Two banned substances found in Jones’ drug sample

July 18, 2016

ESPN reports that the Nevada State Athletic Commission extended the temporary suspension of Jon Jones per a commission hearing on Monday.  The hearing revealed Jones’ A and B sample contained banned substances.

Jones’ out-of-competition sample on June 16th tested positive for clomiphone (a banned anti-estrogenic substance) and “traces of letrozole,” an aromatase inhibitor.

Prior to Monday’s revelation, Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen inferred that Jones had tested positive for estrogen blockers which appears to be the case.

Jones has retained the services of Howard L. Jacobs.  He is a noted anti-doping attorney that has represented cyclist Floyd Landis and Marion Jones.  He’s also represented former Bellator fighter Alexander Shlemenko and Chael Sonnen.

The temporary suspension will be in effect until the commission can have a full hearing which will likely happen in September or October.  Jones could face a 2 year suspension under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy as well as additional penalties from the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Payout Perspective:

The banned substances infer that Jones was doing something untoward.  If Jones cannot broker a deal with USADA and the NSAC he will likely face a lengthy suspension and fine.  Certainly, it’s a disappointment for the UFC as Jones is considered one of the best in the sport.  Now, that has to be put into question considering this new discovery.

The fallout from Brock Lesnar’s potential drug violation

July 18, 2016

On Friday, Brock Lesnar was flagged by the United States Anti-Doping Association (USADA) of a potential violation of the UFC anti-doping policy due to an out of competition test from June 28, 2016.  Although testing results of Lesnar’s “B” sample are yet to be revealed, the fallout from Lesnar’s appearance hurts the UFC and possibly the WWE.

On June 5, 2016, it was announced that Lesnar would fight at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016.  The signing was unprecedented because he was under contract with the WWE.  Yet, the WWE granted Lesnar the chance to fight in the Octagon once again.  Despite the fact that the WWE has its own drug testing policy (known as the Wellness Policy – Lesnar has never been flagged for a violation), Lesnar was tested by USADA eight times in just the month lead-up to his fight against Mark Hunt.  He took 5 tests in the first two weeks after it was announced he was returning.  Multiple tests came up clean.

Despite the tests, the UFC policy handled by USADA dictated that a returning athlete to the UFC most give the company four months written notice so that USADA can put the athlete in the pool of those it may selectively test.  But, the UFC anti-doping policy allows an exemption for a returning athlete that may be subject to drug testing.  Per 5.7.1 of the UFC anti-doping policy:

An Athlete who gives notice of retirement to UFC, or has otherwise ceased to have a contractual relationship with UFC, may not resume competing in UFC Bouts until he/she has given UFC written notice of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of four months before returning to competition. UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.

The key sentence here is the last sentence:  “UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.”

Since the UFC Anti-Doping Policy did not begin until July 1, 2015 and Lesnar’s last fight in the UFC prior to UFC 200 was December 2011, he was considered a new athlete.  There has not been an official statement as to whether the UFC granted the 4-month exemption due to an “exceptional circumstance” or if it was “manifestly unfair to an Athlete.”  Of course, either waiver could be easily explained.

But, one has to think that Lesnar and the UFC had contemplated his return as he had been training prior to the June announcement of his return to the Octagon.  One might suggest that Lesnar could have notified the UFC of his return in the requisite 4 months to allow for the proper testing to occur.

However, it would seem that the parties wanted the Lesnar announcement to be a surprise.  Recall, that Ariel Helwani and others from MMA Fighting were thrown out of a UFC event and Helwani was banned for life due to his report of Lesnar’s return prior to the UFC’s opportunity to make it themselves.  Helwani along with his colleagues were reinstated a couple days later.

Notwithstanding the notice issue, let’s take a look at what Lesnar could face as a result of testing positive for a banned substance.  First, Lesnar’s “B” sample, a second sample taken to determine the validity of the finding in the first sample, must confirm the initial finding of a banned substance.  If this happens, Lesnar will face discipline from Nevada and the UFC per the anti-doping policy.

Since the infraction took place in Nevada, Lesnar will have to appear before the Nevada State Athletic Commission to address the drug test failure.  At that time, we should know what drug(s) Lesnar tested positive for in his out-of-competition sample.  In 2015, Nevada adopted guidelines for combat sports which included a 36-month suspension and 50-75% of the purse for a first-time offender for someone taking anabolic steroids.

In addition, the UFC anti-doping policy would discipline Lesnar.

Under Section 10 for Sanctions on Individuals, Section 10.1 specifically states:

An Anti-Doping Policy Violation occurring during, or in connection with, a Bout may, upon the decision of UFC, lead to Disqualification of all of the Athlete’s results obtained in that Bout with all Consequences, including, without limitation, forfeiture of title, ranking, purse or other compensation, except as provided in Article 10.1.1.

Read broadly, under the UFC-USADA Anti-Doping Guidelines, Lesnar could have his purse for the bout and “other compensation” taken from him.  It would hurt enough that Lesnar would lose out on his $2.5 million reported purse but “other compensation” could mean money he makes from his PPV “upside.”

Not only could that happen, but the section further states that UFC could fine Lesnar up to $500,000 per Section 10.10 of the UFC-USADA Anti-Doping Guidelines.  In addition, he could have his win against Mark Hunt overturned to a no decision per discretion of the Nevada State Athletic Commission according to section 467.850.  This would not sting as much since Lesnar did not have a win bonus to forfeit.  Regardless, he still could have a substantial amount of money taken away.

The monetary fine would be the hardest penalty for Lesnar.  The $2.5 million is the largest reported payout for a UFC fighter in its history.  But, Lesnar was going to make more from his PPV guarantee.  It is being reported that the UFC 200 PPV drew 1.1 to 1.2 million PPV buys.  In most markets, the PPV for UFC 200 was $59.99 HD and $49.99 SD.  Lesnar was projected to make $3-5 million in addition to his $2.5 million.

Mark Hunt, Lesnar’s opponent has demanded that he receive half of Lesnar’s $2.5 million or else he is requesting his release from his UFC contract.  Hunt, who made $700,000 for taking on Lesnar, will be disappointed to learn that under the UFC-USADA guidelines, any money forfeited by an athlete would be under the UFC’s discretion “to be applied to offset the costs of the Program or given to anti-doping research.”

The UFC could also fine Lesnar pursuant to its Code of Conduct which imposes discipline based on misconduct.  Under its Code, “misconduct” may include, “Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the UFC.”  A violation of its drug program could fall under this.

There is precedent for a fine as Jon Jones was docked $25,000 for failing a drug test in December 2014.  Of course, Jones’ drug test failure was for cocaine use.  We note that the detection of this drug was done out of competition and should have not been tested for according to the rules.

Lesnar’s only statement related to Friday’s news of his potential violation was a vague “we’ll get to the bottom of this.”

The WWE does not seem to be concerned with the potential violation and has indicated his next appearance will be at its big event Summerslam, August 21st.  They have not addressed the potential violation.  From its perspective, its an MMA matter, that a WWE matter.

However, the question looms as to whether a Nevada State Athletic Commission suspension would affect his wrestling career.  Some state athletic commissions oversee professional wrestling.  Most commissions honor suspensions of an athlete in other states.  Would a suspension in combat sports carry over to professional wrestling?  We will see.

Show Money Episode 11 talks about the UFC sale

July 17, 2016

I hopped on with Paul Gift and John Nash of Bloody Elbow to discuss the UFC sale and the future impact.  We also learned at the end of the episode that Brock Lesnar was flagged for a potential UFC anti-doping policy violation.

Hunt wants half of Lesnar’s payout or else

July 16, 2016

With the news that Brock Lesnar may be guilty of a drug test violation, Lesnar’s UFC 200 opponent is asking for half of Lesnar’s purse or be released from his UFC contract.

According to MMA Fighting, Hunt is asking UFC officials that he be given half of Lesnar’s reported $2.5 million purse or else he be released from the company.

Per the disclosed pay released by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Hunt made $700,000 for facing Lesnar.  It was the highest disclosed amount Hunt has been paid by the company for a UFC fight.

Hunt had inferred that Lesnar may have been taking PEDs in lead-up to the fight.  But Lesnar denied it.

On Saturday, Lesnar responded to the USADA notification stating, “we will get to the bottom of this.”

Payout Perspective:

The ultimatum is interesting although I am not sure how much leverage has with this request.  Certainly Hunt has a legitimate issue with stepping in against an individual that may have taken PEDs.  Yet, if Hunt were to leave, there’s no other fight organization that would have the resources to pay Hunt the way he is compensated in the UFC.

UFC 200 estimated over 1M PPV buys; 199 does 320K

July 16, 2016

Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer reports that the buy rate for UFC 200 is estimated to be between 1.1 to 1.2 million PPV buys.  In addition, there are reports that UFC 199 drew 320,000 PPV buys.

UFC 200 featured Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate.  However, Brock Lesnar was the real feature of the card.  Of course, news hit Friday night that Lesnar was flagged by USADA for a potential violation of the UFC anti-doping policy.  As we know, Jon Jones was pulled from his fight against Daniel Cormier during fight week.  Despite the issues, the UFC Prelims drew the third-highest ratings for a prelims show on the network despite starting 30 minutes late due to baseball.

Last month’s UFC 199 featured Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping (who replaced Chris Weidman) and Dominick Cruz facing Urijah Faber.  For UFC 199, the Prelims drew 798,000 viewers and 500,000 google searches for “UFC 199” on the day of the fight which may have indicated the estimated buy rate.

2016 PPV buy rates

UFC 195 – 300,000

UFC 196 – 1.5 million

UFC 197 – 450,000

UFC 198 – not known at this time

UFC 199 – 320,000

UFC 200 – ~1.1-1.2 million

Payout Perspective:

The 1.1-1.2 million should be seen as a very good buy rate considering the Jon Jones issue and the lack of a Rousey or McGregor on the card.  The buy rate reflects the fact that Brock Lesnar was a big draw (once again) for the UFC.  Thus, the news of his potential drug test failure brings into question a lot of things related to the use of Lesnar on the card and the decision to waive him from waiting four months per the UFA anti-doping rules.

Lesnar flagged for potential UFC anti-doping violation

July 15, 2016

USADA has notified the UFC that Brock Lesnar has been flagged for a potential violation of the company’s anti-doping policy.

The UFC posted its statement on the notification on Friday night.

“The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Brock Lesnar of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collection on June 28, 2016. USADA received the testing results from the June 28, 2016 sample collection from the WADA-accredited UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory on the evening of July 14, 2016.

“USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case. It is important to note that, under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full fair legal review process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed. The Nevada State Athletic Commission also retains jurisdiction over this matter as the sample collection was performed in close proximity to Lesnar’s bout at UFC 200 in Las Vegas.

“Consistent with all previous potential anti-doping violations, additional information will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.”

The flagged test calls into question the UFC waiving Lesnar’s notice to return to the UFC without the requisite 4-month written notice.  Under 5.7.1 of the UFC anti-doping policy, it’s within the UFC’s right to grant an exemption to a 4-month period in which USADA may test you.  The UFC clearly allowed an exemption  for Lesnar to make 200.

The WWE gave a short statement regarding Lesnar’s test.  As it has been throughout the Lesnar lead-up to UFC 200, it’s staying away from Lesnar’s participation in the UFC.  I’m sure they regret promoting his win last Monday.

Payout Perspective:

Just a little over one year into the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, we are discovering that the drug testing policy shows no favorites.  Not only did a flagged test take Jon Jones off of the biggest card of the year, Brock Lesnar was identified as possibly committing a violation as well.  The fact is that these drug tests could be expedited to ensure that all fighters are cleared of any out of competition violation prior to an event.  But, it has been decided that whatever testing process they go through was not rushed.

The failed test is a negative for the WWE as Lesnar is scheduled to be featured in next month’s WWE Summerslam.  Notably, two of the WWE’s big stars (Roman Reigns) have been flagged for a drug violation.

The violation likely forecloses Lesnar in the Octagon again unless he has an excuse for the flagged test.  For the UFC, it’s another blemish for the company.  However, Lesnar is not a mainstay for the company despite being the biggest draw on PPV.  Thus, the UFC and its new owners should withstand the bad PR in the coming days.

MacDonald testing free agency?

July 15, 2016

Will Rory MacDonald be the next MMA free agent to leave the UFC for Bellator?  MacDonald appears to be open to the possibility.

MMA Junkie’s Chamatkar Sandhu tweeted that Bellator President Scott Coker has opened up talks with Rory MacDonald in hopes of eventually signing the welterweight.

The last fight of MacDonald’s UFC contract was at UFC Fight Night 89 in June against Stephen Thompson.  MacDonald lost via unanimous decision.

The soon to be 27-year-old MacDonald (his birthday is next week) is on a 2 fight losing streak having dropped the Thompson fight and losing to Robbie Lawler in a classic fight last July at UFC 189.

MacDonald has been outspoken about maximizing his time as an MMA fighter.  He has criticized the Reebok deal for eliminating an avenue of revenue for fighters.  Prior to the UFC-Reebok deal, MacDonald was a marketable fighter with multiple sponsors.  He did have an individual sponsor deal with Reebok despite his criticism.

Payout Perspective:

MacDonald’s timing for free agency comes on the heels of a 2 fight losing streak.  Unless the new owners of the UFC are interested in retaining him, he will likely move to Bellator.  The Canadian should be able to maximize his marketability with the organization and recapture some of those sponsors that he had to give up with the Reebok deal.  For Bellator, it’s a good deal since they would get a fighter still in his 20s that could immediately challenge in the welterweight division.

UFC Fight Night: 609K, Prelims 311K

July 14, 2016

UFC Fight Night 91 drew 609,000 viewers on Wednesday night according to Nielsen.  The event airing from 6pm to 8:43pm PT was the highest-rated sports event on cable television per Sports TV Ratings.  However, it was the lowest-rated Fight Night this year.

The event which featured Jon Lineker taking out Michael MacDonald drew 298,000 viewers in the 18-49 adult demo.  The event peaked with 675,000 viewers between 7:15-7:30pm PT.  The prelims, which preceded the main card from Sioux Falls, South Dakota drew 311,000 viewers and 173,000 in the A18-49 demo.  The prelims aired from 4pm-6pmPT.

Previous mid-July events:

UFC on Fuel TV 4 – July 11, 2012:  211,000 (Fuel TV)

No mid-July fight in 2013 (July 2013 fights were UFC 162 and UFC on Fox 8)

UFC Fight Night 45 – July 16, 2014: 640,000 (FS1)

UFC Fight Night 71 – July 15, 2015: 801,000 (FS1)

UFC Fight Night 91 – July 13, 2016: 609,000 (FS1)

Payout Perspective:

Down ratings from last year’s mid-week event although it was the highest-rated sports event on cable television Wednesday night.  The ESPY’s were on Wednesday as well although that was not factored into the sports cable viewership since it was on ABC.  For those wondering the ESPY’s were down 24% from last year to 5.89 million.

Overall, it was the lowest-rated televised Fight Night event of 2016.  You’d have to go back to July 2015 to find a lower-rated Fight Night.  UFC Fight Night 72 from Glasgow, Scotland drew just 508,000 for the main card and 292,000 for the Prelims.  F

TUF 23 Episode 12 draws biggest ratings of season

July 14, 2016

The Ultimate Fighter 23 Episode 12 drew the highest rated episode of the season.  It drew 601,000 (354,000 in the adult 18-49 demo) in overnight ratings and then increased to 798,000 viewers in adjusted DVR ratings.

The final episode of the season set up the fights we saw last Friday at the TUF 23 Finale from Vegas.

Episode 12

Overall, the season averaged approximately 400,000 viewers in overnight ratings (Live +SD) and 610,000 viewers in DVR viewership.  The ratings increased on average 35%.

Last spring’s TUF 21 drew an average of 393,000 for the Team Blackzilians-Team ATT season.

Payout Perspective:

Good ratings for the last two episodes.  Episode 10 was marred due to a delayed soccer game.  As it has in the past the ratings, the DVR ratings boosted the overall viewership for the show.  This was an ok season.  I had thought that the Team Joanna-Team Claudia rivalry would have been much more dynamic but it seemed to be muted.

UFC 200: Payout Perspective – Part 2 of 2

July 13, 2016

Welcome to UFC 200’s Part 2 of Payout Perspective.  We are once again recapping the weekend that was in the UFC.

UFC Sold to WME | IMG

The news came out on Sunday that Zuffa, LLC had sold the UFC to an investment group spearheaded by William Morris Endeavor and International Management Group.  As we learned the sale price was approximately $4 billion.

While Jeremy Botter’s report was met with denials as well as a lawyer letter, the news was true.  The Fertitta Brothers, Dana White and Flash Entertainment sold its shares in the UFC.

Prior to Sunday’s news, Los Angeles Times and TMZ both ran articles refuting the stories of a sale which were backed by Zuffa executives.  The TMZ story did not cite names but quotes from Zuffa execs while the Times ran a piece which included sit downs with White and Lorenzo Fertitta

More Promotion

UFC 200 introduced its main event of Jones vs. Cormier (after McGregor-Diaz was scrapped) on ABC’s Good Morning America.  The event included Dana White, Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, Miesha Tate, Chuck Liddell and Frankie Edgar.  It was the second time that a fight was announced on GMA.  This time around, the UFC was front and center on the show.  It was good exposure for the company.  Too bad the main event didn’t stick.

Forbes ran a piece on the marketing behind those crazy graffiti posters.  Apparently part of the idea was based on Conor McGregor’s tirade at the pre-fight press conference at UFC 197.  McGregor was promoting his fight against Rafael dos Anjos.  Imagine if RDA did not get injured.

Bud Light offered limited edition UFC bottles.  Guess who promoted them:

Payouts

The complete list of salaries from UFC 200 as disclosed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission is as follows (via MMA Junkie):

Amanda Nunes: $100,000 (no win bonus)
def. Miesha Tate: $500,000

Brock Lesnar: $2,500,000 (no win bonus)
def. Mark Hunt: $700,000

Daniel Cormier: $500,000 (no win bonus)
def. Anderson Silva: $600,000

Jose Aldo: $500,000 (includes $100,000 win bonus)
def. Frankie Edgar: $190,000

Cain Velasquez: $300,000 (no win bonus)
def. Travis Browne: $120,000

Julianna Pena: $64,000 (includes $32,000 win bonus)
def. Cat Zingano: $35,000

Kelvin Gastelum: $86,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus and $20,000 from Hendricks’ purse)
def. Johny Hendricks: $80,000(Hendricks forfeited 20 percent of his original $100,000 show money to Gastelum for missing weight)

T.J. Dillashaw: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Raphael Assuncao: $42,000

Sage Northcutt: $100,000 (includes $50,000 win bonus)
def. Enrique Marin: $13,000

Joe Lauzon: $108,000 (includes $54,000 win bonus)
def. Diego Sanchez: $80,000

Gegard Mousasi: $110,000 (includes $35,000 win bonus)
def. Thiago “Marreta” Santos: $28,000

Jim Miller: $118,000 (includes $59,000 win bonus)
def. Takanori Gomi: $55,000

The Reebok Clothing payouts are here via MMA Junkie.  Notably, Aldo and Edgar both made $30,000 each as “challengers” since they were vying for the interim(?) Featherweight title.

Odds and Ends

What has happened to Johny Hendricks?

Early weigh-ins did not help Johny Hendrick as he yet again had issues with weight cutting.  Notably, Kelvin Gastelum has had problems in the past and just made the limit.  Miesha Tate had to disrobe to make the championship weight.

UFC 200 Prelims scored the highest rated show ever on FS2 as the first 31 minutes was switched to the network due to MLB going extra innings on FS1.  Despite the delay due to baseball, FS1 was the highest-rated prelim ever in the adult 28-49 demo.  The prelims on FS1 peaked with over 2 million viewers in the last quarter hour.

The last hour of the prelims went head-to-head with the first hour of PBC on ESPN.  PBC scored 442,000 viewers for its 2-hour plus event on Saturday night.

UFC offered the event in 4K.  It was the first time that a PPV was offered in 4K by any sport organization.

I missed Jon Jones’ press conference but I cannot say I feel sorry for him.  Whether or not he took PEDs, he’s been given chance after chance to succeed, but continues to fail.

Think about how much Jon Jones cost the UFC for them to tear down his posters and take his likeness off of the T-Mobile Arena.  There’s also the unsold t-shirts and posters.  He also cost UFC employees a night’s sleep to re-do all of the promotion centered around the Jones-Cormier main event.  Now that’s selfish.

International Fight Week

If you’ve never been to International Fight Week, it’s sort of like the NFL Experience at the Super Bowl.  If you have never been to that, think big convention hall with tons of sponsor/vendor booths, interactive areas and talks from special guests.  It’s a great thing to go and see if you’re a big UFC fan.  I realize that over the years this event may have lost steam, but once again, it’s something for the true UFC fan.

While UFC 200 and International Fight Week may have been much bigger with Ronda Rousey and/or Conor McGregor on the card, the event and week is a good opportunity for the UFC and its partners to engage with its fan base.

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