UFC on Fox 31 attendance, gate and bonuses

December 15, 2018

Al Iaquinta led the list of bonus-winning fighters on the very last UFC on Fox card this Saturday from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The event was the very last on the network as it will move to ESPN in January.

Iaquinta soundly defeated Kevin Lee and won via unanimous decision to earn a $50,000 bonus.  Also earning bonuses were Charles Oliveira, Jared Gordon and Joaquim Silva.  Do Bronx submitted Jim Miller in the very first round.  Silva and Gordon earned Fight of the Night which Silva won.

The event drew 9,010 fans for a live gate of $616,000.  The event took place at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. UFC officials announced the information post-fight.

Payout Perspective:

Not a lot of fans turned out for the last televised network event on Fox.  In fact, the gate is on par with most Fight Night events this year.  Iaquinta showed that he should be given another challenge at 155 before the hopeful return title bout against Khabib.

PFL and Draft Kings announce partnership

December 14, 2018

The Professional Fighters League is joining forces with Draft Kings to offer a fantasy sports component and eventually gaming according to a press release sent out on Friday.  The announcement comes ahead of its first year of the promotion’s new format which will award $1 million to the winners of each of its weight divisions.

Via press release:

BOSTON (December 14, 2018) – DraftKings and the Professional Fighters League today announced a strategic partnership that will bring MMA fans a new way to immerse themselves in the sport starting with the PFL Championship on New Year’s Eve.

“The winners in this partnership are MMA fans, first with fantasy and eventually gaming,’” said Donn Davis, Co-Founder and Chairman of Professional Fighters League, “PFL is re-imagining MMA, and we look forward to collaborating with DraftKings to offer new engagement for fans while creating new revenue streams for our business.”

The PFL season started with 72 fighters and concludes with the best two fighters in each of the six weight classes competing in six final fights in one epic night. The 2018 PFL World Championship Pick ‘Em fantasy game is easy to play, as sports fans simply predict four outcomes for each of the six fights:  Who will win the fight? What will the method of victory be? In what round will each fight end? At what time within that round will the fight end? The game will feature a live leaderboard for players to track their position in real time, and DraftKings will award $25K in guaranteed prizing.

“Our partnership with the Professional Fighters League is another example of our dedication to innovation and our never ending quest to expand our sports offerings” said Ezra Kucharz, Chief Business Officer at DraftKings. “Like our customers, PFL fans are extremely engaged and passionate, and this collaboration is an excellent example of what DraftKings seeks in partners who can connect with our growing community of players.”

Payout Perspective:

We’ve seen Fantasy Sports in MMA before and Draft Kings dabbed its toe in the market and event announced partnership with former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.  But legislation forced it out of several key states which kept it off the radar for a couple years.  However, with the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing states to decide on sports betting, we could see another run at it from companies like Draft Kings.

One last motion before the Class Cert-Summary Judgment hearing in the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit

December 13, 2018

In light of Friday’s big hearing in the Zuffa Antitrust lawsuit in Federal court in Nevada, the parties have filed a joint motion to stipulate how they will deal with references to trade secret or confidential information.

The joint motion was filed on Thursday and is agreed to by the parties.  It’s unlikely that the Court will disturb the agreement.  The parties believed the agreement was necessary as the Protective Order which dictates how to deal with confidential information does not address hearings.

Parties for the Plaintiffs that have filed an Antitrust lawsuit against Zuffa will argue for Class Action status while Zuffa has a Motion for Summary Judgment which may dismiss the case in full on Friday in Federal District Court in Nevada.

It does appear that Plaintiffs reluctantly joined in on the motion as the overarching issue deals with the mention of documents Zuffa believes are confidential and/or trade secret.  A motion to seal is pending before the court.

Joint Motion by on Scribd

 

Payout Perspective:

Both parties had a chance to provide statements to the Court in this Joint Motion.  The Plaintiffs cited Kevin Iole’s Yahoo story from Wednesday in which Dana White gave him the payouts of Chuck Liddell since 2011.  This would seem to run contrary to the claim that Zuffa salaries should be confidential.

The Court could rule on the Motion to Seal documents that were fought over during the pleading process but it has yet to do so.  Tomorrow will be a big day because not since the Motion to Dismiss will this case hinge upon being dismissed.

RVCA and Bellator collaborate on clothing for Hawaii shows

December 13, 2018

In light of the promotion’s visit to Hawaii, RVCA and Bellator are collaborating on clothing celebrating this weekend’s shows per Bellator release.

The back-to-back events take place on Honolulu at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena on Friday, December 14th and 15th.  The first show on Friday will be a “Salute to the Troops” and feature Brent Primus taking on Michael Chandler for the lightweight title.  Saturday’s show will spotlight Hawaii’s Ilima-Lei Macfarlane as she defends her women’s flyweight title against Valerie Letourneau.  It will also feature the debut of Lyoto Machida for Bellator as he takes on Rafael Carvalho.

The RVCA brand has sponsored BJ Penn and Vitor Belfort in MMA.  They have also been associated with jiu jitsu as the Mendes Brothers are sponsored by the company.

This weekend, Kona Oliveira and Dustin Barca will represent the brand.  The clothing will be sold at the events and on RVCA.com and Bellator.com.

Payout Perspective:

Although this release came out last week, it seems like a good reminder considering the amount of combat sports this weekend.  With the UFC out of mind due to the Reebok deal, it would be great to see more RVCA/Bellator collabs if the clothing company decides to dip their toe more into MMA.

UFC 231: Payout Perspective

December 12, 2018

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 231 taking place from Toronto, Ontario, Canada where Max Holloway reminded people he is still one of the greatest in the UFC today.

Holloway forces doctor stoppage

Returning to form, Max Holloway successfully defended his Featherweight title by stopping Brian Ortega after the fourth round.  Holloway exuded confidence throughout and made one of the top challengers to his title look slow.  Ortega showed his heart throughout but was beat up to the point that he could not see out of one of his eyes forcing the stoppage between rounds.

Holloway’s cardio, quickness and ability to make subtle changes to stay out of range is remarkable and its hard to see another current Featherweight taking his title.  Although it is not going to happen, it would be fun to see him get his rematch against Conor McGregor in 2019.   Ortega is still a force in this division but just wasn’t on Holloway’s level.  He’ll be back although I would suggest he take some time to recover.

Shevchenko wins 125-pound women’s title

Valentina Shevchenko just has Joanna Jedrzejczyk number.  Shevchenko dominated the former strawweight champion for a 5 round unanimous decision over Joanna.  The fight was not even close.  It was a masterpiece by Shevchenko.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

Toronto continues to be a city the UFC counts on for big attendance.  It sold out ScotiaBank Arena per UFC officials with over 19,000 fans and a $2.4 million gate.

Fight of the Night:  Ortega and Holloway

Performance Bonuses:  Holloway and Santos

All won $50K in addition to their reported purses.

Ratings

UFC 231 Pre-Fight Show on FS1:  211,000

UFC 231 Prelims: 786,000

UFC 231 Post-Fight Show: 136,000

It was a busy Saturday night of combat sports with HBO’s final boxing offering, Showtime’s replay of the Fury-Wilder fight and the Lomachenko fight on ESPN.  The ratings were up from last month’s PPV Prelims which may be a good sign.

Pre-Fight Hype

Max Holloay and Brian Ortega did a lot of media going into this fight.  There was the Holloway-Drake meetup at a Toronto Raptors game which MMA folks were giddy about.  Holloway also did a GQ video where he explained his tattoos.  The mag has done this in the past and it’s a pretty cool piece.  Also of interest, he was on the Alex Wong (Stevie LeBron) podcast early in the week and said that last spring’s unexpected pull out of April’s fight with Khabib was a surprise to him as UFC officials and Holloway’s team requested he pull out and seek more medical evaluation.

ESPN, the future home of the UFC, did a great long-form piece on Ortega and his background.

Sponsorships

Two interesting sponsors from Saturday night included PokerStars and online betting web site Pari Match had signage in the Octagon.  Look for this trend to continue and/or the UFC secures an “official” online betting site as a sponsor.

In the Octagon was Toyo Tires, Nemiroff Vodka, MetroPCS, Circle K, P3, Monster Energy, Motel 6 and Monster Energy had the center.

Also of note, Hooters was on the mat for UFC 231.

P3 were on the Reebok kits of the fighters.  According to multiple reports, the fighters are not directly receiving payment for wearing the logo.  Instead, P3 is paying the UFC.

UFC sponsor Bixler jewelry also appeared on the Embedded episodes giving Valentina some UFC 231 swag.

Odds and ends

It looked as though Max Holloway had a Reebok-branded bandana that stated his phrase, “It is what it is,” on it at the weigh-ins.

The Jimi Manuwa-Thiago Santos fight on the PPV was a heavy-hitting affair.

Worst “almost crime of the night”: Hakeem Dawodu just winning via split decision.

Dana White threw a tantrum when asked about Greg Hardy being on the same card as a domestic violence survivor.  The new media relations ploy is to act pissed when you don’t want to ask a question.

Also helpful for UFC media relations, it was discovered that a Bloody Elbow writer critical of the UFC is also into bestiality and kiddie porn.  This will lead to a new managerial technique of google searching writers that you don’t like.  If nothing is found, see Dana White’s tactics above.

Conclusion

The two championship fights seem to be the way the UFC hopes to stack its PPV cards where there is not a huge name to build around.  If Holloway can remain healthy, the UFC could probably do a standalone PPV with Holloway defending in Hawaii.  Not only would they sell out the venue, but get some decent PPV buys from it.  But, that would require the UFC to relax their ask from the state of Hawaii.  As for this event, 500K google searches and on a busy night of combat sports probably puts it around 275,000-300,000 PPV buys.  Perhaps above average for these types of non-“big card” fights.

UFC cancels January PPV event in Anaheim

December 12, 2018

The UFC has canceled its January PPV originally scheduled for Anaheim on January 26th due to lack of a main event.  The event was to be held on the same night as Bellator’s card in Los Angeles.

When news hit of the cancellation, Bellator Scott Coker took to twitter:

Bellator 214 will include the finals of the Heavyweight Grand Prix and Ryan Bader takes on Fedor.  Also, probably the fight of the night features Gegard Mousasi taking on Rafael Lovato, Jr. for the middleweight title.

The UFC 233 card was to feature a fight between Henry Cejudo and T.J. Dillashaw for Cejudo’s 125-pound title.  But that fight was moved up a week to the ESPN debut card in Brooklyn, New York.  A welterweight title defense with Tyron Woodley was contemplated but never materialized.  The card was to have included the debut of Ben Askren as he would have faced Robbie Lawler.

Anaheim will get a UFC event later in the year. This is the third time in UFC history that the company has called off a PPV.

Payout Perspective:

Bellator looks like they will claim this as a win for their promotion as the UFC had to cancel this event.  It’s clear the UFC is more interested in its debut on ESPN the week before than they are its PPV which is a reversal of what you would think its bottom would be.  But, first impressions likely mean a lot here and the UFC believed moving the title fight to the ESPN debut would draw better ratings than its would PPV buys.  With this news, Bellator will hope to capitalize on the one event fight night in SoCal.

UFC 231 Prelims draw 786,000 viewers on FS1

December 11, 2018

The UFC 231 Prelims on FS1 drew 786,000 viewers on Saturday night.  The event featured the strawweight matchup between Nina Ansaroff and Claudia Gadelha with Ansaroff pulling off the upset victory.

The event drew 394,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo and a 0.46 share per ShowBuzz Daily.

The UFC 231 prefight show drew 211,000 viewers on FS1 and a 0.08 in the A18-49 demo for a 90-minute show.  The post-fight show drew 136,000 viewers and a 0.06 in the A18-49 demo for a 60 telecast.

Payout Perspective:

The Prelims ratings fared well considering the uncertainty of how the PPV would sell.  The pre-fight show as 90 minutes and still drew a respectable 211,000 viewers.  The PPV ran over 10pm PT so the post-fight show ran late.

ONE signs television deal with Turner Sports

December 11, 2018

ESPN reports that ONE Championship has signed a three-year broadcast deal with Turner Sports.  According to the report by Ariel Helwani, the deal for the Singapore-based company begins on January 1, 2019.

The company will have 24 events to air live on TNT beginning next year and on its digital platforms including B/R Live.  Financial details were not announced.

The first televised event is schedule for January 19, 2019 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The company had promised a North American deal earlier this year.  It has made some significant signings with former UFC fighters including Eddie Alvarez, Demetrious Johnson (technically via “trade”) and most recently Sage Northcutt.  It also signed Miesha Tate as a ONE exec.  With those moves, it seemed as though the company was ready for a big move.

Turner Sports had been in discussions for the UFC media rights and one point and it appears that the company sought to expand its live content.  B/R Live most recently aired the Phil Mickelson-Tiger Woods one on one golf round the Friday after Thanksgiving.  However, the attempt to market it on PPV was a bust with technical glitches causing the match to be aired for free and refunding those that paid $19.99 to watch.

Payout Perspective:

This is an interesting venture for Turner Sports as TNT has a much broader base than Fox Sports or Paramount.  As of this past September, TNT is received in approximately 89.573 million homes.  In comparison, Fox Sports 1, where the UFC currently resides is in 83,290 million homes.  Paramount Network, home of Bellator, is seen in 80,240 million homes.  NBC Sports Network, home of the PFL, is in 83,404 homes. Notably, ESPN, the future home of the UFC, came in at 85,988 million.

 

In my opinion, the signing of ONE Championship is more for the B/R Live digital content than it is for TNT.  The company is trying to expand its digital reach and signing a deal with ONE Championship gets it into the sport.  Aside from its anchor sports of NBA and golf, TNT airs esports on Friday night to steady, but not outstanding ratings.  Yet, it maintained a viewership base of younger viewers.  This will be an interesting signing and we will see if the casual viewer will acclimate to ONE.

Zuffa Reply Brief argues its provided Court with ample evidence for sealing requests

December 10, 2018

Zuffa has filed its Reply Brief in Support of its request to seal portion of its Reply Brief in its Motion for Summary Judgment.  Essentially, this reply brief is supporting its motion to seal portions in its Motion for Summary Judgment so that the public will not be able to see it.

Zuffa argues that while it provided detailed and “narrowly tailored” reasons for sealing requests, Plaintiffs argued with broad, “boiler-plate arguments” from other opposition briefs.  It also claims to have declarations including from Bellator to support its motion to seal whereas Plaintiffs do not.

In its Reply, Zuffa argues that the Court has found that the documents which included confidential business strategy information, including revenue and profit information regarding Zuffa’s Fight Pass product, Zuffa contracts and promotional agreements to be sealed.  Plaintiffs did not object at the time.  In Plaintiffs defense, they cite to the Order of the Court in this case which states there is no waiver if a party does not object.

It also argues that Plaintiffs’ Opposition does not address the “substantial evidence of the commercial sensitivity of its promotional agreements and negotiations regarding those agreements.”  Essentially, they suggest that Plaintiffs’ fail to meet their burden through extrinsic evidence such as declarations or cited testimony.  There is no rebuttal evidence to Zuffa’s declarations which is usually the tact in these motions.

Zuffa also contends that the information it seeks to seal is not public knowledge as claimed by Plaintiffs.  They try to make a distinction between the contract disclosed in the Eddie Alvarez litigation and widely written about versus its request to seal its contract.  Zuffa makes the argument that while some agreements may be public, the negotiations about those agreements and business strategy were properly filed under seal.

As for the argument that some of the information that Zuffa seeks to seal is too old, Zuffa claims that there would still be “highly sensitive information” that should be disclosed from public disclosure due to its commercial sensitivity.

Zuffa’s Reply Brief ISO… by on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

There are multiple motions to seal going on here so its kind of confusing to keep up but basically this Reply Brief supports its Motion for Summary Judgment.  It looks like that Zuffa attorneys are watching John and Paul’s twitter timeline for support for their brief to indicate that all is well with the disclosure of information since they have been able to access PACER for these documents.  Notably, they do not cite to John’s request for the court to unseal documents and the subsequent response by Zuffa. There seems to be an argument made here that the underlying issue of business strategy and confidential information that is seen underlies the reason for these documents to be sealed.  So, does that mean that due to the fact you can extrapolate a business decision based on the contents of a contract, it should not be disclosed to the public?  We shall see.

UFC 231 attendance, gate and bonuses

December 10, 2018

UFC 231 took place this past Saturday in Toronto and Max Holloway came out the big winner with two bonuses for the night.

Holloway’s TKO finish of Brian Ortega gave him a Performance of the Night.  The main event also drew Fight of the Night.  Thiago Santos earned the other $50,000 bonus in a hard-hitting first fight of the PPV with Jimi Manuwa.  Santos won via TKO.

Toronto continues to show it should be an annual stop for the UFC as it was an announced sellout of 19,039 for a $2.4 million live gate.  The event took place at the Scotiabank Arena.

The numbers were announced post-fight by UFC officials.

Payout Perspective:

An impressive return for Max Holloway at 145 as there were whispers of health issues and a move up in weight class.  But, “Blessed” was remarkably impressive in his dismantling of Ortega.  A great night for the UFC as Toronto seems to be an anchor city in Canada for the promotion.

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