Le attempts damage control in wake of suspension

October 3, 2014

Cung Le responded to the initial reports of testing positive for elevated levels of HGH.  Le denies taking performance enhancing drugs in a Facebook post.

“I was completed (sic) surprised at the results of my recent drug test.  I was informed by the UFC that I passed my pre- and post-fight drug test, as well as the majority of the blood tests with the only abnormality being an elevated level of hGH being determined to be present. “

Le goes on to question the testing that took place.

“I have been informed that there are many possible reasons for a level of hGH  to exceed what is allowed unknowingly and my doctors are researching those possibilities, which may include a much more serious health concern.  I have also been informed about the unreliability of the current hGH testing that exists and it’s (sic) high rate of inaccuracy.”

“We were informed that the laboratory was advised to use the WADA approved rules and procedures when conducting the testing that they administer, yet the lab in Hong Kong contracted to do the testing was not WADA approved, which was surprising since there was a WADA approved lab available in Beijing China.”

The lengthy explanation goes on to bring into doubt the testing facility and its procedures for collection.  Still, the public perception was that Le used PEDs to gain an advantage.  The UFC has not responded to Le’s statement.  It has suspended Le for a year which essentially may end his career with the company.

Payout Perspective:

The press release does some damage control for Le as well as brings into doubt the testing procedures.  The release does a good job of attempting to educate those not familiar with the testing procedures that there could have been an issue with it as well as bring to light the fact that the UFC acts as its own regulatory body for these shows.  The conclusion it hopes readers (i.e., Le supporters) come to is that the process of using a non-WADA approved lab could produce an incorrect result.

TUF 20 Episode 4: 577K viewers marks season high

October 2, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source indicates that last night’s episode 4 of The Ultimate Fighter season 20 received 577,000 viewers Live + same day. Wednesday’s episode received the largest audience for the season.

Episode 4 featured Carla Esparza as she tapped out Angela Hill in the first round of the fight of the episode.

TUF 19 Episode 8 Graph

Of note, this season’s TUF average is up from last season through four episodes (433,500 vs. 530,000).  Also, the rerun of episode 3 which preceded the new episode drew 194,000 viewers which is up about 15% above the average of all TUF repeats in that time slot.

Payout Perspective:

Notably, Anthony Pettis was not on the show as Urijah Faber filled in for Showtime.  Perhaps I was paying attention more last night, but I thought the background on both fighters was excellent.  In addition to exceeding last season’s live ratings, it is also averaging 850,000 viewers in its DVR +3 day adjusted ratings versus last season’s average of 769,000 (through 3 episodes).

Report: UFC 177 nets 125K PPV buys

October 2, 2014

Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer (subscription recommended) reported that UFC 177 which featured T.J. Dillashaw defending his bantamweight championship against late replacement Joe Soto netted an estimated 125,000 PPV buys.

The numbers are more than most had expected considering that Soto replaced Renan Barao the day before the fight.  It’s the second lowest output this year but considering the circumstances, the reported number is a pleasant surprise.

Going into the Saturday of UFC 177, there was concern that it would beat UFC 174 for lowest PPV buy rate in years.

UFC 2014s PPVs

Payout Perspective:

I was of the opinion that this number would never come out due to the potential for a disastrous PPV number.  The Google metrics that many go by in anticipating a buy rate were non-existent.  However, if correct, the 125,000 PPV buys reflects that there is a base (as discussed by Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez on their podcast) audience that will order UFC PPVs regardless of the fights on the card.  Realistically, the advertised card rivaled a Fight Night card with the exception of a title fight.

TUF 20 Episode 3 Live +3: 791,000 viewers

October 1, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the adjusted viewership rating for last week’s #TUF episode 3 drew an additional 358,000 viewers.  The additional viewership increased 83% from 433,000 to 791,000.

TUF 20 Ep 3 DVR

Episode 1 – 536,000 viewers; 831,000 viewers
Episode 2 – 574,000 viewers; 946,000 viewers
Episode 3 – 433,000 viewers; 791,000 viewers

Payout Perspective:

The numbers for the third episode bring up the adjusted viewership average which includes DVR viewership for the 3 days after the live event to 856,000 viewers. The Live +3 rating for TUF 19, episode drew 723,000 viewers in comparison to this year’s 791,000 viewers.

Le tests positive for HGH

October 1, 2014

Cung Le has tested positive for HGH following his UFC Fight Night 48 fight with Michael Bisping in Macau.  As a result, he has been banned nine months by the UFC and will need to take a drug test before competing in the UFC.

The UFC issued the following statement:

UFC middleweight Cung Le tested positive for an excess level of Human Growth Hormone in his system following his fight at UFC Fight Night in Macao, China on August 23. Due to his positive test result, Le was suspended by the UFC and notified that he violated the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy and Promotional Agreement with Zuffa, LLC. The UFC has a strict, consistent policy against the use of any illegal and/or performance-enhancing drugs, stimulants or masking agents by our athletes. Le will serve a nine-month suspension and, at its conclusion, will need to pass a drug test before competing in the UFC again.

The UFC was acting as its own commission for this event as Macau does not have a regulatory body overseeing MMA. Thus, it tested Le and made the finding.

*UPDATE:  The UFC has extended Le’s suspension to 12 months.

Payout Perspective:

Le’s “renewed” 42 year old physique made everyone wonder about whether he was taking something more for his fight with Bisping.  Most people were not surprised with the results of the drug test. This is a disappointment for the UFC since it had hoped Le would be an ambassador to help the UFC’s efforts to make inroads into Asia.  Le had even donated money and supplies to an orphanage in Vietnam prior to his fight.  It looks like that good will has gone by the side.

UFC 178 Prelims: 698,000 viewers

September 30, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the UFC 178 Prelims airing on FS1 prior to the PPV scored a viewership of 698,000 viewers.  It peaked at 774,000 viewers.

UFC PPV Prelims since August 2013 (FS1 unless specified)

UFC 164                             809,000

UFC 165                             722,000

UFC 166                             628,000

UFC 167                             998,000

UFC 168                          1,554,000

UFC 169                             933,000

UFC 170                             936,000

UFC 171                             305,000 (FS2)

UFC 172                             750,000

UFC 173                             697,000

UFC 174                             784,000 (FX)

UFC 175                             1,000,000

UFC 177                             436,000

UFC 178                           698,000

Saturday’s prelims was a jump from UFC 177′s dismal ratings which were the lowest on FS1.

Payout Perspective:

The peaked occurred between 8:15-8:30pm.  Notably, the last 20 minutes of the 2 hour prelims was essentially filler since Dominick Cruz took just 61 seconds to end Takeya Mizugaki.  This may have contributed to the actual viewership as folks turned the channel after the Cruz fight.  The 2014 UFC Prelim average is slightly over 726,000 viewers.

Rockhold signs deal with Adidas

September 29, 2014

FighterXFashion reports that Adidas has signed on UFC fighter Luke Rockhold.  Although no terms of the sponsorship have been revealed, its anticipated that Rockhold should be repping the three stripes in preparation for his fight against Michael Bisping on November 8th.

Robbie Lawler is the only other UFC fighter to be sponsored by Adidas.

Payout Perspective:

The news of Rockhold’s deal might be seen as an expansion of Adidas’ Combat Sports Division.  The Three Stripes should translate well overseas as Rockhold’s fight against Bisping takes place

in Sydney, Australia as the main event for UFC Fight Night 55.  We’ll see if the signing means that Adidas is in the race to be the official uniform for the UFC.

UFC 178: Payout Perspective

September 29, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.   In this edition, we review UFC 178 which took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena where Demetrious Johnson took on Chris Cariaso in the main event.

Johnson outclasses Cariaso

Despite the lack of fan support (i.e., PPV buys), Demetrious Johnson can legitimately stake a claim to being the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC.  It was clear in the first minute that Johnson was the better fighter and ended Cariaso in the second round with a submission.

Johnson is getting prime placement on UFC shows and it’s the second PPV he’s headlined this year.  One should also stress the fact that Johnson has not been hurt during his title reign and is not an outside-the-Octagon problem.  So, why don’t people buy his PPVs?


Cowboy welcomes Eddie to UFC

The skeet shooting and wakeboarding training regimen pre-fight aside, Donald Cerrone is an extremely good fighter.  In what was one of the more entertaining fights on the card, Cerrone defeated Eddie Alvarez.  It was the long-awaited debut for the former Bellator champ and the first round he showed why the UFC wanted to acquire his services.  Yet, Cerrone moves on looking for another fight before 2014 closes.

McGregor makes quick work of Poirier

You would have thought that this was the main event based on the crowd reactions.  The hype, trash talk and vitriol between the two (especially during any face off promoting the fight) was classic in what to do to have people interested in purchasing your fights. The Conor McGregor experience continues and likely his most impressive fight on the biggest platform so far.  McGregor easily handled Dustin Poirier in the first round.  It’s clear that McGregor is ready for a title shot after Saturday night.

Attendance and Gate

The attendance and gate announced at the post-fight press conference was 10,544 for a gate of $2.2 million.  Out of 9 PPVs this year, it ranked 7th in attendance.


The bonuses of $50K each were awarded to Yoel Romero-Tim Kennedy for Fight of the Night and Dominick Cruz and Conor McGregor for Performances of the Night.

Promotion of the Fight

The Embedded episodes continue to be popular as the UFC has found a formula to promote the fights digitally.  For the most part, viewers got to see Cowboy Cerrone wakeboarding and skeet shooting prior to his fight with Eddie Alvarez, Conor McGregor get a haircut, Demetrious Johnson getting a shave and Dustin Poirier at the Whole Foods at Vegas.  The one thing really missing from the embedded episode was a profile on Chris Cariaso.  The Countdown show did have a profile on Cariaso but it seemed incomplete.  Even if it was a foregone conclusion that he would likely lose (which happened), it would have been nice for them to have elevated his profile for this fight.  It seems to get better reviews than the UFC Prime Time episodes because they are short and can be viewed whenever people want to see them.

Conor McGregor did a good amount of pre-fight press.

Mighty Mouse appeared on the local Fox affiliate in Seattle last week hyping UFC 178.


Salaries have been disclosed via MMA Junkie:

Demetrious Johnson: $183,000 (includes $54,000 win bonus)
def. Chris Cariaso: $24,000

Donald Cerrone: $126,000 (includes $63,000 win bonus)
def. Eddie Alvarez: $100,000

Conor McGregor: $150,000 (includes $75,000 win bonus)
def. Dustin Poirier: $34,000

Yoel Romero: $58,000 (includes $29,000 win bonus)
def. Tim Kennedy: $70,000

Cat Zingano: $18,000 (includes $9,000 win bonus)
def. Amanda Nunes: $15,000

Dominick Cruz: $100,000 (includes $50,000 win bonus)
def. Takeya Mizugaki: $32,000

Jorge Masvidal: $90,000 (includes $45,000 win bonus)
def. James Krause: $15,000

Stephen Thompson: $32,000 (includes $16,000 win bonus)
def. Patrick Cote: $33,000

Brian Ebersole: $42,000 (includes $21,000 win bonus)
def. John Howard: $21,000

Kevin Lee: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Jon Tuck: $10,000

Manny Gamburyan: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Cody Gibson: $10,000

Some notes:

Some interesting figures including Demetrious Johnson being paid like a champ (base of $129K).  The last official report of his purse was at UFC on Fox 9 where he made a base of $125K (notice a bigger bonus for that Fox event).  You might assume that June’s UFC 174 he made a base of $127K although those salaries were never officially reported.  Eddie Alvarez was paid $100K (show) for his first UFC fight.  You might recall when he was originally offered a UFC contract which precipitated the Bellator lawsuit, he was offered $70K for his first match in the UFC.  Conor McGregor is already up to $75K base.  Cat Zingano only made $9K/$9K which is only a $2K bump from her last fight in April 2013 against Miesha Tate.


The octagon sponsors included MusclePharm, MetroPCS, Alienware, Harley Davidson, Toyo Tires, Fram, UltimatePoker.net, Assassin’s Creed’s latest game, Matefit.me and Bud Light in the center.

Missing from the octagon was long-time sponsor, Xyience, which was purchased by another company that quickly pulled the sponsorship with the UFC.

Yoel Romero was sponsored by likeaboss.com.  I’m not sure what they do.

Cain Velasquez appeared in a promo for Harley Davidson Motorcycle’s “Hometown Throwdown.”

Mighty Mouse had his traditional sponsor of Xbox 360.  The only sponsor for Johnson, his fight banner told folks to pre-order an Xbox One.  I thought those were already available?  If you were wondering, on his recent Wrestling Observer podcast, Dave Meltzer did not know how much Johnson is receiving from Microsoft.

Cariaso was sponsored by Mountek.  Really.

Dominick Cruz was sponsored by the Phoenix International Raceway which stuck with him despite Cruz being on the shelf for a long time.  It paid off as PIR had a prominent logo on Cruz as he was demolishing Takeya Mizugaki.  He also wore the shirt in his post-fight interview.

Odds and ends

-Didn’t mention this earlier, but Cat Zingano-Amanda Nunes fight was the way to start a PPV.  Zingano has been through a lot and it appears that she will be the next for Ronda Rousey.

-MMA Fighting has backstage footage of Tim Kennedy confronting Yoel Romero about the extra time he took to get up from his stool in between rounds.

-Interesting that the UFC are rolling out different types of Bruce Lee t-shirts.  Hopefully some of the money that I suppose the estate is receiving from licensing his likeness is going toward this.

-Dominick Cruz won me over in just the 61 seconds of work.  First, his Jay Z/Cypress Hill remix entrance, Then, the plain black CRUZ sweatshirt.  Easily the best thing anyone has worn to the octagon in the history of this sport.  Finally, his “Alpha-Fails” drop is probably one of the best post-fight lines in a while.

-UFC on Fox YouTube channel has the whole 61 second Cruz return fight.

-Some argument as to whether Cruz fight should have been on PPV.  You can see it as perhaps a concession to boost FS1 ratings.  In hindsight, all of the fights on the PPV were great and hard to see replacing one.

-The good news is that the clay pigeons that Cerrone shot during that Embedded episode were not real as they were made at the same place that Floyd Mayweather got his fake weed from All Access.

-Not surprising, but according to Google Trends, Dublin and Ireland were the most interested city and country for search term “UFC 178”.


This was to be Jones-Gus II.  But after that was scrapped, it was Jones-Cormier.  After the Jones-Cormier media day brawl in August, one could have made the argument that UFC 178 would be the second-biggest PPV event of the year after UFC 175.  But with Jones getting injured, the need to adjust the lineup probably hurt the buy rate.  Overall, this card was very solid with every PPV fight being an entertaining one.  However, selling the Johnson-Cariaso was tough and you might infer that most of the pre-fight hype was for McGregor-Poirier. Although McGregor could be a breakout PPV star, he is not one yet.

While Google Trends saw an uptick in searches for UFC 178 from Ireland, it’s worth to note that the US was the 4th interested country for the event.  In the end, a buy rate of 300,000-325,000 seems reasonable.

UFC 178 attendance, gate and bonuses

September 28, 2014

UFC 178 drew attendance of 10,544 for a gate of $2.2 million at the MGM Grand.  In addition the bonuses were handed out to Conor McGregor, Dominick Cruz, Yoel Romero and Tim Kennedy.

The attendance, gate and bonuses were announced at the post-fight press conference.

As indicated by MMA Junkie, attendance ranked 7th out of 9 PPV events this year. As we reported on Friday, there were still tickets available as it had not yet sold out.

The bonuses were awarded as follows:

FOTN: Romero-Kennedy

Performance of the Night:  Cruz and McGregor

Payout Perspective:

The attendance and gate were as expected.  One might wonder if the UFC had booked the MGM because of the anticipated Jon Jones fight (MGM is bigger venue than Mandalay Bay).  While it was a very good card, I don’t think Johnson as the headliner would have garnered an MGM sell out.

There was some controversy in the Romero-Kennedy fight with Romero taking extra rest in between rounds.  Certainly, that could have worked in his favor.  Cruz and McGregor’s performances deserved the bonuses as both were impressive.

UFC 178 ticket demand marginal

September 26, 2014

MMA Payout has learned per online ticket search engine SeatGeek that the average price on the secondary market for for UFC 178  is $249 which is a considerable boost from UFC 177.  However, with UFC 178 still not a sellout as of the time of this writing; people could still purchase tickets at the box office or Ticketmaster.

The ticket demand may be misleading when bringing up the fact that headliner Demetrious Johnson’s last fight drew one of the lowest average ticket prices on the secondary market in 4 years. This time around, ticket prices on the secondary market are up 83%.  But put into perspective, UFC 178 is the second least expensive ticket for a UFC event at the MGM Grand.  Only UFC 173 (Dillashaw-Barao) averaged a lower ticket price.  Notably, 4 UFC events at the MGM Grand averaged over $500 per ticket.  Anderson Silva was the headliner in 3 of those events.  The other was GSP-Hendricks.

The get-in price for Saturday is $89.15 with the most expensive ticket on the primary market at $841.35.  Up to date ticket information can be found at SeetGeek’s web site.

UFC Fights at MGM Grand

Payout Perspective:

Although a very competitive card, UFC 178 is not a sellout as of the day before the event.  The increase in ticket prices from UFC 177 to UFC 178 should be directly attributed to the fact that Saturday’s event is in Vegas versus Sacramento.  The lower ticket averages and lagging demand on the secondary market appear to occur when the under 155 lb weight classes are headlining.  Again, Johnson is headlining a card where there seems to be more buzz for the two co-main events (Cerrone-Alvarez and Poirier-McGregor). We will see where the attendance and gate end up.

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