UFC 241 attendance, gate and bonuses

August 17, 2019

UFC 241 took place on Saturday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.  The event drew the largest MMA gate in the state of California.

It was announced that UFC 241 drew 17,304 for a gate of $3,237.032 at the Honda Center.  It was the first time that an MMA event drew over $3 million in the state.  The previous high was Cormier-Jones 2 at UFC 214 at the Honda Center.  There were 16,610 in attendance for a gate of $2.4 million.

The bonuses went to Stipe Miocic, Khama Worthy, Paulo Costa and Yoel Romero.  Miocic and Worthy drew the Performance Bonuses and Costa and Romero earned Fight of the Night for their wild battle. All earned $50,000 each.

Payout Perspective:

A good night for the UFC highlighted by a title change at Heavyweight and Nate Diaz returning to the Octagon.  SoCal is a hotbed for MMA so its not surprising that it was a sellout but the gate had to have exceeded expectations.  Moreover, according to SeatGeek, the ticket demand on the secondary market was strong.

Ticket demand high as UFC reports $3M gate ahead of UFC 241

August 16, 2019

UFC 241 this Saturday in Anaheim looks to be a big one as ticket demand for the event is on the rise.  ESPN reporter Brett Okamoto reported that this event will be the first to surpass a $3M gate in the state of California.

The secondary market is hot as well.  According to SeatGeek, as of Wednesday the get-in price for the event is $181 with the average price per ticket on the secondary market at $300.  And don’t look for the ticket prices falling that far either.

Payout Perspective:

This is not surprising for the SoCal market as it’s a very popular place for MMA.  The card is very good considering you get a heavyweight title fight featuring Cormier-Miocic, the return of Nate Diaz to fight Anthony Pettis and then Yoel Romero and undefeated Paulo Costa.  The ticket demand is high compared to last month’s Edmonton event.

Daniel Cormier signs deal with cbdMD

August 16, 2019

The Charlotte, North Carolina based-CBD company, cbdMD, Inc. has signed UFC Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier to a sponsorship deal.  The deal comes the same week as he prepares to defend his title against Stipe Miocic at UFC 241.

No terms of the deal were released.  cbdMD is a consumer cannabidiol brand whose products include a vast array of products from the newest fad in sports sponsorship.

cbdMD is making a push into sports sponsorship and Cormier is the latest added to the roster which includes golfer Bubba Watson, America Rallycross driver Steve Arpin and the BIG3 Basketball League led by rapper Ice Cube.  It also included Chael Sonnen until his recent retirement in June.

The UFC has its own cannabis-based sponsor, Aurora Cannabis.  So, this deal with DC means that he’d be doing promotion outside of UFC Fight Week.

Payout Perspective:

The deal shows the aggressive nature of the CBD industry at this point.  While most athletes will not go as far as Nate Diaz, who smoked a joint during open workouts, CBD is becoming more accepted by more athletes as a way to recover from physical stress.  Cormier’s sponsor deal reflects his notoriety and ability to help the brand even if he cannot directly promote it during UFC events.

Cat Zingano let go by the UFC

August 14, 2019

Cat Zingano has been let go by the UFC according to a report from MMA Junkie.  The popular bantamweight had a tough-luck stint with the promotion as she never really found success that was projected for the 37-year old.

Her time in the UFC saw highs and lows.  Zingano defeated Miesha Tate in February 2013 to become a coach for TUF 18 against Ronda Rousey.  However, Zingano suffered a knee injury which meant she was out and replaced by Tate.  This also put on hold a shot at Rousey’s title.

After a year and a half away from fighting, she returned to defeated Amanda Nunes in September 2014.

Zingano’s biggest fight in the promotion was a bantamweight showdown against Ronda Rousey.  However, that fight ended in just 14 seconds with Rousey submitting Zingano.

Zingano then dropped two fights and in her last fight with the UFC, she lost to Megan Anderson via TKO due to an eye injury. She attempted to appeal the TKO, but the appeal was denied.

Payout Perspective:

Zingano looks destined to head to Bellator or ONE Championship.  Either organization can promote her as a top bantamweight that defeated the now consensus best woman fighter in the world.  Maybe a change of scenery will be good for Zingano reset and restart her career if she so wishes.

UFC on ESPN +14 attendance and bonuses

August 11, 2019

UFC Fight Night Uraguay took place on Saturday airing on ESPN +.  The event saw another title defense from Valentina Shevchenko as she soundly defeated Liz Carmouche.

The event drew 9,255 fans at the Antel Arena in Montevideo, Uraguay for the promotion’s first event in the country.  The UFC announced the event as a sellout.  No gate was announced.

UFC on ESPN+14 bonus winners included Mike Perry, Vincente Luque, Volkan Oezdemir and Veronica Macedo.  Oezdemir and Macedo drew Performance of the Night honors while Luque-Perry earned Fight of the Night.

Payout Perspective:

A good crowd for the promotion’s first event in this South American country.  The title fight was lackluster but the crowd was given a slugfest in the semi-main event with Perry and Luque.

More unredacted document notes shows fighter discontent with…finding fights

August 9, 2019

In our third installment of looking into the newly unredacted expert report of Hal Singer, we take a look at issues with getting fights in the UFC.

Fighter pay has been the topic of much discussion when it comes to the UFC.  While it is one of the topics driving interest in this lawsuit, it is not the linchpin to the plaintiffs’ case.  But an impactful part of it.

Yet, the fight to actually fight in the UFC is an ongoing problem.  Anecdotally, UFC Middleweight Julian Marquez recently tweeted out that he is awaiting his next fight.  Marquez has only fought twice in the UFC with his last fight happening on July 6, 2008.  The middleweight stated that he doesn’t know when he’ll fight next.

Marquez’s plight is not the only one.

One of the documents cited by Dr. Singer in his expert report includes Angela Hill’s text to Sean Shelby asking if she would be ‘shelved again for 6 months?’  She told Shelby that she is ‘strapped for cash.’

Despite fighter frustration on not knowing when their next UFC appearance and pay will come from, Dr. Singer’s report reflects a roster filled with athletes ready for action.

Kyle Kingsbury, one of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, noted at his deposition that Dana White controlled their careers and could either give you a tough opponent or put you on the undercard so you could make far less.

Former UFC Heavyweight Josh Barnett’s agent expressed frustration with the situation. Leland Labarre, Barnett’s rep, wrote to Sean Shelby and Michael Mersch, “As you know, a fight every 4 months or so would be typical for MMA fighters, whose career primes are generally short. Conversely, a 4-fight deal with a 5-year exclusive term is unheard of. The interpretation you have provide is simply unreasonable.”

Even if a fighter retired, Zuffa would not release them from their contract if there were fights remaining. A footnote reveals texts concerning Mark Bocek wishing to be released from his contract after he announced his retirement. Zuffa refused due to the potential of Bocek going to another organization. Bocek was told that he would not be released with a reply by Lorenzo Fertitta stating, “Every fighter from Chuck Liddell, Mark Coleman, etc that retired in the middle of their contract are still under contract. You can do anything to make money you just can’t fight anywhere else.”

 The footnote also discusses how it suspended Rampage Jackson’s contract when he informed the UFC that he was going to retire. Even if Zuffa did not receive a request from the fighter, it would threaten the promoter. That is what happened in the case of Melvin Guillard when he attempted to fight on a Combat Fighting Championship event. Even if the combat sport was not MMA, Zuffa would step in. This is what happened when Zuffa denied one of its athletes whether they could participate in a judo match.

Dr. Singer cites documents which supports the position that athletes were not able to obtain fights and this was due in part to a full roster. In August, 2011, Joe Silva stated that there were “too many guys.” Dana White stated in February 2013, “We have 470-something guys under contract…We have over 100 guys too many.”

Dr. Singer identifies Zuffa’s exclusivity provisions in its contract as conduct which prevented athletes to go to other promoters. “Zuffa was consistently able to keep Fighters bound by the exclusionary provisions in its contracts—and thus unavailable to other MMA promoters—while simultaneously promoting an insufficient number of bouts given the unumber of Fighters on its roster.” He went on to argue in his report that this ‘Challenged Conduct’ of limiting the options for fighters prevented them from earning pay as fighters. “In the absence of the Challenged Conduct, Zuffa’s ability to restrict Fighter career paths would have been curtailed, because these Fighters would have had more viable paths for pursuing their careers with other MMA promoters.”

The fighter discontent on the amount of activity coupled with Zuffa’s exclusive contracts and policy of not allowing athletes to fight elsewhere is an issue that Dr. Singer has highlighted as ‘Challenged Conduct’ which attributes to the anti-competitive scheme which is a part of the lawsuit.  How much will this information persuade the Court will be interesting to see in a couple weeks.

Show Money 29 talks unredacted expert report, Endeavor IPO, Zuffa Boxing and more

August 7, 2019

It’s another edition of Show Money with Paul Gift and John Nash.  As the expert report hearings are looming later this month, we talk about the newly revealed information in Hal Singer’s expert report, Endeavor’s IPO the inevitable Zuffa Boxing and more.

You can listen here.

UFC on ESPN 5 draws 680K for afternoon show

August 6, 2019

UFC on ESPN 5 from Newark, New Jersey Saturday afternoon drew 680,000 viewers on the network per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The prelims which preceded the main card on Saturday drew 523,000 viewers.

The main card featured Colby Covington as he took on Robbie Lawler.  Covington defeated Lawler via unanimous decision.  The main card drew 350,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo and a 0.45 overall share.  The prelims drew 234,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo and a 0.37 share.

The prelims began at 12pm ET with the main card following at 3pm ET.  Officially, the prelims had a 20-minute overrun into the main card on ESPN.

In comparison to other sports programming on Saturday afternoon.  The Big3 Basketball League on CBS drew 555,000 viewers at 1pm ET.  ABC’s XGames broadcast drew 570,000 viewers and a 284,000 in the A18-49 demo in the 1pm ET time slot.  The Yankees-Red Sox game on FS1 drew 587,000 viewers in the 1pm ET window.  It drew 155,000 in the A18-49 demo.

UFC on ESPN events (main card/prelims)

UFC on ESPN 1          1.463M/988K

UFC on ESPN 2          828K/480K

UFC on ESPN 3          1.091M/543K

UFC on ESPN 4          957K/548K

UFC on ESPN 5          680K/523K

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are the lowest for a UFC on ESPN event although this was the only event airing during the afternoon.  If there’s any good news, it’s that the A18-49 demo was strong in comparison to other sports such as the Yankees-Sox game or the XGames.

More unredacted footnotes detail proportionality of revenue and origins of UFC sponsor tax

August 4, 2019

In our second installment of reviewing the unredacted portions of the expert report of Hal Singer, MMA Payout examines the argument that Zuffa retained its fighters despite not needing them.  It also looks at the comparative market between boxing and pro wrestling.

A link to the first report is here.  As I explained in the first post, Zuffa had requested portions of the report to be sealed due to trade secret or confidentiality purposes.  It has now unredacted portions which reveal a little more of Singer’s report which helps the reader deduce how the economist came to his conclusion.

The inference is that the arguments placed in the report would support the Plaintiffs’ contentions in its lawsuit.  Singer, an economist, goes meticulously through the discovery and depositions in the report.  Zuffa objected to the public seeing some of the information and hence were redacted from view.  It has now proposed a new version of the report for the public which reveals more of the report.

Proportion of revenue:

The impact of the Sponsor tax:

Singer’s report details the issue with the sponsor tax and how it had an impact on fighters and their existing relationship with sponsors.  The UFC tax put a premium on showing a brand and logo on fighter shirts or shorts.  The UFC charged $50,000 per sponsor, $35,000 for Strikeforce and $75,000 for both if a sponsor wanted to be included in each promotion at the time.  This effectively eliminated many small brands.

The tax meant the end to many smaller companies that attempted to get their brand out there through sponsoring fighters. Many fighters lost sponsors.  This included the likes of Jiu Jistu Pro Gear, Hooligans United and even basketball brand And1 which Nate Quarry wore in the Octagon for a while.  In correspondence to Quarry, UFC attorney Michael Mersch, wrote, “if And1 (or any other sponsor) doesn’t want to pay a fee or negotiate to pay ato ssociate their brand name with the UFC, they’re not going to be allowed to sponsor anyone.


The new fee also hurt fighters:

Mersch appeared to be one of the UFC execs on the front lines in letting fighters and their managers know that there were no exceptions to the tax policy.  Even, relishing in providing the news.

The fighters were financially hurt since sponsors that could pay the tax would have to work through the UFC and those that could not would no longer sponsor the fighters.

The move to the sponsor tax was an indication that the UFC brand equity was firm and company execs believed that this would add revenue.  Perhaps the foreshadowing was that the UFC would turn to what it has now.  All sponsorships controlled by the UFC.  As a repercussion, its independent contractors took a hit for the loss of its own payout.  Singer’s report highlights the cutthroat nature of ending off a major source of income for fighters while bolstering the company’s bottom line by diverting sponsor revenue from fighters to the UFC.  The details that are forthcoming from the report based on discovery reveal what some may see as heavy-handed tactics for the UFC’s financial benefit.

UFC on Fight Night 5 attendance, gate and bonuses

August 3, 2019

UFC on ESPN +5 took place Saturday afternoon from Newark, New Jersey.   The card’s main event saw Colby Covington dominate Robbie Lawlor for a unanimous decision victory.

The event took place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  The Fight of the Night saw Antonina Shevchenko score a submission victory over Lucile Pudilova in a back and forth fight.  Also receiving Performance Bonuses were Matt Schnell with a submission victory over Jordan Espinosa and Nasrat Haqparast with a KO victory over Joaquim Silva.

According to UFC officials post-fight, the event drew 10,427 for a gate of $687,778.  It was the lowest attendance and gate for a UFC on ESPN event thus far and the lowest for a UFC event at the venue.

Payout Perspective:

One might have to think that the afternoon start likely hurt the attendance for this event.  There were a number of local area fighters on the card to entice people to come, yet the numbers this time around were low.

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