Media were requested not to ask about Greg Hardy during media day

December 5, 2018

The UFC held media day for UFC 231 this Saturday in Toronto.  But one of the hot topics on everyone’s mind was the announcement that former NFL player Greg Hardy would make his debut on UFC’s first ESPN card in January.  This is the same card that Rachael Ostovich would be on.

For those not knowing, Hardy is a domestic abuser having been found guilty of heinous acts against his ex-girlfriend.  However, he was not sentenced to prison due to his ex-girlfriend not appearing to testify against him.  Ostovich had her orbital bone fractured in November by her boyfriend.  It was questionable if she would be able to fight Paige VanZant on the card but it appears she will make it.

The two on the same card presents a cruel irony and one has to wonder if the UFC knew of this as promoters and whether ESPN had an inkling this was happening as the new media partner.

With this information fresh in everyone’s mind, today’s media day seemed like a good time to get answers to these questions.

Except, it appears that the questions were limited.

Controlling the media is not a new thing, nor is this isolated to the UFC.   Other sports have had restrictions on the type of questions you may ask.  Teams are concerned about they types of things that are asked of their players.  They fear players may go off-topic and steer outside of the message.  Moreover, it could inadvertently get them in trouble.

Anecdotally, I’ve covered a couple NFL and NBA games in my time, and the media relations for the teams seem somewhat lax as they know most professionals and have built relationships.  Notably, in the NBA, access is pretty open especially after games.  That is, if players want to talk, they’ll talk.  If not, you are ushered away.

Other instances, media relations will want to control the message more with restrictions like the one offered by the UFC today.

This is due in part for the UFC to come up with a plan on how to address the issue.  Once determined, they will feed it to their network partner.  Thus, we can look forward for an exclusive with ESPN.

One might be able to understand the reasoning for today’s scale back of questions.  The UFC is trying to sell a PPV this Saturday.  If the media day is hijacked with Hardy questions, its hard for the company to get their message out.  Also, it is unfair to the four fighters that were up there taking questions.  They are cutting weight and have other concerns on their mind – namely Saturday’s opponent.

Is this right?  Should the dog wag the tail?  The UFC was in a bad position.  Certainly not announcing the Hardy bout until next week would have been the most prudent thing to do.  Logistically, this may not have been possible.  Despite the controversy, the UFC wanted to control this story and will spin in a way to make it sound reasonable.

This can’t be a good start to the ESPN relationship.  While fans should be excited for fights to be on ESPN, this controversy could have been abated with Hardy starting at a later date.

But, the UFC seems to do things for a reason, we suspect.  Recall that the UFC is the company that used footage of Conor McGregor throwing a dolly at a bus to spur UFC 229.  The event featured Khabib Nurmogomedov jumping into the crowd and McGregor throwing a punch at one of Khabib’s team in a post-fight melee.  But the UFC defended its marketing of the event stating it was part of the story and the brawl was not ignited due to a couple commercials.

It is a little awkward for the journalist.  Their job is based on retaining media credentials and building relationships.  They can’t have them pulled because their organization would lose out on access.  Moreover, a relationship is needed with the UFC in order to get fighter interviews, information on upcoming fights, etc.  But, you have to be wise with decisions. I was once told by a PR person for an MMA organization that if we pulled an article, we would be the first to have access to an upcoming story.  We never got that breaking story.

Here we have a more sensitive controversy: domestic violence.  Hardy was exiled from football for hitting a woman.  He turned to MMA and his name recognition and ability has helped him ascend quickly.  He has asked for forgiveness for his past problems and there is the old adage that everyone is deserved a second chance.

The UFC is doing just that.  He has won the fights put in front of him and now will be featured on ESPN.  The question is why do this on such a big event for the company and its new partner.  And, why do it on the same card that a domestic violence victim is on?

If only media could ask the question.

UFC books Greg Hardy debut on same card as Rachael Ostovich

December 5, 2018

ESPN is reporting that former NFL player Greg Hardy is set to make his UFC debut on ESPN’s first televised card on January 19th in Brooklyn.  Hardy’s past includes a domestic violence incident involving his ex-girlfriend in which he was found guilty and sentenced but the charges were later dropped after the victim failed to appear in court to testify.

Also on the card is Rachael Ostovich, who was recently a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her boyfriend.  Ostovich suffered a fractured orbital bone has said that she will be ready to fight Paige VanZant as one of the featured fights on the card.

The announcement that Hardy will fight on the same card as Ostovich has been criticized from the outset.  Not only for signing Hardy, who appeared on two episodes of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series this past summer, but for the lack of awareness of putting Hardy on the same card as a domestic violence victim.

It almost seems as though the UFC did this on purpose to gain the most controversy in order for people to tune in to ESPN’s debut on the network.  The UFC realized the bad press with signing Hardy, but putting him on the same card as Ostovich seems tone deaf and in poor taste.

This was just announced, so maybe the UFC decides to move one of the fights due to the backlash.

UFC Fight Night 142 draws 702,000 viewers, prelims 471,000

December 4, 2018

UFC Fight Night 142 from Adelaide, Australia drew 702,000 on Saturday night according to Nielsen.  The prelims drew 471,000 viewers.

The main card featured Junior dos Santos as he defeated local favorite Tai Tuivasa.  The former UFC heavyweight champion stopped the previously undefeated Tuivasa in the second round.  The main card drew 396,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo per ShowBuzz Daily.

The prelims featured Alexey Kunchenko as he defeated Yushin Okami via unanimous decision.  The event drew 210,000 in the A18-49 demo.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are good considering that there was a lot of combat sports on Saturday including the big Fury-Wilder fight, Bellator and Showtime Boxing.  Considering that this card was on the second of a back-to-back UFC telecast, the ratings are solid.

Leslie Smith NLRB Appeal is denied

December 4, 2018

Leslie Smith’s appeal of the dismissal of her NLRB complaint has been denied.  According to the NLRB web site a denial letter was issued on November 27, 2018.

In May, Smith filed a labor complaint against Zuffa last May citing the company took adverse action against Smith due to her involvement in a protected activity.  As we know, Smith is an ardent supporter of Project Spearhead, a group supporting athlete’s right and the need for an association/union.  The NLRB investigator found merit in her claim and there was an indication in June that the NLRB would file a complaint against Zuffa based on the evidence provided by Smith.  But the case was sent to Washington D.C. for review by the Division of Advice.

After it was turned over to the Washington D.C. office, the NLRB reversed course and in September dismissed Smith’s claim citing that the UFC’s conduct actually benefited Smith.

In light of the dismissal, Smith’s attorney, Lucas Middelbrook, filed an appeal, requesting that the same Investigator that initially was assigned to the matter to reconsider the dismissal.  It also requested the recusal of NLRB’s General Counsel Peter Robb and Deputy General Counsel John W. Kyle.  Middlebrook asserted that Robb and Kyle were directly involved with the decision to dismiss Smith’s case.

The latest news looks as though the NLRB has reviewed the appeal and has upheld the dismissal.

Payout Perspective:

Bad timing for this news as Smith will appear on Samantha Bee’s “Fully Loaded,” talking about her quest for better fighter rights.  It airs Wednesday night.  If there is an appeal of this board decision it will go to the United States Court of Appeals.  This denial is not too surprising based on the decision this past September.  MMA Payout will have more information on this matter.

 

 

TUF Finale 28 main card draws 399,000 viewers on FS1

December 3, 2018

The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale drew 399,000 viewers on FS1 Friday night according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The prelims which preceded the event drew 353,000 viewers.

The main card saw Kamaru Usman defeat Rafael dos Anjos via unanimous decision.  There was a slight overrun for the event.  In addition, two TUF champions were crowned in Juan Espino and Macy Chiasson.

The TUF 28 post-fight show on FS1 drew 139,000 at 1:07am ET on FS1.

In the final bout of the prelims, Kevin Aguilar defeated Rick Glenn by unanimous decision.

Payout Perspective:

The finale drew over 100,000 less viewers last year for the main card.  It fell off only slightly from the prelims.  The ratings may be due to a heavy-sports Friday night as well as the unfortunate slow-demise of this series.  While there were other interesting fights the show, it looks like fight fans were not interested in back-to-back UFC cards.

Court in UFC Antitrust Lawsuit decline legal “hot-tub”

December 2, 2018

The Court in the UFC Antitrust lawsuit has ruled that there not be an evidentiary hearing on the admissibility of expert reports and testimony prior to the December 14th Motion for Summary Judgment and Class Certification hearing.

The Court issued a Minute Order late last week:

The Court has considered the Request [ECF No. [617]] for an evidentiary hearing. The Court DENIES this request at this time. The Court will the hear arguments of counsel and make a determination at the hearing on December 14, 2018 whether an evidentiary hearing is necessary to decide the Motion To Certify [ECF No. [518]].

As we explained in this post, the hearing requested by Zuffa was to determine expert testimony and the admissibility of the same.  The Plaintiffs argued that Zuffa was asking for a reconsideration of a evidentiary hearing to determine the expert testimony.  As Plaintiffs point out, the Motion to Certify the Class occurs on December 14th and would require a delay in that decision if they were to entertain such a hearing.

Payout Perspective:

A minor victory for the Plaintiffs here as it does not have to prepare for another hearing in this lawsuit.  It also prevents a determination on the evidence prior to the class certification hearing.  While the Court may still request an evidentiary hearing at some point, it saw no reason to do it prior to next Friday’s big day.  One might take this as good news for Plaintiffs if you think that the Court was concerned about the information that it needed another day to decide the evidence in this case.  Of course, the court’s calendar could be so full, there was just not enough time to slot it in before the 14th.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

UFC Fight Night 142 attendance, gate and bonuses

December 2, 2018

UFC Fight Night 142 in Adelaide, Australia took place on Saturday night in North America.  An old face led the bonus winners.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua won a Performance Bonus after his upset victory stunning local favorite Tyson Pedro.    In addition, newcomers Sodiq Yusuff and Kai Kara-France earned bonuses.  Yusuff had a first-round finish of Suman Mokhtarian.  Kara-France and Elias Garcia earned Fight of the Night.  Each received an additional $50,000.

The event at the Adelaide Entertainment Center drew 8,652 in attendance with a gate of $1,026,937 USD.

The attendance, gate and bonuses were announced post-event.

Payout Perspective:

A good turnout for what turned out to be a disappointing night for local fighters as Mark Hunt, Tyson Pedro and Tai Tuivasa all lost on Saturday.  Yet, it did produce some good performances such as the ones from newcomers Yusuff and Kara-France.

Usman heads up TUF 28 Finale bonuses

December 1, 2018

The TUF 28 Finale took place on Friday at The Pearl Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Kamaru Usman defeated Rafael Dos Anjos in the main event and Usman also scored with a performance bonus.

There was no fight of the night which but Usman, Benavidez, Juan Espino and Roosevelt Roberts earned $50,000 performance bonuses.  Notably, Espino won the TUF 28 Heavyweight bout with Justin Frazier to become this season’s Ultimate Fighter.  In the other TUF event of the evening Macy Chiasson defeated Pannie Kianzad to be the women’s featherweight Ultimate Fighter.

The event took place at the intimate Pearl Theater which drew 2,020 for a gate of $204,600.

The numbers were disclosed by the UFC post-event.

Payout Perspective:

Seven stoppages on the evening which made the bonuses a little hard to choose from but also a quicker evening than usual.  Usman should be in line for a major fight after dominating the former lightweight champion.

The finale episode of TUF 28 draws 140,000 viewers

November 29, 2018

The last episode of The Ultimate Fighter 28 on FS1 drew 140,000 viewers via Nieslen.  The 12th and final episode of this season was also the last on the network.

In the last fight of the episode, Macy Chiasson defeated Leah Letson to win the last spot to be in the TUF Finale which will happen Friday.  Chiasson won via TKO in the very first round.  She will face Pannie Kianzad in the women’s Featherweight final.

 

TUF 28
Live + SD
Episode 1 186,000
Episode 2 195,000
Episode 3 183,000
Episode 4 205,000
Episode 5 174,000
Episode 6 173,000
Episode 7 128,000
Episode 8 147,000
Episode 9 119,000
Episode 10 152,000
Episode 11 159,000
Episode 12 140,000

Payout Perspective:

The episode was the last in the TUF Gym as another one will be built when the promotion moves to ESPN.  It’s still not known about the future of the TUF franchise.  Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series has seemingly taken over the spot as the show for up-and-coming fighters looking to make their break into the UFC.  While the coaching dynamic was interesting at first, the novelty has worn off as the ratings for this series has fallen off and even the DVR ratings have waned.  In the end, it was a great way to introduce the product to fans and brought the reality television aspect to a casual viewing audience, but with the inundation of the product, we have readjusted our expectation of ratings.

UFC passes on re-signing Sage Northcutt

November 27, 2018

The UFC has decided not to re-sign Sage Northcutt to another contract according to Dana White.  The 22-year-old is a free agent after fighting out the terms of his contract with the company.

Northcutt was a much-heralded star coming into the UFC as he was one of the fighters “discovered” on Dana White’s YouTube reality show.  He entered the company with much promise and was pushed as the next great fighter.  His salary started out higher than most fighters coming into the company and he was given central spots on televised cards.  His good looks and down-home attitude made him a marketer’s dream.

But he failed to live up to expectations despite going 6-2 during his UFC stint.  But, his losses to Bryan Barberena and Mickey Gall showed the lack of experience on the ground for the striker.  Even with a purple belt in BJJ, the submission losses exposed clear flaws in his game.

White, on the UFC Unfiltered podcast stated that Northcutt’s contract was up and the UFC let him go.  White noted that Northcutt needed some work to do and that the company may take a look at him in the future.

Northcutt will not be without suitors to sign him.  He has mentioned being interest in signing with ONE Championship.  In fact, this twitter post makes more sense now with the news of Northcutt’s departure.

Payout Perspective:

Northcutt’s last reported purse was for $60,000 and another $60,000 if he won which is above-par for fighter’s similarly situated.  Clearly, the UFC took a gamble on Northcutt with the hope that he would improve quicker than he would.  In my opinion, I don’t fault Northcutt for not living up to the expectations. The good news is that there are options for Northcutt and it’s clear we’ll see him in ONE or Bellator.  He’s also very young so there’s a lot of time for improvement.

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