Bellator 194 draws 476,000 viewers on Paramount

February 20, 2018

Bellator MMA Live 194 on the Paramount Network drew 476,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The event featured the second fight in the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix with Matt Mitrione defeating Roy Nelson.  The telecast also featured Patricky Friere as he stopped Derek Campos in the first round.

Bellator
Event Rating DVR + 3 Peak
192 770,000 1,000,000 1,500,000
193 470,000 534,000 715,000
194 476,000

Payout Perspective:

The event did slightly better than last month’s Bellator 193 but is below of 2017’s average of 614,000 viewers.  Through just 3 events this year, the average is down to 572,000 viewers.  One would have suspected this event doing better than 476,000 viewers since it featured the Heavyweight Grand Prix.   But, it was going up against the Winter Olympics so that may have come into play.

 

 

UFC attempts to exclude expert, Plaintiffs file for class certification in latest antitrust lawsuit filings

February 18, 2018

New filings in the UFC antitrust case filed Friday included plaintiffs’ request for class certification and Zuffa seeking to exclude the testimony of plaintiffs’ expert Andrew Zimbalist.  As is customary in litigation, a glut of pages of legal filings were made on a Friday, just in time for the three day President’s Day weekend for lawyers for the UFC and plaintiffs to sift through.

Both filings were anticipated.  Plaintiffs’ have been angling toward certification.  Zuffa’s motion to exclude plaintiffs’ expert is a strategic motion to discard or curb the testimony of Zimbalist based on his reports.

Zuffa’s Motion to Exclude plaintiffs’ expert economist Andrew Zimbalist is based on his expert reports and deposition testimony.  The basis for the request to exclude Dr. Zimbalist is that his method of coming up with his conclusion for plaintiffs’ damages is not premised upon a general accepted method of practice.  Zuffa categorizes Dr. Zimbalist’s reports and testimony as “junk science” that does not meet the Federal Rules of Evidence reliability standards. The “Daubert test” which is premised upon a court case, enables the court to perform a “gatekeeping” function to ensure that expert testimony admitted “both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand.”

Zuffa argues that Dr. Zimbalist’s claim that he utilizes the “yardstick method” when assessing damages is incorrect.  “Instead, he compared Zuffa to other firms chosen based on his selecting comparison firms that had as much in common as possible.”  Zuffa takes issue with Dr. Zimbalist using a “damages method” with no standards.  The claim is that Zimbalist chose to compare UFC fighter pay with those of the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB based on his previous work within those sports.  Zuffa describes Dr. Zimbalist’s testimony as one which lack standards without following the generally accepted “yardstick method” of assessing damages in comparing a market or firm similar to the plaintiffs’ situation for the impact of antitrust violations.  The issue taken with Dr. Zimbalist’s method and the accepted “yardstick method” is the comparability of markets.  Zuffa argues that Dr. Zimbalist did not make a comparison of the MMA market with a comparable other market.  Dr. Zimbalist argues that he used a model that had “as much in common as possible.”  But, as outlined by its motion, this does not follow the “yardstick method.”  Zuffa also claims that Dr. Zimbalist created a “selection bias” as he essentially used comparators he felt comfortable with to get to the desired result as opposed to determining whether the selection were the most appropriate.

If the Court agrees with Zuffa, this would deal a big blow to the plaintiffs’ case as one of its main experts would not be able to testify at trial and any evidence produced would not be used to prove damages as plaintiffs had planned.

Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification is a perfunctory motion necessary to attain class action status.  The requirements for the court to grant class status is based on four primary elements (which most attorneys know for studying the bar exam):  1) numerosity, 2) commonality, 3) typicality, and 4) adequacy.

The first element is the number of potential class member affected by the issues claimed in the lawsuit.  The second element is based on the common questions of law or fact in the lawsuit.  Third, the claims or defendants of the class representatives are typical of those of the class.  Finally, the class representatives (i.e., the lawyers involved in the current lawsuit) will adequately protect the interests of the class.

The plaintiffs move for an order certifying a Bout Class and an Identity Class.  The Bout Class encompasses all persons who competed in one or more pro UFC-promoted MMA bouts in the US between December 16, 2010 and June 30, 2017.  The Identity Class is based on each and every UFC Fighter whose Identity was expropriated or exploited by the UFC from December 16, 2010 and June 30, 2017.

In its motion, plaintiffs reiterate the “Scheme” outlined in their lawsuit.  The Scheme used by Zuffa in which it established and maintain market dominance in which it allows payment of fighters less than it would be in a more competitive market.  The three categories of the Scheme include its “long-term exclusive” “Contracts,” the “Coercion” of fighters to re-sign contracts, making them perpetual and the “Acquisitions” of other MMA promotions.

The motion for class certification is heavily-redacted especially when the motion relates to UFC contracts.  Looking at the class certification elements, its clear that there are many UFC fighters that may be affected by this lawsuit.  The overall argument for class certification is that too many people have been affected by the subject cause of actions that separate lawsuits would not make sense.  Secondly, the plaintiffs argue that there are common issues of law involved including:  1) whether Zuffa violated antitrust laws; 2) whether Zuffa possessed market power; 3) whether Zuffa’s Scheme had anti-competitive effects; 4) what injunctive relief is appropriate; and 5) the aggregate amount of damages caused by Zuffa’s unlawful Scheme.

Payout Perspective:

Both of these motions were likely to happen and we will see how the Court decides each.  With respect to the Motion to Exclude, the arguments asserted by Zuffa are valid but it’s the opposing party’s job to poke holes in the expert’s testimony.  The best-case scenario for Zuffa is that the testimony is limited in some way on the damages estimate.  It would be highly unlikely that the Court would exclude a witness in their entirety.  Dr. Zimbalist is an experienced expert and is used to attacks on his report and more importantly, knows how to craft a report.  Additionally, the reports are done in concert with plaintiffs’ attorneys so, overall, plaintiffs agree to what is being opined in the report.

More importantly for plaintiffs, class certification is a big deal for the plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ lawyers.  If the Court certifies class status for this lawsuit, then you will see more fighters joining the lawsuit and plaintiffs’ attorneys could collect a windfall if they are eventually successful at the end of the case either via settlement or verdict.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

UFC Fight Night 126 attendance, gate and bonuses

February 18, 2018

UFC Fight Night 126 was a fast-paced evening with early-stoppage and exciting action Sunday night.  Derrick Lewis led the list of bonus winners with his KO of Marcin Tybura.

Lewis, Curtis Millender, Brandon Davis and Steven Petersen earned the $50,000 bonuses for the night.  Millender earned the other Performance Bonus while Davis and Petersen earned Fight of the Night.

Despite being held on the ground in the previous round, Lewis used his power to KO Tybura in the third round for the stoppage.  Millender stopped Thiago Alves with stunning left knee to Alves’ head which put him on the canvas without a need for Millender to follow him to the ground.  Davis earned a unanimous decision over Petersen.

The event took place at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.  The event drew 10,502 for a live gate of $794,350.  Out of 3 visits to Austin, Texas, it had the highest gate and attendance.

The UFC announced the attendance, bonus and gate post-event.

Payout Perspective:

The event saw Donald Cerrone stop Yancy Medeiros in the first round which highlighted a night with 8 of the 12 fights ending in stoppages and 6 of those ending in the first round.  It was surprising that Cerrone did not receive a Performance Bonus although Lewis and Millender had impressive stoppages.  There also a variety of other fights to choose from for the honor.

UFC 220 buys estimated between 340K-380K

February 16, 2018

According to Dave Meltzer in a report at MMA Fighting, UFC 220 is estimated at doing 340,000 to 380,000 pay-per-view buys.  The ratings are similar to numbers in line for UFC 219 in December.

UFC 220 featured two title fights.  The main event was Stipe Miocic defending his title against Francis Ngannou.  The co-headliner was Daniel Cormier defending his light heavyweight title against Volkan Oezdemir.

There were over 1 million google searches the night of UFC 220 which is an indicator of PPV interest.  Also, the UFC 220 Prelims drew 905,000 viewers on FS1.

UFC 219 featured Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino as she earned a unanimous decision over Holly Holm.  It was previously reported doing between 340,000-380,000 buys.

Payout Perspective:

UFC 220 reflects the new normal for the company’s PPV business.  It is an achievement if the show can do over 200,000 buys notwithstanding a Conor McGregor on the card.  Of course, any buy over 200,000 garners some of its participants a PPV upside which is good for the fighters.  The UFC still made money on the PPV but not as much as it would have hoped.  UFC 221 last week will likely do much less than the past two cards.  But, the March and April events should bring back the average for the company.

Magomedov and Tukhgov accept 2-year sanctions for violating UFC Anti-Doping Policy

February 15, 2018

Ruslan Magomedov and Zubaira Tukhgov have accepted two-year sanctions for violating the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.  They will be eligible to fight in the UFC in September 2018.

Both fighters accepted two-year suspension as a result of out-of-competition positive tests on September 7, 2016 revealing ostarine in their systems.

Tukhugov also tested positive for ostarine in an out-of-competition test on October 29, 2016.  USADA indicated that since the second positive test resulted from a sample that was collected before he was notified of his first positive test, they were treated as a single violation.

Via USADA:

Following notification of their positive tests, both Magomedov and Tukhugov claimed they had tested positive due to their use of a contaminated supplement, which USADA was unable to confirm at that time to justify a reduction from the maximum two-year period of ineligibility for a non-Specified Substance.

Magomedov and Tukhugov subsequently exercised their right to have their cases submitted to a neutral arbitrator for resolution.

Magomedov’s and Tukhugov’s cases were consolidated, allowing for a single presentation of the athletes’ defenses to the independent arbitrator. During a multi-day hearing, the athletes presented testimony and submitted evidence in an attempt to support their supplement contamination claims and request for a reduced period of ineligibility. Nevertheless, after two days of testimony, USADA informed Magomedov and Tukhugov that it was still unwilling to consider a reduced sanction because it did not believe supplement contamination was a valid explanation for their positive tests. Thereafter, and before the conclusion of the hearing, USADA and the athletes reached an agreement to resolve the case, with Magomedov and Tukhugov each accepting a two-year period of ineligibility and agreeing to contribute a total of $10,000 toward the costs of the arbitration proceedings.

Magomedov’s and Tukhugov’s two-year periods of ineligibility began on September 26, 2016, the date the first of the athletes’ provisional suspensions was imposed.

Both Russian fighters train out of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose.

Payout Perspective:

The settlement at time of arbitration likely means that the fighters’ case was not going well and the threat that an unfavorable ruling could have meant more of a penalty for both.  A two-year suspension means that they will be able to fight starting this September.  The arbitration hearing was the fourth of its kind under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.  The athlete has never won an arbitration hearing since the policy was put in place.

Canadian MMA promotion sues WSOF for breach of Franchise Agreement

February 15, 2018

A Canadian mixed martial arts regional promotion has filed a lawsuit against MMAWC, LLC and associated entities with the World Series of Fighting promotion in Clark County Superior Court in Nevada.

The lawsuit, filed on February 1, 2018, also names Carlos Silva, Ray Sefo and Keith Redmond.  Aggression Fighting Championship (“AFC”) claims that in mid-2013 was approached by WSOF looking to expand its business into the Canadian market.  WSOF claimed it wanted to acquire AFC and rename it World Series of Fighting Canada.  According to the lawsuit, it claims that WSOF represented that it had “substantial money behind the company” and an “ironclad network deal with NBC” and had retained IMG to sell events internationally.  AFC claims that WSOF would “cover all increased costs of events to rebrand the AFC, and Plaintiff would be reimbursed all event expenses.”  WSOF claimed it would share all broadcast revenues.

AFC executed a 5-year “licensing agreement which began on August 21, 2013 and expired on August 21, 2018.  But, AFC claims WSOF never provided a Franchise Offering Circular, financial statement or any of the required disclosures for selling a Franchise.

The lawsuit states that after WSOF took over AFC, that WSOF was “forcibly evicted from their office space and there was internal fighting related to non-payment of loans, expenses and vendors.”

AFC claims that it “advanced several tens of thousands of dollars for costs and expense for these events.”  It also paid a “monthly stipend” to WSOF.  Despite requests for payment, WSOF did not “honor the terms of the Franchise Agreement.”

AFC claims that WSOF has failed to pay any Canadian broadcast or streaming revenue to AFC or merchandise revenue.

Interestingly, AFC notes that as part of the “Franchise Agreement,” AFC can use the “Professional Fighters League” name in Canada.

There are ten causes of action in the Complaint, among the claims AFC claims breach of contract of the Franchise Agreement, the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in contract, failing to inform AFC that they did not honor the obligations of the Franchise Agreement, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and tortious interference with contract. It also claims that Silva, Sefo, Redmond and Bruce Deifik breached their fiduciary duty as managers, directors and/or officers of WSOF/PFL. There is also a Civil RICO claim as a result of these claims.

Payout Perspective:

Notably, next week a hearing is scheduled fora Motion to Dismiss and/or compel arbitration in the case of WSOF and Shawn Wright as trustee for a company (WSOF Global, LLC) that provided loans to WSOF.  That case also deals with the issues related to the WSOF and PFL.  Here, it appears that the Canadian company is attempting to recoup money after a broken franchise deal from WSOF.  Since the new ownership took over, AFC probably feels duped that they were not compensated from the still existing franchise agreement.  One would assume that the new investors would take over the liabilities of the previous regime.  Then again, the multitude of lawsuits reflect ongoing issues with the structure of the prior company.  One would think we see this case go to arbitration as well as the Shawn Wright situation.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

 

Jon Jones CSAC hearing set for February 27th

February 14, 2018

The California State Athletic Commission will have a hearing in Anaheim on Tuesday, February 27th to address an appeal from Jon Jones’ doping violation and license suspension from UFC 214.  The agenda posted by the CSAC website confirmed the hearing.

Jones was suspended after winning the UFC Light Heavyweight title in Anaheim this past July.  An in-competition drug test revealed a positive test for the banned substance Turinabol.

In addition, Jones will have another USADA arbitration hearing to determine the failed drug test.

Jones’ manager, Malki Kawa indicated that a resolution should occur by the end of March.  He also told MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas that there is a “95-percent chance Jones will fight before the conclusion of 2018.”

Perhaps being positive, Jones has posted training videos on his social media account.  So, maybe there’s some good news for the former champion.

Payout Perspective:

This case has been lingering for a while.  We note that the next CSAC meeting after February is in May so if there is no resolution in a couple weeks, barring a special meeting.  I am not sure how Kawa believes Jones can be back before the end of 2018.  As a second-time offender, the UFC Anti-Doping Policy can hand down a 4-year ban to Jones.  His team denies he knowingly took the substance but even if that’s a mitigating factor, the team seems confident Jones will just receive a 1-year suspension.  Yet, he’d have to navigate both the CSAC and USADA hearings.  Jones seemed confident last time he was suspended, we will see if he has a better case this time around.

Alliance MMA cleans house of C-Suite officers according to SEC filing

February 14, 2018

Alliance MMA announced that its Chief Executive Officer, Paul K. Danner III, resigned as an officer of the Company effectively immediately according to a February 7, 2018 SEC Filing.  In addition, it terminated the employment of the Company’s President, Robert Haydak, and its Chief Marketing Officer James Byrne.

Danner will stay on with Alliance MMA as Chairman of the Company’s Board of Directors through May 1, 2018.

Alliance MMA announced that Robert L. Mazzeo will serve as the Company’s acting CEO.  Mazzeo had been acting as the company’s corporate counsel and is a partner at Mazzeo Song, P.C.

Alliance MMA is a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ.  The stock is currently trading under $0.75 per share.  The company’s 52 week high is $3.38 as of the time of this writing.  It is down 77.46%  over the course of the past 52 weeks.  When it opened on the NASDAQ in November 2016 it started at $4.00 per share.

The company positioned itself as a “feeder” league for bigger promotions like the UFC.  It had acquired several regional promotions

MMA Payout previously interviewed Haydak and Burt Watson about their work with Alliance MMA.

UFC 221: Payout Perspective

February 13, 2018

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at the UFC’s first event in Perth for UFC 221.

Romero misses weight but KO’s Rockhold

Yoel Romero missed weight which threw the main event into question.  Romero was fined 30% of his fight purse which was given to Rockhold.  The awkward stipulation was that Rockhold could win the interim title but Romero could not.  It was expected that Rockhold likely received further incentives to fight Romero.

And hopefully he did because Romero KO’d Rockhold in Round 3 to destroy his chances of winning the interim middleweight title and a showdown with Robert Whittaker.

For Rockhold, it has to be a disappointing result. One might suggest he not go through with the fight since Romero missed weight but I’m sure it was a matter of getting paid for the event.  It sounds as though he is looking to move up to light heavyweight next.

Blaydes earns decision over Mark Hunt

Curtis Blaydes earned a unanimous decision victory over Mark Hunt.  The New Zealander was the fan favorite but the now 10-1 (5-1 in the UFC) Blaydes earned the biggest win of his UFC career.  The good news for Blaydes is that he it was the penultimate fight on his UFC fight contract which means he has some leverage going into negotiations for a new deal.

On the other end, Hunt, who is still embroiled in a lawsuit against the UFC, Dana White and Brock Lesnar indicated that he would be ending his time with the UFC.

The UFC may need Blaydes.  Currently 9th in UFC rankings, the division is suffering from lack of known fighters and/or injuries.  Perhaps he is paired with another UFC 221 star, Tai Tuivasa, who defeated Cyril Asker.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

UFC 221 did well despite the Sunday morning start in Perth.  It drew 12,437 fans for a live gate of $3.6 million Australian dollars (or $2,810,520 American).

The bonuses went to Israel Adesany, Jussier Formiga, Jake Matthews and Li Jingliang.  Adesanya and Formiga earned Performance Bonuses while Matthews and Jingliang drew the “Fight of the Night.”  All received $50,000 bonuses.  There was some controversy in Jingliang’s receipt of the Fight of the Night since he eye-gouged Matthews while attempting to get out of his guillotine.  No foul was called despite calls for at least a point deduction.

Sponsorships

Air Asia, Hudson Shipping Lines, Fetch, General Tire and Monster Energy had the center of the octagon.   I do not believe Modelo was a part of the signage for this event.

Fetch is an independent internet pay television provider.

Odds and ends

The promotion in the U.S. was minimal.  The UFC Countdown Show on Sunday night did register in the Nielsen 150 with 102,000 viewers and 0.04 in the A18-49 demo.  The post-fight show on FS1 drew 188,000 viewers.

The UFC 221 Prelims on FS1 drew 697,000 viewers on FS1.  It was the lowest-rated UFC Prelims event since UFC 216 on FX drew 653,000 viewers.  UFC 216 drew about 120,000 PPV buys.

Luke Rockhold arriving to open workouts on a camel was some Ricky Jarrett from HBO’s Ballers-type stuff.

Tai Tuivasa could be a fighter to watch out for in the heavyweight division.  Drinking out of the shoe was different.

Tyson Pedro also gave a great post-fight promo and Jon Anik was able to catch his attempt at a mic-drop.

There were over 200,000 google searches for UFC 221 on Saturday.

Conclusion

One might expect that this PPV to do very poorly.  Romero not making weight may have added some intrigue to the matchup.  This card would have been an interesting FS1 card but to pay $65 for the card is very hard to reconcile if you are a casual viewer.  Moreover, the fact that there is another UFC card next weekend makes skipping a PPV like this easier.  One might expect a buy rate of around 125,000.

UFC 221 Prelims on FS1 draw 697,000 viewers

February 13, 2018

The UFC 221 on FS1 drew 697,000 viewers Saturday night per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The telecast featured Dong Hyun Kim earned a split decision over Damien Brown.

Also on the telecast, Israel Adesanya stopped Rob Wilkinson, Alex Volkanovski stopped Jeremy Kennedy and Justin Formiga submitted Ben Nguyen.

The two-hour telecast drew 0.21 in the A18-49 demo.

Also, the post-fight show on FS1 drew 188,000 viewers.  The 52-minute wrapup show which started a little after 1:00 am on the east coast drew 0.08 in the A18-49 demo.

Payout Perspective:

Predictably, the event drew lower than UFC 220 last month.  This is likely due to the Olympics as well as the less-than-stellar hype for this PPV.  This ratings may mean that the PPV buys did not do well domestically despite the local excitement for the event in Perth.

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