UFC unveils new championship belt

January 18, 2019

The UFC unveiled its new title belt on Friday prior to its debut on ESPN.  The belt replaces the old UFC belt and has some new features to it.

The belt was to be unveiled at UFC 232 but with the Jon Jones fiasco, the UFC did not want the unveiling to be buried.

The Legacy championship belt will be given to the winner of the Henry Cejudo-T.J. Dillashaw Flyweight title bout.

The belt weight a little over 10 pounds and 8 countries are represented on the front plate by flags of the countries of the first UFC champions.  There are 25 stones which represent 25 years of the UFC. The left plate will be customized for every fighter that wins one.  It will have their name and weight class as well as their nation’s flag. For every successful title defense, there will be a red stone.

One notable change is that champions will receive one belt unless they fight for the belt in another division.  It replaces the old UFC custom of awarding a new belt for each defense. So there will be no scenes like this anymore:

Payout Perspective:

The new belt has received mixed reviews.  While the belt seems to be well-thought out with some nice touches in reference to its history, it also seems like an unnecessary makeover for the sake of a makeover.  The unveiling makes sense this weekend, its debut on ESPN.  We’ll see if the sales of replica belts take off like it has in pro wrestling.

PBC on Fox Sports Sunday night drew 761,000 viewers

January 15, 2019

PBC on Fox Sports 1 Sunday night drew 761,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event drew 210,000 in the A18-49 demo and a 0.5 overall share.

The event featured Jose Uzcategui taking on Caleb Plant for the 168-pound IBF belt.  The Challenger, Plant, took the belt in an upset.

The telecast featured two other fights with KOs in them.

Payout Perspective:

This is a very good rating for an event that took advantage of the advertising during the Divisional Playoff weekend on Fox.  The Sunday night main event started after the Saints-Eagles game so that may have helped with fans.  This is a good start for the year for PBC on FS1 as it takes over full-time from the UFC.

6 month USADA sanction for UFC flyweight

January 15, 2019

UFC flyweight Jennifer Maia accepted a six-month sanction for violation of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy after she tested positive for a contaminated dietary supplement.

Per the UFC Anti-Doping Policy:

Maia, 30, tested positive for furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide, chlorothiazide, and the thiazide metabolite 4-amino-6-chloro-1,3-benzenedisulfonamide (ACB), following an out-of-competition test conducted on August 16, 2018. These substances are Specified Substances in the class of Diuretics and Masking Agents and are prohibited at all times under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, which has adopted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.

During an investigation into the circumstances of her case, opened and sealed containers of a dietary supplement she was using at the time of the August 16, 2018 sample collection, and that she declared on her doping control form, were sent to the WADA-accredited laboratory in Brazil for analysis. Although no prohibited substances were listed on the supplement label, the analysis revealed that both contained the prohibited substances for which Maia tested positive. Accordingly, this product has been added to the High Risk List of supplements maintained on USADA’s online dietary supplement safety education and awareness resource – Supplement 411 (www.Supplement411.org). Further, USADA reminds athletes that dietary supplement products marketed for weight loss carry significant risk to contain prohibited prescription medications, such as diuretics.

Under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, as well as the World Anti-Doping Code, the determination that an athlete’s positive test was caused by a contaminated product may result in a reduced sanction. The sanction for a doping offense resulting from the use of a contaminated product ranges from a reprimand and no period of ineligibility to a two-year period of ineligibility.

Maia’s period of ineligibility began on August 31, 2018.  Maia has had just one fight in the UFC, a loss to Liz Carmouche in July 2018 in Boise.  Prior t that, she was the Invicta FC Flyweight Champion.

Payout Perspective:

This is another situation where a contaminated supplement yields a sanction despite the fact the fighter had been forthcoming with the information for USADA.  It was clear based on the investigation that the supplement she took was contaminated.  Moreover, the supplement was not on the “high risk” list of supplements.  And while her suspension was reduced from two years to six months, it would seem that she would not have to serve any penalty based on the facts.

 

UFC Fight Pass to air Eddie Bravo’s Combat Jiu-Jitsu event featuring Barnett, Werdum

January 14, 2019

The UFC announced that it will stream a Combat Jiu-Jitsu Fight Night on UFC Fight Pass which will feature a four-man elimination tournament including former UFC heavyweight champions Fabricio Werdum and Josh Barnett.

The event will air live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass on Friday night February, 22 at 7pm PT.  The event also features wrestler Rustam Chsiev and Gordon Ryan.  The event is promoted by Eddie Bravo and will feature an innovative rule set.  While on the ground, openhanded palm strikes to the head and body become legal when the grapplers are on the ground.

According to the press release from the UFC, it was originally scheduled as a PPV event, but Bravo was able to work out a deal with the UFC show that it could stream on Fight Pass.

Payout Perspective:

The event should be one of many that we’ll see on UFC Fight Pass this year as it tries to introduce more original content to entice viewers to stay with the digital platform.  With the UFC-ESPN relationship, fans will find themselves needing to subscribe to ESPN+ and the UFC realizes that they will need to do something to maintain its base of subscribers for UFC Fight Pass.  Not everyone is into Pride replays and the original content will need to be something to entice fans to continue to pay $9.99 per month.

UFC announces Motel 6 at “Official Economy Lodging Partner”

January 14, 2019

The UFC officially announced that Motel 6 as the “Official Economy Lodging Partner” of the UFC on Monday. The company logo visible in the Octagon at UFC events.

According to the UFC press release:

UFC®, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, today announced a new integrated marketing partnership with Motel 6, the leading economy lodging provider with more than 1,430 owned and franchised hotels across the United States and Canada.

Under the terms of the agreement, Motel 6 becomes UFC’s first-ever “Official Economy Lodging Partner,” creating a new sponsorship category for the MMA promotion. In return, Motel 6 will have a branded presence inside UFC’s world-famous Octagon® for select UFC events, including several Pay-Per-Views and a variety of ESPN and ESPN+ telecasts.

“We’re excited to join with Motel 6 to create a new partnership category for UFC,” said Paul Asencio, UFC Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships. “This new agreement strengthens our relationship with Motel 6 and allows our respective brands to work together to grow our customers in key markets.”

UFC and Motel 6 have partnered on several UFC events since November 2017.

Elevating our partnership with the UFC will enhance the visibility of the Motel 6 brand across a diverse, multi-channel sports platform,” said Lance Miceli, Chief Revenue Officer at G6 Hospitality, owner and franchisor of the Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands. “We’re excited for the activation opportunities to increase engagement among our guest population and UFC’s substantial fan base.”

Additional partnership activations will include in-venue commercials, branded integrations in select UFC Pay-Per-Views and collaborations on digital and social media campaigns. Motel 6 will also have a branded presence at several UFC Fan Experience activations in the U.S.

Payout Perspective:

The wording of the partnership keeps open the potential to have an “Official Hotel Partner” of the UFC in addition to Motel 6. The timing of the announcement makes sense since the UFC debuts on ESPN+ and UFC programming has been flooding ESPN’s networks of late. It is also another sponsorship secured under the new regime of Endeavor (WME-IMG).

Silva lobbies for return of testosterone therapy

January 12, 2019

Anderson Silva is in favor of USADA drug testing in the UFC despite being flagged for testing positive for a banned substance.  In a recent interview, Silva is advocating for the return of testosterone replacement therapy.

Silva also tested positive for a banned substance at UFC 183 in February 2015.

In an interview with a Brazilian outlet, Silva advocated for the use of “hormonal replacement” therapy.  He stated, “I think, if USADA regulated that, we’d have the sport at a high level, with athletes who have stopped fighting.”

Silva stated that USADA’s presence in testing was a good thing but he believes that the organization needs to review its rules to tailor the testing to the needs of the fighters.

Silva meets Israel Adesanya at UFC 234.

Payout Perspective:

It appears that Silva is advocating for the return of testosterone replacement therapy.  This practice was allowed by commissions if an athlete was able to prove that they suffered from low testosterone.  Athletes would be able to receive hormonal replacement.  But, with the older you get, naturally the more testosterone you would lose.  So athletes would be able to find an end around on this issue and be able to take advantage.  Silva does talk about older fighters able to prolong their careers based on this.  But you have to weigh the practicality of the need versus those that are gaming the system.  While Silva advocating for ways to keep himself going, it would be a detriment to others.

UFC 232 draws 700K PPV buys according to report

January 12, 2019

UFC 232 drew approximately 700,000 PPV according to The Wrestling Observer.  The event featured Jon Jones taking on Alexsander Gustafsson in the main event.  It is the second highest reported PPV buy rate for 2018 to UFC 229’s 2.4 million PPV buys.

The end of year event was marred due to the last-minute venue change from Las Vegas to Inglewood due to the drug test failure of Jon Jones and the Nevada Athletic Commission’s hesitance to grant Jones a license.

UFC 232 would be the first PPV to surpass 500K that did not feature Conor McGregor since UFC 217 (Bisping-GSP).

2018 PPV Buy Rates (all estimates)

UFC 220: ~340,000 to 380,000

UFC 221: 130,000

UFC 222: 260,000

UFC 223:  ~210,000 to 350,000

UFC 224: 85,000

UFC 225: 250,000

UFC 226: 380,000

UFC 227:  ~300,000

UFC 228: 130,000

UFC 229: 2.4 million

UFC 230:  250,000

UFC 231: 240,000 to 300,000

UFC 232: ~700,000

Despite the controversy, it’s clear that fans wanted to watch Jon Jones return to the Octagon.  The event also saw Amanda Nunes KO Cris Cyborg in the very first round to solidify herself as the best ever in Women’s MMA.

Payout Perspective:

2018 brought the UFC the lowest reported UFC PPV (Nunes-Pennington) and the highest reported PPV in UFC 229 (McGregor-Khabib).  UFC 232 had its issues, but the casual fans came in big.  Certainly, none of the additional fans that do not usually purchase UFC PPVs were not concerned with Jon Jones’ drug issues and happily purchased the fight.  We shall see if Jones’ drawing power will continue in 2019. The general feeling is that it will.

Paying $250K NAC fine still on list of things to do before Brock Lesnar returns to UFC

January 8, 2019

Will Brock Lesnar be returning to the UFC this year?  If so, he’ll need to pay his $250,000 fine assessed by the Nevada Athletic Commission for two failed drug tests from his participation at UFC 200 in July 2016.

Lesnar re-entered the USADA testing pool in July 2018 and after a period of ineligibility per USADA rules, he would be able to return to the Octagon by January 8th to compete.  Of course, Lesnar is not scheduled to fight on a card in the first half of the UFC year, but its anticipated that he’ll return in the heavyweight division at some point.

But the Nevada Athletic Commission is holding him on an indefinite suspension for the failed tests and unpaid fine.  In order for Lesnar to apply for a license to fight, he’ll need to pay the fine as well as submit clean drug tests at certain benchmarks prior to his next fight.

Lesnar last fought Mark Hunt at UFC 200 in July 2016.  An in-competition test revealed the banned substance clomiphene in Lesnar’s USADA tests.  The WWE superstar retired from the UFC in December 2016 but then returned to the USADA pool in July 2018.

Payout Perspective:

Probably nothing to worry about here since Lesnar will need to adhere to drug tests, etc. prior to returning to the UFC.  One may think that a July 2019 showdown against Daniel Cormier take place during International Fight Week.  Another alternative could see him face Jon Jones if the new light heavyweight champion decides to move up a weight class.  Regardless, when Lesnar returns to action, he’ll need to pay his fine to obtain his NAC license. And, of course, pass his USADA drug tests.

UFC 232 Payout Perspective

January 2, 2019

Welcome to another edition of UFC Payout Perspective.  This time around we take a look at UFC 232 which took place at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

Jones tops Gus, calls for DC

Inside the Octagon, Jon Jones showed why you may consider him one of the best of all-time.  He thoroughly dominated Alexander Gustafsson and ended the fight by imposing his will on Gus, taking his back and reigning punches down on him to force the stoppage.

However, its outside the Octagon controversy and drama which makes people wince when they hear Jon Jones and USADA.  Moreover, the outright falsehoods and mistruths spewed by the people in control of the promotion makes you want to take a shower to clean off the grime of their words.

Jones made it clear he wants Daniel Cormier and it seems like the most logical fight to make.  While Anthony Smith and Corey Anderson made their overtures to the Champ, it’s clear that Cormier would be the fight that would draw most interest.

Nunes stops Cyborg, becomes double Champ

Amanda Nunes has now stopped, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg.  The latter two Nunes stopped in the first round in impressive fashion.  Perhaps the KO of Cyborg was more impressive considering she had not lost since 2005.  Nunes used her superior speed to stun her with some big shots.

Nunes is now the Women’s Featherweight and Bantamweight champions.  The question is how it will market Nunes.  A lot of online debate took place over why the UFC has not marketed Nunes in the past.  It’s clear that she is the best women’s UFC athlete of all time despite the mainstream notoriety of Ronda Rousey and the dominance of Cris Cyborg.  It seemed as though the demolition of Cyborg validated UFC’s greatness.  Cyborg was the once-feared women’s MMA fighter that was too big and skilled for most women.  But, Nunes’ speed, accuracy and punching power proved too much for Cyborg.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

Despite the short notice, the event was a sell out with 15,862 for a gate of over $2 million.  To be specific, the gate was $2,066,604.  The Fight of the Night went to Chad Mendes and Alexander Volkanovski.  The Performance Bonuses went to Ryan Hall and Amanda Nunes.

The event was moved earlier this week from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to The Forum in Inglewood, California for Jon Jones.

Notably, UFC 199 drew 15,587 for a live gate of $2,1687,675 in June 2016.  The fight featured last minute replacement Michael Bisping winning the middleweight title from Luke Rockhold.

Lance Pugmire indicated that his sources said that the attendance would be soft.  But that was not the case.  Let’s read these tweets as this occurred within 30 minutes.

Next tweet from Lance in which the UFC gets to him.

There was also this…

And then after the event…

Payouts

There were 10 fighters that grossed over six figures for UFC 232.  It was topped by the headliners splitting $1M a piece.  $500K for Gus and $500K for Jones for those that were unaware.

Of those clearing six figures, Andre Arlovski ($300,000), BJ Penn ($150K) and Carlos Condit ($115K) are well-paid fighters that aren’t living up to their pay scale at this time.  Chad Mendes, who just came back from a USADA ban, made $87K plus $50K for Fight of the Night.  But then stated he would retire.

Sponsorships

Perhaps the most noticeable for UFC 232 was a new “cryptocurrency sponsor” Litecoin.

Also, of note PokerStars continued its sponsorship and it appears it will be the official fight odds for the UFC.  Pari Match, an overseas book for the UFC, was also present in the Octagon.

There were a lot of sponsors in the Octagon for this end of the year event.  They included Monster and convenience store AM/PM sharing a post.  Another post included Pari Mutual, Toyo Tires, TriFecta Nutrition, Nemiroff Vodka, EA’s UFC3 video game, Modelo, Metro PCS, P3, Air Asia, Pari Match, Harley Davidson, Poker Stars, the movie “Happy Death Day 2U,” and Monster had the center.

It was announced that TriFecta Nutrition would be used in helping athletes with its nutrition.  P3 also appeared on the fighter shorts.

Nemiroff is spending a lot on its UFC sponsorship from the outset.

Cyborg signed an individual deal with Monster Energy.  Jon Jones also was sponsored by Monster Energy.

It was interesting to note that Amanda Nunes had to place tape over her headphones (likely Beats) because the UFC has Monster Headphones as its sponsor.

Ratings

The UFC Weigh-Ins drew 123,000 viewers on FS1.  The UFC Countdown Show on ESPN2 Friday drew 99,000 viewers.

The UFC Pre-fight show on FS1 drew 198,000 viewers according to Nielsen (via ShowBuzz)

The UFC Prelims scored just its second rating over 1 million when the UFC 232 Prelims drew 1.148 million viewers.

The UFC Post Fight Show on FS1 drew 227,000 viewers.

Odds and ends

$6 Million.  The amount that Dana White claims the UFC spent to switch the event from Las Vegas to Inglewood, California.  One has to wonder when they put a deposit on the building.  Or, does the UFC have a practice of securing other sites just in case.

As the UFC begins its partnership with ESPN, the Worldwide Leader aired the UFC 232 Countdown show on ESPN2.

With Carlos Condit taking on Michael Chiesa, I noticed that both fighters had cats on their right oblique.  Chiesa had some new ink with a Tiger and Condit has had his lion on his side for some time.

UFC announced a lot of original and new content for UFC Fight Pass in 2019.  This includes a gambling show which will be interesting to see how that goes.

Notably, Chuck Liddell was in attendance at UFC 232.  White had revealed Liddell’s pay in a Kevin Iole article earlier in the month, but I guess there is no hard feelings when you are comped tickets.

Anyone else notice that Conor McGregor’s Proper Twelve Whiskey was a sponsor and ran commercial during the PFL’s Championships on New Year’s Eve.

Cris Cyborg was a champion in defeat as you can see with the troll job of Ronda Rousey. She took the KO in stride and congratulated Nunes for her victory.

The UFC announced its events for the second quarter of 2019 and there’s a lot of them.  Most on ESPN+

There were over 2 million google searches on Saturday night for UFC 232 which was behind Alabama vs Oklahoma in North America.  Jon Jones vs. Gustafsson drew 200,000 searches the same night.  Cat Zingano had an additional 100,000 searches likely due to the toe poke she received.

Conclusion

It was a strong ending for the UFC on FS1 with over 1 million viewers and the google searches on Saturday looks as though there was above average interest in the event.  Whether it was due to Jon Jones’ issues or the title fights, UFC 232 probably made out well even though the last minute change of venue really hurt fans.  I would expect a buy rate of between 350-375K total buys including traditional and digital.

 

 

Reebok parts ways with PVZ

January 2, 2019

With ESPN’s first UFC event happening on January 19th, one of its headliners made the announcement that Reebok has decided not to renew her contract with the company.

Paige VanZant makes her return to the Octagon at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn on Saturday January 19th against Rachael Ostovich.  But she announced on her Instagram that the Official Clothier of the UFC has decided not to renew her individual sponsorship.

PVZ was one of the few UFC athletes to receive an individual sponsorship in December 2014.  But it appears that the 4-year contract came and went without a renewal.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Paige VanZant (@paigevanzant) on

Payout Perspective:

Despite being out of action since January, the decision for Reebok not to renew her deal seems curious considering she has been popular in promoting the brand and the UFC.  It might be that Reebok is deciding to go another way with sponsorships or they just didn’t see PVZ adding value to their brand.

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