S&P Global reaffirms UFC Holdings, LLC debt rating, outlook

April 17, 2017

S&P Global Ratings reaffirmed UFC Holding’s first lien “B+” rating after news of seeking $100 million in additional loans.  Due to its high leverage, S&P rated UFC Holdings, LLC as having a negative outlook.

For a definition of S&P’s ratings, look here.  A “B” rating is characterized as, “more vulnerable to nonpayment than obligations rated ‘BB’, but the obligor currently has the capacity to meet its financial commitment on the obligation. Adverse business, financial, or economic conditions will likely impair the obligor’s capacity or willingness to meet its financial commitment on the obligation.”

The UFC plans to use the additional loans for “earn-outs” and other payments to the Fertitta brothers and Flash Entertainment, the previous owners of the UFC, if the UFC achieves certain benchmarks with its EBITDA “sometime this year.”  As indicated last year, the company must achieve $275 million EBITDA within 12 months.  In the following 12 months, it must achieve $350 million EBITDA to achieve a monetary benchmark.

S&P noted that through 2018, it expects an adjusted leverage above 9x which is “pro-forma” for the additional $100 million term loan add-on.  But, it adds that the company has a “plausible and robust growth path.”  Thus, S&P affirmed its “B” corporate credit rating on UFC Holdings, LLC and “B+” issue-level rating on the company’s $1.475 billion first-lien term loan due 2023.

In July 2016, UFC Holding’s LLC was given a “B” rating and a negative outlook on a $1.45 billion first lien loan to acquire Zuffa, LLC.  As we wrote back in July, “the financing for the deal to acquire the UFC will consist of the $1.45 billion credit facility which will consist of a $150 million revolver due 2021 and a $1.3 billion term loan B due 2023.”

According to the S&P report, it affirmed its “CCC” rating for the second-lien term loan of $425 million due in 2024.

Also of note, WME-IMG will receive $25 million in an annually management fee.  It also states that an upgrade in rating will not occur prior to a new domestic media rights contract is renegotiated.

The report notes that while the UFC has a strong appeal to the 18-34 demo, “it needs to continue to develop fighters” that appeal to this target demo.

Prior to the acquisition by WME-IMG, in November 2015 Zuffa, LLC had a company corporate rating of BB and its outlook was stable.  This was an upgrade in outlook which was previously negative.

The report from S&P Global Ratings came out on April 4th.

Payout Perspective:

As in July, S&P seems optimistic on UFC Holdings, LLC and its ability to repay the debt (at least for the first-term loan).  The report notes that the WME-IMG and its other investors may provide “temporary” financial support in the event of unexpected financial difficulty.  This may attribute to the rating in comparison to previous ratings for Zuffa, LLC.  Despite the additional loan capacity, UFC Holdings, LLC’s rating did not slide and it still projects a negative outlook for the holding company.  Obviously, with the increase in debt capacity the negative outlook seems warranted.  Then there is the issue, or nonissue, of the company’s EBITDA.  Federal regulators announced concerns with the “add-backs” included in its EBITDA forecast.  The projected EBITDA forecast appears to be linked to the belief that it will increase its media rights deal.  WME-IMG has reduced costs since taking over which was highlighted by the reduction of the UFC work force which should please investors looking to scoop up its debt.  The S&P report seems bullish on its EBITDA noting a “plausible and robust growth path.” B

UFC on Fox 24 draws lowest-ever overnight rating

April 16, 2017

Television By Numbers reports that UFC on Fox 24 drew 1.74 million viewers on Saturday night.  The event is the lowest rated UFC on Fox ever although it does not include the overrun.

UFC on Fox 24 featured Demetrious Johnson defending his UFC Flyweight title against Wilson Reis.   Johnson defeated Reis via armbar submission.  Also, Rose Namajunas submitted Michelle Waterson in the co-main event of the main broadcast which aired from 5-7pm PT.

UFC on Fox drew a 0.6 rating and a 2 share in the adult 18-49 demo.

According to Nielsen, the Easter tradition of ABC showing The Ten Commandments drew over 5 million viewers.  A prime time showing of the NHL Playoffs drew 2.29 million viewers on NBC.

Notably, The Ten Commandments drew a 3 share in the adult 18-49 demo, the best in the 8-10pm time slot.

UFC on Fox Ratings
Overnights Live + SD
UFC on Fox 1 5,700,000
UFC on Fox 2 4,570,000
UFC on Fox 3 2,250,000 2,400,000
UFC on Fox 4 2,360,000 2,400,000
UFC on Fox 5 3,410,000 4,400,000
UFC on Fox 6 3,770,000 4,220,000
UFC on Fox 7 3,300,000 3,700,000
UFC on Fox 8 2,040,000 2,380,000
UFC on Fox 9 2,410,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 10 2,550,000 3,220,000
UFC on Fox 11 1,990,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 12 2,020,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 13 2,270,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 14 2,820,000 3,049,000
UFC on Fox 15 2,430,000 2,745,000
UFC on Fox 16 2,290,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 17 2,280,000 2,781,000
UFC on Fox 18 2,430,000 2,685,000
UFC on Fox 19 2,130,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 20 2,440,000 2,975,000
UFC on Fox 21 2,200,000 1,983,000
UFC on Fox 22 2,690,000 3,178,000
UFC on Fox 23 2,020,000 2,189,000
UFC on Fox 24 1,740,000

Payout Perspective:

It’s the lowest rated UFC on Fox ever although you might see a bump since the Demetrious Johnson-Wilson Reis did not start until about 5 minutes left in the time slot window.  Still, you would have expected better ratings for Namjunas-Waterson.  Unfortunately, some will see this as an indictment on the lack of drawing power for Johnson who has to be considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters ever.

Last April’s UFC on Fox 19 drew over 2.1 million viewers.  In 2015, April’s UFC on Fox 15 drew 2.43 million viewers.

UFC on Fox 24 attendance, gate and bonuses

April 15, 2017

Demetrious Johnson, Robert Whittaker, Louis Smolka and Tim Elliott earned bonuses of the night for UFC on Fox 24.  The event, which aired Saturday night on Fox, drew a record for a sporting event at The Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Johnson earned his bonus after submitting jiu jitsu specialist Wilson Reis with an armbar.  Whittaker upset Jacare Souza via TKO in the second round.  Smolka and Elliott earned a Fight of the Night bonus for their fight which was the opener on the televised prelims portion.  It was a back and forth grappling contest which was won by Elliott.  All earned $50,000.

The event was well-received in Kansas City as the event drew 12,171 for a live gate of $1,081,193 million.  According to MMA Junkie it is the highest earning sports event in venue history.

The bonuses, attendance and gate figures were announced post-event.

Payout Perspective:

Another dominating performance for Johnson as he made it look easy against Reis.  Despite not being a PPV draw, Johnson does well on Fox cards and his dominance should really be marketed more by the UFC.

Johnson files appeal regarding Cormier’s weigh-in

April 14, 2017

Anthony Johnson has filed an appeal with the New York State Athletic Commission regarding Daniel Cormier’s weigh in.

In a letter from Johnson’s attorneys, Craig Zimmerman and David Mossberg, claim that Cormier did not know of his allowance to weigh-in again within two hours.  More to the point, they took issue with the weigh-in controversy on Cormier’s second attempt where he held the towels in front of him.  Cormier claims he did not know that he held the towels in a post-fight interview.

A portion of the letter (via MMA Junkie) states:

“Unfortunately, in the case, Anthony Johnson, the general public, and the sport of mixed martial arts were deprived of a fair and honest weigh-in and a true championship fight when Daniel Cormier was allowed to grab the towels held in front of him for privacy purposes only while his official weight was being determined.”

The letter goes on to demand Cormier to answer “under oath” to the commission and explain his actions regarding grabbing the towels.  It also requests that if Cormier is subject to discipline, he should be ordered to pay 20% of his fight purse to Johnson and stripped of the light heavyweight title.

Payout Perspective:

It is an interesting appeal due to the fact that Johnson announced his retirement in the Octagon.  Thus, the purpose of the appeal seems to be just to require Cormier to surrender 20% of his fight purse to Johnson.  It does seem like there should be some sort of investigation into the handling of the situation.  Coupled with the instant replay issue in the Chris Weidman-Gegard Mousasi fight, it seems like the New York State Athletic Commission has some issues it needs to review.  As for the towel situation, if it is not addressed, we will likely see similar actions in future weigh-ins where a fighter is near the weight limit.

Update on Bellator 176 ratings and Bellator Kickboxing draws 399K viewers

April 13, 2017

Bellator 176 peaked with 688,000 viewers on Saturday afternoon on Spike TV per Nielsen.  In addition, Bellator Kickboxing which aired after Bellator MMA on Spike TV drew 399,000 viewers.

Bellator Kickboxing aired immediately after Bellator MMA on Spike TV.  The event aired from Torino, Italy.  It peaked with 579,000 viewers.

Bellator MMA’s DVR+3 rating drew 496,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

Relatively speaking, good numbers for Bellator Kickboxing (rating includes DVR+3 rating) considering last September’s edition of Bellator Kickboxing drew 287,000.  In April it drew 346,000 viewers.  In June, it hit its peak of 418,000 viewers.  The DVR numbers are slightly stronger for Bellator MMA as those who were out on Saturday afternoon recorded the event to watch later.

Nate Diaz fine reduced by NSAC

April 12, 2017

MMA Junkie reports that the Nevada State Athletic Commission has reduced Nate Diaz’s fine to $15,000 and to complete 15 hours community service.  The reduction is in line with that given to Conor McGregor after a re-hearing on his discipline stemming from August’s incident at a pre0fight press conference.

Diaz was issued a $50,000 fine plus 50 hours community service for his part in the UFC 202 pre-fight press conference in which he through items at Conor McGregor on stage after leaving in the middle of the press conference.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission voted unanimously to approve of the reduction.  Although not agreed upon by Diaz or his representatives, it is believed that Diaz will take the deal.

Payout Perspective:

This was a likely scenario given the NSAC’s vote to reduce Conor McGregor’s suspension.  It only makes sense that Diaz would also receive a reduction in the amount of his fine.  There were reports that Diaz had paid the fine so if this is true, he’d likely get a refund.  It seems unlikely that Diaz would push the new fine since its considerably less than the original and it would cost more to fight it.  Also, he has not sought out a fight so this has not really impacted him aside from his pocketbook and the time to do community service.

Spike TV’s deal with PBC is over

April 12, 2017

ESPN reports that Spike TV will no longer air Premier Boxing Champions on Spike TV which ends a two-year partnership to air PBC on Spike TV.

In March 2015, Spike TV launched “Friday Night Lights Out” with Glory Kickboxing, Bellator MMA and PBC with Haymon’s company as the big add to the network.  According to Spike TV, a third-year option was negotiated was not included in the final contract.

Notably, Spike TV was not happy with the quality of PBC cards aired on Spike TV and the network wanted to commit to Bellator MMA.

The last PBC on Spike TV card aired this past January.  The network stated that it is willing to revisit PBC and/or a boxing event but it looks like its combat sports programming will be limited to Bellator MMA.

Payout Perspective:

It’s interesting that Spike was frank about the quality of PBC cards.  Most of PBC cable cards are now airing on FS1.  The best PBC on Spike TV did on the network was its March 2015 debut when it drew 869,000 viewers.  The ratings have struggled to grasp a consistent audience with its events on Spike TV.  The network, which ended its relationship with Glory, now seems to be making a concentrated effort into Bellator MMA.  Will this equate into a push for bigger ratings and more sponsors?  We shall see.

Saturday afternoon’s Bellator 176 draws 438,000 viewers

April 12, 2017

Bellator MMA drew 438,000 viewers on Saturday afternoon per Sports TV Ratings.  The promotion aired the event from Italy live instead of tape delay.

The telecast drew 198,000 viewers in the Adult 18-49 demo according to Sports TV Ratings.  The event featured Melvin Manhoef versus Rafael Carvalho.  The Brazilian Carvalho won via TKO.

Payout Perspective:

Probably a good idea for Bellator to avoid UFC programming but a Saturday afternoon spot without any real fighter of notoriety on the card results in this rating.  With The Masters and baseball on during the day, this event could have got lost in the shuffle.

UFC 210: Payout Perspective

April 10, 2017

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time around we take a look at UFC 210 in Buffalo, New York

Cormier “makes” weight, retires Johnson

Daniel Cormier lost 1.2 pounds in less than 5 minutes at the weigh-ins and made weight after missing on the first attempt.  Despite no one really addressing this marvel, Cormier making weight ensured a championship match in which he dispatched Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in 2 rounds.

Instead of using his strength of stand-up and striking, Johnson attempted to take down and grapple the far superior wrestler in Cormier.  He was not listening to his corner and when Johnson was faced with some adversity, he tapped out.

Johnson promptly retired after the match stating that he had made a commitment to another job.  At 33, Johnson leaves the sport at the peak of his MMA career.  But, one has to wonder how invested he was in this fight if he knew that he was going to retire no matter what after it.

For Cormier, he went professional wrestler-mode in his post-fight interview in the Octagon as he went after Jimi Manuwa and Jon Jones.  While it appears, he is embracing the booing that is happening, he still has Jon Jones in his head.

With Cormier having to nurse a broken nose and getting married in May, it appears that a showdown with Jones will not happen in July at International Fight Week but maybe August at its earliest.

Mousasi defeats Weidman on Knee

Someone needs to explain the rules to me again.  Gegard Mousasi defeated Chris Weidman after it was determined that a knee was legal despite the former UFC middleweight’s attempt to put both hands down to become a grounded opponent.  If you are a grounded opponent, you cannot be kneed.  The doctor at ringside determined that Weidman could not continue.  Weidman is appealing the decision, but if it stands this makes 3 losses in a row for Weidman as it seems the once next big thing is at a crossroads in his career.

Weidman is still a name and you can envision him headlining the UFC card in Long Island this July but you have to wonder where will he be in the UFC middleweight hierarchy.  He’s not going to be released.  But, will he be a name for a card or an actual contender for the middleweight title.

Mousasi has another impressive name on his win resume and should be moving toward a title shot against Michael Bisping.

Attendance

UFC 210 was announced as a sellout at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.  The event set a sporting event record for the venue with 17,110 for a gate or $2 million.  Certainly, the economic impact to the area is one of the reasons why businesses wanted to legalize MMA in the state.

Bonuses

Bonuses went to Gregor Gillespie, Charles Oliveira, Shane Burgos and Charles Rosa.  Gillepsie and Oliveira drew Performance bonuses while Burgos and Rosa drew the Fight of the Night.  All received $50,000 bonuses.

Certainly, Cormier or Cynthia Calvillo could have earned the Performance bonus too.

Promotion of the Fight

It was the first major PPV in upstate New York since UFC 7 and the city of Buffalo honored the UFC for coming.  Despite being a New England Patriots fan Dana White posed with some Buffalo BillsThe Bills were all over UFC 210.

The local news did a writeup on White.

The UFC sent direct messages (DMs) on twitter to those that follow its twitter feed about UFC 210.  To some, it also asked for people to RTs.

The Embedded series followed Chris Weidman, Gegard Mousasi, Daniel Cormier, Anthony Johnson for most of the series.  It also briefly looked at Cynthia Calvillo and Pearl Gonzalez.  Notably, there was no looks at Cormier’s weight-cut and his issues.  MMA Fighting did memorialize the weight-cut for Weidman.

Also of interest, that Daniel Cormier was wearing a pair of Air Jordans on an episode of Embedded this time around.  As we know, the UFC is sponsored by Reebok.

Sponsorships

The usual sponsors were in the octagon including Harley Davidson, Reebok, Budweiser, 7-11, Toyo Tires, Metro PCS, UFC Fight Pass and Monster Energy had the center of the octagon.  There were no other

Chris Weidman and Daniel Cormier both had Monster Energy patches on their fight kits.

Odds and ends

The Pearl Gonzalez story drew over 100,000 google searches on Friday after she was initially told she could not fight due to her breast implants.  However, after the UFC spoke with the athletic commission and got in contact with her doctor, she was given the go ahead to fight.  Thus, for White to chastise media on FS1 mischaracterizes the black letter rule which was due to her breast implants, Gonzalez could not fight.  His lashing out at the media seems to be a reflection of how sensitive he is about criticism.

Maybe this is too much conspiracy theory but I wonder if the reason NASCAR denied having a partnership with Bellator was due to the fact it was featured on the UFC 210 Countdown this past week.  The episode shows Anthony Johnson attending a NASCAR event.  At the same event, we also see Donald Cerrone.

Patrick Cote’s retirement was touching.  Unfortunately, it did not end in a win like Mark Munoz or Urijah Faber but I thought the taking off the gloves and the UFC allowing him to talk despite being the loser was nice.  Certainly, Cote’s retirement was not too surprising.

On the other end, everyone was stunned with Anthony Johnson’s retirement.  It’s better to leave early than to stick around too long so I think this may be best for Johnson if he no longer has his heart in the game.  Perhaps that explains why Johnson seemed to give up in the second round.

Urijah Faber into the UFC Hall of Fame this year was a no-brainer.

UFC 210 Countdown on FS1 Sunday night drew 99,000 viewers per Sports TV Ratings.

The Prelims on Saturday started on FS2 due to the Yankees-Indians game going long on Fs1.

Try leaning over on something while weighing yourself on a scale and you will have performed the “towel trick.”

There were over 500,000 google searches for UFC 210 on Saturday night.

Conclusion

I would not expect this PPV to draw more than 300,000 buys.  Daniel Cormier-Anthony Johnson is not a fight that would draw a casual viewer despite being for a title.  Although, Mousasi-Weidman is a nice co-main for hardcore fans, it would not draw someone either.  We did have lull of weekends without UFC action so some might be wanting to see some fights.  Thus, the PPV buy rate probably falls into the realm of the hardcore base plus some other scattered fans hungry for MMA action.

UFC 210 attendance, gate and bonuses

April 8, 2017

UFC officials announced the attendance, gate and bonuses for UFC 210 from Buffalo, New York.  UFC 210 set a venue record with in its fourth event in New York since the sport was legalized.

The event, which took place at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York drew 17,110 for a gate of $2 million.  It ranks second behind UFC 205 as top UFC gates in the state.  The event featured Daniel Cormier defending his light heavyweight title against Anthony Johnson.

In addition, the bonuses went to Gregor Gillespie, Charles Oliveira, Shane Burgos and Charles Rosa.  Gillesie and Oliveira drew Performance bonuses while Burgos and Rosa drew the Fight of the Night.  All bonus winners received $50,000.

The attendance, gate and bonuses were announced by the UFC post-event.

Payout Perspective:

The event was a success from an attendance  and gate perspective.  Chris Weidman and Patrick Cote had ample fans as both are from the area.  Weidman is from New York and Cote’s Canadian fans crossed the border to make it to Buffalo.  Notably, Cote and Anthony Johnson told the crowd that this was their last fight.

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