UFC awards PPV to Melbourne

March 5, 2015

UFC will hold a PPV in Melbourne, Australia in November 2015 after the state of Victoria legalized “fenced-in enclosures” for professional MMA.  After the legal hurdle was accomplished, the company announced plans for a PPV in a press release issued Thursday.

Via UFC press release:

The UFC® today applauded the State of Victoria Labor Government for executing a ministerial directive designed to increase safety within the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) by allowing the sport to be conducted in a much safer fenced-in enclosure.  The directive was announced this morning at a press conference held by The Honourable John Eren, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Major Events.  “This is a major milestone for mixed martial arts in Victoria, which will allow the sport to flourish while at the same time better protecting its competing athletes,” said Tom Wright, UFC Executive Vice-President and General Manager, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Prior to the passing of today’s ministerial directive, MMA competitions in the State of Victoria were required to be conducted in boxing rings which were never designed for MMA competitions. The UFC uses a unique, octagon-shaped enclosure which prevents fighters from falling out of the structure or becoming entangled in the ropes as could occur with a boxing ring.  “The Octagon® is purpose-built for MMA competition and was designed and developed to optimize safety and to create a level playing field.  The UFC thanks the Labor Party for spearheading this initiative and focusing on the safety of the competitors,” added Wright.

With this new ministerial directive in place, the UFC confirmed that it will bring a global pay per view event, UFC 193, to Melbourne on Sunday, November 15, 2015 locally, to be broadcast live in North America on Saturday, November 14.

Payout Perspective:

The announcement is good news for Australian fans that have supported the UFC each time it has come to the country.  As with most international PPVs, there will be an issue with timing as the live event will take place on Sunday afternoon as its 15 hours ahead of East Coast time.  The change in laws in Victoria is a solid victory for the UFC in order to expand its brand in the country.

UFC 184: Payout Perspective

March 4, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 184 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. In the main event, Ronda Rousey fought Cat Zingano.

Gone in 14 seconds

Zero strikes but a scramble that had Cat Zingano’s arm caught by Ronda Rousey and a straight armbar ended the night very early for the challenger.

It’s too bad considering the Zingano backstory.  Even though she was a huge underdog, you would have like to see more of a fight.

For Rousey, she has received mainstream approval and sports people asking if she’s good for the sport.  Obviously, the fact that people are talking about Rousey is good for the UFC.  The question of who should see fight next is a good question.  With Rousey taking time off to do a movie, it will be interesting to see who will be set up as her next opponent.  Beth Corriea? Jessica Eye?  One fighter not mentioned was Cris Cyborg who fought on the Invicta card the night before.

ufc 184 poster

Holm defeats Rocky

It was not the strongest of debuts for “The Preacher’s Daughter” but she sustained a very good Raquel Pennington for the decision.  Holm was one of the most talked about women’s fighters not in the UFC prior to her debut.  Now, she seems destined to challenge for Rousey’s belt.  Based on Saturday, she’s not ready yet.

Attendance and Gate

According to the post-fight press conference UFC 184 at the Staples Center drew a reported 17,654 fans for a gate of $2.675 million.  Of the UFC events held at the Staples Center, only UFC 60 which featured Matt Hughes taking on Royce Gracie did better (14,802 for $2.9 million).  The Staples Center capacity ranges from 18,000-21,000 depending on the event.

Payouts

Cat Zingano ($100K) actually had a higher base salary than Ronda Rousey ($65K) although it was reported by Larry Pugmire of the LA Times that Rousey would probably clear $1 million with her cut of PPV revenues.  Also, Rousey was sponsored by Reebok, Monster and Monster Headphones.  All are UFC sponsors (presumably Monster Energy Drink has signed with the UFC).

Rousey did make $65K and $65K plus a Performance of the Night bonus to earn a total of $180,000.

In addition, Jake Ellenberger made $68K and $68K plus a Performance of the Night bonus to earn a total of $186,000.

Tony Ferguson and Tim Means earned the other $50K Performances of the Night.  There was no Fight of the Night.

The rest of the payouts are here.

Promotion of the Fight

The episodes of UFC Embedded were once again entertaining although I would argue that this time around the portion of the UFC Countdown show focusing on Cat Zingano had to be the best

The pre-weigh-in staredowns included the main eventers wearing evening gowns.

Rousey made the usual media rounds including an appearance on Jim Rome.  Something that people picked up on was a dispute between Rousey and Arianny Celeste.

Sponsors

Probably the biggest sponsor for Saturday was the “M” in the middle of the Octagon which replaced the usual Bud Light sponsor.  It appears that Monster Energy Drink has signed on as a sponsor for the UFC.  The former Bellator sponsor was shown prominently in the center of the Octagon as well as ring posts.

In addition, DraftKings announced a new sponsorship deal this week and was also on the Octagon mat.

Rounding out the sponsors on the Octagon mat included, Bud Light, MetroPCS, MusclePharm, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Air Force Reserve and the movie Run All Night.  Harley Davidson had the prep point.

Holly Holm had no sponsors except UFC on her ring gear.  Raquel Pennington had a pretty nice “Colorado Rocky” shirt.

Ronda Rousey had Monster, Reebok and the UFC on her ring gear.  She also donned Monster headphones upon heading to the Octagon.  Rousey also had her jeans sponsor Buffalo on her fighter poster.  Maybe Nissan of Omaha was the best sponsor for Cat Zingano as it was clearly seen as she was being submitted.  Other notable Zingano sponsors included Sepec and Kalapaki Joe’s.

Odds and Ends

The UFC indicated that the social media campaign around Ronda Rousey did well:

Big search numbers for Ronda Rousey:

Darren Rovell took an ad hoc poll on the popularity of the UFC. The fact that Rovell is gaging his followers on its popularity shows that Rousey sparked his interest in the UFC.

Other ends…

Sponsor Mike’s Seafood on Derrick Lewis’ backside was either a good idea or a bad one.

The top three cities on Google Trends that searched for “Ronda Rousey” were Quezon City, Philippines, Los Angeles and New York in that order.

UFC 184 was in theaters once again. There were anecdotal reports of packed sports bars watching the fight.

Mark Munoz did not look good on Saturday. He failed to make weight on his first try at the weigh-ins although he subsequently made it. I would have hoped that he would make it to the Philippines card and then retire. It might be best for him to retire now.

InvictaFC had a card the night before in LA with Cyborg in the main event. Yet no real mention of her after the Rousey fight.

Essentially, the PPV ended at 9:00pm PT due to the quick main event and prelim matches were shown to fill-in time.

Conclusion

Ronda Rousey is one of the big draws of the UFC and based on searches and media coverage she is someone that casual viewers would tune into watch. The fact that ESPN talking head shows and other sports media were talking about her 14 second win on Monday reflects her popularity. But does that mean it equates to people paying $60 to watch her fight? We shall see. The last time Rousey headlined (without another co-main) was UFC 170 which drew 350,000 PPV buys. My guestimate would be somewhere around that mark and perhaps a little more 350,000-375,000 PPV buys.

UFC 184 Prelims: 1.205M, Weigh-Ins 2nd most watched on FS1

March 3, 2015

The UFC 184 Prelims drew an average viewership of 1,205,000 making it the 3rd most-watched UFC PPV Prelims ever on Fox Sports 1 per Nielsen  Also, the UFC Weigh-Ins were the 2nd most-watched UFC Weigh-In Show on Fox Sports 1.

According to Nielsen, it drew 713,000 in the adult 18-49 demo.  The show peaked at 1,453,000 total viewers in the 9:15pm ET-9:30pm ET quarter hour.  The last fight on the Prelim card was Roan Caneiro submitting Mark Munoz in the 1st round with a rear naked choke.

UFC Prelims

The post-fight show on FS1, which started earlier than usual due to the short main event, drew 188,000 viewers starting at 12:40pm ET.  It drew 130,000 in the adult 18-49 demo.  Likely due to the early start, it did not do as well as the two previous post-shows this year.

UFC post shows 2015

The weigh-ins on Friday at 7:00pm ET on FS1 drew an average viewership of 222,000 viewers overall and 81,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo making it the second most-watched UFC Weigh-In show ever on FS1.

Payout Perspective:

The viewership of the UFC 184 Prelims and the programs related to it reveal a strong showing for the interest in this card and specifically Ronda Rousey.  The weigh-ins viewership of 222,000 pops out as evidence that people were interested in this card.  Will it equate to PPV buys?  We will see.

Bellator MMA files lawsuit against Rampage

March 2, 2015

Bellator MMA has filed a lawsuit today in New Jersey against Quentin “Rampage” Jackson for breach of contract. The organization is also seeking an injunction to prevent Jackson from appearing in the UFC.

Jackson is scheduled to fight at UFC 186 against Fabio Maldonado on April 24th. It appears that today’s lawsuit and request for an injunction will seek to preclude Jackson from appearing on that card unless something can be worked out between Bellator, Jackson and likely the UFC.

Bellator issued the following release:

Today, Bellator MMA was compelled to go to court to stop Quinton “Rampage” Jackson from fighting in an April 25th bout promoted by Bellator’s competitor, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  Jackson, who has completed only three fights of his exclusive six-fight contract with Bellator, is barred by contract from fighting for any promoter other than Bellator. Our lawsuit for an injunction and related relief – filed in the Chancery Division of the Superior Court in Burlington County, New Jersey – will compel Jackson to honor his contractual agreement.   We look forward to having one of our MMA stars fighting for Bellator again.

This lawsuit had been brewing for a while after Jackson left the Viacom-owned company late last year and indicated that he had conferred with UFC lawyers and “an outside law firm” to determine if he could legitimately leave Bellator. Jackson’s story is that Bellator did not live up to his Bellator contract, Jackson gave Bellator time to cure the issues he had, but the company did not satisfy Jackson’s concerns so he decided to leave.  What may be an interesting detail here is that Jackson’s management views the contract he signed with Bellator (under Bjorn Rebney) as an entertainment contract rather than a pure sports contract.  This may come into play, as well as the fact that the contract was signed in California.  But that is speculation at this point.

Although Bellator MMA is headquartered in Irvine, California and Jackson lives in Irvine, the lawsuit is filed in New Jersey.

As you recall, Bellator prevailed against Eddie Alvarez when Alvarez sought an injunction against the organization in their contractual dispute. The lawsuit was venued in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey.

Payout Perspective:

Timing is everything when filing lawsuits as we recently wrote about. It was clear that there was going to be a legal issue when Jackson left Bellator to sign with the UFC. The timing of the filing and injunction comes close to UFC 186 and might mean that Jackson will be pulled from the card. The interesting issue here is that the UFC will be implicated here and its clear based on its actions that it thinks it had solid legal grounds to sign Rampage and actively promote him for his fight.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Zuffa files Motion to Dismiss in Antitrust lawsuits

March 1, 2015

The end of the week and the end of the month are always prime dates to zing your opposing counsel with motions.  On Friday, February 27th, Zuffa filed a Motion to Dismiss the four identical Antitrust Complaints filed by former UFC fighters in federal court in San Jose.  The hearing date will not be until July 23rd.

There is a looming Motion to Transfer Venue to be decided by the court that could cause the case to be move to Las Vegas and this motion to be heard before another Judge.  In the meantime, Zuffa’s lawyers have filed this Complaint seeking to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims citing they fail to state any legal claim against the UFC.

The UFC has issued an official statement on its motion to dismiss here.

A portion of the statement reads:

While UFC vigorously contests the plaintiffs’ characterization of the facts, a court deciding a motion to dismiss generally must accept the allegations as true. Even with that high legal standard, UFC’s motion demonstrates that UFC competed in lawful ways that helped fighters and built UFC into a premiere organization in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

The UFC treats its fighters well, compensates them fairly, competes against other MMA promoters, and produces a product that is enjoyed by millions of fans around the world. We are confident in our legal position and expect to ultimately win this lawsuit.

As for the actual motion, Zuffa argues that the Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim per the standards set forth under two recently decided U.S. Supreme Court cases.  In Bell Atlantic Corp.. v. Twombly (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal (2009), the U.S. Supreme Court heightened the pleading requirement for Federal civil cases.  The rules require that plaintiffs include enough facts in its complaint to make it plausible that they will be able to prove facts to support its claims.

The Twombly case is relevant here since it was an Antitrust case in which the court dismissed Plaintiffs Complaint citing that the pleading did not allege sufficient facts for the court to determine that there was anti-competitive behavior in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  Iqbal reaffirmed the test announced in Twombly which was that a federal complaint may be dismissed if the court can “identify and disregard naked assertions and conclusory allegations, and then determine where the factual context presented by the remaining specific allegations plausibly suggest the defendant is liable under the relevant law.”

What this all means is that Zuffa is claiming that the Complaint(s) do not have sufficient facts to prove its claim that Zuffa violated Antitrust laws.  While we will not go into the specifics of the motion, it is meticulous in going through plaintiffs’ Complaint and identifying each paragraph in which it believes it is mere allegations and/or conclusory statement.

Payout Perspective:

This appears to be standard litigation playbook stuff from Zuffa.  First, it filed a motion to transfer venue seeking to move the case to Las Vegas.  Instead of responding to the Complaint in affirming or denying the allegations, it has filed a motion to dismiss.  There are at least three things that might occur from this filing.  First, the plaintiffs may amend its Complaint to be more specific in its allegations.  Second, the plaintiffs may refile its Complaint so that it conforms to the rules (i.e., provide more specific facts of its allegations).  Or, respond to the Motion to Dismiss.  The legal requirements for filing Complaints in federal court differ due to the Supreme Court cases.  Essentially, the federal rules are stricter than lawsuits filed in state courts (in state courts pleadings can allege “Upon information and belief…”, but you can’t get away with that in federal courts) due to the case law which seem to require more factual detail in allegations.  Obviously, there is risk in providing specific details in Complaints.  If the factual allegation proves not to be true or cannot be proven, you will have the allegation dismissed or end up losing.

MMA Payout will keep you posted on these developments.

Report: Silva will argue alibi to using PEDs

March 1, 2015

While most of us were watching UFC 184 on Saturday, the UFC posted a response to a Brazilian report that Anderson Silva will admit to taking PEDs leading up to UFC 183.  Silva is mounting a defense which he claims his usage of PEDs was “therapeutic” and thus mitigates his wrongdoing.

The Brazilian website UOL states that Silva’s team is preparing a defense which claims that he took several banned substances but they were not taken “to gain an advantage on his opponent.”  Presumably, they will argue that the use of the banned substances, Drostanolone and Androstane were done to help in recovering from his broken leg and that the dosages were minimal so that they would not give him an advantage.

Silva also tested positive for Oxazepam (an anti-anxiety drug) and Temazepam, a sleep deprivation drug.  It’s believed he will claim that these drugs help with recovery from back spasms and muscle pain.

Payout Perspective:

Silva has repeatedly denied reports of his failed drug tests.  Now it appears we get a new strategy.  It’s hard to buy the defense since Silva broke his leg over a year prior to this fight so one might think that he need not be taking these illegal substances leading up to his February 2015 fight when he broke his leg in December 2013.  It’s also hard to excuse the usage of the two other drugs, Oxazepam and Temazepam when you should know that these drugs are banned.  It seems like this defense is being offered to mitigate the eventual punishment for Silva.

From a media standpoint, it’s an interesting placement to bury the news on Saturday night during an event when it probably knew of this information during the week.  It’s hard to remember a time that the UFC has announced news at such an odd time.

UFC 184 attendance, gate and bonuses

March 1, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the attendance, gate and bonuses from UFC 184 held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  Ronda Rousey led the group of bonus winners for the night.

The event drew a reported 17,654 fans for a gate of $2.675 million according to Dana White at the post-fight press conference.  In comparison to other UFC events at the Staples Center, UFC 60 drew 14,802 (10,347 paid according to Wikipedia) for a gate of $2.9 million. UFC 104 drew 14,892 for a gate of $1.9 million. UFC on Fox 4 drew 16,080 for a gate of $1.1 million.

The capacity at the Staples ranges from 18,000-21,000 depending on event.

Ronda Rousey, Jake Ellenberger, Tony Ferguson and Tim Means all picked up $50,000 Performance of the Night Bonuses with their finishes on Saturday night.

Payout Perspective:

Certainly there could have been other fighters that could have received the $50,000.  Roan Carneiro and Derrick Lewis come to mind.  As for the attendance and gate, it was the biggest attendance for an event at Staples although the number of comps is never reported.  The gate was slightly larger for UFC 60 which featured Matt Hughes and Royce Gracie.

Disclosed salaries of UFC 184 fighters

February 28, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the payouts for Saturday’s UFC 184. As reported yesterday, Cat Zingano will make more in show money than women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

The salaries were released by the California State Athletic Commission and obtained by Junkie:

• Champ Ronda Rousey ($65,000 to show, $65,000 to win) vs. Cat Zingano ($100,000/$100,000) – for women’s bantamweight title

• Holly Holm ($25,000/$25,000) vs. Raquel Pennington ($10,000/$10,000)

• Jake Ellenberger ($68,000/$68,000) vs. Josh Koscheck ($78,000/$78,000)

• Alan Jouban ($10,000/$10,000) vs. Richard Walsh ($8,000/$8,000)

• Tony Ferguson ($24,000/$24,000) vs. Gleison Tibau ($50,000/$50,000)

• Roan Carneiro ($12,000/$12,000) vs. Mark Munoz ($47,000/$47,000)

• Roman Salazar ($8,000/$8,000) vs. Norifumi Yamamoto ($15,000/$15,000)

• Dhiego Lima ($10,000/$10,000) vs. Tim Means ($17,000/$17,000)

• Derrick Lewis ($15,000/$15,000) vs. Ruan Potts ($10,000/$10,000)

• James Krause ($15,000/$15,000) vs. Valmir Lazaro ($8,000/$8,000)

• Masio Fullen ($8,000/$8,000) vs. Alexander Torres ($8,000/$8,000)

Payout Perspective:

Rousey will make more with her cut of the PPV and it is reported that she should make at least $1 million for her title defense on Saturday. As for the rest of the card, Holly Holm debuts with a $25K/$25K deal. Aside from Zingano and Rousey, Josh Koschek ($78K/$78K) and Jake Ellenberger ($68K/$68K) are the other high-paid fighters on Saturday’s card.

Cat to make $100K/$100K, Rousey $65K/$65K at UFC 184

February 27, 2015

Lance Pugmire of the LA Times tweeted that Ronda Rousey will be making less of a guaranteed purse than Cat Zingano at UFC 184. However, with her PPV cut and deals with official UFC sponsors, Rousey will clear $1 million on Saturday.

According to tweets from Pugmire, Rousey will make $65K to show and $65K to win. The challenger will get $100,000 to show plus $100,000 if she wins. There is no information on whether Zingano gets a PPV cut. However, Rousey is said to have a PPV cut which should get her over $1 million.

As many probably saw at the weigh-ins, this will be the first fight that Rousey will don Reebok. She received an individual deal from the soon-to-be official clothing sponsor of the UFC. In the past, she also has had deals with official UFC sponsors Monster Headphones and MetroPCS.

Payout Perspective:

Zingano will make more than 5x what she made at UFC 178 when she earned $9K and $9K against Amanda Nunes. Thus, last September she was only guaranteed $9,000. Just 5 months later she will be guaranteed more than 10 times that amount. So, no lockstep raises for Cat. Good for her.

It’s interesting to note that Rousey last made $120K to show plus a $50K win bonus over Alexis Davis at UFC 175 this past July. It appears to be a restructure of her pay here so that she will receive more from either sponsors and/or her PPV cut.

Koscheck gives opinion on fighter union

February 27, 2015

During the press functions leading up to UFC 184 this Saturday, MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani interviewed Josh Koscheck.  He indicated that there should be a fighter’s union.

“There’s no 401K at the end of the day,” said Koscheck during the interview.  Koscheck, recognizing the end of his fight career is near, gave his perspective on what young fighters should do to prepare for their future and “residual income.”

Koscheck would not give specifics on when and if he would want to be involved in putting together a union, but indicated that a union would make the sport grow.  He also gave his opinion that UFC contracted fighters are employees and not independent contractors as they are currently classified.

Payout Perspective:

Just another perspective about fighters’ rights coming from a fighter that nears the end of his career.  It doesn’t seem that Koscheck wants to become involved in organizing a union in the UFC although he is not opposed to one being set up.  Koscheck seems like he has invested his fight earnings and is moving on to his post-fight career with business interests outside the octagon.

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