UFC Fight Night 75: 841,000 viewers; prelims 270,000

September 29, 2015

UFC Fight Night 75 drew an average viewership of 841,000 863,000 viewers on Saturday night on FS1 via Sports TV Ratings. The rating reflects a slight increase from Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 74 from Saskatoon.  In addition, the prelims drew 270,000 viewers.

UPDATED: TV By Numbers notes that UFC Fight Night 75 drew 841K viewers.  The 841,000 viewers is correct.

In the main event, Josh Barnett defeated Roy Nelson via unanimous decision.

UFC Fight Nights 2015
Main Card (Live +SD)
UFC Fight Night 59 2,751,000
UFC Fight Night 60 913,000
UFC Fight Night 61 1,200,000
UFC Fight Night 62 617,000
UFC Fight Night 63 389,000
UFC Fight Night 66 575,000
UFC Fight Night 67 813,000
UFC Fight Night 68 950,000
UFC Fight Night 70 (prelims on FS2) 909,000
UFC Fight Night 71 801,000
UFC Fight Night 72 508,000
UFC Fight Night 73 1,159,000
UFC Fight Night 74 796,000
UFC Fight Night 75 841,000

Payout Perspective:

Decent numbers considering that the event which aired from 10-1:15am ET went up against 3 Pac 12 college football games on ABC (2.38M avg over course of game), Fox (3.4M) and ESPN (2.1M) (all 3 turned out to be blowouts) as well as crossing over with PBC on NBC.  The event is a slight increase from the last event but a drop off from an early August event that occurred on a Saturday night.  The average viewership for the years is at 946,000.

We will update with prelims soon.

UFC announces April 2016 event in New York but it hinges on new lawsuit

September 28, 2015

The UFC has announced per press release that it is filing a new lawsuit in federal court in New York once again challenging the legislative ban on professional MMA in the state.  In a show of confidence, it has also scheduled an event on April 23, 2016 in New York’s Madison Square Garden assuming that the court will grant a preliminary injunction.

Via UFC press release:

“We believe fight fans have waited long enough to experience live UFC events in the state of New York and we are thrilled to announce our first event at Madison Square Garden,” UFC Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein said. “Professional MMA is legal around of the world and it is about time New York followed suit.”

In August, UFC filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit – the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over New York – stating that New York’s prohibition of regulated professional MMA events violates the First Amendment rights of athletes and fans throughout the state.

On September 28, UFC filed a new case in federal court, reiterating its claim that the New York law banning MMA events is unconstitutional.  This out-of-date law is too unclear for the public to understand, and has allowed regulators in New York to pick and choose arbitrarily what events they will permit.  Events featuring every combat sport except MMA seem to be allowed in New York, though this is not explicitly stated in the law.  The statute, and the state’s pattern of enforcing it, violates the Constitution’s prohibition on unconstitutionally vague laws.

Later this week, UFC will ask a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction against New York state officials enforcing its unconstitutional law. Without such an injunction, the event at Madison Square Garden will not be able to proceed.

The appeal by the UFC of its original lawsuit against New York filed in November 2011 is still ongoing with Paul Clement filing a brief on behalf of the UFC in early August and the state set to file its brief at the beginning of November.  The lawsuit filed by the UFC today looks to be different than the appeal currently pending.

A preliminary injunction seeks equitable relief (as opposed to monetary damages) from a court prior to a final determination of the merits.  A key distinction here for the UFC to get an event in New York by this spring.

In general the factors determining whether a court will grant a preliminary injunction are:

  1. The substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the case;
  2. The party seeking the injunction faces a substantial threat of irreparable damage or injury if the injunction is not granted;
  3. The threat is immediate;
  4. The balance of harms weighs in favor of the party seeking the preliminary injunction;
  5. There is no other available remedy;
  6. The grant of an injunction would serve the public interest.

Notably, MMA has seen its share of preliminary injunctions recently.  Eddie Alvarez sought a preliminary injunction in a New Jersey state court case when he sought to be released from Bellator to fight in the UFC.  He lost.  However, as we now know, he made it to the UFC.

Bellator MMA filed a preliminary injunction in New Jersey attempting to prevent Rampage Jackson from fighting at UFC 186.  The trial court granted the injunction but the state appellate court overturned the injunction and allowed Jackson to fight at UFC 186.

Payout Perspective:

It’s a risky gamble by the UFC.  Before the event can even happen in April, the court must grant a preliminary injunction to allow the company to hold it.  Thus, the UFC could be out a lot of money.  But that’s the strategy.  Planning the event in April will shows there’s a “threat of irreparable damage,” it is “immediate” and “would serve the public interest.”  Thus, three of the requisite 6 factors (possibly more) to grant a preliminary injunction would be satisfied.  The legal strategy seems to hang on the opinion which dismissed the original lawsuit as Judge Kimba Wood seemed to entertain the argument that the statute banning professional MMA was vague but since no event actually occurred in the state, there was no harm.  Judge Wood stated that Zuffa could not establish “injury in fact.”  However, in what probably precipitated this new effort, Judge Wood indicated that it might have a claim based on events occurring after the filing of the November 2011 lawsuit.  But, Judge Wood stated that a re-filing likely would be better if it was in state court.  According to the press release, the new lawsuit is in federal court.

We have not seen the lawsuit as since it was filed today, it is still not up on Pacer.  MMA Payout will keep you posted

Nick Diaz petition reaches over 60,000 signatures

September 28, 2015

An online petition to the White House to overturn Nick Diaz’s 5 year suspension rendered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission this month has surpassed 60,000 signatures.

Nick Diaz tweeted the following:

A fan started the petition on September 14th and it is up to 61,283 signatures as of this writing.  It needs to reach 100,000 signatures by October 14th.  What happens if it reaches its goal?

According to the web site, if it reaches the signature threshold the White House will review the petition and then make a decision whether to do something or nothing.

The White House plans to respond to each petition that crosses the signature threshold, which you can view on the Terms of Participation page. In a few rare cases (such as specific procurement, law enforcement, or adjudicatory matters), the White House response might not address the facts of a particular matter to avoid exercising improper influence. In addition, the White House will not respond to petitions that violate We the People’s Terms of Participation. In some cases, a single response may be used for similar petitions.

The web site explains the right and reason to petition here.

Previously, an MMA fan started a petition to have Paige VanZant shave her head after she apparently promised to do so but never did.  That petition only has 139 signatures.  It needs over 99,000 by October 6th for review by the White House.

Payout Perspective:

Realistically, the White House petition will not overturn the NAC decision even if Diaz’s petition reaches 100K signatures.  It is unlikely that the White House will deal with a state administrative matter.  This issue would and should be handled by the state.  We will likely see this in the form of a lawsuit to seek judicial review.  However, the groundswell of support for Diaz may get local Nevada lawmakers to take note and seek to address the NAC.  Moreover, it will educate people about the NAC, its rules and how individuals are appointed to the position.  There is an opening on the Commission and certainly this is an opportunity for a politician to grab the momentum in seeking an appointment from the Governor.

UFC Fight Night 75 attendance and bonuses

September 27, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and bonuses for UFC Fight Night 75 taking place Saturday night from Japan.  Notably, the attendance was the lowest for a UFC show in Japan since March 2013.

Per MMA Junkie, there was no official attendance announced for UFC 144 in February 2012 although it was an estimated crowd of 21,000 and confirmation that at least 15,000 seats were sold for the event at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan.

March 2013 – UFC on Fuel TV 8: 14,682

September 2014 – UFC Fight Night 52: 12,395

September 2015 – UFC Fight Night 75: 10,137

Uriah Hall led the bonuses of the night with his upset victory, via the help of his spin kick, on Gegard Mousasi.  Josh Barnett, Diego Brandao and Keita Nakamura also received $50K.

Payout Perspective:

Before we bad mouth the attendance figures, we note that this show was being held Sunday morning in Japan.  Last year, the show was later in the day in Japan (late Friday night in the U.S.) to accommodate the fans.  We may be seeing fans starting to decide, based on the card, whether or not they want to see the fight live.  Japan is a prime area for the UFC in its strategy to build an Asian market for the organization and while the attendance figures are down, subtle tweaks could facilitate growth.  One need only look to see what Bellator is doing to understand the Japanese influence in MMA and understand that it’s a prime market.

But, if the cards are inconvenient timewise, fans might not be motivated to buy tickets.  We shall see if the UFC decides to localize the event for a Fight Pass audience and allowing the fans more of a convenience.

Judge denies UFC’s Motion to Dismiss antitrust lawsuit

September 26, 2015

Judge Richard Boulware denied UFC’s Motion to Dismiss the antitrust lawsuit brought by former UFC fighters at a hearing in the U.S. District Court of Nevada Friday.  The lawsuit will continue with the parties hammering out a process to conduct discovery.

The UFC provided a statement after the Friday afternoon hearing:

The United States District Court in Las Vegas, Nevada held a hearing on UFC’s motion to dismiss today.  The Court correctly explained that on a motion to dismiss it must consider all the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and the complaint must be liberally construed in favor of the plaintiffs.  Using that standard, the Court denied the motion to dismiss.  As we have consistently stated, UFC competes in a lawful manner that benefits athletes around the world and has created a premier organization in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA).  We look forward to proving that the allegations in the complaint are meritless.

BE’s Paul Gift provided a running commentary on the courtroom arguments.  As the moving party (i.e., UFC’s motion to dismiss), it was the UFC’s burden to prove that the plaintiffs’ motion failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted.

Almost in anticipation that the motion would be denied, the parties filed a Joint Status Report on Friday which outlines the status of the case.  There’s no trial date as of yet as the parties continue to map out discovery which will probably entail a voluminous amount of documents.  It appears that the parties will quarrel over the amount of information to be produced (a standard that occurs in almost every lawsuit).

Payout Perspective:

Good news for the plaintiffs but not a monumental loss for the UFC.  Although people watching this case may see the court’s denial of the motion to dismiss as a huge precedent victory, the plaintiffs are not out of the woods yet.  As we’ve discussed (and maybe someone actually reading this has followed), the Motion to Dismiss was just a standard part of the litigation playbook.  Thus far, the UFC has succeeded in transferring the case to Vegas and the parties are grappling over discovery issues.  At some point, the UFC will once again attempt to dismiss the case on a Motion for Summary Judgment.

But, the plaintiffs will get a chance to probe UFC documents and potentially depose some UFC officials.  This may reveal some information that may help their case as well as paint the UFC in a bad light.  We shall see.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Nelson indicates he wasn’t tested prior to Saturday’s fight; USADA responds

September 25, 2015

MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn tweeted that Roy Nelson was not drug tested prior to his bout with Josh Barnett for Saturday’s UFC event in Japan.  However, USADA indicates that its representatives are in Japan and will test fighters participating at UFC Fight Night 75.

MMA Payout asked USADA whether it was conducting drug testing for Saturday’s event taking place in Saitama, Japan.  USADA’s Senior Communications Manager Annie Skinner stated in an email that USADA representatives were in Japan and “there will be testing occurring there.”

Payout Perspective:

First, USADA was very quick in response to my query.  Second, the fact that USADA reps are at the UFC event, does not necessarily mean everyone was/is being tested.  However, one of the questions that came to my mind after contacting USADA was whether there was out of competition testing prior to the event.  If we believe Nelson’s statement, then no.  USADA has the authority to conduct out of competition testing but it does not necessarily mean it is required for each event and every fighter.

While USADA appears to be conducting the in-competition testing (testing defined as six hours prior to the start of the scheduled weigh-in until six hours after the conclusion of the bout) in Japan, at least one of the main event fighters did not receive out of competition testing.

Certainly there is a presumption that at least the fighters in the main event would receive more scrutiny (i.e., drug testing).  Even though Nelson’s physique does not suggest any enhancements, the anti-doping program was put in place to clean up and monitor the UFC.  Testing fighters, especially in the infancy stages of the program seems like a necessity.

TUF 22 Episode 3 draws 533,000 viewers

September 24, 2015

The third episode of TUF 22 drew 533, 000 viewers on FS1 Wednesday night according to Sports TV Ratings.  It reflects an approximately 15% increase over last week’s episode.

In the episode, Team Faber’s Chris Gruetzemacher defeated Team McGregor’s Sascha Sharma.  The episode featured a meltdown by McGregor as Sharma did not listen to his coaching during the fight.

TUF 22 Ratings
Live +SD DVR +3
Episode 1 622,000 902,000
Episode 2 463,000 740,000
Episode 3 533,000

TUF 22 Ratings through Ep 3

Payout Perspective:

Not sure about you, but I like the Conor-Faber back and forth.  Frankly, there was nothing special out of last night’s show but I found the interplay between the coaches entertaining.

The top sports cable show for the night was MLB on ESPN as the pennant race is here.  The Yankees-Blue Jays game drew slightly over 1 million viewers in the 7-10pmET time slot.  TUF came in second in its time slot for sports cable shows as the second game on ESPN, Dodgers-DBacks, drew 557,000 viewers.  The average through 3 episodes is 540,000.  In comparison, TUF 20 last fall drew an average of 514,000 viewers through 3 episodes and last spring’s TUF 21 drew only an average of 422,000 viewers.

Fortune chooses Rousey for 2015 “40 under 40” list

September 24, 2015

Ronda Rousey was chosen by Fortune as one of its “40 under 40,” in its annual list compiled by the magazine.  The list identifies the top young professionals that influence business under the age of 40.

Per Fortune, the list is “a measure of power and influence.”  To find out how they compiled the list, go here.

Rousey, 28, was chosen based on her undefeated record in the UFC and her burgeoning mainstream movie career.  According to Forbes, she’s made an estimated $5 million from fighting this year.  On a recent appearance on “Ellen,” Rousey stated that she was the highest paid fighter in the UFC.  Aside from “Ellen,” the UFC has made inroads into the mainstream TV talk show circuit due to the women’s bantamweight champion.  This includes Rousey appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to announce her latest fight against Holly Holm.

In addition to her movie appearances, the release of her book earlier this year has done well in sales.

The Forbes writeup also highlights a speech she gave about body image and gained more interest after Beyonce used it during a concert.

On another note, Rousey, nor any other UFC fighter made the list of Forbes’ world’s highest paid athletes for 2015.  Of course, if Rousey is the highest paid fighter, there would be no other UFC fighter on the list which has Floyd Mayweather at the top.

Payout Perspective:

While the cynical might note that the list might be PR driven, it still is a remarkable ascent considering the fact Dana White once said he never wanted women to fight in the UFC.  Rousey’s star is on the rise and the Fortune recognition shows her popularity.  Vicariously through this acknowledgement, it provides some good public relations for the UFC.  It will be interesting to see where we are one or two years from now and see if Rousey makes the transition (similar to The Rock, note that they share the same agent) to movies.

Gus speaks out about Reebok deal

September 23, 2015

MMA Junkie reports that Alexander Gustafsson is the latest UFC fighter to speak out about the Reebok apparel deal.  Although Gustafsson chose his words, he advocated for more pay for the lesser-established fighters.

“Pay the fighters a lot more money,” Gustafsson told MMA Junkie.  He also chimed in on the Reebok deal and while he did not criticize the deal, he believed that fighters that make less should benefit from sponsors to help those “pay the rent.”  “I don’t have anything negative to say about it [Reebok deal]. I just think, why take away from fighters who haven’t established themselves in the organization?”

Gustafsson also stated that fighters starting out (that make minimal money) should be supported from local sponsors.  He believes that this would help develop within the sport as being funded by sponsors would allow fighters to spend more time in the gym.

Payout Perspective:

While Gustafsson wanted to make sure that he did not want to be negative about the Reebok deal, he does offer a critique of what he observes is occurring as a result of the deal.  Without sponsors to help fund fighters, it inhibits those on the low end of the salary scale from dedicating the time to cultivate their abilities as most have to take on jobs to pay their bills.  Of course, training for a fight also costs money.  Thus, Gustafsson definitely sees the reasons why the deal does not help younger fighters.  It’s good that fighters like Gustafsson are willing to speak out about the Reebok deal even though they may not be directly affected.

TUF 22 Episode 2 up to 740,000 in DVR +3 numbers

September 23, 2015

MMA Payout has learned that the second episode of TUF from last Wednesday drew an increase of 60% from its initial live airing according to Nielsen sources.  The DVR +3 ratings was up to 740,000 viewers last week.

The increase in DVR viewership is up from the first episode’s DVR increase.  It was up 15% from last spring’s second episode which received 646,000 viewers.

TUF 22 Ratings
Live +SD DVR +3
Episode 1 622,000 902,000
Episode 2 463,000 740,000

TUF 22 Ratings through Ep 2

Payout Perspective:

Small steps, but the adjusted viewership from DVR watching is now better than last season’s average (821,000).  However, it still trails last fall’s TUF 20 in DVR viewership (888,000 through 2 episodes).  It’s still too early to tell if the McGregor-Faber pairing is helping ratings.

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