Judge rules in New York’s favor, dismisses Zuffa lawsuit

March 31, 2015

On Tuesday, Judge Kimba Wood granted New York’s Motion for Summary Judgment and denied Zuffa’s Motion for Summary Judgment thus ending (for now) the company’s legal battle to strike down New York’s law prohibiting professional mixed martial arts in the state.

Essentially, Judge Wood stated that Zuffa lacked “standing” as a plaintiff as there was no “injury in fact” and it was “merely speculative.” Since the Court determined that there was no “imminent injury” in the evidence presented, it sided with New York. Thus the remaining claim that the New York statute was unconstitutionally vague as well as a similar challenge to the state liquor law were dismissed.

Two key points made by Judge Wood here was that Zuffa had to establish an “injury in fact.” It held that there were no “specific facts” provided by Zuffa to survive the motion for summary judgment. Secondly, the Court stressed that standing must be determined at the commencement of the suit. Essentially, the Court let it be known that anything that occurred after the filing in November 2011, could not be utilized as evidence to prove standing now.

In her opinion issued on Tuesday, she indicated that if Zuffa wants to re-file based on events that may have occurred since the lawsuit was filed in November 2011, it may be better served to do this in state court rather than federal court.

The Court did not rule on a Motion to Strike filed by New York which it sought to preclude some of Zuffa’s evidence since it already had ruled in New York’s favor.

(h/t: Jim Genia)

Payout Perspective:

We had predicted that this may have been a likely outcome. In its moving papers, New York had stressed the standing argument which would allow an “out” for the Court to dismiss the case without a further need for ruling on the merits. Yes, that’s a Zuffa view of the New York strategy (of course, a more Zuffa view would be its press release announcing the decision). It’s also a very good one and one that courts tend to look for if the issues either become convoluted, a toss-up or they just don’t think that the claims were that strong. We’re not saying any of those was the reason for the ruling Tuesday. But, standing is a necessary requirement in bringing claims. Essentially Con Law 101. But, there were legitimate arguments set forth by Zuffa which addressed the reasons why it had a right to bring the lawsuit.

At this point, it’s too early to know whether Zuffa will appeal or focus its efforts on lobbying for an MMA bill in Albany. MMA Payout will have more on this and keep you posted.

Rousey makes appearance at Wrestlemania

March 29, 2015

Ronda Rousey made a special appearance at Wrestlemania 31 in Santa Clara, California at the WWE’s biggest event of the year.  Rousey and The Rock appeared in a promo with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon which was signed off by the UFC.

Rousey actually got physical in the WWE ring as she gave Triple H a judo throw and grabbed McMahon’s arm and performed an arm crank and then “rag dolled” her around the ring.

According to MMA Fighting, The Rock and Rousey share the same agent.  The appearance was likely part of a promotion for “Fast and Furious 7” which both make appearances in.

It was clear that the UFC had agreed to her participation at Wrestlemania.  Rousey is a big wrestling fan and was in the front row of the event with the other three “Four Horsewomen.”

Payout Perspective:

It was definitely a Wrestlemania moment with arguably the UFC’s most popular star in a WWE ring.  Who said that the two audience demos are not the same?  Even though the physical altercation was minimal, it’s still surprising that the UFC allowed this to happen.  But, since Rousey is a big wrestling fan, it was probably something the UFC let her to do.  I doubt she appears in a WWE match while still under UFC contract without some sort of monetary exchange.

I realize that this is not her first physical involvement at a wrestling event as she did what seemed to be an unrehearsed weak chop on a wrestler at a PWG show late last year.  The Wrestlmania appearance was a way to promote Rousey and the Rock (who hosted SNL Saturday night) at the same time on one of the most viewed platforms (Wrestlemania) of the weekend.  It will certainly grab some mainstream interest on Monday.

Lesnar announces re-signing with WWE

March 25, 2015

Brock Lesnar has re-signed with the WWE and foreclosed any notion that he would return to MMA in an announcement on ESPN Tuesday afternoon.  Lesnar will be in the main event at Wrestlemania 31 on Sunday in Santa Clara, California.  The event would have been his last under his current contract if he did not re-sign with the WWE.

Lesnar indicated it was a hard decision but chose to stick with professional wrestling.  Perhaps the most practical reason Lesnar stayed was, as he put it that he worked part-time for full-time pay.

In the interview, Lesnar stated that he signed with the WWE on Monday night in Los Angeles where the WWE had an event at the Staples Center.  Notably, Dana White was also in Los Angeles promoting the Aldo-McGregor fight.  Certainly, there had to be some bargaining leverage for Lesnar with the knowledge that the UFC was in town too.

Lesnar made a very public appearance at UFC 184 in Los Angeles last month causing speculation that he might be considering a return to the octagon.

Payout Perspective:

All we have to know about Lesnar’s return to the WWE is that he’s being paid well for limited work.  While competing and being a UFC fighter is great, Lesnar recognizes that he is older, with the level of commitment and amount of injuries he’s suffered in the past, it was probably best to stick with WWE.  Lesnar would have still been a draw for the UFC despite being gone from MMA.

The underlying highlight here is that the WWE coordinated with ESPN to break the news.  Obviously this helps the WWE with its biggest event coming up this Sunday.  The amount of time Lesnar’s announcement was given was probably good for the UFC as well.

Zuffa sued for patent infringement in Texas

March 19, 2015

Zuffa has been sued in a patent infringement lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas by a company that claims that Zuffa is infringing on a patent owned by Orostream LLC.  However, it appears that the lawsuit is one of many filed by the company on the same day.

According to the Complaint, Orostream is a Texas limited liability company with its principal place of business in Plano, Texas. Orostream’s lawyers are based out of Chicago, Illinois. It appears that Zuffa was one of several companies sued by Orostream on the same day: February 23, 2015.  At this point, it appears that Zuffa has requested and the Court has granted an extension of time to Answer the Complaint.

The Complaint alleges that Zuffa infringed on a patent known as the ‘837 Patent titled, “Computer Network System and Method for Efficient Information Transfer.” The patent was filed on April 15, 1996 according to the Complaint.

The Complaint states that Zuffa has directly infringed the patent “by making and/or using a content distribution system over the internet, including the system and application for the UFC.TV app, which performs a method of transferring target information packets while minimizing additional communication delay between a user node and a master node comprising the steps of monitoring length of time necessary for transfer of each target information packet, and adjusting the rate of target information transfer in response to the monitored transfer time.”

No dollar amount is associated with the lawsuit although Orostream requests that Zuffa pay “all damages to and costs incurred…because of Defendant’s infringing activities…”

Zuffa Patent Lawsuit

The full text of the patent can be found here via the USPTO web site.

H/t to Paul Gift for initially finding this lawsuit.

Payout Perspective:

Although not a patent attorney, reading the patent it appears that what Orostream has is a patent for which a web site disseminates information from an end user customer to the source. It appears to be broad and maybe that’s why on the same day it sued Zuffa, Orostream sued many others, in the same Court. Some of the other entities it has sued are WWE, NFL Enterprises, LLC, NHL Interactive Cyberenterprises and MLB Advanced Media. Notably, Texas courts are “patent-friendly” and the Eastern District is known for going to trial quickly on these cases. Here, Orostream has filed a jury demand along with its Complaint.

Only an opinion, but it appears that the strategy by Orostream is to seek a settlement from Zuffa to pay a settlement and not litigate the case. In patent law parlance, this is known as a “patent troll.” MMA Payout will keep you posted.

UFC 185: Payout Perspective

March 17, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 185 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas where two UFC titles were on the line.

RDA wins Lightweight Title

Rafael dos Anjos earned his unanimous decision against Anthony Pettis.  It was total domination by the challenger as he topped Pettis with his striking and grappling.  It was an impressive win considering the complete manhandling of Pettis and the post-fight news that he had a knee injury coming into the fight.

Up next for RDA is the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Donald Cerrone this May.  But with RDA’s knee injury, we may not see this fight until December.

UFC 185

Joanna J destroys Cookie Monster

It was a mismatch. And the Champion looked to be in trouble from the start.  Joanna Jedrzejcyzk controlled Carla Esparza and the “Cookie Monster” did not look like a Champion defending her title. Jedrzejcyk’s Muay Thai background defeated Esparza’s wrestling and it was an easy win for the fighter from Poland.

In the end, the referee was looking for a way to stop the fight in the 2nd round.  Jedrzejczyk has the personality to promote fights in her division.  But, will there be anyone in her division that can match her?

Attendance and Gate

Attendance at the America Airlines Center drew a reported 17,160 fans for a gate of $2.155 million as announced at the post-fight press conference.  Despite the good number, it was still the lowest of the three PPVs held at the venue.

Previous Attendance for UFC PPVs at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX (via MMA Payout Blue Book)

UFC 103 – September 9, 2009 – Rich Franklin-Vitor Belfort Attendance 17,428, Gate: $2.4M

UFC 171 – March 15, 2014 – Johny Hendricks-Robbie Lawler Attendance 19,324, Gate: $2.6M

Bonuses

For the second PPV in a row, there was no Fight of the Nights.  The four Performances of the Night went to RDA, Jedrzejcyk, Ross Pearson and Beneil Darush.  Each received $50,000 bonuses.  There were a lot of stoppages to choose from but one would have to concur that these four stood out.

Sponsorships

For the second straight PPV in a row Monster Energy Drink had the center of the Octagon moving Bud Light to the Octagon bumpers.  In addition, MetroPCS, Harley Davidson, Corn Nuts, DraftKings, Fram, MusclePharm and Toyo Tires.

Fram also had the fighter checkpoint.

Notably, Pettis was sponsored by Reebok, Corn Nuts, Monster Headphones and Monster Energy Drinks.  Interesting enough, no Wheaties logo worn by Pettis or in the Octagon.

Reebok sold Showtime’s gear prior to the event at UFC 185.  Wonder how sales are post-fight.

Monster Headphones also had a campaign centered on Pettis.

Post-Fight Headlines:

-The UFC saw the crowning of two new champions. Who will have the longest title run? Moreover, who will the UFC be able to sell to fans?

-Does Hendricks get another shot at the title? With the win over Matt Brown, should Hendricks get the winner of Lawler-MacDonald?

-Henry Cejudo made weight and won a unanimous decision over Chris Cariaso. Could he be on the fast track to a 125 pound title shot?

Odds and ends

-Ben Askren and CM Punk were in the corner for Anthony Pettis.

-Interesting enough, Erik Koch made a cameo during the first UFC Embedded which one might think unusual if you read “Thrown.”

-Carla Esparza wore a wrestling singlet which was a nice touch. Both Esparza and Jedrzejcyzk were sponsored by Alienware.

-Alienware, a UFC sponsor, has been active of late with its activation with the UFC.  There is a lot more visibility in sponsoring fighters as well as sponsoring the UFC Embedded online episodes.

-For the first time that I recall, the Embedded episodes had a sponsor, Alienware (“Powered by Alienware”). It was the umpteenth time we saw an Embedded episode where someone was at a barbershop getting their hair cut. This time it was Showtime at his barber shop.

-With Monster Energy as a new UFC sponsor, it appears we will see the return of awkwardly holding a soda can in the Octagon after a fight.

-UFC Prelims was on FX due to college basketball. We shall see whether the network change will affect ratings.

-There were over 100,000 Google searches for the UFC on Saturday which was far less than UFC 184 and Ronda Rousey during the same time frame.

-Texas did not do any “out of competition” drug testing for this event.

Conclusion

Prior to the PPV, we wrote whether Anthony Pettis could be the next big PPV draw for the UFC. If he does, it will be in pursuit of the belt he just lost. The card seemed like one more for the solid base of UFC fans that usually purchase PPVs. Yet, with the solid success of UFC PPVs this year, could we see another good PPV buy rate from the company. There was less buzz for this event than the previous three this year. This could reflect in PPV buys as I would assume that we get a PPV buy rate of around 325,000-350,000.

PBC on Spike TV draws 869,000 viewers

March 16, 2015

Television By Numbers and Sports TV Ratings report that the debut of Premier Boxing Champions on Friday night on SpikeTV drew an average viewership of 869,000 viewers. It received a 0.3 rating in the adult demo of 18-34.

According to Spike, PBC drew 1 million viewers between 10:45pm-11:15pm ET which was during the Josesito Lopez-Andre Berto fight.  PBC was to air from 9-11pm but there was a 20 minute overrun for the main event.  The event average made it the “most watched boxing event on Friday nights in 8 years” according to Spike.  The highlights from Friday’s fights have been viewed 1.5 million times between PBC’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

The event was the debut of Spike’s revamped Friday Night programming featuring combat sports. PBC featured Lopez versus Berto in the main event. Berto won via 6th round TKO.

The event drew 869,000 viewers over the 2 hours and 20 minutes airing on SpikeTV. It did run opposite a lot of College Basketball as the conference tournaments were in full swing. Notably, the ACC conference tournament game between Duke and Notre Dame on ESPN was the highest-rated sports cable program on Friday night as it received 2.617M viewers for a game that started at 9:50pm on the east coast. Preceding that game on ESPN, North Carolina and Virgina drew 2.054M viewers at 7:00pm.

Per TV By Numbers, the highest-rated show on cable on Friday the 13th was Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel which drew 3.274M viewers.

If you are a boxing cynic, the lead-in for PBC, Cops, drew a higher rating in its 30 minutes preceding boxing with an average viewership over 1 million viewers. Then again, Cops usually does great ratings and in defense of boxing the event was over 2 hours.

Payout Perspective:

Overall, it was a very good showing and the fights were entertaining. Perhaps the best fight was Arreola-Harper although it was not aesthetically pleasing. With college basketball games going on during the fights, it may have taken some of the audience away from PBC.  Based on the information provided, it appears that PBC has gained a sufficient amount of buzz with its promotion and marketing of its events. We will see if it can improve on the number when it returns on April 24th to SpikeTV.

Can Showtime keep UFC’s PPV momentum going?

March 14, 2015

As we get ready for UFC 185, we take a look at whether Anthony Pettis can be a future PPV draw for the company.  This will be the first event where Pettis will be the advertised main draw for a PPV.

For UFC 181 this past December, Pettis co-headlined with Johny Hendricks-Robbie Lawler II as the last fight on the card. Arguably, Pettis was the most impressive on the card scoring a submission against the former Strikeforce Champ Gilbert Melendez.

The good news for this PPV is that Johny Hendricks will be on the card fighting Matt Brown as well as the inaugural defense of the women’s strawweight title.  Despite the lack of superstar power as we had with the previous 3 PPVs, this is a solid UFC card with 3 very good fights at the top.  You might also add Alistair Overeem versus Roy Nelson and the interest of seeing former Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo and you have a PPV that you may be ok with spending $60 on.

The draw of this PPV has to be Pettis (although the women’s fight should be entertaining). He has the looks and talent to be one of the top draws for the UFC.  Pettis already has the individual sponsorships from Reebok and Wheaties. He’s also donned the box of cereal maker as well.  A big part of the UFC’s Embedded series for this event was Pettis preparing for the fight.

Previous UFC PPVs with Pettis in co-main or main event

UFC 164 vs. Benson Henderson – 270,000 PPV buys

UFC 181 vs. Gilbert Melendez – 400,000 PPV buys

The PPV buys are not too impressive right now but with the right promotion for Showtime, he can be a true superstar for the UFC.  One need only reference the “Showtime Kick” to know that he has an appealing fighting style that can attract fans.  And if you recall his backstory from “World of Jenks,” he’s overcome a lot in his personal life to be where he is now.  Will this equate to a following that would be willing to automatically purchase UFC PPVs when he’s fighting?

Solid interest in UFC 185?

Looking at ticket sales for this event, there are still a number of seats available on Ticketmaster as of Friday afternoon. The “get in” price for the event was $66.72 although the highest price on the secondary market was $1,400. The seats on the primary market are scattered throughout the arena so we will see if there will be a good walk-up for the event that could push this event near a sellout.

Previous Attendance for UFC PPVs at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX

UFC 103 – September 9, 2009 – Rich Franklin-Vitor Belfort Attendance 17,428, Gate: $2.4M

UFC 171 – March 15, 2014 – Johny Hendricks-Robbie Lawler Attendance 19,324, Gate: $2.6M

UFC 185 – March 14, 2015 – Pettis–Dos Anjos ?

Notably, the official capacity for the AAC in Dallas is 18,500. But, based on UFC 171, the configurations for the UFC probably allow for more seats. With Hendricks on the card, one might expect the strong attendance.

Payout Perspective:

Anthony Pettis has all the look, swag, talent and ability to be a major superstar for the UFC. The only thing that has held him back has been injuries. If Pettis can keep healthy, he can become an anchor athlete to headline UFC PPVs in the future. We shall see if Pettis can keep the 2015 UFC PPV momentum going.

Can the UFC implement its drug testing plan?

March 13, 2015

Its the second episode of Show Money with Bloody Elbow’s John Nash and Paul Gift.  In this episode we talk the hurdles to the UFC’s implementation of its proposed drug policy, Premier Boxing and the latest from the Zuffa Antitrust lawsuit.

I apologize ahead of time for any audio problems on my end as I had issues with my internet.

Preliminary reports indicate a strong UFC 184 buy rate

March 11, 2015

The Wrestling Observer indicates that UFC 184 drew an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 PPV buys.  The preliminary report underscores the great start the UFC has had this year as well as the drawing power of Ronda Rousey.

UPDATED:  In its 3/12 podcast, Meltzer indicated that the numbers reflect that UFC 184 will do more PPV buys than UFC 183.

Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez first discussed the initial numbers during their March 5, 2015 podcast (subscription recommended).

It appears that the estimate is based on anecdotal information from DirecTV as well Google trend searches.

If the initial buys for UFC 184 which featured Ronda Rousey versus Cat Zingano in the main event, the UFC will have one of the best starts of a year in PPV.

UFC 182:  800,000 PPV buys

UFC 183: ~600,000-700,000 PPV buys

UFC 184: ~500,000-600,000 PPV buys

The average for 2015 at this point is around 684,000 PPV buys which far exceeds what the UFC has been seeing.  Last year it averaged just 256,000 PPV buys and in 2013 it averaged 468,000.  Realistically, the UFC cannot keep producing these buys throughout the year.  But, it’s built up three good buy rates for 2015.  Added the fact it PPVs are now at $60, the UFC is making up PPV revenue from 2014’s atrocious numbers.

Whether it’s the booking or promotion, the 2015 PPV strategy for the UFC is holding up despite the drug problems.  Also, UFC 184 initially included Vitor Belfort- Chris Weidman as the co-main event.

The other part of the news is that the UFC Prelims have had much higher ratings this year in comparison to where it was last year.

UFC 182 Prelims – 1.03M viewers

UFC 183 Prelims – 1.546M viewers

UFC 184 Prelims – 1.205M viewers

Meltzer speculated that Rousey was one of the reasons why the UFC 184 Prelims drew the high ratings.  This argument may also support the fact that women’s MMA is generally accepted and may be on a roll as of late.  Note, Miesha Tate’s fight against Sarah Kaufman at the UFC 183 Prelims almost drew 2 million viewers on FS1.  This was a boon for Tate’s sponsors as she actually lobbied that she be on FS1 rather than on the PPV card.

Payout Perspective:

UFC 184 was all Ronda Rousey and it’s a good sign for the UFC ast the organization has found another PPV star.  The card under Rousey-Zingano was not strong considering that Belfort-Weidman dropped out.  Thus, the entire buzz was based on Rousey.  After her quick fight on Saturday, many mainstream sports outlets picked up on Rousey and gravitated toward the comparisons to Mike Tyson in his prime.  The potential bad news here is that there are not many interesting fights for Rousey coming up (unless Cyborg is able to make weight).  Also, Rousey’s star power outside of the Octagon is gaining momentum.  She is already taking time away from the Octagon to do a movie and the more offers she receives from Hollywood, the more we may not see her in the Octagon.

Can the UFC continue its momentum this Saturday with UFC 185?  We shall see.

PBC debut on NBC draws 2.53 rating/5 share

March 8, 2015

The debut of Premier Boxing Champions in network prime time scored with a 2.53 rating and 5 share in overnight ratings on Saturday night in the 9-11pm ET time slot.

UPDATED: 12:24pm PT 3/8/15 – According to Television By Numbers, PBC from 8:30pm-11pm ET drew 3.13 million viewers and a 1.0 share rating among adults 18-49.  Overall, CBS’ 48 Hours earned the most viewers in network viewership Saturday night with 4.65 million viewers 10-11pm.

It was the most watched show for Adults 18-49 in network ratings on Saturday. Of course, the competition was very slight on Saturday night.

NBC Sports also tweeted out the top 10 markets for PBC on Saturday which in order were:

1) Norfolk
2) Cincinnati
3) San Antonio
4) New Orleans
5) Fort Myers, Florida
6) Sacramento
7) Dayton
8) Orlando
9) Philadelphia
10) Tulsa

For point of reference, January 2015’s UFC on Fox 14 drew 2.82 million in overnight viewership and received a 1.1 rating and 4 share.

Payout Perspective:

No actual viewership estimates are out yet, but MMA Payout will update once they are made public. The ratings are not “over the top” for the debut of PBC in prime time on NBC but its likely to have won the night for the network.  Despite the ok debut, I am sure that Al Haymon’s strategy is not dependent on just one show.  There were things that worked and did not work last night and we shall see how those will be addressed.

« Previous PageNext Page »