UFC, White and Lesnar seek dismissal of Hunt’s First Amended Complaint

June 28, 2017

The UFC, Dana White and Brock Lesnar have filed a Motion to Dismiss to Mark Hunt’s First Amended Complaint.  According to Lesnar’s Motion to Dismiss, all but one of Hunt’s original causes of action in his Complaint were dismissed with the Court allowing Hunt leave to amend.  The Defendants (collectively the UFC, White and Lesnar) have filed a Motion to Dismiss Hunt’s amended lawsuit.

Both motions liberally cite the transcript of the May 22nd hearing on their original Motion to Dismiss.

Zuffa Mtd Fac by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Bolstered by these comments Defendants continue to pick at Hunt’s RICO claim in the FAC which included more details about Hunt’s purported injuries:

Hunt has conjured up a veritable smorgasbord of alleged injuries in the hopes that one might qualify as the requisite concrete financial loss necessary to state a RICO claim. None do.

The argument is the old claim that a plaintiffs’ allegations do not match up with their claimed damages.  Here, Hunt’s claims that he lost out on sponsorship and appearance deals as well as lost profits from his own clothing brand are speculative at best and cannot be claimed here under a theory from his RICO allegations nor his tort-based (physical injury) causes of action.

Moreover, Zuffa claims that Hunt cannot show a logical correlation between what has happened in his case and the UFC. Zuffa states that Hunt cannot show the requisite proximate clause to state his RICO claim.

Zuffa cite a case which outlines the reason:

This means there must be “some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged. A link that is too remote, purely contingent, or indirect is insufficient.”

Defendants claim that Hunt’s claimed damages are too attenuated to be claimed to be a loss related to a civil RICO claim.

Finally, they also claim that Hunt cannot prove the underlying predicate offenses required of a civil RICO violation.

Lesnar’s Mtd Fac by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Lesnar’s Motion meticulously goes through each claim of Hunt but in more detail as it pertains to the current WWE performer.  Notably, Lesnar’s motion argues that Hunt had signed on to the bout with Lesnar and assumed the risk in signing on to fight Lesnar and therefore cannot argue damages as a result from his UFC 200 fight.

At the Court hearing, Howard Jacobs, Lesnar’s lawyer, stressed the fact that Hunt cannot prove damages for a civil RICO claim.  The distinguishing factor is that Hunt claims business and reputational damages.  These are not recognized damages under RICO claims the Defendants.  Moreover, Jacobs states that Hunt’s claim is a “prime example of overenthusiastic use of RICO…”

Reading throught the Court transcript, Hunt’s lawyer flails at the Court’s questioning of their RICO claims as well as whether or not Hunt was claiming that the bout agreement Hunt signed was invalid.  Hunt’s lawyer didn’t seem to know or did not want to admit that it was some type of strategy.

Payout Perspective:

The first three pages of Lesnar’s motion are instructive in a step-by-step analysis of the differences between Hunt’s original complaint and his First Amended Complaint.  While there are more facts provided in Hunt’s First Amended Complaint, the Defendants argue that the information provided by Plaintiffs do not help his claims.

Lesnar’s Motion to Dismiss attached the Court transcript from the May 22nd as an exhibit.  The Court complemented the parties on their briefing and due to time restraints allowed 10 minutes for each party to argue before the Court.  The Court grilled Hunt for about 15 minutes during the hearing about their Complaint.  To be honest, this could be bad news for Hunt.  Then again, it might be dependent on how the Court looks at the First Amended Complaint and this new Motion to Dismiss.

MMA Payout will have more on this.  Stay tuned.

Payout Exclusive: Interview with Roy Englebrecht and Alliance MMA’s Robert Haydak

June 28, 2017

Alliance MMA continues its expansion of regional promotions.  This month, it announced the acquisition of Roy Englebrecht’s Southern California fight promotion.  MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with Alliance MMA’s President Robert Haydak and Roy Englebrecht.

The acquisition is the largest promotion the publicly traded company has made thus far.  The New York Business Journal reported that the transaction was for the acquisition of the assets of Roy Englebrecht Promotions in a cash and stock deal.  It is the 11th promotion it has acquired in its bid for strategic expansion.  One of the company’s overall goals is to become a feeder league for bigger promotions such as the UFC and Bellator.  It has acquired other ancillary companies such as fighter management company Suckerpunch and ticket company Cage Tix.  Alliance MMA provides infrastructure support to the regional companies while allowing the existing promoters to continue to run the promotion.

“31 years as an independent promoter is enough,” stated Englebrecht of the change.  He will stay on serving in the same capacity for the promotion.  To date, it has 18 fight dates set for this year including boxing/MMA hybrid shows at Fight Club OC at the Hangar in Orange County, California.  He also has two new events, “Rumble on the Water,” at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California and Gladiator MMA which will be held in the LA Coliseum.

Englebrecht will continue to serve as the promotion’s GM and his staff will remain.  This is similar to other acquisitions made by Alliance MMA where they allow the staff to remain in place for a certain amount of time and will make a future decision on the company staffing.

He noted that he is willing to ween off of the MMA/boxing hybrid shows which have been very popular but that decision will be based on Alliance MMA.  Haydak stated that it was his first experience with a hybrid show and was impressed with the event Roy had created.  A decision has yet been made on the fate of Fight Club OC at The Hangar.

Englebrecht was impressed with the professional nature of Alliance MMA which was one of the reasons he decided to sell his promotion.  Alliance MMA first approached Englebrecht at one of his events in December 2016 and then met CEO Paul Danner at another one of his events in 2017.  The two sides exchanged information and after review of documents by the necessary people a deal was made.  The fact that Alliance MMA included Haydak, a former promoter, it made Englebrecht more at ease since they spoke the same language.

“Certainly, their due diligence which made me very comfortable,” said Englebrecht.  Haydak emphasized that Alliance MMA is being meticulous about its mergers and acquisitions.  “Its a very tedious and long process,” explained Haydak of what the company does in looking into acquiring a promotion.  “There is back and forth regarding financial and operations review.”  Out of 60 companies it has reviewed, Englebrecht’s promotion was just the 11th promotion Alliance MMA has purchased.  “It’s just not just jumping on any opportunity,” said Haydak.

The acquisition according to Haydak was based on Roy’s reputation as a promoter and Alliance MMA’s desire to make inroads into Southern California.  “We identified California as a market to get into.”  Alliance MMA also is working with longtime Alliance MMA Gym’s Eric del Fierro to promote fights in the region as well.  However, Alliance MMA does not see any conflict with the two regional promotions in the Southland.  “We’re not concerned about that all.  We’re working on the same purpose,” explained Haydak.

Englebrecht enjoyed his time as an independent promoter but voiced the challenges of being out in the “wilderness.”  “I’m a fan of regional promotions.  In saying that, you still have to do a whole lot.  It’s not like you’re a Golden Boy, UFC or Bellator.”

UFC Fight Night 112 draws 819,000 viewers

June 27, 2017

UFC Fight Night 112 on FS1 drew 819,000 viewers peaking twice at 905,000 viewers.  The Prelims on FS2 drew 319,000 viewers.

Also of note, the UFC Fight Night Postfight show drew 268,000 viewers.

The main card on FS1 featured Michael Chiesa taking on Kevin Lee.  The event was up 8% over FS1’s Sunday night Fight Night in the second quarter.  Fight Night 112 drew 427,000 viewers in the A18-49 category.  The event peaked on FS1 with 905,000 viewers at 9:15-9:30pm and 11:30-11:45pm ET.

The prelims drew 319,000 viewers and 157,000 on the A18-49 demo.

Payout Perspective:

The event did much better than last month’s UFC Fight Night 109 on Sunday, May 19th which aired in the morning and opposite the Indianapolis 500.  This event did slightly better in the numbers than a similar situated event last year which shows incremental success from year to year.

Penn, Lee and Boetsch lead UFC Fight Night 112 pay

June 27, 2017

MMA Junkie reports the salaries from Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night 112 held on Sunday night in Oklahoma City.  BJ Penn received the highest purse at $150,000.

The salaries were released by the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission.

Via MMA Junkie:

Kevin Lee: $88,000 (includes $44,000 win bonus)
def. Michael Chiesa $36,000

Tom Boetsch: $134,000 (includes $67,000 win bonus)
def. Johny Hendricks $100,000

Felice Herrig: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Justine Kish $14,000

Dominick Reyes: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Joachim Christensen $16,000

Tim Means: $78,000 (includes $39,000 win bonus)
def. Alex Garcia $31,000

Dennis Siver: $78,000 (includes $39,000 win bonus)
def. B.J. Penn: $150,000

Clay Guida: $110,000 (includes $55,000 win bonus)
def. Erik Koch: $24,000

Marvin Vettori: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Vitor Miranda: $18,000

Carla Esparza: $66,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus)
def. Maryna Moroz: $23,000

Darrell Horcher: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Devin Powell: $10,000

Jared Gordon: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Michel Quinones: $10,000

Tony Martin: $38,000 (includes $19,000 win bonus)
def. Johnny Case: $23,000

Jeremy Kimball: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Josh Stansbury: $12,000

Payout Perspective:

BJ Penn drew the $150,000 purse while the main event earned $44,000 and $36,000 to show respectively.  Lee earned his win bonus to bump his pay to $88,000 plus his $50,000 Performance Bonus to push him to $138,000 for the night.  Tim Boetsch drew the other 6 figure salary as he received $67,000 to show and another $67,000 and another $50,000 for his win over Johny Hendricks.  A nice $188,000 payday for Boetsch.

UPDATED: 6/27 Bellator-Spike announce a ratings number for Bellator 180 over two networks

June 26, 2017

MMA Fighting reports that Bellator 180 Saturday drew 901,000 viewers across two networks: Spike TV and CMT.  The event aired prior to Bellator: NYC, the company second-ever PPV.  According to Nielsen Spike TV drew 758,000 viewers and another 143,000 viewers on CMT. 

Here’s a question:  How many of those 143,000 viewers were converted to buy the PPV?

The televised event featured Phil Davis and Ryan Bader in the main event of Bellator 180.  The main event peaked at 1.1 million over the two networks.  Yes, I do not know what that means either.  According to the MMA Fighting report written by Dave Meltzer, the company sent out the information via press release.

The article notes that Bellator was trending on twitter and received 200,000 google searches Saturday night.

Payout Perspective:

I have been traveling so I’m not sure if MMA Payout received the release.  Usually when there is big news regarding ratings I am not on the “preferred” media list to receive this info.  I guess that this is news except why did Viacom show this across two networks and then report the ratings as one?  We all know for folks that are interested in ratings, you will be looking at one rating and not whether it was aired on two networks.  So to report the 901K number seems a little weird since a rating for each network cannot be provided in the press release.  If you were to just look at the headline, you’d think that the 901K was on one network and think it was good.  We’ll see once all the info comes out.

UFC Fight Night 112 attendance, gate and bonuses

June 25, 2017

UFC Fight Night 111 on Sunday drew $7,605 for a gate of $549,302 from Oklahoma City.  It was the second time that the promotion has made it to the Chesapeake Energy Center.

The bonuses for the event went to Jeremy Kimball, Dominick Reyes, Tim Boetsch and Kevin Lee earned the $50,000 bonuses for the event.  Kimball, Reyes and Boetsch all earned their $50,000 bonuses via TKO while Lee won via Technical stoppage.

The numbers were announce post-event by the UFC.

UFC Fight Night 19 was the last time the promotion came to Oklahoma City.  That event in September 2009 drew 2.5 million viewers watching Nate Diaz submit Melvin Guillard.

Payout Perspective:

It was the lowest output for attendance this year and definitely the smallest event thus far in 2017.  The card was reminiscent of September 2016’s Hidalgo, Texas card.  A smaller mid-west UFC show which doesn’t garner a lot of attendance.  As with most Fight Night cards, there were several up-and-comer fighters to watch but definitely a card for the hardcore UFC fans.

The Ratings Buffet for the week ending June 23rd

June 23, 2017

Welcome to another week of The Ratings Buffet.

Saturday

Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN2 11:00pm-1:00am ET: 232,000 viewers

Monday

Raw on USA

WWE Raw 9:00pm ET: 3.201 million viewers; 1.09 rating A18-49

WWE Raw 10:00pm ET: 3.029 million viewers; 1.07 rating A18-49

WWE Raw 8:00pm ET: 3.075 million viewers; 1.05 rating A18-49

Bellator: Fedor Returns on Spike TV 11:00pm 11:30pm ET: 226,000 viewers; 0.07 rating A18-49

Tuesday

USA: WWE Smackdown 8:00pm-10pm ET: 2.597 million viewers; 0.85 rating A18-49

Wednesday

FS1:  TUF 25 10:00pm-11:00pm ET: 456,000 viewers; 0.20 rating A18-49

FS1:  TUF Talk 11:00pm-11:30pm ET: 134,000 viewers; 0.06 rating A18-49

El Rey: Lucha Underground:  111,000 viewers; 0.02 rating A18-49/52,000; 0.02 rating

Thursday

Impact Wresting on Pop TV: 8:00pm-10:pm ET: 342,000 viewers; 0.10 rating A18-49

Bleacher Report’s CEO opines UFC has tapped out from audience standpoint

June 23, 2017

Believe it or not, eSports and MMA are similar. They both are emerging sports compared to traditional sports, they have niche audiences, cater to younger male audiences and have issues with the burgeoning infrastructure.  At a sports tech conference held in Seattle on Thursday, Bleacher Report’s CEO Dave Finocchio saw parallels with the growth of eSports and MMA.  The comparison was not positive.

When posed with the question of the future of eSports, Finocchio stated that he had concerns with the mainstream breakthrough of eSports because of the lack of a star that is known to the mainstream.  “The shelf life of an average player is short and players burnout,” he noted.  He stated that a big part of the model for sports leagues is building the brand of the players and leveraging their celebrity.

He looked to the UFC in comparison citing the absence of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey leaving the company without any other known starts to build around. “[i]f you look at the UFC…it did kind of ‘tap out’ from an audience standpoint…they really built their brand on the backs of a few fighters.”  Although he recognized that the UFC is a successful business and one of the reasons it sold for so much is due to the celebrity of a few fighters.  His concern was that while the business can be monetized, it will be segmented to a small audience.

(You can see the comments around the 24:00 minute mark in the embedded video story on Geekwire)

Right now, eSports reporting on BR is limited to aggregation rather than original reporting.  Finocchio did indicate that BR is looking into doing more in that space.

The lack of mainstream stars is a concern since without these highlighted people, the casual fan does not have someone to look to in the sport.

Notably, Finocchio also stated that Fantasy Football peaked and is now out of date.  He noted that Fantasy is not catching on with the BR audience.  Daily Fantasy Sports is now the future.  He did note that “[i]deally, betting becomes legal.”

Payout Perspective:

There are many parallels between the sport of MMA and eSports that will look at in the future.  But, the statement from Finocchio is true.  This has happened in other sports.  The NBA had a problem with the lack of marketing of stars in the 1980s and the early 2000s pre-LeBron and Kevin Durant.  But, eSports and MMA are niche sports.  One might argue that it might take more of an effort to market and feature its players/fighters.  Demetrious Johnson complained of his lack of marketing to feature him and realistically only eSports followers know the names of the sport’s most popular gamers.  It will be interesting to see what/how each sport handles this issue and which sport will break through quicker.

TUF 25 Episode 10 draws 456,000 viewers

June 22, 2017

The 10th episode of the TUF 25 drew the best ratings this season with 456,000 viewers on FS1 Wednesday night.

There were two fights on the show as Jesse Taylor submitted Hayder Hasaan in the first round and James Krause edged out Ramsey Nijem in three rounds.

The ratings are the best for the season and the best since Episode 1 of TUF 23 (note the headline for that linked post).

Payout Perspective: 

The good news is that ratings are trending up as the show nears its end.  That’s a good sign.  We’ll see if those ratings transfer over to the TUF Finale.  Certainly, the lack of NBA or NHL is helping the bump in the ratings.

Parties request further clarification over discovery in UFC Antitrust case

June 21, 2017

After a June 1, 2017 conference with the Judge Peggy Leen to discuss outstanding discovery issues, the attorneys for the fighters and the UFC are at it again over what was said at the hearing.

On June 20th, Plaintiffs’ attorneys sent a letter to the Court requesting clarification on “a number of issues arising out of the Court’s order.”  The Plaintiffs sought clarification from the following:

  1. “Do Third Parties that produced documents before or just after the hearing count against the 5 document subpoenas allowed to Plaintiffs?” Plaintiffs have informed the UFC that they were intending to pursue documents from Golden Boy Promotions, Haymon, DiBella Entertainment, Inc., Top Rank, Inc. and Gary Shaw.  Plaintiffs had served documents subpoenas on 17  third parties.  The reason for the clarification is because they were to receive documents from Leon Margueles and Jakks Pacific prior to the hearing.The UFC claims that the two count as part of the maximum 5 issued by the Court.  Obviously, the Plaintiffs contend that they do not.  The UFC notes in its memo to the Court that Plaintiffs did not bring up this production to the Court.
  1. “Has the Court Authorized Plaintiffs to Depose Matt Hume?” Hume is a part of OneFC as Vice President of Operations and Competiton for the company.  According to Plaintiffs, counsel for OneFC will not accept a subpoena and since the company is headquartered in Singapore, lack jurisdiction.  The UFC did not oppose this request and takes no position.  It should be noted that both Plaintiffs and the UFC have agreed to document production from OneFC which was not counted against the 5 allowed by the Court.
  2. “Can Plaintiffs Pursue Discovery from Mercer?” The fighter pay study commissioned by the UFC’s attorneys to be done by Mercer is at issue here. Plaintiffs would like to “resume the discovery initiated in mid-2016.”  The UFC wants this counted as a third-party request.  It notes that some of the documents requested by Plaintiffs were designated as work product by the UFC in spite of the previous court ruling requiring certain documents produced by Mercer to be produced.  In addition, it is requesting clarification regarding a deposition of Mercer.  The UFC had offered to stipulate to the authenticity of documents produced by Mercer in lieu of a CR 30(b)(6) deposition.  But, according to the UFC, Plaintiffs never responded.

Payout Perspective:

The parties were ordered to meet and confer over outstanding discovery issues after the court conference but there is still conflict between the parties.  Laid out by the parties, it’s clear there might be a legitimate gripe.  It usually not a good look to be seeking clarification just after a hearing to go over discovery issues again especially when the overarching theme of the process is for the parties to cooperate.  These types of outstanding issues (i.e., what counts as 5 third-parties, etc.) must be discussed by the parties in Court in front of the judge.  There are some issues that you might not be able to think of while standing in court, but that’s why there are usually more than one (likely three or four) attorneys at the hearing so they can pass along notes to lead counsel to come up with questions to clarify.  Likely, Judge Leen will hold a teleconference but will none too pleased that the parties are coming back.

Plaintiffs Memo Re Discovery by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Defendants Memo Re Discovery by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

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