UFC 180: Payout Perspective

November 17, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 180 from the Mexico City Arena in Mexico City.

Werdum wins interim Heavyweight title

It was to be Cain Velasquez fighting in Mexico City against Fabricio Werdum.  However, an injury to Cain allowed Mark Hunt the chance to step in and seize the title.  Hunt looked good until a well-timed knee spelled the beginning of the end for Hunt.

Werdum wins the title and will eventually get to face Cain Velasquez to unify the titles.

UFC 180

Gastelum ascends while Ellenberger descends

Kelvin Gastelum defeated Jake Ellenberger with a rear naked choke in the first round.  The win should propel the former TUF winner into the top 10 of the welterweight division while it showed the Ellenberger maybe a broken fighter.  Gastelum secured a rear-naked choke with ease as it appeared that Ellenberger did not defend his neck despite his back being taken.  The win should mean a step up in fights for Gastelum while Ellenberger is teetering on the cusp of being cut.

Attendance

Initial reports in August had UFC 180 a sell out in just 8 hours after the announcement of Velasquez-Werdum and the launch of TUF in Mexico (which drew 7 million viewers on Televisia according to Yahoo! Sports).  The announcement made post-fight had the attendance at 21,000 although no official gate was given.

Bonuses

The bonuses of $50K were given to Werdum, Gastelum, Henry Biones and Guido Cannetti.  Briones and Canetti put on the Fight of the Night.  White indicated that Ricardo Lamas would also be given a bonus although that was unofficial.

Promotion of Fight

Once again one of the main drivers of the promotion was the UFC Embedded series which followed the fighters on the main card.  It caught the best moment of the pre-fight hype with Werdum-Hunt singing together.

The UFC also did a photo op with the NBA as the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves played a game in Mexico City earlier in the week.

The UFC and Fathom Events put the event on movie screens across the country hoping that the event would gain more eyes.  Unfortunately, if we look at the tweet from Mike Bohn, it did not.

Sponsorships

The Octagon sponsors were without UltimatePoker.com, the Stations Casinos online poker site which was closed down last week.  Notably, one of the Octagon sponsors for UFC 180 was Costa Rican online gaming company, BetCris.  The sponsors included the UFC Network, UFCStore.com, UFC Fit, MateFit.me, MusclePharm, Toyo Tires, video game FarCry 4, the aforementioned BetCris and Bud Lite in the center of the Octagon.

Gastelum wore the UFC Network logo as did Werdum during pre-fight activities and but wore Bad Boy to the Octagon.

Hunt wore his own clothing brand Juggernaut on his shorts.  It’s interesting that Hunt does not have more sponsors.  You may recall he had zero as a fill-in when he fought Junior dos Santos at UFC 160.  Werdum most prominent sponsor was clothing brand Torque.

Doritos was a prominent sponsor for this event as it banked heavily on the Werdum-Velasquez matchup including producing in-store placement of 2.5 million bags with the fighter likenesses on them.  It was described as a “360 degree activation” around UFC 180.  With Cain falling out, the campaign likely fell short of its goal.

Post-UFC 180 Headline

Werdum-Velasquez should be next although White indicated that if Cain were to have another injury that forces him from action, he could be stripped of the title.

Odds and Ends

  • The WWE collaborated with the UFC during the UFC Prelims on FS1. To be exact, a 2K Sports commercial for the WWE video game, WWE2K15, infused images of the video game and UFC action.
  • The main event ended at 8:50 pm on the west coast. Only about an hour and a half of fights before the UFC showed the prelims to fill the time.
  • Bellator used the footage of Melvin Manhoef knocking out Mark Hunt from 2008 during its pre-fight hype package to put over Manhoef.
  • Jessica Eye almost took Leslie Smith’s ear off but Smith still wanted to fight.
  • Google Trends revealed that the top countries searching for UFC 180 were Mexico, Canada, Brazil and the United States in that order.
  • The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) ran a story on the Fertittas and Dana White and their ties to Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School in last week’s Sports Business Journal. It was placed “below the fold.”  Prominent placement for a rather evergreen story during UFC 180 week.
  • Chael Sonnen began his duties with ESPN as an analyst.

Conclusion

It was a good night of fights but the lack of brand-name power was one of the detracting factors about this event.  When the Werdum-Velasquez fight was initially announced and the two were TUF coaches, there was much hope that UFC 180 would be one of the bigger PPVs of this year.  Entering a new market and the quick sell out appeared to be good signs for the PPV.  But, Velasquez’s injury was a significant blow to any hopes that this PPV would do well.  Without a good undercard, the UFC was placing its hopes on Cain’s drawing power.  Based on Google Trends, we are looking at a buy rate comparable to UFC 174 or 177 which drew between115-125K PPV buys.

UFC 180 attendance and bonuses

November 16, 2014

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and bonuses for UFC 180 from Mexico City.  Fabricio Werdum led the bonus winners for the night.

Dana White announced attendance at 21,000 at the post-fight press conference.  No official gate was announced although White indicated that it was the “highest gross in arena history.”

The $50,000 bonus winners announced at the post-fight press conference were Fabricio Werdum, Kelvin Gastelum, Henry Briones and Guido Cannetti.  Werdum and Gastelum earned the performances of the night and Briones and Cannetti earned fight of the night.  In addition, White stated that Ricardo Lamas would also receive a bonus for his submission victory over Dennis Bermudez.

Payout Perspective:

The top two fights on the card produced the bonus winners last night.  Werdum’s knee spelled the beginning of the end for Mark Hunt and Gastelum secured a rear-naked choke over the seemingly broken Jake Ellenberger.  The Briones-Cannetti fight was also an entertaining fight and Briones won with an uppercut that downed Cannetti which eventually led to a RNC.

Ultimate Poker closes due to lack of profitability

November 15, 2014

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the Fertittas have closed down Ultimate Gaming and thereby shutter Ultimate Poker.  After 19 months, the company indicated lack of profitability for closing down its business operations.

The article stated that Stations Casinos is the majority owner of Ultimate Gaming.  Online poker revenue “fell far short of once-lofty projections,” stated Ultimate Gaming Chairman Tom Breitling in the article.  Only Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware allowed online gambling and for Ultimate Poker to accept wagers the players must be physically in the state.

UltimatePoker.com was a sponsor of the UFC.  It launched in May 2013 but with the limited amount of potential players, the once novel idea, turned to out to be a dud.

Payout Perspective:

The news of the closure comes the week before New Jersey hears oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by sports leagues (i.e., NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB) seeking a temporary injunction from passage of a law allowing the state to accept bets on sports games. Although the NBA opposes the New Jersey law, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times this week supporting legalizing and regulating sports betting.  As for the closure of Ultimate Poker, expect Zuffa to look into other ways to monetize the future of gambling.  In the meantime, it means one less UFC sponsor in the Octagon.

TUF 20 Episode 8: 578,000 viewers

November 13, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the 8th episode of TUF 20 drew an average of 578,000 in Live + Same Day viewership.  Based on the numbers, it’s the best non-DVR average so far this season.

In the fight of the episode, Tecia Torres handled Bec Rawlings in two rounds for the victory.

TUF 20 Episode 8

Payout Perspective:

Episode 8 was the most watched show on FS1 yesterday.  It brings the non-DVR average up to 525,000 viewers.  For those wondering, last fall’s TUF 18 drew a season average of 684,000 viewers and TUF 19 this past spring received 476,000 viewers.  American Horror Story on FX (which aired at the same time as TUF) drew the highest cable rating for Wednesday with a 3.6 million average in Live + SD viewership per Television By Numbers. Notably, the NBA game between the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves from Mexico City drew 1.6 million viewers. It started in the same time slot as TUF.

UFC officially announces Sweden stadium show

November 13, 2014

The UFC announced that Alexander Gustafsson will face Anthony Johnson on January 24, 2015 in an arena in Gustafsson’s home country of Stockholm, Sweden for UFC on Fox 14.  It will be the first network show of 2015 and first outside of the U.S..

As most recall, UFC 129 was the first stadium show from Toronto, Canada to great success.  The promotion is leveraging Gustafsson’s popularity to fill the arena for this show as it anticipates 30,000 fans for the January event.

Via UFC press release:

The bout will take place in front of more than 30,000 fans at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, marking just the second major stadium event in UFChistory and the first in Europe. The previous stadium event was the record-breaking UFC® 129 held at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada, as more than 55,000 fans watched Georges St-Pierre defeat Jake Shields.

The last three events in Sweden had the following attendance figures:

UFC on Fuel TV 2 (April 2012) – 15, 428, $2.23M gate

UFC on Fuel TV 9 – (April 2013) – 14,506, $2.7M gate

UFC Fight Night 53 – (October 2014) – 10,026, $1.1M gate

Payout Perspective:

A lot is being put on Gustafsson to sell this show.  As we’ve learned from UFC 180, this could backfire if he is forced out due to injury.  It’s not a title defense and while Gus may be popular in Sweden, it’s hard to think that he could sell a 30,000 stadium.  With Dan Henderson-Gegard Mousasi/Matt Brown-Tarec Saffiedine as the co-main events, it will bring name notoriety but it’s hard to think that this will draw Swedish fans.

TUF 20 Episode 7 Live + 3 numbers up to 764,000

November 12, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the adjusted DVR ratings for the seventh episode of TUF 20 drew it up to 764,000 viewers.  The number represents a gain of 270,000 viewers from its overnight rating of 494,000 viewers.

TUF 20 Episode 7 DVR

Payout Perspective:

The Live +3 average is now at 808,000 viewers whereas the overnight viewership is at 518,000 viewers.  The average DVR gain from TUF this season is approximately 290,000 viewers.

ESPN signs Sonnen to analyst job

November 12, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that ESPN has hired former UFC star and Fox Sports 1 TV analyst Chael Sonnen.  Sonnen was let go from FOX after he failed a pre-UFC 175 drug test.

Per an ESPN press release, Sonnen will join ESPN as a UFC Analyst.  Per the release, he has signed on to “a multi-fight agreement as a studio and on-site analyst, providing expert pre-and post-fight insight on Sportscenter’s coverage of major UFC pay-per-view events.”  Sonnen will debut this Friday on the network to discuss UFC 180.

Payout Perspective:

If you disregard the drug issues, which ESPN seems to do here, Sonnen is an engaging TV figure and should bolster the network’s coverage of MMA.  Signing Sonnen could be a sign that ESPN will return to more coverage of the UFC.  It would make no sense for ESPN to mute Sonnen now.  He should be on as many platforms for ESPN to talk UFC and MMA in general.

Silva stopped from making appearance at Bellator pre-party

November 12, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Wanderlei Silva will not participate at a pre-party Friday to promote Bellator 131 due to a contractual issue with the UFC.  The announcement comes just a day after Bellator sent a press release announcing his appearance.

Silva was to appear with other former UFC veterans including Royce Gracie, Frank Shamrock and Randy Couture.

Payout Perspective:

It’s an obvious failure to communicate on behalf of Bellator and Silva.  Certainly, Bellator should have checked out whether or not Silva could legally make an appearance at a Bellator event.  Without seeing Silva’s actual Zuffa contract, he likely had a non-compete clause or some language within the contract stating that he could not make an appearance for another organization while still under contract with the UFC.  And, it’s highly unlikely that the UFC would have granted Silva the opportunity to appear at Friday’s event and waive any legalities.  Even though he has been suspended by the NAC, it does not mean his UFC contract has been terminated yet.  It’s apparent that the UFC

UFC Fight Night 56: 699,000 viewers

November 11, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that UFC Fight Night 56 on FS1 Saturday night drew an average viewership of 699,000 viewers.  It was the second UFC event in two days.  The main event of UFC FN 56 saw Ovince St. Preux KO Shogun Rua in the first round.

UFC Fight Night ratings represents a boost from the last UFC Fight Night airing on the Fox Networks.  As you may recall, Fight Night 54 drew a lowly 413,000 partly due to the fact it was moved to FX at the last minute due to an extra inning MLB game.

Last 5 Televised UFC Fight Nights

UFC Fight Night 47 – 735,000

UFC Fight Night 49 – 689,000

UFC Fight Night 50 – 911,000

UFC Fight Night 54 – 413,000

UFC Fight Night 56 – 699,000

UFC Fight Night through 56

OSP’s last appearance, a loss to Ryan Bader, at UFC FN 47 drew 735,000 viewers.  Here, OSP was a late replacement, but had a better opponent, yet the ratings were lower.  Of course, OSP is not a draw of any kind but its notable to see the viewership drop.

Payout Perspective:

The 699,000 is likely due to the lack of star power on this card, the fact it was the second UFC event in two days and it was late on the east coast.  It also occurred during Kovalev-Hopkins on HBO which may have taken away some combat sport fans away from this event.

Wanderlei Silva joins Bellator 131 kickoff party

November 10, 2014

Wanderlei Silva will be a part of the Bellator 131 “Pre-Party Kickoff” as he will appear at Dave & Buster’s this Friday, November 14th according to a Bellator press release.

Via Bellator press release:

The festivities surrounding Saturday’s #Bellator131 continue to grow as Bellator will host a pre-party kickoff event from San Diego’s Dave & Buster’s on Friday, November 14. After weigh-ins, fans are invited to take pictures and have autographs signed with MMA legends Royce Gracie, Randy Couture, Frank Shamrock, and now MMA icon Wanderlei Silva beginning at6pm PST. Silva will join the other MMA legends in attendance for #Bellator 131 on Saturday, November 15.

“After we saw just an overwhelming response to our Bellator Fan Fest a few weeks ago, we wanted to once again give our fans a chance to be a part of something special and give everyone the opportunity to spend time with a group of fighters that built the sport we all love,” Bellator President Scott Coker said. “We have events taking place all week around the San Diego area as we prepare for the biggest night of fights in company history, and we want everyone to be a part of it.”

The press release announced Silva as “The Axe Murder.”

Payout Perspective:

This is an interesting move on behalf of Bellator.  If you recall, Scott Coker came out against performance enhancement drugs after four of the company’s fighters tested positive for illegal substances after Bellator 127.  Per a Bellator press release, Coker stated, “I want to make very clear that under new management, Bellator will simply not stand for performance enhancement drugs inside our cage.” Silva fled a drug test earlier this year and was subsequently banned by the Nevada Athletic Commission and levied a $70,000 fine.  And yes, we understand, Silva will not be inside a Bellator cage, but making an appearance on behalf of the organization.

But, if we disregard this fact, Silva will provide some name notoriety for the lead-up to this Saturday’s big Bellator event which will go up against UFC 180.  Silva will join Royce Gracie, Randy Couture and Frank Shamrock at D&B this Friday.

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