Kimbo Slice = Ratings

February 19, 2016

The New York Times reports on Bellator 149 tonight mainly focusing on Kimbo Slice’s return to the television.  Regardless of his ability, the former street fighter has produced ratings and Friday night should not be any different.

The brief NYT article characterizes Bellator as a “smaller mixed martial arts organization” that uses “card attention-grabbing fights that make up in colorfulness what they lack in top-flight talent.”  Although a backhanded compliment, the numbers do not lie.  Scott Coker’s “tent pole” events are always ratings boosts.  Slice has the “it” factor when it comes to viewership.  Last June’s fight against Ken Shamrock drew the highest ratings in Bellator MMA’s history.

Whenever Slice is on television, he draws ratings.  His appearance on TUF in 2009 on Spike TV drew the best ratings for the franchise as the 12 episodes averaged slightly over 3 million viewers.  Of course, the feud brewing between Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson helped keep the viewership base.  Still, Slice was/is a ratings magnate.  It’s worthy to note that the TUF Finale 10 featuring Slice in December 2009 drew 3.7 million viewers and peaked with 5.2 million viewers for his fight with Houston Alexander.

Prior to his stint in the UFC, his Elite XC appearances on CBS drew large ratings with 4.85 million viewers in May 2008 and 4.56 million viewers in October 2008.

Slice versus Dada 5000 will not be a technical matchup but the promotion for the fight has been nothing but spectacular.  If you like grudge matches and want to see old rivals fight, you will tune in to see this.

Payout Perspective:

The Slice-Dada build for this fight has been great.  While the betting lines have brought more scrutiny to this fight, it’s likely that the additional spotlight will bring more viewers tonight.  The fight, which will likely last less than one round, has overshadowed the main event of Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie.

Another Side of Kimbo Slice

October 2, 2009

Problem:  Rashad Evans, apathetic towards Spike Television’s and UFC’s interest in maintaining Kimbo Slice’s status as a ratings juggernaut, picks Kimbo to fight Roy Nelson (the best fighter in the house) on the third episode of the latest season of TUF.  Kimbo shows little in the (boring) fight and is TKO’d via some weak-looking ground and pound from the vastly more experienced Nelson.

Solution:  Transform Kimbo Slice from street-certified bad ass to a struggling, up-and-coming mixed martial artist, an underdog, and moreover, a good-natured family man.

UFC put together terrific television last night, as the organization turned what many were predicting to be a disaster (i.e., Kimbo’s presumed loss to Nelson) into, well, perhaps not quite gold, but something that’s likely to keep a strong level of viewer interest through the remainder of the season, even if Kimbo does not (as was hinted in the preview of next week’s episode) immediately receive a second chance in the tournament.

UFC took the exact opposite tack as that taken by EliteXC, which promoted Kimbo as an almost unbeatable freak (recall announcer Gus Johnson’s excitement at having seen the greatest “upset” in MMA history when Seth Petruzelli KO’d Kimbo). 

Last night’s Kimbo was likable and intelligent, and even turned introspective towards the camera discussing his need to defeat his “enemy,” his “enemy,” his “inner me.”  Truly great stuff.

I also give credit to UFC for taking a rather dull fight and promoting it beforehand as the most anticipated one in TUF history (just another example of a phenomenon recently discussed by colleague Kelsey Philpott).

Kimbo’s loss on the third episode presented a problem to UFC but things could have been worse.  I’m not certain what could have been done to save the Kimbo intrigue had he lost by bad KO or brutal ground and pound.  As far as losses go, it was fine; going the distance and losing on points was probably preferable, but Kimbo can still be brought back, and he’ll be viewed as a legitimate threat.

Regardless of whether he re-enters the tournament, Dana White has made it clear Kimbo will receive a second chance in the UFC, as he’ll be fighting at the TUF finale.  The smart money says that unless Kimbo is utterly humiliated, he’ll then receive a shot on ppv against a lower level heavy- or light-heavyweight.

You might have cheered him on in the past, but after last night, don’t you just want Kimbo to succeed at this game? 

Something’s changed, and I hand it to whoever was responsible for framing the story behind episode three.

Simply brilliant.

Fighters Seek Freedom From EliteXC Through MMAFA

January 13, 2009

MMAPayout.com has learned that a number of the fighters being held in limbo by the ProElite/EliteXC sale will seek to bring their case against the fight promotion collectively, under the auspices of the Mixed Martial Artists Fighters’ Association. The group of fighters have sought from the promotion confirmation that their duties and obligations to EliteXC have been released and terminated. The fighters (via the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters’ Association) have forwarded a draft of complaint to EliteXC officials and, without such acknowledgment of their release within a specified time period, will file the complaint in open court on behalf of its’ members.

The genesis of the group complaint was the collective action by multiple agents in the industry to block the sale of fighter contracts by Showtime/CBS at auction in early November. Sources indicate to MMAPayout.com that a subset of that group of agents have banded together with their fighters and MMAFA in an attempt to expedite the the contractual status of the fighters still beholden to EliteXC.

While freedom from their contracts seems to be the overarching theme of the collective action, a by product of the suit could be to force a swift conclusion to the sale of ProElite. The company has been on the market with rumored interest from the UFC, Affliction, King of the Cage, and Strikeforce in attaining its assets. The crown jewels of the company are seen to be the fighter contracts and TV deals that are in place. A deal for the company’s assets has been thought to be in the works, but whatever parties involved in the deal have dithered away at the EliteXC fighter’s detriment. The action by MMAFA seems to force the hand of what ever negotiations are taking place.

Showtime Adjourns Public Sale of ProElite Property

November 14, 2008

NEW YORK (Nov. 14, 2008) – Showtime Networks Inc. has adjourned the previously announced public sale of personal property of ProElite, Inc. and certain of its subsidiaries scheduled for November 17, 2008.  Showtime reserves all of its rights, including the right to further adjourn or cancel the public sale and thereafter dispose of such property in a public or private sale or in any other manner provided under its agreements with ProElite and by applicable law.

Escape from EliteXC: The Legal Strategy

November 11, 2008

As the attempted auction of ProElite fighter contracts by Showtime on November 17th draws near, there are sure to be a flurry of legal proceedings and attacks being launched by all parties involved. MMAPayout.com has obtained documents detailing one fighter’s strategy for liberation from ProElite, using legal precedents and CSAC bylaws to make the case for the voiding of his ProElite/EliteXC contract.

The fighter in question is looking to use California law and past precedent in George Foreman Associates LTD vs George Foreman and Oscar De La Hoya vs Top Rank Inc, both of which require going before CSAC to obtain its approval of the contract and Section 230 of CSAC regulations which requires contracts to be done using official CSAC forms as well as any blanket contracts (multi-bout agreements) necessitating Commission approval.

According to the document obtained by MMAPayout.com, said fighter is arguing that such approval was never sought or obtained from the commission, ProElite never had the contracts executed before the commission, and never filed them with the commission. The fighters lawyers argue that such failure leaves the contract void and unenforceable.

The document also argues that the suspension of the ProElite license activates a CSAC code that prohibits a fighter from having any dealings with any person or club that is currently under suspension, thereby voiding the contract.

An alternative theory presented in the document is that the contract is a personal services contract and under California law cannot be assigned without the consent of the parties thereto, with case law being put forth that supports this contention.

On the other side of the coin, some things indicate the agents for the fighters may have an uphill battle. ProElite in its filings (PELE.PK) was Sarbanes-Oxley compliant. There was full PUBLIC disclosure about its financial situation. It used its fighter contracts as leverage and pledged them as an asset. This is all in the public files.

The argument for this tack goes that ProElite isn’t/wasn’t a private company that made these contracts in bad faith. The agents knew or could have known that the organization is in financial peril. How do you have a two year contract with a company that says it has less then 6 months of capital? The time to challenge the contract may have been when the company made that 8k disclosure.

However the contracts are adjudicated, lawyers are one sure-fire winner as there will doubtless be many billable hours put in between now and next Monday.

ProElite Promoter's License Suspended

November 6, 2008

Industry chatter over the past 24 hours indicated that the Promoter’s license of ProElite had been suspended by the California State Athletic Commission, but the reasoning was unclear. Some sources indicated “CSAC had suspended the promotional license of ProElite, based on the fact that ProElite had entered into unenforceable promotional agreements with its fighters by not following mandated CSAC rules and procedures.” Rumors are also indicating that ProElite is not willingly entering into the auction and may file bankruptcy to avoid the sale.

MMAPayout.com contacted the California State Athletic Commission to clear up the rumors as to the status of ProElite’s license. Armando Garcia issued the following statement to MMAPayout.com:

Pro Elite/Elite XC’s and King of the Cage’s licenses are suspended. They were suspended yesterday, when after looking into the matter carefully the exact situation was determined. However, it is not due to any type of contracts.

We do not have any Commission approved contracts for them. Any contracts that they may have with athletes are most probably personal services contracts in whatever state they were signed in. These types of contracts are not under the jurisdiction of the Commission because they were not approved by and or signed with the Commission. In fact, the Commission does not know anything about the contracts people are talking about. I would assume that to have these types of contracts declared void the party (ies) would need to file a civil lawsuit in the appropriate court.

The primary reason that Pro Elite/Elite XC’s and King of the Cage’s licenses have been placed on suspension is because of their financial states and the fact that Pro Elite, the owner of King of the Cage, has suspended operations and their tangible and intangible assets are being auctioned on November 17.

Hypothetically, if the auction goes through and one or more entities purchase either or both of these companies they would have to go through the licensing process. In other words, whatever it is that is being auctioned is not their California licenses.

We have had a great business relationship with the present owners and operators of these companies and we pray that this association continues in the future no matter what name, entity, operator, etc. will then own it.

Regards,

CALIFORNIA STATE ATHLETIC COMMISSION
Armando Garcia, Executive Officer

Notice of Sale of ProElite's Assets

November 5, 2008

Notice is hereby given that the Collateral (as defined below) will be sold by Showtime Networks Inc. (“Showtime”) at a public sale on November 17, 2008 at 10:30 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time) at the offices of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, 350 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90071. The term “Collateral” means all of ProElite, Inc.’s (“ProElite”), Real Sport, Inc.’s (“Real Sport”), ProElite.com’s (“ProElite.com”), EliteXC Live’s (“EliteXC”) and King of the Cage, Inc.’s (“KOTC”; each of ProElite, Real Sport, ProElite.com, EliteXC and KOTC, a “Debtor” and collectively, the “Debtors”) right, title and interest in, to and under, whether now owned or hereafter acquired by such Debtor, all present and after acquired personal property of such Debtor, whether tangible or intangible, wherever located and of whatever nature. The Collateral includes all contracts between any Debtor and mixed martial arts fighters (including, but not limited to, Kevin Ferguson a.k.a. “Kimbo Slice”, Gina Carano, Jake Shields, Robbie Lawler, Frank Shamrock, Antonio Silva, Brett Rogers, Dave Herman, Scott Smith, Nick Diaz, Cristiane Venancio Justino a.k.a. “Chris Cyborg”, Eddie Alvarez, Yves Edwards and Wilson Reis) and all of each Debtor’s video library, still photographs and home videos (e.g., DVDs and VHS tapes). The Collateral will be sold to the highest qualified bidder in public on November 17, 2008 at 10:30 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time) at the offices of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, 350 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90071. The Collateral will be sold on an “as-is, where-is” basis, without recourse, warranty or guarantee of any kind, express or implied, including as to title, possession, enforceability, validity, merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. Interested bidders who would like further information regarding the Collateral to be sold should contact Kent Sevener at (212) 708-3259. Showtime reserves its right to adjourn or cancel the sale at any time.

ProElite Assets To Be Sold At Auction

November 5, 2008

According to a filing with the SEC, ProElite and all of it’s assets are set to go to the highest bidder in a public sale held on Nov. 17th:

“On October 31, 2008, Showtime gave the Issuer a notice pursuant to the Security Agreement, as amended, that it intends to sell all of the Issuer’s personal property, whether tangible or intangible, to the highest bidder at a public sale to be held on November 17, 2008. Showtime reserves its rights under the Security Agreement, as amended, and applicable law to adjourn or cancel the sale and thereafter dispose of such property in a public or private sale or in any other manner provided by applicable law.”

MMA on Tap had a listing of the public notice of Sale, including some assets:

Notice is hereby given that the Collateral (as defined below) will be sold by Showtime Networks Inc. (“Showtime”) at a public sale on November 17, 2008 at 10:30 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time) at the offices of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, 350 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90071. The term “Collateral” means all of ProElite, Inc.’s (“ProElite”), Real Sport, Inc.’s (“Real Sport”), ProElite.com’s (“ProElite.com”), EliteXC Live’s (“EliteXC”) and King of the Cage, Inc.’s (“KOTC”; each of ProElite, Real Sport, ProElite.com, EliteXC and KOTC, a “Debtor” and collectively, the “Debtors”) right, title and interest in, to and under, whether now owned or hereafter acquired by such Debtor, all present and after acquired personal property of such Debtor, whether tangible or intangible, wherever located and of whatever nature.

It should be interesting to see who enters and subsequently wins the bidding war for EliteXC’s assets. The UFC has made such moves in the past to take assets off of the market, with their Pride and WFA acquisitions, but EliteXC’s assets include two properties in Kimbo Slice and Gina Carano that the UFC has repeatedly stated they have no interest in. Also with the current economic climate, one would question the buying of assets that wouldn’t be fully integrated into the UFC.

Another possible suitor would be Mark Cuban. Cuban recently made a purchase of the IFL under similar circumstances. Cuban certainly has the wherewithal to make the purchase but the buying of assets on his part would seem to indicate a re-entrance into the promotional end of MMA, a move he has seemed hesitant to make since his initial HDNet Fights cards.

Strikeforce and Affliction will also be mentioned but might lack the size to make the deal feasible.

Shamrock Inc: Frank Talks Business and Brand Building

November 5, 2008

Despite having only six fights in the past nine years – all of them outside the UFC – Frank Shamrock has kept his name recognition high and built a multi-faceted business with almost 30 full-time employees.   In a recent interview with MMAPayout.com, Shamrock described his keys to success, while offering some advice to anyone hoping to follow in his footsteps.

“I’m no closet genius,” said Shamrock.  “I learned through trial and error.  It took me 7-8 years to build my business and it was a good time for me because the sport was small then.  I was blessed in that way.”
But times have obviously changed.  “The days of gun slinging and hanging out in this business are gone,” he says. “The dollars are bigger and the sport of MMA keeps moving closer to the mainstream.  Everyone’s rushing to the sport because it’s very popular and cool, but your brand needs to be consistent.”

Shamrock business model in recent years includes 70% of revenue from fighting, 15-18% from licensing, and 12% from consulting.  The latter consists of fees Shamrock earns from promotions like Elite XC, and in the past, UFC, offering advice and support.  He takes cash and/or equity as payment, and sometimes will invest his own capital.

He believes in taking risks, but only calculated ones.  “I’ve taken some risks with my brand, but they were only risks where the payoff was way beyond the risk.”  Over time, he’s changed his approach.  “I’ve got a life and longevity plan,” he said.  “I want to be healthy and happy, but I have to be in really good shape and stay at the highest level.  Otherwise my brand will suffer and people will be kicking my ass.”  As a result, Shamrock has been much more deliberate about how he plans and promotes his fights.  “My plan is to fight for 10 more years, until I’m 45, but the risks get higher every year as I get older, so I work to raise the value of each fight each time,” by amping up the promotion and buildup, and commanding higher revenues.

At the same time, he continues to diversify his business outside the ring, landing some national, mainstream projects like “MMA for Dummies” with Wiley Publishing and one of the crown jewels of sports licensing deals, an MMA videogame by EA Sports that hits stores in 2010.

When he talks business, Shamrock peppers the conversation with phrases like “revenue targets” and “performance goals” which are more typical of an MBA than an MMA legend.  He credits “good mentors and partners” like his attorney Henry Holmes and Strikeforce co-CEO Scott Coker.   He has also worked hard to build a strong team.  “We train, develop and manage people from the MMA and business community.  I have good people.  Some are from the MMA community, some from other professions.”

Shamrock also believes personal integrity has been a strong contributor to his success.  “When you’re the type of business person that looks you in the eye, shakes hands and says, ‘You’ve got a deal,’ and you stick to it, you attract hungry, focused people.”

It’s a lack of integrity that he says contributed to the downfall of Elite XC, of which he was a “major shareholder.”  “You should treat people like athletes and artists,” he says, “they didn’t do either.”  The lesson from their failure, Shamrock said, is that experience, not capital, is the most important contributor to success in MMA.  “In a way they [Elite XC] were leaders because they lined up CBS and Showtime and no one had ever done that before.  But they burned through $60 million because no one modeled the business and industry.  It was inevitable.”  He also says the management team lacked any kind of focus, hiring people indiscriminately to work on various projects, none of which contributed to the bottom line.  “I can run out and hire 50 people, but I could also hire one person who knows what they’re doing.”

But can a viable competitor to UFC really emerge?  Shamrock thinks so, but “That person needs to be MMA 3.0.  He needs to understand the business, bring together disillusioned stars, bring them together and get ‘em functioning.”  In all likelihood, however, he believes a “joint venture” approach, ala Affliction and Elite XC, is more likely in the near term.

In the meantime, Shamrock will continue building “Shamrock, Inc.” regardless.  He offers some friendly advice to anyone entering the game.  “These days it doesn’t matter if you’re any good or not.  But you need to pick who you are and run with it.  If your radio call is at 5:30 in the morning, be there, because that’s what the pros do.”

EliteXC Looking to Retain Contractual Rights for Now

November 3, 2008

MMAWeekly is reporting that EliteXC is looking to retain its contractual rights over fighters even though the company looks to be at death’s door with the recent decision by CBS to not purchase the struggling promotion. Notices to this effect were sent out late last week:

MMAWeekly.com on Sunday learned that ProElite, Inc., parent company of Elite XC, has notified several fighter managers the company still intends to promote mixed martial arts events.

“Elite XC and ProElite are currently downsizing its staff in an effort to improve its business moving forward,” the notice states. “As this process is implemented, Elite XC cancelled the event previously scheduled for Nov. 8 in attempt to re-schedule another event in early 2009.”

The announcement is similar in tone to the ones made by the IFL during it’s period of suspended animation. The statement comes off more as lip service meant to buy time than any concrete plan for the future. Regardless, contractual obligations by EliteXC to is fighters will need to be met with in the near term in order for the promotion to claim any tenuous grasp over their fighters. It should be interesting to see if that is possible and where the funding would come from.

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