Another UFC Heavyweight flagged by USADA for potential violation

November 18, 2017

UFC Heavyweight James Mulheron has been notified of a potential violation of the UFC anti-doping policy and has been removed from his fight against Cyril Asker next week in Shanghai, China at UFC Fight Night 122.

Mulheron fought just once in the UFC, losing against Justin Willis at UFC Fight Night from Glasgow, Scotland.

Via UFC.com:

The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed James Mulheron of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collected on November 10, 2017. Due to the proximity of James’s upcoming scheduled bout at UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Gastelum in Shanghai, China on November 25, 2017, against Cyril Asker, Mulheron has been removed from the card and UFC is currently seeking a replacement.

Payout Perspective:

Yet another Heavyweight falls to USADA it appears.  It’s not clear why heavyweights may be susceptible to the anti-doping policy but it appears that this is happening more than other weight classes.  As we know, Anderson Silva was removed from this card because of a potential violation as well.

Early estimates of UFC 217 PPV are at 875,000

November 17, 2017

Dave Meltzer of MMA Fighting is reporting that early estimates of the UFC 217 drew 875,000 PPV buys in North America making it the biggest PPV show for 2017 thus far.

UFC 217 featured Georges St Pierre’s return against middleweight champion Michael Bisping in addition to two other championship fights.

Google trends reflected strong interest in the PPV.  There were over 1 million google searches on the Saturday of the PPV for UFC 217.  The UFC Prelims drew 1.276 million viewers despite starting on FS2.

Payout Perspective:

Very good result but if you are gaging success by the 1 million PPV buy threshold, it may disappoint.  There were 3 title fights and the return of GSP.  There was more interest in Canada for this PPV but it wasn’t enough to hit 1 million in North America.  The good news that it’s likely the PPV buys worldwide exceed 1 million and shows that GSP is still a draw.

Werdum charged with assault after hitting Covington with boomerang

November 16, 2017

Fabricio Werdum is in trouble after a video showed him throwing a boomerang at UFC welterweight Colby Covington.  According to an Australian news outlet, Werdum has been charged with common assault.

Werdum is the headliner of Saturday UFC Fight Night card in Sydney, Australia where he faces Marcin Tybura.

The video shows the two getting into an argument and then Werdum appears to throw a clear plastic bag which had a boomerang inside of it.

Covington went on Facebook Live after the incident and used an anti-gay slur in the direction of Werdum.  Just last month, Werdum was disciplined for using a similar slur in a confrontation with Tony Ferguson.

It appears that Werdum will have to return for a court date in December.

Payout Perspective:

This is something that you cannot do especially outside of a hotel in a country where the company is trying to develop a presence.  Werdum is in the wrong for throwing a boomerang at Covington and Covington is wrong for his continued generalizations against the people of Brazil.  The UFC has to step in and it will be interesting to see what it will do to Werdum who is in trouble for the second time in two straight months.  Covington has been under fire after his post-fight comments in Brazil calling the people of Brazil “Filthy Animals.”  We’ll see if there are any repercussions for Covington although it would seem in the legal case he is the victim.

Nunes makes Forbes’ “30 under 30” list

November 16, 2017

UFC women’s bantamweight champion was chosen to be on Forbes’ ’30 under 30’ list for 2017 in the area of sports.

Nunes, 29, defended her title this past September.  But, she was mired in controversy when she pulled out of UFC 213 with an injury causing Dana White to criticize her.

In addition, boxer Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was picked for the list as well.  Alvarez fought twice in 2017 with both fights (vs. Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr and Gennady Golovkin) drew over 1 million PPV buys.

Here is her Forbes writeup:

“She sent shockwaves through the UFC world by defeating Ronda Rousey in just 48 seconds. The first openly gay champion for the sport, Nunes is the reigning women’s bantamweight champion with a 15-4 record. Nunes has an endorsement deal with TEN spring water.”

In 2016, Jose Aldo made the annual list for sports figures.

Payout Perspective:

Nunes should be more of a star than she is and hopefully the Forbes lists helps with her celebrity.  Her pulling out of UFC 213 may have put her in the UFC doghouse.  After destroying Ronda Rousey, you would have thought she would be the next woman fighter to make it to mainstream appeal.

Jon Fitch’s Statement before Congressional Subcommittee supports Ali Act Expansion

November 14, 2017

Former UFC Fighter Jon Fitch submitted a Statement at the Congressional Subcommittee Hearing on MMA as well as an op-ed piece in the Washington Examiner on the day of the hearing.  Each supports the proposed legislation expanding the Ali Act.

The Statement submitted and filed for the Congressional Subcommittee Hearing last week was on MMAFA letterhead.

Fitch’s primary argument is that he was passed over for fights despite being the ranked number 1 contender in the UFC.  He stated that he was criticized for “employing a tactical style” emphasizing his wrestling background rather than fighting in a more “exciting” fashion.

He cites being presented with a merchandising agreement by the promotion which required he give the UFC image rights “in perpetuity and for no compensation” for a video game.  He was released by the UFC for a time due to his refusal to sign the agreement.

Unlike Marc Ratner’s description of the MMA business model, Fitch describes it as a “structurally flawed model inconsistent with sport and designed to achieve a monopoly over an entire sport.”  Fitch gave the anecdote of winning the World Series of Fighting title and then being stripped of the title when “new investors” took over WSOF and it was changed into the Professional Fighters’ League.  He “regained” the title at PFL’s first official event in July.

Fitch goes on to advocate for the amendment to the Ali Act arguing that “sport’s natural growth is stunted” due to the coercive “contractual practices” in the sport.  He cites the lack of disclosure of fight purses by promoters which is required under the Ali Act.  He notes the Chris Algieri situation as a prime example.  We wrote about this in April 2016 and presented the problem with the Ali Act for boxers.

He also stressed that the Ali Act “requires rankings to be based on merit, not contractual subservience.”  Here, Fitch emphasizes the need for objective rankings giving the analogy with Major League Baseball changing the World Series simply based on popularity of team.

In conclusion to his statement, Fitch reiterated the stunting of growth in MMA due to anti-competitive restraints and that when the restraints are removed, “deep-pocketed investors will be made in MMA.”  He believes that the elimination of artificial restraints will cause organic growth benefiting all by increasing revenues for all in the sport.

Similarly, Fitch’s Washington Examiner op-ed was briefer than his Statement to Congress but touched on the same points including the rankings system and the fact that the titles do not matter.  The opinion piece called for sanctioning bodies that would provide the fighter with consistency and ensure that the top contender would have a shot at the title.

Jon Fitch Statement by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

Fitch provides the fighters’ perspective of the MMA industry and it is vastly different from that of Ratner’s viewpoint of MMA.  Ratner believes that MMA is devoid of the corruption that plagued boxing which led to the Ali Act.  Fitch sees it differently.  He provides a first-hand account of the issues he knows of in MMA including the issue with the UFC related to the forfeiting of his image rights for the EA video game and giving up his WSOF title when new owners took over.  Certainly, you can point to the fact that neither addresses that he is a plaintiff in an antitrust lawsuit against the UFC which may sway the reader’s view when objectively looking at the opinion.

UFC Fight Night 120 draws 837,000 viewers on FS1; prelims score 726,000

November 14, 2017

Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 120 on FS1 drew 837,000 viewers. The prelims scored 726,000 viewers on FS1.

The main card was highlighted by a bloody main event between Dutin Poirier and Anthony Pettis. Poirier scored the victory when Pettis tapped due to injury. The prelims featured Marlon Moraes over John Dodson.

According to ShowBuzz Daily, the main card drew 0.34 in the A18-49 demo while the prelims drew 0.28.

The pre-fight show (7-8:05pm ET) on FS1 drew 272,000 viewers and the post-fight show (1:10-2:10am ET) drew 369,000.

Payout Perspective:

The event improved over the last two televised Fight Nights due in part to better matchups overall.  The ratings, including the prelims and post-fight show, are very good considering they want up against boxing on ESPN and HBO and college football.

Ratner’s Statement before Congressional Subcommittee outlines Opposition to Ali Act Expansion

November 13, 2017

The UFC’s Marc Ratner submitted a Statement to the Congressional Subcommittee Hearing on MMA.  The statement opposes the expansion of the Ali Act to combat sports citing issues such as state’s rights and

Ratner, the company’s Senior Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs, highlighted his long-time work with boxing and assisting in the passage of the original Ali Act.  He testified about 20 years ago in which he expressed concerns about “conflicts, cronyism, and corruption” in boxing.  He stated that the problems he saw in boxing are “absolutely not present in MMA.”

He highlighted the UFC’s “rags to riches” story of a business that worked its way up from the bottom and did most of the lobbying from state to state by itself, without help from any other MMA organization or promotion.

Ratner emphasized that state regulation works and federal oversight were be an overreach by government.

In addition, he addressed the many mixed martial artists, including female fighters, that have worked themselves into positions where “[d]ozens upon dozens” are millionaires because of the opportunities provided by the UFC.  He also expressed the fact that only a “very small minority of fighters” are supporting this legislation.

Ratner also argued that the reason for the Ali Act was to address corruption in “so-called sanctioning organizations.”  He described these as “privately run businesses that rank fighters for a fee.”  Unlike these boxing sham organizations that either pushed or held back boxers, MMA does not rely on sanctioning organizations.  He cited the UFC rankings which are voted on by sports reporters.  He added, “[w]e put on the fights that fans want to see and they want to see competitive fights.”

He concluded that the proposed legislation would impose boxing’s sanctioning organization model onto MMA.  He claimed that MMA is predictable and transparent in its current state.  He also warned that the growing number of sanctioning organizations in boxing has created a lack of uniformity in the sports and its rankings.

Marc Ratner Statement by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

Ratner’s argument against the proposed legislation is plausible based on his viewpoint of the reasons behind the enactment of the original Ali Act.  At this point, the proposed legislation mirrors the Ali Act without any specific differences between the original and the proposed expansion of the law.  The argument that there is nothing wrong with MMA is a bright line view and in comparison to boxing at the time that lawmakers sought to enact the Ali Act might be true.  But, it’s hard to say that just a minority of MMA fighters support the act.  Of course, there are some that do not want to publicly support the Ali Act expansion for concern of repercussions.

Ratner also suggests that the UFC rankings are independent because sports reporters provide the rankings.  Who is it that picks these sports reporters?

His point that numerous sanctioning bodies in boxing creates uncertainty in the rankings is a viable argument.  But does that mean that the expansion of the Ali Act would mean multiple fighter rankings?

The old argument of state’s rights versus federal rights is argued by Ratner as he suggests that state athletic commissions are able to oversee MMA rather than having a federal authority.  It is true that the current system is working, but take the Conor McGregor incident at Bellator 187 as an example.  Who has the authority to oversee McGregor’s actions.  The Association of Boxing Commissions?  Bellator?  The UFC?  The regulatory body overseeing the Bellator event in Dublin?  While state athletic commissions and tribal regulators can enforce actions in its jurisdictions what happens with interstate issues like that of McGregor.

While Ratner provides some arguments against the Ali Act expansion, there are indeed issues in MMA that a federal law can address.  The question is whether this proposed version can do it.

UFC Fight Night 120 attendance, gate and bonuses

November 12, 2017

Dustin Poirier led the list of bonuses at UFC Fight Night 120 in Norfolk, Virginia Saturday night.  Poirier’s opponent in the main event Anthony Pettis received a $50,000 bonus for their Fight of the Night.

In addition, Matt Brown and Rapahel Assuncao received the other $50,000 bonuses.  Brown, in his retirement fight, destroyed Diego Sanchez with an elbow for the KO.  Assuncao dropped Matthew Lopez in the third round with a kick to win via KO.

The event from the Ted Constant Convocation Center drew 8,442 fans for a gate of $642,070.  It was the highest-attended event for a UFC event in Virginia although it did not draw the largest gate.

Payout Perspective:

 Saturday’s event is on par with attendance at other Fight Night events in North America.  It was a night of some good fights including the main event featuring Poirier and Pettis in a blood bath.

Grant Dawson flagged for potential anti-doping violation

November 11, 2017

UFC Featherweight Grant Dawson has been notified of a potential UFC anti-doping policy violation related to an October 18, 2017 test.

Dawson, 23, has yet to debut with the organization.  He was one of the fighters to win UFC contracts on Dana White’s Contender Series this summer.

Payout Perspective:

Dawson is the second fighter from the Dana White Contender Series to be flagged by USADA.  Zu Anyanwu was flagged for an out-of-competition test the same day as Dawson.  This might be one of those issues where the fighter used a supplement without knowing the contents.  Both probably started in the protocol and was not primed for the testing.  Of course, we will need to see what the substances that were flagged before making that determination.

Statement issued on McGregor antics at Bellator event

November 11, 2017

The Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation and the Association of Boxing Commissions issued a statement related to Conor McGregor’s antics at a Bellator event in Dublin, Ireland on Friday.

McGregor, who was not a licensed cornerman, stormed the cage after his training partner Charlie Ward won his fight against John Redmond via first-round TKO.  McGregor shoved referee Marc Goddard when he attempted to stop McGregor from celebrating in the cage.  The UFC lightweight champion proceeded to go after Goddard and almost trampled the still fallen Redmond.

The full statement via MMA Junkie:

“While the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation (MTDAR) was regulating Bellator 187 in Dublin, Ireland, on November 10, 2017, the following events took place during the Ward vs Redmond bout.

“Mr. Conor McGregor who was a spectator at the time, disrupted the event by scaling the cage prior to the conclusion of the bout. Mr. McGregor’s conduct jeopardized the health and safety of the bout participants by delaying necessary medical attention to the fighters that were injured during the round.

“In addition, Mr. McGregor assaulted Referee Mark Goddard and a Bellator staff.

“The MTDAR has been in consultation with the upper management of the UFC regarding Mr. McGregor’s inappropriate and unacceptable behavior.

“The MTDAR has also contacted members of the Association of Boxing Commissioners that have licensed Mr. McGregor in their jurisdictions to inform them of Mr. McGregor’s behavior.”

Payout Perspective:

McGregor’s presence probably helped with Bellator ratings as the fight was taped-delay on SpikeTV and news of the incident swirled on social media.  The question of whether any penalty aside from maybe a fine will transpire.  Certainly, the UFC should have some sort of fine for McGregor although I would expect no suspension of any kind.  The company probably does not like it that he gave publicity to Bellator and likely that is the only real issue with the incident for the UFC.

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