Khabib lands individual Reebok deal

August 31, 2015

Khabib Nurmogomedov is the latest UFC fighter to receive an individual sponsorship deal with Reebok.  Reebok announced the deal via twitter.

Nurmogomedov was last seen in a brawl with the Diaz Brothers at a WSOF event at the Planet Hollywood in Vegas earlier this month.  His last fight in a UFC octagon was in April 2014.  A knee injury has kept him out of action since then.  However, he’s slated to return to fight in the octagon in December against Tony Ferguson.

Payout Perspective:

Nurmogomedov becomes the 12th UFC fighter with an individual Reebok deal. His deal is somewhat surprising considering he was involved in that brawl with the Diaz brothers and has been injured for a while. He’s slated to fight in December if he can remain healthy. The sponsor deal will help with the international appeal of the sport. But, unless the UFC has deemed that Khabib was not at fault in the melee at the WSOF event, what does this say about how the sponsor deals that are awarded. I realize that Reebok is the sponsor, but one would have to think that the UFC gives some input on which fighters the clothier should pursue for an individual deal.

Bellator 141 draws 666,000 viewers

August 31, 2015

Bellator MMA Live on Spike TV drew an average viewership of 666,000 viewers per Sports TV Ratings.  It was second only to PGA Golf on the Golf Channel Friday night when it comes to cable sports TV ratings this past Friday.

UPDATED:  The event peaked at 929,000 viewers per Nielsen source.

Bellator 141 rating

Overnight Peak
Bellator 132 767,000 1,200,000
Bellator 133 565,000 967,000
Bellagtor 134 872,000 1,200,000
Bellator 135 607,000 922,000
Bellator 136 655,000 900,000
Bellator 137 594,000 768,000
Bellator 138 1,580,000 2,100,000
Bellator 139 764,000 988,000
Bellator 140 722,000 977,000
Bellator 141 666,000 929,000

The event did see an 8% decrease from July’s Bellator 140.  In the main event Friday night, Melvin Guillard was upset by Brandon Girtz.

Friday night’s event brought Bellator’s overnight viewership average for 2015 to 780,000 viewers.

Notably, Friday night’s live event saw an overrun of about 5 minutes.  The following program was a Bellator MMA special featuring top knockouts from the promotion.  It drew an average of 466,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

Despite being the second-highest rating for cable sports on Friday night, Bellator 141 did not exceed (or even draw 700K viewers) the ratings for the last two events.  Perhaps it was not an attractive card to watch and people decided not to tune in.

The Economist article states UFC median fight pay is $24,500

August 31, 2015

The Economist wrote a brief opinion piece, entitled, “Truckin’ On,” in this week’s addition which focuses on the UFC and the potential of a fighter union.  The highlighted fact out of the piece is that it states that the median pay-per-fight is $24,500.

It’s not clear where the Economist drew its median number as it does not cite a source. It does cite Conor McGregor’s pay of $500,000 at UFC 189 and that the event drew $7.2 million for 1 million PPV buys.  It also writes about the possibility of a union which might improve fighter pay as it notes the Teamsters partnering with the culinary union.

The Economist article offers a couple short paragraphs about the Teamsters and its history which mentions its issues with corruption within the organization.  It also notes that the Teamsters membership is down which has led it to diversify in ranks and tying in the possibility that MMA could be next.

Payout Perspective:

It’s a very short (less than 500 words) piece which does not take a hard position pro or con as to whether fighters should unionize.  Thus, a sharp contrast to the recent Las Vegas Journal Review op-ed which slammed the union.  Obviously, the median pay of $24,500 is the most memorable thing that will be discussed in this piece.  The piece notes that a fighter usually fights just “a couple times a year.”  Thus, you may make the assumption that median fighter salary for a year is at least $49,000 per year without the added Reebok sponsorship payouts.  Note that there are a number of UFC fighters that would earn below the $49,000 median.

Parties in UFC lawsuit fight over confidential documents

August 29, 2015

Plaintiffs on behalf of the fighters in the UFC Antitrust lawsuit have filed a Motion for Protective Order as a result of what it claims to be an exclusion from discovery of one of its main attorneys.

As is the case in litigation where there are sensitive materials that will be shared by opposing sides via discovery, the court required the parties to work together to come up with a protective order which would serve as the guidelines for the exchange of information.  A concern by plaintiffs is that Zuffa lawyers seek to exclude Rob Maysey, an attorney for Plaintiffs, from “highly confidential” information.

Via Plaintiffs’ Protective Order:

Zuffa has proposed an unusual special “HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL – ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY” designation in the Protective Order that would apply to “extremely sensitive, highly confidential, non-public information, consisting either of trade secrets or other highly confidential information directly concerning business plans, strategies, revenues or costs, disclosure of which to another Party or Non Party would create a substantial risk of significant competitive or business injury to the Designating Party that could not be avoided by less restrictive means.” Zuffa [Proposed] Order ¶ 2.7.

The attached exhibits to the Motion for Protective Order include a back and forth exchange on discovery between the parties which cover such issues as retention of data and other pertinent eDiscovery information as to when Zuffa would provide its data and in what form.  Most, if not all of this information will be provided electronically and uploaded in reviewable databases for attorneys to review.

As for the interesting stuff, Zuffa is proposing two tiers of confidential information.  Essentially, Zuffa wants Maysey “firewalled” from the discovery deemed HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL.  Plaintiffs argue that the definition proposed by Zuffa would preclude him from a broad swath of material.  Plaintiffs claim that Maysey is central to the litigation and would impair his ability to assist his clients and prepare for trial.  On the other end, Zuffa argues that Maysey is a “competitor” of the UFC according to its attorneys as he founded the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association.  The claim is that Maysey should not be allowed to view contracts and sensitive business materials which Zuffa claims he might use for future prospective gain.

The argument is that Maysey and a partner at one of the other plaintiffs’ firms, Neal Tabachnik (who has represented MMA fighters in the past) should be precluded from HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL Information. Plaintiffs seek an order from the court which would preclude Zuffa’s argument that Maysey is precluded from seeing the HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL information.

Exhibit 1 (attached to Plaintiffs’ Motion) is a letter from Plaintiffs’ lawyers to Zuffa lawyers. Specifically, the argument points out the reasons why the confidential designations are overbroad and why Maysey should be allowed to view documents.

The full letter is below:

Exhibit 1.PDF

Exhibit 2 is a response from Zuffa lawyers to the above letter:

Exhibit 2.PDF

I could not highlight the pertinent sections in the letter from Zuffa’s attorneys but it essentially spells out its position by pointing to case law that dual tiers of confidentiality is not unusual and that Maysey’s involvement in MMAFA warrants that he is blocked from viewing HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL documents. It cites to the MMAFA web site and his own law firm bio as to reasons why he should be firewalled for viewing documents.  Notably, Zuffa points to a 2009 MMA Payout article in which Maysey was interviewed by Robert Joyner.

Payout Perspective:

Notably, Maysey filed a declaration with the Motion for Protective Order which mentions that he is the “principal client liaison” with the fighters in this litigation.  However, what it does not say is that he is trial counsel for the lawsuit (i.e., he will be in court trying the case if it gets to that point).  This could be a major distinction when arguing whether or not an attorney assisting in preparing the case is essential in the discovery process.  Moreover, Maysey states in the declaration that he founded MMAFA but does not own or “head” the MMAFA.  Also, he does not profit from it.  But, the issue that Zuffa will press is that he founded the organization and the web site maintains he is still a part of the organization.

This is a case of the internet coming back to bite back.  Zuffa’s attorneys have done its due diligence in scouring the web for information on Maysey and MMAFA.  One might see this as picking on someone that had attempted to help fighters seek out benefits.  Its clear Maysey was emotional during the initial press conference announcing the lawsuit.  We now see a strategy employed by Zuffa to block him out of the litigation.  Coincidence or not, this is litigation and this is what happens.

Two tiers of confidentiality is not unusual in litigation especially when highly sensitive material such as trade secrets are involved.  Zuffa’s arguments are valid but it will be how broad the definition of HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL is that the court will look at when deciding whether or not it would be valid to preclude Maysey from looking at documents.  Certainly, one would think the court would have to balance its decision on the right for the plaintiffs’ attorney to communicate with his clients and prepare for trial.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

White announces Rousey-Holm to headline UFC 193 in November

August 28, 2015

Dana White went on ESPN Friday night to announce that the Ronda Rousey-Holly Holm fight is being moved up and to another location.  Rousey will now face Holm in Australia as part of UFC 193.

White appeared by phone on ESPN to make the announcement.  It was later discovered that the original main event for that card Robbie Lawler-Carlos Condit is now off due to an injury to Lawler.

The UFC plans to break an all-time attendance record for an MMA event in Melbourne.  The event is taking place at Etihad Stadium.  UFC 193 was awarded to Melbourne after a law restricting cage fighting was lifted earlier this year.

UFC 129 which drew over 55,000 fans and registered a gate of over $12 million is the current record for attendance and gate.  This past January, the UFC drew 30,000 fans and a $3 million gate in Sweden for UFC on Fox 14.

Etihad Stadium has a capacity of over 55,000 although one might expect the UFC to boost the seating configuration so attendance would surpass UFC 129.

UFC 190 drew 900,000 on PPV based on Rousey and one might expect her to draw similar numbers.

UFC Melbourne

Payout Perspective:

White’s appearance Friday night seemed impromptu as he did not do a live remote but over the phone.  Also, the timing of the event seems out of the ordinary as it was done 8:30pm PT/11:30 ET on Friday night.  Usually, this type of announcement would occur during the week.  Moreover, the original thought was that this news would trump the news earlier in the day that the organization had lifted the suspension of Travis Browne.  However, it now looks like it was done to jump the news that Robbie Lawler was off the card.  It will be the second straight title defense outside of the US for Rousey and she will look to produce another PPV hit.

Browne reinstated after investigation inconclusive

August 28, 2015

The UFC announced that the investigation into allegations of domestic violence against Travis Browne is now complete.  Investigators determined that there was inconclusive evidence to support claims of the alleged abuse claims by Browne’s wife.

Browne was held out of International Fight Week activities as a result of allegations from Jenna Renee Webb that the UFC heavyweight had caused her bodily harm.  Webb posted pictures of her bruises she claimed were from Browne as a result of a February incident.  Browne’s representatives claimed that the allegations were unfounded.

The UFC launched an investigation using a former FBI agent with more than 25 years’ experience.  After a seven week investigation which included interviews “with multiple subjects associated with the principals, as well as the principals themselves.”  Based on the wording, it sounds as though Browne and Webb were interviewed in the investigation.

Via UFC.com:

PUBLIC SUMMARY RE: BROWNE INVESTIGATION

In an effort to provide the public with additional information regarding UFC’s investigation of allegations of domestic violence by Travis Browne, while honoring the competing interest of protecting the privacy rights of all the individuals who voluntarily cooperated in the investigation, UFC provides the following summary:

Upon learning of the posting of photographs on social media on or about July 8, 2015 by an individual reflecting bruises on their person and corresponding commentary that Travis Browne had committed the acts resulting in the bruising, UFC, through the Las Vegas-based law firm Campbell & Williams, began efforts to retain a third party to conduct a thorough, independent investigation into this matter.  In mid-July, Campbell & Williams retained a private investigator with more than 25 years of experience as a Supervisory Special Agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation operating out of the Los Angeles Field Office and as a Special Inspector General for the United States of America. The investigator has overseen countless investigations involving thousands of witnesses and subject interviews.

As part of his nearly two-month investigation into the Browne matter, the investigator and his colleagues interviewed nearly a dozen individuals located in several states.  The interviewees included the principals of the investigation, former spouses, individuals with close personal relationships, and health-care professionals.  Additionally, the investigator obtained various forms of electronic data reflecting interactions of the principals with each other and third parties.  The investigation also included electronic and hand searches for relevant civil and criminal records, law enforcement service-call records, and the like.

Based on the abundant evidence gathered to date, the results of the investigation are inconclusive to support the claims of alleged domestic violence involving Browne.  Similarly, the evidence was inconclusive to support a finding that Browne had violated the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy.  The evidence gathered in the investigation has also been reviewed by Donald J. Campbell, Esq. of Campbell & Williams, a former state and federal prosecutor with extensive experience overseeing criminal investigations, who likewise concurs that the results of the investigation are inconclusive.

As a result of the investigation, Browne will be able to return to the octagon.

Payout Perspective:

Not a surprise that this was released on Friday without much notice.  The usual standard is that if you do not want to make a lot of news, you release news when most are not looking.  Of course, that rule was somewhat broken tonight when Dana White went on ESPN to announce a new date and relocation for a Ronda Rousey fight.

Notably, the UFC press release states that there was inconclusive evidence that the he violated the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy.  The evaluation of whether the fighter violated the conduct policy was not stated in the Anthony Johnson third-party investigation just a couple days ago.  I’m sure many people will scrutinize the wording of the Browne release when the investigation found “inconclusive” evidence.  Certainly one might speculate that there was some evidence found regarding the possibility of domestic violence but not enough (in the minds of the investigators) for a jury to find Browne guilty of a crime.  Of course, there is news that Webb may now press charges which may change everything.  But, if investigators had the opportunity to interview Webb and other witnesses that may have knowledge of the claims, it may feel like prosecutors would not pursue the case.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Rousey stars in her first Carl’s Jr. commercial

August 28, 2015

Ronda Rousey has made her first commercial with her new sponsor, Carl’s Jr.  The commercial is for the fast food chain’s Cinnamon Swirl French Toast breakfast sandwich.

Unlike previous Carl’s Jr. commercials which focused on selling sex, the commercial focuses on Ronda’s persona in the Octagon.  It also includes her taking a big bite of the sandwich – a staple for Carl’s Jr. commercials.

Payout Perspective:

The commercial should be the first of many for Rousey as the brand’s pitch woman.  Based on the estimated PPV buy rate of UFC 190, Rousey’s brand is bigger than ever.  The Carl’s Jr. sponsorship should expand her mainstream awareness going forward.

WSOF LW tournament not happening in Washington State

August 28, 2015

On Monday the World Series of Fighting tweeted out an announcement stating that the World Series of Fighting would hold a one night lightweight tournament in Seattle.  However, upon further review with the regulatory body of Washington State, combat sport tournaments are illegal in the state.

On Wednesday, I was able to speak with a representative with the Washington State Department of Licensing, the regulatory body for combat sports in the state of Washington.  According to the representative, she stated that the World Series of Fighting reached out to the department “a week and a half ago.”  It was not until this Monday that the state contacted WSOF to let them know that tournaments are not legal, in fact a class C Felony, in the State of Washington.

The representative forwarded me the relevant statutes it looked to when it informed WSOF that it could not hold an elimination tournament.

RCW 67.08.002 defines an elimination tournament as “any contest in which contestants compete in a series of matches until not more than one contestant remains in any weight category…”

RCW 67.08.015 states:

(4) No amateur or professional no holds barred fighting or combative fighting type of contest, exhibition, match, or similar type of event, nor any elimination tournament, may be held in this state. Any person promoting such an event is guilty of a class C felony. Additionally, the director may apply to a superior court for an injunction against any and all promoters of a contest, and may request that the court seize all money and assets relating to the competition.

Although there are tribal casinos in the state of Washington which hold combat sport events (including MMA and boxing), the Department of Licensing are sometimes asked to regulate the events. Thus, any alternative to hold an event in Washington is unlikely.

A representative from WSOF indicated that they are working on a plan for the lightweight tournament but nothing has been made public as of yet.

Payout Perspective:

It’s unfortunate that WSOF will not be holding a tournament in Seattle as there are many MMA fans in the area. One would have hoped that WSOF would have cleared the tournament with the state prior to its announcement. Moreover, they could have done their own independent research to see if a tournament was legal in the state.  Thus, it looks like the tweet as a miscommunication or poor execution. There is no word if WSOF will make it back to Seattle for a regular event in the future.

UFC 190 draws 900,000 PPV buys

August 27, 2015

Dave Meltzer writing for MMA Fighting reports that UFC 190 featuring Ronda Rousey and Beth Correia drew an estimated 900,000 PPV buys.  The number would make it the third PPV event this year to draw 800,000 buys.

UFC 189 featuring Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes drew 1 million buys according to UFC.com.  Other estimates have the July 11 PPV less than 1 million.  Regardless, it’s the second straight PPV that has done well based on just 1 fighter.  UFC 189 it was all Conor McGregor and UFC 190 was all Ronda Rousey.

Perhaps supporting the contention that Ronda Rousey’s star is brighter than ever is that there were no noteworthy fights on the UFC 190 main card.  Despite the fact the show went over 3 hours, there was nothing great on the card besides Rousey.  There were two TUF Brazil final fights and Shogun Rua-Little Nog.  In comparison, UFC 189 did have another title fight between Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler to entice fans to buy the PPV.

UFC 190 joins 189 and 182 as top events that have drawn 800,000 PPV buys or more.  No PPV event went over 600,000 in 2014.  In 2013, only 2 events (UFC 158 and UFC 168) went over 800,000 PPV buys.

Ronda Rousey PPVs (via MMA Payout Bluebook)

UFC 157 – vs. Liz Carmouche: 450,000

UFC 168 – vs. Miesha Tate (co-main): 1,025,000

UFC 170 – vs. Sara McMann: 350,000

UFC 175 – vs. Alexis Davis (co-main): 545,000

UFC 184 – vs. Cat Zingano: 600,000

UFC 190 – vs. Beth Correia: 900,000

Payout Perspective:

Early indicators from most outlets reflected the fact that UFC 190 did well on PPV.  The prelims drew 1.3M viewers and google searches topped 6 million.  All of these indicators would point to the fact that Ronda Rousey is, arguably, the top draw in the UFC.  The card had little to support her and she was able to garner 900,000 fans.  The PPV buy rate also reflects the fact that her star is gaining steam.  One might expect her to draw similar numbers when she faces Holly Holm at UFC 195.

Guillard hears Reebok deal discontent from teammates

August 27, 2015

Bellator lightweight Melvin Guillard had some interesting things to say about his previous employer in light of the Reebok apparel deal.  Guillard, who was cut by the company, states that it will likely lose fighters due to the lost revenue by fighters from sponsors.

Guillard has not been with the company since his last fight in March 2104.  However, he states in a recent MMA Fighting interview that some of the UFC fighters he trains with at American Top Team are “unhappy with how things went with the UFC.”  Guillard stated that the “UFC is really just dropping the ball on a lot of guys.  They’re going to lose a lot of talent.”

Prior to the UFC sponsor fee, Guillard stated that a fighter could make $50K to $60K per fight from sponsors.  However, restrictions on sponsors which required they pay a fee to the UFC in order to sponsor a fighter curtailed many brands from sponsoring a fighter.  The Reebok deal which went into effect this July, has received criticism from many fighters that have indicated it has cut their ability to earn money from sponsors.  While some fighters have taken up the side of the UFC, there are many fighters that are put off by the new payouts from Reebok.

Guilard, who had a stint with WSOF, is now in Bellator and is set to fight this Friday for the organization at Bellator 141.

Payout Perspective:

Guillard’s comments could be seen as a former fighter expressing his opinion after being let go by the UFC and thus feels free to say what he wants about the organization.  Guillard’s comments about what his teammates are saying might be hearsay and might be a way that UFC contracted fighters are expressing their discontent with the new era of sponsorship revenue for fighters.  Until there are actual numbers out there that he is making more money overall than he did when he was with the UFC, it’s hard to conclude that UFC fighters would jump ship to other organizations due to the Reebok deal.

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