PFL secures global partnership with Anheuser Busch In Bev’s Estrella Jalisco

March 13, 2019

The Professional Fighters’ League announced a multi-year global partnership with Anheuser Busch In-Bev’s Estrella Jalisco brand. It will be the Exclusive Beer Partner of the PFL.

Via PFL press release:

As the Official Beer of the PFL, Estrella Jalisco has global rights to use PFL logos and “Official Partner” branding for advertising and promotional usage, including pass-through branding rights for promotions with on-premise and retail channel partners. ABI and the league will also collaborate on exclusive content across digital platforms.

Estrella Jalisco logos will be featured in and around the cage and on signage in and around the arenas. PFL regular season action returns to New York and New Jersey, with mini residencies for PFL 1-3 at NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, and PFL 4-6 at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. This season, the PFL will be introducing the PFL Cageside Club, a new VIP floor level experience for fans, which will prominently feature the Mexican beer.

Payout Perspective:

Interesting sponsorship development when you consider that the UFC and Modelo forged a deal for it to be a sponsor for the promotion.  Anheuser-Busch In Bev is the parent company of Modelo.  Thus, the company’s beers will be seen on ESPN through the two MMA promotions.  The partnership with the PFL was likely secured with the ESPN deal.

PFL’s New Year’s Eve Show drew 204,000 viewers on NBCSN

January 4, 2019

The New Year’s Eve showing of the PFL Championships on NBC Sports Network drew 204,000 viewers.

According to a PFL press release, “the 2018 Championship, the PFL saw a record-setting number of fans tune-in with over 5 million fans watching in the U.S. on NBCSN and in the rest of the world on Facebook Watch as well as on select international sports networks.”

The main card featured the finals of the weight divisions for the season with the winners taking home an advertised $1 million.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings were the best for the promotion this season which is surprising given the fights were shown on New Year’s Eve.  But it also speaks to the low ratings on NBC Sports Network this season as Monday’s event was the only one to go over 200,000 viewers. The finals had compelling storylines, upsets and focused on the life-changing event of becoming a millionaire which was key.  For the organization to go forward next season, it must find a way to draw more ratings and engage viewers in its product.

MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 5 – PFL debuts

December 30, 2018

The Professional Fighters League began its first season this year and will end it on New Year’s Eve in New York.  Although the PFL has re-emerged from WSOF with a novel “season” with winners having a chance at $1 million, it still is suffering from lack of viewership according to its ratings.

The good news is the PFL found a television partner in NBC Sports Network.  It also had a concept which was intriguing as the fighters fought tournament style earning points with fighters entering the playoffs and a final in each of the weight divisions.

In August, it was reported that comedian Kevin Hart and several other famous Hollywood stars had invested $28 million in the PFL.  Hart even did a video promo for its playoffs this past October.

The new investors that took over include investment banker Russ Ramsey, venture capitalists Donn Davis and Mark Leschly and D.C. sports franchise owner Ted Leonis.

The PFL season started this past summer with playoffs occurring in October.  It will culminate on Monday, December 31st.  Despite the financial security it may have with its investors, the viewership of the events has been dismal as not one event has surpassed 200,000 viewers.  The ratings are smaller than WSOF events on NBC Sports Network.

With such notable investors, we will see what strategies they take to attempt to turn the tide for the organization.

PFL introduces the ‘SmartCage’

December 19, 2018

The Professional Fighters League is partnering with SportsMEDIA Technology to announce a new technological venture that will measure real-time MMA fight performance.

 Via PFL press release

WASHINGTON DC (December 17, 2018) – The Professional Fighters League (PFL) and SMT (SportsMEDIA Technology) – the leading innovator in real-time data delivery and graphics solutions for the sports and entertainment industries – today announced an exclusive, long-term technology partnership. Under the terms of the agreement, SMT will partner with the PFL to create proprietary technology that will measure real-time MMA fighter performance analytics along with biometric and positional data that will provide fans a game-changing live event experience across all platforms.

Starting in 2019, SMT will help power the PFL’s vision of the first-ever SmartCage™. The SmartCage™ will utilize biometric sensors and proprietary technology that will enable the PFL to measure and deliver real-time fighter performance data and analytics, what the PFL is dubbing: Cagenomics™PFL fans watching linear and digital broadcasts of the league’s Regular Season, Playoff and Championship events will experience a new dimension of MMA fight action with integration of live athlete performance and tracking measurements including: speed (mph) of punches and kicks, power ratings, heart rate tracking, energy exerted and more.

“The Professional Fighters League is excited to be partnering with SMT to advance the sport of MMA.  The PFL’s new SmartCage™ will revolutionize the way MMA fans experience watching live fights as next year every PFL fight will deliver unprecedented, real-time fighter performance data and analytics, biometric tracking and an enhanced visual presentation of this great sport,” said Peter Murray, CEO, Professional Fighters League. “Not only will PFL fans benefit from our SmartCage™ innovation, but our pro fighters will now have access to new performance measurement data, analysis and tools to help them train and compete.   The PFL’s vision has always been two-fold: deliver the absolute best experience to fans and be a fighters-first organization and with the SmartCage™ we will accomplish both.”

“SMT is thrilled to be collaborating with the Professional Fighters League’s forward-thinking innovation team to bring our latest and greatest technology to PFL events,” said Gerard J. Hall, Founder & CEO, SMT. “Starting in 2019, PFL fans will begin to see real-time, live, innovative technology that is unique to the PFL in the MMA space.  SMT’s OASIS Platform will provide the PFLwith a seamlessly integrated system that combines live scoring with real-time biometric and positional data to enhance the analysis, storytelling and graphic presentation of the PFL’s Regular Season, Playoffs and Championship events next season.”

Payout Perspective:

It was only a matter of time before the advances of technology to analyze this sport would take place.  With the use of this new information, it will provide more information for the viewer which, presumably, will enhance the broadcast.  In a broader sense, the information will be made to help fans track fighters and allow them (let’s face it) to make bets.  Another question that will be brewing hill is who owns the information.  Is it the fighters, the promoters or the makers of the SmartCage?

PFL 8 draws 144,000 viewers

October 24, 2018

The Professional Fighters League playoffs this past Saturday on NBC Sports Network drew 144,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The 8th event this season took place in Washington, D.C. on Saturday with the winners heading to the New Year’s Eve Finals in New York for a chance at the $1 million price for each weight division.  Saturday night’s event was highlighted by welterweight Ray Cooper as he won his welterweight semifinal matchup against Handesson Ferreira via first round TKO.  Cooper will face Magomed MagomedKirmov who defeated Bojan Velickovic in the other semifinal on Saturday.

PFL 1: 116,000 viewers

PFL 2: 150,000 viewers

PFL 3: 146,000 viewers

PFL 4: 101,000 viewers

PFL 5: 112,000 viewers

PFL 6: 138,000 viewers

PFL 7: 136,000 viewers

PFL 8: 144,000 viewers

While they are not the biggest ratings, Saturdays numbers improve upon the first set of semifinals in Long Beach.   The event went unopposed from Bellator or the UFC so this likely helped the bump in viewership.

PFL 7 draws 136,000 Friday night

October 11, 2018

The Professional Fighters League did 136,000 viewers on Friday night on NBC Sports Network according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  Friday night was the start of the promotion’s playoffs.

Kevin Hart, one of the famous silent investors in the PFL, did a promo for the show.

PFL 1: 116,000 viewers

PFL 2: 150,000 viewers

PFL 3: 146,000 viewers

PFL 4: 101,000 viewers

PFL 5: 112,000 viewers

PFL 6: 138,000 viewers

PFL 7: 136,000 viewers

Payout Perspective:

Unfortunately for the PFL, UFC 229 overshadowed the start of the playoffs.  136,000 viewers is a decrease from the last show this past August.  Hopefully, the company will be able to gain some traction as the playoffs continue.

PFL 6 draws 138,000 viewers on NBC Sports Network

August 18, 2018

The Professional Fighter’s League on NBC Sports Network drew 138,000 Thursday night in its sixth event in the current season format.  The event improved upon PFL 5.

PFL 6 took place in Atlantic City and was capped by an impressive 18 second ref stoppage by Rey Cooper III to earn the number 1 seed in the welterweight playoffs.

Also on the telecast was Kayla Harrison as she earned her second pro victory in the third round over Jozette Cotton.

PFL 1: 116,000 viewers

PFL 2: 150,000 viewers

PFL 3: 146,000 viewers

PFL 4: 101,000 viewers

PFL 5: 112,000 viewers

PFL 6: 138,000 viewers

Payout Perspective:

Good ratings for a tough night of programming on cable as the NFL Preseason is back and the top cable telecast on Thursday night was ESPN’s game between the NY Jets and Washington.  FX’s Snowfall (923,000) and A&E’s Nightwatch Nation (1.437M) are among the shows that drew higher viewership in the same time slot.

PFL 5 on NBC Sports Network draws 112,000 viewers

August 6, 2018

The PFL on NBC Sports Network drew 112,000 viewers on Thursday night.

The event featured Nathan Schulte defeating Jason High in a lightweight matchup.

PFL 1: 116,000 viewers

PFL 2: 150,000 viewers

PFL 3: 146,000 viewers

PFL 4: 101,000 viewers

PFL 5: 112,000 viewers

Payout Perspective:

The event increased from a season-low of 101,000 viewers.  The ratings are still not on par with WSOF ratings.  We will see if viewership will increase before PFL gets to the playoffs.

Fourth telecast of PFL draws 101,000 viewers on NBCSN

July 20, 2018

The Professional Fighters League drew 101,000 viewers on Thursday night on NBC Sports Network according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The event was the lowest-rated event thus far in the PFL season.  The event featured Lance Palmer as he defeated Jumabieke Tuerxun via submission.  Also, Andre Harrison defeated Nazareno Malegarie via unanimous decision.

PFL 1: 116,000 viewers

PFL 2: 150,000 viewers

PFL 3: 146,000 viewers

PFL has aired its prelims on Facebook Watch and then the main card airs on NBC Sports Network.

Payout Perspective:

While its early the PFL ratings are not that great.  The points concept that PFL is implementing is interesting and one would hope for the company that it starts to catch on as the summer goes on and heads into playoffs this fall.

World Series of Fighting and PFL file appeal against former officers of WSOF

June 20, 2018

The World Series of Fighting litigation continues in Nevada.  Despite re-emerging earlier this month as the Professional Fighters’ League, the lawsuit(s) continue over the power struggle between individuals, entities and now with a new investment group, more litigants. In this instance, the lawsuit hinges on a licensing agreement which contained an arbitration provision.

The licensing agreement between the parties described below is related to a prior Settlement Agreement and Operating Agreement between the two sides.  As you might infer, this business divorce is a mess.

There has been a plethora of lawsuits filed by different people and entities and this one is the latest involving the inception of WSOF.  The lawsuit in question pits rival entities over the split up and sale of World Series of Fighting when it was sold to investors that repackaged it as the PFL.

In this lawsuit plaintiffs are WSOF Global and its head Vince Hesser and Zion Wood Obi Wan Trust (Zion) and Shawn Wright (collectively referred to as Plaintiffs).  The defendants include MMAWC, LLC doing business as World Series of Fighting, MMAX Investment Partners, Inc., doing business as PFL, Bruce Deifik, Carlos Silva, Nancy and Bruce Deifik Family Partnership and Keith Redmond, Inc.

The lawsuit claimed that MMAWC, LLC, which did business as WSOF experienced several financial shortfalls during 2012 to 2015.  The plaintiffs had made “extensive loans” to the promotion to allow the promotion to continue and operate.  But, WSOF refused to repay the loans.

Zion Wood Obi Wan Trust Complaint by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Additionally, Shawn Wright and Vince Hesser had written agreements with WSOF for other contractual payments and worldwide licensing.  WSOF Global had acquired rights to the intellectual property of WSOF overseas and had invested in the brand under the assumption it was planning to expand.  But, WSOF refused to honor the terms of the agreement per the Complaint.  Zion’s membership interest was 10.5% and WSOF executed agreements that it was non-dilutable.

The dispute was thought to have been resolved after the organizations entered into a Settlement Agreement.  As part of the agreement, Zion agreed to reduce its 10.5% non-dilutable interest in WSOF to 4.50% of the total outstanding ownership units in WSOF, which interest shall remain non-dilutable.  But, Zion believed that Bruce Deifik created a new entity and put all of the WSOF assets into the PFL organization.

Zion did not have an interest in the “Successor Company,” PFL.  As a result, it believed that its shares were being diluted.

The Complaint stated WSOF sold the company for $15 million, but without input from Zion and WSOF Global, Inc., who held shares in the WSOF.  Additionally, Plaintiffs claimed it was being shut out from finding out the real value of the deal which would help them assess the purported amount that they would have been entitled.

The Complaint also mentioned a WSOF event in New York City on New Year’s Eve 2016.  The WSOF reported $0 income from broadcasting rights to New York State.  But, it reported to Zion that they spent $190,000 in broadcasting revenue from NBC to the NYC event.  This would be inconsistent reporting.

But, the big issue here is the licensing deal between Vince Hesser, the owner of WSOF Global, and WSOF.  An Amended Master License Agreement gave Mr. Hesser the exclusive right to license the WSOF brand outside the United States.  A dispute arose over the licensing agreement and was thought to have been subsequently settled.  WSOF Global claims to have rights that “consist of over 100 international events per year, at a cost to produce of tens of millions of dollars, which dwarf the mere 8-10 events per year” from WSOF.

But, when the WSOF sold to PFL, it failed to comply with the licensing agreement.  The obvious breach was the change of the name to the Professional Fighters League which plaintiffs claimed damage them.  The PFL did not grant WSOF Global the right to use the PFL name in the Settlement Agreement and Amended License Agreement.

Prior to the name change, WSOF Global claimed that it was working on a sports partnership to bring MMA content to China.  It claims it received $16 million to further the promotion of WSOF in China and to promote foreign fighters in their events alongside Chinese fighters.  This would appear to be part of the damages to be claimed in this lawsuit.

WSOF stated that the parties should be compelled to arbitration to resolve these disputes and pointed to the clause in the Amended Licensing Agreement.

The arbitration clause in the parties’ licensing agreement compels the Court to dismiss this case and force the parties to arbitration.  But, the plaintiffs contend that they did not specifically authorize the arbitration agreement.  Under the state law in Nevada, a party must grant “specific authorization” that they have agreed to their arbitration provision otherwise it is void.  Plaintiffs cite the lack of specific authorization in the contract to show that the arbitration provision was void.

In its reply to the opposition of moving the case to arbitration, WSOF argued that the parties jointly drafted and authorized the agreement which included the arbitration clause.  Thus, despite WSOF’s assertion that Plaintiffs had knowledge of the clause and the opportunity to point out the issue, it did not.  Moreover, it agreed to the overall agreement.

The Court found in favor of Plaintiffs’ arguments and voided the arbitration provision and denied WSOF’s motion to compel arbitration.  Shortly after the ruling, WSOF filed to appeal the decision.

In its appeal statement WSOF noted, “When the parties finalized the Arbitration provision, however, the parties did not include language and initials or separate signatures to further manifest their agreement to the Arbitration provision…”

WSOF Case Appeal Statement by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Despite the fact that WSOF believed that the Arbitration provision should have been allowed, the Court found it void due to the lack of a “specific authorization.”

The appeal will be heard in the state appellate court in Nevada.  The lawsuit was filed in the District Court of Clark County, Nevada.

Payout Perspective:

While there is the possibility that the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit may amend its RICO claim, it was dismissed by the Court.  However, the case is not going to Arbitration due to the fact the Court voided the provision.  While WSOF may allege that having the parties sign a section consenting to Arbitration is duplicative if you consider they signed the Agreement.  Also, in this instance, the parties allegedly collaborated on putting together the Agreement.  Yet, the Nevada state rules are explicit that there must be a specific authorization which appears to be more than just signing the contract overall but making an affirmative concession to the clause.

As it goes for the overall transaction, it appears that Hesser and Wright are creditors to the WSOF entity and were not privy to the sale of assets to the successor company, PFL.  While there was a transaction to do business under the WSOF brand, there was not one to do under any successor brand.  It would seem that either poor business acumen, lack of communication or a bad business deal has transpired.  Maybe all of the above.

One thing is for certain, both sides have shown errors in contractual drafting.  Plaintiffs should have included clauses that would have protected itself form any sale of assets from the debtor (i.e., WSOF).  For WSOF, it should have drafted an Agreement in compliance with the Nevada state law that would ensure specific authorization for Arbitration.  While Arbitration may have been a faster, cost-efficient way to resolve a dispute, it looks like this case will be litigated.  But first, the appeal.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

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