Benavidez goes at it alone without an agent

May 23, 2015

MMA Fighting reports that Joseph Benavidez has fired his agents at MMA, Inc. citing the looming Reebok sponsorship deal as a reason for the departure.  The news is another example of the changing landscape of UFC business.

Benavidez’s managers at MMA, Inc. represent some notable UFC fighters Paige Van Zant, Urijah Faber and Chael Sonnen.  The article also states that UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw also left MMA, Inc.

If you count his WEC time of service plus his UFC fights, it which would put him in the $15,000 range under the Reebok sponsor pay scale.  Benavidez is a fan of the Reebok deal stating that he has not received $15K in sponsors since his title fight against Demetrious Johnson in December 2013.  Thus, the Reebok deal, for Benavidez, would be good for him.

Benavidez has not closed out future representation but like everyone else in the industry, they are waiting to see the results of the new deal.

Notably, UFC fight managers were set to meet this weekend to discuss UFC business.  The meeting was set up by Benavidez’s now ex-managers at MMA, Inc.

Payout Perspective:

Benavidez leaving his agents to go at it alone is a direct result of the Reebok sponsorship deal.  It’s clear that fighters realize that the sponsorship market is changing and are not clear the worth of an agent at this point.  Based on this, it reveals that the primary service an agent does for fighters in MMA is obtaining sponsors.  Aside from that, fighters like Benavidez believe that they have sufficient support to go at it alone.  Obviously, Benavidez is a veteran and belongs to a fight camp that provides the support needed for a fight.  The future of the agent in the UFC is uncertain.  It will be up to agents to show that they add value for a fighter and not just through fight night sponsors.

UFC 187 tickets still available; secondary market soft

May 22, 2015

While UFC 187 ticket prices are up from UFC 186 in Montreal, it is down from the last time it was in Vegas UFC 183.  The average ticket on the secondary market for UFC 187 is $362 per ticket according to ticket search engine SeatGeek.

Notably, the “get-in” price for UFC 187 is $144 which is down from last week’s price of $210.  SeatGeek notes that that the cheapest floor seat available is $851 while the lowest listing for the lower level on the secondary market is $295.

via Seetgeek

via Seetgeek

The average ticket price for UFC 183 which featured Nick Diaz taking on Anderson Silva was $464.  At UFC 182, which featured Ronda Rousey taking on Cat Zingano, tickets ran for $420 with the “get-in” at $145.

There are a seats still available through Ticketmaster with the lowest (as of Friday night) at $144.  The most expensive on Ticketmaster is $1,045.

Payout Perspective:

Perhaps it is not surprising that the ticket prices are down from February’s UFC 183 in Vegas.  But, the drop in ticket prices on the secondary market over the course of a week reflects the fact that interest may be waning for the event.  While the event has two strong title fights at the top, it does not appear to be swaying fans to purchase tickets for the event.  With tickets still available on Ticketmaster, I would suppose the secondary market continues to drop by tomorrow.

UFC-DISH Network agree to new deal

May 22, 2015

The UFC announced that it has come to terms with the DISH Network to carry its PPV.  The new agreement ends the one PPV hiatus from the network carrier of UFC PPVs.

The 14 million DISH Network subscribers will get their chance to order UFC 187 this Saturday.

The UFC and DISH Network had come to an impasse in negotiations which precluded it from the network to carry UFC 186.  The network went on to announce that it would no longer carry any UFC PPVs.  The contract between the two ended at the end of January and was briefly extended up until UFC 186 when the sides could not come together on a new contract.

Terms of the deal were not made public although a statement by UFC Chief Content Officer Marshall Zelaznik indicated that it will deliver UFC content to DISH “for years to come.”

Payout Perspective:

This seems to be the standard procedure for DISH Network.  It’s a game of chicken to see who will blink first and sometimes that means that there will be an impasse where a network (or in this case UFC PPVs) will be off of DISH for some time.  While we do not have numbers as to how many DISH subscribers purchase UFC PPVs giving 14 million people (reported DISH subs) the opportunity to pay for UFC PPVs should help PPV buys and UFC revenue.  Thus, this is good news for both the UFC and DISH.

W. Silva appeals commission ruling to Nevada Supreme Court

May 21, 2015

MMA Fighting reports that Wanderlei Silva will appeal the Nevada district court ruling which reversed the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s lifetime ban and fine of Silva.

Silva’s attorney, Ross Goodman, was pleased with the court’s ruling that Silva’s punishment was overturned but no happy with its ruling that it had jurisdiction over Silva.  With the court ruling, Monday, Silva would have to go back before the commission to determine his punishment for fleeing a drug test last year.

Silva argues that the commission had no right to drug test him since he was not licensed at the time.  The commission counters that it has oversight over combat sports within the state and thus had the right to test Silva.

Payout Perspective:

The appeal to the Supreme Court for the state of Nevada is a calculated risk but worth it.  The district court ruled in Silva’s favor but he still must go before the commission to be punished.  If Silva wins on appeal with a finding that the commission never had jurisdiction, his name is cleared.  It would also spur an amendment to the laws in Nevada.  Silva has a good chance with his appeal to the Supreme Court as the commission’s argument sought a very broad interpretation of the laws of the state.  Reading the laws plainly, one could see Silva winning the appeal.  We will see what happens.

TUF 21 Episode 5: 340,000

May 21, 2015

The Ultimate Fighter 20, Episode 4 drew an overnight rating of 340,000 viewers for a 0.2 rating in the 18-49 category for adults per Sports TV Ratings.  The rating was good enough to be the highest rated show on FS1 on Wednesday.

The show included an appearance by Anthony Johnson and featured a fight between Hayder Hasaan and Andrews Nakahara.  Hasaan scored a stoppage for the first win by ATT.

TUF 21

Episode 1 – 490,000 live + Same Day

Episode 2 – 454,000

Episode 3 – 364,000

Episode 4 – 286,000

Episode 5 – 340,000

TUF 21 Episode 5

Payout Perspective:

The season average climbed up to 387,000 which is below many other seasons of TUF.  Of course, when put in perspective that it was the highest-rated show on FS1 for Wednesday, there is still value for the program.  NHL and NBA Playoffs were at the top of sports on cable for Wednesday night with the Cavaliers/Hawks game receiving 6.84 million viewers.

Cerrone to lose out on sponsor money after Reebok deal

May 20, 2015

Yahoo! Sports reports that Donald Cerrone is set to lose $60,000 in sponsorship money due to the new Reebok sponsorship deal.  However, Cerrone appears ok with it.

Almost 2 years ago, Cerrone signed on with Kevin Harvick’s sports agency and picked up some key non-endemic MMA sponsors which include Budweiser and Fram.  Notably, both are UFC sponsors (Bud Light is the actual UFC sponsor although I am not sure if there is a true difference in sponsorship between Bud and Bud Light).  He also has had golf-cart operator EZ-Go and others on his shorts in the past too.

Despite losing the sponsor money, Cerrone remained upbeat about the change in policy in the UFC.  He acknowledged he will not make the “big money” but thinks it will work out.  He stated that his sponsors will stick with him despite the shift.  Of course, Budweiser and Fram are official sponsors so this helps.  He noted that the deal with Budweiser is for a year and appears to be guaranteed regardless of whether or not he will wear it to the ring.

Payout Perspective:

Interesting to note that the article mentions that one other UFC official sponsor will be on the Reebok uniform along with Reebok.  One might suspect Bud Light or Fram would get rotating spots on the uniform at some point.  Cerrone is in a unique position as he has secured individual sponsor deals with official UFC sponsors so those relationships are more likely to remain intact.  But, does anyone find it odd that Cerrone remains upbeat about the sponsor deal despite losing money?  He is one that has admitted to spending money once he receives it which is one reason that he is willing to fight anytime, anywhere.  So, if he’s losing money on this deal, wouldn’t you be a little upset?

Fortunately for Cerrone, he is a crowd favorite and one could see a crossover with NASCAR and perhaps making appearances at NASCAR events for a sponsor like Fram or Budweiser or another non-UFC official sponsor.  Thus, he can still make money outside of the Octagon without having to wear a patch on his shorts.

UFC Fight Night 66 draws 575K, prelims 246K

May 19, 2015

UFC Fight Night 66 on Saturday morning from Manila, Philippines drew 575,000 viewers on FS1 per Sports TV Ratings.  The prelims which preceded the main card drew 246,000 viewers.

Per Nielsen sources, the card peaked with 718,000 viewers during the 1:15pm-1:30pm ET quarter hour.  The main event featured Urijah Faber taking on Frankie Edgar with Edgar pulling out the unanimous decision.  The card also featured the retirement match for Mark Munoz who gave a very emotional farewell before the Filipino fans.

UFC Fight Night 66

Per Sports TV Ratings, the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star race on FS1 drew 3.8 million viewers later that day.  Also, HBO Boxing did well later Saturday night.

Payout Perspective:

Saturday morning fights are difficult to gage but FS1 and the UFC did a good job of promoting the early start (really early on the west coast).  Faber-Edgar was a good matchup on paper and people tuned in to check it out.  Also, the UFC picked a time without the NBA or NHL competing with it and the Preakness was later that day too.

Will Mayweather-Pacquiao hurt UFC 187 PPV buys?

May 19, 2015

MMA Fighting posed the question as to how well will UFC 187 do this weekend in light of the big Mayweather-Pacquiao fight earlier this month.  Despite the steep PPV price of $90-$100, an estimated 4.4 million people paid to see the fight.  Now, will combat sports fans turn around and pay another $60 this weekend?

The question infers something about combat sports fans — they don’t have the money to buy both PPVs.  Granted, paying an extra $160 on your monthly cable bill does dent in a household’s leisure budget.  While many on social media like to trash the Mayweather-Pacquiao event for their own self-indulgence, it still did astronomical financial business.  And, based on the financial numbers, it was an event that many did not want to miss regardless of how much the PPV cost.

Although there is no precedent for a boxing event affecting a UFC PPV, the article uses the Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez fight in September 2013 as an example in how UFC PPVs were affected.  The price point for the “The One” was $75 HD which was the most for a boxing PPV until this May.  The next three UFC PPVs did alright business but could have done better.

Via MMA Payout Blue Book:

UFC 165 – 09/21/13 Jones vs. Gustafsson – 310K PPV buys

UFC 166 – 10/19/13 Velasquez vs. JDS III – 330K PPV buys

UFC 167 – 11/16/13 GSP vs. Hendricks – 630K PPV buys

It was not until December 2013’s big card at UFC 168 (Rousey-Tate, Silva-Weidman II) that the UFC bounced back.  The end of year card drew over 1 million PPV buys.  Notably, it was the last time a UFC hit 1 million buys and it was the first PPV increase in some time ($55 to $60).

Still, the question is whether boxing will hurt the UFC.  There are various factors which may be contributing, or independent of the buy rate for this weekend’s UFC.  Boxing does skew an older audience and it does perform well along ethnic lines.  Also, do not discount the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight as a “once in a lifetime” thing even if it may have occurred too late for fight purists.  Frankly, the fight was for the casual fight fan because they know the two fighters and have been waiting to see the fight for so long.  In addition, the unique partnership between HBO/Showtime to drive the event helped.  It initiated its satellite and cable distributors to actively solicit those subscribers into purchasing the event (i.e., it offered assistance to subscribers to order the event prior to the day of it.).

Payout Perspective:

So does the big numbers for Mayweather-Pacquiao mean the casual combat sports fan will be checking out of UFC 187?

Regardless of what we may think of the UFC fan, it does skew younger than the boxing audience and based on surveys, within the demo, these fans have money to spend.  Will it hurt the PPV buy rate for this weekend?  I would suggest that you might look at the last trends for Memorial Day weekend.

What used to be a big weekend for the UFC has turned into a mediocre one.   In the past 4 years, only 2012’s JDS-Mir garnered over 500K PPV buys.

2015 – UFC 187 – Johnson-Cormier ?

2014 – UFC 173 – Barao-Dillashaw 215,000

2013 – UFC 160 – Velasquez-Bigfoot II 380,000

2012 – UFC 146 – JDS-Mir 560,000

2011 – UFC 130 – Rampage-Hamill 325,000

The double main event should help sell this weekend’s PPV.  Johnson-Cormier and Weidman-Belfort are both title matches that should bring some interest.  While it’s hard to gage whether Chris Weidman is a PPV draw, he has made enough appearances on FOX/FS1 for people to know him.  The absence of Jon Jones may have hurt PPV sales but taking him off the card was likely best for long-term business.  The two title fights and the lack of boxing this weekend should help get this PPV up to over 500,000 PPV buys.  We shall see.

TUF 21 Episode 4 draws 286,000 viewers

May 18, 2015

The Ultimate Fighter 21 Episode 4 drew just 286,000 viewers on FS1 this past Wednesday.  It’s the lowest rating this season for the show.

TUF 21

Episode 1 – 490,000 live + Same Day

Episode 2 – 454,000

Episode 3 – 364,000

Episode 4 – 286,000

TUF 21 Ep 4

The TUF 21 early average sits at a lowly 399,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

A game 7 in the NHL between Washington-New York and two NBA playoff series likely spelled the poor ratings for the first showing of TUF 21.  It’s clear that the focus for the network is that series does well overall (i.e., focus on DVR ratings) rather than look at the Wednesday night ratings.  The concern for FS1 is that while it may pick up almost 50% viewership from its Live +SD average, it still is lower than the past seasons airing on the network.

W Silva wins reversal and remand of NSAC ban, fine

May 18, 2015

ESPN.com reports that a Nevada state district court judge has reversed and remanded the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s lifetime ban and $70,000 fine issued against Wanderlei Silva last year.  Judge Kerry L. Earley determined that while the NSAC had jurisdiction over Silva, the punishment was “arbitrary, capricious and not supported by substantial evidence.”

Judge Earley’s decision orders a new hearing by the commission to find a proper punishment for Silva’s violation of evading a random drug test in lead-up to his fight against Chael Sonnen at UFC 175.

The court indicated that a decision would be handed out by May 11th but the decision came a week later.

According to the ruling (as reported by ESPN, we will attempt obtain a copy), the court agreed with the NSAC’s argument that it had jurisdiction over Silva but not with the method the commission determined the penalty. If you watched the commission hearing, you may recall that there was an ad hoc moment where the commission determined a penalty based on what they knew of Silva’s pay.

Silva’s attorney, Ross Goodman, applauded the reversal of the suspension and the re-hearing but may consider an appeal of the ruling with respect to jurisdiction.

As a quick procedural background as to how the decision made its way to state superior court, as in many jurisdictions, the process for appeal of an administrative decision is to the state court.

Payout Perspective:

While I believed that the court may have found jurisdiction, Goodman’s potential appeal may not be as far-fetched as you might think.  The ruling means that we should see the commission re-evaluate Silva’s penalty.  It’s unlikely it will be able to impose the recommended guidelines it passed last Friday although one might surmise the commission will have this in the back of their minds.  Ironically, the NSAC discussed not wanting its decision to be overturned at the hearing (and cited in Silva’s petition for judicial review) for being “outside of the norm” of what the commission has done in the past.  It looks like the court has found it did overreach with its penalty.

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