TUF 20 Episode 6: 500,000

October 31, 2014

The 6th episode of TUF 20 on FS1 which aired this past Wednesday received an average viewership of 500,000 viewers.  The episode went up against Game 7 of the World Series on Fox.

In the fight of the show, Aisling Daly submitted Angela Magana.  Arguably, there was a questionable standup by the ref which negated a potential submission attempted by Magana.

TUF 20 Ep 6 Live

Payout Perspective:

Magana had one of the sadder backstory’s on the show and it was a disappointing loss.

As for the ratings, going up against Game 7 in any sport would draw most sports fans away from anything else.  Still, the A18-49 demo remained relatively flat (345,000) in comparison to the average over the season (346,000).  The World Series on Fox scored 23.5 million viewers which was the highest rating for the 7 games.  Of course, going into Game 7, it was on pace to be the lowest rated series and least-viewed ever.

UFC supports expansion of legalized sports betting

October 31, 2014

ESPN reports that the UFC, to no surprise, supports the expansion of legalized sports betting in the United States.  UFC exec Lawrence Epstein was quoted as saying that legalized sports betting “will enhance the game as opposed to doing anything to hurt it.”

Epstein also stated to ESPN about the proposed new law allowing sports betting in New Jersey, “[t]o the extent that there’s nothing illegal about taking bets on the UFC in the state of New Jersey, we’d be absolutely fine with it.”  The comments come on the heels of similar support from first year NBA commissioner Adam Silver who believes that sports betting legalization in the U.S. is “inevitable.”

Major sports leagues including the NBA have sued the state of New Jersey and have obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the state’s racetrack, Monmouth Park, from accepting bets on its games.  Of note, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp wrote in his ruling that the restraining order was not limited to the sport leagues involved in the suit.  Thus, it could prevent taking bets on MMA even though no promotion is currently involved in the litigation.

The lawsuit by the leagues argues that the law passed by Governor Christie, the 2014 Sports Wagering Act, violates the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PAPSA).  PAPSA bans state-sponsored sports betting on all sports except jai alai, pari-mutuel horse and dog racing except in four states:  Oregon, Nevada, Montana and Delaware.  These four states have pre-existing gaming laws.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation that partially repealed the state’s sports betting ban.  Based on this, the state would allow sports betting at casinos and racetracks, which are licensed by the state.  Monmouth Park would have taken bets this Sunday if not for the temporary injunction filed by the sports leagues.

At this point, the sports leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL) have filed their reply briefs in New Jersey on the matter and now Judge Shipp will decide on whether oral argument is necessary. The TRO ends November 21st.

For those wondering, this issue is just the latest episode of a long fight for legalized sports betting in New Jersey.  A similar case was denied a U.S. Supreme Court hearing last term.  In arguing that  PAPSA violated states’ rights, New Jersey stated that the law was unconstitutional because it fully exempts Nevada and partially exempts Oregon, Montana and Delaware from the ban.  New Jersey had lost an appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to a rehearing on the case and attempted to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a result of the denial, in August 2014, New Jersey passed the aforementioned partial repeal on the prohibition against sports wagering as a “work around.”  But, this is where we get the lawsuit from the sports leagues.

While the NBA may one day support legalized gambling, the issue here is the state law in New Jersey.  One would think that if a federal law is passed, the sports leagues would comply.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that the UFC, with its heritage (and some sponsors) based in the gambling industry, would support legalized sports betting in the U.S.  Certainly, the UFC might have concerns with regulation but overall it would seem like broader availability to gamble on the UFC would garner more interest in its product.  Obviously, the UFC is willing considering it seamlessly offers betting lines during its events and programming.  The new litigation in New Jersey will be interesting to follow as the  underlying issue here is that the law seems to be a way to boost revenue for the state.  Its not clear if the UFC will get involved at this point, but it will certainly be following it closely.

Rousey signs deal with Buffalo David Bitton

October 30, 2014

Ronda Rousey has signed an endorsement deal with jeans brand Buffalo David Bitton.  Rousey was interviewed about her Manhattan photo shoot for the brand.

The photo shoot features some provocative shots with Rousey and a male model.

Rousey’s next fight against Cat Zingano has been moved from December in Vegas to February in Los Angeles.

The video of her photo shoot is here.

Payout Perspective:

The photo shoot is an extension of Rousey’s brand outside of the Octagon and reflects her mainstream popularity.  This photo shoot is a far cry from her Insureon commercials or even when she did the ESPN Body Issue.  It shows another side of Rousey as she seems to be embracing the entertainment side of her fame.

Rousey-Zingano moves to LA on February 28th

October 29, 2014

Dana White announced via Instagram on Wednesday that the Ronda Rousey-Cat Zingano fight originally announced for UFC 182 will now be the co-main event for UFC 184 set for Los Angeles on February 28, 2015.

Originally set for January 3rd and to be the co-main event for Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier, Rousey gets to fight closer to home against Zingano.

One might expect Universal Studios to do some promotion within the UFC (perhaps Octagon signage) as Rousey will be in Fast and Furious 7.  Furious 7 opens April 3, 2014.

Payout Perspective:

The Weidman-Rousey team continues as Log Angeles gets a very good top of the card for its “make good” from this past summer’s cancelled event.  Obviously, many are speculating that if Belfort, who is coming off of TRT, gets injured or tests positive for something that Rousey can slide in as the main event.  Certainly, Rousey is very popular and with a fight at Staples, she should be a hometown favorite that could draw.  From a PPV perspective, putting Rousey on this card should help with the buy rate as we assume that the UFC is comfortable with Jones-Cormier as a marketable fight for UFC 182.  Jones, as a headliner averages approximately 479,000 PPV buys.  Rousey averages 395,000 PPV buys although the team of Weidman and Rousey average 785,000 PPV buys in the two events they have headlined.

TUF 20 Episode 5: up 280,000 viewers

October 29, 2014

The adjusted ratings for last week’s TUF 20 episode 5 drew it up another 280,000 viewers for a total of 789,000.  The Live +3 numbers are an addition of 55% from the overnight rating.

The episode, which featured Felice Herrig defeating Heather Jo Clark only drew 509,000 viewers in its initial running which may be due to going opposite the World Series.  However, it was the highest output for the A18-34 demo (367,000 viewers) for the season, yet was the lowest Live +3 output.  Episode 3 edge last week’s episode at it drew 791,000 viewers in Live +3.

TUF 20 Ep 5 Live +3

Payout Perspective:

As we indicated last week, the 5th episode likely suffered in overall viewership due to going up against the World Series and coming off a two week hiatus.  It did do well with the A18-34 demo which may be likely due to the Felice Herrig fight. The Live + 3 average is at 834,000 viewers.  The overnight average through 5 episodes is at 525,800.  In comparison TUF 19’s (Edgar-Penn) average through 5 episodes was at only 438,000 and Live + 3 at 746,000.

UFC 179 Prelims: 536,000 viewers

October 28, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the UFC 179 Prelims this past Saturday on FS1 drew an average of 536,000 viewers.  The event which led up to the UFC 179 PPV had stiff competition as it went up against the World Series on Fox.

UFC PPV Prelims since August 2013 (FS1 unless specified)

UFC 164                             809,000

UFC 165                             722,000

UFC 166                             628,000

UFC 167                             998,000

UFC 168                          1,554,000

UFC 169                             933,000

UFC 170                             936,000

UFC 171                             305,000 (FS2)

UFC 172                             750,000

UFC 173                             697,000

UFC 174                             784,000 (FX)

UFC 175                             1,000,000

UFC 177                             436,000

UFC 178                             698,000

UFC 179                               536,000

UFC Prelims through 179

According to the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, the prelims were the 4th biggest audience for the week on FS1.  Friday night’s college football game between the Oregon Ducks and the California Bears drew the highest average of the week for the network with 1.2 million viewers.

Payout Perspective:

The “main event” of the Prelims was Neil Magny, in his 5th fight this year, defeating William Macario via TKO in the 3rd round.  The prelim card did not feature any real names of notice except Scott Jorgenson and perhaps we are getting to know Magny.  Going against the World Series was a tough assignment for the Prelims but I’m sure most of us knew that.  Of notice is that the highest rated event this week on FS1 was Friday night college football with only 1.2 million viewers.

Former wrestler files lawsuit against WWE regarding head injuries

October 27, 2014

A lawsuit filed last week in the U.S. District Court of Oregon by former professional wrestler William Albert Haynes III (aka “Billy Jack” Haynes) citing class action status related to “head injuries occurring in former and current WWE wrestlers” per the lawsuit.

Haynes wrestled in the WWE for only two years from 1986-1988.  Perhaps his most notable match was at Wrestlemania III.  Most of Haynes’ career was spent in the Pacific Northwest.

The lawsuit spells out the dangers of the professional wrestling business amplified by embedded photos in its lawsuit as well as YouTube links.  Essentially, WWE allowed its wrestlers to perform dangerous stunts, some of which include taking shots to the head causing head injuries.  The claim made by Haynes’ lawyers is that these head injuries cause traumatic brain injuries (i.e., concussions) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”).

photos of WWE wrestlers CM Punk and Rob Van Dam getting stitches after a match

photos of WWE wrestlers CM Punk and Rob Van Dam getting stitches after a match

Vince McMahon swinging a chair makes the case for Haynes that WWE allowed head shots.

Vince McMahon swinging a chair makes the case for Haynes that WWE allowed head shots.

A section of the lawsuit includes: “WWE is a Fake Sport with Real Consequences to Its Wrestlers.”  It also cites the numerous matches which include the use of chairs, chains, ladders and tables.  It also details different wrestling moves which involve potential trauma to the head including the “Brain Buster,” “Bulldog,” and “Facebreaker.”  They also bring up the case of a 13 year old that killed his 5 year old sister while performing a move he saw from the WWE.

Haynes vs. WWE

The lawsuit accuses the WWE of not protecting its wrestlers from brain damage.  Essentially, Haynes and his attorneys accuse the WWE of doing little, if anything, to protect its wrestlers.  It also claims to denying or concealing injuries of its wrestlers.

The claims in the lawsuit include:

-Fraudulent Concealment and Failure to Disclose or Warn

-Negligent Misrepresentation

-Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

-Negligence

-Medical Monitoring –this claim requests that the WWE establish a trust to pay for medical monitoring of all wrestlers as frequent as medically necessary and would pay to develop and research other methods to reduce risks

-Strict Liability for Abnormally Dangerous Activities

In addition to the requests under “Medical Monitoring,” it is requesting that the court grant it class action status and designating the attorneys as Class counsel.  It also is seeking actual, compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney fees.

In response to the lawsuit, the WWE’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications provided a brief statement: “Billy Jack Haynes performed for WWE from 1986-1988.  His filed lawsuit alleges that WWE concealed medical information and evidence on concussions during that time, which is impossible since the condition now called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) had not been discovered.  WWE was well ahead of sports organizations in implementing concussion management procedures and policies as a precautionary measure as the science and research on this issue immerged.  Current WWE procedures include ImPACT testing for brain function, annual educational seminars and the strict prohibition of deliberate and direct shots to the head.” (H/t :  wrestling-online.com)

Payout Perspective:

I grew up watching Haynes wrestle in the Pacific Northwest mainly in a Portland, Oregon based promotion.  He had a very brief stint with the WWE.  This is a lawsuit that shall be interesting to follow and see whether or not the court grants Haynes class action status.  For those wondering, the essential elements a court determines when deciding whether or not a lawsuit may receive class action certification are:

-Commonality:  One or more legal or factual claims common to the entire class.

-Adequacy:  The parties in the class must adequately protect the interests of the class.

-Numerosity:  The class must be large enough that individual lawsuits would be impractical.

-Typicality:  The claims or defenses must be typical of the plaintiffs.

The four elements commonly are remembered (mainly by bar exam takers) as CANT.  It will be interesting to see whether or not the law firm can attain enough members willing to be a part of this lawsuit.  Certainly there are enough wrestlers out there that could establish a sufficient amount of plaintiffs.  However, how many are willing to come forward?  On his own, Haynes may not have a strong case considering he only spent two years with the company and much of his time wrestling was on the regional circuit where he could have been subjected to similar risks and injuries.  Thus, his case may not be as strong as someone who may have spent 20 years with the company.

This will be an interesting case that the UFC should take note of for future consideration.  While the ways that the participants attainhead trauma are different, there are still issues related to MMA fighter safety and blows to the head that might be a part of future legal claims.

Silva signs new deal with UFC; done with Nike

October 27, 2014

Anderson Silva has signed an unprecedented 15-fight deal with the UFC according to Combate.  The Brazilian web site also reports that Silva is no longer being sponsored with Nike but is talking with Adidas about a potential sponsorship.

It’s highly unlikely that the 39 year old Silva will fulfill the 15 fights on his new contract. Silva indicated that he had 7 fights left on his previous contract before the UFC “canceled” that contract in favor of the longer term deal.  It’s clear that the deal will more likely allow Silva to work in some ambassador role for the company after he decides his time in the Octagon is done.

As for ending the relationship with Nike, it appears that the Beaverton, Oregon company may be getting out of the MMA sponsor business.  With the recent news that they severed ties with Jon Jones, we may see the end of the swoosh in the Octagon.  The potential for another Oregon-based (US HQ) company, Adidas, may be on the horizon for Silva.

Payout Perspective:

We’ll see how many more fights are in Silva before he decides to retire.  Obviously, this past weekend’s appearance showed his massive popularity among Brazilian fans and an asset for the UFC to keep around even after he’d done fighting.  As for the potential Adidas sponsorship, it will be interesting to keep an eye on as the three stripes has been creeping into the UFC sponsor game with Robbie Lawler and Luke Rockhold having signed deals this year.

UFC 179 attendance and bonuses

October 26, 2014

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and bonuses from UFC 179 which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The event drew a report 11,415 as it was the third PPV event the company held in Brazil.

The attendance and bonuses were announced at the post-fight press conference.

The bonuses were $50,000 each and were as follows:

Fight of the Night:  Chad Mendes-Jose Aldo

Performances of the Night: Fabio Maldonaldo and Gilbert Burns

Payout Perspective:

It was the biggest attendance for an event in Brazil this year.  Of course, it was the only PPV held in the country this year.  The bonuses included a KO (Maldonado) and a submission (Burns).

UFC responds to Le’s demand for apology

October 24, 2014

There is more fallout from the Cung Le suspension and subsequent rescission as both Le and the UFC have made statements about what has transpired.

Le has demanded an apology from the UFC for what it has done to his name and reputation.  In a Facebook post from his representatives, Le and his management offered statements about the situation:

Le:   “I am extremely happy with the UFC’s decision to rescind my suspension. I believe the issues raised in regards to the testing procedures as well as the manner in which the results were determined by the UFC clearly support my assertion that I did not use any performance enhancing drugs. I am also happy to take away the fact that the UFC has decided to make the proper changes in their testing procedures which will now ensure that no athlete will ever have to endure the same hardship. While I feel vindicated in this matter, the UFC’s press release does little in the way of an apology of which I believe I am rightly owed after unfairly enduring the public’s scrutiny. Their decision to announce me as a user of performance enhancing drugs with little thought to the accuracy of the testing or proper procedures has caused my family and I great pain; that we have now come to know was completely unnecessary had the proper care been taken to ensure my test results were in fact valid proof of impropriety.”

AMR:  The evidence of my client’s innocence was overwhelming in this instance and the UFC’s decision to forego any further action and exonerate him is proof positive of that. We hope that my client will not now forever be associated with illegal doping especially now that he has been completely cleared of any wrongdoing. Regardless of the UFC’s decision, we are left to wonder if this whole matter should have ever happened at all but we do now know several things for certain: 1) my client did not take any performance enhancing drugs, 2) we questioned the propriety of the testing procedures before the UFC announced their initial suspension; 3) sports doping tests should be left to impartial third party experts, and 4) the UFC should have confirmed and evaluated my client’s test results before dispensing discipline and making inaccurate statements that could permanently tarnish Cung’s previously pristine reputation.

The absence of a formal apology, in light of the recent “medical advice” the UFC received, which prompted them to lift his suspension, is outrageous. Moreover, the insinuation that my client will not be disciplined due to “the [mere] lack of conclusive laboratory results”, is a clear attempt to deflect responsibility and cloud my client’s innocence, when, in fact, the mistakes that were made resulted solely from the UFC’s reckless and premature actions and decisions.

The UFC’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Lawrence Epstein spoke with the L.A. Times about rescinding Le’s suspension.  Epstein stated that UFC did not offer an apology to Le because the act of the rescission was sufficient.  Although he stuck up for the testing in Macau, he did not concede that the UFC took any missteps in handling the drug testing for the event.  “There was nothing wrong with the test, it just wasn’t the right test,” said Epstein to the LA Times about its protocol for the event.

Payout Perspective:

Le’s demand for an apology is part sticking his chest out (figuratively) and also part reputation management.  As we alluded to in a previous post, the UFC statement does not apologize to Le and many may believe that while Le’s suspension was lifted, it was due to a technicality and did not address whether Le actually took illegal substances.   With the tests thrown out, Le now wants an apology from the UFC since he claims to not have ever taken illegal substances.  And perhaps he is owed one.  Epstein, who is a lawyer, did not think it necessary to apologize to Le.  And even with the comments to the LA Times, the UFC is trying to save face despite the inference that its drug policy is broken (or maybe never fully formed to be broken).  Epstein admits in the LAT article that the UFC is not in the “drug testing business,” yet they are the de facto regulator if there is not a governing body in the region.  Moreover, the UFC defamed Le based on the facts we know.

I did not expect the UFC to make a formal apology and while we may see the UFC and Le work together in the future, an apology may not be forthcoming any time soon.

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