Court reduces Shlemenko’s CSAC fine, suspension

July 22, 2016

Former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko had his three-year suspension and $10,000 fine from the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) reduced per a judicial court ruling in Los Angeles Superior Court this past Wednesday.  The fine was reduced by the court and he should be able to return to fight in the state upon paying the reduced fine of $5,000.00.  His suspension was deemed to have ended on February 28, 2016 per court order.

Schlemenko was represented by Howard Jacobs.  Notably, Jacobs is representing Jon Jones with his recent drug suspension which caused him to miss UFC 200.

Per the CSAC, Shlemenko tested positive for steroids after Bellator 133 on February 13, 2015.

In a court ruling filed on July 18, 2016, the court sided with Shlemenko’s argument that the CSAC violated his due process rights by increasing his suspension from 1 to 3 years following his appeal.  It also sided with Shlemenko that the CSAC was wrong in assessing two $2,500 fines for providing a false statement on an alleged application for license.

Shlemenko argued that the CSAC violated his due process rights because it increased his penalty following his appeal of the initial suspension.  The court sided with Shlemenko as it stated: “Petitioner [Shlemenko] could not have known that by appealing the suspension of his license he was reopening the issue of the length of the suspension.”

CSAC increased Shlemenko’s suspension from 1 to 3 years after his appeal of the original punishment.  The court notes that a 3 year penalty “was not even discussed until the closing briefs on the penalty issue, and by that time Petitioner was unable to respond.”

As for the fines, the court agreed with Shlemenko’s argument that the CSAC wrongly imposed two fines on Petitioner for false statement in his pre-bout questionnaire and lab intake form relating to his non-use of drugs.  The court agreed that the statements were not made in connection with an application for a license.

In addition, Shlemenko claimed that the CSAC’s decision should be overturned because it “denied his right to have a second “B” sample of his urine taken to be opened and tested in his presence if the “A” sample tested positive for a banned substance.  The court denied Schlemenko’s argument stating that it was not required for the CSAC to take a “B” sample to validate the test of an “A” sample.

The court also denied Shlemenko’s claim that he was denied a fair hearing because “the Commission improperly conducted its own research and exhibited bias against Petitioner and his counsel.”  The court stated that there must be “concrete evidence” of bias and prejudice which they did not find in this instance.

Payout Perspective:

The court ruling means that Shlemenko has served a suspension of over a year.  But the legal process saved him an additional two year suspension and CSAC fine.  The due process ruling clarifies some of the administrative issues with the process of fines and suspensions.

Bellator files Cross-Complaint against Light

July 20, 2016

The Zachary Light-Bellator lawsuit in California is getting personal.  Bellator has filed a Cross-Complaint against Light stating that he stole money from the company and did not pay back a loan given to him due to the fact he was in financial trouble.

Light filed the lawsuit claiming wrongful termination back in May in Los Angeles Superior Court.  Bellator was granted an extension to respond to the Complaint and it’s also filed its own Complaint against Light filed July 12th.

The cross-claim digs right into Light stating that Light told Bellator, that, “despite his sizable income, he had difficulty managing his family budget and was experiencing financial distress.”  Bellator loaned Light $9,403.00 and entered into a written agreement to pay back the loan.  Bellator attached a copy of the alleged agreement as an Exhibit to its Cross-Complaint.  The company also claims that Light stole $4,600 in cash from VIP ticket sales from Bellator 136.  Bellator claims Light now owes $5,050.00 plus interest.

Conversion, the civil claim alleged by Bellator, is essentially stealing.  It also claims theft under California law and a breach of written contract which alludes to the purported failure of Light to repay the loan.

Bellator claims that as part of his job, Light “would collect the money he received from the sale of consignment and VIP tickets in connection with Bellator events, and remit the money to Bellator personnel shortly after he received it from purchasers.”  He would then give the money to Bellator’s Chief Financial Officer, Michael O’Roark or Jane Estioko, Manager of Talent Relations.  However, Bellator claims that Bellator remitted to Bellator “at least some of the money” he failed to give “thousands of dollars he collected.”  The Monday after the event, Bellator 136, Light did not report for work citing medical reasons.

With respect to his financial issues, Light and Bellator entered into an “Authorization for Deduction” on December 18, 2014 for $6,974.57 in which he would repay the loan in monthly installments of $240.50 from his paychecks.  It also appears that Bellator was charging him interest on this loan.  The exhibit to the Cross-Complaint is below.

Zach Light Payment

Payout Perspective:

Light will have an opportunity to respond to these allegations.  Obviously, these claims were filed as a result of Light’s lawsuit.  The lawsuit is turning personal as Bellator infers the fact Light has had financial difficulties throughout.  The loan was from December 2014 and the alleged theft occurred in April 2016.  Were there any other issues in between this time that Bellator is holding back for the lawsuit or are these two issues the only claims against Light?  Certainly Light will deny both claims.
The one question is why would Bellator give Light the responsibility of handling money on the company’s behalf if it believed he had an issue with finances.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Spike TV announces back-to-back Bellator and PBC cards

July 17, 2016

Bellator and PBC will have an end of summer card on back-to-back nights at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California August 26th and 27th.

Benson Henderson will headline the Bellator card on Friday night while Robert Guerrero will fight in the main event on the PBC card Saturday.  Henderson faces Patricio “Pitbull” Freire and Robert Guerrero faces David Peralta.

For Henderson, it’s a return to lightweight after an inauspicious Bellator debut against Andrewy Koreshkov at 170 pounds.

Payout Perspective:

Perhaps this is another type of synergy for the two organizations that are on Spike TV.  You could also see it as a sort of mini-weekend for hardcore combat sports fans similar to the UFC with back-to-back live events.  Henderson’s fight against Freire is pivotal for the company as the former UFC lightweight champion was a big signing for the company.  Another loss could mean that the Viacom-owned company picked up another UFC fighter that is past his prime.

Bellator Kickboxing draws 418,000 in second event

June 27, 2016

Bellator Kickboxing on Spike TV Friday night drew 418,000 viewers which is an increase from its debut.

Per Sports TV Ratings, it drew 210,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.  The event aired (10:59pm-12:40am) immediately after Bellator 157.

In April, Bellator Kickboxing drew an average of 346,000 viewers.  It averaged 464,000 for the first hour and peaked with 730,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

We will update this with more information on the ratings but one might suspect the first hour of Bellator Kickboxing was bolstered by Dynamite 2.  Even though the overall Dynamite 2 rating may have disappointed, an average of 418,000 viewers for kickboxing on Spike TV is very good.  It’s a nice start for Bellator’s Kickboxing promotion and shows that there is a potential market for the sport.

Bellator 156 updated ratings

June 22, 2016

The adjusted rating for last Friday’s Bellator 156 on Spike TV drew 538,000 viewers.  The increase includes the DVR + 3 rating for the event.

Bellator 156 peaked at 707,000 viewers at 10:19 pm ET.  The main event featured Marcos Galvao taking Eduardo Dantas.  Dantas earned the unanimous decision.

The overnight viewership for Friday’s card drew 482,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

The adjusted viewership reflects a 12% increase from its overnight rating.  The gain is on par with prior Bellator events as one might expect an 8-12% increase for these events.

Bellator 156: 482,000 viewers

June 20, 2016

Bellator 156 drew 482,000 viewers on Spike TV in live plus same day viewership according to Sports TV Ratings.  The ratings reflect a drop of over 25% since Bellator 155 last month.

In the main event, Eduardo Dantas defeated Marcos Galvao via unanimous decision.  According to Sports TV Ratings, Bellator 156 drew 233,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.

Bellator through 156

Payout Perspective:

The US Open Golf tournament was the most-watched live sporting event on cable this past Friday drawing near 1 million viewers for its 8-hour coverage on FS1.  WSOF also had an event on Friday night which went head-to-head with Bellator.  The ratings are disappointing but with the quarterly tentpole event coming up this Friday we should see Bellator bounce back.

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.

Screenshot (19)

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.

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