Conor McGregor arrested in Miami

March 11, 2019

Conor McGregor was arrested in Miami Monday morning according to the Miami Beach Police Department.

McGregor was charged for strong arm robbery and criminal mischief which are both felonies.  According to the arrest affidavit, McGregor and the victim were at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami.  When McGregor left, the victim attempted to take a picture with him with his cell phone.  McGregor knocked the phone out of his hand, stomped on the phone several times and then took it away from him.  The victim claims that the phone was worth $1,000.

MMA Fighting has obtained a statement from McGregor’s attorney in which he describes the incident as a “minor altercation.”

Payout Perspective:

This incident seems minimal compared to the bus incident in New Jersey last year.  Yet, the piling on of criminal incidents cannot sit well with authorities.  There’s likely a story from McGregor about the reason for what he did.  One has to assume that McGregor will not be punished extensively for this so long as he pays for the damage.

The Interview: Jim Perry and Matt Farmer of Defy Wrestling

March 4, 2019

The independent wrestling scene is hot and The Interview checks in with Northwest promoters and founders of Defy Wrestling Jim Perry and Matt Farmer.  They discuss starting the promotion and the nature of the business.

The Interview: Miesha Tate, Rich Franklin and Demetrious Johnson

February 25, 2019

I had the chance to attend the first of three ONE Championship media events here in the United States.  This ‘meet and greet’ took place at the Southwest Boys & Girls Club in Seattle, Washington.  Prior to the event I had the opportunity to talk with Demetrious Johnson, Rich Franklin and Miesha Tate.

One point of clarification from the DJ portion of the interview, Johnson states that ONE Championship is seen by 200 million viewers.  The actual number is 20 million as pointed out by ONE Championship PR staff.

Also, I end the interview with Miesha Tate by saying we look forward to ONE Championship in the U.S.  Of course, I mean watching it on B/R App and/or Turner Sports as there is no scheduled ONE Championship events in the U.S.

Johnson takes on Yuya Wakamatsu in the opening round of the ONE Championship Flyweight World Grand Prix tournament on March 31st.  Also on the card, Eddie Alvarez debuts taking on Timofey Natsyukhin.  The event takes place at Ryogoku Kokugikan near Tokyo, Japan.

With ONE Championship announcer Mitch Chilson (and Seattle native) as the emcee, Johnson, Franklin and Tate spoke to the kids at the Boys and Girls club on their background, overcoming obstacles growing up and fielding questions.  They also took pictures with the kids and signed autographs.

ESPN and PFL enter into multi-year deal to air on network and ESPN+

February 25, 2019

ESPN and The Professional Fighters League (PF) have reached a multi-year deal with the network making it the home of the promotion.  It will now become stablemates with the UFC on the network as it begins its second season of the PFL format in May.

ESPN and ESPN+ will become the exclusive media home for the PFL according to today’s press release.  Financial terms were not announced.  All ten PFL events will air live on ESPN platforms with “up to three hours of exclusive action” on ESPN + and two exclusive hours on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.  TSN will air all PFL events in Canada.

Via PFL Media:

In addition to the live events, ESPN platforms will bring fans pre- and post-event coverage and additional exclusive PFL content, including an inside look at the league through a ‘Road to the Playoffs,’ ‘Road to the Championship’ and the PFL ‘Best of Season.’ The agreement starts with the telecast of the 2018 PFL Season Review and 2019 Roster Selection Show this spring.

Specific details about scheduling and surround programming will be announced in the coming weeks.

Fans can look forward to some firsts this PFL season, including the debut of MMA’s first-ever 155-pound women’s division which will feature two-time American Olympic Gold Medalist Kayla Harrison, as well as SmartCage and Cagenomics, proprietary PFL features that deliver real-time data and analytics to bring fans “inside the cage.”

“We are pleased to add the PFL to our combat sports roster. This unique and innovative competition structure provides MMA fans with a great option to see some of the best fights and content in the sport,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN Executive Vice President, Programming and Scheduling. “ESPN is the home of combat sports, and we look forward to delivering thrilling live PFL events and powerful storytelling to fans, across all platforms.”

The PFL aired on NBC Sports Network to middling ratings last year and as the World Series of Fighting had a deal with the network.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that this is a big move for PFL as its visibility will ascend tremendously.  Not only will it fill content need for ESPN+ but will air on ESPN2 and TSN in Canada.  One has to think that the new management group helped with the credibility of the promotion and its projected future.  Could the UFC and PFL work together with the PFL becoming a “feeder” league for the UFC and/or UFC fighters participating in the PFL?  We shall see.

GSP announces retirement

February 22, 2019

On Thursday, Georges St-Pierre announced his retirement from the UFC.  He will go down as one of the greatest fighters in UFC history and one of its key draws as the company tried to gain a foothold in mainstream sports landscape.

Before Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor or the superfight, GSP was the key to PPV buys.  Partly due to his large Canadian fan base and partly due to his respectful, martial arts philosophy, GSP was a legitimate draw that was able to crossover to mainstream awareness.

A failure to book a fight against Khabib Nurmogomedov was the main reason why GSP decided on retiring which may lead one to believe that if he were offered the fight down the road, he may return to the Octagon.  As with combat sports, retiring is not seen as a finality.  MMA and boxing have had its share of failed retirements.  Could we see GSP return to MMA rather than staying retired for good?

Likely.

On Thursday, Georges St-Pierre announced his retirement from the UFC.  He will go down as one of the greatest fighters in UFC history and one of its key draws as the company tried to gain a foothold in mainstream sports landscape.

Before Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor or the superfight, GSP was the key to PPV buys.  Partly due to his large Canadian fan base and partly due to his respectful, martial arts philosophy, GSP was a legitimate draw that was able to crossover to mainstream awareness.

A failure to book a fight against Khabib Nurmogomedov was the main reason why GSP decided on retiring which may lead one to believe that if he were offered the fight down the road, he may return to the Octagon.  As with combat sports, retiring is not seen as a finality, only a sabbatical.  MMA and boxing have had its share of failed retirements.  Could we see GSP return to MMA rather than staying retired for good?

Likely.

But if he decides to stay retired, he will go down as one of the greatest in UFC history.  He will not have the PPV buy rates that Rousey or McGregor can claim, but his draw and conversion of fans to the UFC was also an important part of where the company is now situated.  GSP is a true martial artist in its purist form.  At a time where MMA fighters are dedicated for a short stint of time, GSP is an individual that will be dedicated to the martial arts for the rest of his life. And when the UFC needed a star, they had it in GSP.

We will see what GSP does now.  He is set for life financially and one may see him doing seminars or autograph signings to earn some extra revenue.  But will the allure of a big fight bring him out of retirement?  Time will tell.

Court dismisses all but one claim in Mark Hunt’s lawsuit against the UFC

February 14, 2019

In a 28-page order filed on Thursday, the United States District Court of Nevada dismissed all but one of UFC fighter Mark Hunt’s claims in his lawsuit alleging among its claims breach of contract, fraud and RICO Violations against the UFC.

The Order dismissed White and Lesnar in the lawsuit  leaving just the UFC as the lone defendant.  For background of the case, you can go here.

An analysis of the Motion to Dismiss hearing is here.

Order on Motion to Dismiss by on Scribd

The Court had allowed Hunt the right to amend his Complaint to include further details supporting his claims under RICO Act violations and fraud. However, the Court was not persuaded by Hunt’s amended and supplemental complaint.

In total, 9 out of the 10 claims in Hunt’s lawsuit were dismissed.

The Court determined that Hunt’s claims under the state and federal RICO statutes failed because either the allegations were “non-cognizable damages or failed to plead facts to show” a proximate cause to his financial losses.

The Court specifically took aim at Hunt’s loss to Lesnar at UFC 200.  The Court did not agree with Hunt that due to his loss to Lesnar, it proximately caused ancillary injuries to Hunt including cancelled promotional events post-UFC 200 costing him over $90,000 in appearance fees, a “dip” in his social media popularity and diminished advertising fees as well as a loss of licensing fees and sales for his personal clothing brand.   Here, the Court could not side with Hunt and believed that his RICO allegations failed for lack of proximate cause as they were “fatally speculative.”

In response to Hunt’s arguments that it could introduce expert testimony at a later stage of litigation to show the causation, the Court cited to precedent which stated that “it does not mean that the mere possibility of expert testimony down the line can rehabilitate allegations that insufficiently establish proximate causation.”  Moreover, the Court concludes that his claims cannot prove that Hunt would have beaten Lesnar if he was not doping.

As for the allegations related to White and the UFC, the Court infers that Hunt relates his claim to the removal of his fight from UFC Fight Night 121 (“referred to as UFC 121 in the order”) after he wrote an article claiming to suffer from slurred speech and other maladies he attributes to fighting.  The Court found fatal defects in the pleading as this was the portion of his claim in his Supplemental Complaint.  But he did not provide sufficient notice to the defendants.  Nevertheless, the Court dismissed the claim as it believed that the costs he attributed to training camp as not financial losses that do not constitute damage to “tangible property” under the RICO statute.

The lack of proximate cause also proved fatal for Hunt’s claims against White for alleged “aiding and abetting” and common law fraud.  Here again the Court refers to the lack of evidence linking White’s representations including the claim Lesnar was being tested by USADA with the alleged doping scheme.

The Court also dismissed Hunt’s breach of contract claim because he was paid for his fight against Lesnar at UFC 200.  In addition, the Court states that since Hunt’s damages relate to items that occurred after his loss, and not his contracted pay, the claim must be dismissed.

The Court determined that Hunt’s unjust enrichment claim must also fail because it stems from his contract with the UFC.  He received what he was owed in the contract and there is no compensation for Hunt’s perception that his services exceeded the scope of the contract.

Hunt’s battery and aiding and abetting claims fail because he consented to the fight with Lesnar.  Moreover, there was no evidence that Lesnar did anything outside “the range of the ordinary activity,” in an MMA bout.  The Court cites to a California case in which a pitcher intentionally threw a pitch at a batter’s head which injured the batter.  The Court sided with the pitcher stating that while throwing at a batter’s head is “forbidden by the rules of baseball,” it “is an inherent risk of baseball.”  By analogy, the Court states that even though Lesnar tested positive for a performance enhancing drug, there was no evidence submitted which revealed that he did something outside the scope of an MMA bout.  Thus, there is no battery claim against Lesnar.

Finally, the civil conspiracy claims must fail because the Court dismissed Hunt’s fraud and battery claims.  Since the underlying claims were dismissed, there cannot be a conspiracy claim.

The Court also authorized the remaining parties (i.e., UFC and Hunt) to attend a settlement conference.  In all likelihood, the parties will settle.

Payout Perspective:

In all likelihood, this case will be over after the settlement conference.  Cases for breaches of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing in contract have a low likelihood of victory for the plaintiff.  Based on the Court’s opinion which dismissed Hunt’s case for lack of proximate cause to his claims, it would only be a matter of time before Hunt’s last claim is dismissed.  This is an unfortunate result for Hunt.  While it’s clear that the allegations were tied together by a thread, it’s clear that he was tired of being put in the Octagon with opponents that failed drug tests. While Hunt may have had several good points in his lawsuit, the Court did not find anything of legal substance to keep the case afloat.  MMA Payout will keep you posted if there would be an appeal.

UFC 234: Payout Perspective

February 11, 2019

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  In this edition, we take a look at UFC 234 in Brisbane, Australia.

Adesanysa defeats idol in main event

With Robert Whittaker needing emergency surgery for a hernia, his middleweight title fight against Kelvin Gastelum was scratched and Anderson Silva-Israel Adesanya was inserted at the top of the card. The fight was to become the number 1 contender according to the UFC.

Adesanya bested his idol via unanimous decision in a fight that he was inserted in to win.  The good news is that Silva looked like Anderson Silva.  Two years removed from his last appearance in the Octagon due to a drug suspension, Silva appeared slower (of course), but had enough to make the fight entertaining for all.

Adesanya now waits to see if he will fight Whittaker or a showdown with Kelvin Gastelum.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

UFC 234 was a sell out with 15,238 in attendance for a gate of $2,470,088 U.S. Dollars.  There was an opportunity for those wishing to receive refunds to obtain them.

The bonuses went to Silva-Adesanya, Montana De La Rosa and Devonte Smith.  FOTN went to Silva-Adesanya while De La Rosa and Smith received Performance Bonuses.  All earned an addition $50K.

Reebok Promotional Guideline Payouts (via MMA Junkie)

Israel Adesanya: $4,000
def. Anderson Silva: $20,000

Lando Vannata: $5,000
def. Marcos Mariano: $3,500

Ricky Simon: $3,500
def. Rani Yahya: $20,000

Montana De La Rosa: $3,500
def. Nadia Kassem: $3,500

Jim Crute: $3,500
def. Sam Alvey: $15,000

Devonte Smith: $3,500
def. Dong Hyun Ma: $5,000

Shane Young: $3,500
def. Austin Arnett: $4,000

Kai Kara-France: $3,500
def. Raulian Paiva: $3,500

Kyung Ho Kang: $5,000
def. Teruto Ishihara: $5,000

Jalin Turner: $3,500
def. Callan Potter: $3,500

Jonathan Martinez: $3,500
def. Wuliji Buren: $3,500

Sponsorships

TAB, the online gambling web site in Australia served as a “presenting” sponsor for the event as its logo was everywhere during UFC 234.  Tab was also on the fighter kits.  Its unlikely that any of the fighters received compensation for wearing the logo based on previous logo placement.

TAB had the fighter checkpoint.  The Octagon featured Air Asia, Hudson Shipping Company, Nemiroff, Hooters, Modelo and Monster Energy in the middle.   Also in the Octagon was Port Local Pirate Life Brewing, the video game Fallout76 (which also sponsored the Embedded episodes) and Bisley, an Australian workwear company.

Odds and Ends

The partnership with ESPN looks to be off to a great start as the second prelims show on ESPN has drawn stellar ratings.  Although no viewer numbers as of Sunday night, the metered market rating has a 1.0 share peaking with 1.7.  Once again, the Duke-Virginia college basketball game was the lead-in.

Dana White brokered one time deal with DirecTV as the UFC deal with the satellite provider ended in 2018.  It was not until Thursday that White came to an agreement otherwise a big section of the UFC fan base would not have access to the PPV via DTV.

Gastelum walking around the arena with Henry Cejudo’s belt brought out a reaction, which may have been all he wanted.  Also, it forces the issue that he should deserve the next shot at the middleweight title.  Whether Gastelum will get the first shot at Whittaker or if Adesanya does will be an interesting question.  Obviously, if Whittaker takes some time to recover, we could see Gastelum and Adesanya vying for another interim title.

Interesting to note that the Middleweight title has not been the same since GSP took it from Michael Bisping two years ago.

Montana De La Rosa’s post-fight interview in the Octagon stated that she wanted to get through her TUF contract so that she would be able to make better money.  She did earn a Performance Bonus so that should help her.

In addition to the UFC, Showtime Boxing had an event.

There were over 1 million google searches for UFC 234 on Saturday which may be attributed to the main event change.

Conclusion

 This may be the first of many instances where the UFC Prelim show on ESPN will do a big rating but the PPV will not. In the past, the UFC Prelims have served as an indicator on PPV success.  With the UFC on ESPN now, I don’t think it will no longer be the case.  With the elimination of the title fight, I think the PPV may have taken a hit, but not one that would show considerable damage.  The problem is that this PPV was destined to be in the 125,000 PPV range which are the UFC hardcore fans minus a few not wanting to shell out the $65 this time around.

The Interview: Leslie Smith and Lucas Middlebrook

February 5, 2019

Leslie Smith and Lucas Middlebrook discuss the details of Smith’s NLRB dispute with the UFC and Project Spearhead.

The two will appear at the University of Oregon Law School on Saturday as part of the school’s Sports and Entertainment Law Forum.

For context on Smith’s Declaration discussed in the interview, it is attached to the appeal.  Also for more info on the whole dispute, see here.

NLRB denies Leslie Smith Ap… by on Scribd

Finally, apologies for the dog barking in the middle of the interview.  My bad.

The Interview: Josh Rosenblatt

January 28, 2019

I had the chance to talk to Josh Rosenblatt about his recently released book, “Why We Fight,One Man’s Search for Meaning Inside the Ring.

 

Payout Perspective: UFC debuts on ESPN

January 22, 2019

Welcome to a special edition of Payout Perspective.  We take a look at the UFC’s debut on ESPN and ESPN+ this past Saturday at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Cejudo KOs TJ in R1

Henry Cejudo may have saved the UFC Flyweight Division as he knocked out T.J. Dillashaw to retain his flyweight title.  Cejudo stunned Dillashaw with unassuming punch which knocked the bantamweight down. From there, Cejudo swarmed Dillashaw and the ref stepped in.

From first look, I thought that this was a quick stoppage as they usually allow a little more action for the fighter to recover in championship matches.  But after watching again, with less than a minute gone by in the round there was no way that Dillashaw could have held on and/or recovered.

Cejudo becomes the first champ to receive the new (and maybe controversial) UFC redesigned belt.  He also received props form Nikki Bella which may have been the biggest payoff. While Joseph Benavidez may be the next in light in the flyweight division, its clear that Cejudo would like to take this momentum and challenge Dillashaw for his 135 pound title.  One would think that Dillashaw will want a rematch as he claimed that the stoppage was too soon.

Hardy DQ’d in UFC debut

It was a controversial decision to have Greg Hardy fight on the ESPN debut.  It drew even more raised eyebrows when the UFC put him in the co-main event of the evening especially when you had Paige Van Zant and Donald Cerrone and Alexander Hernandez on the card as well.  Yet, Hardy faced Allen Crowder in a Heavyweight matchup.

While the imposing Hardy may have intimidated on the regional scene, it was Crowder that taunted the former football player.  But it was a knee to the head of a grounded opponent which, as Daniel Cormier described was “very illegal.”  There was no way for Crowder to continue after the knee and it was a disqualification.

Inauspicious debut for Hardy although the UFC does see something in him.  He is still a controversial figure considering his lack of contrition for his past domestic violence past.  We shall how the UFC books him in the future.  One thinks he will be a “Fight Night” athlete until he gets some more seasoning.

Attendance, Gate and Bonuses

The Barclay’s Center drew 12,152 fans for a gate of $1.23 million.  The last big UFC event at the Barclay’s Center was UFC 223 in April which drew 17,026 for a 3 million gate. Prior to that, UFC 208 in February 2017 which drew 15,628 for a gate of 2.275 million.

In comparison, the UFC’s debut on FS1 on August 21, 2013 drew 12,539 for a gate of $1.53 million at the TD Garden in Boston.  The main event was Chael Sonnen as he submitted Shogun Rua.

Pre-Fight Promotion

Having ESPN as a television partner dramatically increased the marketing and promotion of the event.  The UFC Countdown show for UFC 232 aired on ESPN and starting at the beginning of January you saw the UFC creeping into the network.  The fight library entered the digital platform for ESPN and during Fight Week there was a plethora of fights airing on ESPN2 and other networks.

Dana White did the ESPN car wash and was also on the Jimmy Kimmel Show among other outlets for the event.  ESPN+ also had a very good (if you could find it) shoulder programming featuring Dillashaw and Cejudo.

It was interesting that the criticism of having Greg Hardy and Rachael Ostovich died day during Fight Week.  This could be in part due to ESPN controlling the narrative and the airwaves and the casual ESPN media person not knowing much about the sport.  ESPN Outside the Lines did do a piece on Hardy but outside of that, there was not much else.

Sponsorships

The sponsors in the Octagon included Monster Energy sharing a post with Fastrac, Modelo, Toyo Tires, Nemiroff, Blackheart and Monster had the center of the Octagon.  ESPN+ was visible with signage in the Octagon as well.

UFC sponsor Van Heusen secured signage in the area where the corner stands outside the Octagon.  A new place for sponsors.

The prep point was given a new name and was sponsored by P3,

Also, Body Armor had all the water bottles and corner stools.

Paige Van Zant, who was dropped by Reebok prior to her fight on Saturday, picked up a new sponsor with Liv Body.

Odds and ends

Steven A. Smith on the broadcast was cringeworthy but he was not an embarrassment.  He relied on Michael Bisping and Daniel Cormier to do a bulk of the legwork when discussing the fight.  In addition, I thought Trevor Wittman did well as an “expert” chiming in on fight strategy, etc.

The pacing could have been better but it was on par with what the UFC did on Fox.  Notably, there were commercials on ESPN+.

It could have been a little confusing for fans that had to switch from the digital platform to see the early prelims, then watch the prelims on ESPN and then tune back on plus to get the main card.  Hopefully, they will avoid doing this in the future.

We’ll get to see the ratings for this event in the next day or so, although I would think it had to do well over 1 million viewers.

The lead-in to the ESPN portion of the Prelims started 12-15 minutes late.  Fortunately, the college game featured Duke-Virgina, a battle of two of the top 5 teams in the nation.  There was also an early NBA game on ABC which promoted the UFC card too.

The UFC had over 1 million google searches on Saturday which came in second to Chiefs with over 5 million which related to the Kansas City-New England game.  Greg Hardy and Paige Van Zant had over 200,000 searches.  Donald Cerrone had over 100,000.

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