MMA Getaway? Warrior Vacations hopes to create niche

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.

Payout Perspective:

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.

MMA Payout returns to Sports Law Chat Sunday

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.

Rebney out as Bellator head, Coker to step in

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:

MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani added on to the report:

After the announcement, Rebney issued a statement via Jason Floyd:

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.

Payout Perspective:

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.

UFC 174: Payout Perspective

June 16, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 174 from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada where Demetrious Johnson showed why he is the pound for pound best fighter in the UFC.

Mighty Mouse outclasses  Bagautinov

Rousey may be the biggest draw, Jones may be the face, Weidman may be the most liked, Cain may be the most devastating but Demetrious Johnson has to be considered the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC.  Johnson showed his technical acumen and lightning quick speed in shutting out Ali Bagautinov in the 5 round main event.  Johnson’s array of moves and speed were too much for the fourth-ranked fighter in the Flyweight division.

Johnson has cleaned out all the proven contenders in his division and maybe a rematch with John Dodson is next for Mighty Mouse.  However, would a move up the 135 be something to look at down the road?  Johnson’s only UFC defeated came at 135 at the hands of Dominick Cruz in October 2011.

UFC_174_event_poster

MacDonald impressive over Woodley

There are times that Rory MacDonald looks disinterested in his fights, and there are times where he looks like the guy who wants to be champ by 25.  On Saturday MacDonald looked like a contender by dominating Tyron Woodley.  It was a dominating victory over a fighter that had the momentum to be considered for a title shot with an impressive win over the hometown MacDonald.

MacDonald likely will stand in line while waiting for a welterweight title shot behind the winner of the Matt Brown-Robbie Lawler matchup.

Attendance and gate

Although we do not know the exact configurations for Saturday’s UFC event, the Rogers Center holds 18,630.  UFC 174 drew 13,506 for a gate of $1.14 million.  This is noticeably down from UFC 131, the last time the organization came to the Rogers Arena.  That event had 14,685 for a gate of $2.8 million.  Prior to that, in 2010, UFC 115 at GM Place had 17,669 fans for over $4.2 million.  UFC director of Canadian operations Tom Wright was quoted in the Vancover Sun on Sunday that the UFC was happy with coming to Vancouver and would be back.

According to SeatGeek, there was a lack of demand for the event as it saw seats on the secondary market selling below face value.  The average resale for a ticket was $175.

Bonuses

The $50K bonuses were as follows:

Tae Hyun Bang: $100K for Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night

Kiichi Kunimoto: $50K Performance of the Night

Kajan Johnson: $50K Fight of the Night.

Johnson and Bang were awarded FOTN.  Kunimoto pulled off an upset of Daniel Sarafian during the prelims portion of the card.  Arguably, MacDonald and OSP could have been in the running for POTN as well as Letourneau-Phillips for FOTN.

Promotion for the Fight

The UFC Embedded series once again complemented the UFC Countdown show.  The Embedded series is just like the 24/7/All-Access series the UFC had done in the past except this one is shorter and likely cheaper.  While the online series focuses on White and then the featured fighters instead of vice versa, it’s still an interesting look behind the scenes of fight week.

White also spoke to the Vancouver Board of Trade. 

There was coverage of the UFC in the local press.  As well as a post-fight review by a columnist in the Vancouver Sun expressing her displeasure for the sport.  While we try to be unbiased in reading opposing views to this sport, this column does a disservice to its readers by painting a picture with purported evidence which, if you dig into, does not support the writer’s initial thesis.

Since it was close to his hometown, Demetrious Johnson took the UFC belt over to the Seattle Seahawks training facility to meet some other world champions.  He met All-Pro Safety Earl Thomas and it made the Seahawk Facebook page.  He also made appearances in Seattle the week before fight week to promote the fight.

via Seattle Seahawks Facebook Page

via Seattle Seahawks Facebook Page

Sponsors

The octagon sponsors included Fram, Las Vegas.com, Xyience, Boston Pizza, XboxOne, EA Sports’ UFC video game, UFC Fit and Bud Light in the center.  EA Sports also had the fighter prep point.  Its interesting to note that some of the usual Octagon sponsors did not have signage in the octagon tonight although most of the usual sponsors had other parts of the PPV (e.g., Harley Davidson, MetroPCS, etc…)

Las Vegas seems to be doing more promotion in lieu of International Fight Week.  Boston Pizza is a UFC sponsor that is big in Canada.  Xbox One is the one and only sponsor of Demetrious Johnson.

The biggest recognition for a sponsor for the night has to go to Tyron Woodley and his sponsor, Dude Wipes.  DudeProducts.com make a wipe that doesn’t make dudes smell.  The good news, the logo was placed directly on Woodley’s rear end and received a lot of response so much so that it was trending on twitter.  The bad news is that Woodley lost.

Odds and Ends

The Prelims were on FX instead of FS1 which adds to the fact that this event might be one of the lowest viewed in a while.

Although this happened a couple weeks ago USA TaeKwonDo had its logo on the Octagon mat at the New Mexico Fight Night.  Benson Henderson has a black belt in TKD which may be one of the reasons for its sponsorship.

Remember when Tim Tebow was a well-liked football player?  Tebow was in attendance to little fan-fare from the Canadian crowd.

Who had the worse looking eye on Saturday night?  Valerie Letourneau or Boxer Chris Algieri.

Feijao had a sponsor blacked out at weigh-ins.  With his performance on Saturday, that sponsor is likely happy it had its name blacked out.

Conclusion

Going into this event, it did not seem like this would be a good viewing weekend.  The last three years, June PPVs have been one of the weakest of the year.  UFC 174 will carry this trend.  While Johnson is one of the best around, he’s not a draw and there was nothing else on the card that would compel a casual viewer to pay to watch this card.  Although not necessarily a correlation of the buy rate, the attendance for this event was lower than in 2011.  A buy rate of 150,000 would not be out of the realm of possibility.

UFC to sponsor amateur event in New York

June 13, 2014

According to a New York newspaper, the UFC will be sponsoring an amateur MMA event at the Liberty Games in New York State.

MMA Payout was able to contact Ron McEvilly, the Empire States Sports Council Martial Arts Director and owner of Tigon Academy, LLC  in Watervliet, New York.  He is the sports chair for the MMA portion of the Liberty Games.  McEvilly is involved in the MMA community in New York and indicates that he met with attorney David Weintraub and UFC COO Lawrence Epstein and they offered to support the Liberty Games by sponsoring the amateur MMA event. In an email to MMA Payout he wrote that when explained that the purpose of the event and how it helps youth with anti-bullying the UFC was happy to support.  McEvilly also worked with MMA4NY (MMA 4 NY is a coalition working to legalize the sport in NY) on youth anti-bullying campaigns in the past.

MMA Payout has also reached out to the UFC but it has not received a response back as of this writing.

From the registration, waiver and permission form the event is a youth tournament with events in Kickboxing, Submission Grappling and MMA.  There are some highlights from 2013.

More information on the Liberty Games and martial arts participation can be found here as well as the rules.   The Liberty Games will take place July 11-20 in Schenecteday, Colonie, Saratoga Springs and Albany.  According to The Gazette Reporter, the event will take place Saturday July 19th in Scotia, New York.

As we know, the UFC is in a bitter struggle to legalize professional MMA in the state of New York.  With one week left in the legislative year in Albany, it appears that there will be no vote on a law to legalize MMA in the state.

Payout Perspective:

This is an interesting move by the UFC to sponsor such an event.  In New York at this point, amateur MMA is legal while professional MMA is not.  Sponsoring this event keeps the UFC name out there but the controversial point here is the participation of youth in MMA.  The California State Athletic Commission invoked a moratorium on youth pankration and MMA last July due to strong opposition by people not wanting children involved in this sport.  Thus, this might be something that opponents of MMA would latch onto when it comes to another run at legalization in 2015.

Is this something to be concerned with or should MMA be treated like every other martial art that children get involved with as a youth?  It appears that how MMA is utilized for youths here is as a tool against bullying.  Certainly the rules suggest that safety is primary.

Bellator makes rule change

June 12, 2014

Bellator announced that it will now allow former Bellator Tournament winners the opportunity to fight in a world title fight without the need to fight in its tournament according to a company release this morning.

Via Bellator press release:

“Just like we’ve done since day one, any fighter who wins The Toughest Tournament in Sports will still be guaranteed a World Title fight,” [Bjorn] Rebney said. “The addition I’m making here, that I’m really excited about, is if you’ve won a tournament, you’ll join an elite group of athletes who we can grant a world title fight to at any time.”

“For example, if you win a tournament, fight for the World Title and lose, you forever remain in that elite group of fighters who can be awarded another shot at the title. We will place some fighters back into tournaments, while others may lose a world title fight, win some non-tournament fights and be awarded another shot at the title. We won’t be implementing any hard and fast rule as to when a fighter will go back into a tournament and when he’ll fight non-tournament fights and potentially be granted another title shot.  What’s great about this addition is that it allows us to stay true to our core format, where title shots can only be earned through a tournament win, while also providing us tremendous flexibility to make the great fights fans want to see.  And, we can do all this while keeping our fighters busy and battling in meaningful fights on a re-occurring basis. This is another step in our constant evolution and most importantly it’s a win for the fighters and the fans.”

The current pool of fighters eligible to be chosen to fight for the world title includes:

Bantamweight: Eduardo Dantas*, Joe Warren*, Marcos Galvao, Rafael Silva

Featherweight: Pat Curran*, Patricio Pitbull, Daniel Straus, Shahbulat Shamhalaev, “Frodo” Khasbulaev, Daniel Weichel, Joe Warren.

Lightweight: Eddie Alvarez*, Will Brooks*, Michael Chandler, Pat Curran, Rick Hawn, Dave Jansen, David Rickels

Welterweight: Douglas Lima*, Karl Amoussou, Andrey Koreshkov, Rick Hawn

Middleweight: Alexander Shlemenko*, Brennan Ward, Doug Marshall

Light Heavyweight: Emanuel Newton*, Rampage Jackson, King Mo, Christian M’Pumbu, Atilla Vegh,

Heavyweight: Vitaly Minakov*, Alexander Volkov, Cheick Kongo

* Denotes Current Bellator Champion or Interim Champion

bellator-logo

The MMA Report clarified with Bellator that if a fighter moves between weight classes, the fighter would still have to go through a tournament in that weight class to secure a title shot.

Rebney told MMA Fighting that the reason for the change is to “stay true to who we [Bellator] are, but it also give us much more flexibility to make compelling world title fights.”

Payout Perspective:

There was obvious need for such an amendment to the rules if Bellator wants to put on more fan friendly fights.  Certainly, Bellator fans (and non-fans) would have pointed to match-making issues if the organization were to set up fights outside of the tournament structure.  I would assume that one of the reasons for this change is for future PPVs.  It will be interesting to see how Bellator uses this new clause.

Sonnen speaks about positive drug test

June 11, 2014

Dana White and Chael Sonnen appeared on America’s Pregame on FS1 on Tuesday to tell its side of the story for Sonnen’s failed drug test which takes him out of UFC 175.

Sonnen stated that he would appeal the Nevada State Athletic Commission which is not what was originally reported.  As always, Sonnen was a master of persuasion in changing the conversation as to who was ultimately to blame for the failed drug test.  While there was some push back by the interviewer, it’s clear that Sonnen was allowed the opportunity to give his side of the story and placing blame on the governing body of Nevada.

Sonnen hammered on key talking points to make his case.

-          He took a legal substance to operate within the rules;

-          He took the banned substances to become a parent;

-          The drugs that he tested positive for are not performance enhancers, not illegal and not anabaloic steroids;

-          He made it clear that the drugs were not illegal, but banned;

-          He also made it clear that the drugs were taken “out of competition.”

Dana White preceded Sonnen to essentially defend his fighter and blame the Nevada State Athletic Commission for not providing a plan for fighters to come off of TRT.  White did place some blame on Sonnen for not calling the NSAC about what his doctors told him.

In addition, Sonnen made an appearance on Jay Mohr’s radio show which is also a part of Fox Sports Radio.

Payout Perspective:

No surprise that Fox, not ESPN, are the ones that help with getting out the UFC side of the story.  Sonnen, as always, makes a great case for himself but while he may have viable arguments the overarching issue is that the use of these drugs are against the rules.

The interesting part here is that Sonnen admits to the use of at least 3 drugs (HCG, Anastrozole and Clomiphene) despite just testing positive for 2.  We assume the drugs were used for assistance in helping him live without TRT treatments although Sonnen also admitted that he has (or had) fertility issues in trying to have children.

While I may not be a physician with expertise on these issues, I see two simple ways out of this problem for which Sonnen and the UFC now face:

1)      Ask the NSAC about ways to be clean without testing positive or request an exemption to any potential banned substances; or

2)      Simply not apply for a license until you are able to safely be off of TRT and not test positive for any banned substance.

Sonnen claims that he has not been able to be in contact with the proper regulatory authorities in Nevada but I assume that the UFC could have had enough clout within the state to contact an official and see if it would be possible to seek clarification on becoming compliant after TRT.

Is the Nevada State Athletic Commission at all culpable for banning TRT and then not advising athletes it gave TUE exemptions to a way to become compliant without testing positive for substances which may be on its banned list?  This is an interesting question that we may likely see more come out especially if Sonnen does appeal.

Could this be a case where both sides had fault with in one of the biggest problems in this sport?

Sonnen out of UFC 175 after failing random drug test

June 10, 2014

ESPN reports that Chael Sonnen has failed a random drug test as it was discovered that he tested positive for two banned substances.  The drug test was confirmed to MMA Junkie by Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Bob Bennett.

The random drug test was taken last month by the NSAC.

Via ESPN:

The substances Sonnen tested positive for are classified as antiestrogenic. Anastrozole is used to treat early stages of breast cancer. Clomiphene is used in cases of female infertility.

ESPN states that Sonnen will not file appeal to this finding.  Regardless, Sonnen is out of his UFC 175 bout with Vitor Belfort.  Originally, Sonnen was to face Wanderlei Silva but was then replaced after Silva did not comply with a random drug test.  For that matter, Belfort has his own issues as he will need to appear before the NSAC on June 17th to discuss his own drug testing issues.  Without an opponent, we will see if Belfort will follow through with the hearing or pull out altogether.

Payout Perspective:

Stay tuned for more as Sonnen will likely address this finding on UFC Tonight on FS1.  The finding is not good for the UFC’s overall image.  Even though it supported a TRT ban, we see that one of the bigger fights that was to take place at UFC 175 is essentially off as the first two fighters (Wandy-Sonnen) are now out and the replacement has his own testing issues.  We will see what Sonnen has to say tonight and what will he do to repair his image.

 

Invicta FC-UFC strike deal for Fight Pass

June 6, 2014

Invicta FC is partnering with the UFC to show its live events and previous shows on the UFC Fight Pass digital network.  The deal is a multi-year, multi-event agreement.

The deal reflects the already amicable relationship between the two companies.  It should help both organizations.  Invicta FC gained some traction with its events as it received interest from its UStream PPVs.  However, in its attempt to monetize its iPPV events, it experienced severe issues with its pay wall so much that it had to take it down.  Thus, it lost out on a lot of buys.

For InvictaFC, the deal lands it on what appears to be a reliable digital network and it taps into a dedicated UFC fan base.  For the UFC, it gives it another option for content on its network and expands its library with Invicta’s previous events.  It also keeps its content “fresh” with the addition of live events.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC and Invicta have had a working relationship for some time. Whether it was having UFC fighters involved in Invicta events or granting the UFC its straw weights to create a new division for it, rumors swirled that the UFC would purchase Invicta.  This is close enough.  InvictaFC needed a dedicated platform to show its fights and the Fight Pass will do it for them.

Bellator PPV exceeds 100K PPV buys

May 28, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that Bellator 120’s PPV has surpassed 100,000 buys. Despite losing its main event, Bellator exceeded most expectations with the amount of buys.

Greg Savage of Sherdog first reported the buy rate.  The initial buy rate floated out there was 65,000 buys according to Dave Meltzer on his Wrestling Observer podcast with Bryan Alvarez on Tuesday. According to the Sherdog article, the buy rate will be available in Viacom’s SEC filings later this year.

Bjorn Rebney told MMA Fighting:

I won’t be discussing specific PPV buy rates, but what I can say is that with one of our main events falling out just seven days before our first PPV, a six figure plus buy rate is a good starting point.  But, it’s just that, a starting point.  My focus is to continue working with our partners at Spike to create the type of big event experience that we created on the 17th.

Payout Perspective:

The news of a 100K plus PPV buy rate after Eddie Alvarez had to pull out is a great achievement by Bellator.  It is really good considering it competed with HBO Boxing that night with Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado.

What propelled the 100K plus buys?  Rampage Jackson-King Mo?  Tito Ortiz?  Whatever it was, the buy rate means that Bellator will definitely plan additional PPVs in the future.  Certainly, Rampage-Tito, Alvarez-Chandler or Brooks would be good choices to headline the next Bellator PPV.

The UFC is the standard for MMA PPV with few others attempting it.  As MMA Fighting notes, only Affliction’s PPV in July 2008 (Fedor v. Sylvia – 100K buys) has put on a PPV with a buy rate hitting 100K.  WEC also had a PPV (Aldo v. Faber) in April 2010 which did 175K PPV buys.  However, the UFC owned WEC at the time.

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