Coker comments on UFC-Reebok sponsor policy

May 11, 2015

In an interview with MMA Fighting, Scott Coker indicates that Bellator has been contacted by multiple UFC fighters and managers about its sponsorship policy in light of the revealed pay structure under the new UFC-Reebok deal.  He also talked about Bellator business.

The Q&A with Luke Thomas hit all of the salient points although Coker remained neutral in the UFC decision to have Reebok as its sole clothing sponsor and the new pay which appears to negatively affect the pocketbooks of many UFC contracted fighters.

Notably, Coker indicated that Monster Energy Drink remains a Bellator sponsor despite its appearance in the Octagon.  He also stated that the company looks to expand its schedule in 2016 which means more Bellator cards for next year.  This likely means the possibility of more fighters being signed by the company.

When asked about the potential for a union, Coker was neutral once again about how it would affect MMA.

Payout Perspective:

The query by fighters and managers about Bellator’s sponsorship policy was a likely result after the Reebok sponsor pay tiers were released.  But, the issue fighters and managers must decide is whether the sponsors that may pay them $50-$60K right now will pay the same in Bellator.  Also, at this point is clear that the UFC, just based on the publicly reported purses, pays more than Bellator.  A fighter that sees his sponsor income drop from $60K to $10K may also want to consider where he might be slotted within a Bellator pay structure before jumping ship.

At this point, when non-MMA fans think of the sport of mixed martial arts, they think of the UFC.  Non-endemic sponsors know this and thus it seems it would make it a hard sell for a fighter going to Bellator.  Even for brands synonymous with MMA, one would think that sponsor pay may be different (i.e, less) in Bellator.

Show Money Episode 3 talks Rampage, Antitrust and Phil Davis

April 21, 2015

The third episode of Show Money talks Rampage injunction, an update on the UFC Antitrust lawsuit, Phil Davis to Bellator and the dismissal of Zuffa’s lawsuit in New York. I join Bloody Elbow’s Paul Gift and John Nash to talk, debate and discuss these issues.

Phil Davis signs with Bellator

April 15, 2015

MMA Fighting reports that that Phil Davis has signed with Bellator MMA.  Davis last UFC fight in January was his last on his contract with the UFC.

Davis is ranked No. 7 in the UFC’s light heavyweight rankings.

One might assume that the UFC has a “right to match” but either the contract term was not in Davis’ contract or the UFC indicated that it would not match Bellator’s contract to Davis.

Bellator made it official with an announcement on its web site.

Payout Perspective:

Davis’ signing is a good move by Bellator as it complements an entertaining Light Heavyweight division (which may or may not include Rampage Jackson).  Davis brings name recognition for the organization and will likely be featured on one of Bellator’s “tent pole” events.  One might wonder about why the UFC was willing to let Davis go without making a run at retaining him.  There was criticism of Davis’ style, but to let a top 10 Light Heavyweight go is an indication that either the UFC was not enamored with Davis or thought that he was not worth the further investment.

Brooks tops Bellator 136 salaries

April 15, 2015

MMA Fighting reports the Bellator 136 salaries which were disclosed by the California State Athletic Comission.  Lightweight champion Will Brooks was the top paid fighter earning $72,000.

Brooks, who earned $36,000 for show and $36,000 for the win, successfully defended his title against Dave Jansen who made $12,000.  The event took place Friday at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, California.

Via MMA Fighting:

Will Brooks: ($36,000 + $36,000 = $72,000) def. Dave Jansen ($12,000)
Rafael Carvalho ($4,000 + $4,000 = $8,000) def. Joe Schilling ($27,000)
Marcin Held ($13,000 + $13,000 = $26,000) def. Alexander Sarnavskiy($11,000)
Tony Johnson ($8,000 + $8,000 = $16,000) def. Alexander Volkov($10,000)

John Teixeira ($4,000 + $4,000 = $8,000) def. Fabricio Guerreiro($8,000)
Saad Awad ($10,000 + $10,000 = $20,000) def. Rob Sinclair ($8,000)
Joey Beltran ($10,000 + $10,000 = $20,000) def. Brian Rogers ($10,000)
AJ McKee ($1,500 + $1,5000 = $3,000) def. Marcos Bonilla ($1,000)
Chad George ($1,500 + $1,500 = $3,000) def. Mark Vorgeas ($2,000)
Justin Goverale ($1,000 + $1,000 = $2,000) def. Jay Bogan ($1,500)
Steve Ramirez ($1,000 + $1,000 = $2,000) def. Jonathan Santa Maria($2,500)
Chris Herrera ($1,500) vs. Luc Bondole ($1,500) (DRAW)
Cleber Luciano ($3,000 + $3,000 = $6,000) def. Aaron Miller ($2,000)

Payout Perspective:

Clearly Bellator pay is much less than UFC pay.  Brooks’ base of $36,000 is on par with recent payouts of lightweights Joe Lauzon’s at UFC 183 and Danny Castillo at UFC 182.  Of course, there are other fighters on the UFC roster that make a higher base than Brooks.   Schilling made $27,000 in his loss which was the second highest show purse on the card.

WSOF 20 draws 128,000 viewers

April 13, 2015

MMA Payout has learned from Nielsen sources that the World Series of Fighting 20 airing Friday night on NBC Sports Network drew just 128,000 viewers.

The event which aired from 9:00 – 11:30pm ET featured David Branch against Jesse McElligott.  Branch won via submission with what looked like a version of the Von Flue choke.  In addition, Ben Fedor aka Phoenix Jones made his promotional debut.  However, he lost to Emmanuel Walo.

World Series of Fighting
WSOF 1 198,000
WSOF 2 210,000
WSOF 3 201,000
WSOF 4 264,000
WSOF 5 227,000
WSOF 6 161,000
WSOF 7 94,000
WSOF 8 212,000
WSOF 9 242,000
WSOF 10 365,000
WSOF 11 781,000
WSOF 12 206,000
WSOF 13 246,000
WSOF 14 229,000
WSOF 15 179,000
WSOF 16 181,000
WSOF 17 222,000
WSOF 18 209,000
WSOF 19 216,000
WSOF 20 128,000

WSOF 20

Payout Perspective:

This is a disappointing rating for WSOF which ran opposite Bellator on SpikeTV.  Even with some of the publicity it received from the signing of Phoenix Jones, the ratings were down.  It’s the first time it’s gone sub-200K since WSOF 16.

Bellator 136 draws 655,000 viewers

April 13, 2015

MMA Payout has learned from Nielsen sources that Bellator 136 on Friday drew a viewership of 655,000 viewers.  It is up slightly from last month’s event.

The main event (which aired from 9:00-11:30pm ET on SpikeTV) had Will Brooks taking on Dave Jansen with the Brooks earning the unanimous decision.

The event drew a 0.2 rating in the 18-49 demo.

Bellator Events in 2015

Bellator 132:  767,000

Bellator 133:  565,000

Bellator 134:  872,000

Bellator 135:  607,000

Bellator 136:  655,000

Bellator 2015 through 136

Payout Perspective:

The average for Bellator in 2015 increases to 693,000 in overnight viewership.  The Masters Golf Tournament was the clear cable sports winner on Friday drawing 2.95 million viewers from 3:00-7:30pm ET.  Notably NASCAR on FS1 from 8:30pm-11:03pm ET drew 678,000 viewers.  WSOF also aired on Friday night as well with less success as the two organization went head to head for most of its respective telecasts.

BAMMA USA sells out show down the road from Bellator event

April 10, 2015

BAMMA USA announced that it has sold out its MMA show Friday night at the City of Commerce Casino in Southern California. The event takes place up the road from Bellator’s show Friday at the Bren Events Center on the campus of UC Irvine.

The event will be headlined by former TUF contestant Chris Saunders taking on Darren Smith.

Payout Perspective:

The sell out for BAMMA is a good sign for the organization and shows the support MMA has in the Southern California region. While we do not know the amount needed to sell out the venue, the fact it is happening within close proximity of a Bellator show should be seen as a positive for the company  Still, Bellator should have a good turnout as well as it is holding a show in the same city as its headquarters.

Court opinion in Bellator-Rampage lawsuit made available

April 9, 2015

A copy of the court opinion by Judge Karen Suter which granted Bellator MMA’s injunction in its lawsuit against Rampage Jackson was made public.

After oral argument on April 2nd, the Court issued its opinion on April 7th.  MMA Fighting provides a copy of the lawsuit here.

The court made it abundantly clear that it was not deciding the merits of the case and specifically that it was not deciding whether the contract between Bellator and Rampage was breached.  However, it made clear that Bellator had proved its case

Although the Court referred to several cases involving boxers that sign promotional agreements and then seek additional help from other promoters, the Court distinguished this case based on the exclusivity of Bellator’s agreement with Rampage.  It sided with Bellator in its argument that it was likely that Rampage breached its contract despite the arguments raised.

As previously stated, the Court found “clear and convincing” of the following on behalf of Bellator.  The four factors in determining a preliminary injunction are as follows:

  1. A substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the case;
  2. There is a substantial threat of irreparable damage or injury if the injunction is not granted;
  3. The “balance of harms” (threatened injury) weighs in favor of the party seeking the preliminary injunction;
  4. Granting an injunction would serve the public interest.

Some interesting points from the 25 page ruling.

  • The Court emphasized the exclusivity of the contract between Bellator and Jackson. It also stressed the fame and notoriety of Jackson as evidence that Bellator would suffer injury if Jackson were allowed to participate at UFC 186.
  • The Court did not buy the argument that Bellator breached its contract since it did not provide Rampage or his management with PPV summary report. The Court indicated Bellator had substantially complied with the information and that not providing the PPV summary was not a material breach of the contract.
  • Rampage’s claim that his fights were not adequately promoted by Bellator and the need to obtain the PPV summary was necessary fell flat. The Court ruled that there was no marketing provision setting a certain amount of money that was required to promote his fights.  Even without producing the summary report for PPV, there would be no breach since the actual compensation Rampage received was not in dispute.  Furthermore, the Court opined that Rampage offered no rationale for why Bellator would not want to market and promote one of the company’s top stars.
  • The Court sided with Bellator with its argument that if Rampage were allowed to fight at UFC 186, it would harm Bellator more than just monetarily, but from a reputation and brand standpoint. Bellator argued that the “MMA community” would denigrate Bellator if Rampage were allowed to leave for the UFC.  Moreover, Bellator argued that denying the injunction would be a sign to other fighters and their managers that they could just “ignore their contracts” and leave for perceived better opportunities.  Bellator also argued that if Rampage were to leave, Bellator would have lost out on the time and money it had invested in promoting him.
  • The opinion also notes that on December 4, 2014 Scott Coker claims to have notified the UFC that Rampage was still under contract while negotiations by Rampage to the UFC were ongoing. This seems to call into question how much the UFC knew about the Bellator-Rampage contract dispute.  It also calls into question the UFC’s decision to sign him and then put him on a card prior to a legal determination.

Payout Perspective:

In the end, Rampage and his legal team may win this court battle, but the first big decision out of this case falls in Bellator’s favor.  The Court opinion preventing him to fight at UFC 186 is not a good indicator of things to come.  Certainly, the Court made it clear it was not ruling on whether a breach occurred, but the threshold for proving a preliminary injunction is warranted is high (“clear and convincing” as opposed to “more likely than not”).  We will see what Rampage’s legal team decides on whether it will appeal the decision.

Another issue that was raised in passing was the knowledge that the UFC may have known about the contract issues with Bellator.  There could have been potential legal action between Bellator and UFC regarding interference with a contract but it seems as though Bellator did not want to pick that fight just yet.

MMA Payout will keep you posted on this.

NJ court grants Bellator MMA’s injunction; Rampage off of UFC 186

April 7, 2015

A New Jersey court has granted the injunction request of Bellator MMA in its request to prevent Rampage Jackson from fighting at UFC 186 later this month.

Judge Karen L. Suter granted Bellator’s request for relief on Tuesday morning.  Jackson was scheduled to fight Fabio Maldanado on April 25th as the co-main event of the PPV.  Jackson appeared on FS1 during UFC Fight Night 63 to promote the fight.  In fact, the UFC had promoted Jackson’s fight despite the possibility he could be off the show.

Bellator MMA sued Jackson for breach of contract in New Jersey.  This was based on Jackson’s decision to “terminate” his contract citing Bellator’s lack to cure what Jackson perceived as Bellator’s breach of contract.

Interesting enough, Jackson and/or his management indicated that they had sought the advice of UFC’s lawyers in determining that his leaving Bellator for UFC was legal.

The lawsuit is not over as the two sides will continue to litigate this matter.  However, it’s a big blow for Rampage and the UFC.

Bellator issued a statement regarding the ruling.  “We are pleased by the judge’s ruling and look forward to having Rampage fighting for Bellator again soon.”  Rampage Jackson issued his own statement via Instagram.

(h/t:  MMA Fighting)

Payout Perspective:

 Jackson essentially cites the old attorney excuse of being “hometowned” as the reason for losing on Tuesday.  Regardless, the ruling is a blow to the UFC as it decimates its PPV later this month.  One has to wonder why it decided to promote Jackson’s appearance prior to the ruling.  Moreover, the fact that the UFC may have provided its legal opinion on the contract is another blow for the organization.  With that being said, the lawsuit is not over and Jackson’s legal team may still have a chance in proving that Bellator did not hold up to its end of the contract.  Or, in the alternative, Scott Coker may have to work his personal skills in having Rampage rejoin Bellator.

Shlemenko retains lawyer for upcoming CSAC hearing

April 3, 2015

Bloody Elbow reports that Bellator middleweight Alexander Shlemenko has hired attorney Howard Jacobs to represent him to dispute the findings of a positive drug test from his February fight against Melvin Manhoef.

Shlemenko will appear before the California State Athletic Commission on April 28th to apparently dispute the findings.  Shlemenko has denied using any banned substance and wants to clear his name.

Jacobs is a lawyer with experience in drug testing cases.  He has previously represented cyclist Floyd Landis and track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.  He’s also worked with fighters Chael Sonnen, Rafael Cavalcante and Sean Sherk per MMA Junkie.  Whether or not he likes the moniker, the USA Today described him the “Johnnie Cochran” of drug testing back in 2006.

Shlemenko’s representatives have requested that CSAC provide the complete laboratory documentation package as it is believed to have “extremely unusual and questionable findings” according to a statement issued by Shlemenko.

MMA Junkie reported that the former Bellator champion had a “significantly elevated” testosterone ratio.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see what irregularities or questionable findings that will be discovered in the CSAC lab package.  We will see if there were any procedural errors in the collection of the lab tests which might negate the findings.  Or, if there were any other issues with the test results.  Jacobs is an experienced attorney in this realm and should be able to put on a strong defense for Shlemenko.  This is the second time in recent weeks that a fighter has retained counsel in light of challenging a drug test.  You may recall Nick Diaz retained a New York law firm in representing his interests for a failed drug test.

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