UFC will continue to review Reebok sponsor deal but not payouts

July 3, 2015

Despite the notable opposition to the UFC’s apparel deal, the “Reebok-era” has begun and according to the UFC, third-party sponsors are sticking with their fighters per a report by MMA Junkie.

While the UFC says it is working with its fighters about the Athlete Outfitting Policy (or AOP for short), the compensation to its fighters will remain throughout the term of the deal.

In an interview with Junkie, UFC Senior Vice President of Global Consumer Products Tracey Bleczinski stated that third-party sponsors are sticking with its contracted fighters.  Bleczinski went on to state that the UFC would continue an on-going review of “all aspects of the program” although it would not review the compensation of the sponsorship deal.  As most know, one of the biggest issues with the Reebok deal is that many of the UFC contracted fighters would be losing out on money from their fight week and fight night sponsors.

Payout Perspective:

Overarching question is why the UFC did not seek input from its contracted fighters prior to entering into the deal with Reebok.  Moreover, did UFC contracted fighters know about the pay structure prior to its public release?  We don’t know the specific answers to those questions but the fact that the UFC says its having “open communication” with its contracted fighters now seems to be an “after the fact” PR strategy.  While maintaining a dialogue is good and perhaps the UFC can make good on some of the criticism from this deal, the execution of its strategy appears flawed.

On another note, it would be interesting to know which third-party sponsors are sticking with its fighters.  We have heard of many fighters losing out on sponsors, but not many sponsors sticking with their fighters.  Notably, Dana White revealed that Venum is sticking with Jose Aldo.  Also, Gegard Mousasi signed a deal with Bridgestone.  But, not many other big name brands sticking with its fighters.  If there are more, please let us know.  Certainly, the third-party sponsor market will be a much tougher sell and managers/fighters will need to get creative to get around the Reebok deal.

WWE files lawsuit against former performers

July 2, 2015

WWE has filed a lawsuit against several former WWE stars seeking a declaratory judgment against them.  The complaint, filed in federal court in Connecticut is a result of a pre-litigation letter concerning potential concussion lawsuits against the company.

Robert Windham (aka Blackjack Mulligan), Thomas Billington (aka Dynamite Kid), James Ware (aka Koko B. Ware) and Oreal Perras (aka Ivan Koloff) are the named defendants.  The WWE is seeking a court order stating that any potential lawsuit alleging traumatic brain injuries “and/or tort claims Defendants have threatened against WWE are time-barred by the applicable statutes of limitations/statues of repose under Connecticut law.”

The WWE strategy is a result of the growing swell of lawsuits filed by former WWE performers claiming that the company knew or should have known about the risks of head trauma and that they suffered injury as a result.  Although not a named defendant in the lawsuit, the WWE names (and blames) plaintiff attorney Konstantine Kyros for the litigation.  It identifies several notice letters (below) which request that the WWE not destroy any information it may have.  The lawsuit identifies the existing lawsuits Kyros has filed on behalf of former WWE stars including Billy Jack Haynes.

The lawsuit requests a court ruling indicating that the defendants’ claims are time-barred by the statutes of limitations/repose under Connecticut law.  Essentially, the defendants did not file their claims on time.  This is always a very hard issue to consider as most of the claims that wrestlers could make occur when they are still contracted by the company.

WWE v. Windham, et al.

Ex A – Kyros Letter on Behalf of Windham

Payout Perspective:

One can see the strategy for the WWE here as it recognizes the growing litigation on the horizon.  It need only look at the NFL and NHL lawsuits to know that it needs to block the potential floodgates of litigation.  The estate of Matt Osborne was the latest to file a lawsuit against the WWE. Recently, a court in Oregon where the Haynes lawsuit was filed transferred the case to Connecticut upon WWE motion.  The WWE is seeking to do the same in other lawsuits filed across the country.  Based on the WWE’s filing here, it would seem that once it brings the case under Connecticut jurisdiction, it will file a motion to dismiss based on the applicable statute of limitations under Connecticut law.

We will keep you posted.

TUF 21 Episode 11 draws 433,000 viewers

July 2, 2015

The 11th episode of TUF airing on FS1 Wednesday drew an average viewership of 433,000 according to Sports TV Ratings.  A replay of the episode the same night drew an additional 74,000 viewers on Wednesday.

The episode featured a controversial ending to the fight of the show as Michael Graves of ATT defeated Jason Jackson of The Blackzilians via 1st round submission.  It also featured the competition between coaches as they participated in a relay race.

In addition to this week’s episode ratings, the DVR ratings from last week’s Episode 10 increased to 613,000 viewers reflecting an increase of 163,00 viewers.  The average increase per episode is now 180,000 viewers and the DVR rating is 566,000.  It should be noted that the DVR rating only covers the first-run of TUF and not the replays throughout the week.

TUF 21 Ratings
Live + SD Live +3 Increase
Episode 1 490,000 704,000 214,000
Episode 2 454,000 646,000 192,000
Episode 3 364,000 524,000 160,000
Episode 4 286,000 415,000 129,000
Episode 5 340,000 512,000 172,000
Episode 6 350,000 586,000 236,000
Episode 7 371,000 625,000 254,000
Episode 8 425,000 566,000 141,000
Episode 9 332,000 467,000 135,000
Episode 10 450,000 613,000 163,000
Episode 11 433,000

TUF 21 Ratings through Ep 11

Payout Perspective:

Despite having a strong lead-in from FIFA Women’s World Cup semifinal between Japan and England which drew 2.3 million in the 6:41-8:56pmET time slot and Fox Sports Live 8:56pm-10:00pm ET time slot which drew 876,000 viewers per Sports TV Ratings, there was considerable drop off when TUF came on at 10:00pm.  The TUF average is 391,000 for this season.

UFC Fight Night 70 draws 909K on FS1; Prelims 223K on FS2

July 1, 2015

UFC Fight Night 70 drew a viewership of 909,000 viewers for its live event Saturday night on FS1 per Sports TV Ratings.  The prelims which aired on FS2 drew 223,000 viewers.

In addition, the replay featuring Yoel Romero and Lyoto Machida in the main event drew another 276,000 viewers on Monday night on FS1.

UFC Fight Night 70 which aired from 10:00-12:49pm ET on FS1 was to be preceded by a portion of the prelims was pre-empted due to the FIFA Women’s World Cup overrun of the England/Canada game.  The 25 minutes on FS1 before UFC Fight Night drew 966,000 viewers.

UFC Fight Nights through 70

Payout Perspective:

If you do not include the FOX Fight Night which featured Conor McGregor, the televised Fight Night average is 796,000 viewers.  The Fight Night did well considering the card shuffling and the fact that the card was comprised of prospects but for Machida.  The event competed with HBO’s boxing event featuring Timothy Bradley which drew 1.12 million HBO subscribers and its post-fight (of about 20 minutes) drew another 1 million.

Aldo pulls out of UFC 189 main event

June 30, 2015

Jose Aldo is out and Chad Mendes is in as he now faces Conor McGregror for the interim Featherweight title in the main event of UFC 189.  Dana White made the announcement on ESPN’s Sportscenter with Conor McGregor by his side.

It was an interesting announcement.  Not because Aldo was pulling out but because it was made with the “challenger” McGregor.  Obviously we are reading into the comments, but White’s decision to make it for the interim title and his statement that Aldo has pulled out of 5 title fights seemed to reflect the fact he believed it was Aldo’s fault for not going through with the fight.

Mendes now will be fighting on very short notice against McGregor who has had a full training camp.

Payout Perspective:

Clearly this was the necessary outcome if Aldo’s injuries limited him.  McGregor seemed to indicate that he was cleared to fight but chose not to.  If Aldo was to go through with the fight, it would have brought scrutiny to the athletic commission.  In light of the Manny Pacquiao situation, the public would look closely as to whether Aldo would have been cleared to fight.  Even if he were cleared, Aldo would have been fighting with a known injury that McGregor would have likely taken advantage of during their fight.

The UFC has to be upset due to the fact they spent so much money for this fight and it will go by the wayside.  A huge Embedded series as well as other shoulder programming leading up to the fight will likely not produce a huge PPV buy rate.  Add the fact that Aldo has publicly spoken out about the Reebok deal and one would think that the now former Featherweight Champion may have to work his way back to a title fight.

With Mendes coming in on short notice, the odds favor a McGregor win considering this is a five round fight.  Prior to the injury, White was bullish on the PPV stating that it would have over $1 million PPV buys.  It already projected to have a $7M gate.  A lot of the marketing was centered on the feud between Aldo and McGregor with McGregor doing much of the promoting.  Now, the marketing will center solely on McGregor to sell this PPV.  The card is still very strong as it has a very good fight for the welterweight title between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald.  But that fight has not been promoted.   It’s a very disappointing ending to what would have been a huge PPV.

UFC-Reebok unveils uniforms

June 30, 2015

The UFC unveiled its Reebok fighter “kits” in a glitzy press conference in New York City Tuesday morning.  Many UFC stars were on hand to model the new uniforms which go into effect starting at UFC 189 next week.

The unveiling included many fighters based on home country and then the champions of each division (except Jose Aldo as he is training in Brazil).  The UFC and Reebok stressed “performance and customization” and fighters that were interviewed talked about how the new uniforms were specified for combat sports.  The uniforms had differing color variations although the design was mainly the same.  Champions in each division wore black uniforms.  Fighter names are on the back of the jersey and country patches are on the sleeves.

During the unveiling, Reebok officials talked about three types of kits: the country kit, a universal kit and a champion kit.  The country kit are specific to the country that the fighter is from including design elements specific to that nation.  The champion kits are the aforementioned black and also have gold and red trim.

There are also walkout wear including hooded sweatshirts, t-shirts, jerseys and sports bras available which will be made available for retail to the public.

Reebok already has UFC apparel on sale on its web site.  Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre Reebok gear are available in addition to UFC fighters.  Replica jerseys go for $70-$95 while Reebok t-shirts range from $30-$35.

The uniforms are already finding criticism as there are glaring misspellings and errors on the jerseys.

Payout Perspective:

It was an interesting debut for the kits and we shall see how soon fighters and fans adopt to the new Reebok-branded uniforms.  The country design is an interesting idea as it leverages fans with their loyalty to their country.  Also, the champion uniforms are a nice touch to make them stand out.  While we might debate the design issues, the overaching issue with the Reebok deal is the dent in sponsorship money that many of the UFC fighters will take.  Obviously, it’s something that many fighters have talked about but I’m sure most will not do anything more than this.

Despite loss, Machida tops UFC Fight Night salaries

June 29, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the disclosed salaries from Saturday night UFC Fight Night 70.  Lyoto Machida earned 1/3 of the total reported payouts drawing $200,000 in his loss to Yoel Romero.

Via MMA Junkie:

Yoel Romero: $66,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus)
def. Lyoto Machida: $200,000

Lorenz Larkin: $66,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus)
def. Santiago Ponzinibbio: $10,000

Antonio Carlos Junior: $34,000 (includes $17,000 win bonus)
def. Eddie Gordon: $15,000

Thiago “Marreta” Santos: $32,000 (includes $16,000 win bonus)
def. Steve Bosse: $10,000

Hacran Dias: $26,000 (includes $13,000 win bonus)
def. Levan Makashvili: $12,000

Alex Oliveira: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Joe Merritt: $10,000

Leandro Silva: $28,000 (includes $13,000 win bonus)*
def. Lewis Gonzalez: $8,000

Tony Sims: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Steve Montgomery: $10,000

Sirwan Kakai: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Danny Martinez : $10,000

The total disclosed payroll was $601,000

Payout Perspective:

Gonzalez was docked 20% of his fight purse for not making weight.  Machida’s payout is on par what he has been receiving although the 37-year old may be heading toward the downside of his career (and his pay).  Romero and Larkin were the next two highest paid on Saturday earning $33K and $33K.

Bellator 139: 764K viewers and Friday night boxing numbers

June 29, 2015

Bellator 139 drew an average viewership of 764,000 viewers on Spike TV Friday night per Sports TV Ratings.  The event is down from its tent pole event of a week prior but it still was the second-best rating on the network since February.

In the main event of Friday night, former UFC heavyweight Cheick Kongo defeated Alexander Volkov.  The other big news coming out of Bellator 139 was the KO of Joe Schilling by Hisaki Kato.  Per Nielsen sources, the peak for the show was 988,000 viewers during the last quarter hour (10:45-11pm).

Bellator 137 pulls the promotion’s 2015 Spike TV average up to 800,000 viewers.

Overnight Peak
Bellator 132 767,000 1,200,000
Bellator 133 565,000 967,000
Bellagtor 134 872,000 1,200,000
Bellator 135 607,000 922,000
Bellator 136 655,000 900,000
Bellator 137 594,000 768,000
Bellator 138 1,580,000 2,100,000
Bellator 139 764,000 988,000

Bellator 139

Sports TV ratings also notes that boxing on TruTV drew 303,000 viewers Friday night in the 10pm-12am slot.  The TruTV fights are promoted primarily by Top Rank.  Also, boxing on FS1 on Friday drew 129,000 viewers.  The event on FS1 appears to be the last promoted by Golden Boy.  Additionally, Showtime aired a prospect card Friday night although no information on the ratings were available at this time.

Payout Perspective:

There were a lot of viewing options Friday night for combat sports enthusiasts but viewers tuned in to Bellator 139 which should be seen as a positive for the company and Spike.  It’s interesting that it did so well the week after its tent pole event.  The last tent pole event, Bellator 131, did not have a follow event the next week.  In fact, the next Bellator event was not until January 2015.  We could see more follow up events the week after to take advantage of the momentum.

In terms of boxing ratings, the TruTV ratings are surprising and it looks like Top Rank has found a nice way to promote its HBO fights the next night.

Rousey, Cerrone nominated for ESPYs

June 28, 2015

Ronda Rousey and Donald Cerrone have received nominations for the 2015 ESPY awards.  Rousey is nominated in 3 categories while Cerrone received a nomination in the “Best Fighter” category.

Rousey is nominated for “Best Female Athlete” and “Best Play.”  The UFC women’s bantamweight champion won “Best Fighter” honors last year.

Rousey and Cerrone are in the “Best Fighter” category along with Floyd Mayweather, Jr., GGG and Terrance Crawford.  Rousey will go up against UCONN basketball star Breanna Stewart, skier Lindsey Vonn and Serena Williams in the “Best Female Athlete” category.

Rousey’s third nomination is “Best Play” for her armbar against Cat Zingano which is in a “bracket-style” tournament with other plays in which people will vote on the play culminating in the winning play to be announced on the night of the ESPYs.

Whaaaaat!? I just realized I was nominated for a 3rd #ESPY – best play for the world record breaking fastest title defense 14 second Armbar vs Cat Zingano!!! Please vote for me if you care to take the time here: http://goo.gl/3Zfruf

A photo posted by rondarousey (@rondarousey) on

Payout Perspective:

As always, the ESPYs is a good promotional tool for ESPN. It’s a popularity contest and Ronda Rousey has become one of the more popular athletes around this year. The Donald Cerrone nomination is a bit of a surprise. Perhaps we credit his agents for getting Cerrone in the mix in the “Best Fighter” category. The ESPYs occur in July 15.

UFC Fight Night 70 attendance and bonuses

June 28, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and bonuses from UFC Fight Night 70.  Yoel Romero led the bonus winners with his KO of Lyoto Machida in the main event.

Romero, Thiago Santos, Lorenz Larkin and Santiago Ponzinibbio earned the $50,000 bonuses.  Larkin and Ponzinibbio won Fight of the Night.  Santos earned a Performance of the Night for his head kick KO of Steve Bosse.

In addition, the event was a sell out at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The event drew 5,604 to the venue although no gate was announced at the post-event news conference.

Payout Perspective:

Let’s put aside the ridiculousness of the “controversy” in Romero’s post-fight interview.  He was trying his best to speak in broken English and not making a social commentary on this country although I’m sure law clerks for Justice Scalia may take note in drafting future dissents.  Does everyone really think a guy focused on the fight of his life have the time to review SCOTUS rulings during fight week?  Regardless, it was a resume-building fight for Romero.  Santos also had a highlight-reel kick which might have moved ahead of the Bellator KO Friday night as the best of the weekend.

As for the attendance, selling out such a small venue was expected.  No word on gate or comps as of yet although we might know later on this week.

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