Report indicates McGregor willing to testify in support of Ali Act expansion

September 22, 2017

According to a report from Reuters, Conor McGregor may address the U.S. Congress in support of the expansion of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform (aka “Ali Act”) to combat sports.  Congressman Markwayne Mullin, the Oklahoma legislator that is sponsoring the bill told the news outlet.

The Republican congressman indicated that McGregor’s team wanted to come to Capitol Hill to talk about the Ali Act.  There is no date certain for McGregor to speak before Congress nor is there another date for the Ali Act Expansion.

However, supporters of the Ali Act has racked up supporters with 49 congressman, both Republican and Democrat, signing on in support of the bill.

Payout Perspective:

McGregor’s support and possible testimony would lend some positive public relations in support of the legislation.  McGregor, who has indicated that he would like to both box and compete in MMA, could testify about his experiences in both sports and would be able to convey the differences in each since he was in the ring against Floyd Mayweather in August.  McGregor’s experience is different from MMA fighters since he would have been subject to the current Ali Act when boxing but not covered by the Ali Act when competing in MMA.  Will it turn the tide for the bill?  It would provide some more momentum to move this along through the house.

Payout Perspective: The Money Fight

September 4, 2017

Welcome to a special edition of Payout Perspective.  Almost a week later, but we are still talking about The Money Fight that took place August 26th at the T-Mobile Arena.

Mayweather stops McGregor in 10

Floyd Mayweather waited it out.  As most believed, he tested out Conor McGregor for the first couple around before going on the offensive.  Out of the ordinary for the counterpuncher, but Mayweather pressed McGregor and it was clear that the UFC champ was tiring.  Despite not being brought to the canvas, the fight was stopped.  A good call despite McGregor’s post-interview protesting.

Mayweather gets his 50th win against McGregor who takes his first loss of his career.  Of course, it was just McGregor’s first fight.

We should see McGregor back in the Octagon but it’s clear that Mayweather may want to dabble in boxing again.  He wasn’t the worst in there but boxing in MMA is different than boxing.

Attendance and Gate

The fight was not a sellout which was not a surprise leading into the fight.  The astronomical price to see the event without much of an undercard likely was the primary reason for a non-sell out.  Due to the prior disappointment of Mayweather-Pacquiao, the event likely scared the big spenders away.

Payouts

The official payouts from the event had Mayweather earning $100 million not including PPV upside and McGregor getting $30 million.

Attendance and gate

The only thing that may have been a disappointment was the attendance for the event at the T-Mobile Arena. The event drew 14,623 although the gate was yet to be officially announced.  It was thought that due to the high prices the event would have drawn over the $72 million record for May-Pac.  With capacity at 20,000, the event fell way short of capacity but the big financial boon was the $99.95 price tag for the PPVs.

Promotion of the Fight

The 4-city world tour this past July introduced us to The Money Fight.  Maybe the Toronto tour stop was the best and the New York/Brooklyn stop was the worst.  Whatever you thought of it, it was the beginning of a monthlong run-up to the fight.

There were tons of promotion around the event including Showtime All Access and UFC’s Embedded Episodes.  At times, it appeared that each show favored its own boxer.  As always, this shoulder programming always interests me.

Saturday Night Live did a skit during its prime time Weekend Update the week before the fight.  The skit featured someone pretending to be Conor McGregor.  It was a bad impression.

Television Ratings

The Prelims to Mayweather-McGregor on Fox peaked at 3.1 million viewers and averaged 2,568,000 viewers.   It drew an outstanding 1,156,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo.

Other associated ratings:

  • Mayweather-McGregor Prefight Show 1,463,000
  • Mayweather-McGregor Postfight Show 368,000
  • Mayweather-McGregor Weigh-In 287,000
  • PBC on FS1 drew 269,000 viewers on Friday night.

PPV estimates

Dana White proclaimed that the event drew 6.5 million buys.  Showtime stated that the fight sold between 4 and 5 million buys.  Other reports stated that the initial estimates did not break the 4.6 million record of Mayweather-Pacquiao.  ESPN noted that an estimated 50 million people saw the event.

The PPV estimates will not come in until this week but Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza claims it was a “massive financial success.”  This seems like an understatement based on the numbers.

Espinoza noted in a New York Times article that 10 to 12 percent of the total buys were through a digital service.  We note the tech difficulties those users had below.

Technical Difficulties

Due to the high demand, people reported issues with their streaming of the event.  The Showtime App, UFC.tv and Fight Pass were the main culprits with issues although other ways to purchase the PPV had problems.

Showtime issued a “limited number” of refunds.  Espinoza seemed to minimize the affect the technical difficulties had claiming that they were “definitely exaggerated.”  However, the first lawsuit filed over not being able to watch the event was filed in Oregon over futile attempts to watch the vent on the Showtime App.

The fight was delayed 20 minutes to accommodate for the technical difficulties but those paying $99.95 shut out of the telecast.

The UFC did not immediately state they would issue refunds, but upon meeting with its vendor, noted that it would issue refunds for those that had issues on the UFC.tv/Fight Pass app.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal noted that the PPV issues “appeared to come from a surge of late purchase and connectivity issues.”

Related?  The UFC announced less than a week later that FITE.TV would become the UFC’s new online streaming partner.  No official word, if NeuLion is out altogether with the UFC.

Sponsors

Corona was the main sponsor for The Money Fight.  Notably, this was not rolled out until a week or so prior to the fight.  One would have thought that the sponsorship for the event would have been announced much sooner.  In addition, Body Armor was very visible during the event as “towels and stools in the fighters’ corners had the Body Armor logo on it.  Also, fighters took their hydration from Body Armor bottles.  Also, Wish Shopping made a big splash with signage on the mats and on the weigh-in scale.

McGregor wore irish flag-inspired Beats By Dre headphones for the weigh-ins.  The company also released an ad starring McGregor on August 23rd.  McGregor signed a sponsor deal with Online betting site, Betsafe.

Odds and Ends

There were tons of newsy items coming out of this event and we couldn’t get them all in.  I wrote a preview on many of the issues including the commission agreeing to the glove change and Zuffa signing on as a co-promoter here.

While the PPV estimates may break records, Showtime had to deal with pirates using Periscope.  While Showtime obtained an injunction to stop some sites, it could not stop private users.  A tech security company claimed that almost 3 million viewers watched pirated streams.

Conor McGregor’s flip up sunglasses during the promotion of this fight were reminiscent of Dwayne Wayne’s.

Conor McGregor announced the roll-out of his first foray into the whisky business:

Floyd Mayweather introduced TMT-themed apparel for this event including one with the Irish Flag colors on a TMT shirt. He also had an assortment of mouthguards.  Iceberg Guards is selling a replica guard of the one he wore during The Money Fight for $295.00.

Gervonta Davis drew 100,000 google searches on Fight Night mainly due to his headgear coming out during the walkout.  Davis won, but drew the ire of some fans since he didn’t make weight.

While the Mayweather/McGregor announcement overshadowed the rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev this past June, Top Rank attempted to take advantage of the assembled media in Vegas by announcing a deal with ESPN that would include providing the company with the Top Rank fight library for an upcoming Disney-OTT platform.

ESPN showed old Mayweather fights where analysts talked about how he was such a pro and a likeable guy.  How times have changed.  The UFC also aired his fight with Maidana on UFC online to help promote the fight.

Although there was much publicity for this fight, the Miguel Cotto fight in Carson, California on the same night drew 730,000 viewers on HBO which is very good considering it was overshadowed by The Money Fight.

Mayweather and McGregor did the standard media appearances including on Jimmy Kimmel.

There were over 10 million google searches for the “Mayweather vs. McGregor Fight,” and 10 million google searches for “Mayweather.”

Conclusion

Usually we predict a buy rate, but with the news that it’s likely between 4 and 5 million PPV buys, we don’t have to conclude that this fight was a success.  The only question will be whether the buys passed the 4.6 million PPV record.  Whether or not it did, this fight was impressive in how it was marketed and promoted.  The UFC helped its brand with its involvement in the event and Mayweather made money as he always seems to do.  Will we see more crossover fights in the future?  Only if it is big names and promises to bring in big numbers.

Boxer Austin Trout files lawsuit against WBO citing Ali Act violations

September 1, 2017

Boxer Austin Trout has filed a lawsuit against the World Boxing Organization citing violations of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.  It is the first lawsuit citing the Ali Act in several years.

The case originally was filed in the federal district court of New Mexico as that is where Trout resides.  The original complaint, filed in February 2016, did not include a claim under the Ali Act, instead includes allegations of Unfair Trade Practices pursuant to the local rules in the state of New Mexico, Fraud and request for Injunctive Relief.  Trout’s essential claim was that he was a highly ranked boxer that should have received a title shot but he was dropped in the rankings for what appears to be no apparent reason.  A boxer that was previously ranked below him was given a title shot.  According to Trout, it was because the promoter gave financial incentive to the WBO.  He also claims that the WBO “solicited and accepted financial remuneration from promoters and/or managers to fix ratings.”  Upon request of the reason why Trout fell in the rankings, he was not provided a response.

Attached to their original complaint was a “Show Cause” letter from the WBO to then Junior Middleweight Champion Demetrius Andrade, why the title should not be vacated due to lack of activity.  Andrade vacated the title and Trout believed that he was due a shot at the vacant belt since he was highly ranked.  However, he was not given the shot and, in fact, dropped from the rankings.  Attached in the documents is correspondence inquiring the reasons for his disappearance in the rankings.

Original Complaint by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

The WBO moved the case to Puerto Rico and attempted to dismiss the lawsuit. The lawsuit was moved to the federal district of Puerto Rico where Trout’s lawyers amended the case to include the Ali Act violation, breach of contract and fraud. They claim the requisite statutory damages and attorney fees and costs which would total $40 million.

Amended Complaint by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

This will be an interesting test of the Ali Act as there has not been a lawsuit in some time where this has been claimed.  I took a look at this a couple years ago.  For those that want to see MMA expand to the Ali Act, we shall see how this plays out.  The claim relates to the lack of a rankings system to justify championship fights.  Certainly, the UFC has not followed its own rankings and current fighters could make such a grievance against the company.  It is likely that a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint which was filed earlier this will transpire prior to the litigation of the lawsuit on the merits. MMA Payout will keep you posted

Court grants Haymon’s dismissal of Golden Boy’s antitrust lawsuit

January 26, 2017

Judge John Walter issued an order granting Al Haymon’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed Golden Boy’s antitrust lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles on May 5, 2015.  The case was set to go to trial in March.

In his 25-page opinion filed on Thursday, Judge Walter determined that Golden Boy did not come forth with genuine issues of fact to support its claims that Haymon’s promotion, Premier Boxing Champions, foreclosed the market on boxers and other promotions among other antitrust violations.  Moreover, it determined that Golden Boy’s injury “was caused by conduct that was beneficial to competition in the promotion market.”

The judge noted that Haymon’s business strategy actually helped boxing with more televised matches and better pay for fighters.

The opinion noted that the tv strategy of securing deals with multiple networks implemented by PBC did not foreclose all networks.  It also pointed to the fact that Golden Boy expert’s did not provide an examination of recoupment of money of PBC’s purported strategy of “flipping” its business model from tv buys to securing license fees.

It also was not persuaded by Golden Boy’s claims of “sham” promoters that aided PBC nor the alleged “firewall” between promoters and managers. The court found no evidence that boxers were coerced into working with promoters. Moreover, the judge noted that PBC worked with other promoters.  In the latter claim, the Judge wrote that there was no antitrust injury because there was no standing.  Only boxers and governmental agencies may make the claim per the Ali Act.

In its conclusion, it noted that antitrust laws protect competition, not competitors.

Payout Perspective:

In reading the opinion, one might be concerned with the UFC antitrust lawsuit.  The court stressed the issue that antitrust laws protect competition, not competitors.  Despite the speculation that Haymon’s PBC attempted to foreclose the market on competitors, there was no evidence found by the court which conflicted with antitrust laws. The court determined that Golden Boy did not define the relevant markets and did not establish a “tie in” or “tie out” which may have been a violation of antitrust laws. Based on the opinion, it is unlikely that Golden Boy appeals this decision.

Golden Boy, et al. v. Haymon, et al. by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Payout Exclusive: Interview with Alliance MMA’s Robert Haydak and Suckerpunch Entertainment’s Bryan Hamper

January 25, 2017

MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with Alliance MMA’s Robert Haydak and Suckerpunch Entertainment’s Bryan Hamper.

The two spoke about the acquisition of the fighter management company and how it helps both companies going forward.

Among the top-level fighters Suckerpunch represents includes Max Holloway, Joanna Jedrzejczykand Germaine da Randamie.

Haydak, president of the publicly traded MMA company stated that he knew of Suckerpunch from his previous relationship with them as the head of his own promotion. “I’ve known them for a number of years.  We have a good working relationship.  I’ve watched their company grow since Cage Fury (Haydak ran Cage Fury prior to establishing Alliance MMA).  I have a lot of respect for them and a lot of their top athletes.”  Bryan Hamper, head of Suckerpunch MMA, added, “We fell in love with the model [of Alliance MMA].  We really felt it was a fit the way going forward.”

Hamper noted that the internal production staff of Alliance MMA would help its stable of young up and coming fighters: “We can now film our fighters using high quality content and send our videos.  It’s no longer cell phones.  It’s a better finished product to market.”

Suckerpunch currently has 103 athletes.  “We have less than 3% performing in Alliance MMA,” said Hamper.  “The lionshare of the company is in the UFC, Bellator and Invicta.”

Hamper stated that the Alliance MMA acquisition is “not an exclusive deal.”  He explained that any of its fighters are still free to fight on regional cards that are not associated with Alliance MMA.  Hamper noted that the management company tries to be selective with its representation.  “We have an internal system of where guys are at.  For us it’s not about volume business.  We want to bring in high-character guys.”

“Working with Alliance MMA gives us the bandwith to expand,” said Hamper.  According to Hamper, the acquisition will free up Suckerpunch to go after more prospects while Alliance MMA will assist with the corporate work.  “We will really focus on sponsorship engagement.”  Hamper noted that Suckerpunch recently secured several sponsor and appearance deals for UFC interim Featherweight Champ Max Holloway outside of the octagon.  He notes that sponsorship deals are still out despite restrictions made by the UFC.

“We think we have 15 guys on the cusp of being in the UFC,” Hamper said of the current state of his prospects.  He indicated that he would like to bring on 10-15 clients a year.  “We have the ability to market them like our top-rated fighters.”

“Suckerpunch under Alliance MMA will continue to operate under their own brand,” said Haydak.  “Their brand identity is not going anywhere.”  Similar to its other acquisitions, Alliance MMA has purchased the company but the acquired business will operate under its own name.  He indicated that the company will likely add more assets to the publicly traded company.  “Obviously, taking a look at our business plan, we are continuing our strategy in 2017.  There will be several acquisitions made this year.”

Under the new owners, Suckerpunch will continue with managing its fighters.  Hamper added, “[R]ight now, we’re looking at our growth perspective going forward.  We are excited about the growth and making sure our top prospect guys are getting looks in 2017.”

The two addressed the potential issue of the acquisition of the management company conflicting with also being a promoter of MMA events.  This may be an issue if legislation to the expansion of the Ali Act to MMA is passed.

Hamper reiterated that, “Less than 3% of our athletes are competing for Alliance MMA [promotions].  It’s a very small piece.”

“Definitely it’s something we considered when looking at this acquisition,” Haydak stated.  “We are monitoring the Ali Act.  Less than 3% of Suckerpunch fighters fight within Alliance.  If the Ali Act (is expanded), it would not happen to have impact on our operations.  A lot of promotions are managing athletes.  We are completely transparent.  We are putting the athletes first.”

Hamper added, “From my perspective, transparency is a key element.  Opponents and matchup approvals come from athletic commissions.  We’re governed by athletic commissions.  I think we’re taking broad steps.”

An expansion of the Ali Act would create a firewall between managers and promoters.

Former WME-IMG exec takes position with Trump Administration

January 20, 2017

Chris Liddell, the global CFO at WME-IMG has taken a post with the newly installed Trump Administration as reported by Deadline.com and the Hollywood Reporter.

As we know, WME-IMG purchased the UFC this past summer.  Ari Emmanuel, the former Hollywood agent for President Donald Trump, met with Emmanuel shortly after he was elected president.  The substance of the discussions was not made public.  Despite their relationship, Emmanuel is considered someone that supports Democrats.

Liddell will take on the role of adviser and has been named an assistant and director of strategic initiatives for the new administration. He had provided advice to President Trump in appointments during the post-election transition.

Payout Perspective:

The appointment is key if you are one to connect dots.  The expansion of the Ali Act to include combat sports (i.e., MMA) is still an active bill in the House.  The UFC is opposed to this legislation and has lobbied against it.  The appointment of Liddell to a post within the Trump Administration might be the death knell for the success of passing this bill.  While we might believe that all parties will have an open mind on the bill, you have to wonder if a former executive of the company that owns the UFC would advise the President to veto such legislation if it got to that point.  More likely, the bill gets buried before even getting to the Senate.

16 for 16: No. 4 Legislation to Amend Ali Act Introduced

December 29, 2016

In May 2016, Oklahoma Republican Congressman Markwayne Mullin introduced an expansion of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to include MMA.  A Congressional Subcommittee hearing was conducted in December to discuss the issues related to mixed martial arts and how the introduced law would help fighters.

In addition to Congressman Mullin, it is co-sponsored by Democrats including Joseph P. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Mark Takano of California.  Overall, 5 Republicans and 2 Democrats have put their name to the bill.

The UFC opposes the expansion and hired a lobbying firm to influence legislators into voting down the amendment to the existing law.  Several op-eds have come out to oppose the law citing government overreach among other reasons.  It attempted to strong-arm the December hearing by indicating it would not participate if Randy Couture testified.  It backed off and Jeff Novitsky represented the UFC at the hearing.

The amendment to the Ali Act mirrors the current law with few changes but for the inclusion of combat sports.  Earlier this year, I outlined the issues with the expansion of the Ali Act which included a variety of cases where boxers sued promoters and came up with a loss.  Notably, there could have been more done with the Ali Act to ensure functionality to allow fighters an alternative to needing to file a lawsuit under the Act.

Currently, the Ali Act is in the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee.  There is no word on whether there will be additional hearings on the subject or what the next move will be on the bill.

With the new UFC ownership and its previous relationship with the incoming administration in January I do not know how successful passage will be.  At this point, there seems to be a lot more work to do before it comes to a vote in the House.

16 for 16

5.  UFC 200

6.  The year of Conor McGregor

7.  Bellator signings

8.  UFC pulls credentials for Helwani after breaking news

9.  Legal troubles for Jon Jones continues

10.  WSOF legal woes continues

11.  Ronda Rousey returns

12.  Alliance MMA goes public

13.  GSP declares himself a free agent

14.  Bellator 149

15.  CM Punk debuts

16.  Former Bellator employee sues company, organization sues back

Ali Act sponsor claims UFC attempted to influence witness list of congressional hearing

December 6, 2016

Bloody Elbow reports that the UFC threatened not to participate at a Congressional subcommittee hearing on MMA and the possible expansion of the Ali Act set for Thursday.  The power play was due to Randy Couture’s participation as a witness at the hearing.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Republican congressman Markwayne Mullin, the UFC attempted to influence the hearing by refusing to participate at the hearing.  The hearing is before the subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

The witness list is now public and it appears that based on Congressman Mullin’s statement, the UFC threatened to withdraw the presence of Jeff Novitsky from the hearing.  Novitsky, who is the Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance will be speaking on behalf of the UFC.  The UFC denied Mullin’s statement that they attempted to rescind its participation via Novitsky.

Payout Perspective:

It will be an interesting hearing on Thursday as Couture, Novitsky, Lydia Robertson (Treasurer of the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports) and concussion researcher Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University will be testifying.  Mullin’s assertion that the UFC did not want Couture to testify could be true.  The UFC and Couture have had contentious past and the UFC likely does not want him to speak about his side of the story.  Whether or not the UFC attempted to get Couture off of the witness list is another issue.  Certainly, the company has lobbyists working on its behalf and they have talked to legislators including co-sponsors of the Ali Act Expansion Act.

Congressional hearing on Ali Act Expansion set for December 8th

December 3, 2016

The Congressional subcommittee on energy and commerce will have a hearing this Tuesday on the Expansion of the Muhammad Ali Act.  According to the notice, the hearing is entitled, “Mixed Martial Arts: Issues and Perspectives.”

No witnesses have been announced and are by invitation only.  A webcast will be available for public viewing.

Republican Oklahoma congressional representative Markwayne Mullin was the primary sponsor of the bill introduced last May.  Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors to the bill which seeks to expand the current Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to combat sports.  Specifically, the bill is addressed to help mixed martial artists.

Zuffa has employed lobbyists to combat the passage of this bill.  The bill will likely meet stiff opposition despite the bill coming from a Republican.  Current UFC exec, Ari Emmanuel, met with President-elect Donald Trump last month.  While no specifics of the meeting were revealed, Emmanuel and the President-elect have a past business relationship.  One might suspect that Emmanuel’s relationship may influence support to quash the expansion of the Ali Act.

Since the sale of the UFC to WME-IMG, more and more fighters have come forward to discuss their need for better pay and benefits.  Two organizations, the Professional Fighters Association and the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association have come forward seeking support to organize in hopes of negotiating with the UFC on behalf of the contracted fighters.  The two join the MMAFA as organizations that continue to seek better conditions for fighters.  The MMAFA is an active advocate for the expansion of the Ali Act.

Payout Perspective:

The hearing should be interesting as to who will testify and what will be said about the expansion of the Ali Act.  The sale of the UFC will likely come up as well as the current antitrust lawsuit.  The question is whether the expansion of the Ali Act would truly help MMA fighters.  What will interest me is how educated the legislators will be on the sport of MMA and how the application of the bill to MMA will have on the sport.

President-elect meets with UFC owner

November 21, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump met with his former Hollywood agent, and current UFC owner Ari Emanuel on Sunday.

Emanuel met the President-elect at his New Jersey golf course.  Trump touted Emmanuel as “the king of Hollywood.”  The substance of the meeting was not revealed.

Despite being a longtime Democratic fund-raiser, Trump called Emanuel a “great friend.”  Dana White spoke on behalf of Trump at the Republican National Convention and was seen at an GOP party on election night.

Perhaps the meeting included some talk about Emmanuel’s new venture as head of the UFC.  He is one of the new faces of the organization since WME-IMG took over from the Fertitta brothers in July.

One of the relevant issues that the President-elect may deal with is the attempt to amend the existing Muhammad Ali Act to include combat sports.  The UFC has lobbied vehemently against it.  It has enlisted Farragut PR to monitor the Ali Act on behalf of the UFC.

The bill was introduced in late May by Oklahoma Republican Markwayne Mullin.  In late September, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protection as set forth by the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

Payout Perspective:

With the new administration set to come in this January, the likelihood that the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act passes is low.  Certainly, having President-elect Trump as an ally will help Emmanuel and the UFC.  Moreover, one would think that a Republican dominated House and Senate would persuade Representative Mullin to shelve the bill or amend it to make it more friendly for promoters.

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