UFC 181 estimated between 375K-400K PPV buys

December 18, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that UFC 181 held on December 6th drew between 375,000-400,000.  In addition, Dave Meltzer in his latest Wrestling Observer (subscription recommended) revealed the PPV numbers from UFC 178-180.

UFC PPV estimates UFC 178-181 and its respective main events

UFC 181:  ~375K-400K (Hendricks-Lawler/Pettis-Melendez)

UFC 180:  ~185K-200K (Werdum-Hunt)

UFC 179:  ~160K-200K (Aldo-Mendes)

UFC 178:  205K (Mighty Mouse-Cariaso)

UFC 181 was the highest output in terms of PPV buys since July’s UFC 175.  It had a strong card which included two title fights:  Hendricks-Lawler and Pettis-Melendez.  The other notable PPV number was UFC 180 which suffered from multiple issues including the injury to Cain Velasquez which changed the main event and the fact Bellator had a show on Spike TV.

Payout Perspective:

To show how far UFC PPVs have dropped in 2014, UFC 181 was the second largest PPV buy this year coming in second to UFC 175 (540,000).  UFC 181 is likely the most-watched PPV since UFC 175 as this card was also available in movie theatres.  Certainly, one would have thought this card could have done more but in a year where UFC PPVs have been off, this was a good (not great) result.  These numbers might also temper expectations for January 3rd’s UFC 182 between Jones-Cormier.

UFC 181: Payout Perspective

December 9, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 181 which took place at the Mandaly Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

CM Punk signs with UFC

Usually we start off with the main events, and there were two very good ones, but the big news coming out of the PPV was the announcement that Phil Brooks (the artist formerly known as CM Punk – the WWE owns the trademark and we’re not sure if terms of his settlement included continued use of the name) has signed with the UFC.  Brooks is 36 and has no formal experience in MMA unless you count his training in BJJ and Kempo.  Recently, Brooks talked about a variety of health issues he had while in the WWE as well as the indication he has had a lot of concussions (12 or 13 per the Cabana podcast).  The concussions do not even count the ones that were not medically recorded.  We will definitely talk about this more but as it relates to business, this is a calculated risk for the UFC.  It should bolster a UFC for the sheer curiosity from former WWE fans.

Lawler edges Hendricks for UFC title

Robbie Lawler started and finished the second fight with Johny Hendricks in a flurry.  And it might have been the last flurry in the end that solidified the win for Lawler.  Maybe Hendricks fell into the same trap of confidence as he did when it appeared that he had defeated GSP.  Hendricks had turtled up in at least two rounds allowing Lawler to seemingly pound away at him.  Even if the blows did not hurt, the appearance made it seem that Lawler had the advantage.  In the end,  Matt Hughes had the opportunity to put on the belt for the new champion.

Although a third fight would make sense, Rory MacDonald was in attendance and should be the next in line to challenge for the belt.

Showtime crisp in title defense

Anthony Pettis is good.  That’s an understatement.  Despite a shaky first round against Gilbert Melendez, Pettis took advantage of a shot from Gil and quickly secured a guillotine.  He’s now subbed Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez with ease.  It’s clear that Pettis is the tops of this division.  Pettis is athletic and quick and if he avoids significant injuries (wrote this before news of his hand), he can be a force in the UFC.

Up next for Pettis should be Khabib Nurmogomedov who showed up at the press conference to ensure Showtime knew who he was.

Attendance and gate

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and gate at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The attendance announced post-event was 9,617 for a gate of $2.488 million.  The last event at the Mandalay Bay was UFC 170 in February 2014 for Ronda Rousey-Sara McMann.  That event drew 10, 217 for a gate of $1,555,870.

Promotion for the Fight

UFC Embedded was the main driver once again and offered some good background on Hendricks-Lawler and Pettis- Gil.  It also covered the Pettis Wheaties box cover announcement and the Reebok uniform announcement.  Hendricks’ sponsor, Bass Pro Shops, received some exposure as Johny was seen shopping for a rifle at the outdoor sporting goods store.

The UFC released Hendricks-Lawler I online which one must consider was one of the best fights of the year.

UFC 181 sported a comic book theme with the fight poster.  A nice change from the usual face offs.

ufc 181

UFC 181 was slated for movie theaters once again.

Sponsorships

In the Octagon were Wargaming.net, Alienware, Matefit.me, Fram, Musclepharm, Metro PCS, Harley Davidson, Air Force Reserve (a Robbie Lawler associated sponsor), Toyo Tires and Bud Light in the center.

Johny Hendricks had a new sponsor for the fight, Zak Products, an official NASCAR sponsor.

Hendricks and Pettis, already sponsored by Reebok, wore the brand into the Octagon.  Perhaps the Pettis walkout shirt is a glimpse of what to expect from the brand in July.

Dynamic Fastener made its presence known in the Octagon.  Hopefully, viewers will figure out what it does before it goes away in July.

Harley Davidson had a promotion where the winner of the Travis Browne-Brendan Schaub fight won a Harley.  For those that didn’t watch, Browne won the motorcycle.

Odds and ends

Raquel Pennington-Ashlee Evans Smith ending was a cliffhanger of sorts since FS1 cut to commercial as Pennington had the choke on Smith and it was not clear what had happened.  I recall the same thing happening with Dan Henderson-Shogun Rua.

Great wins for Todd Duffee and Josh Samman, the latter with a great headkick KO of Eddie Gordon. Gordon wore a legalize MMA shirt into the Octagon as he fights out of Matt Serra’s gym in New York.

There was some foreshadowing about 181 by Dana White on the Jim Rome Show.

Another interesting question in light of the Reebok deal.

Urijah Faber took what is becoming a normal spot as the final bout on the UFC Prelims.  It’s interesting that he’s becoming a mainstay in this position but according to Dave Meltzer he chooses to be on FS1 rather than PPV because more people watch.  It makes sense considering he is a name, can draw viewers to the FS1 prelims and is a good bridge to the PPV telecast.

Interesting that they dropped the lights for Pettis-Gil but not for Hendricks-Lawler.

The production for the promos for UFC 182 and UFC 183 were great and showed more of a entertainment edge to them.

A good read on referee Mark Smith, who is a retired Air Force pilot.  Only coincidence that Air Force Reserves was a sponsor on the Octagon mat.

Conclusion

UFC 181 was one of the best cards of the year.  From the Prelims to the main event, it came through with action fights, KOs, submissions and a surprise announcement.  Does that mean it will cash in with PPV buys?  Google searches were high on the search terms UFC and CM Punk in the U.S. as both were trending 3rd and 6th respectively with over 100K searches each.  While this does not necessarily equate to buys (e.g. Manny Pacquiao registered over 500K searches yet scored a reported 300K PPV buys), we should see UFC 181 doing well and above this year’s PPV average.  Look for somewhere between the 400-500K range.

With Pacquiao fight Saturday, ongoing question of whether PPVs are sustainable

November 22, 2014

With Manny Pacquiao returning to PPV Saturday night, the standard question of whether PPVs are worth it surfaced.

In a Newsday column published this week, there are quotes from both boxing and UFC executives which address the question of PPV as a viable platform. The conclusion appears to be that it takes a big event for people to purchase PPV.  This is something most of us already knew.  The column acknowledges that with the internet and social media, there are more ways to follow a PPV card without purchasing it.  Also, more people are content with highlights they may be able to obtain legally online.

UFC exec Marshall Zelaznik is quoted in the piece and stated that it’s up to the UFC to “figure out how to create and develop content that will make people not want to miss it.”  He went on to say that the UFC has to do “the right job to respect the consumer, to give them something that’s valuable and worth paying for.”

Dana White recently acknowledged this year’s PPV buy rates have been low and Floyd Mayweather’s PPV reputation has been affected with the underwhelming business done under the Showtime banner (except of course for The One).  Still, one big PPV event can mean a major windfall for the company.

On Saturday night, Manny Pacquiao is on PPV once again against an unknown in Chris Algieri.  Conspicuously, there has been little done in terms of promoting the fight.  Unless it has gone under the radar, there are no Tecate promotions and $25 rebates this time around.  The usual three rounds of HBO 24/7 has been limited to just one.  Even the replays of past Pacquiao fights have been limited on HBO and the Audience Network as Bradley-Pacquiao II is replayed.  Additionally, Algieri-Provodnikov has been replayed.

Payout Perspective:

There’s nothing new in the column related to the current state of PPV except the quotes from the execs.  It’s clear that the challenges of getting fans to buy PPVs are getting harder considering the amount of content out there, social media and the ability to see highlights that will satisfy one’s need to watch the event.  Are there too many PPVs?  Boxing has added several PPVs to the mix this year which may sway your mind about that question.  Certainly, many MMA fans have their opinion on the UFC PPVs.  As for Saturday’s event featuring Pacquiao, it will be interesting to see how many Pacquiao die hards will pay the $70 to watch.

UFC 180: Payout Perspective

November 17, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 180 from the Mexico City Arena in Mexico City.

Werdum wins interim Heavyweight title

It was to be Cain Velasquez fighting in Mexico City against Fabricio Werdum.  However, an injury to Cain allowed Mark Hunt the chance to step in and seize the title.  Hunt looked good until a well-timed knee spelled the beginning of the end for Hunt.

Werdum wins the title and will eventually get to face Cain Velasquez to unify the titles.

UFC 180

Gastelum ascends while Ellenberger descends

Kelvin Gastelum defeated Jake Ellenberger with a rear naked choke in the first round.  The win should propel the former TUF winner into the top 10 of the welterweight division while it showed the Ellenberger maybe a broken fighter.  Gastelum secured a rear-naked choke with ease as it appeared that Ellenberger did not defend his neck despite his back being taken.  The win should mean a step up in fights for Gastelum while Ellenberger is teetering on the cusp of being cut.

Attendance

Initial reports in August had UFC 180 a sell out in just 8 hours after the announcement of Velasquez-Werdum and the launch of TUF in Mexico (which drew 7 million viewers on Televisia according to Yahoo! Sports).  The announcement made post-fight had the attendance at 21,000 although no official gate was given.

Bonuses

The bonuses of $50K were given to Werdum, Gastelum, Henry Biones and Guido Cannetti.  Briones and Canetti put on the Fight of the Night.  White indicated that Ricardo Lamas would also be given a bonus although that was unofficial.

Promotion of Fight

Once again one of the main drivers of the promotion was the UFC Embedded series which followed the fighters on the main card.  It caught the best moment of the pre-fight hype with Werdum-Hunt singing together.

The UFC also did a photo op with the NBA as the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves played a game in Mexico City earlier in the week.

The UFC and Fathom Events put the event on movie screens across the country hoping that the event would gain more eyes.  Unfortunately, if we look at the tweet from Mike Bohn, it did not.

Sponsorships

The Octagon sponsors were without UltimatePoker.com, the Stations Casinos online poker site which was closed down last week.  Notably, one of the Octagon sponsors for UFC 180 was Costa Rican online gaming company, BetCris.  The sponsors included the UFC Network, UFCStore.com, UFC Fit, MateFit.me, MusclePharm, Toyo Tires, video game FarCry 4, the aforementioned BetCris and Bud Lite in the center of the Octagon.

Gastelum wore the UFC Network logo as did Werdum during pre-fight activities and but wore Bad Boy to the Octagon.

Hunt wore his own clothing brand Juggernaut on his shorts.  It’s interesting that Hunt does not have more sponsors.  You may recall he had zero as a fill-in when he fought Junior dos Santos at UFC 160.  Werdum most prominent sponsor was clothing brand Torque.

Doritos was a prominent sponsor for this event as it banked heavily on the Werdum-Velasquez matchup including producing in-store placement of 2.5 million bags with the fighter likenesses on them.  It was described as a “360 degree activation” around UFC 180.  With Cain falling out, the campaign likely fell short of its goal.

Post-UFC 180 Headline

Werdum-Velasquez should be next although White indicated that if Cain were to have another injury that forces him from action, he could be stripped of the title.

Odds and Ends

  • The WWE collaborated with the UFC during the UFC Prelims on FS1. To be exact, a 2K Sports commercial for the WWE video game, WWE2K15, infused images of the video game and UFC action.
  • The main event ended at 8:50 pm on the west coast. Only about an hour and a half of fights before the UFC showed the prelims to fill the time.
  • Bellator used the footage of Melvin Manhoef knocking out Mark Hunt from 2008 during its pre-fight hype package to put over Manhoef.
  • Jessica Eye almost took Leslie Smith’s ear off but Smith still wanted to fight.
  • Google Trends revealed that the top countries searching for UFC 180 were Mexico, Canada, Brazil and the United States in that order.
  • The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) ran a story on the Fertittas and Dana White and their ties to Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School in last week’s Sports Business Journal. It was placed “below the fold.”  Prominent placement for a rather evergreen story during UFC 180 week.
  • Chael Sonnen began his duties with ESPN as an analyst.

Conclusion

It was a good night of fights but the lack of brand-name power was one of the detracting factors about this event.  When the Werdum-Velasquez fight was initially announced and the two were TUF coaches, there was much hope that UFC 180 would be one of the bigger PPVs of this year.  Entering a new market and the quick sell out appeared to be good signs for the PPV.  But, Velasquez’s injury was a significant blow to any hopes that this PPV would do well.  Without a good undercard, the UFC was placing its hopes on Cain’s drawing power.  Based on Google Trends, we are looking at a buy rate comparable to UFC 174 or 177 which drew between115-125K PPV buys.

Sports Business Journal lists UFC’s top PPV draws

October 6, 2014

Bill King of The Sports Business Journal reports on the UFC’s need for its next PPV star.  It has compiled a list of the top PPV draws in its history and the top of the list may (or may not) surprise you.

Although we cannot produce the entire list and/or article, it can be seen in this week’s Sports Business Journal’s issue which is through subscription only.

The list compiled by the SBJ factors in fighters’ PPV draws based on them fighting as one of the top two fights on a card dating back to January 2006.  Per the SBJ process, the list includes only fighters who were co-featured in at least three bouts and looks at their PPV averages as the headliner.

The top of the list has Brock Lesnar, GSP and Rampage Jackson who narrowly edged Chuck Liddell for the third spot.  To show how significant Lesnar was as a PPV draw, his average as a headliner (which can also be found at MMA Payout’s Blue Book), is at 1,021,000.  GSP, who ranked second, averaged slightly over 688,000 PPV buys.  Jackson averaged 613,000 and Chuck Liddell placed 4th and averaged 605,000.

The rest of the top 10 in order goes Tito Ortiz, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Randy Couture, Anderson Silva and B.J. Penn.

Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey missed out on the top 10 spot.

One interesting fact from the article:  UFC PPV business went from 45% of the UFC’s revenue in 2009 to 30 % in 2013 but the overall business grew by about 50% driven by international TV rights.

Payout Perspective:

The article is a very good analysis of what the UFC is facing with more shows and less draws for its PPVs.  If you are to look at the top 10, only Lyoto Machida may be considered as active on the UFC roster (hard to think Evans will be a headline on a PPV in the future).  The UFC has to hope (and think) that Cain, Jones and Rousey will surpass some of those names in the top 10s as they continue to star on PPV.  One ominous point shown from the SBJ article is that Demetrious Johnson’s 3 main events on PPV had him pull in an average of only 175,000.

Report: UFC 177 nets 125K PPV buys

October 2, 2014

Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer (subscription recommended) reported that UFC 177 which featured T.J. Dillashaw defending his bantamweight championship against late replacement Joe Soto netted an estimated 125,000 PPV buys.

The numbers are more than most had expected considering that Soto replaced Renan Barao the day before the fight.  It’s the second lowest output this year but considering the circumstances, the reported number is a pleasant surprise.

Going into the Saturday of UFC 177, there was concern that it would beat UFC 174 for lowest PPV buy rate in years.

UFC 2014s PPVs

Payout Perspective:

I was of the opinion that this number would never come out due to the potential for a disastrous PPV number.  The Google metrics that many go by in anticipating a buy rate were non-existent.  However, if correct, the 125,000 PPV buys reflects that there is a base (as discussed by Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez on their podcast) audience that will order UFC PPVs regardless of the fights on the card.  Realistically, the advertised card rivaled a Fight Night card with the exception of a title fight.

UFC 178: Payout Perspective

September 29, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.   In this edition, we review UFC 178 which took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena where Demetrious Johnson took on Chris Cariaso in the main event.

Johnson outclasses Cariaso

Despite the lack of fan support (i.e., PPV buys), Demetrious Johnson can legitimately stake a claim to being the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC.  It was clear in the first minute that Johnson was the better fighter and ended Cariaso in the second round with a submission.

Johnson is getting prime placement on UFC shows and it’s the second PPV he’s headlined this year.  One should also stress the fact that Johnson has not been hurt during his title reign and is not an outside-the-Octagon problem.  So, why don’t people buy his PPVs?

UFC_178_event_poster

Cowboy welcomes Eddie to UFC

The skeet shooting and wakeboarding training regimen pre-fight aside, Donald Cerrone is an extremely good fighter.  In what was one of the more entertaining fights on the card, Cerrone defeated Eddie Alvarez.  It was the long-awaited debut for the former Bellator champ and the first round he showed why the UFC wanted to acquire his services.  Yet, Cerrone moves on looking for another fight before 2014 closes.

McGregor makes quick work of Poirier

You would have thought that this was the main event based on the crowd reactions.  The hype, trash talk and vitriol between the two (especially during any face off promoting the fight) was classic in what to do to have people interested in purchasing your fights. The Conor McGregor experience continues and likely his most impressive fight on the biggest platform so far.  McGregor easily handled Dustin Poirier in the first round.  It’s clear that McGregor is ready for a title shot after Saturday night.

Attendance and Gate

The attendance and gate announced at the post-fight press conference was 10,544 for a gate of $2.2 million.  Out of 9 PPVs this year, it ranked 7th in attendance.

Bonuses

The bonuses of $50K each were awarded to Yoel Romero-Tim Kennedy for Fight of the Night and Dominick Cruz and Conor McGregor for Performances of the Night.

Promotion of the Fight

The Embedded episodes continue to be popular as the UFC has found a formula to promote the fights digitally.  For the most part, viewers got to see Cowboy Cerrone wakeboarding and skeet shooting prior to his fight with Eddie Alvarez, Conor McGregor get a haircut, Demetrious Johnson getting a shave and Dustin Poirier at the Whole Foods at Vegas.  The one thing really missing from the embedded episode was a profile on Chris Cariaso.  The Countdown show did have a profile on Cariaso but it seemed incomplete.  Even if it was a foregone conclusion that he would likely lose (which happened), it would have been nice for them to have elevated his profile for this fight.  It seems to get better reviews than the UFC Prime Time episodes because they are short and can be viewed whenever people want to see them.

Conor McGregor did a good amount of pre-fight press.

Mighty Mouse appeared on the local Fox affiliate in Seattle last week hyping UFC 178.

Salaries

Salaries have been disclosed via MMA Junkie:

Demetrious Johnson: $183,000 (includes $54,000 win bonus)
def. Chris Cariaso: $24,000

Donald Cerrone: $126,000 (includes $63,000 win bonus)
def. Eddie Alvarez: $100,000

Conor McGregor: $150,000 (includes $75,000 win bonus)
def. Dustin Poirier: $34,000

Yoel Romero: $58,000 (includes $29,000 win bonus)
def. Tim Kennedy: $70,000

Cat Zingano: $18,000 (includes $9,000 win bonus)
def. Amanda Nunes: $15,000

Dominick Cruz: $100,000 (includes $50,000 win bonus)
def. Takeya Mizugaki: $32,000

Jorge Masvidal: $90,000 (includes $45,000 win bonus)
def. James Krause: $15,000

Stephen Thompson: $32,000 (includes $16,000 win bonus)
def. Patrick Cote: $33,000

Brian Ebersole: $42,000 (includes $21,000 win bonus)
def. John Howard: $21,000

Kevin Lee: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Jon Tuck: $10,000

Manny Gamburyan: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Cody Gibson: $10,000

Some notes:

Some interesting figures including Demetrious Johnson being paid like a champ (base of $129K).  The last official report of his purse was at UFC on Fox 9 where he made a base of $125K (notice a bigger bonus for that Fox event).  You might assume that June’s UFC 174 he made a base of $127K although those salaries were never officially reported.  Eddie Alvarez was paid $100K (show) for his first UFC fight.  You might recall when he was originally offered a UFC contract which precipitated the Bellator lawsuit, he was offered $70K for his first match in the UFC.  Conor McGregor is already up to $75K base.  Cat Zingano only made $9K/$9K which is only a $2K bump from her last fight in April 2013 against Miesha Tate.

Sponsors

The octagon sponsors included MusclePharm, MetroPCS, Alienware, Harley Davidson, Toyo Tires, Fram, UltimatePoker.net, Assassin’s Creed’s latest game, Matefit.me and Bud Light in the center.

Missing from the octagon was long-time sponsor, Xyience, which was purchased by another company that quickly pulled the sponsorship with the UFC.

Yoel Romero was sponsored by likeaboss.com.  I’m not sure what they do.

Cain Velasquez appeared in a promo for Harley Davidson Motorcycle’s “Hometown Throwdown.”

Mighty Mouse had his traditional sponsor of Xbox 360.  The only sponsor for Johnson, his fight banner told folks to pre-order an Xbox One.  I thought those were already available?  If you were wondering, on his recent Wrestling Observer podcast, Dave Meltzer did not know how much Johnson is receiving from Microsoft.

Cariaso was sponsored by Mountek.  Really.

Dominick Cruz was sponsored by the Phoenix International Raceway which stuck with him despite Cruz being on the shelf for a long time.  It paid off as PIR had a prominent logo on Cruz as he was demolishing Takeya Mizugaki.  He also wore the shirt in his post-fight interview.

Odds and ends

-Didn’t mention this earlier, but Cat Zingano-Amanda Nunes fight was the way to start a PPV.  Zingano has been through a lot and it appears that she will be the next for Ronda Rousey.

-MMA Fighting has backstage footage of Tim Kennedy confronting Yoel Romero about the extra time he took to get up from his stool in between rounds.

-Interesting that the UFC are rolling out different types of Bruce Lee t-shirts.  Hopefully some of the money that I suppose the estate is receiving from licensing his likeness is going toward this.

-Dominick Cruz won me over in just the 61 seconds of work.  First, his Jay Z/Cypress Hill remix entrance, Then, the plain black CRUZ sweatshirt.  Easily the best thing anyone has worn to the octagon in the history of this sport.  Finally, his “Alpha-Fails” drop is probably one of the best post-fight lines in a while.

-UFC on Fox YouTube channel has the whole 61 second Cruz return fight.

-Some argument as to whether Cruz fight should have been on PPV.  You can see it as perhaps a concession to boost FS1 ratings.  In hindsight, all of the fights on the PPV were great and hard to see replacing one.

-The good news is that the clay pigeons that Cerrone shot during that Embedded episode were not real as they were made at the same place that Floyd Mayweather got his fake weed from All Access.

-Not surprising, but according to Google Trends, Dublin and Ireland were the most interested city and country for search term “UFC 178”.

Conclusion

This was to be Jones-Gus II.  But after that was scrapped, it was Jones-Cormier.  After the Jones-Cormier media day brawl in August, one could have made the argument that UFC 178 would be the second-biggest PPV event of the year after UFC 175.  But with Jones getting injured, the need to adjust the lineup probably hurt the buy rate.  Overall, this card was very solid with every PPV fight being an entertaining one.  However, selling the Johnson-Cariaso was tough and you might infer that most of the pre-fight hype was for McGregor-Poirier. Although McGregor could be a breakout PPV star, he is not one yet.

While Google Trends saw an uptick in searches for UFC 178 from Ireland, it’s worth to note that the US was the 4th interested country for the event.  In the end, a buy rate of 300,000-325,000 seems reasonable.

WSOF announces “Game Changer” in MMA PPV model

September 23, 2014

The WSOF has announced what it believes is a “Game Changer” in the MMA PPV business with the introduction of a PPV revenue sharing model set to be put in place with its foray into PPV in the second half of 2015.  The model would provide featured fighters with 50 percent of all of the PPV net revenue from the event.

Per portions of the WSOF press release:

LAS VEGAS (Sept. 23, 2014) – In a radical move that could forever change the earning potential of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, World Series of Fighting (www.wsof.com) has announced that it will enter the pay-per-view business in the second half of 2015 with an unprecedented revenue sharing model that will pay 50 percent of all net revenue earned from live pay-per-view events it produces, to the fighters featured on the telecasts.

“This is a proud day for the sport of mixed martial arts and our organization and one that we hope will create a better opportunity for the fighters who put everything on the line every time they step inside the cage,” said World Series of Fighting President, six-time world champion and two-time Hall of Famer Ray Sefo.

“Until now,” continued Sefo, “one of the main things holding this sport back from becoming even bigger than it is today has been fighter compensation and the inability of the sport’s top athletes to earn on par with top-level professional  athletes in other sports.

“If fighters can’t earn a fair share of the money at the top,” said Sefo, “the fighters lose hope or become disenchanted with the sport, which impacts their commitment to training and preparing properly for title fights.  That is about to change, thanks to this major step we are taking now fighters will train harder than ever to become a champion giving the fans some epic championship bouts to enjoy. We want to thank NBC Sports and NBC for giving us such an amazing stage to grow World Series of Fighting since its debut.

Since it launched its live event series on Nov. 3, 2012 with a stellar six-bout fight card on NBC Sports Network that reaches over 80 million homes, World Series of Fighting has effectively been building its brand and on July 5, the promotion made its debut on broadcast television before a live NBC audience of nearly 1 million viewers.

World Series of Fighting has successfully expanded its footprint to over 80 countries and counting with its premier fight programming as part of a multi-year agreement with IMG the world’s leader in sports content distribution.

Ray Sefo - WSOF

Payout Perspective:

The assumption of having the PPV in late 2015 is to help build up the promotion to a point where it will have a sufficient television draw and following to be ready by late next year.  While Sefo does say some truthful things, it is still the execution of the plan and how much fan interest there will be in the end that will determine whether this business model is a game changer.  Recent forays by smaller organizations (e.g. Glory rumored to have only 6,000 PPV buys) have not proven to be big sellers and based on the price point of a PPV (likely between $30-$40), it’s hard to fathom a huge PPV number.  Thus, the fighters probably would not be raking in big money from PPV revenue.  Overall, it’s a way to incentivize fighters to work harder and help assist in promoting the PPV.   But in the end, I do not think that fighters would make more money from the model than they would if they were paid in traditionally.  We will continue follow and see how this develops.

Mayweather-Maidana II: 925,000 PPV buys

September 19, 2014

Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports reports that the rematch between Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana did 925,000 PPV buys.

Mayweather PPV buys under Showtime contract:

Mayweather-Guerrero, May 4, 2013:  1 million PPV buys (although disputed by ESPN’s Dan Rafael (who indicated that the buys were under 1M) and Showtime which stated that the buys were over 1 million)

Mayweather-Alvarez, September 14, 2013: 2.2 million PPV buys

Mayweather-Maidana I, May 3, 2014:  900,000 PPV buys

Mayweather-Maidana II, September 13, 2014:  925,000 PPV buys

Assuming that the Guerrero fight hit 1 million PPV buys, Mayweather’s average for his 4 fights are slightly over 1.25M PPV buys.  This, of course, was largely due to the Canelo fight.

The news comes despite Showtime advising that it would not reveal PPV buys after Mayweather’s May fight. But, this may have been a reaction to the beef Showtime has with Dan Rafael of ESPN.

As for the live gate and attendance, RingTV reports (via NAC release) that gate was at $14,899,150 with 14,859 tickets being sold and 1,080 tickets going unused.

Payout Perspective:

Interesting lead from the Yahoo! article which focuses on Mayweather’s comments about Ray Rice but despite Mayweather’s persona outside of the ring, last Saturday’s event shows that he still can be a draw although maybe not a 1M PPV draw all by himself.  Based on his fights under the Showtime contract, one might infer that the quality/popularity of the opponent is needed for the event to do big numbers.  Perhaps the Guerrero fight was an anomaly, but based on PPV buys, the Canelo fight was the big success under the Showtime contract.  Certainly, the buzz and run-up to the event was not as big as “The One” last September yet it did better than May’s fight with Maidana.  It could be the fact that people had a little more info on Maidana.  In my opinion, I think the free fights aired on CBS Sports Net (including their first fight from May) helped.

Ross and Sonnen chosen as broadcast team for Battlegrounds MMA PPV

September 4, 2014

Former WWE broadcaster Jim Ross and Chael Sonnen will be calling the live PPV telecast of Battlegrounds MMA from Tulsa, Oklahoma on October 3rd.  The PPV is $19.95 in the U.S. and Canada.

Via BattleGrounds MMA press release:

Two consummate performers in WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross and recently retired UFC superstar Chael Sonnen have teamed up to form what is bound to be one of the most memorable commentary teams in sports entertainment history, and will call the world-class Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) action on the LIVE pay-per-view telecast of BattleGrounds MMA: ‘O.N.E.’ from BOK Center in Tulsa, Oka. on Friday, October 3.

Headlined by the first one-night, eight-man tournament in Tulsa since UFC 4 in 1994, BattleGrounds MMA: ‘O.N.E.’ will award its welterweight (170 pounds) winner a grand prize of $50,000.

BattleGrounds MMA ‘O.N.E.’ will be distributed at a price point of $19.95 in the United States and Canada by Integrated Sports Media for live viewing, beginning at10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PST on October 3 on both cable and satellite pay-per-view carriers iN DEMAND, DirecTV, DISH and Avail-TVN in the United States and Bell TV in Canada.  A pre-show will begin at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST.

“As a longtime fan of MMA, to be asked to call the fights for the BattleGrounds MMA event is amazingly exciting for me,” said Ross, a 2007 WWE Hall of Fame inductee.  From commentator to referee to executive and even occasional wrestler, Ross has played a multitude of roles for the world’s leading professional wrestling league.

“I’ve broadcast NFL and XFL games,” continued Ross, “FOX Sports boxing and WWE action, but MMA is a new adventure and one that I’m enormously excited about contributing to. To launch this phase of my broadcasting career in my home state, and with Chael Sonnen at cageside makes it an ideal opportunity and a bucket list experience.

“This is going to be a TV event that any MMA fan won’t want to miss,” said Sonnen, who recently retired from the sport that he competed in as a professional since 1997.  A three-time UFC championship challenger, Sonnen fought his last 11 career bouts inside The Octagon and enjoyed a stint as an analyst for FOX Sports Network.  “I am thrilled to be working with a legend like Jim Ross and, together, we are going to make the BattleGrounds MMA event one of the most exciting extravaganzas in combat sports history.”

Payout Perspective:

The card features a one night tournament featuring eight welterweights including former UFC fighters Cody McKenzie, Brock Larson and Luigi Fiorvanti.   Obviously the selling point is Ross and Sonnen as the announce team rather than the actual card.  It will be interesting to see how many buys this drums up for the organization.  One has to think that this has to be a “break even” situation for the company in hopes of future success.

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