John McCarthy to join Bellator announce team

January 9, 2018

Bellator MMA announced that it has signed “Big” John McCarthy to serve as color commentator.  McCarthy will start his duties on Saturday, January 20th on a big Bellator card to start the year.

Although not confirmed, the signing might infer that McCarthy is done as a referee.  But, his quotes in the Bellator press release seems to make it sound like we will not see him in as the third person in the cage or Octagon.

Via Bellator press release:

“I first want to say how grateful I am for the opportunity I have been given to work with the incredible team Bellator has assembled. It is always so hard to leave something you love, but I have always wanted to step away based on my terms rather than someone else’s. My goals are to work as hard as I can to meet the expectations everyone will have for me and to hopefully someday exceed them.” McCarthy said. “I cannot think of anyone I would rather be working with than Scott Coker. Scott has always been a person I admire because of his honesty, loyalty and love for the martial arts. I want to thank everyone from Bellator and Viacom for the trust you are bestowing upon me to keep the commentating of Bellator MMA at the highest levels of the sport.”

The release also announced that it has signed Chael Sonnen to an extension to remain a part of “select Bellator broadcasts.”

Payout Perspective:

Late last year, it was announced that Jimmy Smith would no longer be with Bellator and now we see the reason why they let him go.  It will be weird not having McCarthy refereeing a big fight again but the commentating spot might be something that he was looking forward to do.

MPO Year in Review: No. 8 Bellator among the parties pulled into UFC Antitrust Lawsuit

December 28, 2017

Bellator MMA found itself a part of the UFC Antitrust lawsuit as the two companies were opposing sides in a discovery dispute.  Bellator sued the UFC in Los Angeles, but the Court determined that the dispute should occur in the Vegas court handling the case between former fighters and the UFC.

Prior to the filing of the lawsuit in February, Bellator claimed that it had “produced in excess of two thousand pages of responsive documents.”  Yet, the UFC argued that it needed more which included payouts for Bellator fighters, contracts and financial information.

Bellator Motion to Quash Subpoena by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Zuffa Opposition to Bellator Motion to Quash by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

The Vegas court issued a ruling in June.  Some of the findings are below:

Bellator was ordered to produce:

  1. A random sample of at least 20 percent of fighters under contract with Bellator between January 1, 2010 and the present. This will include any “amendments, modifications, side letters, or extensions that may exist with respect to any contract that is produced…”
  2. Bellator will produced “Anonymized contracts” with a unique identifier although identifying information “may be redacted.”
  3. The contracts “shall include the fighter’s gender, weight class, number of fights during term of agreements and any compensation to be paid.
  4. The Court limited and modified Bellator’s request for production to the following
    1. A list of all MMA events it promoted or co-promoted from January 1, 2010 through the present.
    2. An unaudited profit and loss statement through the quarter ending March 31, 2017 which will include Revenue, Expenses, Operating Income and Net Income.

In addition, Matt Hume, had a similar discovery issue in which the Plaintiffs sought information from OneFC (Hume is an executive for the company).  A lawsuit in Washington state ensued in which a motion to compel the documents of Hume in July included a request for attorney fees in the amount of $21,000.  Similar to the Bellator lawsuit, the federal magistrate dealing with the dispute decided to kick the case to Vegas for the trial court to handle.  The Plaintiffs demanded certain documents from Hume’s involvement with OneFC as well as to take his deposition.

Motion to Compel Depo of Matt Hume by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Motion to Quash Hume Subpoena by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

The Washington state court decided that it did not want to intervene in the lawsuit and kicked the case to Vegas.

These were not the only two discovery issues in this case.  Zinkin Entertainment was ordered to produce documents related to the representation of its fighters.  Top Rank also came to terms with the UFC in the lawsuit over discovery.

Zuffa was ordered to hand over a study on fighter pay.

In addition, Zuffa filed a lawsuit to dismiss the claims of plaintiff Nathan Quarry due to statute of limitations.  The Court has yet to issue an order on the motion.

The UFC Antitrust lawsuit was a “discovery year” for the case as depositions were taken and fact discovery took over most of the year.  As expected, there were fights over the discovery of documents which seemed to have resolved.  In 2018, we will see the expert discovery phase start as the wheels of justice move slow on the civil side.

MPO Year in Review: 10. Bellator continues to sign former UFC stars

December 27, 2017

Another year, another group of UFC fighters are testing the other league with former Zuffa indy contractors heading over to the Viacom-owned company.

Michael McDonald, Gegard Mousasi, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Valerie Letourneau and Ryan Bader all signed with Bellator in 2017.  Rory MacDonald made his promotional debut for Bellator in May with a successful victory over Paul Daley.

The “Red King” might be the only one from the above group that the UFC may have wanted to hold onto.  MacDonald’s defection to Bellator was the best acquisition thus far (excluding Tito Ortiz) from the UFC fighters testing free agency waters.  Mousasi may be another although it seemed as though the UFC could not capitalize on his international appeal.

For Bellator, the acquisitions help builds up their roster.  Even though most of the fighters the UFC let go are past their prime and/or deemed not entertaining, the UFC brand has pull with the casual fans.  We shall see if Scott Coker will make a push for more former UFC fighters in 2018.  For the fighters, it provides a fresh start and a chance to capitalize on earning opportunities (i.e., sponsors).

MPO Year in Review: Bellator NYC does not deliver

December 25, 2017

It was Bellator MMA’s big debut in New York City as it returned to PPV with the long-awaited grudge match between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva.  Scott Coker stated that the mid-200,000 (buys) would be respectable.

However, the PPV card disappointed with 95,000 buys.

The event also featured Fedor Emelianenko as he faced Matt Mitrione.

The PPV was split with fights, dubbed as “Bellator 180” airing on 2 different networks and featuring Ryan Bader against Phil Davis.  The MSG event drew 12,133 with a gate of $1,630,314.  The television portion aired on Spike TV and Country Music Television drawing a combined 901,000 viewers.

According to an ESPN story, Viacom’s investment in the event was “20 to 30 times more” than anything put into Coker’s previous “tent pole” events.  The investment came with expectations and based on the PPV numbers did not deliver.

Bellator’s first try at PPV garnered 100,000 buys in 2014.  While the box office did well, the PPV numbers had to be a disappointment considering the belief that the company’s formula of using former UFC stars to headline a Bellator event drew big numbers (e.g., Ortiz-Bonnar).  But, the company foray into PPV still has to be fine tuned as the first two tries have not been good.

Bellator 191 peaked at 737,000 viewers this past Friday on Spike TV

December 20, 2017

This past Friday’s Bellator 191 delivered 571,000 viewers peaking with 737,000 according to Nielsen.  The ratings reflect adjustments for DVR ratings.

Bellator 191 featured the debuts of former UFC stars Michael McDonald and Valerie Letourneau.  The event saw an increase in ratings over the last couple events with a live plus same day rating of 511,000 viewers per Nielsen.

Payout Perspective:

It’s a modest increase in viewership this past Friday night but the event from England produced a higher rating than the past 3 telecasts.  The peak viewership is the highest since Bellator 187.

Bellator 189 draws 439,000 viewers on Spike

December 4, 2017

Bellator 189 drew 439,000 viewers on Spike TV Friday night per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The event featured Julia Budd defending her Featherweight championship against Arlene Blencowe.  It was Budd’s first title defense as she defeated Blencowe for the second time.

The event took place in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC edged out Bellator on Friday night with its TUF Finale.  Bellator ratings were down slightly from last week’s event in Israel.  The event did not draw as much interest as the UFC which might be due in part to the TUF season and the lack of promotion for the Bellator event.  This is the 6th event this year which has drawn less than 500,000 viewers.

 

Bellator 188 draws 444,000 on Spike TV

November 21, 2017

Bellator 188 drew 444,000 viewers on Spike TV Friday according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event was tape-delayed as it took place in Israel.

In the main event of the card. Jeremiah Labiano defeated Noah Lahat via unanimous decision.  The card was the second straight week of international cards on tape delay.

Payout Perspective:

It’s the lowest-rated card since last month’s Bellator 184 from Oklahoma.  The tape-delay and lack of interest contributed to the low viewership for this card.  It was one for the hardcore fans on Friday night.

Bellator files Statement on Ali Act for Congressional Hearing

November 12, 2017

Bellator MMA submitted a statement to last week’s Subcommittee Hearing on MMA.  The Statement was written by Tracey Lesetar-Smith, Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at Viacom Media Networks and supports the expansion of the Ali Act to combat sports.

The statement, which becomes part of the Congressional record on MMA, gives a brief history of the boxing and MMA ecosystems.  Lesetar-Smith states that boxing had a pre-existing, sanctioning-body architecture while MMA “organically developed” under a “league” system.  This is described as a different business model than that of boxing.  Unlike the UFC, Bellator states that it “co-promotes events with smaller domestic local promoters and international fight promoters to enhance [its] events and allow them [local promoters] opportunities to showcase their league talent.

Lesetar-Smith made it clear that boxing and MMA use “multi-year, multi-fight, exclusive promotional contracts” and it is not prohibited in the original Ali Act.  There was a distinction made between these contracts and those “coercive contracts” addressed in the Ali Act.

She explained why the organization uses exclusive contracts.  “Bellator invests a great deal of time, resources, and capital into promoting and marketing each long-term athlete and therefore the exclusivity and duration of each contract reflects a desire to seek a return on investment.”  The multi-fight contracts also allow for Bellator to plan and budget for events in advance.  There is also an “outlay” of money for fighters that they do not immediately recoup.

The Statement notes that the UFC “utilized tactics that made competition in the MMA industry very challenging.”  This has made it a challenge to compete with the UFC.

The “unimpaired movement of skilled athletes to organizations” is one of the primary things that can overturn UFC market share according to Bellator.

Bellator states that it relies upon State and Tribal Athletic Commissions to regulate its events.  However, lack of funding, staff and resources have made regulation a challenge.  Bellator requests that the federal government “advocate for and support the work of these Commissions.”  It also champions the health and safety of its fighters and expressed concerns regarding traumatic brain injury and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and pushed for further safeguards.

Bellator Statement in Support of Ali Act by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

The issue of fighter safety as it relates to TBI or CTE is not addressed in the proposed legislation although Bellator advocates for it.  The requests that the federal government support further health and safety measures is admirable but it also would mean a budget and allocation of federal spending which may not be feasible in this present economic client.  Whether or not you believe that free agency over time will level the field for which Bellator may catch up to the UFC, it is plausible but may not be possible especially with the mainstream appeal of the brand and its new owners.  Yet, Bellator’s statement is the flip side of the UFC’s position on the Ali Act.  It’s an interesting position but remember, among other key differences between the organizations, Bellator does not rely on PPV revenue as much as the UFC nor does it pay its fighters as much.

Rampage Jackson re-signs with Bellator, enters into Grand Prix HW Tourney

November 11, 2017

Bellator announced that Quentin “Rampage” Jackson has re-signed an exclusive multi-fight deal with the company according to a company release.  He is expected to return to the Bellator cage as part of a Heavyweight Grand Prix event ran by the company in 2018.

Jackson was to return to the UFC as a part of a deal with the company relating to a lawsuit between Rampage and Bellator.  According to reports, the UFC renounced its right to Jackson allowing for the former UFC light heavyweight champion to return to Bellator.

Scott Coker announced that Bellator will host an eight-man heavyweight tournament known as the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018.  The winner will get the vacant Bellator belt.  Fedor, Frank Mir, Matt Mitrione, Roy Nelson, Ryan Bader, Mo Lawal, Chael Sonnen and Jackson will compete.  No date has been set for the first round of fights but the final is targeted for December 2018.

Payout Perspective:

Jackson’s re-signing is not surprising as the UFC likely did not want to sign him to a big deal.  Moreover, it’s clear based on his recent performances, he was not in the company’s future plans.  But, for Bellator, he can still be of value especially with the Grand Prix tourney.  Jackson will not have to cut weight and can still draw for the company.

Bellator 185 draws 476,000 viewers

October 23, 2017

Bellator 185 drew 476,000 viewers on Friday night on Spike TV according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event featured the debut of former UFC middleweight Gegard Mousasi as he defeated Alexander Shlemenko.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are a modest boost from the last Bellator show but you would have expected a little more considering the debut of Mousasi.  But, the MLB game between the Yankees and Astros on FS1 which drew over 8.2 million viewers probably had something to do with it.

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