Does the location of Ruiz, Jr.-Joshua 2 matter?

December 6, 2019

The big boxing event on Saturday featuring the rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua is taking place in Saudi Arabia.  The location is curious, if not for the fact that we realize that money takes precedence over everything.

The WWE has done well in holding events in Saudi Arabia.  Its two events in 2019 have been a financial success and has led to more in the future.  As a publicly traded stock, most investors are worried about the bottom line of the company, not how it got there.

Reports indicate that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia paid $100 million for Matchroom Boxing to have the fight in a stadium built for the event.  Ruiz was persuaded from having the fight in the U.S. (his original plan) when he was given more money to fly halfway around the world for a shot to defend his newly won titles.

Certainly, Anthony Joshua could have lobbied to have the contractually obligated rematch in Cardiff, Wales where he has sold out stadiums and is beloved by the locals.  Even with the upset loss, Joshua still yields leverage.  But, he too, accepted the fight in Saudi Arabia which one might suggest was related to additional financial incentives.

Money.  The all-encompassing equalizer to one’s values.  Or a question to it.  More than any other sport, there is a perception that combat sports is a big money grab.  From the promoters, to the networks, to the content providers to the athletes, boxing and MMA are predicated on making money in the shortest amount of time.  Certainly, the NFL may subscribe to this model as well but combat sports is more glaring as exemplified with the location of Saturday’s fight.

This past September, Karim Zidan wrote in The Guardian about Saudi Arabia’s strategy of mobilizing its sports authority to go on a public relations mission to lobby organizations to hold its events in the country.  The inference posed by Zidan in the article was that this strategy of “sportswashing” would steer away the bad publicity Saudi Arabia has had with human rights abuses and the conflict in Yemen.  Not to mention, the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The disturbing details of his death and the utter embarrassment in the aftermath of it are alarming.

Yet, with its wealth, power and dominance in the region it has used sports to foster an olive branch to the western world.  Despite its conservative culture, it has opened up its country for westerners to come and hold their events.  This past November, it allowed women to perform in the wrestling ring in the WWE marking a moment for sports entertainment.

But even with these steps forward, one cannot help but look back.  Should there still be accountability for past (and perhaps current) wrongs even with the perception that the country is seeking to make amends?  Moreover, is the viewer enabling those that have caused harm and suffering in the past by bypassing the atrocity to pay to watch an interesting fight on a Saturday afternoon?

These questions are geopolitical, religious, ethical and moreover way too big to answer in a blog post on a web site.  Yet, even while most of us combat sports fans are willing to turn away from the World section of the newspaper to focus on sports like we are akin to watch the NFL on Sundays without worrying about the issues with long term head injuries, it is something to think about.

The fight between Ruiz and Joshua will be an intriguing rematch to see if the now heavier Ruiz can emulate his 4-knockdown performance of Joshua this past June.  For Joshua, this is redemption for a fight, if he wins Saturday, he can just shrug off as an anomaly.  Fans will pay their $19.99, or continue with their DAZN subscription, to watch the two fight.

Does it matter where its taking place?

These legends will not fade away

May 14, 2019

The two legends of MMA are nearing the end of their run and it seems as though that they are wearing out the tread on their status as legends in the sport.  Sure, history tends to be kind the farther from the present we get and when we look back 20 years from now on the careers of Anderson Silva and BJ Penn we will remember their prime, not this version of themselves.

This past Saturday B.J. Penn and Anderson Silva lost at UFC 237.  For both, the defeats reflect the downside of their careers and brings up the question of whether each should retire.

Penn lost to Clay Guida in a bout which saw the always active ‘Carpenter’ outwork a slow and plodding former champion.  The loss had Penn fall to 1-11-1 since 2010 and a current 7 fight losing streak. The losing streak has shown that his best is far behind him.  Even his grappling game, a superior strength, was shown to have eroded as Ryan Hall rolled up a knee bar on the former BJJ World Champ and tapped him with ease at UFC 232.  If not for being BJ Penn, he would have been let go by the UFC.

For Silva, once the ‘must see’ fighter for the promotion, he once again fell to an up-and-coming fighter, Jared Cannonier.  If not for an improbable win against Derek Brunson at UFC 208, Silva probably would not have scored a win since his last fight on a Brazil PPV in December 2012.

Yet, Silva posted a message via social media that he will continue to fight.  A portion of his message to fans read:


View this post on Instagram


Fala meu povo. ATE O LIMITE… A dor é sua amiga … Ela mostra que vc não esta morto ainda. Dizem por aí que grandes símbolos tornam-se grandes alvos, talvez… mas a coisa mais importante é não se vitimizar se caiu levante, se quebrou conserte, nada de desistir ou achar que não consegue porque perdeu uma batalha. O ditado e um só, eu vou até o fim e quanto mais me pressionarem mas eu vou querer ir até o fim, não existe nada selvagem que sinta pena de si mesmo, um leão velho rodeado de hienas famintas loucas para devora-lo e ele mesmo assim luta até a morte sem nunca ter sentido pena de si mesmo, e não será diferente comigo!!!! Foça e Honra!!!

A post shared by Anderson “The Spider” Silva (@spiderandersonsilva) on

An old lion surrounded by hungry hienas (sic), crazy to devour him and he still fights to the death without ever feeling sorry for himself.

This passage seems the most prescient of the message and the ‘fighting to the death’ most alarming. But Silva has not looked bad in the ring as compared to Penn.  Yet, Silva’s loss to Cannonier which may have seen another leg injury in the Octagon, is a sign of his body betraying his mind.

Penn’s relation to reality may be more delusional. Protected from the media during fight week from needing to answer questions regarding his alleged domestic violence and threatening a farmer with a machete, Penn claimed that he was going to make another run at a UFC title.  Far from the ‘Prodigy’ that was a two-division champion and an elite-tier MMA star during the start of the Fertitta-run, Penn’s continued stay in the UFC seems to be more of a favor from the promotion that utilized his stardom and now his paychecks may be more of his pension plan.

It’s clear that both these fighters still believe that they will fight on.  They have been so good at this sport for so long and dedicated so much time and effort to their craft, that it’s not hard to believe that they wouldn’t know what to do without it.

Penn and Silva, like Georges St-Pierre who retired earlier this year are dedicated martial arts.  Unlike other ‘fighters’ in this sport, these three men dedicated a large portion of their lives to martial arts.  And, it wouldn’t be surprising if all three were to keep practicing even after active competition.  But, when should active competition end for Penn and Silva?

Even if they were to announce their retirements, it would be little assurance that they wouldn’t return.  Look at Tito Ortiz.  Even after a brief ‘renaissance run’ in the UFC with a submission of eventually double champ Ryan Bader, he went on to Bellator for a stint and then reappeared in November to put down another elder statesmen of MMA Chuck Liddell.  He now will be in Combates Americas threatening to fight again.

Certainly, if the UFC were to persuade Penn and Silva to stop fighting for the promotion, its easy to believe that Scott Coker or Combates Americas would scoop them up to aid in building their brand.

There are those that have decided on retiring from MMA early to focus on other goals in their lives.  Rose Namajunas said as much after losing via an ugly slam that looked as though she had broken her neck for sure.  Threats to health like that are sure to make one realize the fragility of health and Namajunas seems holistic in her view of life that she will not have an issue when retiring.  With that being said, it’s my own opinion that Namajunas will be back in the Octagon.  Although she is willing to leave on her own terms, she will want at least one more attempt at regaining her title.

To the chagrin of many MMA hardcores, Ronda Rousey returned to UFC TV to talk about life after the UFC.  Her last Octagon appearance – a brutal bashing by Amanda Nunes that left her upright but unconscious – confirmed to Rousey that she was done with the sport.  A second career in the WWE should be deemed successful even if she is moving on from that part of her life as well.

This past weekend’s fights should have confirmed to the MMA fan that BJ Penn and Anderson Silva have nothing more to gain, and more importantly, nothing more to show for the UFC and MMA audience.

But for each, strength of mindset, perservence and likely stubbornness means that they are not listening to any of it and as Silva claimed will ‘fight to the death’ and not fell sorry for themselves.

This, even though, we might feel sorry for them.

You can also find this on Medium.

Media were requested not to ask about Greg Hardy during media day

December 5, 2018

The UFC held media day for UFC 231 this Saturday in Toronto.  But one of the hot topics on everyone’s mind was the announcement that former NFL player Greg Hardy would make his debut on UFC’s first ESPN card in January.  This is the same card that Rachael Ostovich would be on.

For those not knowing, Hardy is a domestic abuser having been found guilty of heinous acts against his ex-girlfriend.  However, he was not sentenced to prison due to his ex-girlfriend not appearing to testify against him.  Ostovich had her orbital bone fractured in November by her boyfriend.  It was questionable if she would be able to fight Paige VanZant on the card but it appears she will make it.

The two on the same card presents a cruel irony and one has to wonder if the UFC knew of this as promoters and whether ESPN had an inkling this was happening as the new media partner.

With this information fresh in everyone’s mind, today’s media day seemed like a good time to get answers to these questions.

Except, it appears that the questions were limited.

Controlling the media is not a new thing, nor is this isolated to the UFC.   Other sports have had restrictions on the type of questions you may ask.  Teams are concerned about they types of things that are asked of their players.  They fear players may go off-topic and steer outside of the message.  Moreover, it could inadvertently get them in trouble.

Anecdotally, I’ve covered a couple NFL and NBA games in my time, and the media relations for the teams seem somewhat lax as they know most professionals and have built relationships.  Notably, in the NBA, access is pretty open especially after games.  That is, if players want to talk, they’ll talk.  If not, you are ushered away.

Other instances, media relations will want to control the message more with restrictions like the one offered by the UFC today.

This is due in part for the UFC to come up with a plan on how to address the issue.  Once determined, they will feed it to their network partner.  Thus, we can look forward for an exclusive with ESPN.

One might be able to understand the reasoning for today’s scale back of questions.  The UFC is trying to sell a PPV this Saturday.  If the media day is hijacked with Hardy questions, its hard for the company to get their message out.  Also, it is unfair to the four fighters that were up there taking questions.  They are cutting weight and have other concerns on their mind – namely Saturday’s opponent.

Is this right?  Should the dog wag the tail?  The UFC was in a bad position.  Certainly not announcing the Hardy bout until next week would have been the most prudent thing to do.  Logistically, this may not have been possible.  Despite the controversy, the UFC wanted to control this story and will spin in a way to make it sound reasonable.

This can’t be a good start to the ESPN relationship.  While fans should be excited for fights to be on ESPN, this controversy could have been abated with Hardy starting at a later date.

But, the UFC seems to do things for a reason, we suspect.  Recall that the UFC is the company that used footage of Conor McGregor throwing a dolly at a bus to spur UFC 229.  The event featured Khabib Nurmogomedov jumping into the crowd and McGregor throwing a punch at one of Khabib’s team in a post-fight melee.  But the UFC defended its marketing of the event stating it was part of the story and the brawl was not ignited due to a couple commercials.

It is a little awkward for the journalist.  Their job is based on retaining media credentials and building relationships.  They can’t have them pulled because their organization would lose out on access.  Moreover, a relationship is needed with the UFC in order to get fighter interviews, information on upcoming fights, etc.  But, you have to be wise with decisions. I was once told by a PR person for an MMA organization that if we pulled an article, we would be the first to have access to an upcoming story.  We never got that breaking story.

Here we have a more sensitive controversy: domestic violence.  Hardy was exiled from football for hitting a woman.  He turned to MMA and his name recognition and ability has helped him ascend quickly.  He has asked for forgiveness for his past problems and there is the old adage that everyone is deserved a second chance.

The UFC is doing just that.  He has won the fights put in front of him and now will be featured on ESPN.  The question is why do this on such a big event for the company and its new partner.  And, why do it on the same card that a domestic violence victim is on?

If only media could ask the question.

He says he’s not, but should Anderson Silva sue USADA?

July 25, 2018

On Ariel Helwani’s show this past Monday, Anderson Silva stated that he would not take legal action after USADA determined that his failed drug test came from a compounding pharmacy.  But, a legal action could facilitate a change to the current UFC Anti-Doping Policy.

The former middleweight champ said he has lost 4 sponsors as a result of his absence from the Octagon.

Silva’s statement of losing sponsors could be a claim for damages in a lawsuit against USADA and Zuffa.   Based on the USADA ruling, it absolves Silva of wrongdoing in the matter as he ingested a contaminated supplement.  He unknowingly took a supplement from a pharmacy that made the supplement in-house rather than receiving it from the actual manufacturer.  The issue of “compounding pharmacies” has come up with several tests that were flagged by USADA.  This includes Junior Dos Santos and Antonio Rogerio Nogueria.  All have been reinstated after an investigation revealed the source of the failed test.

In a lawsuit, the broader problem is that Silva would likely have to bring an action against USADA and the UFC for its policy.  Since Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC is the organization that unilaterally (very important) implemented the policy, you would need to sue them.  Certainly, a daunting task for any fighter considering the lawsuits pending regarding Mark Hunt and the ex-UFC athletes in the antitrust lawsuit.

But, Silva would have been a great plaintiff to disrupt the current state of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.  Granted, his UFC 183 NAC drug test failure was embarrassing to his legacy, but he has maintained a popularity with most MMA fans.  Stepping in on short notice to face Daniel Cormier at UFC 200 was legendary because it was clear that he was not in shape to go in and fight but did it to help the company.

So, why sue the company that he has been a part of for years?

The UFC Anti-Doping Policy has flaws and there is no way that they can be amended since contracted athletes have no leverage to influence policy.  Project Spearhead among other entities have attempted to organize but those efforts are still pending.

A lawsuit which would include USADA and Zuffa would bring attention to the perceived unfair policy developed by the organization.  While the intent of the policy is for the greater good of the sport in that it prevents the use of performance enhancing drugs, athletes have complained about the testing measures and the collection process.  Josh Barnett, who successfully defended himself at arbitration over a failed drug test, left the UFC due to the lack of trust he had in the process.  Despite the fact athletes may absolve themselves of wrongdoing, athletes are immediately put on a provisional suspension pending adjudication which takes a lengthy amount of time to complete.

Moreover, the standard for which athletes must prove their innocence is a huge obstacle considering that the UFC Anti-Doping Policy operates on a presumption that the athlete is responsible for anything he or she ingests.  Thus, the issue of compounding pharmacy or taking a tainted supplement already makes the athlete culpable.

A lawsuit is a long, arduous process that costs a lot of money.  Silva is 43 and would like to fight before his time is up.  So, not filing a lawsuit is prudent to finish his career in the UFC.  But, his legacy could be more than this if he were to take legal action.  It would be likely that a lawsuit would necessitate a response short of a trial. Meaning, the USADA and Zuffa would want to solve the issue prior to judicial resolution.  The loss of sponsors, assuming they were due to in-ring inaction rather than another issue, may be a viable claim for lost wages due to an unfair system.

Legal action is not always the way to resolve disputes, but at the present time if athletes want a change to the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, filing a complaint might be the way to do it.

Are we still interested in a Pacquiao fight?

November 4, 2016

For those not aware, Manny Pacquiao will be taking on Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday.  Without much buzz, Pacquiao returns to the ring which makes one wonder how many in the US will buy the PPV?

There are several factors that contribute to the general disregard for this event.

First, this is the first event in some time in which HBO has not been a part.  HBO PPV has been the primary distributor of Pacquiao events with just one detour to Showtime (2011’s fight against Shane Mosley).  HBO’s shoulder programming, primarily its 24/7 shows have helped promote his fights.  Despite the fact that the story lines for the shoulder programming became repetitive and stale, they were still vehicles to promote the fight.  On the bright side, Bob Arum will not have to pay the 7.5% fee (per Yahoo! Sports) it paid to HBO.

Despite the fact that the undercard has some interesting fights including China’s Zou Shiming and former fighter of the year Nonito Donaire, most (at least those in the US) seem to be passing on the PPV.

HBO is transitioning from Pacquiao as it searches for its next boxing star.  Later this month, HBO PPV will air Sergey Kovalev versus Andre Ward in as big a fight as there can be this fall.  HBO indicated that its budget limited it to invest in only one of the November fights and it chose Kovalev-Ward.  While this excuse seems sound, it’s clear that the Pacquiao fight was less appealing.  If Pacquiao would have agreed to fight Terrance Crawford, it would have been realistic to think that HBO would have found the necessary budget to do 2 PPVs in a month.

Secondly, Pacquiao’s comments about same-sex relationships has turned a portion of his fan base against him.  Pacquiao bases his viewpoints on his religion and tried to backtrack from his offensive remarks.  Yet, the damage was done as he lost his longtime sponsor, Nike, and HBO distanced itself from Pacquiao.  The casual boxing fan may have been turned off by these comments and will boycott Pacquiao as a result.

Finally, Pacquiao’s PPV star is fading.  Pacquiao is no longer the fierce, exciting fighter he used to be.  Perhaps the fourth fight (which was likely his last exciting fight in recent memory) with Juan Manuel Marquez where he was knocked unconscious took it out of him but he no longer has the traits of the old Manny Pacquiao.  Instead, he is the old Manny Pacquiao.  After JMM, he has knocked down an inferior Chris Algieri (UPDATED: he did knockdown Bradley twice in April) but has not threatened to stop an opponent since.  Notwithstanding his fight with Mayweather, Pacquiao’s last 4 fights have failed to muster more than 500K PPV buys.

It might be unfair to criticize an aging boxer for not being as good as he once was but it feels as though Pacquiao is hanging on to his career for monetary need.  Of course, that is the story of boxing.  His purse for this fight will be far less than his prior guarantees and Top Rank is banking on the fight being more of an international success in China than it will in the United States.  Pacquiao will continue to fight and he will still have a core fan base that will support him.  But, it’s clear that the days of his wild popularity of past him.

B.J. Penn’s comeback doesn’t sound like a good idea

January 19, 2016

UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn is coming out of retirement and training for another shot in the cage.  But is Penn’s return the best idea for the former lightweight champion and the UFC?

UFC President Dana White stated to MMA Junkie that he “supports the idea” of Penn’s return.  But, nothing else has been solidified.

The 37-year old’s last fight was a hard-to-watch loss to Frankie Edgar in July 2014.  Penn was thoroughly dominated and did not look like the former UFC Lightweight Champion.  Notably, White stated that he would push for the Hall of Famer to retire if he lost to Edgar.  Now, he supports the comeback.

Penn is setting his sights on the Featherweight title of Conor McGregor.  It appears that he will be training with Greg Jackson.

Payout Perspective:

Does the 37-year-old Penn coming out of retirement makes sense?  It seems more like he has not determined a path post-UFC and is coming back to fight as a result.  Unless he was hampered by major injuries, the fight against Edgar should prove that he is not a UFC-caliber fighter anymore.  Moreover, a move to Featherweight seems more like an aspiration that a reality.  In a USADA-regulated UFC, it would seem hard for Penn to make the weight-cut.

Frankly, the Penn news puts the pressure on the UFC.  Certainly, White knows that Penn can only tarnish his Hall of Fame status if he puts on a performance like he did against Edgar.  Do we believe that Penn has rejuvenated since we last saw him in July 2014?  Should the UFC allow him to fight?  On Tuesday, Matt Mitrione believed that he should have been saved from himself on Sunday and that the fight against Travis Browne should have been stopped after being poked in the eye.  Similarly, it might be up to the UFC to save B.J. Penn from himself.  Of course, you can argue that Mitrione is no B.J. Penn. Then again, B.J. Penn is not B.J. Penn anymore.

UFC 184: Payout Perspective

March 4, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 184 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. In the main event, Ronda Rousey fought Cat Zingano.

Gone in 14 seconds

Zero strikes but a scramble that had Cat Zingano’s arm caught by Ronda Rousey and a straight armbar ended the night very early for the challenger.

It’s too bad considering the Zingano backstory.  Even though she was a huge underdog, you would have like to see more of a fight.

For Rousey, she has received mainstream approval and sports people asking if she’s good for the sport.  Obviously, the fact that people are talking about Rousey is good for the UFC.  The question of who should see fight next is a good question.  With Rousey taking time off to do a movie, it will be interesting to see who will be set up as her next opponent.  Beth Corriea? Jessica Eye?  One fighter not mentioned was Cris Cyborg who fought on the Invicta card the night before.

ufc 184 poster

Holm defeats Rocky

It was not the strongest of debuts for “The Preacher’s Daughter” but she sustained a very good Raquel Pennington for the decision.  Holm was one of the most talked about women’s fighters not in the UFC prior to her debut.  Now, she seems destined to challenge for Rousey’s belt.  Based on Saturday, she’s not ready yet.

Attendance and Gate

According to the post-fight press conference UFC 184 at the Staples Center drew a reported 17,654 fans for a gate of $2.675 million.  Of the UFC events held at the Staples Center, only UFC 60 which featured Matt Hughes taking on Royce Gracie did better (14,802 for $2.9 million).  The Staples Center capacity ranges from 18,000-21,000 depending on the event.


Cat Zingano ($100K) actually had a higher base salary than Ronda Rousey ($65K) although it was reported by Larry Pugmire of the LA Times that Rousey would probably clear $1 million with her cut of PPV revenues.  Also, Rousey was sponsored by Reebok, Monster and Monster Headphones.  All are UFC sponsors (presumably Monster Energy Drink has signed with the UFC).

Rousey did make $65K and $65K plus a Performance of the Night bonus to earn a total of $180,000.

In addition, Jake Ellenberger made $68K and $68K plus a Performance of the Night bonus to earn a total of $186,000.

Tony Ferguson and Tim Means earned the other $50K Performances of the Night.  There was no Fight of the Night.

The rest of the payouts are here.

Promotion of the Fight

The episodes of UFC Embedded were once again entertaining although I would argue that this time around the portion of the UFC Countdown show focusing on Cat Zingano had to be the best

The pre-weigh-in staredowns included the main eventers wearing evening gowns.

Rousey made the usual media rounds including an appearance on Jim Rome.  Something that people picked up on was a dispute between Rousey and Arianny Celeste.


Probably the biggest sponsor for Saturday was the “M” in the middle of the Octagon which replaced the usual Bud Light sponsor.  It appears that Monster Energy Drink has signed on as a sponsor for the UFC.  The former Bellator sponsor was shown prominently in the center of the Octagon as well as ring posts.

In addition, DraftKings announced a new sponsorship deal this week and was also on the Octagon mat.

Rounding out the sponsors on the Octagon mat included, Bud Light, MetroPCS, MusclePharm, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Air Force Reserve and the movie Run All Night.  Harley Davidson had the prep point.

Holly Holm had no sponsors except UFC on her ring gear.  Raquel Pennington had a pretty nice “Colorado Rocky” shirt.

Ronda Rousey had Monster, Reebok and the UFC on her ring gear.  She also donned Monster headphones upon heading to the Octagon.  Rousey also had her jeans sponsor Buffalo on her fighter poster.  Maybe Nissan of Omaha was the best sponsor for Cat Zingano as it was clearly seen as she was being submitted.  Other notable Zingano sponsors included Sepec and Kalapaki Joe’s.

Odds and Ends

The UFC indicated that the social media campaign around Ronda Rousey did well:

Big search numbers for Ronda Rousey:

Darren Rovell took an ad hoc poll on the popularity of the UFC. The fact that Rovell is gaging his followers on its popularity shows that Rousey sparked his interest in the UFC.

Other ends…

Sponsor Mike’s Seafood on Derrick Lewis’ backside was either a good idea or a bad one.

The top three cities on Google Trends that searched for “Ronda Rousey” were Quezon City, Philippines, Los Angeles and New York in that order.

UFC 184 was in theaters once again. There were anecdotal reports of packed sports bars watching the fight.

Mark Munoz did not look good on Saturday. He failed to make weight on his first try at the weigh-ins although he subsequently made it. I would have hoped that he would make it to the Philippines card and then retire. It might be best for him to retire now.

InvictaFC had a card the night before in LA with Cyborg in the main event. Yet no real mention of her after the Rousey fight.

Essentially, the PPV ended at 9:00pm PT due to the quick main event and prelim matches were shown to fill-in time.


Ronda Rousey is one of the big draws of the UFC and based on searches and media coverage she is someone that casual viewers would tune into watch. The fact that ESPN talking head shows and other sports media were talking about her 14 second win on Monday reflects her popularity. But does that mean it equates to people paying $60 to watch her fight? We shall see. The last time Rousey headlined (without another co-main) was UFC 170 which drew 350,000 PPV buys. My guestimate would be somewhere around that mark and perhaps a little more 350,000-375,000 PPV buys.

Was Silva re-signing bad timing or just bad?

September 11, 2014

Recently the UFC re-signed Thiago Silva after charges against him for domestic violence were dropped.  The NFL fumbled the handling of Ray Rice and its subsequent fallout reveals that the UFC is not the only sports organization that has a problem with domestic violence and the subsequent handling of the issue.

Rice has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL and essentially banished from football including the Canadian Football league which indicated it will uphold the NFL’s suspension and will not sign Rice.  Rice has lost sponsors and has even been eliminated from the annual EA Madden video game.

When questioned on Fox Sports Live on Wednesday about the Rice issue in comparison to Silva, Dana White indicated that Silva had been cleared of the domestic violence issue.  This was due to Silva’s wife moving back to Brazil and her unwillingness to assist in the investigation.  The memo obtained by MMA Junkie reveals the horrid details and although there was no videotape like in the Rice case, it is just (if not more) disgusting.  The memo states he had put a gun in his wife’s mouth and threatened to kill her and later on threatened to kill people within the BJJ gym where she trained.

Yet, the day after charges were dropped, the UFC re-signed Silva.  Just as swiftly as the UFC fired Silva for his arrest after the standoff with Florida police stemming from the domestic abuse accusations, he was scooped up by the organization once the charges were dropped.

Silva denies wrongdoing for the domestic assault which he claims never happened in an interview on The MMA Hour.  This is no revelation that he would deny the charges.  It may be surprising that Silva was willing to conduct an interview to attempt to clear his name.

Despite White’s defense of his recall of Silva, it looks like a terrible move in light of the ongoing Rice scrutiny.  The latest videotape and discovery that the NFL may have had the information before levying a penalty to Rice will come under critical media and internal investigation in the weeks to come.  This NFL scandal should be something that the UFC should take note and prepare itself in the future.

Payout Perspective:

This is the fight game and there are many unfortunate instances of domestic violence issues occurring from MMA fighters (e.g., War Machine and Josh Grispi come to mind) and boxers.  One need only look at Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s past to know that despite domestic issues, fighters go on with their careers.  But does that mean it’s correct?  Of course not, but it happens.

A recent SI article concludes that the Silva signing is bad business for the UFC. He’s not a main event fighter like a Mayweather, who will once again garner a hefty pay day partly off of $75 PPV buys.  In fact, Silva’s presence in the Octagon will only have people recall his past transgressions.  Then again, will people have a selective memory about Silva after a couple fights?  Anyone recall ex-NFL player’s Warren Moon’s domestic issues?

So, why was the UFC willing to take a chance on Silva so soon after the charges were dropped.  Was Bellator or WSOF chomping at the bit to sign him?  Silva was an interesting fighter with a distinct look and fight style that may have had a following of fans.  But if you are a sponsor, would you want Silva to sport your logo on his trunks or on his fight banner?  What kind of following will he have now? Would you want to put Silva on a Fox show?

White said the right things in response to questions about the Rice video on Fox Sports Live.  That was easy.  What will be hard is addressing the domestic violence issues for the UFC going forward.  While it’s understandable to assess each case separately, there must be a bright line rule when it comes to a sensitive issue as men hitting women.

Dana White: FOX reason why Gustafsson is fighting on Fight Pass for Americans

March 10, 2014

Before the Ultimate Fight Night 37 London card, Dana White held one of his infamous pre-fight scrums where he tried to clear up some of the misconceptions regarding Fight Pass, including why Alexander Gustafsson ended up fighting on Fight Pass after a huge fight against Jon Jones on PPV last year.

Link: TheMMAReport, Abbey Subhan (YouTube)

Dana White addressing Fight Pass to the UK MMA media:

“First of all, the fight is being distributed to 350 million possible viewers [lists all countries available]. In the UK, the entire card will be on BT Sport and the main event for the first time ever here will be on Channel 5, open TV to everybody… The Americans have to pay for it on Fight Pass.  So the reason that this happened is, we added 10 more fights, we went to FOX and try to see if FOX would pick up these 10 more fights, and they didn’t.  So that’s why we put these on Fight Pass. They create their budgets at the beginning of the year and it wasn’t in their budget to pick up these fights. You know, not to say they don’t pick them up later, or whatever could happen with the deal, but that’s what happened. So, it’s either no one gets to see them or you put them on Fight Pass.  So, I hope that clears up some of the questions about Fight Pass… and anybody else and the rest of the world and countries I didn’t call, that I didn’t say a minute ago, they get it on Fight Pass too. Which of course all these people in other countries are pumped to pay for it on Fight Pass, whereas the Americans who are used to getting these fights for free, some of them are a little twisted, but whatever, what are you going to do.”


Payout Perspective:

These pre-fight scrums have historically produced some of the more interesting tidbits and have shed some light into what goes on behind the scenes of their business.  This was no different as Dana White specifically mentions that their mainstream television network partner, FOX, chose not to pickup these extra 10 UFC events, hence why UFN 37 and some more future fights will end up on Fight Pass instead of one of the FOX sport networks for American MMA fans.  That decision alone will cost avid UFC fans 10$ a month, or an extra $120 a year in addition to the already existing cost of UFC PPVs (13 PPVs in 2014).  If you add up the cost of Fight Pass and PPV events, the total cost of being an American MMA fan (not including your cable bill or attending live events) is around $900 dollars.  As a contrast, NFL, MLB, and NBA let their fans subscribe to season subscription packages that only cost around $200-250 dollars, which is only about 25% of the cost of an American MMA fan in 2014. In fact, just buying 4 UFC PPV events would exceed the entire season’s cost of all major sports.

The other part of White’s statement that sticks out is the difference in the relationship between UFC and FOX compared to UFC’s  previous relationship with Spike TV.  FOX picked up the UFC as a sports property to be aired on their sport networks.  Other sports have a fixed number of events that never change. You make a deal for a number of events and that’s what you air.  FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2 have to balance all their sport properties, and lets face it, the more mainstream sports such as NASCAR, MLB, and even NCAA Basketball will get priority on FS1.  The UFC was able to add events on a whim in the past and Spike TV was more than happy to do it as they didn’t air any other sports or conflicting programming that would also give them good ratings.

This is not the case now that the UFC is on a sports network.  It’s also the reason why something that doesn’t have full promotional support, such as TUF Nations, is getting bounced around between FS1 and FS2 and has bottomed out at below 100,000 viewers.  The next season of TUF on Fox Sports 1 will be crucial for the UFC to see if they can regain the momentum picked up last season.  With the addition of Fight Pass, their current product is currently scattered between FOX, FS1, FS2, PPV, and Fight Pass (subscription), which has been argued as a necessity for UFC international expansion to be a success. But at the same time, it also leaves a portion of its American fan base, as Dana White put it, a bit “twisted”. UFC and FOX failed to come into an event agreement for 2014 that other networks around the world were able to make, and because of that, American fans are left to foot the bill.

Ronda Rousey’s Impact on UFC 170

February 22, 2014

UFC 170 was supposed to feature Ronda Rousey versus Sara McMann, Rashad Evans versus Daniel Cormier, and Gilbert Melendez versus Khabib Nurmagomedov. Three really great fights many fans were looking forward to since the announcement was made during the UFC 168 post-fight press conference. A lot has changed since then.


About a month after the announcement, we started to get some displeasure between the UFC and Melendez about signing a new contract.  The UFC quickly mentioned that Melendez vs Nurmagomedov was never official despite being on the UFC 170 poster.  Considering that Melendez eventually signed with Bellator and is now waiting to see if the UFC will match their offer, we now know what happened with that bout.  Just a few weeks later, Rashad Evans abruptly announced that he was being pulled out of his fight against Cormier due to a leg injury with only two weeks left until the event. That announcement created a mad scramble for the UFC to find an opponent for Cormier, which led to booking unknown Pat Cummins in the co-main event against Cormier.  That left us with only one fight in tact since the original announcement, Rousey vs McMann.

It’s rare to see someone with only two UFC fights being put in the position that Ronda Rousey is in for UFC 170, but considering the huge success of UFC 168, it left the UFC with no other options.  Rousey was always going to be the mainstream attraction for UFC 170.  But after Melendez and Evans pulled out of the card, there is no denying that the success of the event will be solely on Rousey’s shoulders, which is even more daunting considering the short turn-round and the lack of time to promote the event as UFC 168 and UFC 157 had. UFC 168 had 500K+ Google Hot Searches though it ended up with 2M+ due to Anderson Silva’s gruesome leg break. Rousey’s UFC debut for UFC 157 ended up with 200K+ searches, which is a better comparable than UFC 168. As the UFC 170 event begins, Ronda Rousey already has 100K+ searches without any other UFC search in near sight. UFC 169 only had 100K+ total searches for the event, which is a remarkable comparison.

With that being said, UFC 157 did an estimated 450,000 PPV buys with a ton of casual media attention as the UFC heavily promoted the debut of women in the promotion.  UFC 170 won’t have that benefit, but it does have the momentum UFC 168 created with MMA and casual fans.  If you look at the numbers and the lack of stars on the UFC 170 card, anything above 400,000 buys would have to see as a major win for the UFC and would make Rousey one of it’s biggest draws.  300,000 – 400,000 would be deemed acceptable and anything below 300,000 would be considered a disappointment.

With Rousey already having a couple of movies lined up in 2014, the UFC is trying to get the most out of their newest main-stream star by declaring a few days ago that they are planning to have her fight three times this year in addition to her movie responsibilities, which would be an incredible feat without burning out.  With the recent talk of Cyborg dropping Tito Ortiz as her manager, potentially dropping to 135 lbs and possibly facing Rousey this year, it would likely be the UFC’s biggest fight in 2014 when you consider the loss of Georges St. Pierre (on leave/retired) and Anderson Silva (broken leg/39 years old), two of their biggest stars and PPV draws.

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