March 22, 2017
A footnote to the opposition brief notes that Brock Lesnar has not accepted service of the lawsuit since he resides in Saskatchewan, Canada and will not accept service.
— Jason Cruz (@dilletaunt) March 23, 2017
Taking issue with the UFC’s characterization that Hunt’s lawsuit is speculative at best, Hunt’s attorneys state that the New Zealand heavyweight has actual damages despite the fact that this is not the standard for dismissal in a Motion to Dismiss. Hunt’s attorneys aregue that the UFC and Dana White are seeking Hunt to prove his claims at this stage of the lawsuit but the standard for a Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment differ.
Among the issues of note in the lengthy response, Hunt’s attorneys note that he is the owner of a clothing brand, Juggernaut, and his loss impacts his brand. The opposition brief plainly states that losing is bad for business as despite the UFC’s assertions that Hunt’s damages are merely speculative, Hunt’s claims are real.
— Jason Cruz (@dilletaunt) March 23, 2017
As another example, Hunt claims that his contract with the UFC has a clause which grants a step up in pay from $850,000 to $1,000,000 in title fights. Although his contract is lodged as an exhibit to his Complaint, that part of the lawsuit is sealed from the public’s view.
— Jason Cruz (@dilletaunt) March 23, 2017
In its conclusion, Hunt’s attorneys request that if a the Court finds in favor of the UFC and White that it have a right to amend its Complaint which may be done pursuant to the court rules.
The hearing is set for May 15, 2017.
The opposition goes on to debunk the arguments made by the UFC in its brief. Reading the section on Hunt’s contract claims, its hard to decipher whether that clause in his contract is based on title fights in which he is a challenger or if he becomes a champion. Due to its vagueness, it might be the latter. As for his claim that his brand would be diminished, this may be true. It also might not be true. However, as Hunt’s attorneys point out the allegation is concrete enough to survive a Motion to Dismiss. After discovery, and a Motion for Summary Judgment, that might not be the case. MMA Payout will keep you posted.
March 20, 2017
Bellator returns to PPV with Chael Sonnen-Wanderlei Silva as the main event. The event will take place on June 24th at Madison Square Garden in New York.
It will be the second PPV in the company’s history. In May 2014, Bellator 120 featured Rampage Jackson-King Mo and Michael Chandler-Eddie Alvarez. The event drew 100,000 PPV buys.
Sonnen is coming off a loss to Tito Ortiz this past January in Los Angeles. Silva has yet to fight for the promotion as he is serving a three-year suspension retroactive to May 24, 2014. He will be eligible for reinstatement to May 25, 2017.
The Associated Press first reported the event.
Bellator intends to debut some of its free agent signees in New York as well.
The event comes a week after a UFC Fight Night in Singapore and two weeks before International Fight Week.
The announcement is a departure from the company intending to stay on cable TV. Sonnen-Silva is a long-time grudge match dating back several years and if the two remain healthy and available, the promotion and fight should draw more than the last time Bellator was on PPV. The news comes on the same day that Ryan Bader officially signed with the promotion. Expect Bader, Rampage and other former UFC fighters to be on the card.
March 18, 2017
A Los Angeles Federal Magistrate Judge has transferred Bellator’s Motion to Quash Zuffa’s Subpoenas to the Nevada court hearing the antitrust lawsuit. The decision to transfer venue was made on Friday March 17th and done without oral argument.
Citing “exceptional circumstances” pursuant to the federal rules governing subpoenas, it determined that the “interests in favor of transfer outweigh the interests of Bellator in obtaining local resolution of the subpoena-related motions.”
Bellator, a non-party in the antitrust lawsuit, sought relief from a UFC subpoena requesting certain documents including information related to specific fighter contracts including information related to negotiations, terminations, cancellations and transfer of contracts. Bellator has provided the UFC with documents but reached an impasse on certain information.
The federal magistrate, which ordered the transfer, pointed to the looming May 1, 2017 fact discovery deadline, the Nevada court issued the protective order and the Nevada magistrate had been active in previous discovery as reasons for the transfer.
Moreover, the court determined that Bellator would not be inconvenienced by having to appear in Nevada citing the possibility of appearing telephonically. Alternatively, the proximity between California and Nevada would make the travel negligible.
If you were to ask me, it appears that California did not want anything to do with the Motion. Rather, it kicked it back to Nevada to deal with the details of the Motion and the lawsuit. In most instances, Bellator did the appropriate thing in filing for relief where their business is primarily located but the court found reasons to negate the inconvenience. For the UFC, it’s a win as the issue will go before the magistrate that has been dealing with the UFC and plaintiffs since the case was transferred from a Norther California federal court back in June 2015.
MMA Payout will have more on this. Stay tuned.
March 14, 2017
Attorneys for World of Boxing and Alexander Povetkin have filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law and/or a new trial this past Friday. The hearing is scheduled for April 21, 2017 before the trial court judge in New York.
A jury determined that Povetkin took the banned substance Meldonium after January 1, 2016. It was the sole issue determined at trial.
World of Boxing and Povetkin attorneys intimated that they would be moving for either an appeal or this relief stating issues with the decision and conduct of Wilder’s attorneys.
Under Federal Civil Rule of Procedure 50, Judgment as a Matter of Law is a motion that can be made during trial or after. Essentially, it requests the judge take the decision out of the hands of the jury citing that the other party has not proven its case, and as a matter of law, should rule in favor of the moving party.
Under Federal Civil Rule of Procedure 59, a Motion for New Trial, may be requested any time within 28 days after the jury verdict. It may be granted if there was a serious erroneous result or a miscarriage of justice.
The motion is long and outside the bounds of the page length for a motion and the attorneys have asked attorneys to file extra pages. The attorneys for World of Boxing and Povetkin claim that the jury verdict was not based on the evidence, the testimony of one of Wilder’s experts should not have been relied upon, the timing of the trial did not allow for all the questions to be answered and the purported misconduct of Wilder’s attorney.
The motion goes before the trial court judge which makes it somewhat hard for the moving party because they are arguing that the judge did not oversee their trial properly and thus must do it again. These motions would be quicker than an appeal although it would seem that they are exhausting all options. MMA Payout will return later with a substantive look at the claims.
March 9, 2017
Zuffa has filed its opposition to Bellator’s Motion to Quash Subpoenas issued by the company in its lawsuit filed by former fighters. Zuffa argues it is in need of three requests it made to Bellator and made exhaustive attempts (over 18 months) to work with the company on narrowing the scope.
Zuffa claims it does not normally seek non-public information from a competitor but they must have access “to defend against the antitrust lawsuit…”
A Federal Magistrate will hear the arguments from both sides on March 29th in Los Angeles.
The three requests at issue are:
- Bellator’s unredacted contracts;
- Documents regarding its negotiations with athletes; and
- Limited financial information including profit/loss statements and financial projections.
Zuffa claims that the request for contract documents will show the “intense competition” within Plaintiffs’ “Elite Professional MMA Fighter services” market. Documents regarding negotiations with athletes will also demonstrate that the UFC is not the “only game in town” and there is competition for fighters. It will also show that Bellator offers its athletes competitive compensation. Additionally, argues that Bellator’s Financial Information will reveal that it has not been foreclosed from the alleged market set by Plaintiffs.
It also argues that the requests are proportional to the needs of case. Essentially, Zuffa is asking only what it needs from Bellator and rebuts the Viacom-owned company’s assertion in its Motion to Quash that the requests are not proportional. In its brief, Zuffa cites the importance of the documents indicating “…issues at stake in the Nevada Action have the potential to fundamentally reshape the entire MMA industry.”
Zuffa attorneys argue that confidential information would not be made public or even disclosed to Zuffa. The protective order currently in place allows Bellator to designate its information with the title HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL – ATTORNEYS” EYES ONLY. This would ensure that the public or Zuffa employees would never see the information. This discovery designation is sometimes utilized in highly sensitive cases with company documents. In addition, Zuffa cites case law (notably, no cases in the 9th circuit, the controlling authority for this court) citing that motions to quash are “routinely denied” when there are “adequate protections for the commercially sensitive information.”
It also argues that in the antitrust lawsuit in Nevada, Zuffa has produced over 651,000 documents with 241,00 identified as Highly Confidential. The Plaintiffs, according to Zuffa, have produced approximately 64,000 docs with 4,300 docs identified as highly confidential. Third parties have produced 241,000 docs with 2,800 being designated as highly confidential. Zuffa makes the point that none of the highly confidential documents were disseminated to anyone other than attorneys and experts in the lawsuit. Thus, Zuffa and/or the Plaintiffs have not seen any of the documents flagged highly confidential.
The opposition briefing includes two declarations. One from one of Zuffa’s attorneys highlighting the account of how it attempted to work with Bellator on accessing the documents under the subpoena requests. Another declaration is from a Zuffa-retained expert citing the need for the documents requested to address the issues in the antitrust lawsuit.
You can expect the Federal Magistrate that will hear this motion to weigh the benefits of producing the documents against the business trade secrets of Bellator. If you are Bellator, you are fighting this to the end because there is always a chance that someone (knowingly or unknowingly) violates the terms of a protective order. At that point, you can’t unring the bell. Zuffa wants to appear reasonable to the magistrate and indicates that it is willing to continue to work with Bellator to get the documents it needs.
The hearing is March 29th in LA. MMA Payout will keep you posted.
March 8, 2017
In an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour this past Monday, Tony Ferguson sounded dejected and indicated that he had yet to receive his show money of $250,000 as disclosed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. It appears he’s still waiting for it.
MMA Junkie reports that Ferguson received less than half his contracted UFC 209 show money.
Ferguson was to face Khabib Nurmogomenov in a battle for the interim lightweight title. However, Khabib faced issues with the weight cut and pulled out of the fight on the Friday before the fight.
Ferguson still weighed in and made weight for the fight. So, he did everything right.
Word got out that Michael Johnson was offered up to Ferguson but he would not be paid as much as his bout agreement with Khabib. It made sense to pass from a business perspective as there was more to lose than to gain.
The latest now is that Ferguson received “less than half” the disclosed $250,000 show purse. Ferguson noted that he spent more on training expenses due to the magnitude of the fight. He now is upset with the company. A UFC official told MMA Junkie that Ferguson was aware of what he would be paid after the bout was canceled. Thus, the pay should have been known to Ferguson.
This is one of the horrible parts of the business side of fighting. The UFC valued Ferguson based upon the interim title fight with Khabib and thus his pay was increased to reflect this. Once the fight was off, the pay decreased. Unfortunately, this means that there was nothing in the contract which made assurances or guarantees to Ferguson that he would be paid show money if the fight did not take place. It would seem that making weight would be contractual and there would be repercussions or alternatives is a fighter does not make weight. Yet, looking at boxing and a standard boxing bout agreement between Deontay Wilder and Alexander Povetkin (a fight that did not take place due to issues related to drug testing), there are no clauses related to whether or not a fighter does not make the required weight.
This is bad PR for the UFC as the least it could do was to compensate Ferguson for holding up his end of the fight. Yet, it appears that there’s nothing illegal about the UFC’s pay to Ferguson.
March 7, 2017
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. In this edition, we take a look at UFC 209 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Woodley wins rematch with Wonderboy
The last seconds of the last round were really the most exciting part of this tactical fight. There was not a lot of action for the first four rounds and Woodley’s flurry at the end of round 5 may have been the most
Teymur defeats Vannata in FOTN co-main
Replacing Khabib Nurmogomenov and Tony Ferguson was a daunting task and Teymur and Vannata put on a respectable fight. Obviously, most MMA fans would have liked Khabib-Ferguson.
The get-in price as of Friday, was $62 on the secondary market although there were a lot of tickets available on Ticketmaster. The lowest price on Ticketmaster as of Friday was $95. Vivid Seats noted that most tickets on the secondary market were from California.
The event drew 13,150 for a gate of $2,385,230 at the T-Mobile Arena. It was by far the lowest out of the 4 events at the new arena. However, the other 3 (200, 202, and 207) had big names attached to those events.
The bonuses went to Darren Elkins, Iuri Alcantara, David Teymur and Lando Vannata. Elkins earned a Performance of the Night bonus for his come-from-behind win against Mirsad Bektic. Alcantara won via kneebar against Luke Sanders. Teymur and Vannata earned Fight of the Night.
Woodley earned $500,000 as he earned $400,000 to show and another $100,000 to win.
Stephen Thompson earned $380,000 for his narrow loss to Woodley.
Khabib lost out on $500,000 to show. Tony Ferguson was awarded his show purse of $250,000 but lost out on his chance to his win bonus of $250,000.
The other salaries are as follows as disclosed by the NAC (via MMA Junkie)
David Teymur: $28,000 (includes $14,000 win bonus)
def. Lando Vannata: $25,000
Daniel Kelly: $54,000 (includes $27,000 win bonus)
def. Rashad Evans: $150,000
Cynthia Calvillo: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Amanda Cooper: $17,000
Alistair Overeem: $750,000 (no win bonus)
def. Mark Hunt: $750,000
Marcin Tybura: $72,000 (includes $36,000 win bonus)
def. Luis Henrique: $16,000
Darren Elkins: $92,000 (includes $46,000 win bonus)
def. Mirsad Bektic: $21,000
Iuri Alcantara: $68,000 (includes $24,000 win bonus)
def. Luke Sanders: $12,000
Mark Godbeer: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Daniel Spitz: $12,000
Tyson Pedro: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Paul Craig: $12,000
Albert Morales: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Andre Soukhamthath: $10,000
Promotion of the Fight
The Embedded series seemed to focus on getting to know Khabib Nurmogomenov. They showed him a lot during the series including going to see Mike Tyson. Unfortunately, it did not turn out well for Khabib. It also gave us a glimpse of the return of GSP. Once again, there was no sponsor for the series.
The UFC Countdown show airing Sunday night on FS1 drew 80,000 viewers. I wouldn’t look too much into this as many fans watch it online instead of just the show.
Woodley and Wonderboy did media rounds together to promote the fight. Woodley brought up the issue of race during the media rounds. Dana White dismissed this issue and while praising Woodley also called him a “drama queen.” Whether or not you believe Woodley, his courage to talk about a controversial subject when many UFC fighters tip-toe around being controversial for fear of being punished by the company.
The St. Louis Cardinals supported the Missouri-born fighter.
Woodley is a Monster Energy sponsored athlete as evidenced by the “M” on his fight kit and holding the Monster can in the Octagon post-fight.
7-11 used UFC 209 for sponsorship activation as it offered a free Slurpee or Big Gulp by simply texting a number.
In addition to 7-11, MetroPCS, Harley Davidson, Budweiser and Monster Energy were in the Octagon.
The UFC continues its relationship with Netflix as this PPV it featured the series Ironfist.
The Sidekick Experience is a second screen experience where fans can go on the UFC Fan Page to watch Facebook Live of people talking about the fights.
Odds and ends
Maybe the best sponsor of Saturday night was actually Kung Fu Teas which was on the mat during the Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia Fight. It received great network exposure for a product I did not know existed. Also of note, Monster Headphones, a UFC sponsor, was in the ring for Thurman-Garcia.
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson would have placed the strap around Wonderboy had he defeated Woodley.
Bob Bennett showing up at the post-fight press conference to denounce a judge’s score in the main event sets bad precedent. It undermines his judges and brings into question close decisions. Press and fans will be looking to Bennett each time there is a questionable score.
There were over 500,000 google searches on Friday night for UFC 209 another 500,000 Saturday night and 100,000 for UFC may bode well for the final PPV buy rate.
The UFC and Dana White filed a Motion to Dismiss Mark Hunt’s lawsuit during fight week. Despite Hunt stating he was not thinking about it, one has to think it had to be on his mind a little bit. He is still being paid at a high level, $750,000. The pay puts him in the top 1-2% of UFC contracted fighters right now. This is something that the UFC will bring up during the lawsuit as it proceeds.
Perhaps unrelated to UFC 209, but Geico amplified its relationship with the UFC by having Cody Garbrandt star in its latest commercial.
The return of GSP and the announcement that he will take on Michael Bisping did alleviate some sting from the Khabib news. As for the press conference, what was the deal with Bisping being late and seemingly drunk? Very unprofessional for the champ.
This event was not going to do huge numbers but looked good from a hardcore MMA perspective as Khabib-Ferguson was a much-anticipated fight that was cancelled twice before this latest cancellation. It probably hurt some, but overall this PPV was not going to do big numbers. But, without Khabib-Ferguson, one would think this PPV does between 300-325K viewers.
March 3, 2017
It appears that Khabib Nurmogomedov and Tony Ferguson will never happen as Nurmogomedov was hospitalized Thursday evening and Nevada officials have called off the bout.
The fight, which was for the interim lightweight title and the right to face Conor McGregor, will not happen. Nurmogomedov was discharged per UFC officials however the fight will not go forward.
The scheduled interim lightweight championship bout between Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson at UFC 209 has been cancelled. pic.twitter.com/aFHxZH1Myx
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 3, 2017
Not only will this hurt the business-side from a PPV, attendance standpoint, but will hurt the handle at sportsbooks.
This fight had more than twice as much handle as main event. Going to be quite a few refunds for us on this one
— Matthew Holt (@MatthewHoltVP) March 3, 2017
This is disappointing as this was the third time the two were to fight but it appears that this will never happen. We have to assume that weight-cutting issues was the need for Khabib to be hospitalized. Certainly, many UFC fans wanted to see this more than the title fight between Woodley and Thompson.
March 1, 2017
Zuffa, LLC and Dana White have filed a Motion to Dismiss Mark Hunt’s lawsuit filed in Nevada.
Brock Lesnar, also a defendant, has yet to respond to Hunt’s lawsuit.
This past January, Hunt filed a lawsuit citing multiple causes of action including federal RICO charges as well as state charges of negligence and fraud.
You may recall that the parties had agreed to allow Zuffa to file a response until February 28th instead of in early February as originally required by law. Thus, it gave Zuffa extra time to file this Motion to Dismiss.
In its Motion to Dismiss, Zuffa claims that Hunt has no standing to prove a RICO claim. It notes that Hunt does not point to specifics which would satisfy the requirements.
It comes out swinging taking issue with the organization of Hunt’s lawsuit:
— Jason Cruz (@dilletaunt) March 1, 2017
Moreover, Zuffa claims that Hunt’s alleged injuries are subjective. For example, Zuffa claims Hunt’s claims of lost opportunities from losing to Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 are speculative. This is against RICO laws per cases cited by Zuffa. Notably, Hunt does not point to a specific title fight, promotional opportunity or marketing opportunity lost which could be linked to his loss to Lesnar.
Zuffa attaches Hunt’s 2016 Promotion Agreement to the motion but it is filed under seal so the public cannot access it.
Interesting enough, Zuffa points out that the Promotional Agreement does not impose a contractual obligation “to provide Hunt with clean opponents.” Zuffa argues that it is impossible for Zuffa to control any fighter from taking banned substances.
Hunt’s claim for personal injuries are barred argues Zuffa due to his express assumption of the risk contained in his fight contract. Essentially, Hunt knew of the risks going into the fight and it absolves Zuffa from liability.
Under a Motion to Dismiss standard (FRCP 12(b)(6)), a plaintiff must allege facts that, if taken as true, demonstrate “a plausible entitlement to relief.”
MMA Payout will have more on this as Hunt’s lawyers will need to respond. From the looks of the lawsuit, Zuffa makes strong arguments as to why the lawsuit should be dismissed. Some interesting things to note. Brock Lesnar has not filed a response as the motion is only for defendants Dana White and Zuffa, LLC. Lesnar needs to respond or Hunt could move for a default. One has to wonder if the parties have carved out some sort of an agreement with respect to Lesnar. Zuffa makes its strongest case with respect to the RICO claims. This might mean that it wants the federal claims kicked so they can move it to state court in Clark County. Finally, with the issue with USADA and the waiver, why hasn’t it been dragged into the lawsuit?
MMA Payout will continue to monitor.
February 27, 2017
Attorneys for Golden Boy Promotions have filed a Notice of Appeal and Representation Statement to appeal the Court Order dismissing its antitrust lawsuit against Al Haymon and his various entities
The deadline to appeal the decision was Monday and they just met it. This could mean that Golden Boy is ready to take it to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals or determine whether there is a possible settlement. Based on the opinion, Golden Boy has some hurdles to overcome to persuade an appellate court to find fault in the judicial opinion dismissing the case.