Whittaker out of UFC 234 due to hernia

February 9, 2019

Robert Whittaker is out of his main event fight against Kelvin Gastelum just hours prior to the event start.  ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report that Gastelum is out due to a hernia the middleweight champion complained of last night after the weigh-ins.

According to Dana White via Okamoto’s tweet, Whittaker had surgery today.

The main event will be Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya in what will be a three-round main event.

The news is terrible for a PPV that was already suffering from the lack of noteworthy fights.

Payout Perspective:

Unfortunate news for Whittaker who was the centerpiece of this PPV and its still too soon to know what this injury may mean to his middleweight title.  Also bad for Gastelum who had to travel all the way to Australia.  How much will the PPV buy rate be impacted?  It’s not clear considering Whittaker-Gastelum was not a marquee fight but it seems that the moniker of a “title fight” always gets some notoriety so one has to consider this impacting the buy rate.

After contract impasse, UFC gets one fight reprieve from DirecTV

February 8, 2019

For those that were going to miss this Saturday’s UFC 234 PPV since it was not going to be on DirecTV, you are saved.  Dana White issued a statement indicating that they’ve brokered a one fight deal.

As reported on Thursday, the two sides had reached an impasse in contract negotiations.  One might infer that the reason for the issues is the assertion that the UFC wanted a better percentage of the revenue received from PPV purchases.  As the distributor, DirecTV traditionally receives about half of the revenues received from purchase through the provider.  But, the UFC had indicated it was receiving more than half.  Distributors promote the PPV event on its network and provides access to its subscriber base.

With the UFC having new alliances and its own digital platform for its PPV, the UFC is trying to assert its leverage.  But DirecTV was not budging.

Payout Perspective:

Perhaps the UFC was the first to blink in this exchange as the PPV day neared.  The UFC may feel a little more bullish about its product considering how it believed it aided ESPN+ with the number of subscribers it brought to the platform.  One has to think it will try to secure a formal contract deal prior to next month’s PPV featuring Jon Jones.

DirecTV will not offer UFC 234 PPV due to impasse in negotiations

February 7, 2019

MMA Junkie reports that DirecTV will not carry this Saturday’s UFC 234 PPV due to a breakdown in negotiations with the UFC.

According to the report, the UFC and DirecTV’s previous contract ended in 2018.  UFC 234 is the first PPV of 2019 and the two sides had been negotiating but have come to an impasse.

The UFC issued a statement on its web site which states that it continues to work to reach a resolution but provides fans with other options.

The Sports Business Journal reported that the UFC was receiving a 70/30 split of revenue from some distributors.  However, Dave Meltzer had refuted this assertion.  Regardless, it’s clear that the UFC, with its own digital platform in place, is willing to be more assertive with its PPV cut with distributors.

Payout Perspective:

The DirecTV impasse will present the UFC with a fallout from this Saturday’s PPV which appears to be one of the least appealing PPVs in some time.  Yet, the UFC is willing to take a one-time hit as UFC 235 is looking like a big event.  It will be interesting to see how the UFC negotiates with DirecTV as the company had 19.63M subscribers as of the end of the 3rd quarter of 2018.  Despite offering alternatives, foreclosing this audience to its product seems to be foolish.  Then again, the UFC is doing well on ESPN+ so we will see how negotiations go.  As an aside, don’t look for DirecTV to cave as it has been a prolonged stalemate with the Pac 12 Networks for years.

Pacquiao’s return to U.S. draws 400K PPV buys according to reports

January 25, 2019

The return of Manny Pacquiao stateside has produced a Showtime PPV event drawing approximately 400,000 PPV buys according to multiple outlets.

Pacquiao was dominant in a unanimous decision victory over Adrien Broner at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.  Although this buy rate was provided to ESPN and Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole, it does not appear that Showtime will make a formal announcement.  It previously stated that it would no longer make formal announcement of PPV buys unless they were to approach or break records.

For the return of Pacqiao to fight in the United States, it has to be considered a success. His last fight in the United States, a win over Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas sold near 300,000 PPV buys.

According to Nevada Athletic Commission records, Pacquiao earned $10 million for the fight.  Broner  made 2.5 million.

It is interesting to note that the NAC payment verification and breakdown sheet included $3 million to the IRS for Pacquiao and an advance of $1.75 million.  Broner was advanced over $200,000 for the fight.

Payout Perspective:

What exactly brought back Pacquiao to boxing PPV success when his last fight was on the yet-to-be noticed at the time ESPN+?  A part of it has to do with Broner.  While its clear that he’s not the best fighter, Broner brings a notoriety about him that makes people want to watch.  This was Broner’s first PPV but he has been a rating draw on Showtime.  There’s also the factor of Pacquiao coming back to fight in the US.  Why that matters when most fans are going to watch on television is beyond my analytical and/or logical thinking.  Then, there’s the PBC element.  Manny signing with PBC has seemed to helped find some direction to his career.  There’s no doubt he’s fighting Mayweather next and he should be back to being a PPV star again.

UFC 232 draws 700K PPV buys according to report

January 12, 2019

UFC 232 drew approximately 700,000 PPV according to The Wrestling Observer.  The event featured Jon Jones taking on Alexsander Gustafsson in the main event.  It is the second highest reported PPV buy rate for 2018 to UFC 229’s 2.4 million PPV buys.

The end of year event was marred due to the last-minute venue change from Las Vegas to Inglewood due to the drug test failure of Jon Jones and the Nevada Athletic Commission’s hesitance to grant Jones a license.

UFC 232 would be the first PPV to surpass 500K that did not feature Conor McGregor since UFC 217 (Bisping-GSP).

2018 PPV Buy Rates (all estimates)

UFC 220: ~340,000 to 380,000

UFC 221: 130,000

UFC 222: 260,000

UFC 223:  ~210,000 to 350,000

UFC 224: 85,000

UFC 225: 250,000

UFC 226: 380,000

UFC 227:  ~300,000

UFC 228: 130,000

UFC 229: 2.4 million

UFC 230:  250,000

UFC 231: 240,000 to 300,000

UFC 232: ~700,000

Despite the controversy, it’s clear that fans wanted to watch Jon Jones return to the Octagon.  The event also saw Amanda Nunes KO Cris Cyborg in the very first round to solidify herself as the best ever in Women’s MMA.

Payout Perspective:

2018 brought the UFC the lowest reported UFC PPV (Nunes-Pennington) and the highest reported PPV in UFC 229 (McGregor-Khabib).  UFC 232 had its issues, but the casual fans came in big.  Certainly, none of the additional fans that do not usually purchase UFC PPVs were not concerned with Jon Jones’ drug issues and happily purchased the fight.  We shall see if Jones’ drawing power will continue in 2019. The general feeling is that it will.

Report has UFC 231 between 240-300K PPV buys

December 22, 2018

UFC 231 drew in the neighborhood of 240-300K PPV buys according to a report by Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer.  The event featured Max Holloway as he defended his Featherweight title against Brian Ortega.

UFC 231 took place in Toronto, Ontario Canada and was a sellout according to UFC officials.

The Prelims drew 786,000 viewers on FS1.  Notably, the event took place on the same night that Vasiliy Lomachenko took on Jose Pedraza on ESPN. The fight drew over 2 million viewers and was the second-most viewed fight on ESPN this year.

Payout Perspective:

The unofficial PPV buy rates are above average if you consider that many run-of-the-mill PPV buys hover around 200K.  The return of Holloway against a very good challenger in Ortega plus the 125 pound women’s title fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk was a very enticing card although none of the fighters are proven draws.  If Holloway can stay healthy, a possible showdown with Conor McGregor could be a big fight down the road.

UFC 231: Payout Perspective

December 12, 2018

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 231 taking place from Toronto, Ontario, Canada where Max Holloway reminded people he is still one of the greatest in the UFC today.

Holloway forces doctor stoppage

Returning to form, Max Holloway successfully defended his Featherweight title by stopping Brian Ortega after the fourth round.  Holloway exuded confidence throughout and made one of the top challengers to his title look slow.  Ortega showed his heart throughout but was beat up to the point that he could not see out of one of his eyes forcing the stoppage between rounds.

Holloway’s cardio, quickness and ability to make subtle changes to stay out of range is remarkable and its hard to see another current Featherweight taking his title.  Although it is not going to happen, it would be fun to see him get his rematch against Conor McGregor in 2019.   Ortega is still a force in this division but just wasn’t on Holloway’s level.  He’ll be back although I would suggest he take some time to recover.

Shevchenko wins 125-pound women’s title

Valentina Shevchenko just has Joanna Jedrzejczyk number.  Shevchenko dominated the former strawweight champion for a 5 round unanimous decision over Joanna.  The fight was not even close.  It was a masterpiece by Shevchenko.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

Toronto continues to be a city the UFC counts on for big attendance.  It sold out ScotiaBank Arena per UFC officials with over 19,000 fans and a $2.4 million gate.

Fight of the Night:  Ortega and Holloway

Performance Bonuses:  Holloway and Santos

All won $50K in addition to their reported purses.

Ratings

UFC 231 Pre-Fight Show on FS1:  211,000

UFC 231 Prelims: 786,000

UFC 231 Post-Fight Show: 136,000

It was a busy Saturday night of combat sports with HBO’s final boxing offering, Showtime’s replay of the Fury-Wilder fight and the Lomachenko fight on ESPN.  The ratings were up from last month’s PPV Prelims which may be a good sign.

Pre-Fight Hype

Max Holloay and Brian Ortega did a lot of media going into this fight.  There was the Holloway-Drake meetup at a Toronto Raptors game which MMA folks were giddy about.  Holloway also did a GQ video where he explained his tattoos.  The mag has done this in the past and it’s a pretty cool piece.  Also of interest, he was on the Alex Wong (Stevie LeBron) podcast early in the week and said that last spring’s unexpected pull out of April’s fight with Khabib was a surprise to him as UFC officials and Holloway’s team requested he pull out and seek more medical evaluation.

ESPN, the future home of the UFC, did a great long-form piece on Ortega and his background.

Sponsorships

Two interesting sponsors from Saturday night included PokerStars and online betting web site Pari Match had signage in the Octagon.  Look for this trend to continue and/or the UFC secures an “official” online betting site as a sponsor.

In the Octagon was Toyo Tires, Nemiroff Vodka, MetroPCS, Circle K, P3, Monster Energy, Motel 6 and Monster Energy had the center.

Also of note, Hooters was on the mat for UFC 231.

P3 were on the Reebok kits of the fighters.  According to multiple reports, the fighters are not directly receiving payment for wearing the logo.  Instead, P3 is paying the UFC.

UFC sponsor Bixler jewelry also appeared on the Embedded episodes giving Valentina some UFC 231 swag.

Odds and ends

It looked as though Max Holloway had a Reebok-branded bandana that stated his phrase, “It is what it is,” on it at the weigh-ins.

The Jimi Manuwa-Thiago Santos fight on the PPV was a heavy-hitting affair.

Worst “almost crime of the night”: Hakeem Dawodu just winning via split decision.

Dana White threw a tantrum when asked about Greg Hardy being on the same card as a domestic violence survivor.  The new media relations ploy is to act pissed when you don’t want to ask a question.

Also helpful for UFC media relations, it was discovered that a Bloody Elbow writer critical of the UFC is also into bestiality and kiddie porn.  This will lead to a new managerial technique of google searching writers that you don’t like.  If nothing is found, see Dana White’s tactics above.

Conclusion

The two championship fights seem to be the way the UFC hopes to stack its PPV cards where there is not a huge name to build around.  If Holloway can remain healthy, the UFC could probably do a standalone PPV with Holloway defending in Hawaii.  Not only would they sell out the venue, but get some decent PPV buys from it.  But, that would require the UFC to relax their ask from the state of Hawaii.  As for this event, 500K google searches and on a busy night of combat sports probably puts it around 275,000-300,000 PPV buys.  Perhaps above average for these types of non-“big card” fights.

UFC cancels January PPV event in Anaheim

December 12, 2018

The UFC has canceled its January PPV originally scheduled for Anaheim on January 26th due to lack of a main event.  The event was to be held on the same night as Bellator’s card in Los Angeles.

When news hit of the cancellation, Bellator Scott Coker took to twitter:

Bellator 214 will include the finals of the Heavyweight Grand Prix and Ryan Bader takes on Fedor.  Also, probably the fight of the night features Gegard Mousasi taking on Rafael Lovato, Jr. for the middleweight title.

The UFC 233 card was to feature a fight between Henry Cejudo and T.J. Dillashaw for Cejudo’s 125-pound title.  But that fight was moved up a week to the ESPN debut card in Brooklyn, New York.  A welterweight title defense with Tyron Woodley was contemplated but never materialized.  The card was to have included the debut of Ben Askren as he would have faced Robbie Lawler.

Anaheim will get a UFC event later in the year. This is the third time in UFC history that the company has called off a PPV.

Payout Perspective:

Bellator looks like they will claim this as a win for their promotion as the UFC had to cancel this event.  It’s clear the UFC is more interested in its debut on ESPN the week before than they are its PPV which is a reversal of what you would think its bottom would be.  But, first impressions likely mean a lot here and the UFC believed moving the title fight to the ESPN debut would draw better ratings than its would PPV buys.  With this news, Bellator will hope to capitalize on the one event fight night in SoCal.

$39.99 new PPV price for Ortiz-Liddell 3

November 18, 2018

This Saturday’s Golden Boy promoted Tito Ortiz-Chuck Liddell 3 matchup has a new PPV price: $39.99.  The lower price  (originally $49.99) looks to entice casual viewers into taking time away from holiday shopping and purchasing the PPV.

Of course, the fight card underneath Ortiz-Lidell leaves many wondering.  Former UFC veterans Efrain Escudero and Gleison Tibau meet in one undercard fight as well as Tom Lawlor and the rest of the card is mashup of journeyman fighters.

Fite.tv recently ran a promo for people that purchased the event on its app within a certain time the charge would be $19.99.  Notably, that price point is the same as Friday afternoon’s Phil Mickelson-Tiger Woods’ golf duel for $9 million.

Payout Perspective:

With UFC PPVs at a $59.99 price point, $39.99 may seem like a bargain until you realize the quality on this card.  I seem skeptical of the Ortiz-Liddell matchup and it seems to be purely based on living in the past.  Both of these fighters do not look like they should fight and its questionable that the California State Athletic Commission is allowing this fight to happen.  Aside from these names, there is nothing else on the card that would entice a casual fan to purchase.  Frankly, if you needed to spend money on PPV this weekend, the greater entertainment value is likely golf.

 

This is the inaugural event by Golden Boy in MMA promotion and it felt that having a “legends fight” would attract fans.  But, with the UFC having a big piece of the promotional pie along with over the top and online events taking place, its hard to promote this event without any other fights under Ortiz-Liddell.  It will be interesting to see how many PPV buys it will receive and what will be the future of Golden Boy in MMA.

White whittles down distributors draw on PPVs

November 12, 2018

This week’s Sports Business Journal features several articles on combat sports.  An interesting article on Dana White reveals that he’s negotiated down the PPV cut that many distributors receive for its PPVs.

According to the article, many outside distributors such as Comcast, Cox or DirecTV receive 50 percent of the PPV revenue from the UFC.  The distributors agree to air the PPVs and also advertise it through their specific means (i.e., digital, commercial ads) in addition to the UFC’s marketing.  In return, the industry standard was for the satellite and cable companies to receive half of the revenues for each event.

But, according to the SBJ article, White has negotiated this down “closer to 30 percent.” The deal is a coup for the UFC since it already receives 100% of the PPV rentals when customers purchase it on the UFC web site or UFC Fight Pass.

Payout Perspective:

The article, found in this week’s Sports Business Journal, talks about the UFC’s move to ESPN this January.  It also speaks about the Vegas headquarters expansion which will include a TV production facility and a min-arena to host fights.  The mini-arena will serve as home to White’s “Tuesday Night Contenders” series and “TUF” episodes.  He also hopes to add other combat sports to air on Fight Pass.  The move by White shows the company’s new business strategy where its attempting to do everything internally to save on costs.  With the UFC airing its own PPV, forging a deal with Amazon for PPVs, driving down the take for traditional distributors seemed imminent.  For the distributors, conceding to the UFC was likely due to the competition within the marketplace from the likes of Amazon and the UFC’s digital platform.  While the PPV buys are down, it still is a revenue stream for the distributors and its clear that there’s nothing that could replace it at this time.

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