UFC Fight Night 120 draws 837,000 viewers on FS1; prelims score 726,000

November 14, 2017

Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 120 on FS1 drew 837,000 viewers. The prelims scored 726,000 viewers on FS1.

The main card was highlighted by a bloody main event between Dutin Poirier and Anthony Pettis. Poirier scored the victory when Pettis tapped due to injury. The prelims featured Marlon Moraes over John Dodson.

According to ShowBuzz Daily, the main card drew 0.34 in the A18-49 demo while the prelims drew 0.28.

The pre-fight show (7-8:05pm ET) on FS1 drew 272,000 viewers and the post-fight show (1:10-2:10am ET) drew 369,000.

Payout Perspective:

The event improved over the last two televised Fight Nights due in part to better matchups overall.  The ratings, including the prelims and post-fight show, are very good considering they want up against boxing on ESPN and HBO and college football.

Ratner’s Statement before Congressional Subcommittee outlines Opposition to Ali Act Expansion

November 13, 2017

The UFC’s Marc Ratner submitted a Statement to the Congressional Subcommittee Hearing on MMA.  The statement opposes the expansion of the Ali Act to combat sports citing issues such as state’s rights and

Ratner, the company’s Senior Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs, highlighted his long-time work with boxing and assisting in the passage of the original Ali Act.  He testified about 20 years ago in which he expressed concerns about “conflicts, cronyism, and corruption” in boxing.  He stated that the problems he saw in boxing are “absolutely not present in MMA.”

He highlighted the UFC’s “rags to riches” story of a business that worked its way up from the bottom and did most of the lobbying from state to state by itself, without help from any other MMA organization or promotion.

Ratner emphasized that state regulation works and federal oversight were be an overreach by government.

In addition, he addressed the many mixed martial artists, including female fighters, that have worked themselves into positions where “[d]ozens upon dozens” are millionaires because of the opportunities provided by the UFC.  He also expressed the fact that only a “very small minority of fighters” are supporting this legislation.

Ratner also argued that the reason for the Ali Act was to address corruption in “so-called sanctioning organizations.”  He described these as “privately run businesses that rank fighters for a fee.”  Unlike these boxing sham organizations that either pushed or held back boxers, MMA does not rely on sanctioning organizations.  He cited the UFC rankings which are voted on by sports reporters.  He added, “[w]e put on the fights that fans want to see and they want to see competitive fights.”

He concluded that the proposed legislation would impose boxing’s sanctioning organization model onto MMA.  He claimed that MMA is predictable and transparent in its current state.  He also warned that the growing number of sanctioning organizations in boxing has created a lack of uniformity in the sports and its rankings.

Marc Ratner Statement by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

Ratner’s argument against the proposed legislation is plausible based on his viewpoint of the reasons behind the enactment of the original Ali Act.  At this point, the proposed legislation mirrors the Ali Act without any specific differences between the original and the proposed expansion of the law.  The argument that there is nothing wrong with MMA is a bright line view and in comparison to boxing at the time that lawmakers sought to enact the Ali Act might be true.  But, it’s hard to say that just a minority of MMA fighters support the act.  Of course, there are some that do not want to publicly support the Ali Act expansion for concern of repercussions.

Ratner also suggests that the UFC rankings are independent because sports reporters provide the rankings.  Who is it that picks these sports reporters?

His point that numerous sanctioning bodies in boxing creates uncertainty in the rankings is a viable argument.  But does that mean that the expansion of the Ali Act would mean multiple fighter rankings?

The old argument of state’s rights versus federal rights is argued by Ratner as he suggests that state athletic commissions are able to oversee MMA rather than having a federal authority.  It is true that the current system is working, but take the Conor McGregor incident at Bellator 187 as an example.  Who has the authority to oversee McGregor’s actions.  The Association of Boxing Commissions?  Bellator?  The UFC?  The regulatory body overseeing the Bellator event in Dublin?  While state athletic commissions and tribal regulators can enforce actions in its jurisdictions what happens with interstate issues like that of McGregor.

While Ratner provides some arguments against the Ali Act expansion, there are indeed issues in MMA that a federal law can address.  The question is whether this proposed version can do it.

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.

UFC Fight Night 120 attendance, gate and bonuses

November 12, 2017

Dustin Poirier led the list of bonuses at UFC Fight Night 120 in Norfolk, Virginia Saturday night.  Poirier’s opponent in the main event Anthony Pettis received a $50,000 bonus for their Fight of the Night.

In addition, Matt Brown and Rapahel Assuncao received the other $50,000 bonuses.  Brown, in his retirement fight, destroyed Diego Sanchez with an elbow for the KO.  Assuncao dropped Matthew Lopez in the third round with a kick to win via KO.

The event from the Ted Constant Convocation Center drew 8,442 fans for a gate of $642,070.  It was the highest-attended event for a UFC event in Virginia although it did not draw the largest gate.

Payout Perspective:

 Saturday’s event is on par with attendance at other Fight Night events in North America.  It was a night of some good fights including the main event featuring Poirier and Pettis in a blood bath.

Grant Dawson flagged for potential anti-doping violation

November 11, 2017

UFC Featherweight Grant Dawson has been notified of a potential UFC anti-doping policy violation related to an October 18, 2017 test.

Dawson, 23, has yet to debut with the organization.  He was one of the fighters to win UFC contracts on Dana White’s Contender Series this summer.

Payout Perspective:

Dawson is the second fighter from the Dana White Contender Series to be flagged by USADA.  Zu Anyanwu was flagged for an out-of-competition test the same day as Dawson.  This might be one of those issues where the fighter used a supplement without knowing the contents.  Both probably started in the protocol and was not primed for the testing.  Of course, we will need to see what the substances that were flagged before making that determination.

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.

Statement issued on McGregor antics at Bellator event

November 11, 2017

The Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation and the Association of Boxing Commissions issued a statement related to Conor McGregor’s antics at a Bellator event in Dublin, Ireland on Friday.

McGregor, who was not a licensed cornerman, stormed the cage after his training partner Charlie Ward won his fight against John Redmond via first-round TKO.  McGregor shoved referee Marc Goddard when he attempted to stop McGregor from celebrating in the cage.  The UFC lightweight champion proceeded to go after Goddard and almost trampled the still fallen Redmond.

The full statement via MMA Junkie:

“While the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation (MTDAR) was regulating Bellator 187 in Dublin, Ireland, on November 10, 2017, the following events took place during the Ward vs Redmond bout.

“Mr. Conor McGregor who was a spectator at the time, disrupted the event by scaling the cage prior to the conclusion of the bout. Mr. McGregor’s conduct jeopardized the health and safety of the bout participants by delaying necessary medical attention to the fighters that were injured during the round.

“In addition, Mr. McGregor assaulted Referee Mark Goddard and a Bellator staff.

“The MTDAR has been in consultation with the upper management of the UFC regarding Mr. McGregor’s inappropriate and unacceptable behavior.

“The MTDAR has also contacted members of the Association of Boxing Commissioners that have licensed Mr. McGregor in their jurisdictions to inform them of Mr. McGregor’s behavior.”

Payout Perspective:

McGregor’s presence probably helped with Bellator ratings as the fight was taped-delay on SpikeTV and news of the incident swirled on social media.  The question of whether any penalty aside from maybe a fine will transpire.  Certainly, the UFC should have some sort of fine for McGregor although I would expect no suspension of any kind.  The company probably does not like it that he gave publicity to Bellator and likely that is the only real issue with the incident for the UFC.

TUF 26 Episode 9 draws 239,000 viewers on FS1 Wednesday

November 10, 2017

The Ultimate Fighter 26, episode 9 drew 239,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The show featured two quarterfinal fights as Roxanne Modafferi stopped Emily Whitmire and Sijara Eubanks defeated DeAnna Bennett.  The episode focused on the weight-cutting of Eubanks as she struggled to make the mandatory weight while Lauren Murphy was waiting to replace her.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are a nice rebound from last week’s low rating due in part to Game 7 of the World Series.  Still, Wednesday’s ratings is below the 242,000 season average.

Anderson Silva flagged for potential anti-doping violation

November 10, 2017

Anderson Silva has been flagged by USADA for a potential UFC anti-doping violation.  He has been pulled from his upcoming fight against Kelvin Gastelum in Shanghai, China on November 25th.

An out-of-competition sample collected on October 26, 2017 was flagged by USADA.  Due to the proximity of his fight which happens in 15 days, he has been removed from the bout and the UFC is looking for a replacement.

You may recall that Silva failed a drug test from his fight with Nick Diaz at UFC 183.  Silva claimed the failed test was related to a tainted sexual performance drug.  Silva served a one-year suspension and a fine of $380,000.

Payout Perspective:

This is disappointing news for Silva and the UFC.  The company had hoped it would make a splash in its debut in China.  Silva is a big name in MMA and has international appeal.  But, with his name off of the card, it will be hard in a short turnaround to find a replacement for headliner Kelvin Gastelum.  For Silva, its another mark against his great career.  We will see what Silva’s response will be on this issue.  We will also see if USADA will treat Silva’s prior offense as a prior bad act as his previous drug test occurred prior to the UFC anti-doping policy.

Hearing on Expansion of Ali Act gets heated

November 9, 2017

Testimony was heard before a Congressional Subcommittee on the possibility of expanding the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to combat sports.  Randy Couture, Marc Ratner, Greg Sirb and Dr. Kristen Dams-O’Connor testified at Thursday morning’s hearing.

The testimony centered around the business of MMA and the possible expansion of the Ali Act and at times became contentious especially when the bill’s sponsor, Oklahoma congressman Markwayne Mullin asked questions of the UFC’s Marc Ratner.

There were three central issues related to today’s hearing.  First, the issue of fighter rankings came up as Congressman Mullin grilled Ratner about the rankings and questioned how Georges St Pierre, a fighter that has been retired for 4 years, receive an immediate title shot against UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping.

h/t @jedigoodman

He also asked how Bisping’s first challenger to the title was an unranked Dan Henderson.

Another issue was that of coercive contracts which Randy Couture addressed the problem.  He noted that he was prevented to fight Fedor Emelianenko due to the fact he had an exclusive contract with the UFC and could not fight outside of the promotion.  Additionally, Pennsylvania Athletic Commissioner, a proponent of the proposed bill stated, “[i]f the fighter does not know how big the financial pie is then how is he to know how big of a piece of the pie he should bargain for?”  Although a proponent, he noted that there has been no legal case brought forward by the U.S. Attorney enforcing the current Ali Act.  While there have been lawsuits brought by fighters, the law allows for the government to enforce the act.  According to Sirb, this has not happened.

Also, the issue of head trauma was discussed as Dr. Kristen Dams-O’Connor testified about traumatic brain injury, or TBI.  Her research centers around understanding and improving long-term outcomes experienced by individuals who sustained TBI.  Her testimony concluded that despite the fact that not participating in sports such as MMA or football would greatly reduce the number of TBI cases, that is not the reality.  She seemed resigned to the conclusion that these sports provide a certain amount of reward despite the inherent risk.  She did distinguish the two sports, MMA and football, by noting that it is the goal in MMA to deliver TBI to your opponent as knocking out someone is a part of the sport whereas football players avoid sustaining a concussion during their athletic careers.

The hearing had members of congress ask questions.  The star of the hearing (in my opinion) was Illinois congresswoman Jan Schakowsky who stated that she attended last year’s hearing on MMA.  She did her researched and watched some fights.  Admittedly, it was too bloody for her but she was interested in the safety of the sport and supported the Ali Act’s passage.  Later in the hearing, she asked Dr. Dams-O’Connor informative questions about TBI and youth participation in MMA.

On the other spectrum of the “question asking” was New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone.  Pallone is a proponent of sports betting and utilized his time to ask questions related to sports betting.  Essentially, Pallone did not really care about the answers but used this stage to push his stance on sports betting.

But the main event of the hearing was Mullin going after UFC representative Marc Ratner.  The congressman was short with Ratner and often cutting him off from filibustering his limited time.  He was pointed with Ratner about the rankings system to which Ratner attempted to talk about how the fights were made for the fan’s benefit.  He queried whether Conor McGregor was stripped of his Featherweight title for lack of defending it.  Ratner noted that he had no say in the rankings and did not know.  The attack by Mullin on Ratner seemed calculated.  Mullin proclaimed that the UFC was the “Don King of MMA.”  This was meant as a pejorative swipe at the organization.

Payout Perspective:

We’ll have more on this interesting hearing from Thursday.  The hearing seemed to flesh out some of the basic issues of why expand the Ali Act to combat sports and the reasons why it is not needed.  It essentially boils down to a state’s right to govern versus federal oversight.  At the outset, Mullin seemed to stress the “interstate commerce” nature of MMA which would imply that the business crosses states lines and due to this, a federal law would be appropriate.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

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