UFC 215 and UFC 216 PPV buy estimates do not impress

October 14, 2017

Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer estimates UFC 215 this past September drew 100,000 buys.  Also, last week’s UFC 216 likely drew around 120,000 buys.

The last two UFC PPVs have been lackluster.  UFC 215 was marred by Ray Borg needing to pull out of his championship fight with Demetrious Johnson.  Ironically, the main event for UFC 215 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada was Valentina Shevchenko and Amanda Nunes.  In July, Nunes pulled out of her fight due to health issues.  UFC 216 in Vegas featured DJ-Borg and Tony Ferguson versus Kevin Lee.  Last week’s event dealt with the tragedy of the Las Vegas shootings on October 1.  It almost lost its main event as Lee was granted an extra hour to cut a pound.

Only UFC 214, which featured the rematch between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier has drawn significant PPV buys this past summer with an estimated 850,000 PPV buys.  Of course, Jones was flagged once again by USADA which placed an asterisk next to a really good comeback.

UFC 216 – 120,000

UFC 215 – 100,000

UFC 214 – 850,000

UFC 213 – 125,000-150,000

UFC 212 – 167,000

Payout Perspective:

We probably are not surprised by the results of the last two UFC PPV buy estimates as each card had its issues.  The numbers reflect that the casual fan will only come out for big name fighters.  The last several PPV cards have dealt with injuries and last-minute scratches.  These failing will likely come to an end November 4th when GSP returns to fight Michael Bisping in New York.  But, the UFC will need to figure out how it should address some of its PPV cards to address the low buy rates.

Jesse Taylor accepts 1-year USADA suspension

October 14, 2017

USADA announced that UFC welterweight Jesse Taylor has accepted a 1-year suspension for his use of Clomiphene.  The TUF Champion will not be able to return to the Octagon until September 2018.

Via USADA news release:

Taylor, 34, tested positive for clomiphene following an out-of-competition urine test conducted on August 22, 2017. Clomiphene is a Specified Substance in the class of Hormone and Metabolic Modulators and is prohibited at all times under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, which has adopted the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List.

Clomiphene is not approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the male population, as its use has not been thoroughly studied for safety and efficacy. Clomiphene also indirectly promotes the secretion of testosterone. Increasing testosterone, especially when combined with strength training, has been demonstrated to increase fat-free mass, muscle size, and strength in males, potentially leading to performance enhancement in sport.

Taylor’s one-year period of ineligibility, the highest sanction for a first offense involving a Specified Substance, began on September 13, 2017, the date his provisional suspension was imposed. As a result of his positive test, Taylor was removed from the Card for the UFC Fight Night event in Sydney, Australia, scheduled for November 18, 2017.

Payout Perspective:

Perhaps the only recourse for Taylor without expending a lot of legal costs.  Also, if he did not have a true excuse for his testing, it would only prolong the administrative battle.  It’s too bad for Taylor who just made it back into the organization.  The suspension also brings to light the issue of Clomiphene, a fertility drug for women, and the use of it by male competitors.

After penning article on his health, Hunt taken off of UFC Fight Night 121 card

October 11, 2017

The UFC has pulled Mark Hunt from his main event match against Marcin Tybura in Australia for UFC Fight Night 121 this November citing medical concerns.  The concerns were made known after Hunt penned an article entitled, “If I die fighting, that’s fine.”

Fabricio Werdun will get the quick turnaround and fill-in for Hunt against Tybura.

The UFC pulled Hunt based on the article, in Player’s Voice (an offshoot of the U.S. version of The Player’s Tribune) as it stated that Hunt suffered from short-term memory loss and acknowledges that he is slurring his words.  In the article, he advocates for the expansion of the Ali Act to MMA and advises his children to do something aside from MMA.  In the article, he cites the “drug cheats” he faced in the sport including Brock Lesnar.

The UFC issued a statement to an Australian news outlet explaining its decision (via MMA Junkie):

“Following a recent first-person article published by UFC heavyweight Mark Hunt, UFC has taken the precautionary steps of removing Hunt from a previously announced bout in Sydney, Australia,” a statement first issued to News.com.au read. “The health-related statements made by Hunt in the article represent the first time UFC was made aware of these claims. Athlete health and safety is of the utmost importance to the organization and it would never knowingly schedule an athlete complaining of health issues for a fight. The organization will require that Hunt undergo further testing and evaluations prior to competing in any future UFC bout.”

Hunt is not pleased with this outcome and took to Instagram to blast Dana White and threated to sue.  The case is currently pending.

As we know, Hunt has sued the UFC, Dana White and Brock Lesnar.

Payout Perspective:

This is a sticky situation for the UFC as Hunt publicly notes that he is fine with dying in the ring and lists some serious physical injuries which may likely be long-term health issues.  This could lead to potential liability especially if the UFC allows Hunt to continue the fight despite his statements that he is suffering from short-term memory loss from what he believes is related to fighting.  Also, the UFC is engaged in a lawsuit with Hunt and now Hunt is claiming that he may sue for taking him off the card.  Frankly, the UFC may be in a situation where it may feel like it will have to sever ties with Hunt because it cannot allow him to continue to fight.  Perhaps the UFC and Hunt come together to have a physician examine him to determine whether he can continue to fight.  But, I would suggest that the UFC takes a conservative approach to allow him to fight (maybe a Daniel Bryan-WWE situation if you follow that).  This will be an interesting issue to keep track of moving forward.

UFC 216: Payout Perspective

October 10, 2017

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  In this edition we take a look at UFC 216 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ferguson submits Lee

It was not a good week for Kevin Lee.  Not only did he have issues with cutting weight which kept everyone in suspense on Friday.  It appeared that he had a staph infection on Saturday night.  Joe Rogan noticed a mark on Lee’s left pec immediately.  Lee acknowledged the infection which makes one wonder how the commission allowed Lee to fight.

It was a good fight but it looked like Lee had tired in the third and was eventually submitted.  Ferguson should go on to face Conor McGregor if he decides to return to fight.  If not, could we see another setup with Khabib.

DJ makes history with title defense

Demetrious Johnson did it again with another successful title defense of his UFC Flyweight title and another 5th round stoppage.  Johnson had a sensational suplex into an armbar transition to tap out Ray Borg.  It was the 11th title defense which set a record.  DJ stands alone in the UFC Flyweight division.

Despite the remarkable accomplishment Johnson was the co-main event and not the main fight on the show.  This was a subtle sign that despite the remarkable accomplishment, Johnson is not a top of the card draw as he should be.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

This was the lowest attendance and gate for a UFC PPV held at the T-Mobile Arena.  The figures announced post-fight totaled just 10,638 for a gate of $677,999.50.  Of 7 events at the T-Mobile, it was 6th in terms of attendance and gate.  Only this summer’s TUF 25 Finale drew less and that’s due to the fact that there are events on back to back nights.

The bonuses went to Demetrious Johnson, John Moraga, , Bobby Green, Lando Vannatta.  Johnson and Moraga earned the Performances of the Night while Green and Vannatta earned Fight of the Night for their draw.

Payouts

Tony Ferguson was the highest paid fighter of the night earning $500,000 while Demetrious Johnson drew $340,000.  Both Kevin Lee and Ray Borg earned the most of their career with their pay on Saturday.

Via MMA Junkie:

 

Tony Ferguson: $500,000 (includes $250,000 win bonus)
def. Kevin Lee: $250,000

Demetrious Johnson: $370,000 (no win bonus)
def. Ray Borg: $100,000

Fabricio Werdum: $400,000 (includes $125,000 win bonus)
def. Walt Harris: $28,000

Mara Romero Borella: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Kalindra Faria: $12,000

Beneil Dariush: $48,000*
vs. Evan Dunham: $40,000*

Cody Stamann: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Tom Duquesnoy: $23,000

Bobby Green: $24,000*
vs. Lando Vannata: $25,000*

Poliana Botelho: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Pearl Gonzalez: $10,000

Matt Schnell: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Marco Beltran: $14,000

John Moraga: $68,000 (includes $34,000 win bonus)
def. Magomed Bibulatov: $17,000

Brad Tavares: $74,000 (includes $37,000 win bonus)
def. Thales Leites: $57,000

The official Nevada Commission’s pay sheet had Godbeer receiving his show money.  Notably, the Nik Lentz-Will Brooks fight was scrapped due to an illness which hospitalized Lentz.  Although the Nevada Commission may not have paid Brooks, a social media post infers that he was still compensated.

The commission did not have purse payments for Lentz, Brooks and Derrick Lewis.

Promotion of the Fight

With the horrible events that happened the Sunday before the fight the event hype was muted for obvious reasons.  Dana White did not have any fight hype on his twitter timeline until Wednesday.  The Embedded episodes that usually kick off the week were held until that Wednesday.  With this event being a hard sell even before the tragedy, the lack of last minute buzz certainly did not help the buys for this event.

Sponsorships

Although not exactly related to this event, it was announced this week that longtime sponsor Bud Light would be replaced in the U.S. by Modelo Especial staring in 2018.

We are starting to see a lot subtler sponsor promotion on the Embedded series as we see the fighters getting their Reebok gear and visiting the UFC Performance Institute.

Aside from Budweiser, Toyo Tires, Metro PCS, Performance Inspired, Harvey Davidson, 7 Eleven and Monster Energy had the center of the Octagon.  One may have noticed that 7 Eleven had its own signage post whereas in past events it shared one with Monster Energy.  It also had the prep point.  The twitter hashtag Vegas Strong was also in the Octagon.

Odds and ends

It was a different opening for the UFC 216 PPV as Dana White invited over 1,500 first responders to the event and brought some of the survivors of the devastating shooting to the octagon.  Everlast, from House of Pain fame, also sang “America the Beautiful.”  There were cold openings for both the Exclusive Fight Pass Prelims and the Prelims on FX.

The festivities were strained by Dana White’s public scorn for Jason Aldean.  He claimed that Aldean did not want to perform (Aldean was the performer on stage during the shooting).  But, he showed up on Saturday Night Live the same night.  Let it go Dana.  It’s petty to mess up a nice night by getting mad at this.

Derrick Lewis and Fabricio Werdum were taken off last minute with Walt Harris taking the fight against Werdum.  The good news is that Godbeer was paid despite being taken off the card.  Brooks was not although his social media account infers he may have been compensated by the UFC.

Prelims were on FX this time around to compensate for College Football on FS1.  It drew just 653,000 viewers Saturday night.

The commission had some explaining to do with the one hour allowance for Kevin Lee to cut the pound he was over.  Apparently, the rules allow it for championship fights.

There was also the issue of how the UFC Anti-Doping Policy allowed exemptions to Kalindra Faria and Mara Romero Borella.  Yet, it took Andrea Lee off the card due to her prior issues with drug testing.

It appeared as though the upper bowl of the T-Mobile Arena was cordoned off which reflects the attendance was low for the event.  Ticketmaster had seats available up until Friday (and likely Saturday) of the event with the get-in price going for $55.

The UFC sold Vegas Strong T-shirts with 100% of the proceeds going to victims of the shooting on October 1st.

The PPV ended before 10:00pm on the west coast and the broadcast crew was forced to stretch instead of trying to fill in a fight from earlier in the evening.  It did provide some comedy as Daniel Cormier had problems with his headset cords.

There were over 500,000 searches for UFC 216 on Saturday.

Conclusion

This will be one of the lower-purchased PPVs of 2017.  While Lee and Ferguson is a good fight, it is not one you’d pay $60 to see as the main event.  Johnson is one of the greatest fighters ever, but fans do not want to pay to watch him fight.  While it was a good night of fights, its hard seeing this event doing more than 170,000 PPV buys.

UFC 216 Prelims draws 653,000 viewers on FX

October 10, 2017

The UFC 216 Prelims drew 653,000 viewers on FX Saturday night per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The event drew 0.24 in the A18-49 demo per ShowBuzz Daily.

The telecast featured the Fight of the Night with Bobby Green and Landon Vannata and the main feature saw Cody Stamann upset Tom Duquesnoy.

The prelims were switched to FX due to college football on FS1.  The prefight show on FX drew 324,000 viewers on FX and 0.12 in the A18-49 demo.  The abbreviated post-fight show on FS1 from 1:41am to 2:00am ET drew 221,000 viewers and 0.08 in the A18-49 demo.

Payout Perspective:

The last time the Prelims were on FX this year, it was UFC 211 when it drew 1,184,000 viewers.  The fights were interesting but with college football and MLB playoffs in full swing it appears that the prelims were low on the list of what to watch for Saturday night.

Modelo set to replace Bud Light as UFC U.S. beer sponsor in 2018

October 9, 2017

The Sports Business Journal reports that beer maker Modelo Especial will replace Bud Light as the UFC’s Official Beer for the United States starting in January 2018.  The deal is a benchmark move by the beermaker as it is attempting to make a splash in the U.S. market.

Bud Light signed a 10-year pact with the UFC in 20008.  At the time, the deal was huge for a still-growing company.  But, it appeared that despite renewal talks and being pleased with the sponsorship performance, Annheuser Busch did not want to come back at the same terms.

Financial terms were not disclosed but the report indicates it rivals the $10 million deal the UFC had with InBev for the global sponsorship.  The new deal with Modelo allows the UFC to negotiate sponsor deals with other beer companies outside of the United States.

The brand is new to sports sponsorships as it ran its first national English language TV campaign 18 months ago and signed its first sports sponsorship just a year ago.

According to the Sports Business Journal, Modelo is attempting to make a move into sports and this is the biggest deal thus far for the company.  Perhaps a surprise, Modelo is the number 1 beer of choice in the Los Angeles market.  It is the fastest-growing beer in the U.S. over the last 5 years according to SBJ.  Only sister brand Corona, is the best-selling import beer.

Payout Perspective:

The deal is a calculated risk for Modelo as it is seeking to grab more of an audience an attract the vaunted 21-34 male demo.  Unlike other sports sponsorships, this may come with some risk since UFC events are announced in a relative short timespan as compared to other sports.  Thus, market activation targeting a city (outside of Las Vegas) may be somewhat harder than baseball where it is known what cities will hold events.  For the UFC, it’s a good win for the company.  Not only does it grab a US beer sponsor, there is not global exclusive so the company can negotiate with local regions and countries to be the official beer in those respective areas.  Yet, the speculation is that the financial terms of the Modelo deal is on par with what Bud Light paid for the global sponsorship.  Also, the deal may open up what could be a lucrative liquor/spirits market as the Bud Light deal blocked this potential.

UFC 216 attendance, gate, bonuses and payouts

October 8, 2017

UFC 216 attendance, gate, bonuses and payouts were disclosed on Saturday.  Notably, it was the lowest turnout for a UFC PPV in the history of PPV events at the T-Mobile Arena.

The bonuses of the night went to Demetrious Johnson, John Moraga, Bobby Green, Lando Vannatta.  Johnson and Moraga earned the Performances of the Night while Green and Vannatta earned Fight of the Night for their draw.

Attendance announced by the UFC post event was 10,638 for $677,999.50.  Of the 7 events at the T-Mobile Arena since the UFC become one of the anchor tenants for the venue, it landed 6th on the list with just this past July’s TUF 25 Finale having a smaller attendance

Payouts were disclosed by the Nevada Athletic Commission on Saturday night with Tony Ferguson earning the most on the roster.

Via MMA Junkie:

Tony Ferguson: $500,000 (includes $250,000 win bonus)
def. Kevin Lee: $250,000

Demetrious Johnson: $370,000 (no win bonus)
def. Ray Borg: $100,000

Fabricio Werdum: $400,000 (includes $125,000 win bonus)
def. Walt Harris: $28,000

Mara Romero Borella: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Kalindra Faria: $12,000

Beneil Dariush: $48,000*
vs. Evan Dunham: $40,000*

Cody Stamann: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Tom Duquesnoy: $23,000

Bobby Green: $24,000*
vs. Lando Vannata: $25,000*

Poliana Botelho: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Pearl Gonzalez: $10,000

Matt Schnell: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Marco Beltran: $14,000

John Moraga: $68,000 (includes $34,000 win bonus)
def. Magomed Bibulatov: $17,000

Brad Tavares: $74,000 (includes $37,000 win bonus)
def. Thales Leites: $57,000

Payout Perspective:

Johnson’s submission of Borg was unbelievable.  The attendance and gate were not surprising considering the card did not have any big names.  Tickets were still available on Ticketmaster.  Lee and Borg had career high payouts.  It’s not known if Mark Godbeer will be compensated after losing his spot when Walt Harris filled in for Derrick Lewis against Fabricio Werdum.  Looking at Werdum’s pay, I’d assume that he wanted to fight and not want to sit out and lose out on a nice payday.

UFC to host more than 1,500 first responders at 216

October 6, 2017

Dana White announced that over 1,500 first responders as well as some injured in the horrific shooting on Sunday will attend UFC 216 Saturday.  White told TSN the news the day before the event.

Everyone at the weigh-ins on Friday were Vegas Strong apparel in support of the community after the tragic mass shooting on Sunday night.  The shirts, made by Fanatics, are being sold at UFC.com with proceeds going to help the families affected by the shooting.  In addition, earlier this week, the UFC announced it was donating $1 million to families of the shooting victims.

Payout Perspective:

It will be an emotional night for the UFC on Saturday.  It was a nice gesture by the UFC and a showing of community by the Vegas-based company.  Of course, the underlying issue here is that the event was not selling well as there are still many tickets available on the primary market with the get-in price at a very affordable $55.

TUF 26 Episode 6 draws 242,000 viewers

October 5, 2017

The Ultimate Fighter 26 Episode 6 drew 242,000 viewers on FS1 Wednesday night per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The telecast drew 0.06 in the A18-49 demo.  In the fight of the show Gillian Roberts faced Barb Honchak.  Honchak stopped Roberts via strikes from the top.

Notably, TUF 26 outdrew an NBA Preseason Game between the Denver Nuggets and LA Lakers on NBA TV.  That game drew 144,000 viewers starting in the same time slot.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings reflect a modest rise in the ratings.  The season average through six episodes stands at 239,000 viewers which would be an all-time low thus far.  The viewership is seeing a steady increase with its DVR viewership.

UFC donates $1 million for families affected by mass shooting

October 4, 2017

The UFC announced that it will pledge $1 million to the families of those affected by the horrific mass shooting that occurred on Sunday night.

The UFC also confirmed that UFC 216 taking place this Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena will go forward as planned.


Dana White told the Las Vegas Review Journal’s Adam Hill about the donation on Monday.

Payout Perspective:

It is good to see that the UFC is assisting in the efforts to help its community.  Based in Vegas, certainly many of its employees are devastated (as we all are) about what occurred.  This will be a hard week to promote a PPV as Dana White’s twitter feed which usually includes heavy promotion for its fights has information for friends and families and how to help with the aftermath of what happened Sunday.  The Embedded episodes were delayed until Wednesday to give some time to grieve before getting back to UFC 216.

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