UFC 224 Prelims draw 574,000 viewers on FX

May 15, 2018

The UFC 224 Prelims on FX drew 574,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The Prelims were shifted to FX due to scheduling conflicts on both FS1 and FS2.

The telecast drew 0.21 in the A18-49 demo and 0.29 in the M18-49 demo.

The last time the UFC Prelims appeared on FX, it drew 653,000 viewers.  The Prelims for UFC 224 were highlighted by Cezar Ferreira’s submission of Karl Roberson.

The Prefight Show on FX drew 281,000 viewers and the Post-Fight Show on FS1 drew 218,000 viewers.  The Prefight show trended lower than the prior 3 PPVs while the Post-Fight show drew higher than the last 3.

Payout Perspective:

The Prelim ratings on FX are disappointing but on a night with a variety of combat sports (Bellator, ESPN Boxing and HBO BAD), the move to another channel may have confused some viewers.  Notably, the Post-Fight Show drew higher ratings once UFC programming returned to FS1.

How will SCOTUS ruling on sports gambling affect MMA?

May 14, 2018

The United States Supreme Court struck down the federal law banning sports gambling.  As a result, states can now legalize sports betting.  The ruling will certainly affect the sport of MMA.

As of Monday, New Jersey plans to be the first state to offer legal sports betting based upon the new ruling.  Delaware, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are also expected to make it legal in quick order.

Prior to the ruling, Nevada had been the only state allowed to offer sports betting.  Oregon, Delaware and Montana maintained sport lotteries.

The major sports leagues: the NFL, NBA NHL and Major League Baseball as well as the NCAA supported the federal law but were ruled against by the highest court.

The most salient point of today’s Court ruling: “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own.”  This statement affirms the belief that states are free to regulate if federal law does not conflict.  The Court believed the federal law in place regulated sports gambling.

Sports leagues such as the NBA and MLB are looking for “integrity fees” which would be a way to profit from the new opportunity.

For those wondering, the UFC has spoken favorably about legalization.  It may seem evident that the previous UFC owners, the Fertitta brothers, would be partial to sports gambling since their money came from the casino industry.  But, under questioning from New Jersey’s lawmaker Frank Pallone (operating on his own agenda) last December, the UFC’s Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner supported sports gaming.  Although he did not speak for the UFC, he indicated that the company had the infrastructure to deal with any issues with respect to match-fixing based on gambling.

Pallone first asked whether UFC was bet on in other parts of the world. Ratner stated, “I know offshore there’s betting everywhere. In Nevada, all our fights are put on the board, you can bet on the first fight through the last..Personally, not for the UFC, I am in favor of sports betting around the world, around the country especially.” He also asked about how the UFC preserves the integrity of the sport with the knowledge that gambling is ongoing.  He also asked whether gambling has helped with fan engagement to which Ratner stated it did.

We will see how states will deal with sports gambling and the impact it will have in MMA.

Payout Perspective:

Notably, PFL undertook a uniform policy but one of the bans on sponsors was that of gambling sites.  The sponsors have already been turned into the promotion so for some fighters they cannot take advantage of a potential market.  However, other leagues where fighters solicit sponsors might see an uptick.

It is still too early to see how state-sponsored gambling may impact MMA.  Daily Fantasy Sports for MMA came and went as the industry did not seem to stick with the sport of MMA.  But, the potential ease and accessibility of gambling will likely build for years to come.  With many regional MMA cards happening at tribal casinos, you can envision the venues building sportsbooks so you can make bets prior to going in and watching the fights.  This represents the good and bad of the potential future for MMA and sports gambling as the concern over the social issues (i.e., addiction) and integrity will be something to monitor.

There will be an influx of sponsors coming into the market for both fighters and leagues.  Pun intended, but you can bet on gambling being a part of the MMA landscape in the future with the potential revenue that may come from this ruling.

Show Money talks ESPN/UFC Deal and Leslie Smith

May 14, 2018

It’s that time again. Show Money is back talking about the ESPN+/UFC deal and Leslie Smith’s NLRB Charge against Zuffa.

UFC 224 attendance and bonuses

May 12, 2018

UFC 224 announced the attendance and bonuses for Saturday night’s event from Brazil.

The $50,000 bonuses went to Kelvin Gastelum and Jacare Souza for Fight of the Night.  The Performance bonuses went to Lyoto Machida and Oleksiy Oliynyk.  Machida used a front kick to score the KO victory over Vitor Belfort.  The kick was eerily reminiscent of Anderson Silva’s kick to Belfort’s chin at UFC 126 which was the beginning of the end for The Phenom.  Oliynik did it again.  He used an Ezekiel Choke, this time a standing one

The event drew 10,696 at the Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  It was the second-lowest attended PPV card this year.  As is common with Brazilian cards, no gate was announced.

Payout Perspective:

There were some very good finishes, especially on the Prelims, despite a less-than-stellar main event.  Gastelum and Souza had a very good fight and the Prelims were nice to view as well.  This card was not well-attended compared to the other 5 UFC events held at the Arena.  Only UFC 142 drew less than 11,000 for its PPV event.  We will see how this plays out with the PPV buys.

PFL announces uniform policy for upcoming season

May 11, 2018

The Professional Fighters League has announced a uniform policy which will begin at the start with its first event this June.  Unlike the UFC’s uniform policy, it will allow up to 2 sponsors in designated areas of the uniform.

MMA Fighting first reported the news of the uniform policy. Sponsors will be allowed to be on warmups including hoodies and hats.

The PFL will supply the fighter with gloves and shorts.  PFL official apparel will be required for walk ins and weigh-ins.  The sponsors must be consistent on the shorts and walkout wear (i.e., hoodies and hat).  Fighters can change sponsors and logos three times throughout the season.

 

Of course, the PFL reserves the right to feature up to two logos of official league brand partners on the fight shorts and other gear.

 

The new policy eliminates banners in the cage and there is also a ban on certain sponsors such as vape, tobacco, condoms, porn and gambling.

 

Payout Perspective:

 

The uniform policy seems to be a compromise of sorts in which the PFL give the fighters an opportunity to solicit sponsors but also has the ability to sell its own sponsorships.  No clothing sponsor was announced although I would think that Under Armour might be in the running since some of the investors are tied to the company.  The most notable thing in the policy is the ban on certain sponsors including vape and gambling companies which would seemingly be big sponsors at this time.  Yet, the policy is a move to create a brand for the promotion.  This seems to be important, especially for this promotion at this time as it starts this new venture.

Yair Rodriguez dropped by UFC

May 11, 2018

The LA Times reports that Yair Rodriguez has been cut by the UFC for refusing to take a fight against Zabit Magomedsharipov at UFC 227 this August in Los Angeles.

Rodriguez has an 11-2 record and is the number 11-ranked featherweight.  He was a rising superstar until he was stopped by Frankie Edgar in May 2017.

Previously, Rodriguez had turned down an offer to fight No. 7-ranked Ricardo Lamas.

The proposed matchup with Magomedsharipov would have been a battle of up and coming fighters.  Instead, White told the LA Times that a letter informing Rodriguez of his dismissal was sent on Thursday.

Dana White had posted a FakeNews tweet when news surfaced about the potential Yair-Zabit matchup.  He then posted a cryptic Real News tweet when the release of Yair became public which one might infer affirmation of the fighter’s release.

Payout Perspective:

This is the unfortunate circumstance of the labor structure in the UFC.  While Nate Diaz has been turning down fights, Rodriguez’s choices landed him a release from the company.  Obviously, it is the UFC’s prerogative to release someone if they refuse to take fights but it also shows the leverage the UFC yields over its fighters and how the athletes have little to no input into their own careers.  But, even if athletes had a union or association, its hard to say whether it would have save Rodriguez’s job in the UFC.

TUF 27 Episode 4 draws 207,000 viewers

May 10, 2018

The Ultimate Fighter 27 Episode 4 on FS1 drew 207,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The event drew 0.10 in the A18-49 demo.

The fight of the show featured Bryce Mitchell as he took on Jay Cucciniello.  Mitchell defeated Cucciniello by unanimous decision.  Also on the show, the cameras followed Luis Pena as he faced a potential issue with ending his stint on the show.  It was revealed that Pena would have to pull out of his chance to be The Ultimate Fighter due to a fractured foot.

Payout Perspective:

The telecast did slightly better than the season debut which does not say much in terms of ratings.  Last year, TUF 25 drew 348,000 viewers for its fourth episode.  TUF 26 drew 261,000 viewers for episode 4.  Thus far, live viewership is taking a hit this season.  If there is some excuse, Game 5 of the Philadelphia-Boston series occurred at the same time on TNT and drew nearly 6 million viewers.

UFC announces new digital deal with Disney’s ESPN+

May 8, 2018

The UFC has announced a media rights deal with the new direct-to-consumer ESPN+ platform.  According to the Sports Business Journal, ESPN will pay $150 million per year over 5 years.  The deal is limited to the UFC’s digital package and begins in 2019.

Notably, Amazon Prime recently announced a deal with the UFC to carry its PPVs.  The new deal with ESPN will carry 10-15 UFC events exclusively on ESPN+.

The SBJ story notes that the television rights fee is not imminent although Fox Sports and NBC Sports have been in talks with the company.

Per the press release supporting this announcement Dana White stated, “I couldn’t be more excited to partner with The Walt Disney Company and ESPN on an agreement that will continue to grow our sport. UFC has always done deals with the right partners at the right time and this one is no exception. We will now have the ability to deliver fights to our young fan base wherever they are and whenever they want it. This deal is a home run for ESPN and UFC.”

The press release also states:

“With more than 280 million fans around the world, UFC boasts the youngest fan base among major professional sports organizations in the US with a median age of 40 and an audience comprising 40% millennials.”

The lineup of UFC content available to ESPN+ subscribers will include:

  • Exclusive, all new-seasons of “Dana White’s Contender Series” beginning in June 2019
  • A new original, all-access series produced by IMG Original Content
  • Exclusive pre- and post-event shows for all 15 “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Nights”
  • Non-exclusive access to UFC’s full archive of programming, including historic events, classic bouts, and original programming
  • Additional UFC-branded content, including “UFC Countdown” shows, press conferences, weigh-ins, and pre-and post-shows

It was just announced that Dana White’s Contender Series will have a second season starting this June.  The announcement today confirms a third season starting next June.

Payout Perspective:

The deal is worth an estimated $750 million over the course of the 5 years.  The announcement appears to envelope UFC Fight Pass into the new ESPN platform although the release states ESPN+ users will have “non-exclusive” access to the fight library.  So, this may mean the Fight Pass will remain on although subscriptions will likely diminish greatly.  A recent article stated that the UFC’s current digital platform had approximately 400,000 subscribers.  This is a good deal for ESPN as it adds more content to its new platform.  For the UFC, one must speculate that this may be a good deal to license its digital content and then find another suitor for its TV rights deal.  You can also view this as bad if you think they could not do an overarching deal for all of its media assets.  You have to think that Amazon was a suitor for the digital service and/or overall media package but ESPN+ likely offered more.

As for TV rights, the note by SBJ that nothing is imminent may be viewed in a lot of ways as in that the UFC is waiting for what it wants or…the UFC is waiting for what it wants.

McGregor’s attorneys respond to request to keep water bottle lawsuit in state court

May 7, 2018

On Friday, Conor McGregor’s attorneys filed a Statement of Removal related to moving the case from Nevada state court to Federal Court.

The Plaintiff filed a lawsuit after alleging that he was injured after being struck by a can thrown by Conor McGregor at the UFC 202 press conference.

Statement of Removal by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

McGregor’s attorneys also responded to Plaintiff’s Emergency Motion to Remand to state court:

Response to Emergency Motion by Plaintiffs by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

The essence of McGregor’s argument is that Plaintiff’s did not properly conduct a “meet and confer” process which would determine the reasons for non-participation in discovery in the state court matter. Further, the Offer of Judgment for $90,000 set the monetary damage amount which exceeds the $75,000 requirement for Federal Court allowing jurisdiction to be retained (that and diversity jurisdiction which is clear hear with plaintiff being a Nevada resident and McGregor a citizen of Ireland and his company based out of California.

Payout Perspective:

It’s pretty clear that McGregor’s attorneys have solid arguments shutting down Plaintiff’s arguments for the state court to retain jurisdiction.  The Offer of Judgment for $90,000 seems like a strategic error here considering the possibility of removal.  What may have been more prudent would be an offer of $70,000.  The medical bills are slightly under $5,000.  Even if McGregor were to settle for that amount, it would have kept it in state court and having to deal with the discovery issues.

Another issue in this case is whether plaintiff should have sued the venue and/or UFC.  It seems that someone has insurance and that should be sought out in this type of personal injury case.

TUF 27 Episode 3 on FS1 draws 246,000 viewers

May 3, 2018

The Ultimate Fighter 27 episode 3 drew 246,000 viewers Wednesday night on FS1 according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  It was the highest-rated show of the young season.

The season’s average is a meager 210,000 viewers.  The feature fight of the telecast saw Luis Pena defeat Jose Martinez, Jr. via unanimous decision.

The DVR ratings are in for this season and Episode 1 drew 296,000 viewers which was a 67% increase from its Live + SD rating.  Episode 2 drew 298,000 viewers which was a 62% increase.

Payout Perspective: 

It’s clear that this season is not going well in terms of live viewership.  Based on the first two-episode DVR numbers, it’s clear that this series is becoming much more of a show that fans will record for later viewership.

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