UFC to TSN in Canada?

December 19, 2014

MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer reports that TSN appears to have retained UFC programming in Canada.  The inference of the deal was made as January network scheduling for TSN came out including UFC programming.

For those not in Canada, TSN is the U.S. version of ESPN down to similar logos.  TSN is owned by Bell Media with a small share held by ESPN.

Negotiations for the UFC television rights in Canada had gone quite the last couple weeks although rumors had TSN as the front runner.

Meltzer indicated that UFC popularity has fallen off due to the loss of GSP and the inundation of UFC events.

The television rights were previously held by Rogers Sportsnet in Canada.   Sportsnet signed a 4 year deal with the UFC in 2011.  However, this year Sportsnet signed deals with the NHL (a monster 12-year, $5.2 billion deal) and WWE which likely meant that it would not re-up with the UFC.

No official announcement was made by the UFC or TSN.

Payout Perspective:

The anticipated deal with TSN was made more likely after the Sportsnet-NHL deal.  Previously, TSN had the rights to the NHL and with Sportsnet taking control of the broadcast and multimedia rights of the nation’s most popular sport, TSN has a big void to fill.  The UFC has pledged 4 or 5 events in Canada in 2015 and we will see if the new network will bring back interest in the UFC.

Ortiz declined to participate in Zuffa lawsuit

December 19, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Tito Ortiz was asked, but declined to participate in the current UFC lawsuit filed by three fighters alleging violations of antitrust law.

Ortiz’s attorney, George Prajin, informed Junkie that the current Bellator fighter would not participate in the lawsuit which seeks class action status.  According to the Junkie article, Prajin and Ortiz met with Rob Maysey, one of the attorneys leading the charge for this lawsuit a year and a half ago.  Although intrigued by the proposed litigation at the time, Ortiz declined to be involved. Ortiz’s attorney indicated that he was contacted recently about the lawsuit but maintained to stay out.  However, Ortiz indicated that he may change his mind if the class is certified by the court.

Payout Perspective:

The Ortiz information is interesting and may be one of the hurdles the plaintiffs will have in getting fighters to join the lawsuit.  It appears that Ortiz would most likely not want to actively participate for several reasons.  He indicated in the article that he doesn’t want his name used just for publicity.  Also, there is a storied past with Ortiz and White and perhaps he is looking down the road at does not want to get caught up in messy litigation.  Regardless of being a named plaintiff, if this lawsuit enters the discovery stage we will see if one of the sides attempts to depose Ortiz about his past with Zuffa.

UFC on Fox 13 ratings adjusted to 2.8M, peak at 3.8M

December 18, 2014

UFC on Fox 13 this past Saturday peaked with 3.8 million viewers during the Junior dos Santos-Stipe Miocic fight.  The overall rating for the 2 and a half hour show, which was adjusted from the overnight rating, was 2.8 million viewers.

It was first in network programming in key demos including men 18-34 (1.2M), men 18-49 (1.4M) and adults 18-34 (1.1M). UFC on Fox 13 drew a 2.27M viewer overnight ratings.

The UFC on Fox 13 Prelims on FS1 Saturday which preceded the network fights drew an average of 654,000 viewers for a 0.58 rating.  The prelims were up 7% from last December’s similarly situated UFC on Fox prelim card which drew 613,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are identical with last December’s ratings.  This UFC on Fox is usually aided by the NFL boost as the event is promoted on NFL on Fox Football broadcasts.  In contrast to this year’s Heavyweight main event, December 2013 saw Demetrious Johnson defending his Flyweight title against Joseph Benavidez.  UFC on Fox 13 did well in the key demos which should make Fox execs happy.

UFC 181 estimated between 375K-400K PPV buys

December 18, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that UFC 181 held on December 6th drew between 375,000-400,000.  In addition, Dave Meltzer in his latest Wrestling Observer (subscription recommended) revealed the PPV numbers from UFC 178-180.

UFC PPV estimates UFC 178-181 and its respective main events

UFC 181:  ~375K-400K (Hendricks-Lawler/Pettis-Melendez)

UFC 180:  ~185K-200K (Werdum-Hunt)

UFC 179:  ~160K-200K (Aldo-Mendes)

UFC 178:  205K (Mighty Mouse-Cariaso)

UFC 181 was the highest output in terms of PPV buys since July’s UFC 175.  It had a strong card which included two title fights:  Hendricks-Lawler and Pettis-Melendez.  The other notable PPV number was UFC 180 which suffered from multiple issues including the injury to Cain Velasquez which changed the main event and the fact Bellator had a show on Spike TV.

Payout Perspective:

To show how far UFC PPVs have dropped in 2014, UFC 181 was the second largest PPV buy this year coming in second to UFC 175 (540,000).  UFC 181 is likely the most-watched PPV since UFC 175 as this card was also available in movie theatres.  Certainly, one would have thought this card could have done more but in a year where UFC PPVs have been off, this was a good (not great) result.  These numbers might also temper expectations for January 3rd’s UFC 182 between Jones-Cormier.

CM Punk does ESPN “car wash”

December 18, 2014

Phil “CM Punk” Brooks participated in the ESPN “car wash” yesterday at the network’s campus in Connecticut.  The whirlwind of interviews on the various ESPN shows detailing his signing with the UFC should hype up an anticipated debut sometime in 2015.

For his part, Punk (who has the rights to the name CM Punk) has not provided any details on when he will debut, where he will train or what weight class he will compete in.  He touched on why he wanted to fight and the differences between WWE and UFC.

Payout Perspective:

I have not seen all of the Punk interviews from yesterday but I assume that ESPN was told to stay away from any questions related to the fighter lawsuit filed against the UFC on Tuesday.  It would have been interesting considering a lot of the complaints he had about the WWE mirror issues experienced by fighters in the UFC.  The “car wash” treatment is big for an individual with no fights under his belt, yet enters the UFC with a lot of mainstream publicity.  We will see how visible Punk will be for the UFC in 2015.

TUF 20 Episode 12 Live + 3 viewership up to 752,000

December 17, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that TUF 20 Episode 12 drew an additional 244,000 viewers for a total of 752,000 viewers for the regular season finale.

The increase in the 12th episode of 244,000 viewers brings the average increase in viewers from DVR watching to 275,000. The Live +3 ratings for TUF 20 drew a season average of 788,000 viewers. The live rating for the season was 513,000 viewers.

TUF 20 Episode 12 DVR

Increase in viewers Ep 12

Payout Perspective:

The average boost in viewership of 275,000 viewers is slightly lower than TUF 19’s Live + 3 average of 278,000, but better than TUF 18’s Live + 3 of 250,000 viewers.  It was not the most exciting season although when originally revealed there was a lot of  hope for a new women’s division and the coaches for the show.  Yet, Pettis and Melendez were not over the top personalities that a viewer would tune in to watch.  The TUF franchise is still getting viewers although not at the same clip as we’ve previously been accustomed to on Spike.  We’ll see what, if anything, the UFC does its next go round with TUF.

Le, Quarry and Fitch file lawsuit against Zuffa

December 16, 2014

Attorneys for plaintiffs on behalf of Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Northern California in San Jose, California on their behalf.  A press conference held Tuesday afternoon announced the lawsuit which was filed earlier in the day which may add more plaintiffs to the lawsuit.

Three plaintiffs’ firms with significant experience in antitrust and class action litigation are the attorneys of record with two others assisting as well.  At this point, the UFC has issued a brief statement indicating its aware of the lawsuit but has not been served with it or had a chance to review it.

Cung Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC is the 63 page Complaint that maps out the claims of a UFC monopoly and monopsony which is in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act according to the Plaintiffs.

Below is a portion of the press release from the announcement today:

The lawsuit filed by fighters Cung Le, Nathan Quarry and Jon Fitch, who seek to represent a class of similarly situated current and former UFC professional combatants, alleges that the plaintiffs are victims of the UFC’s illegal scheme to eliminate its competition in the sport of MMA and suppress compensation for UFC Fighters from bouts and fighter identities and likenesses.

According to plaintiffs’ counsel Benjamin Brown, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, “The UFC was built on the battered bodies of MMA fighters who have left their blood and sweat in the Octagon.  Those fighters are entitled to the benefits of a competitive market for their talents.”

The lawsuit targets defendants Zuffa LLC, the Las Vegas-based company that conducts business as the UFC. Zuffa is primarily owned by billionaires Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, along with the UFC’s front-man, President Dana White.  White has publicly boasted about the success of the UFC’s alleged illegal scheme, allegedly claiming that “there is no competition” because “I am the grim reaper[.]”

The lawsuit claims that the UFC’s alleged anti-competitive acts, in particular its actions over a period of years,have made and maintainedthe UFC asthe onlyoption for MMA fighters who want to earn a viable living in the profession.

“All UFC Fighters are paid a mere fraction of what they would make in a competitive market,” said Brown.“Rather than earning paydays comparable to boxers – a sport with many natural parallels –MMA fighters go substantially under-compensated despite the punishing nature of their profession.”

Above all, the lawsuit alleges thatthe UFC prevents fighters from working with other MMA promoters, mounting self-promotional efforts of their own or signing with outside sponsors – monopolistic practices that suppress fighters’ incomes.

According to named plaintiff Cung Le, of San Jose, Calif., an internationally acclaimed MMA combatant, “Because  of the UFC’s coercive practices, competitive market forces have been strangled, future earnings power of the athletes is stripped away, and purses to the fighters are artificially depressed.”

The lawsuit alleges that the UFC has pursued an aggressive strategy of depriving key inputs to potential rival promoters or merging with them to maintain its monopoly position.  The complaint alleges “exclusionary scheme” to impair and foreclose competition, whereby the UFC deprives potential competitors in the fight promotion market access to elite MMA fighters, premium live event venues and sponsors.

According to plaintiffs’ co-counsel Michael Dell’Angelo, of Berger & Montague, P.C., “the lawsuit alleges that the UFC has engaged in an illegal scheme to eliminate competition from rival MMA promoters by systematically preventing rivals from gaining access to ingredients critical to successful MMA promotions, including by imposing extreme restrictions on UFC Fighters’ ability to fight for rivals during and after their tenure with the UFC.  The UFC also takes the rights to fighters’ names and likenesses in perpetuity.  As a result of the UFC’sscheme, we allege that UFC Fighters are paid fraction of what they would earn in a competitive marketplace.”

The lawsuit alleges that as a result of these and other anti-competitive acts, including the UFC’s acquisition of rival Strikeforce, the UFC has maintained control of more than 90 percent of the revenue derived from live MMA bouts nationwide.

The lawsuit also alleges that the UFC has retaliated against fighters who have worked with or who have announced intentions to work with rival promoters or sponsors by refusing to book their bouts and/or eliminating them from key UFC promotional activities such as advertising campaigns and video games.

“UFC’s threats are taken seriously by fighters because they know that a UFC ban will substantially diminish, if not end, their ability to earn a living at their chosen profession,” said plaintiffs’ co-counsel Joseph Saveri of Saveri Law Firm, Inc.“These MMA professionals deserve the right to take back their careers.”

In their complaint, the Plaintiffs claim that the UFC has been able to suppress compensation “to a very low percentage of the revenues generated from bouts.”  The Complaint claims that UFC fighters are paid “approximately 10-17% of total UFC revenues generated from bouts.   They claim that all fighters “have had their compensation artificially reduced due to the anticompetitive scheme challenged in this Complaint.

In addition, the Complaint challenges several clauses that Plaintiffs’ claim exist in standard UFC contracts including the “Exclusivity Clause,” the “Champions Clause,” (allowing UFC to extend a champion’s contract for as long as they are champion), the “Right to Match Clause” (recall Eddie Alvarez lawsuit), “Ancillary Rights Clause” (granting UFC exclusive and perpetual worldwide identity rights of contracted athlete) and the “Sponsorship and Endorsement Clause” (allows UFC sole discretion on approving sponsors and endorsements of fighters).

The attorneys declined comment on how much they would be asking (likely due to the fact that the actual amount of damages has yet to be quantified by an expert) in terms of monetary relief although the statute in which they are suing under allows for treble damages (three times the actual amount of proven damages)

Cung Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC

Payout Perspective:

The press conference did not provide a lot of granular information but one must assume that was done on purpose.  Since the Complaint was filed today, the lawsuit and everything that comes with it begins.  The process for a lawsuit, especially one that will be detailed, complex and may involve more plaintiffs will take years and lots of money to litigate.  Cohen Milstein, one of the law firms representing the plaintiffs, was selected as one of the “most feared plaintiffs’ firms for 2013 and 2014 by Law360.  Suffice it to say, the attorneys filing this Complaint and litigating this matter are very good at what they do.  The UFC will have good lawyers as well.

It will be interesting to see how many other fighters decide to join the class.  We assume that there are more that will join based on the amount of law firms that are joining together on this matter. We will see what happens if there is a groundswell of fighters that will join the lawsuit.

MMA Payout will have more info on the lawsuit in the coming days.

Reebok signs Rousey, Jones to sponsorship deals

December 16, 2014

The UFC announced that Reebok has signed Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey presumably as spokespersons for the brand.  The announcement comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Reebok would be the official global outfitter of the UFC.

The deals appear to be individual sponsorship with the brand and both will have the opportunity to provide a measure of input to the new UFC apparel as well as “a new collection of footwear and apparel specifically created for the more than 35 million people around the world who participate in combat training to stay fit,” according to the press announcement.

No financial terms were provided.

Both fighters announced their new sponsor deal on social media.

My girl @rondarousey and I are about to smash this @reebok game!! We’re about to take fitness apparel to a whole new level!

A photo posted by Jon Bones Jones (@jonnybones) on

Payout Perspective:

This is an interesting sponsorship deal considering that all UFC fighters under contract will be sporting Reebok by July. We assume that Jones and Rousey will take more active roles promoting the brand based on the information provided in the announcement. Certainly, these are two of the most high-profile fighters that Reebok could sign on the UFC roster. Currently, Jones and Rousey join Johny Hendricks and Anthony Pettis as UFC fighters with individual Reebok deals.

TUF 20 Finale on FS1 draws 989,000 viewers

December 16, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Niesen source that the TUF 20 Finale on FS1 Friday drew an average of 989,000 peaking at 1,219,000 viewers during the main event between Carla Esparza and Rose Namajunas.

The Prelims which preceded the main card on Friday night between 7:00pmET-9:00pm ET produced 719,000 viewers.

The TUF 20 Finale main card provided a boost to Fox Sports Live’s Postfight coverage average 300,000 viewers from 11:48pmET-1:00am.  The ratings post-fight were a 39% jump from last year’s December average.

Last December, the TUF 18 Finale on FS1 drew 1.13M viewers and the prelims drew 938,000 viewers.

This past July, the TUF 19 Finale on FS1 drew 1M viewers and the prelims drew 774,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

It’s the lowest ratings for a TUF Finale on FS1 thus far (main card and prelims).  And while the post-fight coverage may have been up this time around, the viewership was down.  Of course, this may be due to a number of factors including two UFC events on back to back nights.  Also, the previous two events were not on Friday night.  TUF 18’s final card was on a Saturday and TUF 19 (which was the second event of a back to back) was on a Sunday.  TUF 20 did not have as strong a main event as the previous two TUF Finales (18 had Nate Diaz-Gray Maynard; 19 had Penn-Edgar).

Esparza, Oliveira top TUF Finale 20 salaries

December 15, 2014

MMA Junkie reports the salaries from Friday night’s TUF 20 Finale.  The salaries were disclosed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Via MMA Junkie:

Carla Esparza: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Rose Namajunas: $25,000

Charles Oliveira: $54,000 (includes $27,000 win bonus)
def. Jeremy Stephens: $40,000

Daron Cruickshank: $34,000 (includes $17,000 win bonus)
vs. K.J. Noons: $31,000

Yancy Medeiros: $30,000 (includes $15,000 win bonus)
def. Joe Proctor: $10,000

Jessica Penne: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)
def. Randa Markos: $8,000

Felice Herrig: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)
def. Lisa Ellis: $8,000

Heather Jo Clark: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)
def. Bec Rawlings: $8,000

Joanne Calderwood: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)
def. Seo Hee Ham: $8,000

Tecia Torres: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)
def. Angela Magana: $8,000

Aisling Daly: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)
def. Alex Chambers: $8,000

Angela Hill: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)
def. Emily Kagan: $8,000

Payout Perspective:

A good payday for Esparza as she had a base of $25,000 and a $25,000 win bonus.  Adding her Performance of the Night bonus, Esparza made $100,000 on Friday night.  Charles Oliveira topped the overall purses for the night at $54,000.  K.J. Noons had the highest base pay with $31,000.

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