Nijem cut reflects no room for negotiations with UFC

November 11, 2015

Ramsey Nijem recently spoke about his cut from the UFC and cites the refusal to sign new deal as well as the new drug policy as reasons he was let go from the UFC.

Nijem spoke with MMA Junkie Radio regarding his departure.  The former TUF contestant lost his last two fights in the UFC and was one of the many fighters that were recently let go by the company.

Nijem talked about the negotiations with the UFC on a new contract as he described what was basically a one-sided process in which he was told how much he would make.  According to Nijem, the UFC told him it would be “harder should he continue to refuse.”  He also stated that he had issues with the new UFC drug policy in which he would have to provide whereabouts for drug testing reasons and the IV ban for rehydrating after weigh-ins.

Nijem had 10 fights in the UFC going 5-5 with his last lost being a split decision this past July to Andrew Holbrook.  His last reported purse for his fight with Holbrook was $18,000 for his loss.  He made an additional $5,000 under the new Reebok sponsor payouts.

Payout Perspective:

Nijem’s story reflects the unfortunate leverage of low to mid-tier fighters in the UFC.  Essentially fighters have no room for negotiations with the UFC lest they are either blackballed or cut.  In addition, the refusal to sign the UFC drug policy agreement probably was the last straw.  With the UFC attempting to enforce new drug testing protocol, his refusal, no matter how legitimate the reasons may have been trumped by the UFC’s need to show that all of its fighters will conceded to testing.  Still, the problem is that fighters are finding out that they have no bargaining power with the company.

UFC Fight Night 77 draws 757K viewers; prelims score 609K

November 10, 2015

The main card of UFC Fight Night 77 Saturday night on FS1 drew an average viewership of 757,000 viewers.  The prelims drew an average viewership of 609,000 on FS1 per Sports TV Ratings.

The main card which aired from 10pm-12:56pm ET on Saturday night featured the third fight between Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort.  The prelims which preceded the main card from 8:00-10-00pm ET on FS1 drew an average viewership of 609,000.  Also of note ratings-wise is that the pre-fight show (7:16pm due to college football to 8pm ET) drew an average of 217,000 viewers on FS1.

UFC Fight Nights through 77

UFC Fight Nights 2015
Main Card Prelims
UFC Fight Night 59 2,751,000 908,000
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 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
UFC Fight Night 74 796,000 542,000
UFC Fight Night 75 841,000 270,000
UFC Fight Night 77 757,000 609,000

The ESPN college football game between Michigan State and Nebraska from 7-10pm ET won the night in cable sports with 3.4 million viewers per Sports TV Ratings.  In addition, the big SEC matchup betwen LSU and Alabama on CBS drew 11.1 million viewers in prime time.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings reflect that Bellator’s quarterly “tentpole” event had the slight edge over the UFC this weekend as Friday’s event on SpikeTV drew 814,000 viewers.  UFC Fight Night faced stiff competition with college football prevailing.  In addition, HBO Boxing which featured Timothy Bradley taking on Brandon Rios drew 910,000 viewers Saturday night.

Belfort among 4 winning bonuses at UFC Fight Night 77

November 7, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the bonuses from UFC Fight Night 77 on Saturday night from San Paulo, Brazil.  The bonuses were announced at the post-fight press conference.

Vitor Belfort, Thomas Almeida, Alex Oliveira and Thiago Tavares pulled $50,000 bonuses for their performances.  There were no “Fight of the Night” as all four fighters drew the bonuses for their performances.

Belfort and Almeida had highlight reel knockouts.  Belfort knocked out Dan Henderson in the main event with a first-round KO.  Almeida stopped Anthony Birchak in the first round leaving Birchak out cold.

Payout Perspective:

No complaints on these four bonus winners.  Oliveira had to go into the third round to stop Piotr Hallmann while Tavares submitted Clay Guida in round 1.

Recent issues dealing with media problematic with UFC stars

November 7, 2015

As many MMA fans watched Vitor Belfort battle Dan Henderson once again Saturday night, his dealings with the press leading up to UFC Fight Night 77 have been interesting to say the least.  Belfort’s attempt to manage the media is just one of three interesting shots at controlling media perceptions.

Deadspin and Bloody Elbow released reports on Belfort that reflect abnormally high levels of testosterone in his system leading up to his title shot against Jon Jones in September 2013.  Essentially, one might conclude from the articles that the UFC knew that Belfort was on TRT, yet it was not reported.  Moreover, Jones was fighting a challenger that was on TRT although no one let the champion know.

Belfort was scheduled to do PR for his fight on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani last week but that interview was nixed due to the fact that Helwani wanted to ask about the reports.

Since The MMA Hour incident, Belfort has given interviews with the press but skirted the questions related to his TRT usage and the write-ups about it leading up to UFC 152.

Notably, Belfort has submitted to USADA testing twice under the new UFC-USADA drug protocol.

Still, Belfort’s legacy is likely tainted with his prior PED use and the Deadspin/BE revelations which implicate him as using TRT.  Notwithstanding these issues, which may be out of his hands, Belfort’s PR efforts leading up to this fight reflect poor media relations.

Helwani was right to cancel the interview or willing to have the interview cancelled if he was not able to talk about the recent newsworthy items. It’s not the job of Helwani to amend his questioning here, but for Belfort’s media team to ready itself for the questions. Certainly, avoiding the interview altogether was an option, but promoting the fight (a part of his job as a contracted fighter for the UFC) was the impetus for the appearance.

Speaking of PR issues, Ronda Rousey hung up on a UFC media call when a question was posed about her relationship with Travis Browne. The controversial UFC heavyweight announced that he was with Rousey in an interview. Browne is being accused of his estranged wife of domestic violence. The accusation caused Browne to be suspended by the UFC but after an investigation into the matter, Browne was reinstated.

When asked about the relationship, Rousey hung up the line in the first several minutes of the conference call. She never returned to the call. It was clear the question, was unacceptable to her. But was it an unacceptable question? There has been no news as to the reasons for her dropping the line and not fulfilling her obligation to the UFC and the media.

The question, while being somewhat off topic from UFC 193, the event that was the primary reason for the conference call was within the realm of possibility. Admittedly, it did seem like a “gotcha” moment but it was a newsworthy question to bring up. Browne answered the question in a prior interview. Certainly, he could have deferred the question citing his personal life but decided to respond.

For Rousey, it’s clear that she was caught off-guard. Moreover, it seems like her team needs to come up with a strategy to decide on how to address the matter. Rousey and Browne are UFC fighters and are in the public eye. At some point, if their relationship continues, mainstream outlets (i.e., TMZ) will hone in on the relationship.

Rousey is the biggest draw in the UFC. Her brand is ascending. With appearances on Good Morning America and Ellen, she is becoming more visible and a role model to young women. Would her brand suffer if the public knew who she was dating?

Then, there’s the issue of Conor McGregor. The Irish fighter had to respond to critics after he was spotted wearing a poppy. A fan blasted the UFC interim featherweight champion for wearing the symbol of remembrance of British soldiers of World War I. The “poppy” is controversial in Northern Ireland and many Irish refuse to wear one due to the conflicts between the countries. McGregor maintained wearing the poppy was done in remembrance of all soldiers but was still criticized for perceived insensitivities.

He wrote in a Facebook post:

I know where my allegiance lies and what I do for my country. I don’t need a stupid little flower with a 100 different meanings to tell me if I do or do not represent my country.
Check the facts of its original meaning. ALL soldiers. ALL wars.I have the blood of many nations on my gloves. Fought and beat on the world stage. You have a pint in your hand and a Celtic jersey on in your local. F*** you and the Queen.

Payout Perspective:

These three recent episodes reflect a need for UFC contracted fighters to become more media aware. In the case of Belfort and Rousey, it’s a matter of preparing a strategy to responding to tough questions. In the matter of McGregor, it’s a matter of realizing the sensitivities of your audience. The most important thing in all of these media-related matters is execution.  In all three, the execution was poor and it appears that each did not have a media strategy, or had a poor one in the case of Belfort.  UFC Fighters are not the only sports figures dealing with media mishaps.  But if the UFC wants to change perceptions and garner more fans, it needs to work with the media and become more media savvy.

Rousey signs on with Monster Energy Drink

November 6, 2015

Ronda Rousey has signed an endorsement deal with Monster Energy Drink.  The news comes ahead of her fight next week against Holly Holm.

Notably, Rousey sported a Monster logo on her official Reebok kit at UFC 190.  Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In addition to Rousey, Donald Cerrone, Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier are sponsored by Monster Energy Drink.

The latest endorsement deal adds to Rousey’s stable of sponsors which include Reebok, Carl’s Jr., Metro PCS and Buffalo Jeans by David Bitton.  In addition, Rousey has a deal with Monster Head Phones.

Payout Perspective:

Maybe I am the only one to think that there might be confusion from an athlete endorsing both “Monster” products.  Then again, the companies might have a working agreement.  Only guessing there.  As for the agreement, it was just a matter of time before Monster Energy forged a deal with Rousey.  With just a week before UFC 193, the timing is probably right for the deal so that Rousey could sport the Monster Energy brand for fight week.

TUF 22 Episode 7 draws lowest rating of season

November 5, 2015

TUF 22 drew an average viewership of just 379,000 on FS1 Wednesday night per Sports TV Ratings.  It’s the lowest live viewership of the season.

TUF 22 just came back from a week’s hiatus due to the World Series.  The NBA on ESPN featuring New York and Cleveland in game 1 drew 2.296 million viewers (8:05-10:34pm ET) and game 2 featured the LA Clippers playing Golden State (10:34pm-1:24am ET).  The second game between the bitter rivals drew 2.85 million viewers which was tops for sports cable programming Wednesday night.  Notably, the west coast showing of episode 7 on FS1 drew just 50,000 more viewers from 10pm-11pm PT per Sports TV Ratings.

In the fight of the show, Martin Svensson of Team Conor submitted Than Le of Team Faber.

Episode 7

Payout Perspective:

Perhaps the hiatus and the NBA hurt the return of a new episode of TUF.  The low rating draws down the season average to 516,000 viewers.  Notably, this season has about the same average through 7 episodes as it did last fall’s TUF 20.  It is doing better than last spring’s TUF 21.

Jon Jones signs sponsor deal with GAT

November 5, 2015

Jon Jones has signed a new sponsorship deal with GAT, a sports nutrition products company.  It is the first sponsorship deal since Jones was reinstated by the UFC.

Jones will become the first MMA fighter to be sponsored by the company which caters to bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts.

You may recall that Jones lost all of his sponsor deals including one with Reebok and a deal with Nike lapsed.

According to the press release, Jones’ manager Malki Kawa approached the company about a potential sponsorship with the former UFC light heavyweight champion.

Via GAT press release:

“I was thrilled when Malki Kawa called me to discuss TEAMGAT expanding to include MMA athletes and signing Jon Jones as our first,” said Mark Post, Vice President of GAT. “I’ve been a fan of his since he entered the sport. Everyone at GAT is excited about signing Jon. The whole world will be watching when he gets back into action. TEAMGAT will be proud to be in his corner.”

No details on the financials of the deal or what the sponsorship deal will cover.  Jones cannot wear the GAT logo in the octagon but we assume he will be on its web site and in advertisements.

Payout Perspective:

The sponsorship deal is a building block for Jones as he seeks to make a comeback in multiple arenas.  Obviously he is preparing for his return to the octagon.  But, he is also trying to rebuild his presence outside the octagon.  His last run-in with the law stripped him of everything he had in MMA (his title, sponsors and the opportunity to fight in the UFC).  The sponsor deal is not a high profile one but it allows Jones a chance.  For GAT, it’s a calculated risk but a good one if Jones is able to keep himself out of trouble.

New York files appeal brief addressing Zuffa claims

November 4, 2015

On Wednesday, the State of New York filed its brief in opposition to the appeal filed by the UFC in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  New York addresses Zuffa’s contentions related to its appeal related to the Southern District Court of New York’s dismissal of Zuffa’s lawsuit last March.

The two primary claims related to the First Amendment and Vagueness challenge to the state law law prohibiting MMA in the state.  The state liquor law also is challenged in the appeal.

First Amendment

Violence was the key to the state’s argument that the First Amendment did not apply to the law banning MMA in New York.  “The First Amendment does not protect violence,” it argued in its brief citing the fact that the state has the power to regulate violent or dangerous conduct that can inflict actual physical harm.

Distinguishing fighting from speech, it notes that the combat prohibition restricts physical violence and not what they may or may not say.  It argues that the legislative intent of the law was to regulate particular forms of violent conduct rather than speech.

Moreover, it argues that in states that allow MMA, or other dangerous contact sports, they require strict rules to abide by and fighters must obtain a license.  These requirements, according to the argument, would be contrary to First Amendment protection.

Throughout the brief, New York takes jabs at Zuffa’s appeal brief.  For instance, it states that it misreads the statute in its belief that the regulation prohibiting MMA is limited to just a “live performance” (i.e., fighting in front of an audience).  It argues that the interpretation is wrong.  In fact, New York argues that the ban prohibits “physical violence regardless of whether anyone watches the fights.”

It notes that the ban extends beyond conduct of an MMA event in front of an audience:

…the professional combat prohibition is violated any time contestants compete for a monetary prize by engaging in unlawful physical combat—whether the fight takes place in a living room, on the street, or at Madison Square Garden— since the harms caused by such physical violence are present regardless of the size or even existence of an audience. Thus, an ultimate fighting match at a gym with a $100 prize violates the ban even if nobody comes to see such a low-stakes contest. A private fight club in which combatants engage in no-holds-barred fighting with the winner receiving $10,000 would also violate the professional combat prohibition, even if there is no public audience (p. 38 of New York appeal brief)

In the alternative, New York stated that if the First Amendment applied, regulation would be permissible because it would support a governmental interest in preventing serious injuries and death.  Here, New York points to the Legislative History in the 1990s when MMA was in its infancy stages and how less rules than before.  In this instance, the argument goes that New York may inhibit a First Amendment right if it is incidental to the governmental interest of safety.  So, even if it was determined that MMA deserved First Amendment protection, the law banning it would stand because New York has a right to protect people from fighting.


The second major argument in the brief addresses whether the law is vague.  First, New York reaffirms the district court ruling that Zuffa lacked standing since there was no claim or injury until after the lawsuit commenced.  Next, it argued that the correct court to address this issue would be New York state court since it dealt with a New York law.  This was the same guidance stated by Judge Kimba Wood in its order dismissing Zuffa’s lawsuit last March.

New York states that if the court believes Zuffa has standing and a state court is not the appropriate forum for the case, then it should remand (send back) to the district court to decide whether the “martial-arts sponsorship exemption is vague as applied to ultimate fighting.  This was the same thing Zuffa recommended in its brief.  It also suggested that the appeals court could decide that the exemption was not unconstitionally vague.

Payout Perspective:

New York attempts to distance itself from the First Amendment issue contending that the ban relates to the overarching concern of safety.  It seems that the brief focuses on violence rather than describing MMA as sport. Throughout the brief, it offers subtle descriptions and analogies of violence.  While New York argues that it has a right to regulate violence and dangerous conduct, the correlations it makes in its brief relate to activities that are mostly criminal.  Thus, the argument here seem to fall flat as laws that regulate animal fighting or use of weapons are against the law.  Is MMA on the level of these activities?

As for the Vagueness claim, this issue seems to be one that might be the point of contention.  While New York offers the “lack of standing” argument, it also identifies a potential key mistake by Zuffa.  It notes that the case may be best decided by a state court.  Finally, it focuses on legislative history and intent in arguing that the law was always about banning MMA.

How will this appeal be handled in light of the Preliminary Injunction filed in the other UFC lawsuit against New York?  For those interested in legal theory and constitutional law, this case offers several interesting legal theories to explore.

Zuffa will have a chance to offer a Reply to New York’s brief.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Rousey’s trainer files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy

November 3, 2015

Edmond Tarverdyan has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Los Angeles.  Tarverdyan, the primary trainer for UFC bantamweight champion filed for bankruptcy protection on July 29, 2015.

For most people, there are two types of bankruptcy:  Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.  Chapter 7 is a liquidation of all of your personal assets while discharging most of the individual’s unsecured debts.  Chapter 13 is a reorganization of debts.  Here, Tarverdyan is seeking a Chapter 7.

UPDATED and CORRECTION:  Slight correction.  The Bankruptcy Trustee actually is requesting the production of documents of Bank of America and a request to examine BOA by November 30th at the Trustee’s office in LA.  This should relate to BOA’s documents and the veracity of their claim as they relate to Tarverdyan.  The same will likely occur from other creditors.  Still, Tarverdyan will be examined at some point by the trustee as well as the creditors seeking repayment of debts.

At the examination, he’ll be asked to produce documents pertaining to transaction made related to his creditor’s accounts.  For example, BOA is requesting he produce all documents, records, information and statements between January 1, 2008 and July 29, 2015.  Specifically, this relates to any credit card purchases made.

According to his Chapter 7 Bankruptcy filing obtained by MMA Payout, he has estimated assets between $0-$50,000 and estimated liabilities between $500,000 and $1 million.

Interesting enough, Tarverdyan’s Glendale Fighting Club where Rousey trains and that presumably Tarvedyan owns, is not listed as an asset in his bankruptcy filing.  The bankruptcy trustee is looking into this potential asset and determining when ownership may have been transferred to another person or entity.  The trustee may seek to liquidate (shut down) GFC if it is determined that the transfer of ownership was not legal.

Tarverdyan states that he does not own a home and does not make a salary.  Per the Bankruptcy filing, their monthly expenditures ($5,380) are $110 more than their income.  For those wondering, in California, the median income for a family of four (Tarverdyan is married with two children) is $79,418 per Bankruptcy standards.

Tarverdyan also admitted in legal filings that he has not filed for taxes for some time stating he was not required to file in 2013 and 2014.

The filing states that he has liabilities (debt) of $725,045.00.

Tarverdyan attempted to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in May but that was subsequently dismissed on July 23rd.  He refiled less than a week later.

Payout Perspective:

Tarverdyan will now appear at a meeting of the creditors (commonly known in the bankruptcy world as a “341” hearing named after the section of the Bankruptcy code which calls for this hearing).  The 341 hearing is relatively short in which the Bankruptcy Trustee (think of the person as the judge in this case) will ask questions of the debtor.  At this meeting, creditors may show up and ask questions of Tarverdyan.  Creditors have already asked for supplemental proceedings they will be able to depose Tarverdyan to find his assets (if any).

Perhaps Tarverdyan’s money problems relate to the recent criticism by Ronda Rousey’s mother as she called him a “bad person.”

Some thoughts on Tarverdyan’s bankruptcy:

  • In this perceived egalitarian MMA community where fans, fighters and managers want fighters to make more, what about the people that help them? Rousey is the highest paid UFC fighter (if we believe her interview on “Ellen”) yet none of her managers or handlers or Tarverdyan himself thought that he should be compensated?  Tarverdyan was going through these financial problems through Rousey’s fight camp and filed for bankruptcy just days before UFC 190.
  • Roots of Fight made a Glendale Fighting Club shirt. Did Tarverdyan get a cut of the sales of the shirts?
  • What about GFC’s other sources of revenue (i.e., classes, t-shirts)
  • Darin Harvey had a similar issue working with Rousey in which he essentially worked for free. The former manager worked in the red from managing Rousey.  Of course, the CSAC released Rousey from her fight contract as the commission determined Harvey did not follow the contractual rules of fight management.  Here, one might conclude that Tarverdyan did not make Rousey sign a contract to train her.
  • Maybe the only concern for the UFC here is whether Rousey may be tied to this in some way.  Moreover, would or could she have to submit to a deposition?

We might assume that Tarverdyan had an agreement in which another entity was paid for his work.  This may negate the questions about why he wasn’t being paid.  This might explain the lack of income and GFC not showing on his bankruptcy paperwork.  Of course, if it is discovered that you are committing some sort of fraudulent scheme to avoid creditors, your bankruptcy discharge may be denied.  At that point, the creditors could take everything.

New York to file opposition to Zuffa appeal this week

November 3, 2015

This week New York will file its appeal brief opposing the appeal brought by Zuffa arising from the original lawsuit filed against the state in November 2011.  In addition to opposing Zuffa’s claim that the New York State law banning professional mixed martial arts violates the First Amendment, it argues that Zuffa has standing to assert its argument that the statute is vague.

You may recall that Judge Kimba Wood dismissed Zuffa’s claim for vagueness citing that the organization lacked standing to sue the state of New York for failure to show that it would suffer injury since it had never attempted to hold an event in the state.  The law prevents a party to file a lawsuit if it cannot show that it would be injured as a result of the law it might be challenging.  Judge Wood determined that if there was any harm to affect Zuffa, it occurred after the lawsuit was filed.  Thus, Zuffa could not claim to be an aggrieved party with an injury resulting in damages.

In its appeal brief, Zuffa argues that it has standing due to the fact the ban addresses the UFC business.  Paul Clement, Zuffa’s counsel, argues in its brief. “UFC is in the business of promoting and producing professional MMA matches and exhibitions.”  It states that the UFC is a licensed promoter for the World Kickboxing Association (“WKA”).  The WKA is an exempt organization, under the Combat Sports Ban that may promote MMA events within the state.  The brief claims that WKA is “reluctant to take that additional step for fear of the criminal and civil penalties they could face if the event went forward, and the unrecoverable costs they could incur if the event were shut down.  Thus, even though the UFC never made a colorable attempt to hold an event in the state, the company had standing to sue.

Additionally, Clement attacks Judge Wood’s belief that standing arose only after the lawsuit was filed in November 2011 was wrong.  It cites New York’s “mid-litigation waffling” with respect to whether or not an exempt organization could promote an MMA event as evidence that harm existed prior to its filing.  Irrespective of the stance by New York, Zuffa claims that the ban has been ongoing prior to and throughout the litigation.  Thus, Judge Wood’s ruling that there was no standing since any alleged harm occurred after the lawsuit commenced.

Notwithstanding its arguments that the UFC has standing to sue, it argues the merits of its challenge that the law is vague on its face and in its application.  Clement argues that the appeals court should remand to the District Court to reach the merits of the vagueness claim.

Because the District Court did not reach the merits of Plaintiffs’ as-applied vagueness challenges given its erroneous standing holding, at a bare minimum, the Court should remand with instructions to resolve the merits of those challenges.  And in doing so, the Court should also reinstate Plaintiffs’ facial vagueness claim, which the District Court dismissed only by applying a standard that the Supreme Court has since rejected. p. 56 of UFC Appellate Brief

In the alternative, it requests the appeals court to resolve the legal question itself.

Payout Perspective:

The opposition brief from the state of New York will likely support Judge Kimba Wood’s ruling that Zuffa’s lawsuit should be dismissed.  The primary reason for the dismissal is the lack of standing found by Judge Wood.  Perhaps secondary to the vagueness challenge, is the argument that the UFC’s First Amendment rights were harmed.  We see in the UFC’s lawsuit filed in September requesting an injunction that key to its argument is that the law is inherently vague.  Notably, New York shall respond to the UFC’s injunction request in that lawsuit in a couple weeks.  MMA Payout will keep you posted on New York’s appellate brief once it is filed.

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