but there is a legal basis for waiting to hear the information provided in the discovery process. However, in the Court PI opinion, it did cite that the Court “must apply a common-sense interpretation to the word “match.” This was in reference to the issue of whether Bellator had to match the Zuffa contract verbatim.
But, why go after Viacom? It may not know anything about MMA, but it is investing money into the sport. Without Fox and Viacom investing in MMA, it would not be as popular as it is today. Certainly, I do feel for Alvarez to a certain extent as he’s been put in a tough position. He no longer wants to work for his employer but his employer is pulling him back in. Perhaps he didn’t know that he’d be in this position when he signed his contract with Bellator or didn’t think that Bellator would put up such a fight.
Regardless of whether or not Alvarez is telling the truth, talking (and tweeting) is a risky move especially in contentious litigation. There is the potential for further claims and using tweets and Alvarez’s interviews as evidence in the future.
May 7, 2013
Welcome to a special edition of Payout Perspective where we take a look at Floyd Mayweather’s latest fight since last May as he took on Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mayweather fights technical masterpiece against Guerrero
It wasn’t exciting but Mayweather showed that he still has it. While Guerrero had his moments, Mayweather took a bulk of the rounds to win by unanimous decision.
One might have thought a change in trainers from Roger Mayweather to Floyd Sr. might have hurt. Aside from forgetting his mouthpiece before a round, there were no issues.
Floyd now has a choice of challengers set for September 14th in Vegas with the prospect of a huge fight with Canelo Alvarez coming May 2014.
Mares takes out friend De Leon
The best fight of the PPV main card was the penultimate fight of the night which featured two friends with the same manager fighting. Abner Mares knocked out Ponce De Leon in the 9th round. Arguably, Mares is the best 126 pound fighter out there outside of Nonito Donaire (a fight that was nixed due to a stall in negotiations) or Guillermo Rigondeaux (who defeated Donaire in March).
UFC fighters should look at these fighters as they put aside their friendship to meet.
Attendance and gate
According to Dan Rafael of ESPN, attendance was a sellout at 15,880 fans and a gate of $9.9 million (via Kevin Iole). The numbers are slightly better than Mayweather’s September 2011 against Victor Ortiz (13,364/$9M).
Promotion of the Fight
This was the first fight Mayweather has had under his deal with Showtime and it appeared that he was on his best behavior to show CBS/Showtime executives he was worth the money.
The only real controversial beef was Ruben Guererro’s tirade over Floyd Mayweather and Sr.’s response. Aside from this flare-up, there was a generated “green screen” trash talk sessions between the two fighters early on but nothing as the fight grew closer.
Mayweather made an appearance during CBS’ Final Four to start the ball rolling for the fight. Showtime had a four part All Access show which was widely available online for those not subscribers of Showtime. CBS also featured Mayweather in a 1 hour special the Saturday before the fight. That documentary did poorly as it was last in its timeslot among network shows.
Aside from the “May Day” commercials, the Mayweather fight was even promoted on room keys and “Do Not Disturb” signs in the MGM Grand.
The Audience Network showed the Mosley-Mayweather fight and the Aydin-Guerrero fight the preceding the weigh-ins to get fans ready for Saturday.
Mayweather will make $32 million from Saturday’s fight while Roberto Guerrero will make $3 million. The $32 million reported to the Nevada State Athletic Commission does not include the ancillary money Mayweather (and possibly Guerrero to a lesser extent) will make from PPV buys, closed circuit revenues, etc.
O’Reilly Auto Parts and Corona were the two key sponsors for the fight. O’Reilly did promotions within its stores and Corona provided promos in-stores where Corona was sold. I don’t believe that there were discounts on the PPV as is customary where Tecate promotes events.
ATT, Valvoline and Star Trek’s “Into Darkness” were sponsors on the mat and above the ring.
As is tradition, Mayweather did not wear any sponsors on his trunks for his fight although he did have Reebok ring shoes. He also wore Reebok gear during the Showtime All Access show.
Roberto Guerrero had multiple sponsors on including Shoe Palace which was the most visible of sponsors during the All Access show. He also had Brabble.com on the front of his shorts as well – a social media video sharing site. He also wore a “God is Great” shirt to the ring which had sponsor California Superstores on the back.
Odds and ends
In addition to PPV and closed circuit, the fight was shown in theaters via NCM Fathom which is the same company the UFC partners with to show its fights in movie theaters.
I was impressed with Paulie Maglignaggi’s television analysis. I haven’t seen him before and thought he brought more info than most experts. Former MMA announcer Mauro Ranallo did an impressive job on the call too. During the survey of stars in the crowd, Ranallo called Neil Patrick Harris’ character on How I Met Your Mother (sidenote: can that guy meet his wife already to end the series) Barry Stinson instead of Barney Stinson. Ranallo actually corrected himself later in the broadcast. I think since CBS is paying for it, might want to get the character names right.
How did the promotion of the fight compare with an HBO promotion? The traditional all access shoulder programming was distributed freely online (i.e., if you looked for it you could legally see it for free) as opposed to the multiple showings of HBO’s 24/7 on CNN and other Time Warner networks. The production was different and I thought the announcing team overall was better than HBO’s usual cast.
Dan Rafael and Kevin Iole (via Bad Left Hook) are both reporting that the PPV buys may be under a million which would be considered a disappointment considering its the first Mayweather fight in a year. Perhaps the lack of buzz, the lack of name-worthy opponent and Mayweather’s lack of brashness attributed to poor PPV buys. Of course, the practical aspect of a $70 PPV to watch just one fight probably contributed to the poor sales. We will see what this means for the future of what Sh
May 5, 2013
Eddie Alvarez will be appearing on The MMA Hour Monday to presumably talk about his legal fight with Bellator. The appearance comes after a weekend of tweets in which he went after Bellator, Spike and Viacom.
Alvarez’s official twitter handle, @Ealvarezfight, indicated that he was moving to train with the Blackzillians. It also stated he made money after selling real estate as to imply that money is no issue at this point.
Alvarez tweeted that there would be no settlement and “let the truth come out in the end.” (ed. note: famous last words).
He also wrote to his 9,000 plus followers that he placed blame for the lawsuit with Viacom and Spike rather than Bjorn Rebney.
In a civil lawsuit, most parties position their case toward a favorable settlement. Alvarez proclaiming that there would be no settlement is a bad move from a legal and PR standpoint. Regardless of what you think of what has happened to Alvarez, its not a good move to tweet, write or be interviewed about this lawsuit without gaining clearance from legal counsel. Just like cops say on tv shows, “anything that you may say (or write in this instance) can be used against you.” Even if Alvarez believes what he says is true, what he writes on twitter may be construed differently by Bellator attorneys.
Moreover, if the Court forces the parties into mediation or a settlement conference and the case settles, Alvarez did not speak the truth about going to trial. It just makes him look like he had no understanding about the legal process.
From an overarching perspective, the goal of MMA fighters is to make the most money out of your short career. The reason why the UFC likes the FOX relationship is that there is more money involved and the product is exposed to the mainstream. Alvarez has to look at the situation and determine what’s best for his fight career. Sit and fight a battle he may actually lose, or try to find a resolution as soon as possible. Trials are long and drawn out.
Unless Bellator is unwilling to enter into settlement talks, he should try to settle for a shorter fight deal with Bellator in order to be released from his contract. Alvarez is in the prime of his career and he does not want to end up muddied in a contract dispute. Although under separate circumstances, a similar contract issue sidelined Brandon Vera for some time and he has never been the same fighter since.
Hopefully Alvarez will cancel Monday’s appearance and/or give generalities of his legal situation rather than talk himself into more problems.
May 1, 2013
ESPN Business Reporter and UFC head Dana White went back and forth on twitter on the state of UFC business. The UFC drew the scrutiny of ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell. If you didn’t know, Rovell covers the business of sports and is as active on twitter as Dana White. Rovell sent a tweet out the following tweet after UFC 159.
UFC is starting to lose a little bit of its edge. Might need to have fewer events. Know guy who paid $50 for a $553 face seat tonight.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 28, 2013
This drew the ire of UFC fans, media and eventually got back to Dana White. And in usual form, he escalates the criticism to make it personal.
Rovell didn’t seem pleased about the “ESPN” remark and defended his reason for inquiry.
After a query to substantiate the numbers that the UFC was still on the rise, White indicated to Rovell that he’d get him those numbers
On Wednesday, three days after the initial back and forth, Rovell received his request. It appears to either be a cut and paste of a Fuel TV press release, a hastily put together word document and/or both. You can click on the pic to see it close up. As you can read, White tells Rovell that Zuffa is a private company.
The following tweet is a lesson in making sure you read what you tweet. White’s response to Rovell.
Rovell did concede that the UFC had some strong indicators of improvement.
Rovell then addressed the data White provided to a follower that believed White had shown the reporter up.
Rovell did make a back-handed complement about the back and forth with White.
He then makes the most sense in the following tweets in requesting information that most would ask about a company’s financials.
Prior to receiving the data from White, Rovell ran a poll for his twitter followers. Its something he does periodically to create engagement. The poll asks whether UFC has mainstream potential. As you can read, a little over half don’t think so.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 29, 2013
POLL RESULTS: 55% of respondents say they don’t think the UFC has the potential to go mainstream sprts.bz/17rLdRl
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 29, 2013
You can also head over to Storify to see the original version of this.
Its an interesting back and forth between a mainstream business reporter and White. Certainly, there are errors on both sides of the conversation. Rovell frames the questions differently. He first states that the UFC has lost its “edge” based on the anecdotal evidence that a friend bought a ticket for substantially less than face value. He then asks about the UFC slowing down financially and would like to see its net profits. White responds over the top. Rovell baits him to provide him data that the UFC is doing better and then White gives him something that can’t be substantiated. Being a reporter, Rovell is upset and White relies on the “private company” safe harbor to protect the UFC from having to release its numbers.
At times, Rovell uses financial information to dampen the mood for fans. For example, when a player drops in the NFL Draft, he’s the first to tweet how much money that player is losing. Still, Rovell is being a journalist here and it would have looked better if White could have just said granted him an interview to talk about it or provided him information that did not look like it was a press release.
April 30, 2013
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at UFC 159 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey where Jon Jones defended his Light Heavyweight title against Chael Sonnen.
Jones takes care of Sonnen, now must heal toe
It was the outcome that most had expected. Despite Sonnen’s promos, Jones did what was needed to stop Sonnen with a few seconds left in Round 1. It was a good thing, because if he didn’t, it would have been interesting what may have happened for Round 2. Jones could not have gone out there with his toe pointed in an opposite direction.
Now, the question is how long will Jones be out and who will be next for him. Anderson Silva? Lyoto Machida? Alexander Gustafsson? We will see.
For the “Gangster,” I hope to see him in a suit as an analyst.
Nelson KOs Kongo
Jones does what he does and Nelson does what he does – knock people out. While Nelson asked for a title shot, it’s likely he gets at least one more fight before there’s serious consideration.
Bisping beats Belcher after eye poke
Michael Bisping showed once again why he should receive a title shot. The TUF alum beat up Alan Belcher but the fight was stopped after a nasty eye poke which was the second gruesome thing on the PPV next to Jones’ toe.
Bisping must now wait in line once again for a shot.
Attendance and Gate
As reported earlier, attendance at UFC 159 placed second in terms of UFC events at the venue with Hardy vs. GSP being first. UFC 159 reported attendance of 15,227 fans for a $2.7 million gate.
This event’s bonuses were $65,000 each as opposed to the UFC standard of $50,000. As reported earlier the bonuses were as follows:
Fight of the Night: Healy vs. Miller
KO of the Night: Nelson
Submission of the Night: Healy
-The Octagon included the usual sponsors: TapouT, MetroPCS, Toyo Tires, Xyience, UFC Gym, Harley Davidson, Dodge, MusclePharm, Alienware, UltimatePoker.net and Bud Light. It also included local sponsor Modell’s Sporting Goods.
-UFC Gym sponsored the prep point. UFC Fit was also prevalent last week at UFC on Fox 7. The move into fitness is a reason that Reebok may be a potential sponsor. Could this be one of the reasons why Dana White met with Reebok officials? Also interesting that a potential Reebok deal may happen and just a few months ago Rampage Jackson could not wear Reebok logos in the Octagon for his last fight.
-Representatives from Doritos were also present as it may have a potential interest in sponsorship.
-Ronda Rousey was featured in a MetroPCS commercial shown during the Prelims. It was also revealed that she signed a one year deal with Xyience
-Jones was sponsored by Nike and had his signature shoes released the week before the event. The shoes sold out quickly although there were limited quantities. Jones actually threw out his shoes to the weigh-in crowd on Friday. He also wore Monster headphones, another UFC official sponsor, at the weigh-ins, to the ring and even when he sat on the stool being interviewed post-fight.
-Sonnen wore a TapouT blue ring robe with a Modell’s patch on the arm. It was reminiscent of boxers or pro wrestlers and appropriate for Sonnen.
-An ironic sponsor for Sonnen was VA Mortgage Lending. As you may recall, Sonnen plead guilty to money laundering in a mortgage fraud case during his realtor days in Oregon. While Sonnen’s actions were not related to VA Mortgage Lending, its still strange that you would want to have it as a sponsor because it reminds people of what happened in the past.
-Phil Davis had a couple throwback sponsors: Affliction and Lugz
When you talk about hype, Chael Sonnen comes to mind. The Ultimate Fighter was to serve as the 12 week promo piece for this fight but it was actually Sonnen’s banter the week or so after the TUF Finale that served as the real promotion for UFC 159.
I really enjoyed the UFC Countdown show this time around especially the Alan Belcher-Michael Bisping back and forth. Perhaps, Bisping can pick up the “King of MMA Smacktalk” when Chael Sonnen retires.
This card produced a couple interesting articles on the issue of race. Tim Marchman wrote an article on Deadspin and Tomas Rios wrote one for The Pacific Standard which explores the issue and whether Chael Sonnen uses race to gain fans. We explore the public relations aspects of Sonnen here. When challenged on the subject of race on ESPN’s Dan LeBatard show, Sonnen deflected the direct issue and seemed genuinely uncomfortable about talking about it. This was something unusual for Sonnen who was on in each appearance he did for the promotion of UFC 159.
Odds and Ends
- Darren Rovell sent a tweet Saturday night which stirred the pot for defenders of the UFC. Rovell indicated that the UFC may have lost its “edge” based on the fact he knew someone that purchased a ticket for $50 with a face value of $553. UFC PR’s Dave Sholler tweeted defending the UFC and its attendance indicating that it mattered and then Dana White sent a tweet professing that its numbers are improving and would prove it by sending it to the ESPN Sports Biz guy. We will see if Rovell gets that information. We’ll have more on this interesting story later.
- The card was deemed “cursed” by Joe Rogan for the various stoppages due to injury. This started with two stoppages due to injury during the Prelims and continued with Alan Belcher’s eye poke and then Jon Jones’ toe. And of course, we get a full on brawl in the stands caught on camera during Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” No word on the deep voiceover between rounds during Bisping-Belcher but it seemed fitting for what happened during the night.
- Sarah McMann v. Sheila Gaff was aired on the prelims twice on FX as a result of filler. But, the fight was the first women’s fight not hyped for the fact it was a women’s fight in the UFC. McMann disposed of Gaff quickly.
- Leonard Garcia-Cody McKenzie was the only fight not aired. McKenzie indicated he was going to take some time off for personal reasons. Garcia may be on his way out of the UFC.
The card was not as interesting on paper as last week’s UFC on Fox 7 and it played out that way in reality. Sonnen did his usual work to hype the fight but many believed that it was a mismatch from the start. The unusual issues during the card confirmed its demise as probably one of the strangest in some time. Although Nelson’s KO and Healy’s submission were highlights, the rest of the night proved so-so. A buy rate of 500K would be a success here and many probably bought it because they were fans of Sonnen and/or Jones as the supporting card lacked intriguing matchups.
April 27, 2013
For MMA fans the thought of professional wrestling is beyond comparison with the real sport of the UFC. Yet, if you want to see pro wrestling in MMA, you need only look to Chael Sonnen.
“Anderson Silva you absolutely suck.” – Chael Sonnen post-fight Octagon interview at UFC 136.
In my opinion, the best start to a promo in UFC History with GSP’s admonishment of Matt Hughes: “I’m not impressed by your performance,” coming in second. Sonnen liberally uses old school pro wrestling microphone techniques to add a unique spin to get his point across.
While we may scoff at Sonnen’s antics, his brash, trash-talk has grabbed himself headlines and main events. How is it that Sonnen was on the short list of fighters sought to replace an injured Dan Henderson at UFC 151? At that time, Sonnen was competing in the Middleweight division. He was chosen (after Lyoto Machida) because the UFC knew he was reliable to sell the fight.
When Jones passed on taking the match with Sonnen, UFC 151 was off and Jones and Greg Jackson took the brunt of the blame for the cancellation. Sonnen took to social media to call out Jones and rail on the champ. Seeing this as an opportunity, the UFC put Jones and Sonnen together as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. Hoping for the social media beef to continue on television, the adversaries actually became friends on the show. As a result, the ratings did not do as well as expected. Thus, no momentum was gained from the show to the fight. Yet, Sonnen has picked up the banter for UFC 159.
Sonnen has done the media rounds from The Jim Rome Show to ESPN. He’s bragged, he’s boasted, he claims to be making $10 million in the Jon Jones fight. Is it because of the delivery that no one seems to challenge Sonnen on his proclamations?
He’s helped promote this fight despite receiving little assistance from the champion. But then again, does the one man sound-bite need a partner?
Sonnen’s unabashed mouth has paid dividends for his career. He will eventually become a full-time talking head for the UFC…and will be the best at doing that job. He looks the part on the set of UFC Tonight of television anchorman. He’s composed, articulate and even if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it sounds like he does.
While there have been claims that Sonnen may use inferences of race in promoting himself to subtly remind people that he is white and his opponent is not, it is hard to verify the truth or falsity of the claim. Old school pro wrestling is known for racial insensitivities (YouTube any wrestling promotion in the 1970s-80s…90s…) and you will find the divide between good and bad may be based just on that. We’re not saying this may be the cause for the inferences of race, but its a possibility. But, the defense or the accusations of race baiting are set aside here. The purpose is to address the promotion ability of Sonnen.
In the end, will Sonnen sell pay per views as he claims he will? Let’s take a look from when he first had the chance to get an extended amount of time in front of a microphone – his fight at UFC 117 with Anderson Silva.
UFC 117: Sonnen-Silva I – 600,000 PPV Buys
UFC 136: Sonnen-Stann – 225,000 PPV Buys
UFC 148: Sonnen-Silva II – 925,000 PPV Buys
This does not include Sonnen’s fight with Michael Bisping at UFC on Fox 2 in January 2012. Still, Sonnen sold UFC 117 almost all by himself. He put the heat on Silva and almost pulled off the upset. I suggest watching the documentary “Like Water” to see that fight from Silva’s perspective. Silva did assist in providing some heat to the rematch at 148. Yet, Sonnen was still the center of attention.
However, UFC 136 seemed like an anomaly. It marked the return of Sonnen from suspension. It was headlined by Maynard-Edgar and Aldo-Florian yet only received 225,000 buys. UFC 159 should do well because of Sonnen’s constant sell for the fight and Jones’ ability to fight.
Do people tire of Sonnen’s gimmick? Yes. Will people stop watching him because of it? Probably not. Sonnen’s tactics in promoting fights are questionable but one thing is certain, he makes his presence known and tries his best to make you take notice.
April 22, 2013
The Zuffa-New York litigation continues on despite reports last month that the parties had entered into negotiations to settle the case. MMA Payout has learned that the New York Attorney General cancelled the settlement conference citing it would not agree to professional MMA in the state under any circumstances.
As a result of the cancelled settlement conference, the parties submitted supplemental briefing on New York’s Motion to Dismiss in response to the issue of whether under section 8905, the statute banning MMA, a professional MMA event would be permitted if it is sanctioned by one of the martial arts organizations listed in the statute and how that interpretation would affect New York’s Motion to Dismiss.
In its Supplemental Briefing, New York contends that even if a professional MMA event could be sanctioned by an exempt organization listed in the statute, it would still not be permitted. New York cites the New York State Athletic Commission, the regulatory body governing the exempt organization in the statute, in arguing that the intent of the statute did not contemplate MMA. The NY State Athletic Commission sides with the defendants in this interpretation.
Moreover, New York argues that regardless of the unambiguous nature of the statute, the Court must look to the actual intent through the legislative history. The state goes on to cite that the intent of the law was to ban Ultimate Fighting and that sanctioning of such activities was not contemplated at the time of the creation of the statute.
Zuffa frames its opposition to New York’s Motion to Dismiss argument on the basic premise of whether it has pled sufficient facts for its claim that the New York statute banning MMA is unconstitutionally vague. It also counters New York’s supplemental briefing with the transcript from the Motion to Dismiss hearing where the New York AG states, “[I]t looks as if one of these exempt organizations could sanction a mixed martial arts event.” (Page of 5 of Plaintiffs’ Response to Defendant’s Supplemental Memo of Law). Zuffa goes on to outline the number of interpretations the state of New York has had regarding the New York statute. As a result, the number of interpretations suggests that the Court cannot dismiss its claims.
While most thought that the lawsuit would come to a happy ending for the UFC in terms of a settlement that is not the case. Although a reading of the statute would suggest that an exempt organization identified in the statute would be able to sanction a UFC event, New York has come back to argue that despite the reading of the statute…that’s not how it should be read. Furthermore, despite what appears (via the transcript) that the AG admits that the statute could have an exempt organization sanction an MMA event, New York argues otherwise.
As we recently learned in the Alvarez-Bellator lawsuit, settlement negotiations do not necessarily mean the parties will settle. Of course, we also learned that it’s hard to dismiss a case on a party’s Motion to Dismiss. The Court has yet to render a decision. MMA Payout will keep you posted.
April 21, 2013
MMA Fighting reports the ratings for UFC on Fox 7 were down slightly from UFC on Fox 6 as it received an average of 3.31 million fans for a 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demo.
The fast national ratings gages the 8-10pm timeslot and does not cover the overrun in which most of the main event took place. Moreover, it does not calculate the west coast time zone as it only looks at what Fox showed between 8-10pm and not 5-7:40pm, the actual time the event was shown live.
The fast overnights for UFC on Fox 6 were 3.77 million and a 1.8 rating for the 18-49 demo.
In the end, UFC on Fox 6 in January received an average viewership of 4.4 million viewers with the main event of Mighty Mouse Johnson versus John Dodson.
Saturday night’s televised card had much more depth and featured a back and forth fight between lightweight champion Benson Henderson edging Gilbert Melendez. It also showed that the audience grew with each fight.
Via MMA Fighting:
The show had consistent growth, with the Jordan Mein vs. Matt Brown fight doing 2.59 million viewers, the Josh Thomson vs. Nate Diaz fight doing 3.18 million and the Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir fight doing 3.73 million.
The show finished second overall among the networks, losing to CBS, which aired a first run airing of Vegas and a replay of The Mentalist in the time slot. But in the 18-49 target demo, over the first two hours, it more than doubled second place ABC (1.5 to 0.7).
The MMA Fighting article suggests that the NFL’s help in promoting its event was a contributing factor in the decrease in ratings. It notes that four Fox events during the NFL season were above 4.2 million whereas Fox events outside of NFL season were only 2.4. Of course, the quality of fights may have contributed to this. Notably, August’s UFC on Fox 4 featured Brandon Vera vs. Shogun Rua and May’s UFC on Fox 3 featured Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller.
In the end, is the UFC gaining on mainstream fans with its Fox relationship? Adam Swift evaluates the relationship and determines that, at this point, the UFC has solidified itself as a good niche sport.
UFC numbers have been solid for FOX. Cost effective niche pgrm w/ a high ceiling. Must be protected, but can win 4 Saturday nights a year.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
Value of FOX to UFC is harder to find. Haven’t made any new stars, diluting PPV cards to meet ratings expectations, no major new sponsors.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
FOX cable platforms have been a step back for UFC compared to Spike. Confused tune-in message and devalued shoulder programming.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
FOX deal was/is a gamble to expand UFC beyond its niche audience into a mainstream sport. Hasn’t happened yet, but doesn’t mean it won’t.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
Worst case scenario $100M in guaranteed TV money cemented UFC as a stable niche sport. Everything else is playing with the house’s money.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
Will the creation of Fox Sports 1 help straighten out the confusion with platforms or continue it? This would depend on whether Fox execs anchor UFC programming on FS1. Moreover, there is still time for the UFC to make inroads into the mainstream. It just has not done so as of yet. The question is whether there is a timeframe that the UFC or Fox has in its projections where the UFC will develop into a mainstream sport. Of course, the definition of mainstream is another discussion itself.