May 1, 2013
ESPN Business Reporter and UFC head Dana White went back and forth on twitter on the state of UFC business. The UFC drew the scrutiny of ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell. If you didn’t know, Rovell covers the business of sports and is as active on twitter as Dana White. Rovell sent a tweet out the following tweet after UFC 159.
UFC is starting to lose a little bit of its edge. Might need to have fewer events. Know guy who paid $50 for a $553 face seat tonight.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 28, 2013
This drew the ire of UFC fans, media and eventually got back to Dana White. And in usual form, he escalates the criticism to make it personal.
Rovell didn’t seem pleased about the “ESPN” remark and defended his reason for inquiry.
After a query to substantiate the numbers that the UFC was still on the rise, White indicated to Rovell that he’d get him those numbers
On Wednesday, three days after the initial back and forth, Rovell received his request. It appears to either be a cut and paste of a Fuel TV press release, a hastily put together word document and/or both. You can click on the pic to see it close up. As you can read, White tells Rovell that Zuffa is a private company.
The following tweet is a lesson in making sure you read what you tweet. White’s response to Rovell.
Rovell did concede that the UFC had some strong indicators of improvement.
Rovell then addressed the data White provided to a follower that believed White had shown the reporter up.
Rovell did make a back-handed complement about the back and forth with White.
He then makes the most sense in the following tweets in requesting information that most would ask about a company’s financials.
Prior to receiving the data from White, Rovell ran a poll for his twitter followers. Its something he does periodically to create engagement. The poll asks whether UFC has mainstream potential. As you can read, a little over half don’t think so.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 29, 2013
POLL RESULTS: 55% of respondents say they don’t think the UFC has the potential to go mainstream sprts.bz/17rLdRl
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 29, 2013
You can also head over to Storify to see the original version of this.
Its an interesting back and forth between a mainstream business reporter and White. Certainly, there are errors on both sides of the conversation. Rovell frames the questions differently. He first states that the UFC has lost its “edge” based on the anecdotal evidence that a friend bought a ticket for substantially less than face value. He then asks about the UFC slowing down financially and would like to see its net profits. White responds over the top. Rovell baits him to provide him data that the UFC is doing better and then White gives him something that can’t be substantiated. Being a reporter, Rovell is upset and White relies on the “private company” safe harbor to protect the UFC from having to release its numbers.
At times, Rovell uses financial information to dampen the mood for fans. For example, when a player drops in the NFL Draft, he’s the first to tweet how much money that player is losing. Still, Rovell is being a journalist here and it would have looked better if White could have just said granted him an interview to talk about it or provided him information that did not look like it was a press release.
April 30, 2013
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at UFC 159 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey where Jon Jones defended his Light Heavyweight title against Chael Sonnen.
Jones takes care of Sonnen, now must heal toe
It was the outcome that most had expected. Despite Sonnen’s promos, Jones did what was needed to stop Sonnen with a few seconds left in Round 1. It was a good thing, because if he didn’t, it would have been interesting what may have happened for Round 2. Jones could not have gone out there with his toe pointed in an opposite direction.
Now, the question is how long will Jones be out and who will be next for him. Anderson Silva? Lyoto Machida? Alexander Gustafsson? We will see.
For the “Gangster,” I hope to see him in a suit as an analyst.
Nelson KOs Kongo
Jones does what he does and Nelson does what he does – knock people out. While Nelson asked for a title shot, it’s likely he gets at least one more fight before there’s serious consideration.
Bisping beats Belcher after eye poke
Michael Bisping showed once again why he should receive a title shot. The TUF alum beat up Alan Belcher but the fight was stopped after a nasty eye poke which was the second gruesome thing on the PPV next to Jones’ toe.
Bisping must now wait in line once again for a shot.
Attendance and Gate
As reported earlier, attendance at UFC 159 placed second in terms of UFC events at the venue with Hardy vs. GSP being first. UFC 159 reported attendance of 15,227 fans for a $2.7 million gate.
This event’s bonuses were $65,000 each as opposed to the UFC standard of $50,000. As reported earlier the bonuses were as follows:
Fight of the Night: Healy vs. Miller
KO of the Night: Nelson
Submission of the Night: Healy
-The Octagon included the usual sponsors: TapouT, MetroPCS, Toyo Tires, Xyience, UFC Gym, Harley Davidson, Dodge, MusclePharm, Alienware, UltimatePoker.net and Bud Light. It also included local sponsor Modell’s Sporting Goods.
-UFC Gym sponsored the prep point. UFC Fit was also prevalent last week at UFC on Fox 7. The move into fitness is a reason that Reebok may be a potential sponsor. Could this be one of the reasons why Dana White met with Reebok officials? Also interesting that a potential Reebok deal may happen and just a few months ago Rampage Jackson could not wear Reebok logos in the Octagon for his last fight.
-Representatives from Doritos were also present as it may have a potential interest in sponsorship.
-Ronda Rousey was featured in a MetroPCS commercial shown during the Prelims. It was also revealed that she signed a one year deal with Xyience
-Jones was sponsored by Nike and had his signature shoes released the week before the event. The shoes sold out quickly although there were limited quantities. Jones actually threw out his shoes to the weigh-in crowd on Friday. He also wore Monster headphones, another UFC official sponsor, at the weigh-ins, to the ring and even when he sat on the stool being interviewed post-fight.
-Sonnen wore a TapouT blue ring robe with a Modell’s patch on the arm. It was reminiscent of boxers or pro wrestlers and appropriate for Sonnen.
-An ironic sponsor for Sonnen was VA Mortgage Lending. As you may recall, Sonnen plead guilty to money laundering in a mortgage fraud case during his realtor days in Oregon. While Sonnen’s actions were not related to VA Mortgage Lending, its still strange that you would want to have it as a sponsor because it reminds people of what happened in the past.
-Phil Davis had a couple throwback sponsors: Affliction and Lugz
When you talk about hype, Chael Sonnen comes to mind. The Ultimate Fighter was to serve as the 12 week promo piece for this fight but it was actually Sonnen’s banter the week or so after the TUF Finale that served as the real promotion for UFC 159.
I really enjoyed the UFC Countdown show this time around especially the Alan Belcher-Michael Bisping back and forth. Perhaps, Bisping can pick up the “King of MMA Smacktalk” when Chael Sonnen retires.
This card produced a couple interesting articles on the issue of race. Tim Marchman wrote an article on Deadspin and Tomas Rios wrote one for The Pacific Standard which explores the issue and whether Chael Sonnen uses race to gain fans. We explore the public relations aspects of Sonnen here. When challenged on the subject of race on ESPN’s Dan LeBatard show, Sonnen deflected the direct issue and seemed genuinely uncomfortable about talking about it. This was something unusual for Sonnen who was on in each appearance he did for the promotion of UFC 159.
Odds and Ends
- Darren Rovell sent a tweet Saturday night which stirred the pot for defenders of the UFC. Rovell indicated that the UFC may have lost its “edge” based on the fact he knew someone that purchased a ticket for $50 with a face value of $553. UFC PR’s Dave Sholler tweeted defending the UFC and its attendance indicating that it mattered and then Dana White sent a tweet professing that its numbers are improving and would prove it by sending it to the ESPN Sports Biz guy. We will see if Rovell gets that information. We’ll have more on this interesting story later.
- The card was deemed “cursed” by Joe Rogan for the various stoppages due to injury. This started with two stoppages due to injury during the Prelims and continued with Alan Belcher’s eye poke and then Jon Jones’ toe. And of course, we get a full on brawl in the stands caught on camera during Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” No word on the deep voiceover between rounds during Bisping-Belcher but it seemed fitting for what happened during the night.
- Sarah McMann v. Sheila Gaff was aired on the prelims twice on FX as a result of filler. But, the fight was the first women’s fight not hyped for the fact it was a women’s fight in the UFC. McMann disposed of Gaff quickly.
- Leonard Garcia-Cody McKenzie was the only fight not aired. McKenzie indicated he was going to take some time off for personal reasons. Garcia may be on his way out of the UFC.
The card was not as interesting on paper as last week’s UFC on Fox 7 and it played out that way in reality. Sonnen did his usual work to hype the fight but many believed that it was a mismatch from the start. The unusual issues during the card confirmed its demise as probably one of the strangest in some time. Although Nelson’s KO and Healy’s submission were highlights, the rest of the night proved so-so. A buy rate of 500K would be a success here and many probably bought it because they were fans of Sonnen and/or Jones as the supporting card lacked intriguing matchups.
April 27, 2013
For MMA fans the thought of professional wrestling is beyond comparison with the real sport of the UFC. Yet, if you want to see pro wrestling in MMA, you need only look to Chael Sonnen.
“Anderson Silva you absolutely suck.” – Chael Sonnen post-fight Octagon interview at UFC 136.
In my opinion, the best start to a promo in UFC History with GSP’s admonishment of Matt Hughes: “I’m not impressed by your performance,” coming in second. Sonnen liberally uses old school pro wrestling microphone techniques to add a unique spin to get his point across.
While we may scoff at Sonnen’s antics, his brash, trash-talk has grabbed himself headlines and main events. How is it that Sonnen was on the short list of fighters sought to replace an injured Dan Henderson at UFC 151? At that time, Sonnen was competing in the Middleweight division. He was chosen (after Lyoto Machida) because the UFC knew he was reliable to sell the fight.
When Jones passed on taking the match with Sonnen, UFC 151 was off and Jones and Greg Jackson took the brunt of the blame for the cancellation. Sonnen took to social media to call out Jones and rail on the champ. Seeing this as an opportunity, the UFC put Jones and Sonnen together as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. Hoping for the social media beef to continue on television, the adversaries actually became friends on the show. As a result, the ratings did not do as well as expected. Thus, no momentum was gained from the show to the fight. Yet, Sonnen has picked up the banter for UFC 159.
Sonnen has done the media rounds from The Jim Rome Show to ESPN. He’s bragged, he’s boasted, he claims to be making $10 million in the Jon Jones fight. Is it because of the delivery that no one seems to challenge Sonnen on his proclamations?
He’s helped promote this fight despite receiving little assistance from the champion. But then again, does the one man sound-bite need a partner?
Sonnen’s unabashed mouth has paid dividends for his career. He will eventually become a full-time talking head for the UFC…and will be the best at doing that job. He looks the part on the set of UFC Tonight of television anchorman. He’s composed, articulate and even if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it sounds like he does.
While there have been claims that Sonnen may use inferences of race in promoting himself to subtly remind people that he is white and his opponent is not, it is hard to verify the truth or falsity of the claim. Old school pro wrestling is known for racial insensitivities (YouTube any wrestling promotion in the 1970s-80s…90s…) and you will find the divide between good and bad may be based just on that. We’re not saying this may be the cause for the inferences of race, but its a possibility. But, the defense or the accusations of race baiting are set aside here. The purpose is to address the promotion ability of Sonnen.
In the end, will Sonnen sell pay per views as he claims he will? Let’s take a look from when he first had the chance to get an extended amount of time in front of a microphone – his fight at UFC 117 with Anderson Silva.
UFC 117: Sonnen-Silva I – 600,000 PPV Buys
UFC 136: Sonnen-Stann – 225,000 PPV Buys
UFC 148: Sonnen-Silva II – 925,000 PPV Buys
This does not include Sonnen’s fight with Michael Bisping at UFC on Fox 2 in January 2012. Still, Sonnen sold UFC 117 almost all by himself. He put the heat on Silva and almost pulled off the upset. I suggest watching the documentary “Like Water” to see that fight from Silva’s perspective. Silva did assist in providing some heat to the rematch at 148. Yet, Sonnen was still the center of attention.
However, UFC 136 seemed like an anomaly. It marked the return of Sonnen from suspension. It was headlined by Maynard-Edgar and Aldo-Florian yet only received 225,000 buys. UFC 159 should do well because of Sonnen’s constant sell for the fight and Jones’ ability to fight.
Do people tire of Sonnen’s gimmick? Yes. Will people stop watching him because of it? Probably not. Sonnen’s tactics in promoting fights are questionable but one thing is certain, he makes his presence known and tries his best to make you take notice.
April 22, 2013
The Zuffa-New York litigation continues on despite reports last month that the parties had entered into negotiations to settle the case. MMA Payout has learned that the New York Attorney General cancelled the settlement conference citing it would not agree to professional MMA in the state under any circumstances.
As a result of the cancelled settlement conference, the parties submitted supplemental briefing on New York’s Motion to Dismiss in response to the issue of whether under section 8905, the statute banning MMA, a professional MMA event would be permitted if it is sanctioned by one of the martial arts organizations listed in the statute and how that interpretation would affect New York’s Motion to Dismiss.
In its Supplemental Briefing, New York contends that even if a professional MMA event could be sanctioned by an exempt organization listed in the statute, it would still not be permitted. New York cites the New York State Athletic Commission, the regulatory body governing the exempt organization in the statute, in arguing that the intent of the statute did not contemplate MMA. The NY State Athletic Commission sides with the defendants in this interpretation.
Moreover, New York argues that regardless of the unambiguous nature of the statute, the Court must look to the actual intent through the legislative history. The state goes on to cite that the intent of the law was to ban Ultimate Fighting and that sanctioning of such activities was not contemplated at the time of the creation of the statute.
Zuffa frames its opposition to New York’s Motion to Dismiss argument on the basic premise of whether it has pled sufficient facts for its claim that the New York statute banning MMA is unconstitutionally vague. It also counters New York’s supplemental briefing with the transcript from the Motion to Dismiss hearing where the New York AG states, “[I]t looks as if one of these exempt organizations could sanction a mixed martial arts event.” (Page of 5 of Plaintiffs’ Response to Defendant’s Supplemental Memo of Law). Zuffa goes on to outline the number of interpretations the state of New York has had regarding the New York statute. As a result, the number of interpretations suggests that the Court cannot dismiss its claims.
While most thought that the lawsuit would come to a happy ending for the UFC in terms of a settlement that is not the case. Although a reading of the statute would suggest that an exempt organization identified in the statute would be able to sanction a UFC event, New York has come back to argue that despite the reading of the statute…that’s not how it should be read. Furthermore, despite what appears (via the transcript) that the AG admits that the statute could have an exempt organization sanction an MMA event, New York argues otherwise.
As we recently learned in the Alvarez-Bellator lawsuit, settlement negotiations do not necessarily mean the parties will settle. Of course, we also learned that it’s hard to dismiss a case on a party’s Motion to Dismiss. The Court has yet to render a decision. MMA Payout will keep you posted.
April 21, 2013
MMA Fighting reports the ratings for UFC on Fox 7 were down slightly from UFC on Fox 6 as it received an average of 3.31 million fans for a 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demo.
The fast national ratings gages the 8-10pm timeslot and does not cover the overrun in which most of the main event took place. Moreover, it does not calculate the west coast time zone as it only looks at what Fox showed between 8-10pm and not 5-7:40pm, the actual time the event was shown live.
The fast overnights for UFC on Fox 6 were 3.77 million and a 1.8 rating for the 18-49 demo.
In the end, UFC on Fox 6 in January received an average viewership of 4.4 million viewers with the main event of Mighty Mouse Johnson versus John Dodson.
Saturday night’s televised card had much more depth and featured a back and forth fight between lightweight champion Benson Henderson edging Gilbert Melendez. It also showed that the audience grew with each fight.
Via MMA Fighting:
The show had consistent growth, with the Jordan Mein vs. Matt Brown fight doing 2.59 million viewers, the Josh Thomson vs. Nate Diaz fight doing 3.18 million and the Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir fight doing 3.73 million.
The show finished second overall among the networks, losing to CBS, which aired a first run airing of Vegas and a replay of The Mentalist in the time slot. But in the 18-49 target demo, over the first two hours, it more than doubled second place ABC (1.5 to 0.7).
The MMA Fighting article suggests that the NFL’s help in promoting its event was a contributing factor in the decrease in ratings. It notes that four Fox events during the NFL season were above 4.2 million whereas Fox events outside of NFL season were only 2.4. Of course, the quality of fights may have contributed to this. Notably, August’s UFC on Fox 4 featured Brandon Vera vs. Shogun Rua and May’s UFC on Fox 3 featured Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller.
In the end, is the UFC gaining on mainstream fans with its Fox relationship? Adam Swift evaluates the relationship and determines that, at this point, the UFC has solidified itself as a good niche sport.
UFC numbers have been solid for FOX. Cost effective niche pgrm w/ a high ceiling. Must be protected, but can win 4 Saturday nights a year.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
Value of FOX to UFC is harder to find. Haven’t made any new stars, diluting PPV cards to meet ratings expectations, no major new sponsors.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
FOX cable platforms have been a step back for UFC compared to Spike. Confused tune-in message and devalued shoulder programming.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
FOX deal was/is a gamble to expand UFC beyond its niche audience into a mainstream sport. Hasn’t happened yet, but doesn’t mean it won’t.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
Worst case scenario $100M in guaranteed TV money cemented UFC as a stable niche sport. Everything else is playing with the house’s money.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
Will the creation of Fox Sports 1 help straighten out the confusion with platforms or continue it? This would depend on whether Fox execs anchor UFC programming on FS1. Moreover, there is still time for the UFC to make inroads into the mainstream. It just has not done so as of yet. The question is whether there is a timeframe that the UFC or Fox has in its projections where the UFC will develop into a mainstream sport. Of course, the definition of mainstream is another discussion itself.
April 18, 2013
The United States District Court for the District Court of New Jersey has denied Bellator’s Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaims of Eddie Alvarez. The litigation between the two sides will continue.
Bellator had brought a Motion to Dismiss Alvarez’s Counterclaims for Tortious Interference with a Prospective Economic Advantage and Breach of Contract. Judge Jose Linares held that Alvarez’s claims survived the Motion to Dismiss standard in that his factual allegations raised a right to relief. This does not mean that Bellator could not eventually win, it just means it cannot win at this stage of the litigation.
With respect to the Tortious Interference claim, Bellator had argued that Alvarez could not prove it had done anything with malice. A prerequisite of the claim. It also argued that Alvarez’s claim must fail because the contract match was privileged.
Although Bellator supported its original arguments with case law, the Court noted that those cases occurred after the Motion to Dismiss stage. Thus, seeking support with the cases was of no relevance for this motion.
Bellator also argued that the contract offer should be privileged and cited a case which appeared to be on point. However, that case was a state law case which the federal court did not have to follow. Moreover, the case cited by Bellator related to correspondence in which counsel threatened litigation. The Court here distinguished that case as Alvarez claims Bellator, in bad faith, matched the offer made by Zufa.
The Court noted that it would not make a factual determination whether Bellator had a “legitimate business-justification” for proposing a purported match to Alvarez. Factual determinations such as these are not determined at the Motion to Dismiss stage.
With respect to the Breach of the Court held that despite Bellator’s assertions, Alvarez identified the contract for which it alleges Bellator breached. Furthermore, the Court determined that it “adequately alleged” that Bellator breached the duty of good faith and fair dealing in which it claims to have matched the Zuffa Offer in spite of “neither having the ability or the willingness to actually match the offer.”
The lawsuit continues. The threshold for prevailing on a Motion to Dismiss is tough if the claims made contain a sufficient enough of facts as Courts tend to want the case to prevail on the merits. Its interesting that the Opinion of the Court did not address the “malice” requirement in Alvarez’s Tortious Interference claim. Rather, it focused on the case law Bellator cited to distinguish it from the present case. Its likely that the two sides will exchange discovery and move on to the deposition phase.
April 13, 2013
With Cat Zingano defeating Miesha Tate Saturday night, Dana White announced that the next season of TUF will premiere on Fox Sports 1 during the TUF Finale on FX. A press release later that night confirmed the move and that it would premiere Wednesday, September 4th featuring Zingano and Ronda Rousey as the coaches.
Fox Sports 1 launches in August and will feature a UFC live event the night of the network’s premiere.
Via the UFC/Fox press release:
FOX Sports 1 is available in over 90 million homes, making this the biggest sports cable network launch in history, and one of the largest network launches ever. It boasts nearly 5,000 hours of live event, news and original programming annually. In addition to TUF 18, over the course of the year FS1’s Wednesday night UFC programming includes live fight events; UFC TONIGHT, the weekly authority for UFC news and information; and the best library programs.
When Fox announced the launch of the new network, it announced that FX would no longer air sports although it was never confirmed until Saturday whether TUF would stay on the network as it is part reality show/part sports programming.
In addition to Fox Sports 1, Fox announced the launch of FXX which would replace the Fox Soccer Channel and rebrand catering to the 18-34 year old demographic. The network is said to feature original programming and launch September 2nd.
This was a move that apparently was decided months ago. However, if TUF 18 had stayed on FX , it could have grabbed the mainstream appeal. FS1 will cater to a sports-centric audience so any mainstream Rousey-pull may be negated. Moreover, FS1 will be less than a month old when TUF 18 premieres. Does anyone know what channel it will be on? There may be a confusion on where to find it. But from the FS1 perspective, the series would bolster the start of the network and its likely the plan of Fox to have the UFC only on FS1 (and later FS2) to avoid confusion. Also, TUF’s highest ratings average was 1.2M this past season which was not what everyone hoped. So, a move to FS1 to make way for other FX programming probably made sense.
April 13, 2013
Bellator has filed its Reply Brief in support of its Motion to Dismiss Eddie Alvarez’s counterclaims. Bellator’s motion should be decided sometime this month.
Bellator’s counsel has requested an oral argument although its not known at this point whether the Court will grant this request.
The Reply Brief attacks Alvarez’s position in bringing its two counterclaims against Bellator for tortious interference and breach of contract. Notably, Bellator frames its argument to the Court by suggesting that there is not a case in the whole United States that allows a tortious interference or breach of contract claim where a party has attempted to match a matching rights clause in a contract. Bellator goes so far as using an exclamation point to highlight the fact that there is not one case in the United States supporting Alvarez’s theory. “To emphasize, we have not found one case in the United States!” states Bellator in its brief. An exclamation is a no-no in legal briefing. Its the equivalent of typing in all caps.
The brief supports the argument that Bellator had a legal, contractual right to proffer a contract to Alvarez to match Zuffa’s offer. Thus, Alvarez’s claims for “interfering” with his opportunity to obtain a contract from Zuffa and breach of the Bellator contract should be dismissed.
Bellator’s argument is that its submission of a matching offer does not give rise to a cause of action for tortious interference since Bellator claims its matching offer was not done with malice, a requirement it argues is needed to prove such a claim.
Moreover, it states that the communications between Bellator and Alvarez’s counsel in regard to Bellator’s efforts to match the contract offered to Alvarez by Zuffa are confidential communications. As a result, the Court should not consider it and therefore the claims must be dismissed.
Also of note in Belltor’s Reply is the argument that Alvarez’s cannot bring his Breach of Contract claim because the purported matching contract offered by Bellator to Alvarez has yet to be breached. The main argument by Alvarez is that Bellator cannot match the PPV terms as well as the platform (Spike vs. Fox).
A very strong Reply Brief that seemed a bit too strong. Its rare to use an exclamation point in legal briefing. Its almost a faux pas to do so. The brief attempted to pick apart Alvarez’s opposition brief to the point of criticizing Alvarez’s attorneys. It appears that the issue will boil down to whether Bellator’s attempt to match Zuffa’s contract was proper. This might not be determined at this stage of the lawsuit. Of course, Alvarez’s attorneys have requested the Court an opportunity to amend its Counterclaims if they are found insufficient. Thus, we may not see the end of this lawsuit anytime soon.
April 8, 2013
Coming off of a First Round TKO Saturday, Matt Mitrione was feeling good as he returned to The MMA Hour for his “Mitrione Minute.” However, his “jokes” and then commentary on transgender fighter Fallon Fox got him suspended by the UFC.
The UFC suspended Mitrione from his UFC contract based upon a violation of the Code of Conduct included in each fighter’s contract.
Mitrione’s controversial comments came after a Lloyd Irvin “rape joke” which he actually had written down. Mitrone is a regular guest on Ariel Helwani’s show and a part of his schtick is jokes or thoughts he’s written down. Mitrione called Fox a “disgusting freak” and referred to her as “he”.
Mitrone stated that Fox is someone that wants to beat on women. He analogized Fallon Fox beating women to the Chris Brown and Rihanna situation.
Zuffa acted swiftly by suspending Mitrione and calling for an investigation:
“The UFC was appalled by the transphobic comments made by heavyweight Matt Mitrione today in an interview on the ‘MMA Hour.’
“The organization finds Mr. Mitrione’s comments offensive and wholly unacceptable and — as a direct result of this significant breach of the UFC’s code of conduct – Mr. Mitrione’s UFC contract has been suspended and the incident is being investigated.
“The UFC is a friend and ally of the LGBT community, and expects and requires all 450 of its athletes to treat others with dignity and respect.”
According to a Bleacher Report (via Bloody Elbow) article, the UFC Code of Conduct may include a financial penalty and community service. The community service may include working in the community for which the fighter made disparaging comments. This may mean Mitrione working with a transgender organization. Although less publicized as a violation of the Code of Conduct, you might recall tweets made by Forrest Griffin about rape and then Griffin appearing and making a donation at a women’s shelter.
For the UFC, Mitrione’s comments go beyond Fox. His comments may offend a whole community of people that may be fans of the UFC. If the UFC did not respond, it could have faced a storm of bad publicity. Moreover, the silence could be seen as an endorsement of Mitrone’s comments.
Maybe the “Mitrione Minute” on The MMA Hour should have been more like 45 seconds. Mitrone usually is off color and uncensored on the show but for him to have a great fight and then do something so foolish just to put himself over was unnecessary. What was ironic is that he said he was going to do whatever the UFC wanted him to do with respect to who he would fight next. Now, he’s going to have to hope the UFC lets him fight in the organization again.
April 8, 2013
RYU formally announced that it is no longer a sponsor of the UFC. In its recent Form 10K (page 5) filed this April, it stated that it no longer will cater to the MMA Marketplace.
Despite an initial positive outlook for the company, it failed to find an adequate financial return on its investment in the sport of MMA.
RYUentered the MMA landscape at the beginning of 2012 as an official sponsor and was a part of UFC broadcasts and PPV. It also opened a store and training facility in Las Vegas. It boasted several former Nike executives which brought an instant credibility to the brand. The brand received good PR including glowing articles about the prospects of the brand.
RYU sponsored fighters with former UFC vet Jon Fitch as its main fighter. RYU aspired to be a lifestyle clothing brand for MMA fans however it did not pan out. As noted in a July 2012 Sports Business Journal article (via MMA Payout), the success depended on the consumers:
While RYU is getting some good buzz, SBJ notes that its success will depend on how well the products sell. A selling point for the brand is that the clothing uses natural materials as it prides itself on being “95% sustainable” and stresses the newest performance technology. Compared with the likes of Nike and TapouT, RYU clothing is much more expensive than it competitors. The question is whether consumers would be willing to spend more on this new brand.
It turns out, consumers did not.
A director resigned although the release did not state that it was related to the financial results of the company. It has moved its headquarters from Las Vegas back to Portland, Oregon where it originally had offices.
On page 9 of its Form 10K, RYU noted a gross loss of $1,115,157 which it attributed to its product development and a write off. It also showed a bigger net loss related to selling and marketing expenses, production creations costs and administrative costs which amounted to $9,868,603.
The company notes that the company will “need to raise substantial additional equity” in 2013 in order to continue RYU as planned.
It goes on to state that 2012 sales fell short of expectations and management cites its UFC partnership in which it tried to position the brand as a “premium performance apparel brand.” The company suffered losses as a result of lower than expected sales from its sponsorship of the UFC.
RYU is undergoing a rebranding strategy which will appeal to a broader base of consumers according to its filing.
RYU’s demise in MMA might be attributed to an assortment of factors. It did go into the endeavor with both feet as it became an official sponsor, opened up a training facility in Las Vegas and sponsored fighters. However, it failed to sell its product as it had envisioned. This could be attributed to the higher price point on its apparel. As we indicated early on, the question was going to be whether consumers would buy a hoodie that was priced $10-$20 higher than a competing brand. Further, the Jon Fitch sponsorship did not work out as Fitch lost his first bout as a RYU sponsored fighter in seconds to Johny Hendricks.
We will see if the RYU brand will continue on without MMA. But, RYU’s story in MMA reflects the fact that despite the best plans, it all depends on the consumers.