Amendment to Ali Act introduced on Thursday

May 28, 2016

The much-anticipated bill seeking to amend the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act was introduced by Oklahoma congressman Markwayne Mullin this past Thursday.

No text of the act which would amend the current law is available for the public but one would think that this should be available soon.  Democrat Joseph Kennedy is co-sponsoring the bill.  Thus, there is bi-partisan support for the bill as Mullin is a Repbulican.

The congressman is a former MMA fighter and is in support of legislation to protect all combat sport athletes.  Information about the amendment language has been vague.

Despite the intent of the Ali Act, there are issues with the law and its enforcement.

Payout Perspective:

This will be an interesting piece of legislation to track as it makes its way through committee.  While I think the intent is there, the details of the amendments will be the most interesting thing.  The UFC would oppose this Act and despite Bellator advocating for this, allegations in a recent lawsuit against the Viacom-owned company may say otherwise about its business dealings.

Bellator MMA sued for wrongful termination

May 25, 2016

Zachery Light has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Bellator MMA and Viacom citing wrongful termination based on public policy.  Light, a former MMA fighter and employee of Bellator, claims various wrongdoings while working under Scott Coker.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by Light’s attorney, William Crosby.

Light, a former amateur wrestler and MMA fighter, was hired by Bellator and worked under Bjorn Rebney.  He became Bellator’s Talent Development Manager.  The lawsuit states he was soon promoted to Talent Development Director.  He was praised for his work and “received the highest ranking on his annual reviews.”

The Complaint notes a shift of business culture when Viacom acquired Bellator and Scott Coker took over.

Light alleges that in September 2015, he became aware of a number of instances in which Bellator “failed to observe and knowingly disobeyed laws enacted to protect the health and safety” of MMA fighters.  Notably, the California law requiring a medical clearance examination by a licensed physician for participants in a MMA fight.  Light claimed that “a reliable source” at Bellator 126 noted that Ryan Martinez’ blood and eye medicals that were submitted to the state of Arizona “were admittedly forged.”  Martinez lost his fight to Nick Rossborough.

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At Bellator 131 in San Diego, Light learned from “reliable sources” that “a number of fighters on the card had submitted California state-required medicals” by Adam Rendon.  Rendon, the lawsuit claims, was not a licensed physician and this was in violation of California law.  Bellator 131 was the first “tentpole” event of the Coker-era which featured Stephan Bonnar fighting Tito Ortiz.

The lawsuit claims that Light talked to Rich Chou, Bellator’s Vice President of Talent, prior to Bellator 126.  Chou indicated to Light that he would follow up but when he did not here from Chou he approached Scott Coker.  According to the Complaint, “Coker told plaintiff (Light) “to do what Chou told you to do,” without addressing these issues.”  Light went back to Chou who, according to the lawsuit, stated he would be terminated if he (Light) “kept pushing the issue.”

Light went back to Coker to question about Rendon.  According to the Complaint, Coker told plaintiff, “a lot of people at Bellator are going to lose their jobs next week.  Do you want to keep yours?”

In addition, the Complaint claims that Coker pressured Light into promoting collusive fights in violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  The lawsuit alleges that Coker disliked manager Anthony McGann.  Rampage Jackson and Cheick Kongo were managed by McGann at the time and the Complaint claims that Light was instructed to “convince Kongo to fire McGann as his manager.”  Light was influenced by Coker to have Kongo fire McGann and have him sign a new promotion agreement or he (Light) would be fired.

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Light was instructed to arrange fights for McGann-managed fighters under contract in Bellator with opponents “who would convincingly defeat them.”  This would apparently allow Coker the pretext to cut ties with McGann and his fighters.  The lawsuit makes a point of indicating that “[s]uch collusive matches were tantamount to fight fixing…”

Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act whistleblower provisions, employees in privately held subsidiaries of publicly traded companies who assist in an investigation into an employer’s violation are protected from employer retaliation.  Under the California Business and Professions Code, there is a similar provision claimed by Light.

Light also indicates that in “late 2014 and early 2015,” Mike Kogan was hired by Bellator in an executive capacity.  Kogan, who Light alleges is a “close friend” of Coker claims that Kogan was “paid management commissions for fighters he represented in bouts that occurred with defendant Bellator.”  This would be a “serious conflict of interest” and violation of California law.

The lawsuit states that due to stress-related to Coker and Chou refusing to follow laws and regulations and “requiring plaintiff to engage in illegal practices as a condition of keeping his job,” Light suffered an anxiety attack.  The health scare occurred on April 10, 2015 after Bellator 136 on the campus of UC Irvine.  He was taken to the emergency room and diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.  Light had to take an extended medical leave.  He was cleared to return to work without restrictions on March 10, 2016 but was terminated on March 17, 2017 via a letter.  He was advised that “his job was no longer available.”

Payout Perspective:

This will be an interesting case as it goes forward.  Since it was filed just yesterday, there’s still a lot to digest about the claims.  As with many wrongful termination lawsuits, the allegations are salacious and may or may not be true.  One would expect Bellator to deny the claims and file a motion to dismiss – none of which is earth-shattering.  Obviously, the claims present a public relations issue as the company in support of amending the Ali Act to include MMA fighters are accused of doing things that oppose the protections claimed in the Ali Act.  Also, the conflict between promoter and manager rears its head in another MMA promotion.  We shall see about the veracity of the claims and how will Bellator address them.

MMA Payout will continue to follow.

Bellator 155 draws 653,000 viewers

May 23, 2016

Bellator 155 drew 653,000 viewers on Friday night on Spike TV according to Sports TV Ratings.  The ratings represent a slight decrease from Bellator 154.

Among the 653,000 viewers, it drew 301,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 category.  Bellator 154 drew 356,000 in the adult 18-49 category.

In the main event of the show, Rafael Carvalho defeated Melvin Manhoef by split decision.

Bellator through 155

Payout Perspective:

Not counting Bellator 149, the ratings average on Spike TV is 661,000.  Through 7 events in 2015 (not counting the Bellator 138 tentpole event), the average was 668,000.  One would think that the organization would have hoped for an incremental increase from year to year but perhaps Bellator is looking more to stability of its live viewership and hoping for big ratings with its quarterly events.

Davis tops Bellator 154 payouts

May 18, 2016

MMA Junkie reports salaries from this past Saturday’s Bellator 154.  Phil Davis earned the most out of the fighters on the card.

According to Junkie, the payroll, obtained from the California State Athletic Commission

Phil Davis: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)
def. Muhammed Lawal: $30,000

Saad Awad: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Evangelista Santos: $17,000

Josh San Diego: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Jeremiah Labiano: $2,500

Adam Piccolotti: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Ray Wood: $6,000

Andre Fialho: $12,000 (includes $6,000 win bonus)
def. Rick Reger: $4,000

Mark Dickman: $18,000 (includes $9,000 win bonus)
def. Thomas Diagne: $3,000

Jamielene Nievara: $2,000 (includes $1,000 win bonus)
def. Stephanie Frausto: $1,500

Joshua Hardwick: $5,000 (includes $2,500 win bonus)
def. Jorge Acosta: $2,500

Sam Spengler: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Doyle Childs: $1,000

Josh Paiva: $3,000 (includes $1,500 win bonus)
def. Steve Gruber: $1,000

Danasabe Mohammed: $2,000 (includes $1,000 win bonus)
def. Martin Sano: $2,000

Anthony Taylor: $2,000 (includes $1,000 win bonus)
def. Victor Jones: $1,000

Payout Perspective:

Essentially, Davis and Lawal had the same show money ($30K) with Davis earning the win bonus.  This is low compared to how much Davis earned in the UFC but perhaps he made the money back in sponsorships.  There were 6 fighters that made $2,000 or less on the card.

Bellator releases Brooks, strips HW champ

May 15, 2016

Bellator announced two roster moves prior to its event Saturday.  The most notable move was outright releasing lightweight champ Will Brooks.  It also stripped its heavyweight champ Vitaly Minakov for inactivity.

The big news is that Brooks, who was 9-1 in Bellator, was shown the door and is now a free agent.  Brooks had been outspoken via social media about his stay with the company.  He was also labeled a malcontent by others which may have made the relationship hard for negotiations.  Scott Coker confirmed via MMA Junkie that it had terminated Brooks’ contract and waived all negotiations rights so that Brooks could pursue his free agency options.  One might assume that Brooks would be able to fight in another organization as soon as he could come to agreement.

“We’re not going to be in the Will Brooks business any longer,” Coker told MMA Junkie.

It appears Brooks read the quote.

Brooks told MMA Fighting that his contract expired on July 15 with one fight left on the deal.

In addition, Coker said that Minakov would be stripped of the title.  He had not defended the title since April 2014.  Coker indicated that the company would retain the former Olympian’s rights despite stripping him.

Payout Perspective:

Strong statement by Coker to release Brooks and strip Minakov.  Frankly, I do not know the backstory behind Minakov’s inability to defend the title.  But, with the recent signing of Matt Mitrione it should tell you that the company would like to bring that division back into play.  As for Brooks, it’s clear that the two sides were at an impasse.  The severing of Brooks without getting at least one more fight from him obviously means that the two sides were so far apart in negotiations, the company did not want to have Brooks possibly win his last contracted fight and then cut a promo on the company or pull a “Benson Henderson” (i.e., take off gloves and lay in the right) on television.

Monster Energy re-ups with Bellator MMA

May 13, 2016

Bellator MMA has reached an agreement with Monster Energy Drink to extend its sponsorship agreement which will see the green “M” in the Bellator cage for years to come according to a press release.

Via Bellator MMA press release:

Monster will continue to own highly visible inventory inside the Bellator cage and sponsor concourse activations during events as well as additional off-site promotional activations. To complement the live event experience, Monster and Bellator will look to engage in a multi-faceted activation plan intended to build customer loyalty and drive tune-in of the Bellator broadcasts on Spike. The sponsorship extension will also see Bellator MMA continue to put on fights during the “Monster Energy Cup” – an event that showcases the world’s top supercross riders in a head to-head battle for the coveted “Monster Energy Cup” award and the chance to win one million dollars.

PHOTO © HANS MOLENKAMP// MONSTER ENERGY/All Rights Reserved

PHOTO © HANS MOLENKAMP//MONSTER ENERGY/All Rights Reserved

Payout Perspective:

Monster is also the “Official Energy Drink” of the UFC and with this agreement will have honed in on the MMA demo.  It’s clear that the company sees the MMA demo of young (mostly male) adults correlates with the company’s target market.  The announcement comes the day before Bellator 154 which features Phil Davis taking on King Mo. Davis is a Monster Energy-sponsored athlete per the Bellator release. In addition, Rampage Jackson, Joe Schilling, Michael Chandler, Joey Beltran and Brennan Ward are Monster-sponsored as well.

Slice settles with Texas Commission

May 2, 2016

MMA Junkie reports that Kimbo Slice has settled with the athletic commission in Texas after having failed a drug test.  Slice agreed to a $2,500 fine and have his license to fight in the state revoked.

As part of the settlement, Slice agreed to waive his right to a hearing.  He is expected to remain in compliance with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

In addition, the fight with Dada 5000 at Bellator 149 has been ruled a no-contest.  Slice had defeated Dada 5000 by TKO in one of the highest-rated, yet one of the ugliest MMA fights put on Spike TV.

A post-fight drug test revealed that Slice had used the anabolic steroid nandrolone.  A urine test also revealed elevated T/E ratio.

Slice originally was offered a settlement of $4,000 fine and license revocation.

Notably, Bellator scheduled Slice for its July tent pole event prior to the settlement with Texas.

Payout Perspective:

The harshest outcome coming out of Slice’s settlement is the revocation of his Texas license.  Not because he will never fight in Texas, but because he may find it hard to fight in U.S. jurisdictions where commissions follow the Association of Boxing Commissions.  If Slice ever fights in the U.S., he may be subject to an athletic commission hearing prior to receiving a license to fight.  Notwithstanding this issue, Slice’s penalty seems like a slap on the wrist.

Bellator Kickboxing’s debut draws 346,000 on SpikeTV

April 29, 2016

Bellator Kickboxing last Friday drew an average rating of 346,000 on Spike TV per Nielsen.  The debut of the promotion’s kickboxing followed Bellator 153.

Notably, per Nielsen the first hour of Bellator Kickboxing averaged 464,000 viewers and peaked with 730,000.

Payout Perspective:

The debut of Bellator’s foray into kickboxing promotion did well considering it was late at night following a two hour plus Bellator card.  The broadcast did slightly lower than the average for Glory on Spike TV (in 13 events on the network, it averaged 426,000 viewers).  We shall see if Bellator can fare better than Glory did on Spike.

Brain health testing to be required in Nevada; Sen. McCain suggest Ali Act to extend to MMA

April 29, 2016

Earlier this week, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported that the Nevada Athletic Commission will require all licensed fighters to undergo regular brain health testing.  Arizona senator John McCain, Spike TV President Kevin Kay and Bellator MMA President Scott Coker were present with an announcement occurring on Capitol Hill.

The Cleveland Clinic will assess the athletes using its iPad app that can help detect the symptoms of concussions.

Senator McCain spoke with MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas regarding the announcement.  He also indicated that he would be in favor of extending the Muhammad Ali Act to MMA.

For those that did not know, Senator McCain was the original sponsor of the Ali Act.

Payout Perspective:

This is a step in the right direction for the sport as we see that the continued advances in science and technology helping detect brain injury. As for Senator McCain’s comments, I understand the sentiment and the rationale for extending the Ali Act to MMA. The question is whether the law, as presently drafted, is living up to the intent of what it hoped to accomplished.  While Bellator may be behind amending the Ali Act, the UFC appears to not have the same position on this subject.

Update on Bellator 153 ratings

April 28, 2016

We have an update on the ratings from Bellator 153 last Friday night.  According to Nielsen, the Benson Henderson’s promotional debut against Andrey Koreshkov drew 973,000 viewers peaking at over 1 million.

The fight, which aired between 10:13-11:00pm ET, on Spike TV Friday night drew 973,000 peaking with 1.1 million viewers at 10:57pm.

It should be noted that Bellator 153 saw a jump in viewership once the NBA Playoff game between the Pistons and Cavaliers ended.  Per Nielsen, Bellator viewership on Spike TV jumped from 495,000 to 753,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

The Cleveland/Detroit game was the second-highest rated game of the night next to the San Antonio/Memphis game which preceded it on ESPN.  While we probably should not draw a direct correlation between NBA viewers and Bellator viewers, it is interesting to note the spike of viewers tuning into Spike TV.  Despite his loss, the 973,000 viewers and over 1 million peak viewership is good news for the debut of Benson Henderson and Bellator.  It shows that the former UFC lightweight champ is still a draw.

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