Romero claiming contaminated substance in defending failed test

February 9, 2016

MMA Junkie reports that UFC middleweight Yoel Romero has admitted to failing a USADA monitored drug test under the company’s anti-doping policy, but disputes the test results citing he took a contaminated supplement.

Romero’s defense is based on mitigating the alleged wrongdoing by stating that the supplement he took was contaminated.  Under section 10.5 of the UFC-USADA anti-doping policy regarding “Reduction of the Period of Ineligibility based on Degree of Fault,” it can be established that the prohibited substance “came from a Contaminated Product, then the period of Ineligibility shall be, at a minimum, a reprimand and no period of Ineligibility…”

Obviously, this defense suggests that Romero’s penalty is just a reprimand rather than anything more.  The standard suspension for a non-Specified Substance or Prohibited Method is two years.  The rebuttal to that argument is that the policy (section 2.1.1) states that athletes are responsible for what they put into their bodies.  It is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use is established to show a violation.  Thus, even though Romero did not know that the substance was contaminated, it does not mean that he is exempt from violating the UFC anti-doping policy.

Payout Perspective:

The appeal will be one to watch since this is the first instance where a UFC fighter has claimed a specific defense to a failed drug test.  Romero is, in essence, pleading ignorance in this case and arguing that since he did not know that the substance he took was contaminated, then he should not be penalized.   Yet, it appears that the anti-doping policy is crafted in way that lack of knowledge is still not a viable defense.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

UFC Fight Night 82 posts 1.3M viewers avg; Prelims draw over 1M

February 9, 2016

UFC Fight Night 82 drew 1.317M viewers on FS1 Saturday night per Sports TV Ratings.  In addition, the Prelims which preceded the main card drew over 1M viewers.

The event, which originally was scheduled on PPV drew a 0.6 rating in the 18-49 demo.  The main event saw Stephen Thompson stop Johny Hendricks in the first round.  The 1.317 million viewers (airing between 10-1am ET) comes in second to last month’s UFC Fight Night 81 this year.  January’s UFC event drew 2.288M viewers and the prelims posted 1.767M viewers.  The event also was on FS1.

The prelims drew another 1.093M viewers for the 8-10pm ET time slot and 0.5 rating in the 18-49 demo.

Thus far, 2016’s UFC Fight Nights have done much better than the overall average of 2015’s Fight Nights.  Of course, we’re just two Fight Nights in.  The 2015 average for 16 fight nights was approximately 921,000 viewers.  It excludes a couple Fight Nights that aired on Fight Pass.

Overall, on sports TV cable Saturday night, the OKC-Golden State game on ESPN Saturday night won the night with 3.23M viewers and 1.4 rating in the 18-49 category.

Payout Perspective:

Despite what one might think at the outset, this card was a good for TV.  Of course, it probably was not one you would pay $60 for so it was likely a good decision for the UFC to move this to FS1 and for the FS1 to agree to the switch.  Despite overlapping with the big NBA game Saturday night, UFC on FS1 did very well.  The average for Fight Nights are up this year (albeit a small sample size) which is good news for FS1.

Pyle, Nelson, Joe B and OSP top UFC Fight Night 82 salaries

February 8, 2016

MMA Junkie reports the salaries from Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 82 as disclosed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Via MMA Junkie:

Stephen Thompson: $48,000 (includes $24,000 win bonus)
def. Johny Hendricks: $100,000

Roy Nelson: $125,000 (includes $50,000 win bonus)
def. Jared Rosholt: $33,000

Ovince Saint Preux: $102,000 (includes $51,000 win bonus)
def. Rafael Cavalcante: $42,000

Joseph Benavidez: $118,000 (includes $59,000 win bonus)
def. Zach Makovsky: $19,000

Misha Cirkunov: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Alex Nicholson: $10,000

Mike Pyle: $106,000 (includes $53,000 win bonus)
def. Sean Spencer: $17,000

Josh Burkman: $90,000 (includes $45,000 win bonus)
def. K.J. Noons : $34,000

Derrick Lewis: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Damian Grabowski: $17,000

Justin Scoggins: $34,000 (includes $17,000 win bonus)
def. Ray Borg: $18,000

Diego Rivas: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Noad Lahat: $17,000

Mickey Gall: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Mike Jackson: $10,000

Alex White: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Artem Lobov: $13,000

Payout Perspective:

Interesting to note that Hendricks’ pay has decreased since the last official reported payout from UFC 181 in December 2014.  In that fight, a loss to Robbie Lawler, Hendricks made $150,000.  Roy Nelson had a $75,000 show purse and $50,000-win bonus.  A good night for Mike Pyle who made a total of $153,00 with his Fight of the Night Bonus plus his show and win bonus.  OSP and Joseph Benavidez also made six figures Saturday night.

Show Money Episode 8 talks MMA Free Agency, PBC and more

February 8, 2016

We’re back with Episode 8 of Show Money.  Myself and Bloody Elbow’s John Nash and Paul Gift talk MMA Free Agency, the state of PBC, the Conor effect, the UFC lawsuit and more…

 

UFC Fight Night 82 attendance, gate and bonuses

February 7, 2016

MMA Junkie reports the attendance, gate and bonuses for UFC Fight Night 82 on Saturday night.  Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson led the night’s bonus winners with his impressive first round stoppage of Johny Hendricks.

In addition to Thompson Diego Rivas, Mike Pyle and Sean Spencer earned the other $50,000 bonuses.  Rivas earned a Performance Bonus with his flying knee which KO’d Noad Lahat.  Pyle and Spencer won for Fight of the Night.  The 40-year-old Pyle earned the victory in the last seconds of the 3rd round with a vicious knee to Spencer.

UFC Fight Night drew 7,442 fans for a gate of $1.435 million according to the UFC.  The event was held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  Last month’s UFC Fight Night 81 drew 12,022 for a gate of $1.3 million.  Mike Bohn notes that its the lowest attended UFC event at the MGM since Thompson’s last appearance at the MGM during the Sunday TUF Finale in July.  Of course, those circumstances are slightly different than Saturday’s event.  Still, the attendance was quite low for any UFC event at this venue.

Payout Perspective:

Attendance was down from last month’s UFC 195 which drew 10,300 and a gate of over $2 million.  Comparing to last year’s Super Bowl weekend event, UFC 183 drew 13,114 fans for a gate of $4.5 million.  Clearly, the event attendance was down due to the lack of a title fight or attractive main event.  Hendricks-Thompson was a solid Fight Night card but not a PPV attraction

UFC announces extension of commitment to brain health study

February 6, 2016

The UFC announced a 5-year extension of its commitment to the Cleveland Clinic and pledged $1 million to its study on brain injury.  The UFC’s donation makes it the largest combat sport contributor to the study.

The $1 million contribution will go the clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Vegas where the study is conducted according to the press release.

“UFC is always looking for opportunities to invest in industry-leading health and wellness programs and providing resources to develop its athletes inside and outside the Octagon,” stated UFC COO Ike Lawrence Epstein.

Per the press release:

Established in 2011, the Professional Fighters Brain Health study is focused on developing methods to detect the earliest and most subtle signs of brain injury in athletes exposed to head trauma, as well as determining which individuals may be more likely to develop chronic neurological disorders. Now in its fifth year, researchers are confident the findings will benefit the safety and health of professional fighters as well as those exposed to repetitive head trauma in other sports and activities.

This time last year, the UFC along with Bellator, Glory, Golden Boy Boxing and Top Rank announced its joint support of the Cleveland Clinic study on brain health.

The study is to monitor active fighters and is also used by the Defense Department in hopes of using its findings for other brain injuries related to military duty.

Payout Perspective:

The pledge and commitment to continued examination of the effects of brain trauma is a worthy cause in combat sports.  The question is what findings are coming out of the study and what are the takeaways that can be implemented for the sport.  Of course, this is also a public relations and preventative measure from litigation.  The NFL is under ongoing scrutiny based on how it has handled head-injuries in its sport.  The most recent report against the NFL, cites the league’s influence in a study it had previously funded.  This news should be something to look out for in the future if the study yields information contrary to the beliefs of the UFC.

PBC seeping money, when will it turn around?

February 5, 2016

Earlier this week, the LA Times’ Larry Pugmire wrote about the state of Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.  In essence, the business strategy is not working thus far.

Pugmire looked over commission records, network ratings and the expenditures PBC has paid out.  At this point, PBC is seeping money with no end in sight.

According to the Times story, Waddell & Reed, the investment firm that has backed PBC with $425-$525 million in capital.  Waddell & Reed fund manager Ryan Caldwell assisted Haymon in pitching NBC Sports about bringing boxing to the network according to a Sports Business Journal report last spring.  Per the SBJ story, three funds managed by Waddell & Reed contributed to the PBC (or at least an entity known as Haymon Boxing).   Ivy Asset Strategy attributed $371.3 million to Haymon, WRA Asset Strategy provided $42.2 million and Ivy Funds VIP Asset Strategy contributed $18.5 million.

Waddell & Reed is going through tough times of its own.  Its shares fell 14% after it announced weak financial results and the retirement of one of its top fund managers.  The investment firm has lost out on big bets on gold and Chinese stocks which has caused investor concern.  According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, Waddell posted a 22% decline in fourth-quarter earnings and the company announced plans to cut expenses.

We note that Michael Avery, the top fund manager set to retire at the end of June, was the portfolio manager of an Ivy Asset Strategy Fund.  However, we do not know if he directly worked with or managed Haymon Boxing.  Moreover, we do not assert that Mr. Avery was managing the same fund in which Haymon Boxing was a part.

Pugmire’s article indicates that Haymon paid NBC $2.5 million to telecast PBC’s premier on the network.  In addition, CBS Saturday afternoon boxing telecasts in 2015 cost PBC $300,000 per hour.  The telecasts usually took the form of two hour blocks which meant $600,000

An examination of 10 PBC cards in California and Nevada in 2015 shows that promoters paid $19.2 million in purses and state fees while only collecting $3.9 million from the gate per state information obtained by the LA Times.

The discrepancy can be highlighted by January’s fight between Danny Garcia and Roberto Guerrero at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  The purse was disclosed at $3.2 million versus a live gate of $508,620.

Although PBC is receiving ad revenues from its broadcasts of $12.5 million over 27 fight telecasts and an undisclosed license fee from Spike TV, the input does not outweigh the heavy output thus far.  Through 2015, PBC on Spike telecasts have averaged approximately 582,000 viewers through 9 events.

As we know, PBC is defending lawsuits in LA federal court from both Top Rank and Golden Boy claiming antitrust violations among other claims related to its business strategy.  One of the claims brought up by the plaintiffs is a “loss leader” strategy in which Haymon knows that he is losing money on the short-term for long-term gains.  Top Rank’s counsel estimates that the losses could amount to $200-$300 million.

Although PBC continues airing events on multiple networks and paying fighters that appear on the cards very well, it’s clear that they are losing a lot of money quickly.  Was this the plan that they had projected?

Payout Perspective:

Although we do not examine the ratings in depth in this post, the NBC network ratings have plateaued since its initial debut.  The ratings on a recent PBC on Fox were on par with what the UFC receives in the same time slot.  The question becomes how much loss can PBC take.  With the company funding this venture not doing well itself could there be a change of business strategy in the future?

UFC Fight Night 81 payouts disclosed

February 5, 2016

MMA Junkie has obtained the payouts from UFC Fight Night 81 a couple weeks ago in Boston.  Travis Browne, Dominick Cruz and Eddie Alvarez led the roster payroll which totaled $1,189,000.

Notably, Alvarez had the highest show money of all the athletes for the event.

The rest of the payroll via MMA Junkie:

Dominick Cruz: $110,000 (includes $55,000 win bonus)
def. T.J. Dillashaw: $70,000

Eddie Alvarez: $100,000 (no win bonus)
def. Anthony Pettis: $80,000

Travis Browne: $120,000 (includes $60,000 win bonus)
def. Matt Mitrione: $36,000

Francisco Trinaldo: $54,000 (includes $27,000 win bonus)
def. Ross Pearson: $48,000

Patrick Cote: $86,000 (includes $43,000 win bonus)
def. Ben Saunders: $18,000

Ed Herman: $94,000 (includes $47,000 win bonus)
def. Tim Boetsch: $52,000

Chris Wade: $34,000 (includes $17,000 win bonus)
def. Mehdi Baghdad: $12,000

Luke Sanders: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Maximo Blanco: $25,000

Paul Felder: $36,000 (includes $18,000 win bonus)
def. Daron Cruickshank: $20,000

Ilir Latifi: $44,000 (includes $22,000 win bonus)
def. Sean O’Connell: $18,000

Charles Rosa: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Kyle Bochniak: $10,000

Rob Font: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Joey Gomez: $10,000

Francimar Barroso: $30,000 (includes $15,000 win bonus)
def. Elvis Mutapcic: $18,000

Payout Perspective:

Browne and Cruz made six figures with their win bonuses.  The notable omissions from the top paid of the night was former bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw who we assume was on $70K and $70K.  Dillashaw’s purse appears to be a step up from his last officially reported purse from UFC 177 which was $50K/$50K.  There was no official report from UFC on Fox 16 this past July although we might assume based on the step ups that he made $60K/$60K in his rematch win over Renan Barao.

Can Fair Use be a defense to use UFC content?

February 4, 2016

MMA Junkie wrote a very nice piece on Wednesday on the UFC’s crackdown on copyright content.  We take a brief look at one of the legal theories that may be a defense to copyright infringement: Fair Use.

The article advises about the UFC’s aggressive protection of its marks.  Like many copyright owners, it searches online including places like YouTube to ensure that content is not used without the express consent of the copyright holder.  Of course, if you ask for consent, it’s likely that the copyright holder may deny your request or license the use so long as you pay the “license fee” associated with the use.

Either way, if you use a copyright owned by the UFC without consent, it’s likely that you may be the contacted by the company’s attorneys and/or receive a “cease and desist” or takedown noticeBJJ Scout, according to the Junkie article, is the latest to discover the broad reach of Copyright law.  Some of its videos were taken down due to purported Copyright violations.

Of course, the main defense to the unauthorized use of copyrighted material is the Fair Use Doctrine.  Fair Use permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holder.  It is one of the limitations and exceptions to the exclusive rights copyright law grants to the author of a creative work.

Under the Copyright Act, the fair use factors include

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Fair Use is a popular defense but the doctrine is constantly evolving which makes it hard to determine an outcome.

Many people tend to focus on factor number 3, the actual amount of time they use the copyrighted work.  It might be a plausible argument to suggest that a 30 second clip or vine should be considered fair use.  However, courts consider the “substantiality” of the portion used to determine the amount used (see Harper & Row  v. Nation Enterprises).  So, a short clip showing the finish of a UFC fight or a key technique in the fight might be weighed much more than the fact it was only a very brief use of the copyrighted material.

Of course, one of the more famous (or infamous) cases asserting the defense of Fair Use was the 2 Live Crew case (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.).  If you recall, the lawsuit was based on a parody of the Roy Orbison song, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” which was retooled by the Miami rap group.  2 Live Crew established that its song was a commercial parody of the Orbison song and qualified as fair use.  It prevailed.

More recent Fair Use cases take us down different paths.  Last spring, a federal judge in New York deemed an Off Broadway Play named “3C,” which was a dark version of the 1970-80s sit com “Three’s Company” did not violate copyright laws as it was a “highly transformative parody of the television series.”  Despite having the same characters and appropriating a substantial amount of material from the original ABC show, the judge found the play posed “little risk to the market for the original.”

In another noteworthy case regarding the Fair Use Doctrine, Universal Music Corporation on behalf of recording artist Prince filed a takedown notice to YouTube citing Stephanie Lenz for posting a 29 second clip of her baby dancing to his song, “Let’s Go Crazy.”  Lenz claimed fair use and requested that the video be reposted.  She sued Universal.  After a lengthy court battle the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined that copyright holders must consider fair use in good faith before issuing a takedown notice for content posted on the internet.

The noteworthy thing in the Three’s Company and Prince cases were that the parties sued by the copyright holders received pro bono (i.e., free) legal assistance.  It’s clear that a legal fight is costly and if it were not for the legal teams that were willing to work for free (aside from the notoriety they would obtain from winning), there would not be a case.  Instead, in all likelihood, the copyright holder would win.

While the three cases discussed here (2 Live Crew, Three’s Company and the Prince case) all revolve around parody, a legal theory not claimed by many in the MMA-copyright issue world, the cases show the broad depth and interpretation of the law.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC is familiar with playing hardball when it comes down to its intellectual property.  Notably, last fall, the UFC and the NFL took down the twitter account of Deadspin alleging copyright violations.  Prior to UFC 193, the UFC issued a release to media stating that it would aggressively go after copyright violators as a precautionary measure to ensure that no media members attempted to “vine” the ending of the Rousey-Holm fight.  The thought was that it could be a quick ending which could easily be posted online.  The irony is that Holm won in the second round and the real “vine” ending of a fight occurred about a month later when Conor McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo.

For many MMA fans that used to post videos or gifs with UFC content, they are finding out that some of it may be taken down due to the company’s copyright.  It’s not always even-handed as some items might be online for a while as opposed to other postings which might be taken down immediately.  But, it seems that the only legitimate defense that one might offer is Fair Use.  As we see here, Fair Use is an evolving legal defense to a copyright violation.  But, is someone willing to put up the fight to claim that it has a right to use content based on the theory.  The case law tends to be not too helpful at this point.

The fact of the matter is that the Fair Use Doctrine has been criticized by scholars and attorneys for being “undisciplined” and “unwieldy” in its application and interpretation by courts.  Essentially, the doctrine is not applied uniformly by courts which makes it a guessing game as to how a court might rule when it comes to a party claiming Fair Use when being charged with a copyright violation.  Thus, is it worth it for someone to pay legal fees to fight a claim with an uncertain legal defense?

Rousey trainer banned, fined by CSAC

February 2, 2016

Ronda Rousey’s trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan, has been suspended three months and fined $5,000 for falsifying his application as a licensed cornerman.  The California State Athletic Commission issued the ruling on Tuesday.

Tarverdyan, who also is dealing with a bankruptcy case, pled no contest to two felony counts of identity theft and one count of resisting arrest in 2010.  A traffic stop revealed he had multiple social security cards, credit cards and PIN numbers (H/t MMA Fighting).

Tarverdyan responded “no” too whether he had any previous criminal offenses when filling out paperwork for his license to be a cornerman in California.  While its mainly ignored, the application is filled out under penalty of perjury.

Today’s ruling was an appeal of the commission ruling.  He was unsuccessful and is now barred from acting as a licensed cornerman in California and in states with ruling bodies that are members of the Association of Boxing Commissions per MMA Junkie.

Payout Perspective:

The ruling is another setback for Tarverdyan whose star athlete lost this past November.  He is also going through a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case in which he claims to have not made any money in some years.  The news of his suspension might raise red flags for the bankruptcy court as to the veracity of his petition.  On another note, the moral of this story is never lie on an application.

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