Bellator 215 draws 365,000 viewers on Paramount Network Friday night

February 19, 2019

Bellator MMA 215 drew 365,000 viewers on the Paramount Network Friday night according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily. The ratings continue a precipitous slide for the promotion on television.

The event was the first of two nights for the promotion in Uncasville, Connecticut. Friday night’s event featured Matt Mitrione taking on Sergei Kharitonov in a Heavyweight matchup. However, the fight never came to fruition as an errant Mitrione kick hit Kharitonov for a low blow and the Russian could not continue.

The ratings reflect a continued drop in viewership for Bellator. One might argue that viewership may have been skewed since the event was also on DAZN. Yet, the ratings have seen a downturn over the years.

Payout Perspective:

Top Rank Boxing on Friday night scored 704,000 viewers on ESPN in the same time slot. While Bellator 214 did well in the ratings, the lack of consistency here should be a concern for the promotion. As Jed I. Goodman points out, there is a downward trend in viewership since its time on Spike.

UFC Fight Night on ESPN 1 draws big ratings

February 18, 2019

ESPN reports that Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night on ESPN 1 drew a 1.1 metered market rating while the prelims drew a 0.7 rating. Overall, ESPN indicated that the five-hour window on ESPN drew an average of 0.9.

The partnership between the UFC and ESPN is going well for the promotion as through 3 linear television events, ESPN has aired the three highest-rated UFC telecasts on cable since the beginning of 2017.

Although the ratings will not come out until later this week, ESPN notes that the overnight ratings reflect that it’s the highest-rated UFC Fight Night on cable since UFC Fight Night 81 from January 2016. That event drew a 1.4 rating. The ratings drew an impressive 2.288 million viewers with the prelims posting 1.767 million on FS1.

While Sunday’s night event featuring a heavyweight matchup between Francis Ngannou and Cain Velasquez ended abruptly, it posted an impressive viewership rating. The Prelims which preceded the event also posted strong ratings.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that there are more ESPN subscribers than there are FS1 subscribers which helps with viewership. Despite the NBA All-Star game on at the same time, the UFC did well as it was on the main network and other ESPN programming did not really interfere as the UFC was the main sport on Sunday night for the network.

UFC on ESPN 1 attendance, gate and bonuses

February 17, 2019

UFC on ESPN 1 took place on Sunday night with the whole card airing on the main network.  The event took place at The Talking Stick Resort in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Fight of the Night went to Vincente Luque and Bryan Barbaerena in a heavy-hitting welterweight matchup.  Luque outlasted Barbarena with seconds to spare in the third-round.  In addition, Luke Sanders KO’d Renan Barao and Kron Gracie choked out Alex Caceres in the first round to earn the Performance bonuses.  All received an additional $50K.

14,269 fans attended the event and drew a gate of $1,409,447.  The numbers were announced post-event.

Payout Perspective:

The obvious disappointment of the night was Cain Velasquez losing within the first 30 seconds of the main event to Francis Ngannou in what looked like a knee injury more than damage.  This put a damper on an event that had some great fights during the night despite a fickle Phoenix crowd.

Court dismisses all but one claim in Mark Hunt’s lawsuit against the UFC

February 14, 2019

In a 28-page order filed on Thursday, the United States District Court of Nevada dismissed all but one of UFC fighter Mark Hunt’s claims in his lawsuit alleging among its claims breach of contract, fraud and RICO Violations against the UFC.

The Order dismissed White and Lesnar in the lawsuit  leaving just the UFC as the lone defendant.  For background of the case, you can go here.

An analysis of the Motion to Dismiss hearing is here.

Order on Motion to Dismiss by on Scribd

The Court had allowed Hunt the right to amend his Complaint to include further details supporting his claims under RICO Act violations and fraud. However, the Court was not persuaded by Hunt’s amended and supplemental complaint.

In total, 9 out of the 10 claims in Hunt’s lawsuit were dismissed.

The Court determined that Hunt’s claims under the state and federal RICO statutes failed because either the allegations were “non-cognizable damages or failed to plead facts to show” a proximate cause to his financial losses.

The Court specifically took aim at Hunt’s loss to Lesnar at UFC 200.  The Court did not agree with Hunt that due to his loss to Lesnar, it proximately caused ancillary injuries to Hunt including cancelled promotional events post-UFC 200 costing him over $90,000 in appearance fees, a “dip” in his social media popularity and diminished advertising fees as well as a loss of licensing fees and sales for his personal clothing brand.   Here, the Court could not side with Hunt and believed that his RICO allegations failed for lack of proximate cause as they were “fatally speculative.”

In response to Hunt’s arguments that it could introduce expert testimony at a later stage of litigation to show the causation, the Court cited to precedent which stated that “it does not mean that the mere possibility of expert testimony down the line can rehabilitate allegations that insufficiently establish proximate causation.”  Moreover, the Court concludes that his claims cannot prove that Hunt would have beaten Lesnar if he was not doping.

As for the allegations related to White and the UFC, the Court infers that Hunt relates his claim to the removal of his fight from UFC Fight Night 121 (“referred to as UFC 121 in the order”) after he wrote an article claiming to suffer from slurred speech and other maladies he attributes to fighting.  The Court found fatal defects in the pleading as this was the portion of his claim in his Supplemental Complaint.  But he did not provide sufficient notice to the defendants.  Nevertheless, the Court dismissed the claim as it believed that the costs he attributed to training camp as not financial losses that do not constitute damage to “tangible property” under the RICO statute.

The lack of proximate cause also proved fatal for Hunt’s claims against White for alleged “aiding and abetting” and common law fraud.  Here again the Court refers to the lack of evidence linking White’s representations including the claim Lesnar was being tested by USADA with the alleged doping scheme.

The Court also dismissed Hunt’s breach of contract claim because he was paid for his fight against Lesnar at UFC 200.  In addition, the Court states that since Hunt’s damages relate to items that occurred after his loss, and not his contracted pay, the claim must be dismissed.

The Court determined that Hunt’s unjust enrichment claim must also fail because it stems from his contract with the UFC.  He received what he was owed in the contract and there is no compensation for Hunt’s perception that his services exceeded the scope of the contract.

Hunt’s battery and aiding and abetting claims fail because he consented to the fight with Lesnar.  Moreover, there was no evidence that Lesnar did anything outside “the range of the ordinary activity,” in an MMA bout.  The Court cites to a California case in which a pitcher intentionally threw a pitch at a batter’s head which injured the batter.  The Court sided with the pitcher stating that while throwing at a batter’s head is “forbidden by the rules of baseball,” it “is an inherent risk of baseball.”  By analogy, the Court states that even though Lesnar tested positive for a performance enhancing drug, there was no evidence submitted which revealed that he did something outside the scope of an MMA bout.  Thus, there is no battery claim against Lesnar.

Finally, the civil conspiracy claims must fail because the Court dismissed Hunt’s fraud and battery claims.  Since the underlying claims were dismissed, there cannot be a conspiracy claim.

The Court also authorized the remaining parties (i.e., UFC and Hunt) to attend a settlement conference.  In all likelihood, the parties will settle.

Payout Perspective:

In all likelihood, this case will be over after the settlement conference.  Cases for breaches of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing in contract have a low likelihood of victory for the plaintiff.  Based on the Court’s opinion which dismissed Hunt’s case for lack of proximate cause to his claims, it would only be a matter of time before Hunt’s last claim is dismissed.  This is an unfortunate result for Hunt.  While it’s clear that the allegations were tied together by a thread, it’s clear that he was tired of being put in the Octagon with opponents that failed drug tests. While Hunt may have had several good points in his lawsuit, the Court did not find anything of legal substance to keep the case afloat.  MMA Payout will keep you posted if there would be an appeal.

UFC 234 Prelims score 1.339M viewers

February 12, 2019

The prelims for UFC 234 on ESPN drew 1.339 million viewers per Nielson via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event drew 684,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo.

It was the UFC’s second event aired on ESPN as part of the new deal beginning at the start of the year.  The featured bout of the evening saw Devonte Smith stop Dong Hyun Ma.

The event drew an overall share of 0.82.

In comparison, last year’s UFC 221 prelims which featured Dong Hyun Ma (once again) and Damien Brown drew 697,000 viewers with 110,000 in the A18-49 demo.

Payout Perspective:

It’s a small sample size but it’s clear that the ESPN relationship is helping the UFC with viewership.  Again, the Duke-Virginia college basketball game served as a lead-in with a slight overrun this time (about 2 mins), but it helped with viewership as the first fight of the prelims saw the peak for the telecast.

UFC 234: Payout Perspective

February 11, 2019

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  In this edition, we take a look at UFC 234 in Brisbane, Australia.

Adesanysa defeats idol in main event

With Robert Whittaker needing emergency surgery for a hernia, his middleweight title fight against Kelvin Gastelum was scratched and Anderson Silva-Israel Adesanya was inserted at the top of the card. The fight was to become the number 1 contender according to the UFC.

Adesanya bested his idol via unanimous decision in a fight that he was inserted in to win.  The good news is that Silva looked like Anderson Silva.  Two years removed from his last appearance in the Octagon due to a drug suspension, Silva appeared slower (of course), but had enough to make the fight entertaining for all.

Adesanya now waits to see if he will fight Whittaker or a showdown with Kelvin Gastelum.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

UFC 234 was a sell out with 15,238 in attendance for a gate of $2,470,088 U.S. Dollars.  There was an opportunity for those wishing to receive refunds to obtain them.

The bonuses went to Silva-Adesanya, Montana De La Rosa and Devonte Smith.  FOTN went to Silva-Adesanya while De La Rosa and Smith received Performance Bonuses.  All earned an addition $50K.

Reebok Promotional Guideline Payouts (via MMA Junkie)

Israel Adesanya: $4,000
def. Anderson Silva: $20,000

Lando Vannata: $5,000
def. Marcos Mariano: $3,500

Ricky Simon: $3,500
def. Rani Yahya: $20,000

Montana De La Rosa: $3,500
def. Nadia Kassem: $3,500

Jim Crute: $3,500
def. Sam Alvey: $15,000

Devonte Smith: $3,500
def. Dong Hyun Ma: $5,000

Shane Young: $3,500
def. Austin Arnett: $4,000

Kai Kara-France: $3,500
def. Raulian Paiva: $3,500

Kyung Ho Kang: $5,000
def. Teruto Ishihara: $5,000

Jalin Turner: $3,500
def. Callan Potter: $3,500

Jonathan Martinez: $3,500
def. Wuliji Buren: $3,500

Sponsorships

TAB, the online gambling web site in Australia served as a “presenting” sponsor for the event as its logo was everywhere during UFC 234.  Tab was also on the fighter kits.  Its unlikely that any of the fighters received compensation for wearing the logo based on previous logo placement.

TAB had the fighter checkpoint.  The Octagon featured Air Asia, Hudson Shipping Company, Nemiroff, Hooters, Modelo and Monster Energy in the middle.   Also in the Octagon was Port Local Pirate Life Brewing, the video game Fallout76 (which also sponsored the Embedded episodes) and Bisley, an Australian workwear company.

Odds and Ends

The partnership with ESPN looks to be off to a great start as the second prelims show on ESPN has drawn stellar ratings.  Although no viewer numbers as of Sunday night, the metered market rating has a 1.0 share peaking with 1.7.  Once again, the Duke-Virginia college basketball game was the lead-in.

Dana White brokered one time deal with DirecTV as the UFC deal with the satellite provider ended in 2018.  It was not until Thursday that White came to an agreement otherwise a big section of the UFC fan base would not have access to the PPV via DTV.

Gastelum walking around the arena with Henry Cejudo’s belt brought out a reaction, which may have been all he wanted.  Also, it forces the issue that he should deserve the next shot at the middleweight title.  Whether Gastelum will get the first shot at Whittaker or if Adesanya does will be an interesting question.  Obviously, if Whittaker takes some time to recover, we could see Gastelum and Adesanya vying for another interim title.

Interesting to note that the Middleweight title has not been the same since GSP took it from Michael Bisping two years ago.

Montana De La Rosa’s post-fight interview in the Octagon stated that she wanted to get through her TUF contract so that she would be able to make better money.  She did earn a Performance Bonus so that should help her.

In addition to the UFC, Showtime Boxing had an event.

There were over 1 million google searches for UFC 234 on Saturday which may be attributed to the main event change.

Conclusion

 This may be the first of many instances where the UFC Prelim show on ESPN will do a big rating but the PPV will not. In the past, the UFC Prelims have served as an indicator on PPV success.  With the UFC on ESPN now, I don’t think it will no longer be the case.  With the elimination of the title fight, I think the PPV may have taken a hit, but not one that would show considerable damage.  The problem is that this PPV was destined to be in the 125,000 PPV range which are the UFC hardcore fans minus a few not wanting to shell out the $65 this time around.

Strong ratings for UFC 234 Prelims on ESPN

February 10, 2019

The UFC 234 preliminaries drew a strong 1.0 metered market rating on ESPN and ESPN Deportes according to ESPN PR.  The initial ratings reveal it being the second highest-rated PPV prelims on record.

The UFC 234 PPV Prelims on ESPN and ESPN Deportes drew an average 1.0 meter market rating which is second to only the UFC 205 PPV Prelim in November 2016.  The ratings were up 100% from last February’s UFC 221 Prelims which was headlined by Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold.

The event peaked with a 1.7 metered market rating during the Ishihara-Kang fight.

Payout Perspective:

 The Ishihara-Kang fight was the first fight on the card which means that the lead-in Duke-Virginia (again) helped the broadcast.  The ratings will likely come out on Monday and rival UFC on ESPN +1 a couple weeks ago.  So far so good with the new partnership as the prelims to UFC events are hitting new highs.

Whittaker out of UFC 234 due to hernia

February 9, 2019

Robert Whittaker is out of his main event fight against Kelvin Gastelum just hours prior to the event start.  ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report that Gastelum is out due to a hernia the middleweight champion complained of last night after the weigh-ins.

According to Dana White via Okamoto’s tweet, Whittaker had surgery today.

The main event will be Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya in what will be a three-round main event.

The news is terrible for a PPV that was already suffering from the lack of noteworthy fights.

Payout Perspective:

Unfortunate news for Whittaker who was the centerpiece of this PPV and its still too soon to know what this injury may mean to his middleweight title.  Also bad for Gastelum who had to travel all the way to Australia.  How much will the PPV buy rate be impacted?  It’s not clear considering Whittaker-Gastelum was not a marquee fight but it seems that the moniker of a “title fight” always gets some notoriety so one has to consider this impacting the buy rate.

After contract impasse, UFC gets one fight reprieve from DirecTV

February 8, 2019

For those that were going to miss this Saturday’s UFC 234 PPV since it was not going to be on DirecTV, you are saved.  Dana White issued a statement indicating that they’ve brokered a one fight deal.

As reported on Thursday, the two sides had reached an impasse in contract negotiations.  One might infer that the reason for the issues is the assertion that the UFC wanted a better percentage of the revenue received from PPV purchases.  As the distributor, DirecTV traditionally receives about half of the revenues received from purchase through the provider.  But, the UFC had indicated it was receiving more than half.  Distributors promote the PPV event on its network and provides access to its subscriber base.

With the UFC having new alliances and its own digital platform for its PPV, the UFC is trying to assert its leverage.  But DirecTV was not budging.

Payout Perspective:

Perhaps the UFC was the first to blink in this exchange as the PPV day neared.  The UFC may feel a little more bullish about its product considering how it believed it aided ESPN+ with the number of subscribers it brought to the platform.  One has to think it will try to secure a formal contract deal prior to next month’s PPV featuring Jon Jones.

DirecTV will not offer UFC 234 PPV due to impasse in negotiations

February 7, 2019

MMA Junkie reports that DirecTV will not carry this Saturday’s UFC 234 PPV due to a breakdown in negotiations with the UFC.

According to the report, the UFC and DirecTV’s previous contract ended in 2018.  UFC 234 is the first PPV of 2019 and the two sides had been negotiating but have come to an impasse.

The UFC issued a statement on its web site which states that it continues to work to reach a resolution but provides fans with other options.

The Sports Business Journal reported that the UFC was receiving a 70/30 split of revenue from some distributors.  However, Dave Meltzer had refuted this assertion.  Regardless, it’s clear that the UFC, with its own digital platform in place, is willing to be more assertive with its PPV cut with distributors.

Payout Perspective:

The DirecTV impasse will present the UFC with a fallout from this Saturday’s PPV which appears to be one of the least appealing PPVs in some time.  Yet, the UFC is willing to take a one-time hit as UFC 235 is looking like a big event.  It will be interesting to see how the UFC negotiates with DirecTV as the company had 19.63M subscribers as of the end of the 3rd quarter of 2018.  Despite offering alternatives, foreclosing this audience to its product seems to be foolish.  Then again, the UFC is doing well on ESPN+ so we will see how negotiations go.  As an aside, don’t look for DirecTV to cave as it has been a prolonged stalemate with the Pac 12 Networks for years.

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