Mendes suspended 2 years by USADA

July 20, 2016

USADA has handed UFC Featherweight Chad Mendes a 2 year suspension for violation of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.  It is the longest penalty issued by USADA since the policy was introduced last July.

Mendes admitted to his positive test but this did nothing to mitigate circumstances.  He was flagged in June for a May out-of-competition test.

Via UFC-USADA web site:

Mendes, 31, tested positive for GHRP-6 (Growth Hormone-Releasing Hexapeptide) following an out-of-competition urine test conducted on May 17, 2016. GHRP-6 is a prohibited substance in the class of Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors, Related Substances and Mimetics under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, which has adopted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.

Payout Perspective:

While USADA has suspended other fighters for violations of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, this is the first official suspension pursuant to its standard sanctions.  A little over a year ago Mendes was in the company’s biggest event of the year against Conor McGregor.  He has no career for the next two years.  The penalty reflects the harshness of the new drug testing policy and should serve as notice for others.

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.

Lesnar’s in-competition drug sample flagged by USADA

July 19, 2016

The UFC was notified on Tuesday by USADA that Brock Lesnar failed an in-competition drug test at UFC 200.  The news comes on last Friday’s news that Lesnar had failed an out-of-competition test.

Lesnar has been tested 8 times by USADA since the announcement in early June that he would be returning to the Octagon at UFC 200.

The UFC Statement on Brock Lesnar on its web site reads:

“The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Brock Lesnar that his in-competition sample collection from July 9, 2016, at UFC 200, has tested positive for the same substance as his previously announced out-of-competition collection on June 28, 2016.

“USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case. It is important to note that, under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full fair legal review process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed. The Nevada State Athletic Commission also retains jurisdiction over this matter as the sample collection was performed at UFC 200 in Las Vegas.

“Consistent with all previous potential anti-doping violations, additional information will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.”

Per the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, below is the definition of In-Competition:

In-Competition: “In-Competition” means the period commencing six hours prior to the commencement of the scheduled weigh-in and ending six hours after the conclusion of the Bout.

Payout Perspective:

The news of his in-competition drug test failure almost confirms that Lesnar was taking a banned substance and/or was cycling off of it in lead-up to his fight with Mark Hunt.  The news is bad PR for the UFC and the WWE.  While both organizations will move on, Lesnar’s drug test failure will foreclose his MMA career and will call into question its own drug testing policy.

Two banned substances found in Jones’ drug sample

July 18, 2016

ESPN reports that the Nevada State Athletic Commission extended the temporary suspension of Jon Jones per a commission hearing on Monday.  The hearing revealed Jones’ A and B sample contained banned substances.

Jones’ out-of-competition sample on June 16th tested positive for clomiphone (a banned anti-estrogenic substance) and “traces of letrozole,” an aromatase inhibitor.

Prior to Monday’s revelation, Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen inferred that Jones had tested positive for estrogen blockers which appears to be the case.

Jones has retained the services of Howard L. Jacobs.  He is a noted anti-doping attorney that has represented cyclist Floyd Landis and Marion Jones.  He’s also represented former Bellator fighter Alexander Shlemenko and Chael Sonnen.

The temporary suspension will be in effect until the commission can have a full hearing which will likely happen in September or October.  Jones could face a 2 year suspension under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy as well as additional penalties from the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Payout Perspective:

The banned substances infer that Jones was doing something untoward.  If Jones cannot broker a deal with USADA and the NSAC he will likely face a lengthy suspension and fine.  Certainly, it’s a disappointment for the UFC as Jones is considered one of the best in the sport.  Now, that has to be put into question considering this new discovery.

The fallout from Brock Lesnar’s potential drug violation

July 18, 2016

On Friday, Brock Lesnar was flagged by the United States Anti-Doping Association (USADA) of a potential violation of the UFC anti-doping policy due to an out of competition test from June 28, 2016.  Although testing results of Lesnar’s “B” sample are yet to be revealed, the fallout from Lesnar’s appearance hurts the UFC and possibly the WWE.

On June 5, 2016, it was announced that Lesnar would fight at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016.  The signing was unprecedented because he was under contract with the WWE.  Yet, the WWE granted Lesnar the chance to fight in the Octagon once again.  Despite the fact that the WWE has its own drug testing policy (known as the Wellness Policy – Lesnar has never been flagged for a violation), Lesnar was tested by USADA eight times in just the month lead-up to his fight against Mark Hunt.  He took 5 tests in the first two weeks after it was announced he was returning.  Multiple tests came up clean.

Despite the tests, the UFC policy handled by USADA dictated that a returning athlete to the UFC most give the company four months written notice so that USADA can put the athlete in the pool of those it may selectively test.  But, the UFC anti-doping policy allows an exemption for a returning athlete that may be subject to drug testing.  Per 5.7.1 of the UFC anti-doping policy:

An Athlete who gives notice of retirement to UFC, or has otherwise ceased to have a contractual relationship with UFC, may not resume competing in UFC Bouts until he/she has given UFC written notice of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of four months before returning to competition. UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.

The key sentence here is the last sentence:  “UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.”

Since the UFC Anti-Doping Policy did not begin until July 1, 2015 and Lesnar’s last fight in the UFC prior to UFC 200 was December 2011, he was considered a new athlete.  There has not been an official statement as to whether the UFC granted the 4-month exemption due to an “exceptional circumstance” or if it was “manifestly unfair to an Athlete.”  Of course, either waiver could be easily explained.

But, one has to think that Lesnar and the UFC had contemplated his return as he had been training prior to the June announcement of his return to the Octagon.  One might suggest that Lesnar could have notified the UFC of his return in the requisite 4 months to allow for the proper testing to occur.

However, it would seem that the parties wanted the Lesnar announcement to be a surprise.  Recall, that Ariel Helwani and others from MMA Fighting were thrown out of a UFC event and Helwani was banned for life due to his report of Lesnar’s return prior to the UFC’s opportunity to make it themselves.  Helwani along with his colleagues were reinstated a couple days later.

Notwithstanding the notice issue, let’s take a look at what Lesnar could face as a result of testing positive for a banned substance.  First, Lesnar’s “B” sample, a second sample taken to determine the validity of the finding in the first sample, must confirm the initial finding of a banned substance.  If this happens, Lesnar will face discipline from Nevada and the UFC per the anti-doping policy.

Since the infraction took place in Nevada, Lesnar will have to appear before the Nevada State Athletic Commission to address the drug test failure.  At that time, we should know what drug(s) Lesnar tested positive for in his out-of-competition sample.  In 2015, Nevada adopted guidelines for combat sports which included a 36-month suspension and 50-75% of the purse for a first-time offender for someone taking anabolic steroids.

In addition, the UFC anti-doping policy would discipline Lesnar.

Under Section 10 for Sanctions on Individuals, Section 10.1 specifically states:

An Anti-Doping Policy Violation occurring during, or in connection with, a Bout may, upon the decision of UFC, lead to Disqualification of all of the Athlete’s results obtained in that Bout with all Consequences, including, without limitation, forfeiture of title, ranking, purse or other compensation, except as provided in Article 10.1.1.

Read broadly, under the UFC-USADA Anti-Doping Guidelines, Lesnar could have his purse for the bout and “other compensation” taken from him.  It would hurt enough that Lesnar would lose out on his $2.5 million reported purse but “other compensation” could mean money he makes from his PPV “upside.”

Not only could that happen, but the section further states that UFC could fine Lesnar up to $500,000 per Section 10.10 of the UFC-USADA Anti-Doping Guidelines.  In addition, he could have his win against Mark Hunt overturned to a no decision per discretion of the Nevada State Athletic Commission according to section 467.850.  This would not sting as much since Lesnar did not have a win bonus to forfeit.  Regardless, he still could have a substantial amount of money taken away.

The monetary fine would be the hardest penalty for Lesnar.  The $2.5 million is the largest reported payout for a UFC fighter in its history.  But, Lesnar was going to make more from his PPV guarantee.  It is being reported that the UFC 200 PPV drew 1.1 to 1.2 million PPV buys.  In most markets, the PPV for UFC 200 was $59.99 HD and $49.99 SD.  Lesnar was projected to make $3-5 million in addition to his $2.5 million.

Mark Hunt, Lesnar’s opponent has demanded that he receive half of Lesnar’s $2.5 million or else he is requesting his release from his UFC contract.  Hunt, who made $700,000 for taking on Lesnar, will be disappointed to learn that under the UFC-USADA guidelines, any money forfeited by an athlete would be under the UFC’s discretion “to be applied to offset the costs of the Program or given to anti-doping research.”

The UFC could also fine Lesnar pursuant to its Code of Conduct which imposes discipline based on misconduct.  Under its Code, “misconduct” may include, “Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the UFC.”  A violation of its drug program could fall under this.

There is precedent for a fine as Jon Jones was docked $25,000 for failing a drug test in December 2014.  Of course, Jones’ drug test failure was for cocaine use.  We note that the detection of this drug was done out of competition and should have not been tested for according to the rules.

Lesnar’s only statement related to Friday’s news of his potential violation was a vague “we’ll get to the bottom of this.”

The WWE does not seem to be concerned with the potential violation and has indicated his next appearance will be at its big event Summerslam, August 21st.  They have not addressed the potential violation.  From its perspective, its an MMA matter, that a WWE matter.

However, the question looms as to whether a Nevada State Athletic Commission suspension would affect his wrestling career.  Some state athletic commissions oversee professional wrestling.  Most commissions honor suspensions of an athlete in other states.  Would a suspension in combat sports carry over to professional wrestling?  We will see.

Show Money Episode 11 talks about the UFC sale

July 17, 2016

I hopped on with Paul Gift and John Nash of Bloody Elbow to discuss the UFC sale and the future impact.  We also learned at the end of the episode that Brock Lesnar was flagged for a potential UFC anti-doping policy violation.

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.

Hunt wants half of Lesnar’s payout or else

July 16, 2016

With the news that Brock Lesnar may be guilty of a drug test violation, Lesnar’s UFC 200 opponent is asking for half of Lesnar’s purse or be released from his UFC contract.

According to MMA Fighting, Hunt is asking UFC officials that he be given half of Lesnar’s reported $2.5 million purse or else he be released from the company.

Per the disclosed pay released by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Hunt made $700,000 for facing Lesnar.  It was the highest disclosed amount Hunt has been paid by the company for a UFC fight.

Hunt had inferred that Lesnar may have been taking PEDs in lead-up to the fight.  But Lesnar denied it.

On Saturday, Lesnar responded to the USADA notification stating, “we will get to the bottom of this.”

Payout Perspective:

The ultimatum is interesting although I am not sure how much leverage has with this request.  Certainly Hunt has a legitimate issue with stepping in against an individual that may have taken PEDs.  Yet, if Hunt were to leave, there’s no other fight organization that would have the resources to pay Hunt the way he is compensated in the UFC.

UFC 200 estimated over 1M PPV buys; 199 does 320K

July 16, 2016

Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer reports that the buy rate for UFC 200 is estimated to be between 1.1 to 1.2 million PPV buys.  In addition, there are reports that UFC 199 drew 320,000 PPV buys.

UFC 200 featured Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate.  However, Brock Lesnar was the real feature of the card.  Of course, news hit Friday night that Lesnar was flagged by USADA for a potential violation of the UFC anti-doping policy.  As we know, Jon Jones was pulled from his fight against Daniel Cormier during fight week.  Despite the issues, the UFC Prelims drew the third-highest ratings for a prelims show on the network despite starting 30 minutes late due to baseball.

Last month’s UFC 199 featured Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping (who replaced Chris Weidman) and Dominick Cruz facing Urijah Faber.  For UFC 199, the Prelims drew 798,000 viewers and 500,000 google searches for “UFC 199” on the day of the fight which may have indicated the estimated buy rate.

2016 PPV buy rates

UFC 195 – 300,000

UFC 196 – 1.5 million

UFC 197 – 450,000

UFC 198 – not known at this time

UFC 199 – 320,000

UFC 200 – ~1.1-1.2 million

Payout Perspective:

The 1.1-1.2 million should be seen as a very good buy rate considering the Jon Jones issue and the lack of a Rousey or McGregor on the card.  The buy rate reflects the fact that Brock Lesnar was a big draw (once again) for the UFC.  Thus, the news of his potential drug test failure brings into question a lot of things related to the use of Lesnar on the card and the decision to waive him from waiting four months per the UFA anti-doping rules.

Lesnar flagged for potential UFC anti-doping violation

July 15, 2016

USADA has notified the UFC that Brock Lesnar has been flagged for a potential violation of the company’s anti-doping policy.

The UFC posted its statement on the notification on Friday night.

“The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Brock Lesnar of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collection on June 28, 2016. USADA received the testing results from the June 28, 2016 sample collection from the WADA-accredited UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory on the evening of July 14, 2016.

“USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case. It is important to note that, under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full fair legal review process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed. The Nevada State Athletic Commission also retains jurisdiction over this matter as the sample collection was performed in close proximity to Lesnar’s bout at UFC 200 in Las Vegas.

“Consistent with all previous potential anti-doping violations, additional information will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.”

The flagged test calls into question the UFC waiving Lesnar’s notice to return to the UFC without the requisite 4-month written notice.  Under 5.7.1 of the UFC anti-doping policy, it’s within the UFC’s right to grant an exemption to a 4-month period in which USADA may test you.  The UFC clearly allowed an exemption  for Lesnar to make 200.

The WWE gave a short statement regarding Lesnar’s test.  As it has been throughout the Lesnar lead-up to UFC 200, it’s staying away from Lesnar’s participation in the UFC.  I’m sure they regret promoting his win last Monday.

Payout Perspective:

Just a little over one year into the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, we are discovering that the drug testing policy shows no favorites.  Not only did a flagged test take Jon Jones off of the biggest card of the year, Brock Lesnar was identified as possibly committing a violation as well.  The fact is that these drug tests could be expedited to ensure that all fighters are cleared of any out of competition violation prior to an event.  But, it has been decided that whatever testing process they go through was not rushed.

The failed test is a negative for the WWE as Lesnar is scheduled to be featured in next month’s WWE Summerslam.  Notably, two of the WWE’s big stars (Roman Reigns) have been flagged for a drug violation.

The violation likely forecloses Lesnar in the Octagon again unless he has an excuse for the flagged test.  For the UFC, it’s another blemish for the company.  However, Lesnar is not a mainstay for the company despite being the biggest draw on PPV.  Thus, the UFC and its new owners should withstand the bad PR in the coming days.

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