UFC issues statement after Silva hearing

August 14, 2015

The UFC issued a statement on Thursday’s Anderson Silva hearing before the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Via UFC.com:

Following the Nevada Athletic Commission’s hearing today, Anderson Silva is required to serve a 12-month suspension from competition, retroactive from his last fight on January 31. At the conclusion of his suspension, Silva must present a clean test upon reapplication of a license before his next fight in Nevada. The UFC organization maintains a strict, consistent policy against the use of any illegal and/or performance enhancing drugs, stimulants or masking agents by its athletes, and fully supports the Commission’s ongoing efforts to ensure clean competition by all MMA athletes.

UFC recognizes Silva’s great career and looks forward to his return to the Octagon in 2016.

Payout Perspective:

A rather innocuous response to a poor showing before the commission by what many believe is the greatest fighter of all time.  The commission chastised Silva for his “soft testimony” implying that he was not telling truth under oath.  The statement provided by the UFC indicates that he is expected to return despite turning 40.  Despite Thursday’s hearing, Silva is still revered by most in Brazil and the UFC still would like him as an ambassador for the sport after his fighting days are over.

Rousey ranks 8th in highest paid female athletes

August 12, 2015

Forbes.com ranked the world’s highest-paid female athletes in 2015.  According to total earnings for the year, Ronda Rousey ranks 8th on the list with a reported $6.5 million in earnings from sponsorship and purses.

The earnings were measured from June 1, 2014 to June 1, 2015.  Rousey fought twice during this time span.  Against Alexis Davis at UFC 175 and against Cat Zingano at UFC 184.  She reportedly made $150,000 (including $50K bonus) at UFC 175 and $180,000 (including $50K bonus) at UFC 184.  However, it was reported that Rousey made at least $1 million at UFC 184.

Seven of the top 10 females on the list were tennis players with Maria Sharapova ($29.7 million), Serena Williams ($24.6) and Caroline Wozniacki in the top 3 with race car driver Danica Patrick coming in fourth.

Forbes indicates that Rousey has earned $3 million in salary/winnings and another $3.5 million in endorsements.  Per Forbes.com, her “endorsement portfolio” includes Reebok, Metro PCS, Monster headphones, Buffalo David Bitton (jeans) and Carl’s Jr.

Payout Perspective:

Rousey wore a Monster Energy patch on her Reebok kit at UFC 190 so maybe she is sponsored by both Monster Energy and Headphones.  Regardless, the earnings reflect that Rousey is a vital part of the UFC.   Only a couple years ago women were not allowed to fight in the UFC and now it’s clear that she is one of the highest-paid fighters in the organization.  With her book selling well and her movie projects out one would think that Rousey may move up this list next year.

Silva claims sexual performance drug caused drug test failure

August 11, 2015

MMA Fighting reports that Anderson Silva will claim that “sexual performance” medication was the cause for positive drug tests before and after UFC 183.

Silva and his attorneys will put on their defense on Thursday when Silva goes before the Nevada State Athletic Commission.  Despite the positive drug tests, Silva claims that he did not knowingly take any kind of steroids.  He will claim that he took sexual performance medication was part of the reason for the inaccurate drug tests. Specifically, he claims that the use of the sexual performance drug caused the finding of Drostanolone Metabolite.

Silva’s legal team is requesting no punishment for Silva.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see whether Silva’s strategy will work.  The defense can be seen as embarrassing and credible simply because it is so extraordinarily private.  His explanation does not account for the pre-fight questionnaire which addresses the types of supplements a fighter has taken.  Since this is the first we have heard of Silva’s defense, we might assume the sex enhancement drug was not on the pre-fight questionnaire.  Of course, if you recall the Manny Pacquiao situation prior to the Mayweather fight, this can be easily explained away.  We shall see whether the commission buys the argument or takes a hard line with Silva.

UFC Fight Night 73 draws 1.159M viewers; Prelims 306K

August 11, 2015

UFC Fight Night 73 drew an average viewership of 1.159M viewers on FS1 Saturday night according to Sports TV Ratings.  The event made it the third-most watch UFC Fight Night of 2015.

In addition, the Fight Night Prelims which aired prior to the main card drew 306,000 viewers from 8-10pm ET.  The main card, which aired from 10pm-1am featured Glover Texeira and Ovince Saint Preux with Texeira taking the submission victory.

The main card was the second-most watched cable sporting event on Saturday night next to NASCAR on NBC Sports Network earlier in the day.

UFC Fight Nights through 73

UFC Fight Nights 2015
Main Card Prelims
UFC Fight Night 59 1,700,000 908,000
UFC Fight Night 60 913,000 775,000
UFC Fight Night 61 1,200,000 813,000
UFC Fight Night 62 617,000 280,000
UFC Fight Night 63 389,000 304,000
UFC Fight Night 66 575,000 286,000
UFC Fight Night 67 813,000 713,000
UFC Fight Night 68 950,000 782,000
UFC Fight Night 70 (prelims on FS2) 909,000 223,000
UFC Fight Night 71 801,000 543,000
UFC Fight Night 72 508,000 292,000
UFC Fight Night 73 1,159,000 306,000

Payout Perspective:

Saturday’s UFC event is a reason why FS1 wants the promotion on its network.  The UFC delivered with high ratings for the main card which brought the average up to 877,000 for all televised Fight Nights in 2015.  Last year, only 2 events exceeded 1 million viewers.  UFC Fight Night 73 featured fringe fighters that most casual viewers would not know.  Thus, not a big reason to tune in.  One might conclude that the reason so many people tuned in was that it was live and a UFC event.   A positive for FS1 and the UFC.

UFC 194 set for MGM Grand featuring Aldo-McGregor

August 10, 2015

Yahoo! Sports reports that the long-awaited fight between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor will take place on Saturday, December 12th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Speculation arose that this fight would take place at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas as part of huge extravaganza which would include Tate-Rousey III and perhaps one more title fight.  It grew more credible when the MGM indicated a conflict on December 5th for a concert.

The bantamweight title fight should be supported by another spirited Embedded series as well as other shoulder programming on Fox Sports 1 as well as mainstream promotion.

Payout Perspective:

White indicated that the MGM “moved Heaven and Earth” to get Aldo-McGregor for the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  On December 12th, “Heaven and Earth” will change places (h/t if you get that reference) as we hope the two bitter rivals stay healthy enough to finally meet in the Octagon.  Moving UFC 194 one week may help as it avoids College Football Championship weekend.  The Army-Navy game is scheduled for that Saturday.  The annual rivalry plus regional college basketball and regular season NBA would be the only competitors for that Saturday as no boxing events have been announced so far.

We will see if they add another big fight for 194 to help support the card.  Also, Rousey-Tate III and Rockhold-Weidman look to be headlining UFC 195 January 3rd.

Teamsters and UNITE HERE seek to help fighters organize

August 10, 2015

Late last week, Teamsters Local 986 and UNITE HERE’s Culinary Union Local 226 announced it would be working to organize UFC fighters.  In rebuttal to this opposition, the UFC provided a letter to its contracted fighters recognizing these efforts and advising them that there is an ulterior motive by the unions to use the fighters for an ulterior purpose.

In an email, the teamsters indicated that it is working with MMAFA in helping them with efforts to expand the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to include mixed martial arts fighters.  The Ali Act is a federal law enacted to protect boxers from abuses from promoters and managers.

The Culinary Union Local 226 is the same union that has been an impediment to efforts by the UFC to lobby the New York legislature for a bill to legalize MMA in the state.  Yet again, the UFC efforts have failed to produce a vote on the measure in 2015.

In correspondence to its contracted fighters from UFC’s Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Kirk D. Henrick sent the following:

Dear Athletes,

You may see media reports in the days ahead about some union tactics that are both shameful and pathetic. The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Teamsters union allegedly have devised a plan to “organize MMA fighters.” The reason this is pathetic is that the Culinary Union is the exact same union that has spent years, as well as the money from its dues-paying members, to do everything imaginable to keep MMA out of New York and to run a campaign telling UFC fans, sponsors and government officials to not support the professional sport that all of you compete in. They even created a website called “Unfitforchildren.org” to try and hurt the UFC, the sport of MMA and the very same athletes that they suddenly claim to care so much about.

Now, they are making more accusations against the UFC and they apparently believe that if MMA athletes would support the unions’ organizing efforts, sign union cards and agree to pay dues to the union every month, then the world of MMA would be a better place. Not only is such a mission misguided, it hides the unions’ only real interest, which is organizing workers at Station Casinos in Las Vegas, NV. They hope that by applying pressure to the UFC that somehow it will increase their chances in Las Vegas. Certainly, we will admit that their old tactics haven’t been working because they have been harassing Station Casinos, its employees and customers for over 15 years and they have yet to organize even one Station Casinos’ property.

There is a lot more that we could go into about these unions and their tactics, but for the time being, I’ll just point out the most obvious and illogical fact about this latest tactic. As a matter of law, unions can only organize employees, and as we all know, MMA athletes are independent contractors—not employees. You would think that union leaders would have done that little bit of research before issuing a press release.

On behalf of everyone in the UFC, please know that we consider all of you to be amazing athletes and we are proud to have created a worldwide platform where you can compete in the sport you love and be compensated for it. For that reason, we will not sit by and let a group that has publicly demonstrated that it wants to destroy our beloved sport try to do so by lying to you. We will fight them with the truth and we will win.

(via Front Row Brian and Bloody Elbow)

In an interview with Bloody Elbow’s John Nash, a representative for Local 986 stated that its goal was to “organize all mma fighters” and not just UFC fighters.  The union and teamster involvement is based on fighters reaching out to them for assistance.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see how much UFC fighters will listen to the union/teamsters.  Moreover, what will come out of the involvement?  It was clear that the UFC needed to respond to the announcement just to make sure that its contracted fighters knew the UFC already had knowledge of the role of the union/teamsters.  Outside of the UFC, will MMA fighters seek to organize?  Or, will the fear of backlash from the UFC or an MMA promotion hurt chances of organizing?

As for the announcement that they are working to amend the Ali Act, I could see this happening.  But how much will it help as the Act is presently constructed?  How many fighters have successfully sued a promoter using the Ali Act?  Moreover, how many are willing to pay the attorney fee expense?  If there are amendments made to the Ali Act which would make the use of it more accessible to fighters, I would be behind such amendments.  But, if the goal is just to include MMA, I am not sure how much it helps.

UFC Fight Night 73 attendance, gate and bonuses

August 9, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the attendance, gate and bonuses from Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 73 from Nashville, Tennessee.

Glover Teixeira, Ovince Saint Preux, Marlon Vera and Amanda Nunes drew the $50,000 fight-night bonuses.  Teixeira and OSP drew the Fight of the Night while Vera and Nunes earned the Performances of the Night.

UFC Fight Night 73 drew 7,539 fans for a gate of $454,551.  It was the 3rd event at the Bridgestone Arena drew the second most for events in the arena.  As usual, no information on the comps were given.

UFC Fight Night 18 – 10,267 (gate $626,077)

UFC Fight Night 73 – 7,539 (gate $454,551)

UFC on FX 1 – 7,728 (gate $334,860)

Payout Perspective:

Saturday night’s event from Nashville did better (re attendance and gate) than last month’s mid-week fight event from San Diego and June’s event from Miami.  Both of those cards had better fights on those cards yet Nashville did better with drawing fans.

Reebok rep attempts to explain itself amidst criticism

August 8, 2015

The MMA Hour recently interviewed Reebok’s Michael Lunardelli regarding its partnership with the UFC as its official clothing sponsor.  While Reebok touts the relationship, it addressed some of the controversy arising out of the sponsor deal.

Notable in the interview with Ariel Helwani was Reebok’s response to the criticism that there were misspellings for some UFC fighters.  Lunardelli, the head of Reebok’s combat sports division, offered a response with a subtle point of the finger back to the UFC.

Via MMA Fighting:

“The UFC came to us and asked us if we could do it [go live with every fighter’s jersey]. We said we could try. So, we were moving very quickly to get to that PR launch. The way it works is, we get a list from the organization. The organization provides the list. I don’t know who the 560th fighter is in the UFC. How would I know that? How would my team know that?

“The list was vetted out by the organization and passed to us in a very short period of time. They were moving quickly as well. Again, it’s a partnership. We don’t want to mess up anybody’s name, nor does the UFC.

Yet, Reebok did “mess up” names.  While Lunardelli points out that no products were ever made with misspellings such as Gilbert Melendez’s name, the fact remains that there were glaring misspellings that fans, already annoyed by the deal, took note.

Lunardelli also indicated that Reebok had no input on the fighter pay scales and no say in the release of Stitch Duran after the cutman’s comments that the new sponsor deal did not cover cutmen.  Lunardelli also indicated that the deal does not include the ring card women.

Payout Perspective:

It was an interesting interview/explanation regarding Reebok’s side in the UFC deal.  Despite the claim that the clothier was up against a deadline, it’s inexcusable to state that there was a reason for the misspellings.  Simply no excuse.  Either the UFC does not know the spellings of its contracted fighters or Reebok failed to double-check through another source.  Either way, it’s something us “hobbyists” allegedly do which separates the “professionals” from the amateurs.  As some commenter called us the other week, this must be “amateur hour.”  It would be as if a journalist for the New York Times or Wall Street Journal were to write a 5,000 piece on a short deadline and tell the editor, “well I tried to spell most of the words correctly.”  To which the editor tells the journalist, “ok, we’ll go with whatever you have.” As for its other explanations, just a subtle “don’t blame us” answer.

We’ll see if Reebok does any better as this partnership progresses.

The UFC is willing to help fighters with substance abuse issues

August 7, 2015

With the new USADA-UFC program in effect, MMA Junkie reports that despite no substance abuse program, the UFC promises help for those that need it.

Although the USADA-UFC program will test for recreational drugs, it does not provide assistance for those that may need assistance for a substance-abuse problem.  Major sports leagues have some policy which helps its players with substance abuse issues.

The first positive test results in a one year suspension plus an additional two year for aggravating circumstances.

UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitsky indicated that it would create an option to provide resources to help athletes with substance abuse problems.  Although there is no mandatory treatment program, Novitsky indicated that it would want to aid any fighter in need of substance abuse help.  Entering a treatment program may mitigate a suspension according to Novitsky.  He did not know if the UFC, the fighter or some combination of both would pay for drug treatment.

Payout Perspective:

The discovery that Jon Jones tested positive for cocaine use in December 2014 should have made the UFC aware that recreational drugs is a reality in the sport.  Of course, in February 2015, Nick Diaz tested positive for marijuana so there’s that as well.  The issue here is whether an “ad hoc” program to help contracted fighters for drug issues will work.  Moreover, who is paying for it?  One would think that when the UFC outlined an anti-doping policy it would have also planned a policy for substance abuse issues.  It appears to be a part of its Fighter Code of Conduct.  In the code it indicates that a fighter may be disciplined for “[c]riminal offenses related to performance-enhancing and prohibited substances, or substance abuse.”

While anti-doping issues seem to be of primary concern, substance abuse issues have yet to be formally addressed.  We shall see if the UFC introduces something more than just a “call and we’ll help” sort of policy.

UFC fighters spend time training with Detroit Pistons

August 6, 2015

The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) reports on a cross-training of UFC athletes and the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.  The program between MMA and the NBA seeks to eliminate the number of pre-fight injuries that UFC fighters have suffered over the years.

Stipe Miocic, Jessica Eye, Aljamain Sterling, Ryan LaFlare and Kevin Lee spent four days in Detroit working with the Pistons training staff at its basketball facility.  In exchange, Pistons will spend four days at an “MMA-style” training facility in Las Vegas.  One of the reasons for the cross-training is to expose MMA fighters to other training methods.

The sessions for the MMA fighters will focus on explosive movements, injury prevention and general training structure that NBA teams follow.  The fitness sessions for the basketball players will focus on the MMA disciplines of boxing, BJJ, wrestling and muay thai.  The MMA sessions for basketball players are voluntary although the team expects at least half of the Pistons to show up for workouts.

The UFC effort is led by former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin who works with the athlete marketing and development program for the UFC.

Payout Perspective:

The Pistons are not the first NBA players to explore the sport of MMA for cross-training methods.  Roy Hibbert trained in MMA as far back as December 2010.  For the UFC,  it’s a unique way to explore other methods to keep its contracted fighters healthy and prepared for fights.  The bottom line is that it wants to prevent injuries to keep its events intact.  For NBA players, it’s another way to keep off-season conditioning fresh and new.  Thus, one would think that this exchange program should benefit the UFC more than NBA players.

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