$60K bill paid by RNC for President Trump and guests to attend UFC 244

November 5, 2019

The Washington Post reports that the Republican National Committee covered the costs of the seats President Trump and guests sat in during UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. According to reports, the cost of approximately $60,000 included catering and security.

President Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) and Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) along with Eric and Donald Trump, Jr. attended the event.

The President was met with a mixed reaction of some cheers and some boos dependent on who you talked to.

Ticket demand for the event was at its highest since July’s UFC 239.

Payout Perspective:

As WaPo points out members of the House are allowed to take free tickets for the sporting events if the event is a “bona fide” fundraiser per House ethics rules.  “The event was not an official fundraiser nor a campaign event, so it is unclear how the lawmakers could accept tickets.” The RNC paid for the attendance because the President attend. The RNC also paid for seats in a luxury suite at Nationals Park for the President and other legislators from the party for Game 5 of the World Series.  He will be in attendance this weekend at the LSU-Alabama college football game.

With the added need for security in New York for the event, the huge bill was likely.  The questions as to how and why the other lawmakers could receive free tickets to the event is something that probably could be looked into but with the amount of controversy occurring with the administration, this seems like a blip on the screen.  It is interesting if the UFC looked into comping the tickets and/or allowed the President to pay face value for the tickets.

UFC announces PSAs to support Trump Administration campaign on Opioid Abuse

October 24, 2018

The UFC has announced it is working with the Trump Administration in combating Opioid addiction.  It will launch a public service announcement addressing the Opioid crisis.

President Trump’s Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse was announced on Wednesday at the White House.  The Administration secured $6 billion in new funding over two years to fight opioid abuse.

The UFC announced that it would create a public service campaign to bring attention to opioid addiction.

Via UFC press release:

UFC made the announcement today at a ceremony at the White House, in which President Donald J. Trump signed into law H.R. 6, also known as the SUPPORT For Patients And Communities Act. The legislation is intended to help opioid treatment and recovery initiatives, improve prevention of opioid abuse, and bolster efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs. UFC joined federal lawmakers and representatives of other major U.S. companies at the White House ceremony, where they pledged their commitment to combat the opioid crisis, which has left a mark on nearly every American family.

“Opioid addiction does not discriminate,” said UFC President Dana White. “Millions of Americans are impacted by this tragic crisis. UFC is committed to helping President Trump in the fight to end opioid abuse.”

UFC’s public service campaign is expected to roll out before the end of the year and will utilize UFC athletes, the company’s massive social media reach (75 million followers), and its popular live events to spread the message of prevention, treatment, and recovery relating to opioid addiction.

Payout Perspective:

This is the first partnership with The White House by the promotion and reflects the relationship President Trump has had with Dana White.  While not overtly political, UFC Fight Pass will be airing a program focusing on President Trump’s involvement in MMA.  The President also met with Dana White and Colby Covington earlier this year.  White also spoke at the Republican National Convention supporting Trump.  We will see how involved the promotion will be in the coming 2 years as the President nears the 2020 campaign.

An update on Net Neutrality and potential implications for the UFC and WWE

May 21, 2014

Last week the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to open for public debate new rules to guarantee an open Internet.  With the UFC and WWE online networks, both may have an eye as to what may eventually transpire.

Net neutrality is the concept that all Internet content should be treated equally.  The issue here is that Broadband providers might be able to prevent or inhibit end-users from accessing certain content simply because it could.  In January, we reported on the court ruling that precipitated last week’s vote.

The FCC indicated that it would propose new rules that would allow companies like Disney, Google and Netflix to pay Internet service providers for “fast lanes.”  These special, faster lanes would presumably allow for content to flow much quicker than normal.  Broadband companies have pushed for this right.  This would come into play with services like online streaming.  Thus, UFC Fight Pass and the WWE Network would be affected if such fast lanes require extra cost.  Thinking along these lines, extra cost for the UFC and WWE would likely mean that it would get passed along to subscribers.  However, this proposal has drawn the ire of consumer groups citing it would favor big business and stifle innovation.

There will be much more political wrangling as the sausage is made for net neutrality rules.

Payout Perspective:

It may not necessarily be an issue on the top of the minds of anyone in combat sports, but with business expansion for both UFC and the WWE, each company’s network would be affected by new rules regarding regulation of the Internet.  As we know, the WWE finds itself in corporate distress with a declining stock price with a disappointing television deal and news that the network’s cannibalization of its PPV product will affect revenue more than originally thought.  Additional distress made by extra “faster lane” fees would increase already hefty network costs and passing them along to subscribers may cause a tipping point.  With the WWE already setting network earning expectations for end of year 2015 based on 2 to 2.5 million subscribers, additional “fast lane” fees could make it tough for it to reach its OIBDA goal.

On the other hand, UFC Fight Pass has been a success from all indications.  It has already been made available abroad which we assume has increased the number of its subscribers.  Still, additional fees to allow for its live streaming could be a concern.

As UFC and WWE online networks depend on unfettered live streaming of its content, one suspects that each company is interested on how the net neutrality debate develops.

Zuffa supporting Florida bill regarding promoter disclosure

April 30, 2014

The MMA Report reports on a proposed bill that would amend boxing and MMA regulations in the state of Florida so that promoters would not need to disclose the number of tickets sold for an event, the gross receipts among other things. Zuffa has contributed $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association in support of lobbying efforts to pass this measure.

The Orlando Sentinel reported Zuffa’s contribution to the RGA.

The proposed measure would exempt the disclosure of “proprietary confidential business information” in a public records request.  This would include information on the number of tickets sold, gross receipts of an event, trade secrets and “business plans.”

The proposed text of the bill which rationalizes the reason for the nondisclosure of the information is interesting:

Section 2.  The Legislature finds that it is a public necessity that proprietary confidential business information be protected from disclosure.  The disclosure of proprietary confidential business information could injure a promoter in the marketplace by giving the promoter’s competitors insights into the promoter’s financial status and business plan, thereby putting the promoter at a competitive disadvantage.  The Legislature also finds that the harm to a promoter in disclosing proprietary confidential business information significantly outweighs any public benefit derived from the disclosure of such information….

A notable change of the proposed amendment to the current rules would allow the promoter to apply to the Commission for authorization to issue more than five percent of seats in the house as complimentary tickets and not be included in gross receipts for post-event taxation purposes.

Thus, the promoter could comp more than five percent of the seats in a venue and would not have to disclose the amount of comps it issued per the proposed amended law.

An analysis of the bill cites that certain terms are not defined and are overly broad (or will be interpreted as such).  Unless the bill is amended to define certain terms, the effect of the proposed law could mean that the promoter could exclude a broad amount of information from public records.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see if this law is eventually passed.  It appears that it the Florida House agrees with the bill voting in its favor.  Coming off of a successful event in Orlando, the UFC intimated that it would be back soon.  Based on the public records and proposed legislation, one may assume that the UFC is willing to come back to Florida and would not mind that this particular law is in place.  The broad scope of this law as it presently is written could mean that the UFC would not have to disclose attendance, gate and/or salaries to the public.  Other commissions do not officially release this information but this is a unique amendment to Florida’s existing law.

The proposed legislation may run contrary to the requirements of the Muhammad Ali Act which require the promoter to disclose certain expenditures to a boxer.  However, the proposed law has language that would seem to allow such disclosure.  Also, the promoter could disclose such required information without it being a public record.

The key issue is that the public would not be able to see information such as tickets sold and gross receipts.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Senate Bill 0808 (2014) by JASONCRUZ206

An update on Zuffa-NY lawsuit and 3 proposed bills re MMA in Albany

February 27, 2014

Zuffa and lawyers for the Attorney General of New York have filed an amended discovery plan which looks to depose certain individuals as it relates to Zuffa’s lawsuit against New York.  In addition, Lohud.com reports on the latest happenings with the future of professional MMA in New York.

Notably, the Lohud.com article reports on three major bills which addresses the regulation of MMA in the state.

One bill would allow professional bouts in the state.  Another bill would lift the ban only if an injury fund for fighters is set up and another would put a moratorium of two years on all MMA matches.

The article quotes a representative from the National Organization of Women stating that it would continue to oppose the legalization of professional MMA in the state.  Women groups have expressed concern over the messaging and violence of the sport.  Examples of their concern include recent statements by Dana White where he used the word “pussification” and actions by UFC fighter at the time Thiago Silva which included alleged violence toward his estranged wife.

And, of course, labor unions were mentioned as an obstacle for Zuffa in the state.

Of the three proposed bills that will be introduced this spring is one that would put a halt to MMA in the state (including amateur bouts) until a study on the health impacts of MMA will be performed.  I would assume that this would come out of a part of the state budget.  The other bill allowing MMA in the state with conditions has promoters coming up with a “compensation fund for injured fighters.”  It would also create a presumption that “any neurological later discovered in a fighter were caused by their participation in MMA.” (via Lohud.com).

There are inherent problems with the two bills that would presumably allow MMA in the state with certain conditions.

Payout Perspective:

As we’ve written year after year, hope springs eternal for professional MMA in Albany.  This time around we are presented with some interesting proposals which we will track.  Obviously, there is only one of the three bills listed that Zuffa would be interested in supporting.  From the public relations perspective, the Thiago Silva situation is bad PR for the UFC but realistically, like all sports leagues (e.g. Raymond Felton), it’s hard to avoid.  Moreover, the UFC was quick to act in dismissing Silva.  But, it supports anti-MMA advocates as recent examples of its position.  White’s comments reflect the good and bad of having a promoter speak from the hip.  He is going to say what he means without a filter but that is not always good for business.  We can only surmise that White did not think that his comments could be seen as derogatory towards women, otherwise he would not have said it.  But, that’s the problem.

Regarding the lawsuit, the discovery phase will be complete by April 25, 2014.  At this point, New York has identified three individuals that it will depose.  Zuffa has identified “persons most knowledgeable” at the AG of the State of New York, the New York State Liquor Authority, the New York State Athletic Commission and the New York State Department of State as well as Melvina Lathan.  She is a former boxing judge and chairperson to the NY State Athletic Commission.  Here is a 2010 article on her from the NY Times in which she wanted the state to legalize MMA.

MMA Payout will continue to keep you posted of the lawsuit as well as the political maneuvering in Albany.

The continued fight for MMA in NY

April 23, 2013

The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) is running an in depth perspective on combat sports this week and one of the articles asks whether this will be the year New York finally sanctions MMA.

The article points to several inferences that could position the bill to legalize MMA for a vote in Albany this year.  This includes the state senate passing the bill to legalize MMA by a vote of 47-14, comments made by Governor Andrew Cuomo in support of MMA and64 members of the Assembly co-sponsored the MMA bill (12 short of the needed for the bill to be made into law).  The most telling inference is the fact that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told the New York Daily News that MMA will “probably” be legalized but did not indicate when this might occur.

An interesting take on the fight to legalize MMA in New York is the position that the lobbying efforts of Zuffa has hurt the overall effort due to the strong opposition against Zuffa. Namely, the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York questioned whether if Zuffa played a “smaller role” would MMA have already gained legal status.

A vote on the bill to legalize MMA must take place before the legislature ends on June 21st.  But, the Assembly’s Democrats will decide on the bill’s fate at the annual Democratic Conference in May.

With the article coming out this week in the Sports Business Journal and the indication that the bill would be decided (whether to vote or not) in the next couple weeks, it was likely that opponents would voice their opposition and will speak out about the bill on Tuesday.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see how the legislature will play out this spring.  If a bill is turned away this year, the litigation efforts will likely not provide any help this year as well.  Even though the New York Attorney General conceded in court proceedings that the statute may allow an exempt third party to sanction professional MMA, it has taken a hard line in not entertaining a settlement in the lawsuit if one of the concessions is allowing professional MMA in New York.  Despite the financial benefits of MMA in the state, the opposition remains stiff.  The union opposition to Zuffa has definitely come back to hurt it in trying to legalize MMA in New York.

South Dakota becomes 46th state to regulate MMA

March 18, 2013

MMA Junkie reports that South Dakota is ready to sign off on a bill that will legalize mixed martial arts in the state.  Gov. Dennis Daugaard stated that he will not stand in the way of a bill that would regulate MMA and boxing.

The bill passed out of committee and the state legislature.  The South Dakota Athletic Commission which will regulate MMA will commence on July 1st of this year.  It has received $95,000 of funding.

While the governor is opposed to the violence in the sport, he recognized the argument that regulation would curtail some safety concerns.

South Dakota become the 46th state to regulate MMA.  Only New York, Connecticut and Montana do not regulate MMA.  Alaska does not have an athletic commission.

(H/t:  Argus Leader)

Payout Perspective:

A victory for mixed martial arts in the state of South Dakota.  While this news will be just a blip on the screen nationally, the recognition by the governor that regulation would protect those participating in the sport should be highlighted.  Even though he was opposed to the sport, one has to think of the safety of the people of the state and the new commission should oversee MMA and boxing events.  

NY MMA Bill passes out of committee

March 2, 2013

ESPN reports that a bill to legalize mixed martial arts in the state of New York passed out of the state’s Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation.  It now moves on to the Senate Finance Committee with the eventual hope a vote on it comes before the state Assembly.

Last year, a bill to legalize MMA died prior to being voted on after an informal survey of votes revealed it would not pass.

Last month, Zuffa’s lawsuit against the state of New York entered a negotiation phase as the state indicated that a third party sanctioning organization recognized by the state could regulate professional MMA in New York.

Payout Perspective:

The legislative process is in the initial stages at this point as there is no date set for the Senate Finance Committee to meet.  It appears that professional MMA may be allowed in the state if a sanctioning organization recognizes the event.  Still, a bill to legalize MMA would dispel any concerns about coordinating with a third party sanctioning organization.  We will see whether this bill will gain any traction for a vote this spring.  

White threatens no UFC in CA if AB 2100 passes

April 29, 2012

UFC head Dana White has threatened to cease holding events in the state of California if a controversial piece of legislation passes in the state.  Assembly Bill 2100 was introduced last Wednesday and is supported by the Culinary Workers Union while opposed by the UFC among others.

Via San Jose Mercury:

(Assembly member Luis) Alejo wants to eliminate what he sees as abusive contracts, freeing up fighters to make Assembly Bill 2100 would prevent promoters from claiming unreasonable future merchandising rights, prevent unreasonable restrictions on fighters’ seeking outside sponsors and prohibit other onerous contract provisions.

Dana White told the OC Register:

“Do you know what’s going on in Sacramento, right now?” White said. “They are trying to pass this bill to raise our taxes and do a bunch of crazy (expletive) to us. They voted 4-2 for the bill. There were a couple of people not present to vote on it. If that thing passes we won’t do anymore fights in California. All kinds of crazy (expletive) they’re trying to throw in this bill for MMA. You know who’s doing it? The Culinary Union from Las Vegas. These guys have been (expletive) with us in New York, too. That’s why we’re not in New York. These guys got a bunch of lobbyists together to try to pass this bill against MMA. They are putting pressure on my partners, the Fertitta brothers, because they own the fourth-largest gaming company in the country and they are non-union.”

More info on AB 2100 can be found in our previous post.

H/t:  Bloody Elbow

Payout Perspective:

Would it hurt the UFC economically if it did not run events in either New York or California?  It’s an intriguing question considering the UFC derives most of its income from PPV revenues and many of its live events are expanding to new areas or in Las Vegas.  The UFC is expanding internationally and could find new venues in the US to hold events.  Still, not holding events in the two biggest states in America does seem odd.  The self-imposed ban on the state of California would affect Strikeforce more than it would the UFC.  Although the UFC held its biggest event in Anaheim (UFC on Fox 1), Strikeforce has held events in San Jose or San Diego more often than the UFC has held events  in the states.  Of course, we do note that UFC on Fuel TV 4 will be in San Jose and UFC on Fox 4 will be in LA.  So, maybe the strategy is to stress the economic impact Zuffa creates in the state with the 2 upcoming events and threaten that this will all end if AB 2100 passes.

11 for 11: No. 5 Culinary workers versus Zuffa

December 26, 2011

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 became one of the biggest opponents of the UFC in 2011. It has helped opposed the legalization of professional MMA in New York state and has requested that the Federal Trade Commission investigate Zuffa for possible antitrust investigations.

In late August, the union sent a letter to the FTC requesting that it look into Zuffa’s acquisition of several of its competitors:

The letter goes on to point out that since 2001, Zuffa has acquired four of its key rivals (Pride Fighting Championship, World Extreme Cagefighting, the World Fighting Alliance, and most recently Strikeforce earlier this year.  They also state that through some independent research performed in 2008, Zuffa controls 80-90% of the mixed martial arts market.

Specifically, the letter points out that Zuffa has preserved and strengthened its dominance in the market through their unwillingness to co-promote events as well as anti-competitive contractual restraints placed on their contracted fighters.

As most know, the union’s beef with Zuffa stems from the Fertittas ownership of its Stations Casino. A failed attempt to unionize the workers at the Stations Casinos is the reason why there is staunch opposition to the legalization of MMA in New York. Lobbying efforts by the Culinary Workers have stifled efforts for passage of legislation allowing the UFC in New York.

USA Today reported in October that the union contacted Anheuser-Busch to boycott the UFC for “a history of tolerating homophobic conduct.” In addition, the Union has done the following to get its message across:

• Backing anti-MMA legislators in New York.

• Calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate UFC parent company Zuffa, which the union accuses of using monopolistic tactics to thwart competition from other promoters of mixed martial arts.

• Launching a website designed to highlight White’s use of vulgar language.

It will be interesting to see how much more the Culinary Workers will go to lobby against the UFC. The recent Zuffa lawsuit is a way around the union and lobbyists opposing MMA. So far, nothing is being reported about an FTC investigation of Zuffa and we will see if 2012 gives us any findings from the FTC about Zuffa and the claimed anti-competitive practices.

Next Page »