July 23, 2014
Vitor Belfort was granted a conditional license by the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Wednesday. The issuance of the license allowed the UFC to announce Belfort-Chris Weidman at UFC 181 set for December 6th in Las Vegas.
With his attorney, Belfort appeared at the Commission hearing to discuss the application for license. The Commission asked Belfort about a failed February 7th test for testosterone. He claims he took a larger dose the day before to compensate for missing his biweekly prescribed TRT treatment due to traveling.
Granting Belfort his license came with conditions. Namely, the commission could test Belfort extensively including blood and urine for the rest of the career. Belfort would have to pay for the testing.
The commission voted unanimously to give a conditional license to Belfort.
(H/t: MMA Junkie)
For those wondering, Belfort’s attorney Michael Alonso, works at the same firm that represents the UFC in other matters. Belfort was told the day before the hearing that he’d have the shot against Weidman so I do not know if there was a feeling that despite his second failed drug test; Belfort would be issued a license.
Was the punishment fair? Belfort will have to stay clean with the extensive drug testing and with him paying for this the commission will not have to expend additional resources here. The announcement of the fight seemed almost instant after the license was granted. I realize the UFC talked with Belfort (and Weidman) about the fight but it seemed interesting timing.
July 18, 2014
MMA Junkie reports that Gina Carano, if signed, will be next in line to take on Ronda Rousey in December. Dana White announced this during a media scrum on Friday.
The announcement means that Carano will be given a title shot even though she has not fought in five years. White defended his choice of opponents for Carano’s comeback as she has been training despite not actively fighting.
via Wikimedia Commons – The Strikeforce Days
The match makes sense from a business perspective but not from a matchmaker’s perspective. Carano has been gone from active fighting and it’s not clear what type of shape she will be in. Furthermore, she will be fighting arguably the best UFC fighter right now. Rousey is on a tear and it seems like Carano would be prudent to take a fight or two before she takes on Rousey. Then again, the UFC wants to jump on this fight now. If Carano would take another fight and lose, it would make it that much harder for the UFC to set up Carano-Rousey. If done, this fight will certainly grab the attention of a ton of non-MMA press.
July 9, 2014
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at UFC 175 which was the centerpiece for International Fight Week. The main event from the Mandalay Bay in Vegas had Chris Weidman defending his middleweight title against Lyoto Machida.
Weidman defends belt against Machida
It was a tough title defense, but Chris Weidman did enough to defeat Lyoto Machida and retain his welterweight title. Machida put the heat on Weidman in the championship rounds but Weidman did enough to win. Weidman will face Vitor Belfort next.
Gone in 16 seconds
If there was ever a time where a moment overwhelmed an athlete, the look on Alexis Davis face during the walkout told the story. It took more time for Ronda Rousey to do her mean mug strut to the Octagon than it did for her to finish Davis. The real action happened post-fight when Joe Rogan seemingly received a question to ask Rousey from a producer in the truck as to whether she would fight next month in Los Angeles. At that point, Rousey looked as uncomfortable as Davis did heading to the Octagon. It turns out that Rousey is injured and the UFC cancelled its trip to Los Angeles.
Attendance and Gate
Announced at the post-fight press conference, UFC 175 did 10,044 for a gate of $4.4 million. Dana White had predicted the gate to do $5 million. However, he was slightly off. Notably, the last time the UFC was at the Mandalay Bay (UFC 170) it had a higher attendance but lower gate which reflects the fact that ticket prices were much higher. In fact, according to SeatGeek, UFC 175 was the most expensive ticket of 2014.
Bonuses were the standard $50,000 each and were given to Weidman-Machida for FOTN. Rousey and Rob Font won the Performance Bonuses.
Weidman ($450K + $50K = $500K) and Machida ($200K + $50K = $250K) were the top earners for the night with Rousey ($120K + $50K = $170K) and Faber ($120K) following behind on the pay scale.
It was International Fight Week and beside the array of events during the week leading up to the fight weekend, it was the annual UFC Expo.
It was likely the best Embedded series so far. The short vlogs have been a great replacement for the UFC All Access show.
White took over ESPN’s Instagram account for the weigh-ins.
An email was sent out promoting the Fan Expo and the events this past weekend which had the tag line “Sh**t’s Going Down This Saturday.” Perhaps a little too enthused about the fights.
The sponsors in the Octagon included Toyo Tires, MusclePharm, UltimatePoker, the EA UFC video game, Corn Nuts, MetroPCS, Harley Davidson, the upcoming movie Sin City and Bud Light in the center.
USA Wrestling owned the fighter prep point as we see more organizations buy space with the UFC. In the past, Tae Kwon Do and Judo have bought real estate during the PPVs.
There was some talk about why Urijah Faber was not on the PPV. It would have added another name to sell for the show but he was placed on the prelims as the main event of the prelim card against Alex Caceres. One might infer that putting Faber on the prelims was a way to create enough buzz and promotion for last minute fans on the fence on purchasing the PPV. It could also be that Fox wanted a named-fighter to close out the show for its ratings.
The Prelim show did average 1 million viewers which is much better than the 174 prelim show.
Odds and Ends
-Subtle and overlooked, the weigh-ins for the big events like UFC 168 and this past weekend have a big time feel with the additional stage and screens.
-One of the better fight posters this time around which highlighted the fact it was going to be International Fight Week.
-The big controversy coming out of UFC 175 was Joe Rogan asking Ronda Rousey post-fight whether she would be available for UFC 176 in Los Angeles on August 2nd. It put Rousey on the spot and White looked genuinely upset at the question. In the end, it was a moot point since the UFC cancelled UFC 176 and Rousey could not have fought because she was medically suspended.
-Perhaps the greatest Hall of Fame speech ever came from Pat Miletich this past weekend. It was quick and to the point. Not many can do that.
-Who looked sadder on their walkout this weekend? Alexis Davis on Saturday or BJ Penn on Sunday?
-Should we be concerned that Chris Weidman did not remember anything about the fight right after it happened as he told Joe Rogan in the post-fight interview?
It looks like the initial reports from Dave Meltzer have the show at 500K PPV buys although that is not official.
If we are to follow Google Search data, searches were down for Ronda Rousey from her last fight. The loss of the Chael Sonnen-Wanderlei Silva fight also took away from the buzz of the event. Still, one would have hoped that the combination of Weidman and Rousey would get this card to 450-500K PPV buys. Anything less should be a concern. As alluded to at the press conference, look for Rousey and Weidman to stick together on a card. The UFC probably knows the combination is one of the better shots at a big gate and an above average PPV buy rate.
July 8, 2014
Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports! reports that UFC 176 has been cancelled due to the lack of a replacement main event for Jose Aldo-Chad Mendes. Aldo suffered a neck injury during training which forced him out although the UFC plans to postpone this fight until October.
It’s the second time in the company’s history that it has had to cancel a PPV as most recall UFC 151 was nixed due to an injury to Dan Henderson. All of the fights that were scheduled for the August 2nd event in Los Angeles will be assigned to other events. In an interview with Fox Sports Live, Lorenzo Fertitta was not optimistic about a card at the Staples Center any time soon.
The cancellation comes on the same day with MMA Junkie reporting that UFC 176 had sold $800,000 in tickets thus far. Now, those tickets will have to be refunded.
The news of the cancellation has to be a big blow for the UFC as its unlikely it can run another event in Los Angeles any time soon. But, without a main event, it would have suffered and would have received a buy rate comparable to the rumored buy rate of UFC 174. Still, the rest of the card has some compelling match-ups (Jacare-Mousasi, Corriea-Basler and Corriea’s quest to run through the Horsewomen, Green-Trujillo and Castillo-Ferguson) which will complement other cards upcoming.
The cancellation indirectly hurts Metamoris’ event on August 9th as it likely would have been able to do some promotion (thinking guerilla marketing) with the UFC in town.
July 8, 2014
The Zuffa-New York lawsuit will have to wait a little longer for resolution as the Court has granted an extension of time request by New York to file its Summary Judgment motion. The new deadline is for July 31st with the last responsive briefing not due until September 4, 2014.
In a letter to the Court on June 25, 2014, the New York Attorney General requested an extension of time as one of its lead attorneys on the case was leaving the office on July 3rd. In addition, New York indicated that key non-party witnesses were out of the office and could not be contacted. It appears that these witnesses would provide declarations that would support New York’s Motion for Summary Judgment which, if the Court granted, would effectively end the lawsuit. New York also argues that Zuffa’s Complaint is long and two weeks to respond to Zuffa’s Response to its moving papers would not be enough time. Zuffa opposed the extension as you can see the letter to the Court here.
The Court granted the Motion which allows the filing of the motions to occur on July 31st instead of the original July 3rd Court order. Response to the Summary Judgment will be August 21st and New York’s Reply briefing would be due on September 4th.
It always makes me laugh when I read that attorneys need more time to respond to things that they want. Yes, it’s cynical but New York wants to file a motion, and now tells the Court that it doesn’t have sufficient time to do it per the parameters the Court set. Also, here’s a bunch of other excuses which include the revelation that Zuffa’s lawsuit is quite long. They should have known this, right? I have been in situations where the Court just said, “Tough.” And, you have to stay up a little later to do things and make do. With that out of my system, the Court allowing the extension is probably fair considering it’s the first one that they requested. Both parties get an extra week to fashion responses to the motions.
As far as when these motions will be decided and if there will be a resolution to this case. Maybe next summer? At the earliest we probably would get a ruling by the end of the year or early 2015.
June 30, 2014
MMA Junkie reports that the UFC and Fox are severing ties with Chael Sonnen after he failed a second drug test. Sonnen will no longer serve as analyst for Fox and MMA Junkie confirmed with the UFC that he is no longer under contract with the company.
MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani first reported that Sonnen failed another drug test after his initial drug test revealed he had taken banned substances. After the first failed drug test earlier this month, Sonnen immediately defended his position on FS1 television. Later that week, on the show he served as co-host, he announced his retirement on FS1’s “UFC Tonight.”
In his second test, it was discovered that there was presence of human growth hormone (HGH) and recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO).
Via MMA Junkie:
“The UFC and FOX Sports organizations announced today the termination of their respective broadcasting services agreements with analyst Chael Sonnen,” the statement read. “This decision comes in light of Sonnen failing a second test conducted by the Nevada Athletic Commission for banned substances in June. Sonnen was previously under temporary suspension by the Nevada Athletic Commission for failing an initial test conducted in May.”
It will be interesting to see how Fox handles this news. FS1 did not mention it on Saturday night during UFC Fight Night. Certainly, something will have to be said when UFC Tonight returns. Although we could point to ex-athletes that have been in trouble still having studio jobs, this one is different. Severing ties with Sonnen was the only thing to do in this instance especially with the use of HGH and EPO. MMA is a sport that many mainstream people are not comfortable with due to the perceptions of it being extremely violent. The news that its fighters are taking PEDs would only confirm to some that the sport is dirty. Having Sonnen continue on air on FS1 or with the UFC would tacitly convey that the UFC and Fox are ok with Sonnen taking PEDs.
Even if the UFC wanted to continue working with Sonnen, its working relationship with Fox compelled them to make the decision.
June 25, 2014
As most expected, including the UFC, the New York State Assembly failed to vote on a bill to legalize professional Mixed Martial Arts in the state. Despite another year without any movement, the bill’s sponsor intends to continue on next year.
The lead sponsor to the MMA bill set to legalize professional MMA in the state, Senator Joseph Griffo told MMA Payout the following:
I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that my bill to legalize MMA did not come to the Assembly floor for a vote before session ended. We’ve tried to address opponents’ concerns in crafting our legislation. This sport is much more organized and more regulated than when it first became popular. Everyone besides New York has allowed professional matches to be held in their state. The latest economic analysis, done by HR&A advisors, reports that legally sanctioned MMA would generate $67 million in annual spending and create 525 jobs in New York. I thank Assemblyman Joe Morelle for his effort to get a vote for the bill. It’s my hope that Assembly leadership reconsiders their position before the year is over. Regardless, I will carry this bill every year until it passes or I leave office.
Senator Griffo also sponsored the bill that would have allowed regulation of amateur MMA in the state of New York. That bill was not voted on either by the state Assembly prior to the end of this year’s session.
MMA Payout has reached out to Assemblyman Morelle for additional comment but his office has not responded at the time of this writing.
Another year, another missed opportunity for the legalization of professional MMA in the state. Perhaps we may see some movement with this bill next year as the lawsuit filed by Zuffa in the state appears to come down to the filing of Summary Judgment motions. The Court’s decision on these motions may coincide with next year’s legislative session which could facilitate a vote in the state Assembly.
This past Sunday we participated in a discussion on legal issues in MMA including the continued effort to legalize pro MMA in the state. You can find the Sports Law Chat tweetup here.
June 20, 2014
Jeff Ignatowski always enjoyed family vacations as a kid. He is also a fan of MMA. He fought professionally and continues training in the sport. Through his company Warrior Vacations, he has come up with a vacation offer where MMA enthusiasts can go on vacation and train MMA with fighters.
“I wanted to go on vacation and I wanted to train people and teach,” Ignatowski explained of his idea to have a vacation where people can enjoy time off while still training. There are yoga retreats where “yogis” – fans of yoga head to exotic locals to practice yoga. Ignatowski believes that an MMA vacation is a definite possibility.
Wellness travel is gaining popularity and was considered a “travel trend” in 2013. The health and wellness tourism industry is a $73 billion global industry according to SpaFinder Wellness, Inc., a company which compiles the annual forecast report on the industry. While MMA may or may not be defined as a part of the “wellness” industry, the purpose of people’s desire to stay in shape while away from home is becoming a focus. More hotels are considering putting in more amenities to accommodate traveler’s fitness means. So why not MMA training after a day of sightseeing?
Warrior Vacations was the creation of Ignatowski as he set out on a 6 year business plan for the company. He now says he is 2 years ahead of schedule.
Working with local business and contacts in Costa Rica, Ignatowski has established a network that will help him run the vacations. He indicated that the price points range from $999 to $1,399 dependent on the time of stay and the amount of activities that the individual would like to do. The vacations will include morning conditioning sessions and evening technical sessions.
Marcus Davis has indicated that he will participate in Warrior Vacations. Davis fought for the UFC and Bellator.
Ignatowski hopes to have an inaugural trip to Costa Rica soon.
How many people would be interested in an MMA vacation? While we do not think this will be Sam Sheridan-type adventure, for fitness enthusiasts and the MMA-crazed, this vacation may be up your alley. We will see if the company can get off the ground.
June 20, 2014
On Sunday, June 22nd from 8pm-9pm ET MMA Payout will be a part of Sports Law Chat’s tweetup talking about Legal Issues in MMA including a discussion about the continued struggle to legalize professional MMA in New York. MMA Journalist Jim Genia and Sports and Entertainment Lawyer Carla Varriale will also be a part of the discussion.
Varriale is teaching a course this summer at Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education’s Sports Management Program entitled, “MMA in New York: A Study in Whether It Should Be Legalized and Regulated.” As you can tell from the name of the class, it takes a look at the battle to legalize the sport in New York state. As many of you know, Jim Genia is an MMA journalist that is intimately familiar with the battle in the state. It should prove to be an informative time.
For more information, please follow Sports Law Chat on twitter (@SportsLawChat). You may also feel free to follow Varriale (@carlavarriale), Genia (@jim_genia) or myself (@dilletaunt).
For those on the west coast, it will take place on twitter between 5pm-6pm on Sunday June 22nd. Celebrate the U.S. World Cup win over Portugal by logging on and learning more about legal issues in MMA.
June 18, 2014
Bjorn Rebney and Tim Danaher have left Bellator as Scott Coker is slated to replace Rebney as the head of the promotion. Viacom announced that Rebney and former president and CEO Danaher are done with the promotion effective immediately.
UPDATE 06/18/14: Viacom and Bellator have made it official: Scott Coker is your new president of Bellator MMA.
Josh Gross had the initial report first:
— Josh Gross (@yay_yee) June 18, 2014
MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani added on to the report:
Sources: Viacom moving towards replacing Bjorn Rebney with Scott Coker — http://t.co/kFGuxYHs0f
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 18, 2014
After the announcement, Rebney issued a statement via Jason Floyd:
Bjorn Rebney: Viacom and Tim and I differed in our views of the right strategic direction for Bellator, but Tim and I both wish them well
— Jason Floyd (@Jason_Floyd) June 18, 2014
Via MMA Fighting:
“I would like to thank Bjorn and Tim on behalf of Spike and Viacom for their dedication and hard work building Bellator from the ground up,” Spike TV president Kevin Kay stated. “They worked tirelessly in getting Bellator to where it is today. They were great partners to work with and we wish them all the best,” said Kevin Kay, Spike TV.
With Rebney and Danaher’s departure, Scott Coker is said to replace Rebney as the head of the promotion via MMA Fighting. As we all know, Coker was the head of Strikeforce since 1985 when it began as a kickboxing promotion.
The move was discussed earlier in the week according to MMA Fighting and it was a matter of waiting out Coker’s non-compete with Zuffa, which purchased Strikeforce, for him to be hired.
An interesting move by Viacom although there was much speculation about this shakeup for a while. Rebney did a lot for the company and its first PPV did much better than expected garnering over 100,000 PPV buys despite losing the main event. Rebney, the original founder, has received his share of criticism throughout his tenure for the organization. We shall see what the appointment of Coker means for the company and whether it means a shift in direction for the company.