UFC 196 moves to FS1

January 26, 2016

Yahoo! Sports reports that UFC 196 has been switched from PPV to an FS1 broadcast.  After the main event of Cain Velasquez-Fabricio Werdum disintegrated when both fighters pulled out within 24 hours, the UFC made the move to scrap the PPV and move it to its broadcast partner.

The FS1 main event will be a welterweight bout between Johny Hendricks and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.  Despite the fact that several UFC fighters indicated that they would volunteer to fight Stipe Miocic, the initial replacement for Cain, the UFC decided to take it off PPV.

The UFC typically runs a Super Bowl weekend card in Las Vegas to capitalize on the hype for the last game of the NFL season.  The loss of the UFC Heavyweight title fight so close to the event led the UFC to make this decision.

Payout Perspective:

With a UFC on Fox event this week, the UFC can now advertise two consecutive weeks of “free” (we get it, you pay for cable) fights on TV.  With so many events upcoming and the UFC still trying to line up fights for its big show in July, UFC 200, there was no way the company could get a respectable fill-in fight at such short notice.  While there may be some issues with its PPV distributors, the UFC would have probably done

15 for 15: No. 1 Ronda Rousey’s ups and downs

January 2, 2016

Ronda Rousey tops the list of MMA Payout’s biggest MMA business stories of 2015.  Her popularity turned polarizing as the year ended with a surprising upset loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193.

Rousey started off 2015 with a quick win against Cat Zingano at UFC 184.  The event, from Los Angeles, had her up against the biggest challenge for her thus far in her UFC career.  Still, it took just 14 seconds for her to submit Zingano.  The event was a surprising PPV success garnering 600,000 buys.  The event showed that Rousey was a draw, if not the top draw for the company.

A social media campaign around her title defense at 184 proved successful.

Rousey only made a base of $65K (and an additional $65K to win).  However, the LA Times reported that she would make $1 million from her fight.

Rousey starred in the movie “Entourage” and is slated to star in several other movies with shooting beginning in the early part of 2016.

She also made an appearance at WrestleMania with The Rock which was a publicity boon.

Rousey returned to the Octagon at UFC 190 in Brazil.  She put down Bethe Corriea in less than a minute.

Rousey’s popularity is not limited just to the UFC or MMA.  Google and Yahoo! Search engines reflect that she is a popular search item.  She was the top trending athlete for Google in 2015 and the 5th rated overall trending search in the United States.  She was also the most searched athlete of 2015 according to Yahoo’s search engine.

At only 28, Rousey released her autobiography, “My Fight/Your Fight,” in 2015.  Rousey also appeared on Good Morning America, a first for a UFC/MMA fighter to announce her fight with Holly Holm (originally for January 2nd but was subsequently moved up).  She also appeared on Ellen.  Notably, Ellen released the promo on her microsite for UFC 193 which featured Rousey prior to it being sent out all over.

Rousey became a very popular and marketable figure.  She was able to open and bridge a new demo for the UFC: women, especially younger women.  She was featured by Cosmopolitan and made appearances on female-centric shows like The View, Ellen and Good Morning America.  She has major sponsor deals with Reebok, Carl’s Jr., Buffalo Jeans, Monster Energy Drink just to name a few.

But other outside issues came under scrutiny.  Rousey got into a media spat with Ariany Celeste at UFC 184.  Her relationship with Travis Browne was questioned as Browne was accused of domestic violence by her estranged wife earlier in the year.  Despite Browne announcing their relationship in an interview, Rousey did not want to talk about it and hung up on a UFC media call when asked about it.  Many questioned her attitude and her outburst at the weigh-ins at UFC 193 as they seemed out of the ordinary.

Her inner circle had issues too.  Her long-time trainer Edmund Tarverdyan claimed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy citing that he has not made any money despite being Rousey’s exclusive trainer for years.  Notably, prior to the news of Tarverdyan’s bankruptcy, Rousey’s mother spoke out about him.

Despite her loss, she was chronicled by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne in December.  She will also be on the cover of the new EA Sports UFC game which will come out this spring.  Rousey was named to be on the cover with the other spot open for the winner of Jose Aldo-Conor McGregor.

Rousey indicated that she would take a leave from the Octagon prior to her fight with Holly Holm.  This would be due to shooting the remake for “Road House” and not because she is thinking retirement.  With the loss to Holm, one would think that Rousey would like to get back into the Octagon sooner than later.  But, the heir of invincibility is gone.  Will her popularity remain or has Holly Holm usurped this from her along with the UFC women’s bantamweight title?  We should expect Rousey returning to the UFC sometime in 2016 but where and when still seem up in the air.

15 for 15: No. 3 UFC PPV has its biggest year

December 31, 2015

Coming off a poor PPV year in 2014, the UFC looked to come up big with events in 2015.  It did with 7 events over 600,000 PPVs which was 7 more than it did in 2014.

The UFC branded its first quarter, “Welcome to the Show” and its last quarter “Go Big” which seemed to help.  Despite the usual injuries which cancelled or delayed fights (notably Aldo-McGregor), UFC PPVs in 2015 delivered big events which the casual viewer purchased.

The first three PPVs of 2015 set the company off right.  UFC 182 seemed to gain some steam on the basis of the feud between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier.  The PPV did 800,000 buys which was the best since UFC 168  in December 2013.  UFC 182 was followed by a great matchup on paper between Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz on Super Bowl weekend which drew 650,000 buys.  The surprise of the first quarter was how well the Ronda Rousey-Cat Zingano PPV did as it was the second time that Rousey was the headliner.  Originally, she was just the co-main event but became the main event.  The event, which actually lasted just 14 seconds, drew an estimated 600,000 PPV buys.  Little did we know that this would be low for a Ronda Rousey PPV this year.

After a couple low buy rates, the UFC spiked once again with Conor McGregor facing Chad Mendes at UFC 189.  On the same card, Rory MacDonald challenged Robbie Lawler for the welterweight title in what was the fight of the year.  Despite Mendes replacing Aldo at the last minute, the event drew 825,000 PPV buys.  It was reported that the event drew 1 million PPV buys.  However, that number was calibrated down.

Despite a traditional slow month for UFC PPVs, UFC 190 on August 1st drew 900,000 PPV buys thanks in large part to Ronda Rousey.  She was featured in the main event against Bethe Correia.  There was some heat between the two which helped sell the fight.  Still, it was all Rousey that drove a PPV which featured two TUF Brazil finals (i.e., 4 fighters many have never heard of) on the PPV.  It was also a rare occasion in which a non-North American PPV event

Rousey’s next fight was moved up to November against Holly Holm.  The event set a record for attendance and gate and scored once again on PPV.  This time, a Rousey fight drew over 1 million PPV buysPer Lorenzo Fertitta UFC 193 was tracking to be the second largest PPV in the company’s history.   Despite losing to Holm, the PPV was promoted around Rousey as she appeared on Good Morning America and Ellen among other mainstream outlets to promote the fight.

McGregor’s third fight of the year (his first was a Fight Night from Boston), the long-awaited showdown with Jose Aldo is tracking at 1 million PPV buys as well.

UFC PPVs 2014

With UFC 193 and 194, the UFC would have for the first time two straight UFC PPVs over 1 million buys.

Not everything was selling well for the company as Demetrious Johnson’s PPVs were the lowest of the year.  Headlining UFC 186 and 191, those events received just 125,000 and 115, 000 PPV buys respectively.

UFC PPVs 2015

The UFC averaged 565,000 PPV buys in 2015 as opposed to 267,000 in 2014.

Has the UFC found a formula for its PPV success?  Or was this one year where it rode the popularity of Rousey and McGregor?  2016 should be a big year with the potential for UFC 198 in New York and UFC 200 in July.  Will there be other big events this year that could keep up with 2015’s success?

Silva reveals UFC 197 in Brazil Cancelled…or is it?

December 29, 2015

The UFC has canceled its March 5th PPV show set for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Anderson Silva referred to being taken off of the card because of its cancellation at today’s media conference for UFC Fight Night 83.

Updated:  Maybe UFC 197 is not off per Sean Shelby’s tweet:

“(The plan) was to have me fighting in Brazil against I don’t know who,” Silva said, at the media conference “but with this situation going on in Brazil, economically and everything, the UFC decided to abort this event for now.”

The last time Anderson Silva fought in Brazil was as a last-minute fill in to fight Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153 in October 2012.

Silva returns to the UFC against Michael Bisping as the headlining event at UFC Fight Night 83 in February on UFC Fight Pass.

Payout Perspective:

With the cancellation of UFC 197, we will see if the UFC will find a replacement event or recalibrate its numbers to ensure that UFC 200 is in July.  Whether or not the economy was a reason for cancelling the event is an interesting issue as this has been brought up in the past.  This past year, UFC Fight Night 67 drew only 3,500 in attendance from Goiania, Brazil so nixing a PPV due to potential low turnout would not be out of the question.

Report: UFC 193 draws over 1M PPV buys

December 25, 2015

MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer reports that UFC 194 featuring Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm drew over 1 million PPV buys.

According to Melzer’s report, the PPV last month drew between 1 million and 1.1 million PPV buys.  Not only did UFC 193 draw over 50,000 fans, it also surpassed the vaunted 1 million PPV buy barrier making it one of the most successful UFC events ever in terms of business revenue for the company.

Ronda Rousey PPV’s 2015

UFC 184: Rousey v. Zingano – 600,000

UFC 190: Rousey v. Correia – 900,000

UFC 193: Rousey v. Holm – ~1 – 1.1 million

Payout Perspective:

The news makes 2015 the biggest PPV for the company ever.  Lorenzo Fertitta stated that December’s UFC 194 would be the third-biggest in UFC and based on MMA Fighting, it could be second to only UFC 100.  For Rousey, it makes it the second straight PPV where she has drawn 900,000 PPV buys or better.  Obviously, with her drawing power, the UFC hopes she doesn’t take too much time off between movies as they would want her back in the Octagon in 2016.

Canelo-Cotto draws 900K PPV buys per HBO

December 3, 2015

HBO reports (via ESPN) that the Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto fight on November 21st in Vegas drew 900,000 PPV buys and about $58 million in domestic PPVs.

The 900,000 PPV buys is promising for HBO as no fight not featuring Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao or Oscar De La Hoya have scored 900,000 buys since 2002 when Lennox Lewis faced Mike Tyson.

The ethnic pride as well as the starworthy fighters were contributing factors for the overwhelming success of the event.

Canelo-Cotto caps off a successful year of boxing PPVs.  Obviously, Mayweather-Pacquiao in May was the king of PPV this (and any other) year with 4.6 million PPV buys.

Payout Perspective:

The PPV ratings are a surprise in my opinion.  While there are strong fan bases for both fighters, 900,000 PPV buys is a big domestic number.  The buy rate also provides evidence that Canelo Alvarez is the future of boxing PPV.  To a lesser extent Cotto is a big-time draw, but with the Mexican backing and only 25 years old, Alvarez looks to be the fighter to take up the torch for Mayweather and Pacquiao.

UFC 193 estimated at over 1M PPV buys, second best ever per Fertitta

November 20, 2015

UFC 193 is on track to be the second-largest PPV in company history according to Lorenzo Fertitta.  In speaking with Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports Fertitta indicated that it was currently tracking third but would finish behind only UFC 100.

UFC 100 drew 1.6 million viewers in July 2009.  Fertitta confirmed that UFC 193 sold in “excess of one million on pay-per-view.”  It appears that early PPV estimates have it around 1M-1.2M buys per Dave Meltzer.

UFC 189 was originally reported at hitting 1 million PPV buys but that estimate was scaled back to 825,000.  The last time that a UFC PPV hit 1 million PPV buys was UFC 168 which featured Weidman-Silva II and Tate-Rousey II (via MMA Payout Blue Book).

Ronda Rousey’s last PPV fight at UFC 190 drew 900,000 viewers.

Notably, UFC 193 Google related searches hit 9 million and was the most search topic on Saturday and Sunday.  It should be noted that the search experienced a slight dip on Friday but obviously surged ahead for Saturday.

In comparison, Mayweather-Pacquiao hit about 12 million google searches the weekend of their fight this past May.

Also to consider, UFC 193 Prelims on FS1 drew 1,394,000 viewers.  It was the most-watched Prelim event on FS1 with Ronda Rousey on the PPV main event.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that if these indicators are correct, UFC will have its best PPV year to date with UFC 194 probably adding to a huge year of PPV business for the company.  It shows the attraction of Ronda Rousey.  One should expect that a rematch will garner big PPV numbers again.  The question will be whether Holly Holm can maintain the PPV momentum of Rousey.

S&P upgrades business outlook for Zuffa

November 19, 2015

MMA Junkie reports that Zuffa’s Standard and Poor’s business outlook has been elevated from “negative” to “stable” based on its success in its Pay Per View business in 2015.  The company’s corporate credit rating remains the same at BB negative which is below investment grade.

Standard & Poor’s Financial Services publishes financial research and analysis on stocks and bonds as well as being one of the Big Three credit-rating agencies.  It issues credit ratings for the debt of public and private companies.  S&P serves as a resource to investors for a key measure of its success.

In October 2014, S&P downgraded Zuffa, LLC from BB to BB-as a result of “greater EBITDA volatility.”  It had maintained a “BB rating” since December 2010.  It was previously downgraded in November 2007 from BB to BB-.  A couple weeks later, it downgraded the business outlook from “stable” to “negative.”

In October 2014, it identified Zuffa as having $535 million in credit with $60 million in “senior secured revolving credit facility due in 2018 and a $475 million senior secured term loan due 2020” per that S&P report.

Payout Perspective:

Monday’s news is a good sign that the company is recovering from its dip in 2014.  While a lot of the numbers are kept under wraps and we’re forced to cobble together how much the company makes, the PPV buys have rebounded from the past couple years on the strength of the first three PPVs of 2015 as well as July’s UFC 189 and Ronda Rousey’s fights at UFC 190 and 193.  Also, the international expansion and the assumed proliferation of UFC Fight Pass have provided additional revenue streams for the company.  Obviously, you have to offset these gains with its expenses which include the new anti-doping policy implemented with the help of USADA and three big legal battles it is currently involved in (the UFC antitrust lawsuit in Nevada, the appeal of the November 2011 lawsuit against New York and the new lawsuit against the state of New York filed this past September seeking a preliminary injunction to hold an event in New York in April).

Also, on the same day that this news came out, Bloody Elbow unveiled its third installment of its deep dive into UFC finances.

UPDATED – UFC 193 search interest trending down after Friday

November 14, 2015

After a UFC weigh-in which featured a brief skirmish between main eventers Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm as well as a Rousey “promo” on Holm after, search interest for the fight has trended down.

UPDATED 4:31pm: As you can see from the graph, that keeps updating, searches are back up.

As you can see from the graph over the past 7 days, interest spiked on Friday afternoon but looks to have receded since then.

Via Google Trends as of Saturday morning:


Payout Perspective:

Obviously the unfortunate happenings in Paris probably detoured social media searches and interest.  Will the trends mean that the great run on Rousey PPV success end tonight?  Google trends is a scientifically unscientific way to predict PPV buy rates.  While the graph appears to reflect a downturn in interest, this trend is likely an anomaly.  One would think there’s an uptick in searches as the day goes on today.

Report: UFC 192 draws 250,000 estimated PPV buys

November 1, 2015

UFC 192 drew a reported 250,000 PPV buys according to Dave Meltzer’s latest Wrestling Observer newsletter.  The event featured Daniel Cormier defending his UFC light heavyweight championship against Alexander Gustafsson.

The estimated 250,000 PPV buys is the second-lowest buy rate for 2015.  The 250,000 estimated PPV buy rate is slightly better than the 205,000 PPV buys from last September’s UFC 178 PPV.   The rating is lower than the 375,000 for Cormier-Johnson this past May.

UFC PPVs through 192

Payout Perspective:

The good news for the light heavyweight division is that Jon Jones is back and a forthcoming fight with Cormier should help with DC’s PPV popularity.  Still, the buy rate should be thought to be below expectations for a guy like Cormier.  Two boxing events on HBO and Showtime and college football that same night may have been a detractor for those thinking of purchasing the event.

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