Mir handed 2-year suspension for USADA violation

April 22, 2017

USADA issued an official 2 year sanction to former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir stemming from multiple positive tests for a prohibited substance.  The tests came from an in-competition test on March 20, 2016 at UFC Fight Night 85 in Brisbane, Australia.

The 38 year tested positive for a long-term metabolite of dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (DHCMT).  It is also known as oral turinabol.  It is a non-Specified Substance in the class of Anabolic Agents and prohibited at all times under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.  He was provisionally suspended on April 8, 2016.

Via USADA release:

Upon learning of the positive results of the sample analyzed in Tokyo, USADA had all previously collected stored samples for Mir reanalyzed at the WADA-accredited laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah (SMRTL), which had also recently implemented methodology for the detection of newly identified long-term DHCMT metabolites. As a result of the additional analyses, SMRTL discovered that an out-of-competition sample Mir provided on February 5, 2016, which had previously been reported to USADA as negative for the presence of prohibited substances, was also positive for the same long-term DHCMT metabolite found in Mir’s in-competition sample.

Mir had claimed that the positive result may have come from Kangaroo meat which he ate prior to his fight.

Payout Perspective:

The results likely bring an end to Mir’s career in the UFC.  It also reflects the need for fighters to be vigilant of what goes in their bodies.  Mir does not recall what he may have eaten abroad and does not know if USADA would truly travel to Australia even if he were to list each meat.  Regardless, the finding without any defense or mitigating circumstances meant that Mir will be assessed the 2-year sanction.

TUF 25 Episode 1 draws lowest-ever rating for series

April 21, 2017

The Ultimate Fighter 25 debut on FS1 drew 288,000 viewers per ShowBuzz Daily.  The rating is the lowest-ever for the TUF franchise.  T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt serve as the coaches this season.

Prior to Wednesday night’s episode, the lowest-rated debut was last season’s TUF 24 which posted 370,000 viewers.

The two-hour premiere aired on FS1 on Wednesday.

Payout Perspective:

I am actually interested in this season but the ratings continue the downward trajectory of the TUF Franchise.  A couple seasons back, FS1 execs noted that TUF should be seen as more of a DVR-viewed show rather than a live event.  Still, the ratings show a decline.  With WME-IMG cutting costs the company will need to weigh the benefit of TUF’s use versus the expense it takes to produce the show.  FS1 does need content for its network so there is some need for it but could the ratings make execs reconsider.

South Korean authorities investigate potential “fight fixing”

April 21, 2017

South Korean officials are investigating a potential fight fixing issue from UFC Fight Night 79 from November 2015.  Fighters Tae Hyun Bang and Leo Kunts were warned by UFC official before their fight on the night per MMA Junkie.

Bang is reportedly under police investigation for allegedly taking a bribe.  One South Korean news outlet reported that Bang took $2 billion Korean won (approximately $1.7 million U.S. dollars) if Kuntz would prevail.  Another report suggests Bang accepted a bribe of $100 million won (approximately $87,000) while wagering $50 million (approximately $43,000) on his opponent.

Bang went from a slight favorite to a massive underdog in betting lines prior to the fight.  The swing in odds may have been the reason that tipped UFC officials to confront both fighters.

Bang defeated Kuntz by split decision.

There have been several other instances in other sports in South Korea where match fixing has been a concern.  In 2016, South Korean police charged 21 people including two professional baseball pitchers in the KBO League on suspicion of match fixing.  In recent years, the authorities have investigated professional soccer, baseball and volleyball players on suspicion of manipulating game outcomes in return for bribes.

Kuntz stated that he did not know what was going on although he confirmed that the UFC talked to him prior to the fight.  He also did not think that Bang tried to lose per comments made to MMA Fighting.

Payout Perspective:

This is the first formal investigation into fight fixing in the UFC.  The issue is a concern for the company considering that the sport always discusses gambling lines.  It’s not the big fights to be concerned with but the lower-tier matchups because those are the one where a fighter does not make as much and there is less scrutiny unless there is a wide swing in betting lines.   Match fixing is an issue in South Korea but the concern also arose at UFC 193 where a betting ban was imposed over concerns with “integrity issues.”

Conor McGregor named to Time’s list of “100 Most Influential People”

April 20, 2017

Conor McGregor has made Time magazine’s of 100 “Most Influential People” in the world.  Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote the profile for Time.

The former Governor of California’s writeup on Conor is here.

Previously, Time Magazine picked Ronda Rousey on a list of those “30 People Under 30 Changing the World.”

Payout Perspective:

McGregor’s brazen interviews and outlandish lifestyle coupled with his success in the Octagon has made him one of the top names in combat sports and someone that people not following the sport knows.  He has single-handedly talked himself into a potential fight with Floyd Mayweather, Jr.  Moreover, he’s talked himself into possibly one of the biggest paydays in combat sports.

UFC on Fox 24 drew 1,996,000; Prelims draw 1,105,000

April 20, 2017

UFC on Fox 24 drew 1,996,000 viewers on Fox Saturday afternoon in adjusted ratings to account for the overrun per Nielsen. The UFC Prelims drew 1,105,000 on Fox.

The main card peaked during the main event portion of the telecast with 2,874,000 viewers from 10-10:15pm ET.

UFC on Fox Ratings
Overnights Live + SD
UFC on Fox 1 5,700,000
UFC on Fox 2 4,570,000
UFC on Fox 3 2,250,000 2,400,000
UFC on Fox 4 2,360,000 2,400,000
UFC on Fox 5 3,410,000 4,400,000
UFC on Fox 6 3,770,000 4,220,000
UFC on Fox 7 3,300,000 3,700,000
UFC on Fox 8 2,040,000 2,380,000
UFC on Fox 9 2,410,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 10 2,550,000 3,220,000
UFC on Fox 11 1,990,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 12 2,020,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 13 2,270,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 14 2,820,000 3,049,000
UFC on Fox 15 2,430,000 2,745,000
UFC on Fox 16 2,290,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 17 2,280,000 2,781,000
UFC on Fox 18 2,430,000 2,685,000
UFC on Fox 19 2,130,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 20 2,440,000 2,975,000
UFC on Fox 21 2,200,000 1,983,000
UFC on Fox 22 2,690,000 3,178,000
UFC on Fox 23 2,020,000 2,189,000
UFC on Fox 24 1,740,000 1,996,000

In addition, the prelims drew 1,105,000 viewers.  The event aired on Fox and preceded the main card.

UFC on Fox 23 Prelims: 619,000 on FS1

UFC on Fox 22 Prelims: 679,000 on FS1

UFC on Fox 21 Prelims: 1,122,000 on Fox

UFC on Fox 20 Prelims: 1,261,000 on Fox

UFC on Fox 19 Prelims: 1,400,000 on Fox

UFC on Fox 18 Prelims: 702,000 on FS1

Payout Perspective:

The prelims were two hours and was the lowest rated in the history of the prelims on Fox.  The UFC on Fox 24 rating is the second lowest-rated ever in Fox history.  As pointed out by one of our readers, UFC on Fox 21 was slightly lower.

S&P Global reaffirms UFC Holdings, LLC debt rating, outlook

April 17, 2017

S&P Global Ratings reaffirmed UFC Holding’s first lien “B+” rating after news of seeking $100 million in additional loans.  Due to its high leverage, S&P rated UFC Holdings, LLC as having a negative outlook.

For a definition of S&P’s ratings, look here.  A “B” rating is characterized as, “more vulnerable to nonpayment than obligations rated ‘BB’, but the obligor currently has the capacity to meet its financial commitment on the obligation. Adverse business, financial, or economic conditions will likely impair the obligor’s capacity or willingness to meet its financial commitment on the obligation.”

The UFC plans to use the additional loans for “earn-outs” and other payments to the Fertitta brothers and Flash Entertainment, the previous owners of the UFC, if the UFC achieves certain benchmarks with its EBITDA “sometime this year.”  As indicated last year, the company must achieve $275 million EBITDA within 12 months.  In the following 12 months, it must achieve $350 million EBITDA to achieve a monetary benchmark.

S&P noted that through 2018, it expects an adjusted leverage above 9x which is “pro-forma” for the additional $100 million term loan add-on.  But, it adds that the company has a “plausible and robust growth path.”  Thus, S&P affirmed its “B” corporate credit rating on UFC Holdings, LLC and “B+” issue-level rating on the company’s $1.475 billion first-lien term loan due 2023.

In July 2016, UFC Holding’s LLC was given a “B” rating and a negative outlook on a $1.45 billion first lien loan to acquire Zuffa, LLC.  As we wrote back in July, “the financing for the deal to acquire the UFC will consist of the $1.45 billion credit facility which will consist of a $150 million revolver due 2021 and a $1.3 billion term loan B due 2023.”

According to the S&P report, it affirmed its “CCC” rating for the second-lien term loan of $425 million due in 2024.

Also of note, WME-IMG will receive $25 million in an annually management fee.  It also states that an upgrade in rating will not occur prior to a new domestic media rights contract is renegotiated.

The report notes that while the UFC has a strong appeal to the 18-34 demo, “it needs to continue to develop fighters” that appeal to this target demo.

Prior to the acquisition by WME-IMG, in November 2015 Zuffa, LLC had a company corporate rating of BB and its outlook was stable.  This was an upgrade in outlook which was previously negative.

The report from S&P Global Ratings came out on April 4th.

Payout Perspective:

As in July, S&P seems optimistic on UFC Holdings, LLC and its ability to repay the debt (at least for the first-term loan).  The report notes that the WME-IMG and its other investors may provide “temporary” financial support in the event of unexpected financial difficulty.  This may attribute to the rating in comparison to previous ratings for Zuffa, LLC.  Despite the additional loan capacity, UFC Holdings, LLC’s rating did not slide and it still projects a negative outlook for the holding company.  Obviously, with the increase in debt capacity the negative outlook seems warranted.  Then there is the issue, or nonissue, of the company’s EBITDA.  Federal regulators announced concerns with the “add-backs” included in its EBITDA forecast.  The projected EBITDA forecast appears to be linked to the belief that it will increase its media rights deal.  WME-IMG has reduced costs since taking over which was highlighted by the reduction of the UFC work force which should please investors looking to scoop up its debt.  The S&P report seems bullish on its EBITDA noting a “plausible and robust growth path.” B

UFC on Fox 24 draws lowest-ever overnight rating

April 16, 2017

Television By Numbers reports that UFC on Fox 24 drew 1.74 million viewers on Saturday night.  The event is the lowest rated UFC on Fox ever although it does not include the overrun.

UFC on Fox 24 featured Demetrious Johnson defending his UFC Flyweight title against Wilson Reis.   Johnson defeated Reis via armbar submission.  Also, Rose Namajunas submitted Michelle Waterson in the co-main event of the main broadcast which aired from 5-7pm PT.

UFC on Fox drew a 0.6 rating and a 2 share in the adult 18-49 demo.

According to Nielsen, the Easter tradition of ABC showing The Ten Commandments drew over 5 million viewers.  A prime time showing of the NHL Playoffs drew 2.29 million viewers on NBC.

Notably, The Ten Commandments drew a 3 share in the adult 18-49 demo, the best in the 8-10pm time slot.

UFC on Fox Ratings
Overnights Live + SD
UFC on Fox 1 5,700,000
UFC on Fox 2 4,570,000
UFC on Fox 3 2,250,000 2,400,000
UFC on Fox 4 2,360,000 2,400,000
UFC on Fox 5 3,410,000 4,400,000
UFC on Fox 6 3,770,000 4,220,000
UFC on Fox 7 3,300,000 3,700,000
UFC on Fox 8 2,040,000 2,380,000
UFC on Fox 9 2,410,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 10 2,550,000 3,220,000
UFC on Fox 11 1,990,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 12 2,020,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 13 2,270,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 14 2,820,000 3,049,000
UFC on Fox 15 2,430,000 2,745,000
UFC on Fox 16 2,290,000 2,800,000
UFC on Fox 17 2,280,000 2,781,000
UFC on Fox 18 2,430,000 2,685,000
UFC on Fox 19 2,130,000 2,500,000
UFC on Fox 20 2,440,000 2,975,000
UFC on Fox 21 2,200,000 1,983,000
UFC on Fox 22 2,690,000 3,178,000
UFC on Fox 23 2,020,000 2,189,000
UFC on Fox 24 1,740,000

Payout Perspective:

It’s the lowest rated UFC on Fox ever although you might see a bump since the Demetrious Johnson-Wilson Reis did not start until about 5 minutes left in the time slot window.  Still, you would have expected better ratings for Namjunas-Waterson.  Unfortunately, some will see this as an indictment on the lack of drawing power for Johnson who has to be considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters ever.

Last April’s UFC on Fox 19 drew over 2.1 million viewers.  In 2015, April’s UFC on Fox 15 drew 2.43 million viewers.

UFC on Fox 24 attendance, gate and bonuses

April 15, 2017

Demetrious Johnson, Robert Whittaker, Louis Smolka and Tim Elliott earned bonuses of the night for UFC on Fox 24.  The event, which aired Saturday night on Fox, drew a record for a sporting event at The Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Johnson earned his bonus after submitting jiu jitsu specialist Wilson Reis with an armbar.  Whittaker upset Jacare Souza via TKO in the second round.  Smolka and Elliott earned a Fight of the Night bonus for their fight which was the opener on the televised prelims portion.  It was a back and forth grappling contest which was won by Elliott.  All earned $50,000.

The event was well-received in Kansas City as the event drew 12,171 for a live gate of $1,081,193 million.  According to MMA Junkie it is the highest earning sports event in venue history.

The bonuses, attendance and gate figures were announced post-event.

Payout Perspective:

Another dominating performance for Johnson as he made it look easy against Reis.  Despite not being a PPV draw, Johnson does well on Fox cards and his dominance should really be marketed more by the UFC.

Johnson files appeal regarding Cormier’s weigh-in

April 14, 2017

Anthony Johnson has filed an appeal with the New York State Athletic Commission regarding Daniel Cormier’s weigh in.

In a letter from Johnson’s attorneys, Craig Zimmerman and David Mossberg, claim that Cormier did not know of his allowance to weigh-in again within two hours.  More to the point, they took issue with the weigh-in controversy on Cormier’s second attempt where he held the towels in front of him.  Cormier claims he did not know that he held the towels in a post-fight interview.

A portion of the letter (via MMA Junkie) states:

“Unfortunately, in the case, Anthony Johnson, the general public, and the sport of mixed martial arts were deprived of a fair and honest weigh-in and a true championship fight when Daniel Cormier was allowed to grab the towels held in front of him for privacy purposes only while his official weight was being determined.”

The letter goes on to demand Cormier to answer “under oath” to the commission and explain his actions regarding grabbing the towels.  It also requests that if Cormier is subject to discipline, he should be ordered to pay 20% of his fight purse to Johnson and stripped of the light heavyweight title.

Payout Perspective:

It is an interesting appeal due to the fact that Johnson announced his retirement in the Octagon.  Thus, the purpose of the appeal seems to be just to require Cormier to surrender 20% of his fight purse to Johnson.  It does seem like there should be some sort of investigation into the handling of the situation.  Coupled with the instant replay issue in the Chris Weidman-Gegard Mousasi fight, it seems like the New York State Athletic Commission has some issues it needs to review.  As for the towel situation, if it is not addressed, we will likely see similar actions in future weigh-ins where a fighter is near the weight limit.

Nate Diaz fine reduced by NSAC

April 12, 2017

MMA Junkie reports that the Nevada State Athletic Commission has reduced Nate Diaz’s fine to $15,000 and to complete 15 hours community service.  The reduction is in line with that given to Conor McGregor after a re-hearing on his discipline stemming from August’s incident at a pre0fight press conference.

Diaz was issued a $50,000 fine plus 50 hours community service for his part in the UFC 202 pre-fight press conference in which he through items at Conor McGregor on stage after leaving in the middle of the press conference.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission voted unanimously to approve of the reduction.  Although not agreed upon by Diaz or his representatives, it is believed that Diaz will take the deal.

Payout Perspective:

This was a likely scenario given the NSAC’s vote to reduce Conor McGregor’s suspension.  It only makes sense that Diaz would also receive a reduction in the amount of his fine.  There were reports that Diaz had paid the fine so if this is true, he’d likely get a refund.  It seems unlikely that Diaz would push the new fine since its considerably less than the original and it would cost more to fight it.  Also, he has not sought out a fight so this has not really impacted him aside from his pocketbook and the time to do community service.

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