Duran dismissed by UFC after comments about Reebok deal

July 22, 2015

MMA Junkie reports that UFC cutman Jacob “Stitch” Duran was let go by the company after revealing that the cutmen were not part of the Reebok sponsorship deal and that he lost all revenue from his sponsors.  Duran detailed this in an interview with Bloody Elbow and despite putting his contractor in a positive light, he was let go.

Duran first revealed the information in a tweet responding to someone asking about whether cutmen were a part of Reebok sponsorship.

He then gave an interview with John Nash of Bloody Elbow in which he clarified the situation.  He indicated that he was an independent contractor for the UFC although it was “highly recommended” not to work for another MMA promotion stating it was “an unwritten rule.”  He told Nash that cutmen were told that they were “given sufficient warning” that they were not a part of the Reebok deal.  In support of the UFC, he stated he didn’t think “they [UFC] did this out of malice.”  Duran claimed that he thought that the cutmen were “doing too good of [a] job where they just maybe forgot about us.”

An interesting sidenote from the interview was that Duran stated that in boxing, boxers pay cutmen directly whereas MMA promotions pay its cutmen.

Duran was let go shortly after the interview as he indicated via twitter.  MMA Junkie confirmed with an unnamed source.

Payout Perspective:

The situation smells of a lawsuit waiting to happen…perhaps.  Duran talks about his work status and is immediately let go by the company.  Unless there was something in Duran’s contract that prevented him from speaking about sponsors, the Reebok deal or his pay his dismissal is very suspect.  Obviously, the UFC can rely on the fact that Duran’s contract can be terminated at any time.

The other part of the situation that puts the UFC in a bad light is the brazen way this looks as how it seeks to control its message.  The Reebok deal has caught major scrutiny and criticism.  And despite efforts by the UFC to use its fighters to promote the deal, many fight fans see the dismissal of Duran (and Burt Watson although that situation was different) as the UFC disregarding the people that helped get it to where it is today.  Duran’s dismissal appears to be a sign to others within the organization that they should remain in line with the company or else.

UFC Fight Night 71 draws 508,000, prelims 292,000

July 21, 2015

UFC Fight Night 71 on Saturday morning drew an average viewership of 508,000 with the prelims drawing 292,000 according to Nielsen sources.

Fight Night 71 featured Michael Bisping taking over Thales Leites.  The event which started at 10am PT on FS1 drew 508,000 viewers.  The prelims which preceded the event at 8am PT drew 292,000.

The prelims reflect a 6% increase over the two previous Saturday day fights on FS1.  The main card delivered a 4% increase over the last two Saturday day cards.  In the A18-49 demo, Saturday’s Fight Night 71 drew 275,000 viewers which was 3% more viewers than the prior two card average of 267,000.

UFC Fight Night 71

UFC Fight Nights 2015
Main Card Prelims
UFC Fight Night 59 (FOX) 1,700,000 908,000
UFC Fight Night 60 913,000 775,000
UFC Fight Night 61 1,200,000 813,000
UFC Fight Night 62 617,000 280,000
UFC Fight Night 63 389,000 304,000
UFC Fight Night 66 575,000 286,000
UFC Fight Night 67 813,000 713,000
UFC Fight Night 68 950,000 782,000
UFC Fight Night 70 (prelims on FS2) 909,000 223,000
UFC Fight Night 71 508,000 292,000

Payout Perspective:

In comparing the ratings for a UFC Fight Night during the day this year, UFC Fight Night 63 which aired during the morning/afternoon in the US drew 389,000 (main card) and 304,000 (prelims).  UFC Fight Night 66 drew 575,000 (main card) and 292,000 (prelims).  Thus, the ratings from Saturday were slightly above the last two cards held during the day on Saturday.

Mir, Thomson sit atop UFC Fight Night 71 salaries

July 21, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the disclosed salaries from Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 71.  Frank Mir headed the list of fighters making $200,000.

Mir defeated Todd Duffee in the first round.  Mir did not receive a win bonus.  Duffee made $20,000 for his part in the main event.

Via MMA Junkie:

Frank Mir: $200,000 (no win bonus) 886,000
def. Todd Duffee: $12,000

Tony Ferguson: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)
def. Josh Thomson: $85,000

Holly Holm: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Marion Reneau: $12,000

Manny Gamburyan: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)
def. Scott Jorgensen: $33,000

Kevin Lee: $36,000 (includes $18,000 win bonus)
def. James Moontasri: $10,000

Alan Jouban: $30,000 (includes $15,000 win bonus)
def. Matt Dwyer: $10,000

Sam Sicilia: $36,000 (includes $18,000 win bonus)
def. Yaotzin Meza: $16,000

Jessica Andrade: $32,000 (includes $16,000 win bonus)
def. Sarah Moras: $10,000

Rani Yahya: $54,000 (includes $27,000 win bonus)
def. Masanori Kanehara: $14,000

Sean Strickland: $34,000 (includes $17,000 win bonus)
def. Igor Araujo: $15,000

Kevin Casey: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Ildemar Alcantara: $20,000

Lyman Good: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Andrew Craig: $17,000

Payout Perspective:

Mir’s $200K flat appears to be his standard pay at this point.  Thomson’s $85K was second on the pay roster for last week.  Notably, Holly Holm’s first UFC fight at UFC 184 was at $25K/$25K.  She made the same on Wednesday.

Aldo set to defy USADA IV rules

July 20, 2015

MMA Fighting reports that Jose Aldo may ignore new USADA protocol and continue to use IVs to rehydrate after cutting weight.  In October, under the new UFC-USADA program, fighters will no longer be able to utilize intravenous fluids to rehydrate after weigh-ins.

The use of IVs occur after fighters dramatically cut weight to make the contracted weight class per their bout agreements.  The IV process allows them to rehydrate quicker than if they did not use them.

The new USADA protocol regarding intravenous infusions were sent out in an “Athlete Information” memo dated July 1, 2015.  It notified that fighters were prohibited from using IVs beginning October 1, 2015.  The memo clarifies the use as “IV infusions are not expressly prohibited by the various State Commissions that regulate the sport nor by the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts…”

USADA indicates that the “IV Rule” is put in place to protect the sport and that “IVs can be used to change blood test results…mask urine test results…or by administering prohibited substances in a way that will more quickly be cleared from the body in order to beat an anti-doping test.”

Aldo stated in a recent interview he said that he would use an IV anyway challenging the rule stating that they would not take him out of the fight.

Payout Perspective:

What are we to think of Aldo’s defiance with the new rules?  Probably just talk until it really happens and Aldo makes it to the December showdown with McGregor.  Aldo is probably the least favorite champion under the UFC umbrella right now based on not being able to fight McGregor at UFC 189 to his comments upset with the Reebok deal to now the new rules regarding IVs in the UFC.  Would Aldo be so bold as to hold up the fight based on the new USADA rules?  One would think that he’d have to sign a bout agreement for December and abiding by the USADA drug protocol would be one of the conditions of the bout.  I doubt that Aldo would agree to terms of a bout agreement with the new USADA protocol and then knowingly use an IV.  One would think that there would be contractual terms in place that would prevent him from being paid if he were to use an IV especially since he’s been public about saying he would use it regardless.  We shall see.

Fedor looking to return to MMA

July 19, 2015

This past week it was reported that Fedor Emelianenko is considering a return to MMA with many speculating UFC and Bellator as the most interested suitors. The question many want to know is whether he’s worth it.

It has been almost 4 years since Fedor’s last significant MMA fight as you might recall Dan Henderson came back to KO Fedor at a Strikeforce event in late July 2011.  That event drew only 571,000 with a peak of 778,000 Showtime subscribers which made it the fourth watched Strikeforce event of all-time.  Earlier that year, a Strikeforce event featuring Bigfoot Silva versus Fedor scored the highest-viewed Showtime event with 741,000 viewers.

At 39 years old, Fedor would fit into a UFC Heavyweight division with many of its top fighters over the age of 30. But, many probably have concluded that he may sign with Bellator and Scott Coker.  Since taking the reigns of the Viacom-owned property, Coker has designed events centered around fighters with past fame.  Notably, Bellator 131 featured Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar.  June starred Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice.  It also centered events around Rampage Jackson and just signed Josh Koscheck and immediately paired him against Paul Daley for a rematch of their infamous UFC fight.

The ratings for the tentpole events of 131 and 138 show that fans are drawn to the events.  Coker is able to draw and past triumphs of fighters to grab attention in the present.  Its an uncanny knack of the old making something out of nothing.

Despite being a recent brand ambassador for Bellator, Fedor’s camp is saying that it will not have any bearing on where he signs.  But what will determine where he signs is the money. If he signs with the UFC, he will look for top dollar.  This would likely include PPV upside.  Since the UFC-Reebok deal, Fedor would lose out on that revenue stream unless he is able to strike an individual deal with the UFC’s official sponsors.  Bellator would welcome him as he could easily be slotted into the main event at a tentpole event.

But could a Fedor fight improve upon the ratings he received in 2011?  Certainly, he’d have more exposure as Showtime is limited to its premium subscribers.

Payout Perspective:

While Fedor’s representatives remain open to fighting anywhere, Bellator seems the most likely place for him to return.  The landscape of MMA has changed and even though the UFC would be happy to take Fedor, past negotiations with him have proven to be difficult.  Still, the UFC may be in the market to keep him away from Bellator.  Of course, the UFC has passed on fighters in the past.  We shall see where he ends up.

UFC Fight Night 72 attendance, gate and bonuses

July 18, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the attendance, gate and bonuses from this morning’s UFC Fight Night 72 from Glasgow, Scotland.

The bonuses went to Joanna Calderwood, Cortney Casey, Joseph Duffy and Stevie Ray.  Calderwood and Casey earned Fight of the Night and Duffy and Ray drew Performance Bonuses.  Each received the $50K bonuses.
Attendance at the SSE Hydrow in Glasgow was 10,451 for a gate of $1.5 million.

Notable first time appearances by UFC in non-US cities:

UFC Fight Night 54: Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada 10,782 for $926,000

UFC Fight Night 64: Krakow, Poland 10,000 for $720,000

UFC Fight Night 65: Adelaide, Australia  7,984 for $833,810

UFC Fight Night 66: Pasay, Philippines 13,446 no report on gate

Payout Perspective:
A very good attendance for today’s event in Scotland.  Of course, no report on the number of comps.  Although I have yet to see all of the fights the Calderwood-Casey fight was very good and deserved the fight of the night.

UFC looking at stadium show for Aldo-McGregor?

July 17, 2015

Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the UFC is looking into having its big end of the year show at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas due to a scheduling conflict with a concert at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  The intended main event for UFC 194 will be the long-awaited fight between Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo.

Kevin Iole reports that an Andrea Bocelli concert has been booked for Saturday, December 5th at the MGM Grand.  UFC 194 is set for the same date.  While the UFC holds events at the Mandalay Bay, the venue is smaller than the MGM and the UFC anticipates a much-bigger crowd based on expectations from this past Saturday’s UFC 189.  The main event featuring McGregor set the high mark for gate for MMA fights in Nevada.

Manny Pacquiao fought twice at AT&T Stadium drawing 41,734 against Joshua Clottey in March 2010 and 40,154 for his fight against Antonio Margarito in November 2010.  The Clottey gate drew $6.3 million (with 5,363 comps) and the Margarito gate was $5.4 million (with 9,717 comps)

Payout Perspective:

It’s still early to determine whether or not AT&T Stadium will actually happen.  The belief is that the UFC wants attendance more than either of the Pacquiao fights.  It would draw upon the McGregor and Aldo fans to travel to Dallas.  My assumption is that the UFC anticipated a show in New York this December with passage of a law legalizing pro MMA in the state.  As we know, that did not happen.  Thus, it didn’t look into booking the MGM and Bocelli took the spot.  Only my speculation.  But, that gives the UFC the opportunity for another big show featuring the company’s new star.  We shall we if this comes to fruition and whether Aldo can make it to December without injury.

UFC Fight Night 71 draws 801K viewers

July 17, 2015

Sports TV Ratings reports that Wednesday night’s UFC Fight Night drew an average of 801,000 viewers and a 0.4 rating in adults 18-49.  The prelims drew an average of 543,000 viewers.

UFC Fight Night 71 which officially aired from 7pm-10:04pm PT and featured Frank Mir and Todd Duffee drew 801,000 viewers.  The prelims which featured Sam Sicilia and Yaotzin Meza aired from 5pm-7pm PT drew 543,000 viewers.

UFC on Fuel TV 4 – July 11, 2012:  211,000 (Fuel TV)

No mid-July fight in 2013 (July 2013 fights were UFC 162 and UFC on Fox 8)

UFC Fight Night 45 – July 16, 2014: 640,000 (FS1)

UFC Fight Night 71 – July 15, 2015: 801,000 (FS1)

UPDATE:  Per Nielsen the main card peaked at 928,000 viewers from 8:15-8:30pm PT. UFC programming made FS1 the top ad-supported cable sports network on Wednesday in primetime.  The prelims were up 31% (415K viewers last year) from last year’s UFC Fight Night 45 from New Jersey.  Post-fight coverage on Fox Sports Live averaged 211K viewers which was up 66% (compared to 127K) from last year as well.

Payout Perspective:

Good ratings based on previous mid-week July cards by the UFC.  These cards take advantage of the lull in sports mid-July and viewership was up.  Per Sports TV Ratings, it was the second most-viewed sports cable programming of the night to a Gold Cup Match on Univision Deportes.  The ratings did exclude the ESPY awards which aired on ESPN. An ESPY countdown show drew 665,000 on ESPN.

UFC 189: Payout Perspective

July 16, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take you to UFC 189 which was the biggest event in years for the company taking place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

McGregor wins interim Featherweight title

The gamble for the UFC paid off.  Conor McGregor stopped Chad Mendes with just seconds remaining in the second round to win the interim Featherweight title.  McGregor was in trouble early as he could not stop takedowns and was being held down by Mendes.  But, McGregor was able to escape a guillotine attempt and used his power to KO Mendes.

McGregor actually has a coaching spot on TUF this fall and then it’s likely Jose Aldo.  Mendes showed well for himself considering he did not have a full camp.  He is still at the top of the list of challengers for the Featherweight title.

The (Interim) Champ - Via Wikimedia Commons

The (Interim) Champ – Via Wikimedia Commons

Lawler outlasts MacDonald in bloody war

It was the best fight in some time and likely a prime example of why this sport can never gain mainstream acceptance.  Robbie Lawler’s lip and Rory MacDonald’s nose exemplified the dedication, discipline, heart and fearlessness it takes to make it to the top of this sport.  Although MacDonald was ahead on the judge’s cards, he succumbed to the pain and crumpled to the mat in the fifth round after another shot from Lawler.

Lawler-MacDonald scorecard

For Lawler, Johny Hendricks seems like the next opponent for Lawler.  Many have said that this fight may have changed the trajectory of MacDonald’s career forever.  We shall see.

Attendance and gate

It was the biggest attendance and gate for a UFC event ever since UFC 129 in Toronto.  Attendance stood at 16,019 for a gate of $7.2 million.  Dana White stated that ticket sales actually surged after Jose Aldo pulled out of the fight getting the gate over $7 million.

On the secondary market the “get in” price at the start of the Fight Pass Prelims was $665.  According to Darren Rovell, the median price paid on Stubhub was $500 which was the highest since Silva-Sonnen II ($450).

Bonuses

Conor McGregor, Thomas Almeida, Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler earned the $50,000 bonuses.

Salaries

McGregor and Mendes topped the salaries making $500,000 each.  The full list is here.

Promotion of the Fight

The promotion of the fight started with the expensive and well-chronicled world tour with Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor.  The Embedded episodes were entertaining as those occurred this past spring.  Most of us were hoping that July would come soon.  Of course, the fight did not happen and we were given Chad Mendes.   More Embedded episodes occurred to promote the fight and even some controversy as it appeared that an episode featuring Conor training in wrestling was edited out.  The theory was that it would give Mendes some advantage.

Dana White appeared on ESPN, the Jim Rome and other outlets.  Notably, he stated in a radio interview that Aldo would have made $4 million at UFC 189.  He also stated on Jim Rome that McGregor wanted to bet him $3 million that he would knock out Mendes.  Apparently, he knew what he was talking about.

Sponsorships

This was the first event where Reebok uniforms were exclusively used.  Overall, it was not as bad as I had thought although I am sure there are some fight fans that will miss the aesthetic of different sponsors on the shorts as well as fight banners.

The official UFC sponsors were in the Octagon including the movie “SouthPaw,” Draft Kings, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Fram,Bud Light, Corn Nuts, Metro PCS, Musclepharm and Monster Energy Drink had the center.

Reebok presented the Embedded  episodes featuring McGregor and Mendes.

In addition to announcing an individual deal with Reebok, Rory MacDonald had a Monster logo on its shorts.  Same for Conor McGregor. McGregor also starred in a commercial for Game of War.

Toyo Tires also sponsored Chad Mendes and sent out an eblast about the challenger.

Although it was announced in early June, the UFC announced a partnership with Las Vegas Monorail making it the “Official Las Vegas Transportation of the UFC.”  While this seems silly, the fact that so many people from out of town (especially Irish McGregor supporters) likely took it as a method of transportation probably made the sponsorship worth its while.

Odds and ends

The changes in production were subtle but great.  While there might be a lot of criticism about spending 6 months and who knows how much money to change the “C” in the UFC, the presentation at the weigh-ins and the actual show were top-notch.

The live singing entrances for the main events were an interesting touch.

It was interesting that this fight was not offered in movie theatres like other events before it.

One critique about new UFC production, rounds now noted by filled in marks like balls/strikes in baseball.  I like numbers to tell me rounds.

The uplighting and other stage enhancements for the weigh-ins were great.  It gave UFC 189 that big fight feel.  Of course, the atmosphere with so many Irish there made it feel that much more electric on television.

This was the first event with the USADA drug testing protocol.

It appears that cutmen have lost their sponsor deals when Reebok took over this month but are not a part of the Reebok deal.  We will see where this goes.

Mendes has been stopped in two championship fights with seconds left in a round.

I already booked my hotel for UFC 200 which will be in the new MGM-AEG Arena July 2, 2016

Conclusion

Much has been scrutinized about what the PPV buy rate will be for UFC 189.  Despite Aldo pulling out late, it appears that it did not hurt PPV sales.  The pre-buys for the event appear to be strong which is based on the number of people that purchase the PPV prior to the day of the PPV.  The google searches appear strong but the Prelim rating was under 1 million viewers.  So, we shall see.  My gut reaction is that the PPV did between 550K and 600K buys which solidifies McGregor as a legitimate PPV star.

UFC Fight Night 71 attendance, gate and bonuses

July 16, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the attendance, gate and bonuses from Wednesday night’s UFC Fight Night 71.   Frank Mir led the bonus winner’s after his first round KO of Todd Duffee.

Joining Mir was Tony Ferguson with a Performance of the Night for his dominating victory over Josh Thomson.  Fight of the Night was awarded to Alan Jouban and Matt Dwyer.  All received $50,000 each.

Attendance at the Valley View Casino in San Diego was 5,471 for a gate of $412,000.  The numbers were announced post-event by the UFC.

Payout Perspective:

Notably, Bellator 131 drew 8,243 for a gate of $407,259 at the same venue last November.  It was a respectable fight night attendance considering it was mid-week as it is the annual event in which the UFC takes advantage of the lull in other sports in July.  Mir and Ferguson were especially impressive with Mir’s KO ensuring that the UFC event ended on time on FS1.

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