September 19, 2016
MMA Fighting reports that UFC 203 early projections have it between 425,000-475,000 PPV buys. The numbers would make it the best UFC PPV not featuring Conor McGregor or UFC 200 which brings up the question of whether the CM Punk experiment helped boost the buy rate.
The event’s main event featured Stipe Miocic defending his UFC heavyweight title in his hometown against Alistair Overeem. But most people were intrigued by CM Punk’s debut against Mickey Gall.
Dave Meltzer of MMA Fighting opined that Punk probably brought in an additional 125,000-225,000 extra buys or between $3.75 million and $6.75 million. This estimate is based on UFC 198’s PPV buy rate which registered slightly under 300,000 PPV buys.
Maybe not a good comparison, but UFC 118 which featured James Toney taking on Randy Couture drew 535,000 PPV buys. Of course, that event featured Penn-Edgar II at a time that The Prodigy was still a very popular fighter.
One must conclude that the uniqueness of CM Punk’s debut attributed to the buy rate. While Miocic-Overeem is a good match-up for most hardcore MMA fans, the casual viewer was likely intrigued by the Punk debut. Does this mean Punk should come back or was this just a one-hit wonder? We now know Punk’s skills and I would suggest that most casual fans would now pass on Punk’s second fight. But, the Punk experiment does seem to have paid off for the UFC.
September 14, 2016
The Sports Business Journal reports that Top Rank will not seek a distributor for Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Jessie Vargas on Saturday, November 5th.
There will not be shoulder programming (i.e. HBO 24/7s) to help promote the fight. Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, could lose out on rights fees from the rebroadcast of the fight. According to the Sports Business Journal, recent rights fees ranged from $350,000 to $800,000.
On the bright side for Top Rank, not partnering with HBO means it save 3 to 4 percent of the gross revenue from PPVs that it produces and distributes.
There’s a reason that most promoters seek to partner with a PPV distributor. The marketing and promotion of fight is paid for instead of the promoter in exchange for a cut of the PPV revenue. We’ve seen the marketing dollars explode for a fight like Mayweather-Canelo three years ago. Pacquiao-Vargas is not May-Canelo. The lack of partner reflects more on the lackluster fight put together than an opportunity for Top Rank or the fact that HBO is dedicating its PPV budget on Ward-Kovalev.
September 11, 2016
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at UFC 203 from Cleveland, Ohio where CM Punk’s debut and Stipe Miocic’s title defense were the headlining events.
Gall mauls CM Punk
We all knew that this was going to happen. 3 pro fights in and Mickey Gall looks like a top prospect. Of course, his opponent was former pro wrestler CM Punk. Despite being a huge favorite, Gall had a game plan which was to take down and grapple Punk. Gall is a brown belt, Punk is a white belt as astutely pointed out by Joe Rogan. Gall had his way with Punk on the ground and eventually choked him out in round 1.
Mickey Gall wants fellow pretty boy Sage Northcutt next. Please UFC, book this. As for Punk, he gave a very nice speech about dreams and believing in yourself. Certainly this was a huge risk for a person in his late 30s but if he does continue his MMA dream it appears that it would be on a smaller, regional card. Or Bellator.
Stipe stops Reem
Stipe Miocic successfully defended his UFC 203 heavyweight title against Alistair Overeem in one of the best and craziest rounds of this year. Miocic was in trouble early in the first and almost was submitted (Reem thought there was a tap) by Overeem.
It looks like that Stipe gets Cain Velasquez next. So long as the fight is at sea level, this will be a tough fight for Miocic.
Cleveland came out for the UFC as the company reported a sell out for the event where the Cavaliers play. The event drew 18,875 for $2.6M.
Bonuses went to Miocic-Overeem for Fight of the Night and Yancy Medeiros and Jessica
Promotion of the Fight
ESPN aided the UFC with the promotion as it had Stipe Miocic on Sportscenter talking up the fight.
Of course, there was the 3-part series on FS1 for CM Punk.
Miocic and Jessica Eye did local promotions since they are from the area.
The Cleveland Cavaliers through their support behind Miocic and Eye.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) September 10, 2016
They also let Dana White handle the Larry O’Brien trophy.
— Dana White (@danawhite) September 11, 2016
Eye had a chance to throw out the first pitch at the Cleveland Indians home game as seen on Embedded.
There were tons of tweets from athletes, celebrities and pro wrestlers throwing their support for CM Punk.
The newest sponsor in the Octagon for this PPV was IrishFireVodka.com. The company is based out of Dallas, Texas per its web site. Aside from that, there were the usual sponsors including MetroPCS, Harley Davidson, Toyo Tires, Bud Light and Monster Energy Drink in the center. They also promoted the UFC 204 PPV in the octagon.
MetroPCS had the fighter prep point. Throughout the PPV, they had voiceover ads for Topps Fighter Trading Cards App.
Odds and Ends
UFC offered a 10% discount on purchasing this PPV if you had previously filled out a survey regarding UFC Fight Pass. I’m sure they offer this periodically. It’s just another subtle way to get consumers to gravitate to the UFC web site as opposed to PPV cable and satellite distributors.
CB Dolloway was involved in an elevator accident after the weigh-ins which caused his fight to be cancelled. Expect a lawsuit.
Jessica Andrade looks like a legitimate title contender for the 115 pound women’s division.
What went on in that Browne-Werdum fight? If a fighter asks for a halt to the fight without the referee first calling it, shouldn’t that be a verbal submission? Then there’s the fracas with Edmund Tarverdyan post-fight.
Embedded showed Ronda Rousey’s dog with Travis Browne, but no Rousey. She was in Cleveland as she was present for a pro wrestling show the night before to support her friend and former MMA fighter Shayna Baszler.
The Ohio Athletic Commission allowing the CM Punk license was one thing. Its explanation for doing it was another. Punk has publicly admitted to several concussions while wrestling, is 37 years old and the OAC waived its license requirements citing he was a top end pro wrestler. But, to show its force, it stated it would investigate the Jessica Eye-Bethe Corriea shoving incident at the ceremonial weigh-ins. It also fined Alistair Overeem $500 for being late to the weigh-ins. Speaking of the Browne-Werdum fight, why did the referee allow for Browne to call an injury timeout on his own and not know that if Browne called for a stop to the fight, the fight was over. Will the OAC look into that debacle?
After Joe Rogan interviewed Stipe Miocic who thought he was knocked down by a kick (instead of a punch) and then Overeem believed Miocic tapped to a guillotine, Rogan made the comment that maybe he shouldn’t interview guys after a fight. Especially those that have been knocked out. Makes sense to me although this is unlikely to happen.
I asked the UFC brass if we could please refrain from interviewing fighters after they’ve been KO’ed. I don’t think it’s wise nor fair.
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) September 11, 2016
Saturday night’s event drew over 1M searches for UFC 203 and another 200,000 for “UFC 203 Fight Card.” Certainly, the attendance at the event was great as it was pushing for Miocic and Eye as hometown favorites. But was the allure of CM Punk reason for casual viewers to purchase the PPV? It may have received a bump from pro wrestling fans but unlikely to move much with the rest. Although the PPV had a heavyweight title fight, Miocic-Overeem are not PPV draws. Since there was a little more marketing behind this event, I think we could see about 325-375K PPV buys.
September 7, 2016
MMA Fighting reports that UFC 202 is currently estimated at doing 1.65 million PPV buys. The number puts it ahead of UFC 196 in PPV buys.
Prior to this year, the top PPV event for the UFC was UFC 100 which posted 1.6M buys on July 11, 2009. In the main event Brock Lesnar faced Shane Carwin. GSP was also a co-main event on the card.
UFC 202 featured Conor McGregor versus Nate Diaz II. McGregor won a majority decision.
Not only did the PPV buys generated from the satellite and cable distributors reflect strong viewership but the direct buys on UFC Fight Pass were strong as well. The buys from the UFC site are not factored into the buys.
The news is better than the estimated 1.2-1.5M PPV buys as previously reported.
Although the buzz might not have been as strong overall, the buys show that people knew about the event. The buys confirm that Conor is valuable commodity for the UFC and likely worth his reported $3M per fight. He’s drawn over 1.2M PPV buys in his last 3 PPV events.
July 18, 2016
On Friday, Brock Lesnar was flagged by the United States Anti-Doping Association (USADA) of a potential violation of the UFC anti-doping policy due to an out of competition test from June 28, 2016. Although testing results of Lesnar’s “B” sample are yet to be revealed, the fallout from Lesnar’s appearance hurts the UFC and possibly the WWE.
On June 5, 2016, it was announced that Lesnar would fight at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016. The signing was unprecedented because he was under contract with the WWE. Yet, the WWE granted Lesnar the chance to fight in the Octagon once again. Despite the fact that the WWE has its own drug testing policy (known as the Wellness Policy – Lesnar has never been flagged for a violation), Lesnar was tested by USADA eight times in just the month lead-up to his fight against Mark Hunt. He took 5 tests in the first two weeks after it was announced he was returning. Multiple tests came up clean.
Despite the tests, the UFC policy handled by USADA dictated that a returning athlete to the UFC most give the company four months written notice so that USADA can put the athlete in the pool of those it may selectively test. But, the UFC anti-doping policy allows an exemption for a returning athlete that may be subject to drug testing. Per 5.7.1 of the UFC anti-doping policy:
An Athlete who gives notice of retirement to UFC, or has otherwise ceased to have a contractual relationship with UFC, may not resume competing in UFC Bouts until he/she has given UFC written notice of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of four months before returning to competition. UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.
The key sentence here is the last sentence: “UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.”
Since the UFC Anti-Doping Policy did not begin until July 1, 2015 and Lesnar’s last fight in the UFC prior to UFC 200 was December 2011, he was considered a new athlete. There has not been an official statement as to whether the UFC granted the 4-month exemption due to an “exceptional circumstance” or if it was “manifestly unfair to an Athlete.” Of course, either waiver could be easily explained.
But, one has to think that Lesnar and the UFC had contemplated his return as he had been training prior to the June announcement of his return to the Octagon. One might suggest that Lesnar could have notified the UFC of his return in the requisite 4 months to allow for the proper testing to occur.
However, it would seem that the parties wanted the Lesnar announcement to be a surprise. Recall, that Ariel Helwani and others from MMA Fighting were thrown out of a UFC event and Helwani was banned for life due to his report of Lesnar’s return prior to the UFC’s opportunity to make it themselves. Helwani along with his colleagues were reinstated a couple days later.
Notwithstanding the notice issue, let’s take a look at what Lesnar could face as a result of testing positive for a banned substance. First, Lesnar’s “B” sample, a second sample taken to determine the validity of the finding in the first sample, must confirm the initial finding of a banned substance. If this happens, Lesnar will face discipline from Nevada and the UFC per the anti-doping policy.
Since the infraction took place in Nevada, Lesnar will have to appear before the Nevada State Athletic Commission to address the drug test failure. At that time, we should know what drug(s) Lesnar tested positive for in his out-of-competition sample. In 2015, Nevada adopted guidelines for combat sports which included a 36-month suspension and 50-75% of the purse for a first-time offender for someone taking anabolic steroids.
In addition, the UFC anti-doping policy would discipline Lesnar.
Under Section 10 for Sanctions on Individuals, Section 10.1 specifically states:
An Anti-Doping Policy Violation occurring during, or in connection with, a Bout may, upon the decision of UFC, lead to Disqualification of all of the Athlete’s results obtained in that Bout with all Consequences, including, without limitation, forfeiture of title, ranking, purse or other compensation, except as provided in Article 10.1.1.
Read broadly, under the UFC-USADA Anti-Doping Guidelines, Lesnar could have his purse for the bout and “other compensation” taken from him. It would hurt enough that Lesnar would lose out on his $2.5 million reported purse but “other compensation” could mean money he makes from his PPV “upside.”
Not only could that happen, but the section further states that UFC could fine Lesnar up to $500,000 per Section 10.10 of the UFC-USADA Anti-Doping Guidelines. In addition, he could have his win against Mark Hunt overturned to a no decision per discretion of the Nevada State Athletic Commission according to section 467.850. This would not sting as much since Lesnar did not have a win bonus to forfeit. Regardless, he still could have a substantial amount of money taken away.
The monetary fine would be the hardest penalty for Lesnar. The $2.5 million is the largest reported payout for a UFC fighter in its history. But, Lesnar was going to make more from his PPV guarantee. It is being reported that the UFC 200 PPV drew 1.1 to 1.2 million PPV buys. In most markets, the PPV for UFC 200 was $59.99 HD and $49.99 SD. Lesnar was projected to make $3-5 million in addition to his $2.5 million.
Mark Hunt, Lesnar’s opponent has demanded that he receive half of Lesnar’s $2.5 million or else he is requesting his release from his UFC contract. Hunt, who made $700,000 for taking on Lesnar, will be disappointed to learn that under the UFC-USADA guidelines, any money forfeited by an athlete would be under the UFC’s discretion “to be applied to offset the costs of the Program or given to anti-doping research.”
The UFC could also fine Lesnar pursuant to its Code of Conduct which imposes discipline based on misconduct. Under its Code, “misconduct” may include, “Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the UFC.” A violation of its drug program could fall under this.
There is precedent for a fine as Jon Jones was docked $25,000 for failing a drug test in December 2014. Of course, Jones’ drug test failure was for cocaine use. We note that the detection of this drug was done out of competition and should have not been tested for according to the rules.
Lesnar’s only statement related to Friday’s news of his potential violation was a vague “we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
The WWE does not seem to be concerned with the potential violation and has indicated his next appearance will be at its big event Summerslam, August 21st. They have not addressed the potential violation. From its perspective, its an MMA matter, that a WWE matter.
However, the question looms as to whether a Nevada State Athletic Commission suspension would affect his wrestling career. Some state athletic commissions oversee professional wrestling. Most commissions honor suspensions of an athlete in other states. Would a suspension in combat sports carry over to professional wrestling? We will see.
July 16, 2016
Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer reports that the buy rate for UFC 200 is estimated to be between 1.1 to 1.2 million PPV buys. In addition, there are reports that UFC 199 drew 320,000 PPV buys.
UFC 200 featured Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate. However, Brock Lesnar was the real feature of the card. Of course, news hit Friday night that Lesnar was flagged by USADA for a potential violation of the UFC anti-doping policy. As we know, Jon Jones was pulled from his fight against Daniel Cormier during fight week. Despite the issues, the UFC Prelims drew the third-highest ratings for a prelims show on the network despite starting 30 minutes late due to baseball.
Last month’s UFC 199 featured Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping (who replaced Chris Weidman) and Dominick Cruz facing Urijah Faber. For UFC 199, the Prelims drew 798,000 viewers and 500,000 google searches for “UFC 199” on the day of the fight which may have indicated the estimated buy rate.
2016 PPV buy rates
UFC 195 – 300,000
UFC 196 – 1.5 million
UFC 197 – 450,000
UFC 198 – not known at this time
UFC 199 – 320,000
UFC 200 – ~1.1-1.2 million
The 1.1-1.2 million should be seen as a very good buy rate considering the Jon Jones issue and the lack of a Rousey or McGregor on the card. The buy rate reflects the fact that Brock Lesnar was a big draw (once again) for the UFC. Thus, the news of his potential drug test failure brings into question a lot of things related to the use of Lesnar on the card and the decision to waive him from waiting four months per the UFA anti-doping rules.
July 6, 2016
At UFC 100, Brock Lesnar’s defeat of Frank Mir helped the company set a record with 1.6 million PPV buys. Can Lesnar’s fight on the UFC 200 main card help the company set a record yet again?
Things have changed since July 2009 when Lesnar manhandled Frank Mir in two rounds. However, the UFC is banking on the Lesnar PPV success to continue 7 years and 100 PPVs later.
Before we discuss UFC 200 surpassing UFC 100 in PPV buys, one has to recall UFC 100 also included Georges St. Pierre defending his welterweight title. In addition, a young Jon Jones fought on the preliminary card. Arguably, UFC 200 has a better lineup with 3 title fights as well as Cain Velasquez and Travis Browne in the main card opener.
Lesnar is a PPV magnet and despite the fact he’ll likely be fourth on the card behind the three title fights, many people are buying the card to watch him.
Back in 2010, MMA Payout deduced that Lesnar was the biggest UFC PPV draw. We note that the post occurred in August 2010, prior to Lesnar’s defeat at UFC 121 to Cain Velasquez.
With Lesnar in the main event, it’s clear that he’s been an overwhelming boon for business.
UFC 91, November 15, 2008: Lesnar v. Couture: 1,010,000 PPV buys
UFC 100, July 11, 2009: Lesnar v. Mir: 1,600,000
UFC 116, July 3, 2010: Lesnar v. Carwin: 1,060,000
UFC 121, October 23, 2010: Lesnar v. Velasquez: 900,000
UFC 141, December 30, 2011: Lesnar v. Overeem: 535,000
You might recall that UFC 141 was on a Friday night due to New Year’s Eve which likely detracted from the buy rate. Despite that, the rest of Lesnar’s fights averaged 1,142,500 PPV buys.
In October 2014, the Sports Business Journal compiled a list of the biggest UFC PPV draws. Lesnar topped that list as well. GSP, Rampage Jackson, and Chuck Liddell followed in that order.
If we were to factor the Conor McGregor cards, he would crack the list of top PPV draws but Lesnar is still the top draw for the company. Ronda Rousey events average around 680,000 PPV buys (excluding the co-main event cards with Chris Weidman).
With UFC 200 so stacked with fights for the casual to the hardcore fan, Saturday night’s event should flirt with the company PPV record of 1.6 million PPV buys. The company’s decision to include Lesnar on this card could help it propel it to near 2 million PPV buys.
It’s been 5 years since Lesnar last fought but Saturday’s event is stacked. Jones-Cormier, Edgar-Aldo and Tate-Nunes would have given this card nearly 1 million PPV buys but the addition of Lesnar should put this event over the top. We shall see if Lesnar would like to step back into the octagon after his fight with Mark Hunt Saturday. Certainly, based on the anticipated huge buy rate, the UFC wouldn’t mind Lesnar coming back to the heavyweight division.
June 29, 2016
Joe Hand Promotions will continue as the exclusive domestic distributor for UFC PPVs. The company serves as the agent for the UFC in selling UFC PPVs to bars, restaurants and casinos. It essentially sells licenses for businesses to air PPVs. The fee varies per size of commercial establishment.
Via UFC.com announcement:
“Our relationship with UFC is one of the longest and most valued in the history of Joe Hand Promotions. The UFC is the largest Pay-Per-View provider in the world with unparalleled leadership and we are proud to be their partners,” Joe Hand Jr. said. “We look forward to growing our customer base together and bringing the excitement of the UFC to even more commercial locations.” ` `
In light of UFC 200, Joe Hand is offering a free conference call to help commercial owners effectively market next Saturday’s PPV.
— Joe Hand Promotions (@JoeHandPromo) June 30, 2016
While its rarely discussed as we mainly focus on PPV buys, it’s Joe Hand’s job to sell UFC PPVs to commercial establishments. As we indicate, the fees vary based on the establishment. As we head into the biggest week of the year for the UFC, Joe Hand is expected to maximize the number of establishments that purchase a license to show 200.
May 19, 2016
MMA Fighting reports that uFC 197 drew between 375,000 to 450,000 PPV buys. The event featured Jon Jones taking on Ovince Saint Preux.
The PPV buy rate estimates are very good but reveals what we know about Jon Jones. While he may be the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC, he is not a top draw. Clearly, you can say the same about Demetrious Johnson who was also on the card.
UFC PPVs for 2016
UFC 195: 1.032 million
UFC 196: 1.5 million
UFC 197: 375,000 to 450,000
Notwithstanding his showdown with Cormier last January, Jones has put up marginal PPV buys. UFC 172 against Glover Teixeira drew 350K PPV buys and his UFC 165 against Alexander Gustafsson drew 310K.
It’s a respectable number considering that there were only 50,000 google searches for UFC 197 after the weigh-ins. Recall that this event was to be Jones-Cormier. But, with Cormier needing to pull out, the top of the card took an extreme hit. With Johnson not being a draw, Jones stayed on the card and OSP was the fighter the UFC picked to face him. Jones has not had a huge PPV buy rate since 182 when he faced Cormier.
May 13, 2016
There are conflicting reports on the PPV buys for the Canelo Alvarez-Amir Khan fight this past Saturday. ESPN’s Dan Rafael reports the fight drew around 600,000 PPV buys according to Golden Boy’s Oscar de la Hoya. Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports indicates that it drew 460,000 PPV buys based on information from cable and satellite companies.
Alvarez knocked out Khan in the 6th round in the feature bout from Vegas.
The Rafael accounting comes from Golden Boy and HBO from satellite services and basing them on historical figures. The 600,000 figure is not a final number but appears to be a good initial estimate on how the event fared.
Iole notes that 145,000 PPV purchased from DirecTV, “about 230,000 on cable and about 60,000 on Dish Network. The other buys were from other companies such as Verizon Fios per Iole.
Alvarez, the true featured fighter from Saturday night, drew 900,000 PPV buys for his fight last November against Miguel Cotto.
It’s not fair to compare the PPV buys to last May’s “superfight” between Mayweather and Pacquiao. As we know, the “retirement” fights for both fighters drew between 400-500K PPV buys. Depending on who you believe, the 600K PPV buys is a very good draw considering that Khan is a “name” for an opponent but there was truly no real threat. If you believe the 460,000 number, it might be a little low for a fighter that Golden Boy/HBO hopes to propel them in a post-Pac/May PPV boxing market.