UFC 229: Payout Perspective

October 9, 2018

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time it was one of the biggest events in company history with UFC 229 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Khabib submits Conor, brawl ensues

You’ve likely read all about the post-fight brawl.  Despite MMA fan that like to downplay the incident, this was not how you showcase your product to the millions of fans that watched the fight.  Rather than be professional, both sides were not.  Conor’s antics prior to the night, and Khabib’s during it were both wrong.  It was a disgrace to the sport and overshadowed the dominant performance by Khabib.

At this point, the Nevada Athletic Commission will have to suspend and fine Khabib for some time to make it look like an authority.  With that being said, it’s clear that the UFC will take no action despite its ability to do something about it.  The UFC has maintained its alibi of hiding behind the regulation of a commission to do its bidding when it comes to these types of disciplinary issues.  It is clear that if they wanted, they could terminate Khabib’s contract.  Dana White stated that any fighter from Khabib’s corner would no longer fight in the UFC.  But what about Khabib?

Conor is to blame as well.  His antics have helped put him in the stratosphere of earners in combat sports and brought millions of dollars to Zuffa.  As a result, he’s been allowed to do anything without repercussions.

The whole scenario points to a suspension for Khabib and being stripped of his lightweight title.  We should have Conor face Tony Ferguson for the title and/or Diaz/Poirier winner facing Ferguson with the loser facing Conor.

Ferguson returns to stop Showtime

Tony Ferguson stopped Anthony Pettis in a blood-splattering fight that showed El Cucuy is back.  Both fighters had their moments and the movements in the fight were out of the ordinary and extraordinary.  Ferguson used a somersault to get out of the way of Pettis and Showtime used capoeira moves in attacking and defending.  Pettis was sliced by one of Ferguson’s strikes and was bleeding like a pro wrestler.  He did damage Ferguson as well.  In the end it was the relentless Ferguson that earned the victory as Pettis could not continue due to a broken hand.

Attendance, Gate and Bonuses

The event set a record for an MMA event in Nevada with 20,034 for a gate of $17.2 million.  It eclipsed UFC 200 held at the same venue.  The gate for UFC 229 fell short of the company record of $17.7 million for the UFC’s debut at MSG at UFC 205.

According to SeatGeek, a standing room only seat for UFC 229 went for over $400, with the get-in price at $1,234.  Again, it was second to only UFC 205’s get in price.

The bonuses went to Ferguson and Pettis for Fight of the Night, Derrick Lewis and Aspen Ladd for Performances of the Night.  Each drew the standard $50,000 bonus.

Payouts

The payouts were highlighted by Conor McGregor’s $3 million purse followed by Khabib’s $2 million.  But, the NAC has held up Khabib’s payout pending an investigation in the post-fight brawl.  While it has issued the check to McGregor, it’s held Khabib’s pay pending an investigation

The rest of the payouts can be found here.

Promotion of the Fight

Conor McGregor did not do a “world tour” for this fight which would have probably brought even more interest to the event.  He did promote when needed such as their first press conference.

The press conference which was held between Conor-Khabib prior to fight week was done without an audience but was shown in Times Square.  It was also on ESPN which had to use its censor liberally due to all of the profanity.  Conor’s late arrivals at the presser and ceremonial weigh-ins really put stress on the networks to deal with stretching out the time.  With more losses, networks will get tired of this habit.

ESPN did air the UFC Countdown show on its network in addition to it airing on FS1.

Dana White appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to promote the fight.  Conor McGregor made an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show and shared Proper 12 with his Irish counterpart.

In addition, there were multiple radio ads in addition to the television commercials.  Most of which highlighted the infamous Brooklyn bus attack.

Sponsorships

There were some new sponsors for this event including Conor McGregor’s Proper 12 Irish Whiskey and San Manuel Casino.  The latter sponsor is based out of Highland, California and was shown during the ceremonial weigh-ins.

One of the newest UFC sponsors, Portable Protein Pack aka P3, appeared on the front paneling of the UFC/Reebok shorts.  We may see more of this with existing official sponsors having secondary opportunities on fight gear.

In addition, Air Asia made a significant splash in its sponsorship activation which included stewardesses on stage with UFC Octagon girls during the ceremonial weigh-ins and with signage in the red corner of the Octagon to match the company’s branded color.

It was reported by Ariel Helwani that Conor McGregor signed a lucrative deal with Monster Energy which was said to be in the millions.

EA announced a new edition of its UFC3 video game featuring Conor McGregor.  EA conducted a fight simulation in which Conor McGregor KO’d Khabib in the 3rd round.

In the octagon, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Bud Light, Nemiroff, Motel6, MetroPCS, P3, CircleK, Modelo, Air Asia, UFC3’s Notorious Edition, Autozone and the return of the Walking Dead and Monster Energy held the center. It was clear that there were more sponsors than ever before within the Octano on its corners and canvas.  Harley Davidson had the fighter prep point.

Ratings

The UFC Prelims on FS1 drew 1.3M viewers on Saturday.  The prefight telecast on FS1 drew 373,000 viewers.  The prefight show matched the one from UFC 223.  The 222-prefight show was the highest-rated this year with 431,000.

Odds and Ends

I wrote about the UFC brawl in depth and how the promotion of the fight allowed for this to happen.  The UFC faces a lot of fallout (good and bad) from the event.  Khabib and Conor are facing NAC sanctions for their actions and at least two fighters from Khabib’s team will likely be expelled from the UFC and from fighting in Nevada.  For a promotion that is looking to grow the sport and find blue-chip sponsors, one has to ask whether UFC 229’s brawl was good or ad for business.

Conor went after Khabib’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, a controversial MMA manager that has been linked to terrorist groups if you believe McGregor and some journalists writing on the subject.  Despite these alleged ties, it seems that a majority of MMA fighters trust Abdelaziz with their career.  During the fight, Abdelaziz and members from both camps stayed in the back as the UFC tried to prevent what happened Saturday from happening.

The internet searches for this event were huge.  On Friday, UFC 229 drew over 2M google searches.  McGregor-Khabib drew over 2M searches as well.

Conor McGregor drew over 5M google searches on Saturday.  Derrick Lewis drew over 200,000 and Michelle Waterson drew over 100,000 searches.  “McGregor Fight” drew over 1 million google searches on Sunday.

Derrick Lewis’ post-fight interview was an all-time classic and was one of the reasons he drew as many google searches.  He took off his pants, said Donald Trump called him and told him to be Alexander Volkov.

Khabib appeared at the post-fight press conference and indicated he received congratulations from Vladimir Putin.

Matt Damon turned down the opportunity to be on Saturday Night Live to go to UFC 229.  There were many other celebrities drawn to this event as well and the aftermath had everyone on social media talking about it.

Internal numbers for Internet purchases of the event were up over 60% from Mayweather-McGregor according to Dave Meltzer.  This would be an indicator (although maybe not the strongest) the buy rate surged past the record of 1.6M PPV buys.  White indicated that it did not reach 3 million but was over 2 million.

The UFC received a ton of mainstream coverage due to post-fight brawl.  But, does this tarnish their image or encourage the promotion to try more of this?

Conclusion

Dana White touted that based on the viewership of Embedded episodes and YouTubes views compared with McGregor-Mayweather, the PPV would break the UFC record and it appears he will be right.  Despite the lack of expanded promotion of the event, its clear that the UFC hit all of the trigger points to garner the casual fans to buy the event.  The controversy is whether it was right to include footage of the bus attack or allow McGregor to continue personal attacks on Khabib’s religion, family and friends.  But, the PPV buy rate will likely go over 2 million (say 2.2 million) buys and show that marketing the bus attack footage helped more than it hurt.  There will be a rematch and you can believe that they will show the post-fight melee.

EA Sports introduces “Notorious Edition” of UFC 3

October 2, 2018

The UFC and EA Sports announced a special edition of the EA Sports UFC game with a “Notorious Edition” in honor of the return to the Octagon of this Saturday night.

Via press release:

The Notorious Edition is available for a limited time and features exclusive cover art, as well as bonus in-game content including 500 UFC Ultimate Team Points, five Notorious Ultimate Team Packs and the choice of one “Champion” fighter – McGregor, former two-time UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St. Pierre, former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, former UFC women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk or former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva – all for $29.99 USD. Players looking for a reason to get into the game Bleacher Report calls a “can’t miss” and UPROXX remarks is “truly outstanding” should act fast, as the Notorious Edition is only available through Monday, October 15.

In addition to the launch of the UFC 3 Notorious Edition, all current EA SPORTS UFC 3 owners will also get access to new fighters, including a Hall of Fame version of former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, as well as UFC athletes Sean O’Malley and Israel Adesanya. This new content update is available today to all EA SPORTS UFC 3 owners to download for free. Fans can also check out the EA SPORTS UFC 3 website right now to see the collective community results of the in-game matchup between UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and McGregor, including which fighter has won more times, the breakdown of TKOs, submissions and decisions, and more. The official EA SPORTS UFC 3 fight simulation of UFC 229 will be released on Friday, October 5.

Payout Perspective:

You’ll have to be a true gamer and/or McGregor fan to want this edition.  Also, if you already purchased the UFC 3 game, why get this one?  I assume for the extra fighters and features.  But, the new edition keeps the game associated with the McGregor brand in the news and EA hopes that the edition will spark more sales of the game.

 

Conor McGregor appears in new Burger King commercial

March 5, 2018

Despite no timetable for the return of Conor McGregor to the UFC, McGregor appears in a new Burger King commercial.  McGregor is promoting the new Burger King Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich.

Payout Perspective:

The Burger King commercials adds to the commercial portfolio for McGregor.  Notably, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. was accompanied by that creepy Burger King mascot to the ring against Manny Pacquiao back in May 2015.  BK reportedly paid $1 million for the opportunity.  McGregor might not be paid that much for the commercial but he’s still making money even though he’s not fighting.

Despite boasts and talks, Mayweather not entering octagon

December 20, 2017

Dana White confirmed rumors that Floyd Mayweather may sign a UFC contract.  But a couple hours after confirmation via ESPN, Mayweather nixed the claim and we can all return back to our normal lives.

It started with a boast from the 50-0 champ stating that he could make $1 billion with a 3 or 4 fight deal in the UFC.  He later clarified his words stating that he “could” do it if he wanted to.  But he’s not doing it.

Prior to Mayweather shutting down the nonsense, Tyron Woodley stated that he would help Mayweather train.  Woodley and Mayweather are friends.

Of course, Conor McGregor had something to tweet about this.

Payout Perspective:

What to glean from all of this?  Nothing really except it confirms that Floyd Mayweather is a polarizing figure that people will pay attention to whether to see him succeed or fail.  Mayweather in the UFC would have been terrible.  All we have to look to is the Randy Couture-James Toney fight.  While Mayweather may be in shape for a fight, there’s no way he could produce anything entertaining in the octagon.  The only reason for such a thing would be a money/attention grab.  What may arise out of this might be a collaboration with White’s plans to promote boxing.  We may want to keep an eye on that in 2018.

Nunes makes Forbes’ “30 under 30” list

November 16, 2017

UFC women’s bantamweight champion was chosen to be on Forbes’ ’30 under 30’ list for 2017 in the area of sports.

Nunes, 29, defended her title this past September.  But, she was mired in controversy when she pulled out of UFC 213 with an injury causing Dana White to criticize her.

In addition, boxer Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was picked for the list as well.  Alvarez fought twice in 2017 with both fights (vs. Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr and Gennady Golovkin) drew over 1 million PPV buys.

Here is her Forbes writeup:

“She sent shockwaves through the UFC world by defeating Ronda Rousey in just 48 seconds. The first openly gay champion for the sport, Nunes is the reigning women’s bantamweight champion with a 15-4 record. Nunes has an endorsement deal with TEN spring water.”

In 2016, Jose Aldo made the annual list for sports figures.

Payout Perspective:

Nunes should be more of a star than she is and hopefully the Forbes lists helps with her celebrity.  Her pulling out of UFC 213 may have put her in the UFC doghouse.  After destroying Ronda Rousey, you would have thought she would be the next woman fighter to make it to mainstream appeal.

Bud Light Canada unveils video featuring GSP

November 1, 2017

Bud Light Canada unveiled a video on twitter featuring Georges St Pierre which features the former UFC champ in a faux fight simulation of UFC 217.  The video pokes fun at GSP’s opponent Michael Bisping.

In the video, the viewers is given Bisping’s viewpoint as he faces GSP.  The video pokes fun at Bisping who drinks tea and succumbs to a GSP crane kick, take down and ground and pound.  GSP also calls his opponent an “English Muffin” and ends the video with the infamous “I’m not impressed by your performance” line he used many years ago in reference to Matt Hughes.

Payout Perspective:

It appears that Bud Light will be a sponsor for GSP on Saturday as we see a level of activation in preparation for the UFC’s return to New York.  We have not seen GSP in a while and we will see how many other sponsors will gravitate around the former champ as we approach Saturday’s PPV.

 

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.

Battle of the Network Stars returns to ABC with Rousey as a team captain

May 30, 2017

Vulture.com reports that Ronda Rousey will be one of the permanent captains for the revival of the Battle of the Network stars.  Retired NFL player with the Dallas Cowboys, DeMarcus Ware will serve as the other captain.

The original show aired on ABC from 1976-1988 and pitted stars from each of the three big networks at the time: ABC, NBC and CBS performing in athletic competitions which included a dunk tank, obstacle course and tug of war.  Legendary announcer, Howard Cosell, served as the show’s original commentator.  Mike Greenberg and Joe Tessitore will serve as co-hosts for this reboot.

There will be two significant changes to this Battle than the one from yesteryear.  First, this will be a ten-episode series running weekly with its debut starting June 29th.  The original aired once or twice per year.  Secondly, the networks will not be segregated.  Instead, as the Vulture article points out, the teams will be based on the actor’s characters (e.g, cops vs. TV sitcoms, TV moms and dads vs. TV kids).

Payout Perspective:

I was a big fan of the original show and while it will be billed as an athletic competition, it always had comedic elements to it.  The remake will be interesting to see how it plays for this generation.  Rousey as captain will help draw appeal from a broad range of demos and this likely helps her propel a career outside of fighting.

3 UFC fighters on ESPN World Fame List

May 30, 2017

Anderson Silva, Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey have landed on ESPN’s top 100 list of most famous sports stars.  The second-edition of the list is based on endorsements, social media and google search popularity.

The UFC Lightweight champion comes in at number 25.  The article lists McGregor as having $4 million in endorsements.  This might be more considering he just signed a deal with Beats By Dre.

The former women’s Bantamweight champion comes in at number 16.  She has double the endorsement dollars than McGregor with $8 million.  Rousey is ranked higher than the likes of Serena Williams and Tom Brady.

Silva comes in at 39 and has as many endorsement dollars as Rousey with $8 million.  This is likely due to the popularity with Brazilian fans.

As for boxers, Manny Pacquiao (59 – $2.5M endorsements) and Canelo Alvarez (89 – $1.5M in endorsements)

Soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, NBA player LeBron James and Lionel Messi are the top 3 on the ESPN lists which ranked the most popular sports stars based on endorsements and social media followers.

Payout Perspectrive:

Despite losing her one fight last year, Rousey moved up on this list.  So did McGregor.  Silva was unranked last year but jumped up to 39.  Pacquiao and Alvarez dropped down on the list.  No Floyd Mayweather here since he rarely does endorsements.  What the list shows for MMA (and boxing for that matter) is that the most popular stars of the sport are leaving.  Rousey should be retired and the same is likely true for Silva.  McGregor is chasing Mayweather and if he fights Floyd, it will be hard to get him back into the Octagon to fight for less money.  The list shows that the UFC must look to build new stars to take over for the most famous right now.

As for boxing, the decrease in Alvarez’s ranking is odd considering he is heading into a huge year and is the only one of the combat sports stars on this list that has a certain future in his sport beyond this year.  One might expect someone like Anthony Joshua appearing high on this list next year.

Beats By Dre signs Conor McGregor

May 29, 2017

Beats By Dre has signed Conor McGregor to an endorsement deal.  McGregor joins the list of athletes that the headphone company is signing.

You might recall that McGregor was one of several athletes that was featured in a Beats By Dre commercial in December.  His partnership with the company is now official.

In addition to Beats By Dre, McGregor has sponsorship deals with Reebok, Monster Energy and Bud Light.  The company is deepening its relationship with mainstream athletes and McGregor is considered one of these athletes.

Payout Perspective:

The deal should be beneficial to both sides.  If the Mayweather fight happens, Beats wins with the anticipated exposure from the fight.  McGregor gets another sponsor deal to add to his list of blue chip brands.  It also reflects the belief that McGregor is a mainstream star that most would recognize.

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