UFC 193: Payout Perspective

November 16, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  In this edition, we take a look at the happenings taken place down under in Melbourne, Australia as Holly Holm upset Ronda Rousey to win the women’s bantamweight title.

Holm, game plan takes out Rousey

No one would have thought this would have been the ending.  But, a headkick knocked out Ronda Rousey and the aura of invincibility was over.  Holly Holm, who hovered around an 8-1 to 12-1 underdog depending on where you looked, outclassed Ronda Rousey at UFC 193.  Holm’s game plan trumped Rousey’s athletic ability.  Moreover, Rousey’s boxing was exposed and it was clear that she was exhausted at the end of Round 1.

For Holm, it was the culmination of a long-term plan that had her and her trainers preparing for Rousey even before she was in the UFC.  Her management fought tooth and nail with UFC management in negotiating her signing with the company.  Turns out it was worth it.

As for Rousey, her loss seemed to satiate the thirst of every Rousey hater.  Everyone was quick to tweet with glee her loss and KO.  As is with most MMA fighters that gain more popularity than the others, MMA “fans” began to despise Rousey.  The good news for them is that she lost and MMA fans will turn their attention to Conor McGregor in December silently hoping for him to lose as many have those tweets ready for their timeline.

UFC Melbourne

Joanna Champion still Champ

It was not a dominant performance, but Joanna Jedrzejcyzk retained her 115 pound title with a unanimous decision over Valerie Letourneau.  Letourneau came down 20 pounds to fight at 115 pounds and you have to think that it might have played a factor.  Overall, it was an entertaining fight with Joanna retaining her title.

Attendance and Gate

It was a record setting night for the UFC as the announced attendance was 56,214 with a gate of $6.8 million (U.S.).  It did better than UFC 129 which drew 55,724 in Toronto.  However, the gate did not exceed the 55,724.

As Darren Rovell tweeted, there were many comps for the event although the UFC no longer reports on the number.


This was a little curious as Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey and Kyle Noke earned the $50,000 bonuses.  Holm won for both Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night. Noke earned a Performance of the Night Bonus. Rousey drew a Fight of the Night bonus although you might argue that she didn’t deserve it for her part in the fight.  Certainly, there were other fighters (e.g., Ben Nguyen) that could have received a Performance of the Night Bonus instead of Rousey receiving one for FOTN.

Promotion of the Fight

Ronda Rousey went on Good Morning America in late August to announce her fight with Holly Holm.  Originally scheduled for January 2nd, the event was moved up in part to replace the main event of UFC 193 as well as attempt to set a new UFC attendance (and gate) record at Ethiad Stadium.

Perhaps the best video promotion for a UFC event was produced for UFC 193.  It debuted on Ellen’s web site which featured a younger Ronda Rousey learning martial arts with the underlying message that women could do anything.

A lengthier feature was shown after the UFC 193 PPV.

You might recall Dana White announced in a phone interview Rousey-Holm was moved from January 2nd to November 14th on a Friday night on ESPN. The date was moved up due to the usual injury issues.

The event was a reward for the province as a law which prohibited cagefighting was lifted.  With opposition still abound in the area, the attendance at the event (albeit with some comped seats) was still strong. USA Today reported on the “stir” in Australia with opposition to the sport of MMA.  Rousey spoke with local media about the controversy.

UFC Embedded, the video series, aired on Fox the Saturday before the fight.  Usually, it’s online but with a Rousey fight, it seemed to demand more visibility.  Also, Ruby Rose was the narrator for the series.

Rousey was also on the front page of the NY Times Sunday Styles Section in October.  This was one of several media obligations which catered to women.  It will be interesting to see if Holly Holm can continue this trend and appeal.


In the octagon, we had a couple international UFC sponsors as well as the usual mainstays.  Unibet, Xbox’s Tomb Raider, DraftKings, Wargaming.net, Bud Light, the upcoming film, “Creed,” Bud Light, Reebok and Monster Energy Drink had the center. Unibet had the fighter prep point.   Holly Holm was sponsored by Unibet and announced a new deal with GRRRL Clothing.

Odds and Ends

Since it always comes back to gambling.  The betting line on Holm in Vegas and the aftermath:


Donald Trump weighed in on Ronda Rousey tweeting that he was glad that she lost because she is not a nice person.  I didn’t know they knew each other. 

EA Sports announced that Rousey would be on the cover of its latest UFC game coming out this spring.  Was it a video game cover curse?

Should we read into the fact that Ronda’s mother was not at the fight a sign of discontent with her?  It is a long plane ride to Australia for sure, but her mother has already been there for her fights.

Rousey’s hang up during a UFC 193 Conference Call was an act of unprofessionalism despite the question asking about Travis Browne.  Even worse, the excuse that her “phone died” just insults everyone’s intelligence.  You mean, the UFC and/or Rousey’s management could not have given her a phone to finish the call?

At the end of Episode 3 of the Embedded series, Rousey uses an analogy about being bankrupt.  All the while, it shows her hitting mitts with Edmund.  His bankruptcy filing occurred this summer and comes to a head this month.  This issue had not been a problem in the past, but with the news surfacing now, it all makes it more of a deal. 

Letourneau was informed by USADA that Hector Lombard could not corner her for her fight as Lombard’s participation would have violated the new anti-doping policy.  Lombard, who admitted to using PEDs earlier this year would fall under the “prohibited association” rule of the UFC anti-doping policy. 

Lenny Fresquez, the agent/manager for Holly Holm, won six figures betting on her client.  There’s something that seems unsettling with a manager that is already making off of her client for representation to bet money on her client.  Sure, it’s legal and acceptable, but is there a conflict of interest?  

Notably, Fresquez said that Holm has 2 more fights under her existing contract.

FS1 could not carry the post-fight show until late due to the Pac-12 game between Utah and Arizona going to double OT.  Most of the post-fight was on FS2.

The PPV went over the 3 hour mark which is a rarity.

It was interesting that not much was made of the fact that one of the biggest cards in UFC history and it was headline by two women’s title fights.

In anticipation of a Rousey “vine” like finish, the UFC sent out a reminder to media outlets that you would be in violation of Zuffa’s copyright of the PPV.  It appeared as though the Huffington Post Sports twitter feed was allowed to post the finish (as it did).  Still, others posted the finish online.  In protection of its copyright (and in order for people to buy the PPV), the UFC wanted to deter people from posting their videos.   

Certainly a Rousey-Holm rematch seems ripe for July’s UFC 200.


It was interesting that despite Ronda Rousey google searches hitting 500,000 on Friday, there was a slight downturn (note: in the link the google trends embedded link is constantly changing over time which I think is pretty cool) in searches right around the time after the weigh-ins.  But, the searches jumped back up on Saturday afternoon.  What does this mean about PPV buys?  Who really knows?  But, if we are to look into the past history of Rousey fights, one might think this still does well.  I would predict 750,000 PPV buys. 

UFC 193 attendance, gate and bonuses

November 15, 2015

UFC 193 drew a record 56,214 for a gate of $6.8 million (U.S.).  In addition, Holly Holm was the big winner earning 2 fight bonuses in her upset victory over Ronda Rousey.

The UFC announced the record-setting attendance at its post-fight press conference.  The gate is second to UFC 129 which pulled in $11 million.  The 56,214 narrowly beats the gate for UFC 129 as that event which featured GSP-Jake Shields drew 55,724.

The bonuses were awarded to Holm and Rousey for Fight of the Night.  Holm and Kyle Noke earned Performances of the Night.  All earned the $50K bonus.

Payout Perspective:

Darren Rovell tweeted out a picture earlier in the night of comped tickets indicating that many people had them.  There were many photo posts on social media showing many empty seats in the upper bowl of the stadium.

It’s not uncommon to comp tickets for big events. The UFC used to announce the number of comped tickets it handed out for each event but has not done this in some time.  We will probably never know how many tickets were comped for tonight but the announced gate is undoubtedly impressive.

As for the bonuses, Holm deserved the double bump for her performance. There were several other great performances tonight on the prelims which could have earned bonuses as well.  Still, tonight was Holm’s night as she dethroned the champ.

EA announces Ronda Rousey on cover of UFC video game

November 14, 2015

Ronda Rousey will be the first woman athlete to be on the cover of an EA Sports video game as it was announced that she will be on the cover of EA Sports UFC 2.  Rousey along with a yet to be named UFC fighter will be on the cover of the game that is scheduled to be release this spring.

Payout Perspective:

As most could probably deduce, Conor McGregor makes the most sense as the other fighter on the cover. Perhaps that announcement will be made during fight week leading up to UFC 194.  If nothing else, Rousey’s marketing power should aid the sales of this video game.  The last EA UFC video game suffered from poor reviews and sales which forced a price drop only after a month after its release.  We will see if Rousey’s brand can help sales with this version of the game.

UPDATED – UFC 193 search interest trending down after Friday

November 14, 2015

After a UFC weigh-in which featured a brief skirmish between main eventers Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm as well as a Rousey “promo” on Holm after, search interest for the fight has trended down.

UPDATED 4:31pm: As you can see from the graph, that keeps updating, searches are back up.

As you can see from the graph over the past 7 days, interest spiked on Friday afternoon but looks to have receded since then.

Via Google Trends as of Saturday morning:


Payout Perspective:

Obviously the unfortunate happenings in Paris probably detoured social media searches and interest.  Will the trends mean that the great run on Rousey PPV success end tonight?  Google trends is a scientifically unscientific way to predict PPV buy rates.  While the graph appears to reflect a downturn in interest, this trend is likely an anomaly.  One would think there’s an uptick in searches as the day goes on today.

UFC App now on Amazon

November 13, 2015

UFC announced the launch of an official app on Amazon’s Appstore.  The app will be available on Amazon Fire streaming devices which will allow users access to UFC PPV broadcasts starting with this Saturday’s UFC 193 and UFC Fight Pass.

Via UFC press release:

“We are thrilled about the new UFC app on Amazon’s Appstore as fight fans can now enjoy the UFC experience on Amazon Fire TV’s set-top-boxes and Fire TV Sticks,” UFC Senior Vice President of Digital Edward Muncey said. “UFC has always been on the cutting edge of utilizing technology to engage our fans, and now Amazon Fire users can view exclusive content wherever they are.”

UFC 193 App

The UFC app will initially be available in North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, China, Japan, Australia, Spain, France and Italy, and will support in-app purchasing in local currencies. The app will provide access to UFC weigh-ins, press conferences and other live streams, bringing fans closer to UFC and their favorite athletes anywhere with their Amazon Fire device.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC app comes to Amazon just in time for the holidays.  The news should bolster Fight Pass subscriptions.  It could help with PPV sales as well although we may never hear an estimate of those purchases.  What this move does is make the UFC available to more people on a widely used platform.

TUF 22 Episode 8 draws 539,000 viewers

November 13, 2015

The 8th episode of TUF 22 drew an average viewership of 539,000 in its first run on Wednesday night on FS1.  The rating is a 30% boost from last week’s lowest-rated episode of the season.

The episode rating is the third highest of the season and brings the average viewership up to 520,000 viewers. The replay of TUF on Wednesday night drew an additional 55,000 viewers.  Last week, the replay of episode 7 drew 50,000 viewers.

Episode 8

TUF went up against the Clippers/Mavericks game on ESPN which drew 1.73M viewers and was the highest rated sporting event on cable TV Wednesday night.

(h/t: Sports TV Ratings)

TUF 22 Ratings
Live +SD DVR +3
Episode 1 622,000 902,000
Episode 2 463,000 740,000
Episode 3 533,000 769,000
Episode 4 538,000 845,000
Episode 5 498,000 720,000
Episode 6 585,000 919,000
Episode 7 379,000
Episode 8 539,000

Payout Perspective:

The ratings reflect a bounce back for TUF as last week may have suffered from the hiatus of a week. The viewership shows a rebound but perhaps some concern over the west coast viewers for the second showing of the episode which aired 10-11pm PT.

UFC preparing for copyright violators for Rousey fight

November 12, 2015

Zuffa has sent out a reminder to media members to not post any highlights from UFC 193 until the UFC says so.  The message comes in anticipation of another Ronda Rousey “vine” ending.

The notice cites 17 U.S. Code section 411 which is an advance notice of potential copyright infringement.

Per the notice from the UFC’s Vice President and Associate General Counsel Dylan Budd:

“As we expect greater than normal interest for this event, we remind you [media member] that unless otherwise provided by Zuffa, LLC, no highlights are authorized for distribution until we distribute the approved guidelines.”

It goes on to note rather ominously that the UFC “will be monitoring compliance.”

The notice does not specifically name Ronda Rousey as the reason for the notice, but it’s clear from her past fights, that the short duration of Rousey’s fights have been able to be put on vine or other types of media (e.g. Periscope).  Many casual viewers and/or curious of the Ronda Rousey phenomenon just wait on social media for someone to post the fight without having to pay the $60 PPV price.

Rousey’s last fight at UFC 190 in August lasted just 34 seconds.  It was posted on social media within minutes after it ended.

We note that the UFC is promoting UFC 193 by showing UFC 190 for free courtesy of sponsor, Xbox’s Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that the UFC is gearing up for those trying to watch the Rousey fight for free this Saturday.  In order to do this, it is making sure that media members do not assist in the dissemination of the Rousey fight.  Clearly, if someone with a lot of followers on social media were to post the fight, it could be argued that it is infringement (there is an argument for fair use or First Amendment but that is for another day).  In the past, the UFC has worked hard to enforce its rights to PPV and gone after egregious violators.  From the notice, it appears that UFC Legal will be working hard to enforce its rights to UFC 193 which may mean no “vines” of Rousey-Holm.

Cro Cop first UFC fighter flagged by USADA

November 11, 2015

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic was the first contracted UFC fighter to be identified as having a potential violation of the organization’s anti-doping policy.  Cro Cop announced his retirement from MMA due to a shoulder injury earlier this week prior to the revelation of the possible anti-doping violation.

Cro Cop was scheduled to fight Anthony Hamilton in Seoul, South Korea later this month at UFC Fight Night 79.  He cited a shoulder injury as to the reason for him to withdraw from the fight and announce his retirement.

The UFC issued a statement on the matter Wednesday:

UFC announced today that a scheduled bout between Mirko Cro Cop and Anthony Hamilton in Seoul, South Korea has been canceled. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has notified both Mirko Cro Cop and UFC that he has been provisionally suspended at this time due to a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation.

USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case involving Cro Cop. Additional information will be provided at the appropriate time in the process.

Hamilton will be booked for a new bout on a card in the near future.

How does Cro Cop’s retirement work with the anti-doping policy?  From the USADA policy:

If an athlete retires or ceases to be under contract with the UFC while USADA is conducting the results management process, USADA retains jurisdiction to complete its results management process. If an athlete retires or ceases to be under contract with the UFC before any results management process has begun, and USADA had results management authority over the athlete at the time the athlete committed an ADPV [anti-doping policy violation], USADA has authority to conduct results management in respect to that ADPV.

If Cro Cop wants back in the UFC, he is subject to this section of the policy:

5.7.2 If an Athlete retires from UFC competition while subject to a period of Ineligibility, the Athlete shall not resume competing in UFC Bouts or competitions approved or sanctioned by an Athletic Commission until the Athlete has given four months prior written notice (or notice equivalent to the period of Ineligibility remaining as of the date the Athlete retired, if that period was longer than four months) to UFC of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for that notice period.

Payout Perspective:

If Cro Cop is truly retired I don’t believe there’s any recourse for the UFC although he is subject to penalty (see above).  If he attempts a comeback at some point in the future, he will still be under scrutiny by the UFC.  At that point, he may have to serve a suspension.  Then again, the UFC need not take him back.

Cro Cop can appeal the results through the administrative process set up by USADA.  In this instance, a third party, McLaren Global Sports Solutions, Inc. of Toronto, Canada would handle the arbitration between the fighter and USADA.  However, it’s a costly proposition as there is an administrative fee of $2,700 to file for arbitration plus the cost of an attorney if the fighter chooses to be represented by one.  The UFC will pay for the fees and expenses of an arbitrator or a panel of 3 arbitrators.  The arbitrators will be compensated $325 per hour per the USADA UFC arbitration rules.

The other issue is whether other regulatory bodies will honor a ruling by USADA.  What if Cro Cop returns to fight with another organization?  Or does kickboxing instead of MMA?  This issue has always been out there when the anti-doping policy was implemented.

Nijem cut reflects no room for negotiations with UFC

November 11, 2015

Ramsey Nijem recently spoke about his cut from the UFC and cites the refusal to sign new deal as well as the new drug policy as reasons he was let go from the UFC.

Nijem spoke with MMA Junkie Radio regarding his departure.  The former TUF contestant lost his last two fights in the UFC and was one of the many fighters that were recently let go by the company.

Nijem talked about the negotiations with the UFC on a new contract as he described what was basically a one-sided process in which he was told how much he would make.  According to Nijem, the UFC told him it would be “harder should he continue to refuse.”  He also stated that he had issues with the new UFC drug policy in which he would have to provide whereabouts for drug testing reasons and the IV ban for rehydrating after weigh-ins.

Nijem had 10 fights in the UFC going 5-5 with his last lost being a split decision this past July to Andrew Holbrook.  His last reported purse for his fight with Holbrook was $18,000 for his loss.  He made an additional $5,000 under the new Reebok sponsor payouts.

Payout Perspective:

Nijem’s story reflects the unfortunate leverage of low to mid-tier fighters in the UFC.  Essentially fighters have no room for negotiations with the UFC lest they are either blackballed or cut.  In addition, the refusal to sign the UFC drug policy agreement probably was the last straw.  With the UFC attempting to enforce new drug testing protocol, his refusal, no matter how legitimate the reasons may have been trumped by the UFC’s need to show that all of its fighters will conceded to testing.  Still, the problem is that fighters are finding out that they have no bargaining power with the company.

UFC Fight Night 77 draws 757K viewers; prelims score 609K

November 10, 2015

The main card of UFC Fight Night 77 Saturday night on FS1 drew an average viewership of 757,000 viewers.  The prelims drew an average viewership of 609,000 on FS1 per Sports TV Ratings.

The main card which aired from 10pm-12:56pm ET on Saturday night featured the third fight between Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort.  The prelims which preceded the main card from 8:00-10-00pm ET on FS1 drew an average viewership of 609,000.  Also of note ratings-wise is that the pre-fight show (7:16pm due to college football to 8pm ET) drew an average of 217,000 viewers on FS1.

UFC Fight Nights through 77

UFC Fight Nights 2015
Main Card Prelims
UFC Fight Night 59 2,751,000 908,000
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 FS2) 909,000 223,000
UFC Fight Night 71 801,000 543,000
UFC Fight Night 72 508,000 292,000
UFC Fight Night 73 1,159,000 306,000
UFC Fight Night 74 796,000 542,000
UFC Fight Night 75 841,000 270,000
UFC Fight Night 77 757,000 609,000

The ESPN college football game between Michigan State and Nebraska from 7-10pm ET won the night in cable sports with 3.4 million viewers per Sports TV Ratings.  In addition, the big SEC matchup betwen LSU and Alabama on CBS drew 11.1 million viewers in prime time.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings reflect that Bellator’s quarterly “tentpole” event had the slight edge over the UFC this weekend as Friday’s event on SpikeTV drew 814,000 viewers.  UFC Fight Night faced stiff competition with college football prevailing.  In addition, HBO Boxing which featured Timothy Bradley taking on Brandon Rios drew 910,000 viewers Saturday night.

« Previous PageNext Page »