Court agrees to seal certain documents in Hunt v. Zuffa

February 13, 2017

The U.S. Magistrate in the Hunt v. Zuffa, LLC, et al. case has granted Mark Hunt’s request to seal documents in his lawsuit.  The ruling means that the general public will not be able to view certain documents.

The purpose of the seal according to plaintiff as noted in the order was to “allow him [Hunt] to proceed with this action while not violating the confidentiality agreement.”

When Hunt filed his lawsuit, certain exhibits attached were not included as he was requesting to file them under seal.  He claims that he signed a confidentiality agreement and filing the documents without a request to seal might be a violation of the agreement.

Motion to Seal Granted by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

What the order means is that the public will not be able to see certain contracts Hunt entered into with Zuffa, LLC.  This is unfortunate for the public as it would show what type of contract Hunt signed to fight Lesnar as well as other agreements he had with the company.

 

 

Cyborg requests retroactive TUE

February 12, 2017

Cris “Cyborg” Justino is requesting a retroactive Therapeutic Use Exemption  according to an ESPN report.  Justino’s out-of-competition drug test was flagged by USADA this past December.

Justino tested positive for the banned substance spironolactone although she claims that a doctor had prescribed it to her.  Thus, the reason for the retroactive TUE.

According to the UFC Anti-Doping Program:

USADA will consider late filed or applications for retroactive TUEs; however, the Athlete does so at his or her own risk as USADA makes no guarantee regarding the processing of a TUE under such circumstances. Furthermore, in such instances, the Athlete may be charged up to the full cost for processing the TUE application where such filing, in the determination of USADA, is not attributed to factors outside the Athlete’s control.

Justino’s attorney is Howard Jacobs.  He was the attorney that represented Jon Jones in his USADA appeal and subsequent arbitration.  Jacobs also represented Brock Lesnar.  USADA has requested additional information for Justino’s condition which required the prescribed banned substance.

Payout Perspective:

As we know, the new women’s division is specifically for Cyborg and one would think that she will be granted this retroactive TUE despite the “at his or her own risk” language from USADA.  It really makes no difference whether or not the “full cost” for processing the TUE application is assessed to Cyborg as she is much more important to the organization than the simple cost of an application.

UFC 208 attendance, gate and bonuses

February 11, 2017

MMA Junkie reports the attendance, gate and bonuses for UFC 208 in Brooklyn.

Notably, there was only one Performance of the Night bonus.

Jacare Souza earned the only POTN bonus with his first round submission of Tim Boetsch.  The first fight of the PPV, Dustin Poirier-Jim Miller drew the Fight of the Night.  All three earned $50,000.  There were no other performance bonuses.

The Barclay’s Center was sold out: 15,628 fans for a live gate of $2,275,10.  The bonuses, attendance and gate were announced post-event.

Payout Perspective:

Only 3 bonuses which reflects the lack of finishes on the card.  Although Holm-de Randamie was a good fight, Poirier-Miller was better.  The attendance and gate is a good sign that New York is hungry for MMA despite the card’s lack of star power.

UFC 208: Will you buy it?

February 10, 2017

UFC 208 will be the third time that the company has held a show in the state of New York since it legalized professional MMA last fall.  Are fans interested in this PPV?

In the main event, Holly Holm takes on Germaine de Randamie for the new UFC women’s featherweight title.

Also, Anderson Silva returns to action taking on Derek Brunson.

UFC 208 will be the second time a UFC card was headlined by women without Ronda Rousey as one of the main eventers.  The other, UFC 200, featured Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate.  Of course, that was by necessity with Jon Jones being pulled from that event.

One must surmise the UFC had hoped for another title fight (possibly Diaz-Conor III) to headline this card with Holm as a strong semi-main.  With McGregor taking a prolonged paternity leave and Nate Diaz trying out boxing since he claims the UFC put him on ice, fans get the matchup for a new title.

Perhaps this slot was to be for Cris “Cyborg” Justino.  But, she was flagged by USADA.

So, it comes down to Holly Holm.  While Germaine de Randamie might be a promising fighter, she has only 2 fights since 2015.

Holm is on a 2-fight losing streak which included losing the title to Miesha Tate in March and then dropping a decision to Valentina Shevchenko in late July.

However, the latter fight, which aired on Fox, scored the highest rating for a summer show since the company has been on Fox.

Her main event loss to Shevchenko peaked at over 4.6 million viewers with the broadcast averaging near 3 million viewers.  Holm defeated Ronda Rousey in November 2015 to tear down the former undefeated champ’s mystique and essentially end her career.

But, is her appeal enough to draw on PPV?

Anderson Silva’s drawing power is now past its prime and marketing efforts are behind the Holm-de Randamie fight.

There are signs that this event will not draw.  There is no sponsor for the Embedded series, which have been lackluster to say the most.  UFC 208 is not trending online and the peak viewership of the weigh-ins on YouTube was comparable to that of UFC 206.  The event featuring Jose Aldo and Max Holloway drew 150,000 buys and was the lowest rate for 2016.

It appears that UFC 208 will be on par with UFC 206 as its truly a card for the hardcore UFC fans.

Shields to be first female boxer to headline on Showtime

February 9, 2017

USA Today reports that Claressa Shields will be the first female boxer to headline an event on premium network television as she will be the main feature on Showtime’s ShoBox series on March 10th.

Shields was featured in the WSJ last November where they drew comparisons to her and boxing as Ronda Rousey was to women’s MMA.  She made her pro debut on the undercard of Kovalev-Ward and is thrust into the spotlight in March.

She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist.  Due to her Olympic success, she earned a $40,000 a year stipend from USA Boxing along with her own room at the training center in Colorado Springs.  She also receives meals, training and health insurance.

Turning pro is a gamble considering women boxers make little.  However, her pedigree meant that she earned $50,000 in her first pro fight.

She meets Szilvia Szabados (15-8, 6 KOs) in the main event from Detroit next month.

Payout Perspective:

This was a calculated gamble by Shields and her management team.  Women’s boxing does not receive the publicity as women’s MMA.  Notably, two women headline this Saturday’s UFC PPV.  Shields looks to be the new face of women’s boxing.  Certainly, she is getting paid better than most women MMA fighters.  But her pay is not the norm for women’s boxers.  For Showtime, which usually lags behind HBO in boxing ratings, Shields may bring much-needed interest for its ratings.

WME-IMG establishes PAC

February 9, 2017

Variety reports that WME-IMG is forming a national political action committee (PAC).  WME-IMG co-CEOs, and UFC owners, Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell authored an internal memo that outlined the PAC and the reasons for setting it up.

The memo was careful not to take a side either way but the PAC was set up in direct response to the election of Donald Trump.

Lawyers are “currently working out details” of the PAC, which “might take on partners from outside of the agency” per a source.  It is said that the investment of the PAC will be “substantial.”  Money will be contributed to causes and candidates that the agency’s employees agree to support.

A portion of the email reads (via Variety):

“In the coming weeks, you will hear more from us about:

  • The formation of a federal political action committee (PAC) in the U.S.
  • Convening internal and external forums with politicians and allied stakeholders
  • Connecting our clients with elected officials
  • Introducing company-wide matching policies to support donations of time and money
  • Developing actionable public policy solutions

Payout Perspective:

Establishing a bipartisan PAC might be hard to do but reflects a progressive move by the company.  Yet, one has to wonder if the lobbying efforts will also mean establishing contacts to combat the expansion of the Ali Act.  It would be interesting to know if this is an employee driven PAC, how WME-IMG employees feel about a proposed law to help the safety and livelihood of UFC fighters.

Spike TV to rebrand to Paramount TV

February 8, 2017

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Spike TV will be rebranded as the Paramount Network.  A formal announcement will happen on Thursday during Viacom’s quarterly earnings call.

Kevin Kay, the SpikeTV head is expected to stay on with the rebranding according to the report.

Rebranding could begin as early as 2018.

The network’s target demo has been young males.  The UFC started on Spike before it signed its television deal with Fox.  It was the birthplace for The Ultimate Fighter.  It currently airs Bellator MMA programming.

Payout Perspective:

It’s not known whether the rebranding will mean a refocus on programming.  But, whenever there are rebranding efforts, there’s a likelihood that it means that there will be changes to make the network more attractive to a greater group of people.  With more cord cutters and alternative means of viewing programs, network executives are attempting to change with the new normal.

UFC Fight Night 104 draws 1.158M viewers, Prelims 834,000

February 7, 2017

UFC Fight Night 104 drew 1.158 million viewers on Saturday night on FS1 per Sports TV Ratings.  The prelims which preceded the main card drew another 834,000 on FS1.

Sports TV Ratings indicates that the main card (airing from 10pm-12:59am ET) which featured the return of The Korean Zombie as he KO’d Dennis Bermudez drew 590,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo.  The prelims, which aired from 8-10pm ET drew 420,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo.

The main card peaked at 1.286 million viewers during the 11:15-11:30pm quarter hour.

The ratings are less than the 1.3M viewers that watched UFC Fight Night 82 last Super Bowl weekend.  You may recall that event was taken off PPV and made an FS1 card and featured Johny Hendricks-Stephen Thompson.  The prelims drew 1.093M viewers.

Payout Perspective:

Despite being lower than last year, the 1.158 million is strong considering the main card featured KZ-Bermudez.  Obviously looking at the attendance, this card resembled more of a lower-tier Fight Night card than a bigger draw.

USADA declares “no fault” finding for fighter’s use of meldonium

February 6, 2017

Daniel Omielańczuk has agreed to a “no fault” finding of his positive test for Meldonium this past July.  The result is based on a January 2016 out-of-competition test.  But, due to the change in WADA policy, he was kept on his last fight in July 2016.

A portion of the USADA news release reads:

Omielanczuk, 34, tested positive for meldonium as the result of an out-of-competition urine sample he provided on January 21, 2016. Meldonium is a non-specified substance that was added to the WADA Prohibited List in 2016. It is in the category of Hormone and Metabolic Modulators and is prohibited at all times under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, which has adopted the WADA Prohibited List.

During USADA’s investigation of the case, Omielanczuk presented evidence establishing that his use of meldonium was limited to a three-week span, from mid-August to early September 2015. Omielanczuk and his advisors confirmed that Omielanczuk did not resume his use of the substance after September 2015 because they became aware that the substance would be added to the WADA Prohibited List in 2016, and subsequently banned under the UFC Anti-Doping Program.

After a thorough review of the case, USADA concluded that the extremely low meldonium concentration in the athlete’s urine sample, combined with the available documentary evidence and the athlete’s explanation of use, was consistent with ingestion prior to the substance being officially prohibited on January 1, 2016. Accordingly, based on the results management guidance offered by WADA for cases involving meldonium, Omielanczuk will not face a period of ineligibility for his positive test.

Payout Perspective:

Perhaps coincidence, but the Wilder-Povetkin case we’ve been following suggests that Povetkin used Meldonium for a two-week period in August-September 2015.  As that case starts, it’s clear to see that the substance is hard to regulate.  Fortunately, for Omielańczuk, it looks like he won’t miss any time off from the UFC.

GSP and MMAAA lawyer leaves Weil for boutique and open own consulting practice

February 6, 2017

James Quinn, the lawyer for Georges St. Pierre and MMAAA, has moved from to boutique litigation firm Berg & Androphy per Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal.  Quinn has left Weil Gotschal where he worked for more than 40 years.

According to Mullen, Quinn also will open a consulting practice entitled J.W. Quinn ADR.

Per his new firm’s press release, Quinn will continue to work with Weil on MMAAA.

Quinn also served as the lawyer for GSP in his negotiations with the UFC.  Those negotiations reached an impasse last year.

Quinn’s former law firm, Weil, has a mandatory retirement age of 68.  Quinn, 71, received a waiver to continue at the firm.  He now is moving on and will continue to work “in tandem” with Weil on advising MMAAA per a release from his new firm.

Payout Perspective:

It is not uncommon for law firms to have a mandatory retirement age.  This is typically an issue related to malpractice.  It does seem like opening a consulting practice means he is slowly winding down the full-time practice of law. Yet, Quinn appears to be continuing to work with MMAAA and GSP.

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