Latest round of court filings in Zuffa-New York lawsuit

August 24, 2014

Late last week Zuffa and the State of New York have filed its opposition to each party’s motions for summary judgment.  The responsive briefing is the continued litigation in the UFC’s quest to legalize professional MMA in the state.

As you may recall, both parties filed Motions for Summary Judgment.  New York filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in hopes of dismissing the remaining claim by Zuffa that the New York law that bans professional MMA is unconstitutionally vague.  Zuffa’s Motion for Summary Judgment would essentially strike down the law and preclude New York from its enforcement.

In its opposition to New York’s Motion for Summary Judgment it claims that it has standing to raise its challenge to the New York statute.  The argument is in direct rebuttal to New York’s assertion in its moving papers that Zuffa had no standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place since it could not claim injury.   Zuffa contends that it does have standing since it was the “object” of the state regulation.  Here, Zuffa argues that it was a direct object of the law as it is prohibiting professional MMA in the state.

In addition, it rebuts New York’s contention that there was no injury (and thus no standing).  The first was the claim that Zuffa had no plans to hold an event in New York and thus there was no injury.  The second contention was that Zuffa had no agreement with an Exempt Organization in the statute (which would allow for it to hold an event in the state). However, Zuffa argues that it “has taken all steps – short of violating the criminal law – to hold a professional MMA event in New York and it need not put itself in legal jeopardy to establish standing.”  In fact, in its brief, it indicates it has secured a date at Madison Square Garden for 2015.  It also cites that the UFC had discussions with the WKA (“World Kickboxing Association”), an Exempt Organization under the New York law, about working together to hold a UFC event.  Zuffa contends that there was a “meeting of the minds” about putting together professional matches in New York.

The opposition papers from Zuffa also argue that the statute in question is vague as to whether it is enforceable on Indian reservations in New York.  Specifically, Zuffa argues in its pleadings that “it is interested in promoting events on Indian reservations in New York – particularly if it is unable to do so elsewhere in the state.”

New York responds to this assertion about its enforcement of a state statute on an Indian reservation (which as many know, Indian reservations are governed by federal law).  New York argued that it has dominion over “offenses on Indian reservations within the State of New York to the same extent that it has over offenses commented elsewhere in the State.”

In addition, the papers also argue over the vagueness of the statute as it pertains to amateur MMA and the New York liquor statute which allows licenses at events.

Notably, New York is seeking to strike some of the evidence which Zuffa attached to its initial Motion for Summary Judgment stating that it is inadmissible for a variety of evidentiary reasons (e.g., lack of authentication, hearsay, irrelevance, opinion, etc.).  The court will have to determine New York’s motion to strike prior to determining how to rule on Zuffa’s motion.  Some of the evidence New York would like to have stricken from consideration is the issue with the differing interpretations of the law banning professional MMA in the state by multiple government officials.

AG Brief by JASONCRUZ206

Zuffa's Opposition.PDF by JASONCRUZ206

Payout Perspective:

The legal argument continues.  Zuffa appears to have the clearer arguments in the opposition briefing.  However, New York is seeking to strike the evidence which appears to be the most damaging – the multiple interpretations of enforcement of the law.  This would undercut the argument that the statute is unconstitutionally vague since a portion of the legal argument is that the multiple interpretations of the law by the same officials that are to enforce it is evidence that the law is vague.  If that evidence is wiped from the record, there’s less for the court to consider. We will see how each side responds to the opposition briefing.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

UFC Fight Night 49 numbers

August 23, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that UFC Fight Night 49 in Tulsa, Oklahoma drew 7,119 and a live gate of $452,075.  The figures were announced at the post-event press conference.  In addition, Rafael dos Anjos heads the list of bonus winners for UFC Fight Night 49 on Saturday night from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Dos Anjos scored the bonus with an upset victory via first round KO of Benson Henderson.  In addition, Jordan Mein, Thales Leites and Ben Saunders scored “Performance of the Night” bonuses.  For the second time today, no “Fight of the Night” award was given out.

(H/t:  MMA Junkie).

The attendance and gate did not reveal the number of comps.  The Bok Center, where the event was held, holds up to 19,199 although the configuration for the UFC event was not revealed.  The event outdrew UFC Fight Night 48 by 97.

Payout Perspective:

The returning Saunders showed us that the Eddie Bravo “mission control” technique works with the first ever oomaplata submission as he subbed Chris Heatherly.  The attendance for both events fared better than last weekend’s UFC Fight Night 47.  UFC FN 49’s attendance and gate is lower than June’s regional fight nights in New Mexico and San Antonio but appears to be par for the course with these events.

UFC Fight Night 48 attendance and bonuses

August 23, 2014

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and bonuses from this morning’s UFC Fight Night 48 which took place at the Venetian in Macau off the coast of China.

There was no Fight of the Night bonuses although 4 fighters received the $50,000 Performance bonuses:  Michael Bisping, Tyron Woodley, Alberto Mina and Yuta Sasaki.

In addition, attendance was announced at the post-fight press conference although no gate was revealed.  UFC officials declared the event at The Venetian Macao’s CotaiArena a sellout with 7,022 in attendance.

As indicated by Junkie, there were two other events held at the CotaiArena.  Notably, the last 2 were this year and no gate was reported.

UFC on Fuel TV 6 – November 2012 8,415/$1.4 million gate

UFC Fight Night 48 – August 2014 7,022

TUF China Finale – March 2014 6,000

Payout Perspective:

It’s interesting that the trend is that gate tallies are not being announced for international shows. Although considered a sellout, UFC Fight Night did not have as many in attendance as it did in November 2012.  This could be a seat configuration issue.  There were some good individual efforts on the card but nothing FOTN worthy.

Le contributes sponsor money to orphanage

August 21, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Cung Le will be donating a large part of his sponsorship money to a Vietnamese orphanage.  Le bought rice, toys, candy and gave money to an orphanage in his native Vietnam.

The 42 year old former Strikeforce champion faces Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 48 in Macau, China. Le put video/photos on his Instagram account commemorating his vist.

Payout Perspective:

The gesture by Le reflects the good that many UFC athletes do for charity and from a public relations perspective it’s good publicity leading to this Saturday’s event.  Although no monetary figure was reported and it’s not clear how much Le would have made from his sponsors, one would hope it would be a generous donation rather than a modest gift to get publicity.  One would think that if his sponsors knew ahead of time it would have matched and/or contributed to the donation by Le as a way to help out as well as piggy-back the press.

 

Payout Perspective:

The gesture by Le reflects the good that many UFC athletes do for charity and from a public relations perspective it’s good publicity leading to this Saturday’s event.  Although no monetary figure was reported and it’s not clear how much Le would have made from his sponsors, one would hope it would be a generous donation rather than a modest gift to get publicity.  One would think that if his sponsors knew ahead of time it would have matched and/or contributed to the donation by Le as a way to help out as well as piggy-back the press.

NAC delays Silva decision due to motion to dismiss

August 21, 2014

At its monthly meeting held on Thursday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission tabled the disciplinary hearing of Wanderlei Silva due to the fighter’s motion to dismiss the disciplinary complaint filed against him.  No date had been set for the continued hearing.

As you recall, at the NAC hearing in June, Silva admitted he evaded a mandatory drug test in leading up to his July showdown with Chael Sonnen.  He also claimed he was taking anti-inflammatories and a diuretic at this time.  Ironically, the fight was scrapped altogether due to Sonnen’s failed tests.  The commission did not have time to properly respond to the complaint due to the late filing of the motion and continued the hearing as a result.

UPDATED:  Per Kevin Iole at Yahoo! Sports, Silva’s attorney Ross Goodman is challenging NAC 467.850 which indicates that the NAC has jurisdiction over a “licensee.”  The argument asserted by Goodman, is that Silva is a “non-licensee” and thus the NAC had no jurisdiction to employ the drug test over Silva at that time.

Payout Perspective:

The continuation of the hearing is a likely formality as the NAC wants to ensure that Silva has due process for this complaint to ensure that there will not be any further appeals from Silva’s camp.  It would be unlikely that the UFC is looking to book Silva any time soon.  From Silva’s perspective, this is reputation management and perhaps a way to mitigate any sort of prolonged suspension since he’s nearing the end of his career.  Of course, Goodman’s argument that the NAC did not have jurisdiction over Silva since he was not licensed at the time is a compelling argument.  But is it persuasive?

UFC Fight Night 47: 735,000 viewers

August 19, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from Nielsen sources that this past Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 47 received an average of 735,000 viewers. The prelims for the event on Fox Sports 2 received an average viewership of 116,000 viewers.

UFC Fight Night 47 which featured Ryan Bader defeating Ovince St. Preux in the main event was up almost 5% from UFC Fight Night 45, the previous Fight Night on FS1.  Below is a graph of the Fight Nights on FS1 since the beginning of the year.  It excludes those Fight Nights on Fight Pass since viewership numbers for those events are not released.

UFC FN TV Ratings 2014

According to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, UFC Fight Night 47 was the top audience on FS1 for the week.

Payout Perspective:

Due to a programming conflict with MLB, the prelims were on FS2 and thus the reason for the low number. Based on Ourand’s tweet, it reflects the value UFC has to the network. The average viewership for UFC Fight Night events on FS1 since the start of the year is a little over 862,000 viewers.

UFC Fight Night 47 attendance, gate and bonuses

August 17, 2014

MMA Junkie reports the attendance, gate and bonuses from Saturday’s Fight Night event from Maine.  Dana White announced the information during the post-fight press conference.

For its first trip to Maine, the UFC drew 5,329 for a gate of $321, 470.  No comps were mentioned.  The event took place at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine.  According to its web site, the venue can hold up to 8,000.

Bonuses went to Tim Boetsch, Thiago Tavares, Alan Jouban and Seth Baczynski.  Each earned $50,000 each.

Boetsch and Thiago Tavares earned the Performance of the Night honors with the former defeating Brad Tavares with a third round KO.  Jouban and Baczynski won Fight of the Night despite it lasting only 1 round.

Payout Perspective:

The event attendance was comparable to UFC FN 45 in Atlantic City (4,115/no gate announced).  Based on the attendance and gate alone, this may be seen as a disappointment if you compare it to how UFC FN 44 in San Antonio (9,227/$728K gate) and UFC FN 42 in Albuquerque (8,775/$697K).  The UFC is trying to expand its market to regions it has yet to visit and it is discovering where not to return.  One might argue that ratings on FS1 will matter more than the gate but its still something to take note.

 

Harvick’s agency signs Tate

August 15, 2014

ESPN reports NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick’s athlete management agency, KHI Management, has signed Miesha Tate to a multiyear commitment.  Reports are that Tate will be sponsored by Budweiser in her next fight against Rin Naka on September 20th.

It is the second MMA fighter to be signed by KHI as it has Donald Cerrone in its stable.  Cerrone was the first MMA fighter in recent memory to be sponsored by Budweiser in the Octagon.  Aside from Budweiser, he is also sponsored by golf brand EZ-Go.

Harvick told ESPN about its approach to UFC sponsorships:

“UFC has a younger demographic,” Harvick said. “NASCAR doesn’t have quite the reach UFC does. It took us a little bit to figure out exactly how we wanted to activate sponsors at a UFC fight. But in the last three fights, we’ve kind of taken a different approach and we’ve had great participation from all the sponsors we’ve entertained.”

Harvick does not identify what its done differently, although its clear his NASCAR contacts have helped Cerrone obtain non-traditional MMA sponsors.

Payout Perspective:

Harvick has been featured many times on FOX as that NASCAR driver that attends UFC fights.  His agency may have an edge in recruiting MMA fighters for its company as it can pitch the fighter to non-traditional MMA brands.  It obviously has an “in” with Budweiser and EZ-Go.  These two brands (and there may be more) are not on any fighter aside from Cerrone.  Now Tate will sport the Budweiser brand (and maybe the golf cart company too).  We will see if KHI gains traction in recruiting MMA fighters to its company.

NSAC holds off on ruling on Jones-Cormier brawl

August 13, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that the Nevada State Athletic Commission will hold off on ruling on the Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier media day brawl due to the fight being postponed until 2015.

Per MMA Junkie, NSAC Executive Director Bob Bennett stated, “The incident between Jones and Cormier will not be on the agenda for the commission meeting this month.”  The NSAC indicated that it would review the video before determining action.  Now, it is postponing its decision due to the fight’s postponement.

Payout Perspective:

The decision to not make a decision is befuddling to me.  There has to be some sort of ruling by the commission since it’s made the announcement.  Whatever the decision (fine, no fine, stern reprimand), it could have done it swiftly and without much media attention now, since the fight is not until January.  Instead, it will appear as the commission is dragging its feet and without ruling, it infers that a fight in public (where the safety of bystanders could have been compromised) is not that important.

 

Jones-Cormier showdown postponed to UFC 182

August 12, 2014

It was officially announced on FS1’s America’s Pregame that Jon Jones is out of UFC 178 due to a leg injury and his title fight with Daniel Cormier has been postponed until the January 3, 2015 card.  In its place, Demetrious Johnson will face Chris Cariaso for the flyweight title.

The news of Jones’ injury stalls the momentum between the Jones-Cormier feud which was amplified by last week’s media day brawl at the MGM Grand.  It followed with “hot mics” picking up some unrefined banter between the two which was not to be for public consumption.  Yet, it perked everyone’s interest.

Now, it appears that the UFC will replace this hot feud with another title fight featuring Johnson.  Of course, the last time Johnson headlined (at UFC 174), it was the lowest PPV output in 10 years.

Payout Perspective:

UFC 178 will still have Connor McGregor on the card so there is still buzz to be made.  However, replacing Jones-Cormier with Johnson-Cariaso is a disappointment (and its neither Johnson or Cariaso’s fault).  Unfortunately for Johnson, he has yet to translate into a PPV draw and his June showing at UFC 174 reflects the fact that he is not a main eventer.  On the bright side, both Jones and Cormier will get time to nurse their respective injuries so that they will be fresh for UFC 182 on Jan. 3rd 2015.

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