Dillashaw drops bantamweight title after adverse drug test finding

March 20, 2019

In a surprise announcement, former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw announced that he was vacating his title after he received an adverse finding related to his January fight against Henry Cejudo.  The New York State Athletic Commission has issued a one-year suspension per ESPN.

Via Dillashaw’s Instagram:

 

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Due to USADA’s rule that it would not disclose provisional suspensions to the public until a resolution, we would not have known of this until a decision.  But, Dillashaw decided to voluntarily make it known to his fans via his Instagram account.

Payout Perspective:

Dillashaw’s weight cut for the Cejudo fight was well documented by ESPN.  The article includes a now ominous photo of a dozen or more supplements that Dillashaw was utilizing in preparation for his fight. One would assume that one or more of those supplements may have been the culprit which caused the adverse finding.  While some may have fought the ruling, it seems as though he will not dispute the New York State Athletic Commission suspension.  He still has USADA discipline to face which might include up to two more years from fighting although there have been instances where suspensions are reduced for mitigating circumstances.

The news stifles Cejudo’s quest for a rematch against Dillashaw to obtain the Flyweight and Bantamweight titles.  He still may go after the title and a potential matchup with Marlon Moraes is being fought on twitter.

White signs on with UFC for 7 more years

March 19, 2019

With the news that the UFC has consolidated its PPV sales to ESPN+ in what most believe is a lucrative financial boon for the company, Dana White told Megan Olivi in an interview on the UFC’s YouTube channel that he’s signed a new deal with the promotion.  White is locked-in with the UFC for the next 7 years.

Fitting that the announcement came on the UFC’s on media platform as White has been at the forefront of technology acknowledging and gambling that the demo of young, early adapters would buy-in.  White has been with the company since the Fertitta brothers purchased the company in 2001 and is the remaining figurehead from that era.

The UFC announced a major shift in its PPV business with ESPN+ taking over as its sole distributor.

White has been the face of the company.  His contract with the UFC coincides when the ESPN+ PPV is set to end.

No terms of the deal were announced but one has to suspect White received a raise or more equity in the company or both.

Payout Perspective:

While White has been a polarizing figure, he’s also brought the UFC to the level it is today.  Certainly, the fighters have done a lot to build up the UFC brand.  Still White, whether you like it or not, has been the central piece to the rise of the UFC.

ESPN+ becomes exclusive provider of UFC PPVs

March 18, 2019

ESPN+ will be the new home for UFC PPV according to an announcement made Monday.  Starting with UFC 236 in April, ESPN+ will become the exclusive distributor in the United States of all PPV events.

The deal will run in the United States through 2025.  The move comes as the UFC attempted to seek lower rates from its satellite and cable distributors.  It negotiated one offs with DirecTV for its past two PPV events this year.  Now, all PPVs will be seen on ESPN+ with the exception of Prelims airing on ESPN and Early Prelim fights which will be seen on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN +.

Along with the news, it announced that the UFC will continue to sell its PPV events to commercial establishments.

Via UFC press release:

In addition to giving MMA fans a one-stop home for all UFC PPV events, ESPN+ pricing and packaging will deliver new value to fans as well:

  • New ESPN+ subscribers will get one-year of ESPN+ and a UFC PPV event for $79.99;
  • Existing ESPN+ subscribers will be able to purchase UFC PPV events for $59.99 per event.

Payout Perspective:

This is a major shift of PPV business for the UFC.  The move is premised upon the company’s popularity in the short time it’s been on ESPN and inability for it to get distributors to budge from the 50/50 revenue split on PPVs.  Since beginning with ESPN+ in January, the UFC has seen an ascension of ratings and visibility due to ESPN’s built-in audience of sports fans.  This move is a gamble that both hopes is paid off with higher buy rates for UFC events.  It also centralizes the company’s revenue to ESPN+ PPVs.  The move also lengthens the UFC’s relationship with ESPN and reflects the approval the network has for bringing it subscribers.

Michael Bisping to be inducted into UFC Hall of Fame this July

March 16, 2019

The UFC announced that Michael Bisping will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame this July.  Bisping earned the UFC middleweight title and finished with a 31-9 record.

Bisping burst onto the UFC scene on The Ultimate Fighter 3 and won the competition.

Bisping’s Anderson Silva fight in London was his opus and later that year he fought Luke Rockhold on short notice to win the middleweight title.

From the UFC press release:

Bisping, the first British fighter to become a UFC champion, will enter the UFC Hall of Fame as a member of the Modern Wing, joining Forrest Griffin (2013), BJ Penn (2015), Urijah Faber (2017) and Ronda Rousey (2018). The “Modern Era” category includes athletes who turned pro on or after November 17, 2000 (when the rules of mixed martial arts were adopted), are a minimum age of 35, or have been retired for one year or more.

A veteran of 40 professional fights during his 13-year career, Bisping compiled a record of 31-9, while capturing the UFC middleweight title, as well as the Cage Warriors, and Cage Rage light heavyweight titles. During his impressive career, Bisping earned notable victories over UFC Hall of Famer Dan Henderson, former UFC middleweight champions Anderson Silva and Luke Rockhold, former Strikeforce® middleweight champion Cung Le, former WEC® light heavyweight champion Brian Stann, and former WEC middleweight champion Chris Leben.

Payout Perspective:

The Anderson Silva fight was definitely the standout moment in Bisping’s career.

He overcame a significant eye injury to come back and win the title.  His cardio was second to none and he was able to talk up a fight.  It should be no surprise that he’ll be inducted this July.  Bisping is the first announcement of several we can expect in the coming months.

Restraining order filed on Tony Ferguson by wife after disturbing issues with former champion

March 14, 2019

MMA Junkie  reports that Tony Ferguson’s wife has filed a restraining order against the UFC lightweight after several incidents with Orange County (CA) authorities which concerned her.

Junkie has obtained several police reports which claim the UFC fighter have had disturbing issues. A hearing is set for April 5th on the matter in Orange County Superior Court.

According to an incident report on February 19, 2019, an unidentified female had stated he had not slept for 3 days and that he was tearing up the home because he believed someone had put a (computer) chip in his leg.  He also had made threats to his family although it does not appear that there are actual allegations of physical abuse.

It was reported that Ferguson had turned down a fight with Max Holloway.  Instead, Dustin Poirier had stepped in to face the lightweight champion this April.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that something is not right with Ferguson and he is in need of a medical evaluation.  Whether it is due to some sort of head trauma or an unrelated issue, he should address the situation prior to stepping back into the Octagon.  Even if Ferguson believes that his family has overblown this situation, it would be best that his team and those around him ensure that he receives care for whatever is going on with him.

Report: UFC sponsorship revenue up due to new deals with companies

March 12, 2019

Last week’s Sports Business Journal included a report by Terry Lefton about the UFC’s 25 percent increase in sponsorship revenue largely championed by new deals signed by the company.

Coming in with a heavy debt load after WME’s acquisition of the UFC for approximately $4 billion, the new owners felt pressure to produce.

In speaking with the UFC’s senior vice president of global partnerships Paul Asencio, the UFC’s partnerships with Modelo, Kraft Heinz (for its Oscar Mayer P3 “official protein snack” and Devour as “official frozen food”) a global rights deal with Nemiroff Vodka, an official poker partner in PokerStars and a large renewal with Monster Energy have helped the company with the increase in sponsor revenue.  In addition, it has forged deals with Motel6, Trifecta Nutrition, Blackheart Premium Spiced Rum, Van Heusen and BodyArmor all since the company was purchased by WME.

Certainly, the UFC has worked on brokering more partnerships with bigger brand companies and segmenting some of its sponsors to cater to different regions across the globe.

Payout Perspective:

There are still more categories for the UFC to fill with sponsors including automotive, insurance and gambling/sportsbooks which all should garner lucrative deals for the company. In addition, the report includes the possibility of looking into the CBD oil category from cannabis business as that industry is starting to grow. The partnership with ESPN will help attract new partners as well.

Conor McGregor arrested in Miami

March 11, 2019

Conor McGregor was arrested in Miami Monday morning according to the Miami Beach Police Department.

McGregor was charged for strong arm robbery and criminal mischief which are both felonies.  According to the arrest affidavit, McGregor and the victim were at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami.  When McGregor left, the victim attempted to take a picture with him with his cell phone.  McGregor knocked the phone out of his hand, stomped on the phone several times and then took it away from him.  The victim claims that the phone was worth $1,000.

MMA Fighting has obtained a statement from McGregor’s attorney in which he describes the incident as a “minor altercation.”

Payout Perspective:

This incident seems minimal compared to the bus incident in New Jersey last year.  Yet, the piling on of criminal incidents cannot sit well with authorities.  There’s likely a story from McGregor about the reason for what he did.  One has to assume that McGregor will not be punished extensively for this so long as he pays for the damage.

UFC on ESPN + 4 attendance, gate and bonuses

March 10, 2019

UFC on ESPN + 4 took place on Saturday night from Wichita, Kansas with the main event receiving the Fight of the Night.

Junior Dos Santos KO victory of Derrick Lewis received the $50K bonus for FOTN.  In addition, Beneil Dariush and Niko Price earned the other $50K performance bonuses.  Dariush submitted Drew Dober while Price KO’d Tim Means.

The event from Wichita, Kansas was the promotion’s first visit to the state and drew 7,265 fans for a gate of $636,417.26 as disclosed by officials post-event.

Payout Perspective:

JDS likely propels himself into heavyweight title contention once again.  The event attendance is on par with Fight Night attendance in the past.  Although we won’t know for sure, it’s likely that more people watched this ESPN+ event than most other Fight Night events due to the exposure by the network.

Report: UFC 235 initial estimates between 520K-650K based on last-minute buys

March 8, 2019

The Wrestling Observer reports that UFC 235 initial estimates have Saturday night’s PPV in a range between 520,000 to 650,000 buys.

According to the Observer, the reported buy rate blew away initial projections of 350,000-400,000 (and our 450K projection) due to last minute buys which likely were aided by the UFC Prelims on ESPN.  The prelims charged up to a 1.4 million viewership rising again on the strength of the UFC’s new partnership with ESPN.  Also, its clear that fans have deemed Jones a PPV “must-buy” as his December fight drew 700K PPV buys.

Payout Perspective:

Two things can be deduced from this successful buy rate.  ESPN’s reach is helping the UFC grab casuals as the initial projections were based on the dedicated UFC base and the last-minute buys (which is the reason the Prelims are put in that slot) are from consumers that were drawn to the fights by watching them on the network.  Also, Jon Jones, no matter how polarizing, falls into the GSP slot as a fighter that casual fans know and buy a PPV to see.  While Usman-Woodley is secondary here, Jones was the main driver for this card.

Matt Hughes’ wife details alleged domestic abuse in court filing

March 6, 2019

Disturbing details are emerging from a Verified Petition for Order of Protection filed by the wife of UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes stemming from allegations of domestic violence.  Hughes’ wife, Audra Hughes, claims that the former UFC champion physically hit her.

The petition filed in Hillsboro, Illinois states that Hughes hit his wife in front of his children and his father-in-law.  On another occasion, he allegedly threatened to shoot her.  And in another occasion, Hughes choked his wife in the shower after he prevented her from driving.

The details, obtained by MMA Junkie, indicate that Audra believed that Hughes was communicating with other women.

Hughes has denied the claims in the petition which was granted in December 2018.  It was extended in February to May 2019.  Hughes filed for divorce in February.

Hughes was the victim of tractor accident in June 2017 and suffered life-threatening injuries.  He returned to the UFC to make an appearance in January 2018 when the UFC visited St. Louis.

The circumstances behind the restraining order and filing for divorce are disappointing for what was (from the outsider) was a great story of Hughes returning from a near-death accident.  However, the allegations show another side of the Hall of Famer and very concerning for Hughes and his family.

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