The Interview: Leslie Smith and Lucas Middlebrook

February 5, 2019

Leslie Smith and Lucas Middlebrook discuss the details of Smith’s NLRB dispute with the UFC and Project Spearhead.

The two will appear at the University of Oregon Law School on Saturday as part of the school’s Sports and Entertainment Law Forum.

For context on Smith’s Declaration discussed in the interview, it is attached to the appeal.  Also for more info on the whole dispute, see here.

NLRB denies Leslie Smith Ap… by on Scribd

Finally, apologies for the dog barking in the middle of the interview.  My bad.

UFC on ESPN+2 attendance and bonuses

February 2, 2019

UFC on ESPN + 2 produced 4 bonus winners on Saturday night with the main event and co-main event winners drawing 2 of the $50,000 awards.

Marlon Moraes, Jose Aldo, Charles Oliveira and Johnny Walker all won Performance Bonuses Saturday night from Fortaleza, Brazil.  Moraes won via first round submission over Raphael Assuncao in the main event of the evening.  Aldo stopped featherweight contender Renato Moicano in the first round of the co-main event of the night.  Charles Oliveira scored another submission performance bonus with a 2nd round Anaconda choke over David Teymur.  Also on the night, we saw the energetic Johnny Walker as he KO’d Justin Ledet just seconds into the fight.

The event from Centro de Formacao Olimpica do Nordeste in Fortaleza, Brazil drew 10,040 fans.  There was no mention of gate as is the case with most of the Brazilian cards.

The UFC announced the bonus and attendance post-event.

Payout Perspective:

It was a good night of fights for the main UFC on ESPN+2 card with a faster pace of fights and some exciting submissions and endings.  The bonuses reflected the depth of the card with the young and exciting Johnny Walker, the bonus-winner Do Bronx, the veteran Jose Aldo and the title contender of Marlon Moraes.

Jon Jones cleared to fight at UFC 235 in March

January 30, 2019

On Tuesday, the Nevada Athletic Commission granted Jon Jones a one-fight license to compete on March 2nd against Anthony Smith at UFC 235.

Jones, who appeared in person at the meeting, will be required to be drug tested a minimum of twice a month until he fights in March.  He will then need to continue testing throughout all of 2019 if he seeks to fight in the state again.

Unlike the California State Athletic Commission, who was willing to pay for the costs of the additional testing for Jones, Nevada is making Jones pay for the testing.

Jones was represented by Maine drug doping attorney Paul Greene.  In prior doping hearings, Jones had been represented by Howard Jacobs.  The hearing included testimony from USADA which led to the commission opining if more should be done with the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.

The commission made it known that this was not a “get out of jail free” card.  Yet, there was still no resolution of the pathology of the drug.  Green indicated that the substance remains in Jones’ system and while further testing may reveal turinabol but additional banned contents in Jones’ tests may result in the end of his MMA career.

Payout Perspective:

This is perhaps an anticlimactic end to the Jones’ controversy.  One has to wonder at some point why Turinabol remains in his system and why it remains in his system.  Jones has cut down his supplements from 14 to 4.  The remaining 4 are certified according to Green.  The one-fight license seems to just punt away the issue until another date.  The enhanced drug testing does not seem to determine the real issue since they are just getting the result, but not the origin of the turinabol seems to be the answer they need.  We will see how the commission deals with this in the future.

NAC doles out punishments from UFC 229 fallout

January 29, 2019

The Nevada Athletic Commission handed out punishments from October’s UFC 229 melee with Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmogomedov.  The NAC handed out its punishments at its monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Conor McGregor, who was represented by former UFC and WSOF exec Michael Mersch, received a $50,000 fine and a six-month suspension as a result of his part in the post-main event fight that broke out after his bout with Khabib.  Chairman Anthony Marnell III stated that McGregor was defending himself during the melee but indicated that his engagement with Khabib’s corner did not make him an innocent victim.  Executive Director Bob Bennett also stated that the pre-fight comments and trash talk from McGregor likely incited the issues.

Khabib Nurmagomedov received a nine-month suspension and a $500,000 fine for his part in the post-fight antics at UFC 229.  Khabib had climbed the cage after defeating McGregor to go after Dillon Danis in the crowd.  The commission indicated that the suspension could be reduced by up to 3 months if he is to do an anti-bullying PSA that must be approved by the commission.

Both Khabib and Connor suspensions are retroactive to October 6, 2018 and would be able to return by April 6, 2019 (assuming Khabib does the PSA).

Khabib’s cornermen, Zubaira Tukhugov and Abubakar Nurmagomedov were suspended a year by the commission and given $25,000 fines.  Each became physically involved in the post-fight.  Assuming their suspensions are also retroactive, they would not be able to return until October 2019.

Payout Perspective:

The sentences allow for Conor and Khabib to return to fight this spring which is optimal for the UFC.  If you are to interpret Khabib’s social media, he does not like the fact that he was given a stiffer sentence than McGregor.  Yet, one might anticipate a return fight between the two set for July’s International Fight Week.

McGregor and Khabib broker settlements with NAC prior to Tuesday hearing

January 29, 2019

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmogomedov have brokered settlements with the Nevada Athletic Commission prior to Tuesday’s hearing.

McGregor and Nurmogomedov were on the agenda for the monthly commission hearing to discuss punishment for October’s post-fight fight at UFC 229.  The melee saw the commission withhold Nurmogomedov’s purse in light of his actions.  It later reviewed video which also assessed liability to McGregor for his part in the post-fight altercation.

According to the report by Adam Hill, settlements were also reached with Khabib’s teammates Abubakar Nurmagomedov and Zuabaira Tukhugov.  Both were involved in the UFC 229 fracas.

The settlements have you to be disclosed although Bennett confirmed the settlement agreements.  The report indicates that the commission will agree to the settlement.

Payout Perspective:

Swift and without further discussion is likely what the UFC wanted to do with the settlement negotiations for the fighters.  One would think an ample fine and a suspension that will allow for each fighter to return by July’s International Fight Week is likely the forecast.

UFC releases economic data of UFC 229 a day before Conor-Khabib NAC hearings

January 28, 2019

A day before the commission’s disciplinary hearings involving Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmogomedov, the UFC released an economic impact statement on how the fight drove the economy in Las Vegas.

According to the release, UFC 229 delivered $86.4 million in total economic output according to a study conducted by the research firm Applied Analysis.  According to the release, it’s the largest economic impact for a single UFC event measured globally.

Via UFC press release:

Key Highlights of the UFC® 229: KHABIB vs. MCGREGOR economic impact study:

  • $86.4 million total economic output
  • $17.2 million total salaries and wages paid
  • 414 jobs supported in Southern Nevada
  • $3.7 million total taxes paid by visitors
  • 40% of UFC 229 visitors traveled from international locations
  • 50% of attendees were between the ages of 21 to 34
  • 50% of attendees reported an annual household income of $100,000 or more
  • One in five attendees stayed in Las Vegas for at least five days
  • Nearly two in five attendees reported spending more than $2,000 on non-gaming activities

Payout Perspective:

Was the study commissioned by the UFC?  Obviously, if it was, there are reasons to be skeptical.  These economic highlights are impressive and one might think the UFC could produce something like this for its International Fight Week in July as well.  But the reason for this information might be due to the disciplinary hearings occurring Tuesday for Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmogomedov.  Although it was an economic boon for the city, it was a black mark for MMA as Khabib jumped the cage and Conor took a swing at one of Khabib’s teammates.

Report indicates “more than 525,000” new ESPN+ subscribers as a result of UFC debut

January 28, 2019

The Sports Business Journal reports that ESPN gained  more than 525,000 new subscribers as a result of the UFC debut on the network.

With its debut at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn earlier this month, the company scored big (even with a delay) with the UFC.  The prelims drew nearly 2 million viewers with big numbers in other demos including the important A18-49 column.

The article reports on ESPN’s strategy of pushing its digital brand by handing out black “ESPN +” t-shirts for fans to wear during the UFC event at the Barclay’s center. It was part of a fan festival to bring in the company’s new partner.  It also had a special suite for press to show off its capabilities.

According to a press release from ESPN disclosed a day after the event the UFC Prelim card on the network drew 1.4 metered market rating which was the highest-rated UFC Fight Night Prelims on cable since 2013.  It also received over 568,000 subscribers of the ESPN + service where the early prelims and main card were aired.

Payout Perspective:

The latest disclosure in the SBJ article released on Monday indicates that there were approximately 43,000 subscribers that signed up for a trial version and then cancelled.  Yet the retention rates are superb considering the debut on ESPN did not have huge names.  It does seem ironic that the Flyweight division was featured yet, could be on the precipice of extinction.  A thing to monitor is how and if ESPN will continue to disclose these subscriber numbers (similar to how WWE has done it) and the retention rates.  Based on the debut, it looks like this could be the start of a promising partnership.


PBC on Fox draws 1.72M viewers Saturday night opposite NBA and NHL

January 27, 2019

PBC on Fox Saturday night drew a fast-overnight rating of 1.72 million viewers according to Television By Numbers.   PBC had stiff competition for sports fans on the networks Saturday night.

ABC aired the NBA Countdown show in the first 30 minutes of the PBC event and then aired the Golden State Warriors playing the Boston Celtics.  The Countdown show drew 2.19 million viewers and the game which started at 8:3pm EST drew 3.33 million viewers with a 1.0 rating the A18-49 demo and a 5 share of the overall viewership.  NBC showed the NHL All-Star Game from 8-11pm EST.  The event drew 2.15 million viewers with 0.7 in the A18-49 demo and a 3 share of the audience.

PBC’s second telecast without the UFC as a companion combat sports driver for the network drew a 0.4  in the A18-49 demo and a 2 share overall.

The telecast featured the return of Keith Thurman as he defeated Josesito Lopez via majority decision. A great deal of the fight occurred after the 10pm EST time slot so one might expect the viewership to grow.

Payout Perspective:

 The event improved upon December’s PBC event which drew 1.69 million viewers.  One can see this as a good showing considering the amount of sports opposite PBC on Saturday night.  The Warrior-Celtics game was an entertaining throughout and the NHL audience produced a vast amount of hockey fans to NBC.  This time last year, UFC on Fox 27 drew 1,770,000 which was the lowest UFC on Fox rating up until that date.

Walt Harris failed CSAC drug test at UFC 232

January 24, 2019

The California State Athletic Commission has temporarily suspended heavyweight Walt Harris after he failed a CSAC drug test on the night of his fight at UFC 232.

The substance Harris tested positive for was LGD-4033, a selective androgen receptor modules (SARM), which is in the same class as Ostarine.

Harris’ camp indicated that it may know the supplement which caused the failed test and has disclosed it to the commission for further investigation.

A urine sample revealed the banned substance which is considered an investigational drug used for muscle wasting and osteoporosis.

Notably, NBA basketball player Joakim Noah was banned twenty game for testing positive for LGD-4033.  Also, in 2015, it was reported that University of Florida quarterback Will Grier tested positive for LGD-4033 but the school refuted these claims.

Payout Perspective:

It’s not known whether Harris also failed a USADA test since the policy of reporting failed tests has changed under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.  USADA still could sanction Harris based on a commission test failure according to the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.  Notably, the state commission will take the lead on this investigation since it was their test.  It will be interesting to see the amount of time it takes for the commission to determine the source of the banned substance and whether Harris will be punished.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Jones tests positive for metabolite of oral Turinabol per VADA test

January 23, 2019

Jon Jones has tested positive for the long-term M3 metabolite of oral turinabol according to drug tests administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency. It appears as though Jones has tested positive for this banned substance, that he will not face any punitive measures per the guidelines of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.

As most know, Jones had tested positive for turinabol prior to his fight this past December with Alexander Gustafsson.  However, it was deemed to be as a remnant of turinabol 15 months prior.  Of course, USADA and Jones could not find the pathology of the banned substance in Jones’ system.

It is interesting to note that it was reported that drug test taken by Jones and administered by the California State Athletic Commission after the Gustafsson fight came up negative for turinabol.  Yet, the VADA test came up with the banned substance.

Payout Perspective:

While we have been cautioned not to jump to opinions on this, one has to speculate how Jones’ CSAC test on the night of the fight came up negative for oral turinabol metabolites but the VADA test shows a different result.  Are we to conclude that Jones is an anomaly?  While the UFC claims that another fighter is dealing with a similar situation, the scientific studies behind this show that this does not happen with humans.  The commission and regulators decry that Jones will not be given a free pass for every failed drug test, one has to wonder what to do with Jones except for pressing the media not to report on this.

MMA Payout will continue to monitor this situation.  It will be an interesting situation when Jones appears before the Nevada Athletic Commission as it did not issue Jones a license for his December fight which precipitated the late move.

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