Fedor vs. Werdum Set for June 26th

May 4, 2010

Strikeforce has announced that Fedor Emelianenko will return to the promotion on June 26th in order to take on Fabricio Werdum on a Strikeforce on Showtime card.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (May 4, 2010) – After months of anticipation, the world’s No. 1 heavyweight and pound-for-pound Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko (31-1), will make his eagerly awaited return to the cage to face two-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion and top-ranked superstar Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (13-4) in a STRIKEFORCE and M-1 GLOBAL co-promoted event at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. on Saturday, June 26, live on SHOWTIME® at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).

 

The Fedor-Werdum match will headline an event which will feature up to five televised fights on SHOWTIME and several non-televised undercard bouts that will be announced in the coming weeks.

Payout Perspective:

Note the “STRIKEFORCE and M-1 GLOBAL co-promoted” event mention. It’ll be very interesting to see how this co-promotion plays out this time around, as M-1 wasn’t satisfied with the exposure it was given last time around on CBS.

MMAterial Facts (03/24/10): ESPN Boosts MMA Coverage, DirecTV/Versus Settlement Details

March 24, 2010

  • ESPN ‘MMA Live’ graduates to television on ESPN2
  • Dana White looking to build a giant family entertainment complex in Vegas
  • UFC on Versus 1: Vera vs. Jones” draws 1.24 million viewers for live broadcast
  • Monte Cox Joins KOTC, HDNet, and Lake of the Torches Casino Partnership
  • The Launch of M-1 Global Japan, Evgeni Kogan Interview

ESPN ‘MMA Live’ graduates to television on ESPN2

MMAmania.com has learned that host Jon Anik along with analysts Franklin McNeil and Kenny Florian will soon bring their mixed martial arts news, highlights and analysis to the world’s biggest sports network on ESPN2.  (MMAMania)

***

Georges St. Pierre, Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar scheduled for ESPN SportsCenter

UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre and heavyweight contender Frank Mir will be appearing live on SportsCenter this Thursday (March 25) on ESPN. “Rush” is expected at 10:15 a.m. ET while Mir will be stopping by a little later at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Later in the week, UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar will return to SportsCenter on Friday (March 26) at 10:15 a.m. to discuss his pending return to MMA. (MMAMania)

Dana White looking to build a giant family entertainment complex in Vegas

“I’m gonna build a bad-ass, nice, clean place up in Summerlin where people can take their kids and have a blast on the weekends,” he told me.

White’s complex would offer entertainment diversity on the level of a chain called Dave & Buster’s, which some Las Vegans know for its California locations. Dave & Buster’s combines a restaurant with scores of interactive games, from boxing to NASCAR simulators, video games, Skee-Ball, billiards and other indoor activities.  (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

UFC on Versus draws 1.24 million viewers, Details On Versus/DirecTV Settlement

The UFC’s first-ever event on Versus, “UFC on Versus 1: Vera vs. Jones,” held this past Sunday in Broomfield, Colo., drew 1.24 million viewers, MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) today confirmed.

UFC on Versus 1 marked the first event on the cable channel available to the 18 million homes serviced by DirecTV after a six-and-a-half-month service interruption due to a dispute over carrier fees.

The ratings included a 1.66 rating in the males 18-34 demographic, as well as a 1.21 figure in the persons 18-49 category. (MMAJunkie)

***

Mixed martial arts fans helped to get Versus back in DirecTV’s lineup

“I know the fans were upset about WEC fights not being on the air, and I can only imagine that the volume multiplied by a number I can’t even guess with the fans knowing this UFC fight [with Jones] wasn’t going to be on, either,” UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta said.

Fertitta admitted that he got into the ear of the DirecTV officials, and his company has given millions of dollars to DirecTV via monthly UFC pay-per-view cards. Fertitta said he told the DirecTV officials “it’d be nice” to have Versus accessible to the 25 million satellite customers in the U.S. and Latin America.  (LA Times)

***

MMAPayout Note: Though DirecTV and Versus reached on a settlement and Versus was able to stay in its previous tier (non-premium), the deal wasn’t all favorable for Versus.  The new agreement reached placed Versus in the Channel 600 range, instead of its former Channel 300 range.  It may not seem like much, but the prime channels for DirecTV are in the 200’s, so the 600’s are quite a distance away and may detract future channel surfers from ever stumbling on to MMA on Versus.  Not to mention the confusion this ordeal created by taking away the channel from DirecTV customers for months and then placing it back on a different channel.

Monte Cox Joins KOTC, HDNet, and Lake of the Torches Casino Partnership

Lac du Flambeau’s Lake of the Torches Resort Casino just added more star power to its already successful mixed martial arts events. The casino, along with host promotion King of the Cage, has announced the affiliation of KOTC and high-profile promoter and fighter manager, Monte Cox, for the casino’s events.

Monte Cox is regarded as “The Godfather” of MMA and is considered to be one of the most influential figures in the sport today and in the sport’s history. Over the past 14 years no one has promoted more MMA events (nearly 600) or managed more UFC champions (seven) than Cox.

“King of the Cage has done a great job promoting events in the Midwest and at Lake of the Torches specifically,” Cox said. “I think it is, without a doubt, the top event in the state. Now, we will use our contacts, fighters and promotional team to bring the current and future stars of the sport to the area.”

King of the Cage President Terry Trebilcock and Cox have been long-time friends and have often looked for opportunities to join forces. “Terry and I started in MMA about the same time and we’ve known each other for a long time. There’s a lot of mutual respect and we’ve often talked about working together on projects,” Cox said. “I’m excited about this and I know with the two of us behind it great things will follow.”  (PRESS RELEASE)

The Launch of M-1 Global Japan, Evgeni Kogan Interview

A press conference was held today in Tokyo. The theme of the event was “aiming at the globalization of MMA.” The press conference was to announce a small show on 4/16 at Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo called “M-1 Selection ASIA EDITION 2010 Japan.” Heading up M-1 Global Japan is former AtoZ Japanese pro-wrestling women’s wrestling ring announcer Mr. Tsuruga (he’s in the middle of the photo linked above). There will be M-1 events throughout Asia (including South Korea). (FightOpinion)

***

MMA Nation Interview Recap: Evgeni Kogan Talks Fedor Emelianenko and M-1 Global’s Goals

Kogan made it clear that M-1 does not currently have the level of brand recognition in America that they would like but that they do plan on continuing to attempt to make the connection with the sport’s fanbase.  Also important to M-1 is developing an understanding that they are not simply a “management company” but are a full fledged fight promotion putting on events in multiple continents this year.  Kogan also admitted that in part the lack of narrative control by M-1 during the Fedor/UFC negotiations led to the issues with understanding the company and that they plan to work more with the media and fans going forward.  (BloodyElbow)

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I want to take The Ultimate Fighter all over the world. We’re working on the Middle East right now. That will probably happen the soonest. I want one in the UK and then one for all of Europe. …That has been in the works for a while and that isn’t an easy one to pull off.”  (Dana White on Globalizing TUF, MMACanada)

QUICK HITS

  • Wanderlei Silva vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama set for UFC 116 in Las Vegas (MMAJunkie)
  • Showtime offers free preview weekend, Strikeforce Challengers VII included (MMAJunkie)
  • Dana White promises UFC return to Dublin in 2010 (MMAJunkie)
  • Bellator adds “TUF 7” alum Luke Zachrich for season-two middleweight tourney (MMAJunkie)
  • Four amateur contests round-out Strikeforce Challengers VII’s 11-bout fight card (MMAJunkie)
  • Dana White expects UFC’s return to German TV, not ruling out live event in interim (MMAJunkie)
  • UFC Makes Big Splash in New York City (MMAFighting)
  • White Unsure of Direction, Purpose for Toney (MMAFighting)
  • UFC 111 Presser Notes: White on Toney Deal, Upcoming Shows & More (Sherdog)
  • Hendo Grades Early Strikeforce, CBS Efforts; Calls Counter-Programming ‘Childish’ (Sherdog)
  • K.J. NOONS HAD BROKEN FOOT DURING TO DIDA WIN (MMAWeekly)
  • FEDOR CONFIRMED FOR JUNE RETURN AGAINST WERDUM (MMAWeekly)
  • White vlog: Trapped in Toronto (Cage Writer)
  • ADCC champ Braulio Estima set for MMA debut against Rick Hawn at Shine Fights (FiveOuncesOfPain)
  • News Roundup: Marshall, Gugerty, Another Bellator Signing (Heavy)

TV LISTINGS

  • HDNet Fights Vault (Eddie Alvarez) at 8 PM ET on HDNet (03/26/10)
  • InsideMMA (Wanderlei Silva, Joe Soto, Shane Carwin) at 9 PM ET on HDNet (03/26/10)
  • HDNet Fights: King of the Cage “Legacy” at 10 PM ET on HDNet (03/26/10)
  • Strikeforce Challengers: Johnson vs Mahe at 11 PM ET/PT on Showtime (03/26/10)
  • UFC 111: GSP vs Hardy at 10 PM ET on PPV (03/27/10)
  • HDNet Fights Presents DREAM.13 at 11 PM ET on HDNet (03/27/10)

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • HDNet Fights: King of the Cage – Legacy at 10 PM ET on HDNet (03/26/10)
  • Strikeforce Challengers: Johnson vs Mahe at 11 PM ET/PT on Showtime (03/26/10)
  • UFC 111: GSP vs Hardy at 10 PM ET on PPV (03/27/10)
  • UFN 21 : Florian vs Gomi at 10 PM ET on Spike (03/31/10)
  • The Ultimate Fighter 11 Debut after UFN 21 on Spike (03/31/10)

MMAterial Facts (03/15/10): Bellator's Big Announcement

March 14, 2010

  • Liddell-Franklin Rumored for UFC 115; Dana White Issues Denial
  • Strikeforce Standing Ground on April 17, Sees DREAM co-promotion as key component in future
  • Bellator calls Monday press conference, expected to announce signing of Roger Huerta
  • One-On-One With Bellator Fighting Championships CEO Bjorn Rebney
  • 5K Interview: Fedor Emelianenko manager and M-1 CEO Vadim Finklestein

Liddell-Franklin Rumored for UFC 115; Dana White Issues Denial

Light heavyweights Rich Franklin and Chuck Liddell are penciled in for a June showdown.

MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) has learned from sources close to the promotion that the two have verbally agreed to face each other in June at UFC 115, though contracts have yet to be finalized.

The new matchup replaces a planned third meeting between Liddell and Tito Ortiz that had been expected for the promotion’s first trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and may have been arranged as a result of Franklin’s unexpected involvement in “TUF 11.”  (MMAJunkie)

***

Former UFC champions Chuck Liddell  and Rich Franklin have verbally agreed to meet in a light heavyweight tilt in June, Sherdog.com has learned from multiple sources. UFC 115, though not officially announced, has been tentatively scheduled for June 12 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

A message posted late Saturday on UFC President Dana White’s Twitter account denied that the bout was slated. “We are doing couture vs franklin not chuck,” read the post.

Sherdog.com re-affirmed with its sources that the Liddell-Franklin bout is still in play.  (Sherdog)

Strikeforce Standing Ground on April 17, Sees DREAM co-promotion as key component in future

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker on Friday told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that “Strikeforce: Nashville” will not be moved from its April 17 date to sidestep a potential head-to-head clash with a rumored UFC event on the same night.

“It’s the 17th and it’s full steam ahead,” Coker said. “The 17th was always a good day when we chose it. We still feel the same way, and so does CBS.”  (MMAJunkie)

***

“I worked for K-1 for about eight years, and the ownership group of K-1 and DREAM is still the same,” Coker said. “I’ve maintained good relationships over there, and it’s always been my dream – that’s kind of a pun, right? – to have our guys fight their guys and to see who would end up on top. If our guys win, that’s fantastic. If [their guy] wins, then that’s just great. It’s just good competition.

“I think it’s the true nature of sports to compete. Now we have the DREAM champion against our champion, and especially for the hardcore fans, I don’t think it gets any better than that.”  (MMAJunkie)

Bellator calls Monday press conference, expected to announce signing of Roger Huerta

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight Roger Huerta (20-3-1 MMA, 0-0 Bellator) is set to test his mettle in Bellator Fighting Championships’ season two eight-man lightweight tournament.

Sources close to the situation confirmed to MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that the popular lightweight received his formal release from the UFC this week, which opened the door to finalize a deal with the upstart promotion.

Bellator has called a video press conference for Monday at 3 p.m. ET that will stream live at Bellator.com.   (MMAJunkie)

One-On-One With Bellator Fighting Championships CEO Bjorn Rebney

So at Bellator, we front end load our agreements, so when he or she is in the tournament they have the opportunity to make a great deal of money, very quickly.

While the typical model which is 3 and 3, or 6 and 6, or 8 and 8, you slowly but surely work your way up, and if you lose you get potentially cut.

Ours is different, it’s an upside down model which means fighters can make a lot of money very quickly with us. It’s very attractive, we’ve been able to get a lot of great fighters on board based on their belief in themselves to compete, and earn that money. …

In another organization if you lose, you can get cut, or get another shot against a tough opponent. In our organization it’s not a different scenario, but it is a scenario where you can make a great deal of money, very quickly. (Bleacher Report)

5K Interview: Fedor Emelianenko manager and M-1 CEO Vadim Finklestein

FiveKnuckles.com: It has been said that Fedor has signed a 3-fight deal with Strikeforce and has two fights remaining with the next one coming against Fabricio Werdum this summer. After this deal has elapsed, would it be possible to see Fedor in the UFC?

Vadim Finkelstein: It depends on UFC. We would like to cooperate with them. Everything depends on them, their diplomacy. It would be possible if they are flexible.

FiveKnuckles.com: You tried cooperating with them this summer, but after negotiating with Dana White extensively to no avail, he said many bad things about you and M-1. What are your thoughts on Dana White personally?

Vadim Finkelstein: That’s his character, he just loves to call names. He didn’t say bad things about M-1 only, there were a lot of situations where he was harsh. It makes me glad when Dana White talks about us. I respect the UFC, they’ve done a lot for the development of MMA, so I can pardon them such attacks. We respect him and let him grumble.   (Five Knuckles)

VIDEO OF THE DAY

  • UFC 112 “Invincible” Promo: Two titles. One night. The Ultimate Fighting Championship® travels to Abu Dhabi for the first time and fans there will witness one of the organization’s greatest events ever, as middleweight titleholder Anderson “The Spider” Silva faces the extraordinary BJJ of Demian Maia. Lightweight champion BJ Penn looks to continue his dominant reign when he takes on Frankie Edgar in the double main event of UFC® 112.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Was it done to create some confusion in the marketplace in Nashville? Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not sure,” said Coker. “Is it good for mixed martial arts? I’m not sure. I don’t think so. I don’t think that when a company’s trying to counter-program you just to impact your ratings, it’s– and this could go back and forth. One day, when CBS says, ‘Alright, we’re going to go head-to-head against your pay-per-view date and you can watch Fedor (Emelianenko) or Dan Henderson for free on TV or buy a pay-per-view,’ people are going to have choices at that point. But that’s something they’d never do. CBS went out of its way to make sure there was nothing else on April 17.”  (Scott Coker Addressing UFC Rumors, Sherdog)

QUICK HITS

  • 10 Bouts Booked for UFC 113 (Sherdog)
  • NSAC confirms May 29 event at MGM Grand, expected to serve as UFC 114 (MMAJunkie)
  • The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale targeted for June 19 at the Palms Casino Resort (MMAJunkie)
  • Ray Mercer vs. Ron Sparks set for April 16 King of the Cage event in Michigan (MMAJunkie)
  • Brandon Visher vs. Tyler Toner, Chan Sung Jung vs. Cub Swanson set for WEC 48 (MMAJunkie)
  • Is UFC ‘Messing With’ Strikeforce? (MMAFighting)
  • Roger Huerta Signs With Bellator (MMAFighting)
  • Ryo Chonan Ready for DREAM Debut (MMAFighting)
  • Cormier-Devine Added to March 26 Strikeforce Challengers (Sherdog)
  • NOONS OPEN TO 170, REKINDLING FIRE WITH DIAZ  (MMAWeekly)
  • MIGHTY MO SIGNS TO FIGHT BARNETT AT DREAM 13 (MMAWeekly)
  • Liddell fooled us and Faber! Comes clean on Kimmel show (Cage Writer)
  • White says Couture next for Franklin, not Liddell (FiveOuncesOfPain)
  • All UFC 110 Drug Tests Are Clean (Heavy.com)

TV LISTINGS

  • UFC Primetime  St-Pierre vs. Hardy at 10 PM ET/PT on Spike (03/17/10)
  • UFC 111 Countdown: Mir vs. Carwin at 10:30 PM ET/PT on Spike (03/17/10)
  • HDNet Fights Presents K-1 Classics (Masato, Drago, & Andre Dida) at 8 PM ET on HDNet (03/19/10)
  • InsideMMA (Dan Henderson, Mike Straka & Donovan Craig) at 9 PM ET on HDNet (03/19/10)
  • HDNet Fights: XFC X-Night of Champions at 10 PM ET on HDNet (03/19/10)
  • UFC on Versus: Vera vs Jones at 10 PM ET on Versus (3/21/10)

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • HDNet Fights: XFC X-Night of Champions at 10 PM ET on HDNet (03/19/10)
  • UFC on Versus: Vera vs Jones at 10 PM ET on Versus (3/21/10)
  • HDNet Fights: King of the Cage – Legacy at 10 PM ET on HDNet (03/26/10)
  • Strikeforce Challengers: Johnson vs Mahe at 11 PM ET/PT on Showtime (03/26/10)
  • UFC 111: GSP vs Hardy at 10 PM ET on PPV (03/27/10)
  • UFN 21 : Florian vs Gomi at 10 PM ET on Spike (03/31/10)
  • The Ultimate Fighter 11 Debut after UFN 21 on Spike (03/31/10)

M-1 Disappointed with Media Coverage

March 11, 2010

Dave Meltzer of Yahoo! Sports gives us an update on the fight status of Fedor Emelianenko and talks about the on-going renegotiations that are taking place between his M-1 management team and Strikeforce.

Kogan allowed that M-1 Global was disappointed in what happened with the promotion of the last fight, but was quick to say the problem wasn’t with Strikeforce. He said he was disappointed in media coverage of the event because the M-1 Global name in stories on the show wasn’t featured more visibly.

 

“The way the show was promoted, that was an issue to us, but we don’t have an issue with Strikeforce over it,” Kogan said. “M-1 isn’t a management company for Fedor Emelianenko. We are a fight promotion. We have done matches all over the world, U.S., Asia, Europe, Japan. But the media didn’t feature the M-1 name [in coverage of the November show]. Specifically, it wasn’t Strikeforce’s fault. They honored their agreement. The way the media perceived the event was it was Strikeforce. M-1 wasn’t promoted that much. That was an issue with us.”

Payout Perspective:

The media perceived the event to be Strikeforce because it was Strikeforce. There might be a signed contract sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere that says otherwise, but let’s look at the probable truth: Strikeforce was likely the company that booked the arena, dealt with the commission, operated the event, made the matches, paid the fighters, negotiated the North American television distribution deal, and invited the press.

What exactly did M-1 contribute?

Even if that’s not the case – say M-1 was an equal partner with regard to responsibility – can anyone blame the fighters, the fans, or the media for still perceiving this as a Strikeforce event? We’re talking about a company that has been in operation for nearly 20 years; and, in the last five, has promoted countless of MMA shows under the Strikeforce banner. Now, all of a sudden, it promotes one single event that looks, feels, and tastes exactly as it used to, only it’s called something slightly different – a “co-promotion”. Is it still Strikeforce?

Absolutely.

Therein lies the problem with M-1’s plan to leverage Fedor into building its own promotional brand: the infrequency, not to mention inadequacy, of simply slapping its brand onto a Strikeforce product isn’t fooling anyone. Not to mention the fact that Strikeforce is already having a tough enough time communicating its own brand message.

It’s bad enough for Strikeforce that many casual fans still refer to the sport as “UFC” – making it almost impossible to deliver a simple and concise message of differentiation in the first place – but now they’ve also got to decipher the meaning of “Strikeforce and M-1 Global present…”

What exactly does that mean? Why should it matter to the consumer?

….

I also find it interesting that, in the last two weeks, we’ve seen three different people from M-1 speak on the topic of Fedor – each one of them with a slightly more ambiguous and different answer than the last. Kogan’s “premature” comment is even less clear than Vadim Finkelstein’s “likely May” which is different than a loosely translated “probabl April” from Apy Echteld (whom, I’m told, may not even have anything to do with Fedor anymore).

Mousasi Leaves M-1 Global Management

February 12, 2010

Loretta Hunt over at Sherdog is reporting that Gegard Mousasi has split with his management team, M-1 Global, and has already secured new representation.

“After careful consideration, I have decided that it is in my best interest to part ways with M-1 Global,” Mousasi wrote in the e-mail. “During the time I spent under their wing, M-1 Global, as a promoter and management company, allowed me to achieve many great things. I appreciate all they have done for me.”

 

M-1 Global, based out of Holland and Russia, had guided the Armenian-Dutch fighter’s career to two championship titles in the last few years.

 

The company also represents Fedor Emelianenko, the world’s No. 1-ranked heavyweight, who has publicly stated that he has an ownership stake in the organization, as well.

 

“The business relationship with M-1 Global is over,” said company representative Apy Echteld. “It was a business decision, but not a personal one and there are no hard feelings.”

 

Echteld said he would continue to work with Mousasi apart from M-1, although Echteld will be staying with the organization. Echteld added that Emelianenko had expressed his hopes to train with Mousasi again in the future.

Payout Perspective:

The rumor flying around for the better part of the last 9 months is that the UFC offered Gegard a contract, but M-1 turned it down in favor of a Strikeforce contract of lesser value (ostensibly as a favor to Strikeforce). However, Joe Silva of the UFC denied even offering Mousasi a contract last summer following the collapse of Affliction’s promotional unit. Mousasi’s split from M-1 is bound to re-ignite those rumors.

The Armenian claims to already have found representation, but refuses to disclose whom it might be. Fans hoping to see him in the UFC may have to wait as he’s got fights remaining on his Strikeforce contract, in addition to plans with the Japanese promotion Dream and its light heavyweight grand prix this year.

Fedor, Lesnar in Business Week's Top 100

January 28, 2010

The annual BusinessWeek Power 100: Most Powerful Athletes was published this week and caught the interest of the MMA industry by naming Fedor Emelianenko and Brock Lesnar to the list, in addition to boxers Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Shane Mosley.

Athlete Rankings of note:

72. Manny Pacquiao
82. Fedor Emelianenko
91. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
93. Shane Mosley
96. Brock Lesnar

BusinessWeek provides the following insight into its methodology:

The Power 100 rankings are based on a blended mix of athletes’ “on-field” and “off-field” performance to determine which athletes are having the greatest overall impact in the world of sports. On-field scoring is determined by statistically ranking each athlete’s sports performance within his or her peer group over a two-year period. For each sport, key performance metrics include such measures as points scored, money earned, laps lead, and batting average, to name a few. This ranking is then adjusted by the overall popularity of the sport itself, based on an index of fan avidity and TV viewership. The off-field scoring is developed from hundreds of surveys on athletes and how the general public perceives them. The data was compiled by E-Poll Market Research, a leading provider of custom research services and products for entertainment and media companies, using their E-Score® Celebrity database. Athlete rankings are based on such attributes as awareness, appeal, trustworthiness, and influence. In addition, the amount of endorsement dollars each athlete earns rounds out the off-field ranking.

Payout Perspective:

The methodology is there to provide some semblance of objectivity to the rankings, but there are too many head-scratchers on the list for it to have any true meaning.

To be fair, it’s very difficult to produce a rankings list of this sort, because it really becomes a question of how to weight on and off-field accomplishments. There’s also more than likely a political element involved when considering what sports and athletes to include on the list.

I think the larger takeaway here is simply that MMA fighters were considered on the list – irrespective of their positioning. It demonstrates just how far the sport has come in the last ten years.

Affliction Motion to Dismiss Denied

January 26, 2010

J.R. Riddell of Sherdog.com reports that Affliction’s motion to dismiss M-1’s claims of breach of contract have been denied by a federal judge in Los Angeles.

On Monday, Affliction’s legal team urged the judge to dismiss a number of Emelianenko and M-1’s breach of contract claims, arguing that two of the three agreements at issue in the suit had expired well in advance of the “Trilogy” show. Emelianenko and M-1 Global’s legal team countered that the contracts had not expired, pointing to evidence that Affliction actively co-promoted the event with M-1, which in their view suggests that Affliction was acting as if the contracts remained in effect.

Bassiri, Affliction’s counsel, said that the judge denied the motion because at this early stage of litigation, she was legally required to accept Emelianenko’s allegations as true. The judge did not, however, make any binding decisions regarding whether or not Emelianenko’s claims were factually accurate.

Payout Perspective:

MMAPayout.com was the first to break word of the impending suit back in October and followed up with some detailed analysis of the situation which can be found below. Essentially the Fedor and M-1 camp filed a breach of contract suit against Affliction Entertainment and other unnamed parties citing failure to perform certain contractually obligated services.

Although the complaint itself is quite complex, it actually can be easily summarized in lay terms.  Fedor had a three-fight contract with Affliction, and fought two of the three fights, and agreed to fight Josh Barnett to close the contract.  Barnett failed a steroids test, Affliction had discussions with prospective replacements for Barnett (e.g., Vitor Belfort and Brett Rogers) but ultimately reached an agreement with UFC that would permit Affliction to once again sponsor UFC fighters so long as it agreed to exit the promotion game.

All contracts have what is called an implied covenant of good faith, and Fedor argues that Affliction, instead of satisfying its obligation of booking a third fight for Fedor by finding a suitable replacement for Barnett, chose the path of least resistance by returning to UFC and cancelling the third show altogether, leaving the contracts with Fedor unsatisfied.

The substantive issues in the lawsuit are interesting: in contract law there is what’s known as the excuse of impossibility, and here the argument would be that Barnett’s failing the steroids test rendered impossible the satisfaction of Affliction’s obligations on the Fedor contracts, with Fedor arguing that Barnett’s negative drug test was used as a mere pretext to allow Affliction to exit the promotion end of MMA and stiff Fedor.

But then we come to Affliction’s motion to dismiss, which throws a monkey wrench into the entire substantive analysis.  You see, Fedor argues that Affliction breached its contracts by cancelling Affliction: Trilogy and reaching agreement with UFC in July 2009.

Affliction’s motion to dismiss, however, points to the language of the contracts, which calls for termination of the agreements on either (i) March 31, 2009; or (ii) the conclusion of the third fight, with the contracts specifically stating that they terminate upon the earlier of the two dates.  Since there was no third fight, the earlier date was March 31, 2009, and Affliction argues in its motion to dismiss that it cannot be alleged to have breached a contract in July 2009 that had expired four months earlier.

Although this is an attractive argument, there are many complexities to the suit, including issues of equity (i.e., fairness) in which Fedor could conceivably recover foreseeable damages suffered by his reasonably relying upon promises made by Affliction, so I do not expect this motion to dismiss to entirely end the matter.

Moreover, the language Afflcition points to in its motion to dismiss has wriggle room that could be favorable to Fedor: the contract cancels on the earlier of the two dates “unless the term of the promotion agreement or any extension thereto is . . . extended further pursuant to this Agreement or pursuant to a separate writing . . . .”  I would expect some — perhaps very creative — arguments from Fedor that indeed the contract term had extended either through explicit writing, oral agreement, or even something known in contract law as course of conduct of the parties.

Overeem Committed to K-1 Until Early April

December 24, 2009

Steven Marrocco of MMAWeekly sheds some interesting light on the fighting and contract status of Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem:

In January, the promotion secured Overeem to a one-year, three-fight deal, obligating him to a return in lieu of an informal talent-sharing agreement with K-1 that saw him snag the title in November 2007.

 

Overeem, who was forced to pull out of two scheduled Strikeforce events in June and August with a serious hand injury, is scheduled to appear against Kazuyuki Fujita at K-1 Dynamite on New Year’s Eve – his fifth K-1 fight in 2009 – and is planning a sixth in late March/early April 2010.

 

That was grim news to those expecting a showdown between Overeem and Fedor Emelianenko under the CBS eye in April. More confounding was that it was Overeem asking to fight the Russian after sacking James Thompson at Dream 12.

 

“Alistair Overeem wants to fight Fedor in April 2010,” the Dutchman said after the Oct. 25 fight. “So write that down.”

 

And while Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker told MMAWeekly.com he would invite the champion to participate on the promotion’s second CBS card in April, his manager said the K-1 opportunity – the final fight on his contract with the Japanese promotion – is too good to pass up.

 

“I never said he wasn’t fighting in April,” Overeem manager Bas Boon told MMAWeekly.com. “What I said was there will be a fight by the end of March or April in K-1, and actually, he did very well in K-1 and he’s got an extremely good contract. Commercial-wise, it’s better for him, and we agreed to this already on K-1, that we will do that fight. After that fight, he will fight in Strikeforce. Two, three times, whatever is available in May, June, July, we don’t care.”

 

Boon said Overeem could make a late April date if he wasn’t injured, but doubted Coker would agree to promote a fight under those circumstances. He said the hand injuries extended the time on his Strikeforce contract, but did not say for how long.

 

For now, it was time to strike when the iron was hot.

 

“(Golden Glory) has a 10-year relationship with Alistair, and we told him that this is a better way to work for him,” said Boon. “Think about it, man, he’s broadcast in 150 countries (on K-1). Right now, he’s got more sponsors than he ever had before. In his own country, he had a crazy rating during the Grand Prix, but also on EuroSport and also in Thailand. And this is where the UFC isn’t even broadcast. UFC is not even broadcast in Europe. Nobody knows about the UFC. Semmy Schilt and Alistair Overeem are gods there. You’re talking about a continent with 280 million people.

 

“(American fans) have to understand, man, to fight Badr Hari, Remy Bonjasky, Peter Aerts, Texeira, and again, Badr Hari, these are the top strikers in the world. If there would be any Americans wanting to win $400,000 or $500,000 in U.S., which is big money, why are they not there? Why are they not in K-1?”

Payout Perspective:

Herein lies the issue with non-exclusive contracts: not only does Strikeforce have to compete for fighters entering the entertainment business, but it’s also got to compete for the time and booking of its own fighters with other organizations. For as much as the contract type helps the organization secure new talent, it’s also managed to put two of Strikeforce’s divisions on hold for the better part of the last two years.

It’s tough to fault Overeem for taking the money and the exposure in Europe; the latter of which might really pay off for M-1 if and when it comes time to promote a Fedor vs. Overeem fight internationally.

However, given that Overeem only signed a one-year, three-fight contract —  and that it has already been extended — you have to wonder for how many more fights he’ll remain in the organization. Depending on the type of extension that has already been applied to his contract, it’s conceivable that he could leave Strikeforce without defending the belt against Fedor. Worse still, he could beat Fedor and then walk – leaving Strikeforce in a very bad position.

Fedor Aiding MMA in Russia

December 7, 2009

Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer discusses the impact that Fedor’s last nationally televised fight has had on MMA in Russia:

One thing that is legitimate, at least based on a television news report in Russia, is that after the fight aired on television (it was the first MMA fight in history to be broadcast on a major TV station in Russia), that there was a huge increase over the past few weeks in Russian teenagers wanting to join MMA gyms and Emelianenko was seen as the reason why.

 

Up until that time, the average Russian had no idea who he was. For the few who did, he was the guy who fought on a show Vladimir Putin attended several years ago (the Matt Lindland fight), if that. This event was the first time he got any significant media exposure because a few million people saw him fight on television. One of his fights was on PPV in Russia, but nobody bought it and his subsequent fights didn’t air.

 

While people will have you think he’s some sort of household name in Russia, Japan and South Korea, based on Google trends, the place he’s most famous by far is Croatia, and that’s largely because he’s the famous rival of Mirko Cro Cop, who is a legitimate national hero in his country. After that, the countries he’s most popular, in order, are Finland (MMA is on television every night there on a sports channel and his fights with Andrei Arlovski and Rogers were on TV there), Peru, Canada, U.S., Sweden and then Russia, followed by Brazil. He can draw in Japan among hardcores but among the casual people in Japan, they wouldn’t know who he is. Even in Finland, his name recognition would be less than Brock Lesnar (although significantly more than any other UFC fighter).

Payout Perspective:

It really is surprising to hear that Fedor hasn’t achieved a greater notoriety in the last several years, but it is encouraging that M-1 has secured a national television deal. The dividends of which are clearly showing in gym attendance figures (which is also something of a good trend in the United States over the last few years).

Any time you can build at the grassroots level of a sport, you’re helping to build life long interest. Fans that understand the sport are more likely to appreciate the ability and skill of those at the professional level, the theory goes, and that should translate into a larger audience.

And Russia could prove to be a solid MMA market in the years to come should Fedor continue to develop a name and increase the sport’s notoriety. The approximately 65 million television households – and 140 million people – is very material.

M-1 Global/Strikeforce: Record Numbers for Worldwide "Fedor vs. Rogers"

November 30, 2009

M-1 Global and Strikeforce announced last week that the worldwide broadcast of Fedor vs. Rogers did record numbers:

AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND (November 24, 2009) – M-1 Global and Strikeforce announced today that the international audience reports from broadcasters all over the world revealed an unprecedented number of viewers for the November 7th “Fedor vs. Rogers” MMA event from Chicago, Illinois.

 

“We are extremely happy with the preliminary broadcast reports,” said M-1 Global CEO Joost Raimond. “The demographics of these numbers were very promising as our network broadcasting partners in the U.S., Russia, and Korea reach an enormous audience alone. Coupled with a dozen other countries and our successful internet stream in Japan and other territories, all early accounts and indications tell us that “Fedor vs. Rogers” delivered worldwide more than any other MMA show in the history of the sport,” concluded Raimond.

 

Scott Coker, founder and owner of Strikeforce and experienced MMA promoter responded “We are thrilled with the tremendous viewership figures that the Fedor vs Rogers event generated overseas. The results clearly demonstrate the appreciation that fans worldwide have for a number of M-1 Global and Strikeforce mixed martial arts superstars including the number one fighter on the planet – Fedor Emelianenko – and his opponent Brett Rogers.”

 

In total, over 25 million MMA fans all around the world were treated to a vintage performance from the world’s greatest MMA fighter, Fedor Emelianenko. The main event of Fedor vs Rogers reached an impressive 5.46 million viewers in the United States on the CBS Network. The fight was also broadcast in Fedor’s native Russia by “Channel 1,” Russia’s largest television network, and reached 16 million viewers in Fedor’s home country. In addition, “Fedor vs. Rogers” was broadcast to millions of viewers in Korea on SBS, one of the 3 major national South Korean networks, as well as television networks in China, Latin America, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ukraine, Finland, Africa, Turkey, Israel, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Malta. Live internet streams of the “Fedor vs. Rogers” bout generated ground-breaking viewer numbers in Japan and all over the world and these numbers continue to grow through Video on Demand.

 

‘”CBS was proud to be the U.S. broadcaster in a fight seen by millions domestically and by millions more around the world,” commented CBS Senior Executive Vice President Kelly Kahl. “Strikeforce and M-1 Global put together a great card, showcasing some of the best fighters in the world. Our ad sales for the fight were strong, especially for advertisers that target young men — a group with a growing appetite for MMA.”

Payout Perspective:

The numbers certainly are impressive, but be careful to note the clever bit of PR spin: Fedor vs. Rogers is not the most watched fight in MMA history, but in terms of global viewership from so many countries it set a “worldwide” record. There is some question as to how reliable the figures really are, but it’s still a good result for the co-promotion.

Expect a rebuttle of sorts from the UFC – knowing them to be the competitive individuals that they are – regarding their international viewership. Lorenzo Fertitta has stated previously that UFC programming reaches an estimated 400 million people worldwide, and that figure is growing as they continue to lock-up distribution deals. Yet, they’ve never really commented on how well their fights are doing on a worldwide level.

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