UFC Fight Night 78 draws 750K; prelims 732K

December 1, 2015

UFC Fight Night 78 from Monterrey, Mexico from two weeks ago drew an average viewership of 750,000 on FS1 according to Sports TV Ratings.  The prelims which preceded the main event drew 732,000 viewers on FS1 making it the most watched prelim event since UFC Fight Night 68.

On the main card, Neil Magny earned a split decision win over Kevin Gastelum in a very entertaining 5 round fight.  On the prelims, Alejandro Perez defeated Scotty Jorgenson via TKO due to an injury from Jorgenson.

UFC Fight Nights 2015
Main Card Prelims
UFC Fight Night 59 2,751,000 908,000
UFC Fight Night 60 913,000 775,000
UFC Fight Night 61 1,200,000 813,000
UFC Fight Night 62 617,000 280,000
UFC Fight Night 63 389,000 304,000
UFC Fight Night 66 575,000 286,000
UFC Fight Night 67 813,000 713,000
UFC Fight Night 68 950,000 782,000
UFC Fight Night 70 (prelims FS2) 909,000 223,000
UFC Fight Night 71 801,000 543,000
UFC Fight Night 72 508,000 292,000
UFC Fight Night 73 1,159,000 306,000
UFC Fight Night 74 796,000 542,000
UFC Fight Night 75 841,000 270,000
UFC Fight Night 77 757,000 609,000
UFC Fight Night 78 750,000 732,000

UFC Fight Nights through 78

The main card had a large overrun going from 10pm to 1:37am ET.  It was originally scheduled to end at 1:00am.  The prelims aired from 8pm to 10pm ET.

Payout Perspective:

The average for televised UFC Fight Nights for 2015 is now at 920,000 viewers.  The Cal/Stanford game on ESPN, which aired about the same time, did better than the main card as it drew 1.9 million viewers.  The prelims were second (in terms of cable tv sports) to only the BC-Notre Dame game on NBCSN in its time slot.  The prelims were a bit of a surprise with the amount of viewership.

TUF 22 Episode 10 draws 499,000 viewers

November 30, 2015

The 10th episode of TUF 22 drew an average rating of 499,000 viewers on Wednesday night on FS1 according to Sports TV Ratings.  The same night replay from 10-11pm on the west coast did another 91,000 viewers.

The new episode airing the night before Thanksgiving was better than TUF 21’s 10th episode (450,000) but less than last fall’s TUF 20 which drew 534,000 viewers.

There were two fights on this show.  In the first fight Artem Lobov defeated the returning Chris Gruetzemacher who was just back in the house due to an injury to Martin Svensson.  Lobov KO’d Gruetzemacher.  In the second fight Saul Rogers won a unanimous decision over jiu jitsu specialist Ryan Hall.  It was an impressive showing by Rogers to stop Hall from taking him to the ground.

TUF 22 Ratings
Live +SD
Episode 1 622,000
Episode 2 463,000
Episode 3 533,000
Episode 4 538,000
Episode 5 498,000
Episode 6 585,000
Episode 7 379,000
Episode 8 539,000
Episode 9 495,000
Episode 10 499,000

Payout Perspective:

It should be noted that the replay of this episode did very well.  The rating was very good considering many people were either traveling for the holiday or getting ready for it.  The number may reflect people staying home the night before Thanksgiving.  Still, it did not do as well as last year.

W. Silva’s NSAC hearing continued once again

November 30, 2015

The Nevada State Athletic Commission continued the disciplinary hearing of former UFC fighter Wanderlei Silva after Silva’s attorney presented a consent decree which the Attorney General stated it had yet to review.  The hearing stems from last year’s NSAC punishment that was subsequently overturned by a state court this past May.

Silva’s attorney Ross Goodman had appealed the state court decision which, in part, remanded the Silva’s case back to the NSAC.

Goodman had filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court, but the appeal was dismissed due to a jurisdictional issue.  Essentially, the district court that overturned Silva’s suspension and fine ordered that the case go back before the NSAC for rehearing for appropriate discipline.  Thus, without it going back before the commission, the judgment is not final and cannot be appealed to the state Supreme Court.  The parties dismissed the appeal as reflected below.

W Silva Appeal Dismissing Appeal and Cross Appeal by JASONCRUZ206

Silva’s attorney would like the appeal the judgment but needs the NSAC to render a decision on Silva’s matter to fulfill the order by the district court.  In the alternative, Goodman presented an order which, according to MMA Junkie, states that Silva did not commit any wrongdoing when he did not submit to a drug test in leading up to UFC 175.

The next athletic commission hearing is December 17th.

Payout Perspective:

In addition to this legal wrangling, Silva is being sued by the UFC for defamation.  It will be interesting to see how much this case will extend as we are over a year into this.  Silva’s attorney still contend that he was not subject to NSAC jurisdiction which makes whatever the commission rules seemingly mute as they will likely appeal.  Of course, it does seem that Silva’s counsel will make an attempt to resolve the matter short of an appeal.  This would be the most cost-efficient way to handle it if the commission is willing.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.


Henderson set for free agency?

November 29, 2015

With his split decision win over Jorge Masvidal this past Saturday in South Korea, Benson Henderson became a free agent.  At the end of his contract with the UFC, Henderson appears set to test the free agency market of MMA.  What will he find?

The former WEC and UFC lightweight champion is an attractive competitor for any organization.  Bellator comes to mind when thinking of other organizations that might have the bankroll and notoriety to make a run at Henderson.  Other fighters such as Phil Davis and Josh Koshcheck have made the jump from the UFC to Bellator.

I would argue that Henderson is a bigger free agent than Davis or Koscheck.  He can still pull off some exciting fights and it’s a matter of what organization will compensate him for what he believes he is worth.  At 32 years of age, he still has some time left in the sport where he can still fight at a high level.

Perhaps it is fitting that Henderson’s last fight was in South Korea.  Henderson, who is half Korean, wanted to fight in Korea, his mother’s homeland.  If it was his last fight for the UFC, it was a good way to send him off.

Although Henderson indicated that he’d retire in the UFC, it doesn’t mean he would fight the rest of his career in the company.

Henderson made the most in the UFC when he was the lightweight champion.  He made $110,000 when he dropped the championship to Anthony Pettis in August 2013. Prior to that, he made $100K/$100K in a split decision win over Gilbert Melendez in April 2013.

His last reported purse was $48,000 this past January.  He also made $48,000 in a loss to Rafael dos Anjos in August 2014.  He started out $17,000 and $17,000 for the UFC in August 2011.

It would not be a stretch to say that Henderson would want to improve upon his current $48K/$48K status.  While he may be able to make up enough of his salary through sponsors (assuming he does not return to the UFC), he would probably want to fight in an organization that could provide him TV exposure and quality fights.

Certainly, Bellator could provide Henderson with both exposure and fights.  Henderson would be one of the top-named stars for the Viacom-owned company and would be a possible headliner the company could target if it intends to expand into Asia.

The other organization that might target Henderson is the Asian-based One FC.  Although a long shot, Victor Cui’s organization is big in Asia with sponsors and tv deals.  Of course, the company is not in America.

Henderson’s situation is uncommon in MMA.  The UFC has tied up some of its fighters to lengthy contracts (e.g. Paige VanZant , Daniel Cormier and Chad Mendes come to mind).  The UFC has matching rights in most of its fight contracts which allow it a right to match any offer made by another organization in order to keep the fighter.  Henderson has some value and leverage in negotiating with other organizations which may cause the UFC to make a tough decision.

Poll considers Rousey “face” of UFC

November 27, 2015

A poll conducted by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with the Sports Business Journal indicates that Ronda Rousey is the face of the UFC.  Dana White was a distant second.

The October 2015 poll, conducted prior to UFC 193, indicates that 51% of those polled considered Rousey the face of the UFC with Dana White next with 11% and Conor McGregor with just 2%.

A year prior, in September 2014, the results were vastly different with Dana White as the dominant figure for the company earning 31% of those polled.  Rousey had just 9%.  McGregor did not register a percentage and no other fighters were named in the report.

The polled question was “open comment” which means that people wrote down the name of the individual in the response and were not given a set of names to pick.  The top responses were recorded.  One might conclude that those taking the poll are not huge MMA fans or just the casual MMA viewer.  Thus, the names Chris Weidman or Jon Jones did not garner enough votes to make it to the report.

Payout Perspective:

Three takeaways from these results on the question of “Who is the face of the UFC?”  First, it shows the popularity of Rousey and the takeoff for her in just a year’s time.  Can Holly Holm replace Rousey?  The second, is that for those polled, they could not think of another fighter to name in September 2014.  While the poll changed dramatically a year later, the report does not indicate any other names.  So, while we may conclude that someone like McGregor or Holly Holm could take over as a known commodity in the UFC, the lack of known fighters to a greater population should tell us a little about how the product is marketed.  Finally, Dana White, in some respects will always be considered the face of the company.  While Rousey took over as the “face” among those polled, White is still inextricably tied to the company.

Bud Light and Monster Energy slate promotions for UFC 200 starting early 2016

November 26, 2015

The Sports Business Journal reports (subscription required) that UFC sponsors Bud Light and Monster Energy Drink will roll out major national promotional campaigns for UFC 200 starting early 2016.

Monster Energy drink, the current sponsor of the center of the octagon, will kick off a national promotional campaign in January in approximately 45,000 retail outlets.  The “Win a trip to UFC 200” promotion will be supported by digital and social campaigns as well as promoted on PPV broadcasts.

But Light, the prior sponsor of the center of the octagon, will start a “Road to UFC 200 Sweepstakes” in approximately 5,400 Circle K Stores with displays within the stores.

The promotions will run for three months and feature Ronda Rousey in their displays/materials.  The Bud Light promotion will also include Conor McGregor.

Payout Perspective:

The promotions make it clear that it does not promise Rousey or McGregor at UFC 200 although it’s likely that one or both will be on the card.  The campaigns focus on the historical mark of UFC 200.  The article notes that sponsors that use sports properties in national retail promotions like long lead times and recognizable athletes.  It points out that the nature of combat sports makes this uneasy.  Rousey is the prime example.  Despite losing at UFC 193, she will still spearhead the campaign.  No word if Holm would be a late replacement although it might be hard to do so at this late date.  If McGregor were to lose in December, the campaign would start off flat as it would feature two fighters coming off losses.


Can Holly Holm be as big as Ronda Rousey?

November 25, 2015

With her surprise win at UFC 193, Holly Holm has usurped Ronda Rousey as the first woman of the UFC.  Holm has spent the last 11 days doing the media rounds as the new UFC women’s bantamweight champion.  Will she be able to be as big a star as Rousey?

The media blitz has helped with getting to know Holm.  Since her stunning second round KO of Rousey, Holm has seemingly been on every media outlet talking about her victory.  The UFC jumped on the Holm hype train immediately as she was everywhere after her victory.  She made appearances at the Clippers-Warriors game and the Canelo-Cotto fight – two big events where the stars came out to attend and Holm was one of the brightest of them all.

Even a photo opp with Floyd Mayweather, Jr., everyone’s villain, was not questioned (remember his domestic violence issues) due to her newfound status.

Floyd and Holly

In a bit of irony, Holm made an “appearance” on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to talk about her win. Well, it seemed more like b-reel but GMA devoted some time to Holm’s upset.  Recall it was Rousey, who was the first UFC fighter to make an appearance on the show that caters to a big female demographic.  It was Rousey that appeared on GMA this summer to announce her fight with Holm.

Additionally, Holm has been on ESPN, Fox and everywhere in between.  Her most recent newsworthy, mainstream story is a Q&A for the New York Times.

It was just a few months prior Holm appeared nervous and disinterested in being at the “Go Big” press conference in September hyping the company’s cards for the rest of 2016.  She was on the stage with a variety of fighters including Rousey and Conor McGregor.  Now, Holm may be the second biggest star in the company to only Conor McGregor.

Does Holm’s upset help the UFC with its business?  From one perspective, you can argue that the company had invested a lot in Rousey and with her wins and heir of invincibility, she was able to turn the success into a nascent movie career in addition to a number of sponsorship opportunities that most fighters would never obtain.  The UFC was able to reach out to many mainstream outlets it never could since it lacked a female athlete with her ability. As a result, the UFC was able to sell PPVs and everything around Rousey was a revenue driver for the company.  With her loss, the UFC loses out on the name notoriety and the momentum Rousey had with the fan base.  It now has to start over with an unknown commodity.

With Holm, the UFC gets a new face and a new attitude.  Holm is much different than Rousey which might appeal to a whole new base of fans that might have been turned off by Rousey.  For all of her popularity, Rousey was a polarizing figure to many.  For the cynic, give Holm some time and we’ll find something to not like about her too.  But, so far, Holm has been a pleasant surprise.

Certainly, Holm will attain her share of sponsors although there might be a certain contingent that might wait until she fights again.  Perhaps a rematch with Rousey.

The UFC has built upon the momentum of the UFC 193 upset to promote Holm.  In some ways, building Rousey has set the footprint and opened doors for the UFC to pitch mainstream outlets and attract a female demo.

USADA issues 2 year ban for Cro Cop

November 25, 2015

USADA has issued a two-year suspension to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic for the use of human growth hormone prior to his canceled fight with Anthony Hamilton at UFC Fight Night 79.  Cro Cop withdrew from the fight and announced his retirement from fighting prior to the news of his failed drug test.

Cro Cop is the first UFC fighter to be penalized under the UFC anti-doping policy.

USADA announced the suspension on the UFC-USADA web site.  The statement indicated that Cro Cop had been tested out of competition on November 4, 2015.  But, prior to the test results being revealed, he told the UFC he had been using hGH.  On November 9, 2015, he admitted to USADA of using hGH.


Filipovic’s period of ineligibility began on November 9, 2015, the date he first admitted to his anti-doping policy violations to USADA. In addition, Filipovic has been disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to October 30, 2015, the date on which he first used hGH in violation of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, including forfeiture of any title, ranking, purse or other compensation.

The UFC issued a statement on Cro Cop’s suspension:

UFC recognizes the two-year sanction issued today to Mirko Cro Cop by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for violations of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.

UFC secured the services of USADA, a third-party agency, earlier this year to administer its Anti-Doping Policy to ensure that all athletes compete on an even playing field, free of performance enhancing drugs. UFC appreciates Cro Cop’s disclosure and admission of usage of a prohibited substance, and supports the issuance of necessary sanctions to maintain a clean sport.

Cro Cop has subsequently announced his retirement from the sport after a storied career. UFC recognizes his accomplishments in the sport of mixed martial arts and wishes him well in future endeavors.

Payout Perspective:

While there is an appeal process for the disciplinary action, it appears that Cro Cop’s admission of the use would reflect that he will just take the punishment.  At 41, his career comes to an end on a bad note.  Then again, the issue of whether or not other commissions/organizations will honor this ruling is another question.  So, if Cro Cop were to consider making a comeback, would he really have to wait 2 years based on USADA’s ruling?

FTC closes second investigation of Zuffa

November 24, 2015

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that the Federal Trade Commission has ended its second investigation of Zuffa without any findings of wrongdoing of the company’s business practices.  Although the investigation has ended, the FTC indicated that it reserved the right to investigate the company again if it saw a need. 

In a letter to Zuffa from the FTC, it indicated that the closing of the investigation should not be construed that a violation may not have occurred, just as the opening of the investigation should not be construed that a violation had occurred. 

UFC’s Chief Legal Officer Kirk Hendrick issued a statement on the FTC’s decision:

“Earlier this year the FTC informed us that it was conducting a non-public investigation, which we believe was instigated by former fighters or their attorneys to bolster a civil action against UFC,” Hendrick added, “After meeting with the FTC, we are pleased that they have sent us a letter stating that no further action is warranted and the investigation is now closed. We maintain full confidence in our business practices and continue to believe that the plaintiffs’ allegations are meritless.”

The letter from the FTC, obtained by the Las Vegas Review Journal is below:

UFC FCC by LVReviewJournal

The FTC investigated Zuffa after it had acquired Strikeforce in 2011.  The investigation came to close with no findings in early 2012.  A Freedom of Information Act request for documents from that first investigation revealed little as to their investigation.

Although the reason for the second investigation was not made public one might conclude it was due in part to the antitrust lawsuit filed by former UFC fighters.

Payout Perspective:

Good news for the UFC as it is clear of the investigation.  Moreover, it need not dedicate legal resources for this.  The FTC indicated that it may revisit the issue but one would think it is unlikely to occur unless something comes out of the antitrust case.

WSOF 25 draws 148,000 viewers

November 23, 2015

World Series of Fighting drew an average viewership of 148,000 viewers Friday night on NBC Sports Network per Sports TV Ratings.

The event aired from 11:00pm-1:00am ET Friday night on NBC Sports Network.  An immediate replay of the event garnered another 65,000 viewers from 1:00am-3:00am per Sports TV Ratings.  The event featured the WSOF lightweight tournament.

WSOF Ratings through 24

World Series of Fighting
WSOF 1 198,000
WSOF 2 210,000
WSOF 3 201,000
WSOF 4 264,000
WSOF 5 227,000
WSOF 6 161,000
WSOF 7 94,000
WSOF 8 212,000
WSOF 9 242,000
WSOF 10 365,000
WSOF 11 781,000
WSOF 12 206,000
WSOF 13 246,000
WSOF 14 229,000
WSOF 15 179,000
WSOF 16 181,000
WSOF 17 222,000
WSOF 18 209,000
WSOF 19 216,000
WSOF 20 128,000
WSOF 21 203,000
WSOF 22 254,000
WSOF 23 184,000
WSOF 24 167,000
WSOF 25 148,000

WSOF Ratings 2015 through 25

Payout Perspective:

In defense of WSOF, it was an entertaining night of fights as the organization held a tournament.  The late Friday night start may have contributed to the lower ratings.  The 2015 average for WSOF sits at 192,000 viewers while the overall viewership on NBC Sports Network is 206,000 (excluding the one event on NBC).

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