Celebrities invest in UFC

September 30, 2016

The Wall Street Journal reports that celebrities will hold an ownership interest in the UFC.  23 celebrities including Ben Affleck, Adam Levine and Serena and Venus Williams are investing in the company.

Per the WSJ, it’s the “most significant business move” since the sale of the UFC this past July.  Terms of the celebrity investments weren’t disclosed.  WME-IMG purchased the UFC for a reported $4 billion.  According to the article, Ari Emmanuel sought out the celebrities he knew to be fans of the sport and who would be willing to market the sport and influence their fans that it is more than a niche sport.

The news comes at the beginning of the hype for the company’s debut in New York November 5th.

Updated, per Darren Rovell, here is a list of those celebrities that invested in the UFC.  Each paid $250K.

Payout Perspective:

The news should not be of a surprise to anyone considering the entity that purchased the UFC this past summer.  Certainly the investment is a part of each celebrity’s financial portfolio so I would opine that this is not 50 Cent investing in Vitamin Water.  Yet, we are seeing the leverage that the new owners have in promoting and extending the reach of the UFC brand.

Study finds more involved in MMA training

September 3, 2016

A new study per the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s annual State of the Industry Report places mixed martial arts as a rising fitness activity among the U.S. population.

According to the study, more than 72% of Americans (6 and older) were active in at least one sport or activity in 2015.  The nationwide online survey taken in 2015 by 32,658 Americans gages athletic participation habits.

Over a three-year participation range, “MMA for competition” was third in growth activity among U.S participants.  Per the study it had grown 72.3% with 749,000 participating in 2012 and then 1,290,000 participating I 2015.  According to the survey “MMA for fitness” was 13th on the list with 1,789,000 in 2012 and 2,498,000 in 2015.

“Boxing for competition” came in 7th on the list.

The number 1 sport/fitness activity in 2015: Stand up paddling followed by adventure racing and then MMA for competition.  Fourth was Triathlon (nontraditional/offroad) followed by Rugby.

H/t: Sports Business Journal

Payout Perspective:

The key here is the activity habits of Americans as opposed to their favorite sport.  Thus, these are the fitness activities of the people taking the survey.  Although no definition in the article “MMA for competition” means and actual training in the sport of MMA (striking, grapping) as opposed to “MMA for fitness” (I tend to think this is a non-contact kickboxing class).  Why the popularity in MMA?  Perhaps the fitness benefits of the activity.  Participating in MMA is a calorie burner which mainly younger people are interested in trying.

Nate Diaz appears on Kimmel

August 3, 2016

The promotion for UFC 202 is continuing its mainstream hype as Nate Diaz appeared on a skit on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Diaz’s appearance in the skit comes on the heels of an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s late night talk show on TBS, “Conan.”  Dana White also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel to discuss the UFC.

Payout Persepective:

The sanitized, PG-rated Diaz is interesting to watch.  Diaz has done a good job with his new media obligations.  We get it, he’s not great with the words, but he’s still out there promoting the fight.  Despite the UFC appearing on the Fox Network we have seen ABC willing to promote the UFC on Good Morning America and now Jimmy Kimmel Live.

WWE not actively promoting Lesnar at UFC 200

July 5, 2016

Despite receiving the blessing of the WWE, the company will not be actively promoting Brock Lesnar’s fight against Mark Hunt this Saturday at UFC 200.

The WWE’s Stephanie McMahon told Business Insider that Lesnar’s appearance at UFC 200 is a “special case” but not a cross-promotional opportunity.  As the WWE has done in the past, it differentiated the two companies that seem to be inextricably compared.  McMahon stated that the “UFC is not a competitor to the WWE because we [WWE] are entertainment and UFC is competitive sport.  It’s very different.”  She also made it clear that while they were not supporting the fight, the more awareness Brock’s appearance makes at 200, there is value for the WWE brand.

While the WWE may not overtly support Lesnar’s octagon appearance this Saturday, it’s clear that the WWE is the indirect recipient of mainstream press.  For its part, the WWE is taking advantage of the publicity.

It announced that Lesnar will be on the cover of this year’s WWE video game, WWE 2K17.  It also announced that Lesnar’s opponent for Summerslam would be announced this week on USA’s Smackdown show.

Payout Perspective:

It’s an interesting “hands-somewhat-off” approach that the WWE is making.  It’s clear that Lesnar is the biggest draw for the UFC this weekend and this should please the WWE.  But, in order to stay true to its brand and the entertainment component of the product, it is not doing anything out of the ordinary to promote Brock’s presence at UFC 200.  It’s clear that the WWE could have done a special on its own network centering on Brock’s return to the octagon or even make more mention of it during its television programming.  Is it a mistake?  The WWE is keen on its brand and the decision to keep UFC Brock and WWE Brock separate (even though the UFC may not) seems like a thought out decision.

Rousey named “30 Most Powerful Women in Sport”

June 28, 2016

Ronda Rousey was named one of the 30 Most Powerful Women in Sport according to Adweek.  In this inaugural list, the selections will be celebrated at the Clio Sports gala in New York on July 7th.

Those selected reflect the influencers, industry leaders and record breakers in their respective sports. The list includes athletes, leaders within the C-Suite and personalities working within sport.  Notably, the WWE’s Stephanie McMahon was named on this list.  Danica Patrick, Serena Williams and golfer Lydia Ko are among those on the list.

Via Ad Week:

As the UFC has made headway in the American sports consciousness, Ronda Rousey has given the sport the one thing it’s been lacking: a bona fide superstar.

Payout Perspective:

Despite what many “pure” MMA fans think of Rousey, she is a mainstream star.  Even though she has not fought since last November and does not have another fight scheduled, she has used her sport to propel her to a career in movies and a brand ambassador.  Will her next fight in the octagon determine her future on this list?

VanZant postponing return to Octagon

May 3, 2016

MMA Fighting reports that Paige VanZant will not be a part of UFC 200.  VanZant’s star is budding with her involvement on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

After her loss to Rose Namajunas this past December, the schedule was to have PVZ back in the Octagon for UFC 200.  However, her appearance on the network show has taken off and she is doing well in the competition, she has decided to postpone her return to fighting.

PVZ was one of the first athletes to secure an individual Reebok deal and her looks have made her a marketable fighter on the UFC roster.

The UFC had hoped to use her network dancing notoriety to help promote UFC 200.

Payout Perspective:

I think most people could see this one coming.  It’s clear that the show’s success should propel her into other television opportunities.  Thus, why would she want to go back into fighting where she could get her as well as destroying her face.  I’m sure we recall what she looked like at the Namajunas fight.  Frankly, fighting is a tough sport and if you can make a living not having the risk of getting injured you should not blame her.

Jones-Cormier headlines UFC 200

April 27, 2016

The UFC announced on ABC’s Good Morning America that Jon Jones will take on Daniel Cormier in the main event of UFC 200 on July 9 in Las Vegas.  The fight will be to unify the light heavyweight championship.

Jones defeated Ovince St. Preux last Saturday to earn the interim belt as Cormier pulled out of the bout due to an injury.  The new main event takes the place of Conor McGregor-Nate Diaz as the UFC 200 main bout.


Despite legal issues, the UFC is turning to Jones (and Cormier) to sell this event.

Payout Perspective:

The new main event is better than the potential for Aldo-Edgar as the top fight of the biggest card of the year (thus far) for the company.  The announcement on GMA appealed to the mainstream and occurs on the same day that tickets become available to the public (Wednesday are for UFC fan members).  Expect revved up promotion for UFC 200 which would rival and probably exceed what was done for UFC 182.

UFC “takes over” Good Morning America Wednesday

April 26, 2016

The UFC will have a distinct presence on the Wednesday, April 27th edition of ABC’s “Good Morning America.”  The appearance is lead-up to the sale of tickets for UFC 200.

According to the UFC, Chuck Liddell, Miesha Tate, Paige VanZant and Dana White will be among the UFC stars announced to make appearances between 7-9am during the show.

VanZant is currently a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

Payout Perspective:

Could we see a fight announcement for UFC 200 during the show?  The first UFC appearance on the Disney-owned network (ESPN is also owned by Disney) occurred last year when Ronda Rousey announced that she would fight Holly Holm.  It’s a good promotional appearance for the UFC as tickets to its biggest event go on sale this week.

NYT goes longform for UFC

March 26, 2016

The New York Times had a lengthy piece in Saturday’s edition on the UFC as it prepares to hold events in New York.  The article comes after the law to legalize MMA in the state finally became a reality this past Tuesday.

The article notes the importance of having sMMA in the state as it is “the largest and most important media market in the world.”  The UFC also cites the ban as the reason major companies did not sign sponsor deals with the UFC.

  • The article notes that the Fertittas plan to launch its IPO for the Stations Casinos in the coming weeks.
  • The article estimates that there are 30 to 40 million people watching their biggest PPV events which exceeds the audience for any game of the 2015 NBA Finals. Of course, the number appears to be an estimate of overall people watching on PPV, in bars, at the arena, etc.
  • Although written about before, the Fertittas have a clause in their contract that the dispute resolution mechanism to settle issues would be BJJ match of 3, 5 minute rounds. As a lawyer, I would recommend against this.  Then again, if you are the client and that’s what you want…so be it.
  • The antitrust lawsuit was brought up and Rob Maysey was interviewed for the article. He indicated that fighters in title bouts earn base pay of $300K to $00K and bonuses that could be worth $3 million or more.  There is also the potential for PPV upside for “marquee” fighters.
  • Maysey is quoted as saying that boxing promoters payout 85% of the revenue to fighters and keep the rest. However, in MMA, those numbers are reversed.  UFC executive Lawrence Epstein defended fighter pay stating its comparable to MLS players.

Payout Perspective:

Overall a good read and great publicity for the UFC as it moves into New York.  While the piece includes information on the antitrust lawsuit and the Culinary Union, it gives the backstory of the UFC and seemingly the last word to the UFC.  The article hits have been huge this week with the imminent legalization of MMA in New York.

PVZ announced for ABC’s DWTS

March 8, 2016

UFC women’s strawweight Paige Van Zant will be on the upcoming season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”  VanZant is one of several athletes chosen for this season including NFL players Von Miller and Antonio Brown.

VanZant and her sponsor Reebok have leveraged the opportunity.

Who ever comes up with the best team name for me and @MarkBallas on @DancingABC gets $750 in @Reebok swag!!!!!

A video posted by Paige VanZant (@paigevanzantufc) on

Oh hey stud 💋 watch me on season 22 of @dancingabc

A photo posted by Paige VanZant (@paigevanzantufc) on

Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars starts March 22nd on ABC.

Payout Perspective:

The placement is great for the 21 year old fighter’s career as Dancing with the Stars is a very popular show.  The last couple of season debuts for the show have drawn between 13 and 14 million viewers on ABC.  This is great for VanZant as even if she is ousted early from the dance competition, she will at least get some great exposure for herself and the UFC.

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