UFC and 7-Eleven agree to sponsorship deal

August 28, 2017

Sports Business Journal reports that 7-Eleven has agreed to become the official convenience store of the UFC.  The partnership deal will run through the end of the year but it may be extended depending on the results.

The two companies shared data about their customers and the convenience store believed that the UFC’s millennial fan base was an attractive opportunity.

The home of the Slurpee and Big Gulp has appeared in the Octagon for UFC events including most PPVs this past year.  The financial terms were not disclosed.  The 7-Eleven stores in the U.S. and Canada will participate in UFC promotions.

7-Eleven will offer “Peel & Win” sweepstakes featuring a multitude of prizes which will include discounts on UFC Fight Pass subscriptions to UFC championship belts.  The sweepstakes starts Friday.

The UFC and 7-Eleven have worked together when other UFC sponsors have launched activations in its stores.  But, this will be the first time the two have worked together.

Payout Perspective:

Despite just going through the end of the year, this is a good opportunity for the UFC.  7-Eleven has appeared in the Octagon with Monster Energy during UFC events and is attracted to the young fan base.  The activation of peeling stickers off of beverage cups is not a new one, but something that gets people to purchase a bigger size to play the game.

Jon Jones notified of potential USADA violation for failed test

August 22, 2017

Jon Jones was notified of a potential USADA violation stemming from an in-competition drug test occurring after the UFC 214 weigh-ins on July 28th.  He now faces a four-year suspension from the UFC due to his second violation of the company’s anti-doping policy.

UPDATED: Via ESPN’s Brett Okamoto.

The UFC has produced its statement regarding the news:

The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Jon Jones of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an in-competition sample collected following his weigh-in on July 28, 2017.

USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case involving Jones, as it relates to the UFC Anti-Doping Policy and future UFC participation. Under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full and fair legal process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed. The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) also retains jurisdiction over this matter as the sample collection was performed the day before Jones’ bout at UFC 214 in Anaheim, CA, and USADA will work to ensure that the CSAC has the necessary information to determine its proper judgment of Jones’ potential anti-doping violation.

Additional information will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.

Through Jones’ agent, Malki Kawa, the former UFC light heavyweight champion released a statement:

We are all at a complete loss for words right now. Jon, his trainers, his nutritionists and his entire camp have worked tirelessly and meticulously the past 12 months to avoid this exact situation. We are having the samples tested again to determine the validity or source of contamination. Jon is crushed by this news and we are doing whatever we can as a team, to support him.

It is believed that Jones tested positive for an anabolic steroid.  Jones tested positive for clomiphene and letrozol  prior to UFC 200 in July 2016.

Payout Perspective:

Years from now we will wonder how good Jones could have been.  But with this new finding, its clear that he will be out for some time.  Even if the ruling is overturned, and the four years are reduced, months, maybe a year will go by without clarification.  It seems, once again, that Jones may have taken a non-FDA supplement which likely did not include all of its contents on its label.  Recall, Jones’ previous failure was due to a “dick pill” that was sold online.  Unfortunately, for as many chances Jones receives, he hands back disappointment to you each time.

Show Money Episode 19 talks Mayweather-McGregor (of course)

August 22, 2017

It’s fight week and of course Show Money has to talk about it.  As always, I jump on with Paul Gift and John Nash of Bloody Elbow

Commission grants “one-time” exception to allow 8oz gloves for Mayweather-McGregor

August 16, 2017

At its monthly commission meeting, Nevada has approved 8-ounce gloves for Mayweather-McGregor for Saturday, August 26th.  The vote among commission members was unanimous.

The change departs from its longstanding rule of 10-ounce gloves for fights at 154 pounds and above.  There were three stipulations that went along with this waiver of the rule.  First, the gloves will be inspected by NSAC Chairman Anthony Marnell and executive director Bob Bennett, the gloves must be submitted to the NSAC after the fight and those gloves being used for a study on glove size conducted by the NSAC.

It was noted in the commission discussion that this would be a “one-time exception.”

MMA Junkie has the video below:

Payout Perspective:

The debate on the glove issue deals with the potential for bigger fighters to cause more damage with smaller gloves. With the passage, it would seem that McGregor would have an advantage. It could mean that a knockout could happen more so than with 10 ounce gloves. For the cynic, it also draws more appeal with the potential that McGregor could score a huge upset. Honestly, I did not think there would be a problem with passage. Unfortunately, fighter safety sometimes takes a backseat to entertainment value and money. This is going to be a huge money fight and the fighters and promoters are seeking as many people to open their wallets for it, regardless of the potential safety issues.

Zuffa to hand over 6 documents previously privileged in Antitrust lawsuit

August 9, 2017

The Court in the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit has reviewed 86 documents from the company’s privilege log which identifies documents that it is withholding due to Attorney Client Privilege.  Of the 86, it has ordered it hand over 6 documents from the list.

The Order, dated August 4, 2017, relates to an Emergency Motion to Compel Production of Documents Withheld on Privilege Ground and for Other Relief.  Plaintiffs had requested the motion be decided before depositions scheduled in mid-July and early August.  The Court could not comply with the request but required Zuffa to produce 25% of Dana White’s documents withheld on the basis of privilege for “in camera” review.  This essentially means that the Court reviews the withheld documents to determine whether or not they are privileged.  Due to the voluminous amount of documents, the Court requested a sliver of the documents.  Of 86 total documents reviewed, 6 were deemed not privileged.

Order re In Camera Review by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

In general, documents that are cited as Attorney client privilege are those in which ask an attorney for its legal impression, opinion or asking for legal advice.

The Order below details the documents.  Briefly, they are:

  1. An August 16, 2011 press release which UFC claimed was reviewed by legal counsel. The release was about an agreement reached with Fox.  Likely, the news of the rights agreement with the network.
  2. An October 3, 2006 email chain between Kirk Hendrick (UFC legal counsel) to Lorenzo Fertitta which appears to be about a bonus for Mirko CroCop for signing a contract.
  3. An October 8, 2007 email chain regarding a “Joe Hand Update.” Hand is the PPV distributor for the UFC.  It appears to be negotiations between the two sides related to a new deal.
  4. A May 23, 2003 email which claims to be providing legal advice regarding broadcasting agreements. It is an email from Hendrick to Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White regarding “iN Demand and DirecTV paying for Lindell (sic) vs. Ortiz?”  According to the Order it requests, “input from the recipients about Mr. Hendricks’s proposal for “aggressively” telling Zuffa’s PPV partners to reduce their fees for major fights.  The last paragraph of the email does include legal advice which the Court will require Zuffa to redact prior to disclosing.
  5. A September 29, 2008 email from Hendrick to Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White, Lawrence Epstein and John Mulkey regarding “our final draft” of an agreement with Affliction. It relates to an agreement “Zuffa believes it reached with Affliction.”  It is hard to decipher whether the acquisition was related to the clothing brand or short-lived fight promotion or something else.
  6. An October 10, 2005 email chain which discusses the dollar amount of a media buy Zuffa will purchase from DirecTV. There were portions of the chain that was produced but an email between Bonnie Werth of the UFC and Hendrick were not disclosed.  The Court determined that Werth did not ask for legal advice from Hendrick and privilege does not apply.  Werth discusses Zuffa’s evaluation of DirecTV net revenue from 2003 to 2005 without UFC media buys and provides the media buys Zuffa is willing to purchase.

Payout Perspective:

In certain instances, in the discovery process, when documents which include an attorney on them or in the email chain, it is flagged by attorneys as the potential as having attorney-client privilege.  Did the UFC withhold documents on purpose or were they being aggressive with its protection of possible privileged information?  Maybe both.  Notably, the Court could only review a smattering of documents and thus there might be documents UFC has in its possession that are still withheld that should not be.

Hume-OneFC and Plaintiffs in UFC Antitrust Lawsuit file briefs regarding subpoenas

August 7, 2017

Attorneys representing Matt Hume and Group One Holdings PTE LTD., the holding company for OneFC has filed a response to Plaintiffs Motion to Compel the Deposition of Matt Hume.  Plaintiffs have also filed its response to Hume’s Motion to Quash or Modify its Subpoena to Hume, a OneFC executive.

Hume is an officer in the Asian-based MMA promotion, OneFC.

Hume’s attorneys argue that Plaintiffs in the Antitrust lawsuit are trying to pull an end around into improperly attempting to obtain OneFC’s “confidential and proprietary business information.”  They argue that Group One is a Singaporean company that is not subject to jurisdiction in the United States.  Hume’s attorney assert that it the Plaintiffs seek to obtain documents from the company, it “must follow the procedures adopted by the Hague Convention.”  Moreover, they claim that Hume does not have access to the financial information sought by Plaintiffs.  This process does not have a specific timeframe as to when letters of request must receive a response but it is understood (within the context of European regulation) that it is 90 days.  Yet, there does not seem to be a hard and fast rule.  The average time according to one procedure manual is that it is 6 months to a year for a response which creates problems with US discovery schedules.

Opposition to Subpoena Filed by Hume by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Hume argues that Mr. Hume’s deposition, if taken, cannot be used to obtain Group One’s confidential information.  The concern is that a “fishing expedition” would take place in which the Plaintiffs would be able to ask Hume, under oath, specific financial, business and confidential information about OneFC without using the proper channels to obtain the information.  Hume’s attorneys conceded that if a deposition were to take place, the Court should prohibit inquiry into Group One’s competitively-sensitive business information.  It also opposed any fees needed to be paid by Hume or OneFC as a result of this motion.  Plaintiffs claimed in excess of $21,000 for having to file the motion to compel.

Plaintiffs oppose Matt Hume and One FC’s Motion to Quash or Modify the Subpoena. Plaintiffs cite a declaration Hume submitted on behalf of Zuffa in the Antitrust Lawsuit which states “Group One Holdings compete with Zuffa to sign professional MMA fighters” and “One Championship is not a minor league or feeder league for the UFC.” Based on the fact that Hume’s title at OneFC is that of “Vice President,” Plaintiffs suggest he should have access to business documents – a statement Hume’s attorneys deny.

Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Motion to Quash Hume Subpoena by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Despite the Nevada Court’s stating that OneFC should submit to the subpoena, Hume’s attorneys claim that it is misrepresenting the Court’s statements. Notably, a minute order stated that Plaintiffs could issue a subpoena to OneFC but Hume’s attorney stated that it would not accept service citing that it must abide by The Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad.

In addition, Hume’s attorneys are opposing a motion to transfer this issue to the District Court of Nevada. You might recall that the District Court of Los Angeles transferred a discovery dispute to Nevada involving Bellator.

Payout Perspective:

The dispute is not a sexy substantive issue but an important procedurally issue if Plaintiffs believe that OneFC’s information is helpful for their case. Despite the Nevada Court granting the right for Plaintiffs to issue a subpoena, it does not give specifics in its order. As attorneys for Hume and OneFC, they saw the issue with the order and the fact that to ascertain the information from its foreign client, it must go through a process and not through Hume. The motion to transfer the case to Nevada makes sense for Plaintiffs but Hume’s attorneys will try to keep it in Washington state where they might receive a more favorable ruling. MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Report: UFC 214 draws 850,000 PPV buys

August 7, 2017

ESPN’s Darren Rovell reports that the UFC 214 held July 29th featuring Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier drew 850,000 PPV buys per sources.  The number includes US, Canada, Australia and digital platforms like UFC.TV.

The 850,000 PPV buys bests Jones-Cormier I at UFC 182 in January 2015.  UFC 182 drew 800,000 on PPV.

UFC 214 is the best buy rate since Ronda Rousey’s return against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 in December 2016.  The first round stoppage of Rousey by Nunes drew 1.1 million buys.

UFC 214 also featured Tyron Woodley defending his welterweight title against Demian Maia and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino winning the Women’s Featherweight title from Tonya Evinger.

Payout Perspective:

Despite the fact that Dana White indicated that the PPV was tracking 1 million PPV buys, 850,000 is a very good number.  While the cynic may claim that it took 3 title fights and a very good Lawler-Cerrone fight to reel in 850,000 buys, the event has to be considered a positive for the new owners.  The first half of 2017 has been sluggish in PPV sales and this event helped create some momentum for the rest of the year.  It also brings up a question as to whether Jon Jones is a major draw or was it the rivalry that stoked fans to purchase the PPV.

Show Money Episode 18 reviews WME-IMG’s first year of UFC ownership and more

August 5, 2017

Its another episode of Show Money, I hop on with John Nash and Paul Gift of Bloody Elbow to discuss WME-IMG’s first year of ownership of the UFC, Bellator’s latest PPV and more.

UFC 214: Payout Perspective

August 1, 2017

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take you to the Honda Center in Anaheim, California for UFC 214.

Jones returns to win back the UFC Light Heavyweight Title

The matchup finally happened and DC looked much better than their initial fight.  However, a headkick in the third round undid any momentum Cormier might have had as it was beginning of the end.  Maybe the fight was stopped too late as Jones reigned punches and elbows on a hurt Cormier.

Jones gave one of the best post-fight interviews in the Octagon as he praised Cormier and aspired to be more like him.  Whether or not you believed him is up to you but for his sake hopefully Jones can keep on the straight and narrow.

Should Cormier have been allowed to leave the Octagon as it was clear he was still not aware of what happened?  Should Joe Rogan have interviewed him after?  There was a lot made about Cormier crying after the fight but it’s clear that he had waited so long for this fight and wanted to beat Jones dearly.  The game plan was working out but one headkick spelled the doom.  You have to feel for him and it’s clear, similar to Ronda Rousey after the Holly Holm fight, that they should have left DC alone.  The footage of DC wandering around after being KO’d is hard to watch and you have to wonder why his corner was not able to corral him and sit him down.

The big news going forward after this is that Jones called out Brock Lesnar.  Lesnar is retired and still must serve out his USADA suspension.  News that he had put his name in the active testing pool were not true.  So, if this fight were to happen the earliest we might see this is July 2018.  In the meantime, it would be nice to see a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson.

Woodley wins but loses

Tyrone Woodley pitched a shutout with Demian Maia as he stuffed each of the 26 takedown attempts of the BJJ specialist which negated Maia’s path to victory.  The only problem with this is that Woodley did not supply much offense.  While Woodley displayed one of the best defensive fights in recent memory, the name of the game is excitement.  Even though Woodley announced he would fight GSP at MSG in November post-fight, Dana White had other thoughts.  Due to his performance, White announced GSP-Bisping for that date further distancing the relationship between Woodley and the UFC.

Cyborg wins her title

Let’s face it this division was meant for Cyborg Justino.  When a Megan Anderson fight was nixed and Tonya Evinger was her replacement, it gave fans all the more reason to think Justino would take this title.  Evinger did her best but could not match Cyborg here.  Despite Germain de Randamie winning the title against Holly Holm, Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz threw shade at GDR for not wanting to face Cyborg.  The only fight you would think happens in this division is a fight with Holly Holm.

Attendance and gate

It was a new record for MMA events at the Honda Center with 16,610 fans for a live gate of $2,448,870.00.  With a variety of great UFC events held at the venue, including UFC on Fox 1, this event did the best of all of them.

Bonuses

The bonuses went to Jones, Vokan Oezdemir, Brian Ortega and Renato Moicano.  Ortega and Moicano earned the Fight of the Night as Ortego submitted Moicano in the 3rd round with a back and forth fight.  Oezdemir vaulted into the Light Heavyweight title picture with a KO of former contender Jimi Manuwa and Jones won with his stoppage of DC.

The Curran-Albu fight could have earned a FOTN but the Ortega sub probably was the deciding factor.  Ricardo Lamas also had a potential Performance Bonus based on his stoppage of Jason Knight.

Payouts

Daniel Cormier earned $1 million and Jon Jones drew $500,000 for the main event.  A total of 11 fighters made a reported 6 figures for UFC 214.  In comparison (and perhaps unfair), the total reported salaries from PFL Everett was $376,5000.  3 fighters made more than that at UFC 214.

Tyrone Woodley made $500,000 for his title defense against Damian Maia.

Promotion of the Fight

The Summer Kickoff press conference a couple months ago kicked off the run up for this event.  Obviously, everyone held their breath that this fight would happen considering the past problems with booking the rematch.

The UFC put on some great video promos for UFC 214 featuring Jones and Cormier.

Notably, the Embedded series focused a lot on Cyborg and less on the Woodley-Maia co-main.  Whether it was logistics since Cyborg trains in Southern California or a choice to push Cyborg more than Woodley.  Also, no Cerrone antics on the Embedded which was disappointing.

Sponsorships

The sponsors in the Octagon at UFC 214 with Toyo Tires, MetroPCS, Budweiser, Harley Davidson, Monster Energy, UFC Mobile, Dana White’s Contender Series on Fight Pass, Gruntsyle.com, Performance Nutrition and 7-11.  Monster Energy had the center of the Octagon.  The UFC Mobile game was also featured in the Octagon.

HSS was a new sponsor on the telecasts as it sponsored the fight clock.

Performance Nutrition sponsored the Embedded episodes this time around.

Also, 7-Eleven, which has shared signage with Monster Energy in one of the Octagon posts.  It also sported the Big Gulp logo during the broadcasts as well as voiceovers about the convenience store.

Tyron Woodley, Jon Jones and Donald Cerrone were some of the fighters sponsored by Monster Energy.

Metro PCS used Facebook Live and Periscope to promote UFC 214 during the event.

Interesting to note that while they did show Mayweather-McGregor insets during the telecasts, there was nothing on the mat or Octagon promoting the fight.

Odds and ends

Before we talk UFC 214, I went to PFL Everett, Washington Saturday night.  On Friday afternoon, I interviewed Carlos Silva and Ray Sefo.  During the Yushin Okami fight, I heard a heckler yell out to Okami, “Remember Pearl Harbor,” which is in reference to Okami being Japanese and that’s really about it because it made no real sense except the guy was a racist.  He followed up with “Come on, we were all thinking it.”  Actually, no I’m sure a lot of people were not thinking racist thoughts because you see a Japanese guy.  There were some murmurs and snickers from people around me which is disturbing as well.  Unfortunately, it goes to show you that racism still persists and people are not afraid to express it.

The Prelims aired on FXX and despite the fact that it aired on a channel different than its usual spot, I suspect that these fights will do well ratings-wise.  No problems with finding the channel as it drew 866,000 viewers and peaked over 1 million during the Sterling-Barao fight.

It’s always awkward to see fighters from other organizations cornering their teammates.  Notably at UFC 214 we saw Tito Ortiz in Cyborg’s corner and Ben Askren with Tyrone Woodley.

CSAC prevented Renan Barao from cutting down to 135 pounds and his fight with Aljamain Sterling was at a catchweight of 140.  Despite a request, Sterling was not given more money for accepting the catchweight fight.

Also of note Sterling and Al Iaquinta are getting into the real estate business.  I feel a reality show on UFC Fight Pass upcoming.

Three interesting notes in MMA journalism at UFC 214.  First, the MMAJA had its first meeting.  The second was Luke Thomas was shut down by Jon Jones after asking a question.  While the question is subject to scrutiny, Jones’ utter refusal and the subsequent applause by fans goes against what a lot of MMA fans want, which is for journalists to ask questions and fighters to answer.  Granted, the question was probably not going to reveal anything as Jones is media trained but he still should have answered it.

Joe Rogan came under scrutiny as he decided to interview Daniel Cormier after it was clear he displayed the symptoms of someone that suffered a concussion.  Rogan stated that he wanted to give Cormier a chance to talk which is fair.  Yet, it seemed like the production crew that saw the footage of Cormier and/or DC’s corner could have prevented Rogan from making this decision.  Cormier did not say anything out of order but he could have which would have been awkward for live PPV.  Rogan apologized the next day via social media.  Some didn’t think the apology was enough but it does come into question the health of a fighter versus entertainment.  Certainly, fighters should not be interviewed after a head injury.  But, that is balanced with wanting to hear the raw emotions of the fight.  Rogan knew he probably shouldn’t interview Cormier (recall the Alistair Overeem interview after he lost to Stipe Miocic post-fight where Overeem thought Miocic tapped), but this was a big moment and the end of a heated, personal rivalry.  From the entertainment perspective, fans wanted closure and hear both sides of the story.

The three-man booth of Anik, Cruz and Rogan is still going through growing pains with Cruz and Rogan stepping over each other at times.

There were stars at the fights but forget all of them.  The Rock was in the building

Quotes of the night:

“Jarred Brooks can cuss ladies and gentlemen.”  – Jon Anik after Brooks’ post-fight interview

‘“I don’t know what’s happening in my hands, but that’s dynamite.”  Vokan Oezdemir after ending Jimi Manawa in less than 1 minute in R1.

There were over 2 million google searches for UFC 214 Saturday night.

Conclusion

This event seemed less-hyped than UFC 182 which was sold solely on Cormier-Jones.  Yet, the depth of this card would seem to help with the UFC casual fan.  The return of Jon Jones probably helped with last-minute buys as folks probably wanted to make sure that he would be fighting.  Will it surpass 1 million buys?  With over 2 million google searches it’s a possibility.  But, I think this event lands somewhere around UFC 182 and expect that it does the best for 2017 with 800,000 buys.

Payout Exclusive: PFL’s Ray Sefo and Carlos Silva

July 28, 2017

MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with Professional Fighters League (“PFL”) President Ray Sefo and PFL CEO Carlos Silva right before weigh-ins on Friday afternoon ahead of its Saturday night event: PFL Everett.

The main card from the Xfinity Arena in Everett, Washington includes MMA veterans Jake Shields and Yushin Okami.  In addition, former UFC heavyweight Jared Rosholt will be in action against Nick Rossborough.  The main event features undefeated Featherweight Andre Harrison facing Steven Rodriguez.  It airs Saturday night with the main card on NBC Sports Network starting at 6pm PT which means that it will run up against UFC 214.  The prelims begin at 3pm PT and will be online on the PFL website and the FITE TV app.

The Professional Fighters League had its debut earlier this month in Daytona, Florida.  Everett, which held a World Series of Fighting Event last July, will be the second event under the new PFL structure.  The format has fighters divided into seven weight classes competing throughout a regular season schedule, with winners advancing to a win-or-go home playoff tournament.  Each tournament winner will be crowned PFL champion for that weight class and will collect $1 million.  An additional $3 million will be divided among other regular season and playoff competitors.

In speaking with Sefo, he noted that fighters are excited about the new structure.  “I’m a product of that format,” said Sefo, who referred to his K-1 background.  “It was very similar as to how K-1 was run.”  Sefo noted that the new structure addresses a main concern of fighters.  “The most complaints I get [from fighters] is that fighters don’t fight enough.”

Silva sees gradual growth for the PFL.  “Like any league, we are laying the foundation,” said Silva.  “We are big believers that this sort of transition from promotion to sport is what’s needed in MMA.”

“As you look over the next 3 seasons, you are going to see a lot of development.”  Silva added, “Fighters will know when they are going to fight and they will be able to plan out their season and will be treated like professionals.”

Sefo emphasized that the key word from Silva’s comment was that fighters are being treated as “professionals.” The athletes will know when they are fighting and will train and condition accordingly.

As for business, Silva stated that talks with companies to be sponsors are ongoing.  “There’s a lot of active conversations going on,” Silva indicated.  “You’ll see between now and January that a couple of these really interesting title sponsors that we’re talking to that will give the brand equity to the league which we’re excited about but we’re not ready to talk about it.”

Unfortunate for the PFL, but the Saturday event coincides with the big UFC 214 main event in Anaheim with Jon Jones finally facing Daniel Cormier.  This fight has overshadowed the PFL’s second event but Silva is taking the competition in stride.  “It’s a big night for MMA,” Silva stated about UFC 214 on the same night as PFL Everett.  “We’ve had other big nights up against Bellator and up against the UFC.  There are going to be collisions in professional sports whether it is NASCAR or baseball or the football season starting in a couple weeks.”

“What we tell everybody is that you should buy the pay-per-view, but before you do that you should tune in free on NBCSN watch some great [PFL] main card action.”  Silva advised MMA fans that after watching the PFL on NBCSN you can click on your PPV.

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