The fallout from Brock Lesnar’s potential drug violation

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.

Hunt wants half of Lesnar’s payout or else

July 16, 2016

With the news that Brock Lesnar may be guilty of a drug test violation, Lesnar’s UFC 200 opponent is asking for half of Lesnar’s purse or be released from his UFC contract.

According to MMA Fighting, Hunt is asking UFC officials that he be given half of Lesnar’s reported $2.5 million purse or else he be released from the company.

Per the disclosed pay released by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Hunt made $700,000 for facing Lesnar.  It was the highest disclosed amount Hunt has been paid by the company for a UFC fight.

Hunt had inferred that Lesnar may have been taking PEDs in lead-up to the fight.  But Lesnar denied it.

On Saturday, Lesnar responded to the USADA notification stating, “we will get to the bottom of this.”

Payout Perspective:

The ultimatum is interesting although I am not sure how much leverage has with this request.  Certainly Hunt has a legitimate issue with stepping in against an individual that may have taken PEDs.  Yet, if Hunt were to leave, there’s no other fight organization that would have the resources to pay Hunt the way he is compensated in the UFC.

UFC 200: Payout Perspective – Part 2 of 2

July 13, 2016

Welcome to UFC 200’s Part 2 of Payout Perspective.  We are once again recapping the weekend that was in the UFC.

UFC Sold to WME | IMG

The news came out on Sunday that Zuffa, LLC had sold the UFC to an investment group spearheaded by William Morris Endeavor and International Management Group.  As we learned the sale price was approximately $4 billion.

While Jeremy Botter’s report was met with denials as well as a lawyer letter, the news was true.  The Fertitta Brothers, Dana White and Flash Entertainment sold its shares in the UFC.

Prior to Sunday’s news, Los Angeles Times and TMZ both ran articles refuting the stories of a sale which were backed by Zuffa executives.  The TMZ story did not cite names but quotes from Zuffa execs while the Times ran a piece which included sit downs with White and Lorenzo Fertitta

More Promotion

UFC 200 introduced its main event of Jones vs. Cormier (after McGregor-Diaz was scrapped) on ABC’s Good Morning America.  The event included Dana White, Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, Miesha Tate, Chuck Liddell and Frankie Edgar.  It was the second time that a fight was announced on GMA.  This time around, the UFC was front and center on the show.  It was good exposure for the company.  Too bad the main event didn’t stick.

Forbes ran a piece on the marketing behind those crazy graffiti posters.  Apparently part of the idea was based on Conor McGregor’s tirade at the pre-fight press conference at UFC 197.  McGregor was promoting his fight against Rafael dos Anjos.  Imagine if RDA did not get injured.

Bud Light offered limited edition UFC bottles.  Guess who promoted them:

Payouts

The complete list of salaries from UFC 200 as disclosed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission is as follows (via MMA Junkie):

Amanda Nunes: $100,000 (no win bonus)
def. Miesha Tate: $500,000

Brock Lesnar: $2,500,000 (no win bonus)
def. Mark Hunt: $700,000

Daniel Cormier: $500,000 (no win bonus)
def. Anderson Silva: $600,000

Jose Aldo: $500,000 (includes $100,000 win bonus)
def. Frankie Edgar: $190,000

Cain Velasquez: $300,000 (no win bonus)
def. Travis Browne: $120,000

Julianna Pena: $64,000 (includes $32,000 win bonus)
def. Cat Zingano: $35,000

Kelvin Gastelum: $86,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus and $20,000 from Hendricks’ purse)
def. Johny Hendricks: $80,000(Hendricks forfeited 20 percent of his original $100,000 show money to Gastelum for missing weight)

T.J. Dillashaw: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Raphael Assuncao: $42,000

Sage Northcutt: $100,000 (includes $50,000 win bonus)
def. Enrique Marin: $13,000

Joe Lauzon: $108,000 (includes $54,000 win bonus)
def. Diego Sanchez: $80,000

Gegard Mousasi: $110,000 (includes $35,000 win bonus)
def. Thiago “Marreta” Santos: $28,000

Jim Miller: $118,000 (includes $59,000 win bonus)
def. Takanori Gomi: $55,000

The Reebok Clothing payouts are here via MMA Junkie.  Notably, Aldo and Edgar both made $30,000 each as “challengers” since they were vying for the interim(?) Featherweight title.

Odds and Ends

What has happened to Johny Hendricks?

Early weigh-ins did not help Johny Hendrick as he yet again had issues with weight cutting.  Notably, Kelvin Gastelum has had problems in the past and just made the limit.  Miesha Tate had to disrobe to make the championship weight.

UFC 200 Prelims scored the highest rated show ever on FS2 as the first 31 minutes was switched to the network due to MLB going extra innings on FS1.  Despite the delay due to baseball, FS1 was the highest-rated prelim ever in the adult 28-49 demo.  The prelims on FS1 peaked with over 2 million viewers in the last quarter hour.

The last hour of the prelims went head-to-head with the first hour of PBC on ESPN.  PBC scored 442,000 viewers for its 2-hour plus event on Saturday night.

UFC offered the event in 4K.  It was the first time that a PPV was offered in 4K by any sport organization.

I missed Jon Jones’ press conference but I cannot say I feel sorry for him.  Whether or not he took PEDs, he’s been given chance after chance to succeed, but continues to fail.

Think about how much Jon Jones cost the UFC for them to tear down his posters and take his likeness off of the T-Mobile Arena.  There’s also the unsold t-shirts and posters.  He also cost UFC employees a night’s sleep to re-do all of the promotion centered around the Jones-Cormier main event.  Now that’s selfish.

International Fight Week

If you’ve never been to International Fight Week, it’s sort of like the NFL Experience at the Super Bowl.  If you have never been to that, think big convention hall with tons of sponsor/vendor booths, interactive areas and talks from special guests.  It’s a great thing to go and see if you’re a big UFC fan.  I realize that over the years this event may have lost steam, but once again, it’s something for the true UFC fan.

While UFC 200 and International Fight Week may have been much bigger with Ronda Rousey and/or Conor McGregor on the card, the event and week is a good opportunity for the UFC and its partners to engage with its fan base.

RDA, Alvarez top UFC Fight Night 90 salaries

July 11, 2016

MMA Junkie reports the salaries from Thursday’s UFC Fight Night 90.  Eddie Alvarez and Rafael dos Anjos topped the salaries on the roster Thursday.

The salaries were disclosed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Via MMA Junkie:

Eddie Alvarez: $150,000 (no win bonus)
def. Rafael dos Anjos: $310,000

Derrick Lewis: $66,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus)
def. Roy Nelson: $100,000

Alan Jouban: $42,000 (includes $24,000 win bonus)
def. Belal Muhammad: $12,000

Joseph Duffy: $40,000 (includes $20,000 win bonus)
def. Mitch Clarke: $12,000

Alberto Mina: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Mike Pyle: $55,000

John Makdessi: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)
def. Mehdi Baghdad: $12,000

Anthony Birchak: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Dileno Lopes: $12,000

Pedro Munhoz: $34,000 (includes $17,000 win bonus)
def. Russell Doane: $11,000

Felipe Arantes: $42,000 (includes $21,000 win bonus)
def. Jerrod Sanders: $12,000

Gilbert Burns: $34,000 (includes $17,000 win bonus)
def. Lukasz Sajewski: $10,000

Marco Beltran: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Reginaldo Vieira: $17,000

Vicente Luque: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Alvaro Herrera: $12,000

Payout Perspective:

Alvarez received $150,000 with no win bonus.  The former champ, RDA, received $310,000.  Other notable salaries included Roy Nelson earning $100,000.  Derrick Lewis is slowly moving up the UFC salary scale making $33k/$33K.

Lesnar makes reported $2.5M, DC loses out on $1M payday

July 10, 2016

Brock Lesnar made a reported $2.5 million purse for UFC 200 according to Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole.  It’s the biggest payout for a UFC fighter next to Conor McGregor.

Iole tweeted out the salaries for main card:

Here are the rest of the fighters on the PPV card minus Daniel Cormier which we discuss below:

Payout Perspective:

Certainly we’ll have the other payouts released by the commission later this week.  Lesnar probably made more than $2.5M since he should be receiving a PPV cut.  It’s notable that Cormier was to make $1 million for his Jones fight but made $500,000 against Silva.  More reason for DC to be mad at Jones.  DC may make up the money in his PPV upside but still would have made more against Jones.  Hunt likely makes the most of his career for stepping in against Brock.  Nunes will likely get champion pay and Tate will return to her regular pay scale.

Cerrone comments on his UFC pay

June 19, 2016

In Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 89 post-fight press conference, Donald Cerrone sent a not-so-subtle jab about his pay.

In response to a question which listed his accolades, Cerrone stated, “According to my pay, I don’t mean sh*t to the UFC. But we’ll see. Maybe I’ll talk to [UFC president] Dana [White] after this and see if we can figure that out.” (via MMA Fighting).  Cerrone did make the statement with a smirk and laughed about it.  Of course, that does not mean he was kidding.

Cerrone stopped Patrick Cote in the third round of his fight last night which earned him a $50,000 bonus.

In February, Cerrone made $79K/$79K in addition to his $50K bonus, Reeebok payout and any other undisclosed bonuses.

Cerrone donned the Monster logo on his Reebok shorts and cowboy hat which likely means additional compensation added into his purse, win money, bonus and Reebok payout.

Prior to the Reebok deal, Cerrone commented that he would be losing out on $60,000 in outside sponsors.  He was fined late last year for violating the Reebok outfitting policy.  Cerrone has picked up a Monster deal.

Payout Perspective:

Cerrone is a UFC favorite for his willingness to take a fight at a moment’s notice.  Obviously, attaining fight bonuses means that his fighting style is appealing as well.  Should he be paid more?  Sure.  But how much more would the UFC be willing to pay is another question. If he’s in the middle of a contract, it would be hard to renegotiate at this point, but he could receive preferential paid opportunities outside of the Octagon.  As we noted, he has been outspoken about losing money from the Reebok deal and then was flagged for violating the terms of the policy.  Of course, maybe we are just overblowing the comments from a fighter that is always willing to find a payday.

McGregor makes Forbes’ annual “World’s Highest-Paid Athletes”

June 12, 2016

Forbes released its annual report on the World’s Highest-Paid Athletes from June 2015 to June 2016.  Conor McGregor is the first UFC fighter to make the top 100 list.

McGregor landed at number 85 on the list earning a total of $22 million.  His salary is reported at $q8 million while he made another $4 million in endorsements.

Soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo topped the list with total pay of $88 million.  There was $56 million in salary and $32 million in endorsements.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. lost his top spot from the past couple years as with just one fight during the timeframe he earned $44 million for one night’s work this past September against Andre Berto.  Still, he was number 16 on the list.  Manny Pacquiao was number 63 as he earned $24 million for his May fight against Timothy Bradley, Jr.  Canelo Alvarez was 92nd with $21.5 million.  Canelo had 2 fights within the one year from June to June.

Payout Perspective:

McGregor had 3 fights from June 2015-June 2016 (Mendes, Aldo and Diaz).  This would average $6 million per fight.  The endorsement deals are interesting considering the UFC Outfitting Policy does not allow outside sponsors during fight week or event night.  McGregor has an individual Reebok deal and has worn a Monster patch during his fights.

Hendo’s $800K tops UFC 199 salaries

June 7, 2016

UFC 199 salaries were disclosed by the California State Athletic Commission. Dan Henderson topped the list of fighters earning $800,000.

Via MMA Junkie:

Michael Bisping: $250,000 (no win bonus)
def. Luke Rockhold: $250,000

Dominick Cruz: $350,000 (no win bonus)
def. Urijah Faber: $160,000

Max Holloway: $150,000 (includes $75,000 win bonus)
def. Ricardo Lamas: $53,000

Dan Henderson: $800,000 (includes $200,000 win bonus)
def. Hector Lombard: $53,000

Dustin Poirier: $110,000 (includes $55,000 win bonus)
def. Bobby Green: $24,000

Brian Ortega: $46,000 (includes $23,000 win bonus)
def. Clay Guida: $55,000

Beneil Dariush: $62,000 (includes $31,000 win bonus)
def. James Vick: $23,000

Jessica Andrade: $40,000 (includes $20,000 win bonus)
def. Jessica Penne: $20,000

Alex Caceres: $48,000 (includes $24,000 win bonus)
def. Cole Miller: $33,000

Sean Strickland: $46,000 (includes $23,000 win bonus)
def. Tom Breese: $19,000

Luis Henrique da Silva: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Jonathan Wilson: $12,000

Kevin Casey: $15,000
vs. Elvis Mutapcic: $16,000

Polo Reyes: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. “Maestro” Dong Hyun Kim: $10,000

Payout Perspective:

Reyes and Kim, the two lowest, reported paid fighters earned a Fight of the Night bonus.  Henderson’s $800,000 ($600,000 show, $200,000 win) is one of the highest-reported salaries for a UFC fighters.  His last official reported purse was at UFC 173 where he made $100,000 in a loss to Daniel Cormier.  Including the Cormier fight, he has gone 2-3 since then.  Aside from Conor McGregor’s purported salary, Anderson Silva has made $600K/$200K.  Also, Dominick Cruz earned $350,000 which is a considerable boost from winning the title this past January.  At UFC Fight Night 81, Cruz earned $110,000 ($55K/$55K).

UFC Fight Night 88 salaries

June 1, 2016

The Nevada State Athletic Commission released the salaries from Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 88.

Via MMA Junkie:

Cody Garbrandt: $48,000 (includes $24,000 win bonus)
def. Thomas Almeida: $25,000

Jeremy Stephens: $100,000 (includes $50,000 win bonus)
def. Renan Barao: $50,000

Rick Story: $76,000 (includes $38,000 win bonus)
def. Tarec Saffiedine: $37,000

Chris Camozzi: $72,000 (includes $36,000 win bonus)
def. Vitor Miranda: $18,000

Lorenz Larkin: $72,000 (includes $36,000 win bonus)
def. Jorge Masvidal: $57,000

Paul Felder: $42,000 (includes $21,000 win bonus)
def. Josh Burkman: $48,000

Sara McMann: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Jessica Eye: $25,000

Abel Trujillo: $52,000 (includes $26,000 win bonus)
def. Jordan Rinaldi: $10,000

Jake Collier: $30,000 (includes $15,000 win bonus)
def. Alberto Uda: $10,000

Erik Koch: $42,000 (includes $21,000 win bonus)
def. Shane Campbell: $15,000

Bryan Caraway: $36,000 (includes $18,000 win bonus)
def. Aljamain Sterling: $30,000

Adam Milstead: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Chris De La Rocha: $10,000

Payout Perspective:

Jeremy Stephens earned $100,000 as he made $50K to show and another $50K win bonus.  The most notable salary was the $30K show for Aljamain Sterling who was thought to be a prized free agent but re-signed with the UFC.  He previously made $14K and $14K.  Thus, he slightly doubled his salary but was not given Sage Northcutt (i.e. $40K/$40K) money.   With the loss to Bryan Caraway, the momentum has stopped for now for The Funkmaster.

Davis tops Bellator 154 payouts

May 18, 2016

MMA Junkie reports salaries from this past Saturday’s Bellator 154.  Phil Davis earned the most out of the fighters on the card.

According to Junkie, the payroll, obtained from the California State Athletic Commission

Phil Davis: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)
def. Muhammed Lawal: $30,000

Saad Awad: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Evangelista Santos: $17,000

Josh San Diego: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Jeremiah Labiano: $2,500

Adam Piccolotti: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Ray Wood: $6,000

Andre Fialho: $12,000 (includes $6,000 win bonus)
def. Rick Reger: $4,000

Mark Dickman: $18,000 (includes $9,000 win bonus)
def. Thomas Diagne: $3,000

Jamielene Nievara: $2,000 (includes $1,000 win bonus)
def. Stephanie Frausto: $1,500

Joshua Hardwick: $5,000 (includes $2,500 win bonus)
def. Jorge Acosta: $2,500

Sam Spengler: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Doyle Childs: $1,000

Josh Paiva: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Steve Gruber: $1,000

Danasabe Mohammed: $2,000 (includes $1,000 win bonus)
def. Martin Sano: $2,000

Anthony Taylor: $2,000 (includes $1,000 win bonus)
def. Victor Jones: $1,000

Payout Perspective:

Essentially, Davis and Lawal had the same show money ($30K) with Davis earning the win bonus.  This is low compared to how much Davis earned in the UFC but perhaps he made the money back in sponsorships.  There were 6 fighters that made $2,000 or less on the card.

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