Ticket demand for Rousey still there for UFC 207

December 30, 2016

The average resale price for a ticket for today’s UFC 207 is $348.  According to Nate Rattner at SeatGeek, it is nearly 3x hotter than a ticket to UFC 206 in Toronto (the average resale price was $124).

Per SeatGeek, here are the average resale prices for the top 5 UFC fights since 2010:

  • UFC 205: $1233
  • UFC 200: $1137
  • UFC 202: $929
  • UFC 194: $843
  • UFC 189: $741

In comparison, here are the prices for Ronda Rousey fights on the secondary market per SeatGeek.  Note that the last two UFC Rousey fights are not included here since SeatGeek does not track international events.

  • UFC 184: $263 (vs. Zingano at Staples Center)
  • UFC 175: $411 (vs. Davis, Weidman-Machida co-main)
  • UFC 170: $205 (vs. McMann at Mandalay Bay)
  • UFC 168: $545 (vs. Tate, Weidman-Silva II)
  • UFC 157: $186 (debut vs. Carmouche at Honda Center)

According to Rattner, the median price on the secondary market dropped 5% from $417 to $389.

In comparison, per Julia Litz at Vivid Seats, the minimum ticket price on the secondary market is $152 and the median ticket price is $525.

A look on Ticketmaster as of 8:00am PT, had scattered seats available with the get-in price being $605.

Per Kevin Iole, T-Mobile Arena will sell standing room tickets which will be the first time the arena has done it in its short history. Iole also reported on that Dana White told him that the gate looks to be about $4.5 million and roughly 19,000 in attendance.  Of course, with standing room sales, this could go up.

Payout Perspective:

The ticket sales show you that the Ronda Rousey return is a big seller despite her media blackout.  While the median price may have dipped a little on the secondary market, the news that they will sell standing room only tickets reflects the demand.  The resale market does indicate that the tickets are “affordable” for a Rousey fight.  This might be due to it being a Friday event, New Year’s Eve and not a strong co-main (although Cody-Cruz should be fun).  Still, the demand for Rousey is there for her return.

16 for 16: No. 4 Legislation to Amend Ali Act Introduced

December 29, 2016

In May 2016, Oklahoma Republican Congressman Markwayne Mullin introduced an expansion of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to include MMA.  A Congressional Subcommittee hearing was conducted in December to discuss the issues related to mixed martial arts and how the introduced law would help fighters.

In addition to Congressman Mullin, it is co-sponsored by Democrats including Joseph P. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Mark Takano of California.  Overall, 5 Republicans and 2 Democrats have put their name to the bill.

The UFC opposes the expansion and hired a lobbying firm to influence legislators into voting down the amendment to the existing law.  Several op-eds have come out to oppose the law citing government overreach among other reasons.  It attempted to strong-arm the December hearing by indicating it would not participate if Randy Couture testified.  It backed off and Jeff Novitsky represented the UFC at the hearing.

The amendment to the Ali Act mirrors the current law with few changes but for the inclusion of combat sports.  Earlier this year, I outlined the issues with the expansion of the Ali Act which included a variety of cases where boxers sued promoters and came up with a loss.  Notably, there could have been more done with the Ali Act to ensure functionality to allow fighters an alternative to needing to file a lawsuit under the Act.

Currently, the Ali Act is in the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee.  There is no word on whether there will be additional hearings on the subject or what the next move will be on the bill.

With the new UFC ownership and its previous relationship with the incoming administration in January I do not know how successful passage will be.  At this point, there seems to be a lot more work to do before it comes to a vote in the House.

16 for 16

5.  UFC 200

6.  The year of Conor McGregor

7.  Bellator signings

8.  UFC pulls credentials for Helwani after breaking news

9.  Legal troubles for Jon Jones continues

10.  WSOF legal woes continues

11.  Ronda Rousey returns

12.  Alliance MMA goes public

13.  GSP declares himself a free agent

14.  Bellator 149

15.  CM Punk debuts

16.  Former Bellator employee sues company, organization sues back

UFC 206 replay on Christmas Eve draw 4.72M viewer average

December 28, 2016

The final Live + SD ratings for the replay of UFC on Fox Saturday night drew 4.72 million viewers per Sports TV Ratings.

Monday TV By Numbers reported the huge ratings win for the UFC on Christmas Eve.  Only UFC 1 drew more viewers.

Payout Perspective:

Great ratings as we see a new tradition begin.  The UFC on Christmas Eve.  Another piece of good fortune with the large viewer audience was the promotion for this Friday’s UFC 207.  As many point out, cable companies have been advertising the PPV being this Saturday, not Friday.  So, at least the promotion during the 206 replay may have helped.

Barnett flagged for potential USADA violation

December 27, 2016

Josh Barnett has been flagged for a potential USADA violation for an out of competition test from December 9, 2016.

The UFC issued its standard statement with respect to potential anti-doping violations.

Barnett’s last fight was on September 3, 2016, a win against Andrei Arlovski.  He was not scheduled for an upcoming fight.

Payout Perspective:

Barnett has had a sordid past with drug test failures and this is the latest for the 39-year-old.  We will see if Barnett has an excuse for the failure but with his history, it’s hard to think that this will end well.

16 for 16: No. 7 Bellator signings includes Fedor, Sonnen, amateur wrestlers

December 26, 2016

Benson Henderson, Rory MacDonald and Chael Sonnen signed with Bellator MMA this year reflecting a new age of free agency for MMA.  Fedor Emelianenko was also signed by the Viacom-owned company in 2016.

Wanderlei Silva also joined Bellator in March 2016 but would not be able to fight until 2017 as he is still serving out his suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission.

Bellator continued with its strategy of signing fighters with some fan notoriety to headline as well as sign accomplished amateur wrestlers to groom for the future.  Three-time NCAA Division 2 wrestling champ Romero Cotton signed an exclusive MMA contract with Bellator in November.

In addition to Cotton, Bellator added Joey Davis, Jarod Trice and Tyrell Fotune.  Ed Ruth, a Penn St. amateur wrestler signed in 2015 and made his debut in November 2016.  Aaron Pico also signed with Bellator but has yet to make his debut.

Henderson signed with Bellator after his contract ended with the UFC.  Thus far, Henderson has not fared well in Bellator.  He was thoroughly dominated by Andrey Koreshkov in his Bellator debut at welterweight.  He moved back down to lightweight to challenge for Michael Chandler’s title.  In a fight to see who would face Chandler, he defeated Patricio Pitbull Freire due to an injury by Pitbull. Henderson went on to lose to Chandler this past November for the lightweight title.

Rory MacDonald signed this August after his contract expired in June.  He has yet to fight in Bellator but it appears he will compete at middleweight and welterweight for the company.

Sonnen may have been the surprise since he has been out of action since 2013.  He signed with Bellator in September and now is scheduled for a tentpole event in January 2017 against Tito Ortiz.

The Fedor signing should be a big deal for many international and Strikeforce fans that want to relive the glory days of The Last Emperor.  Coming out of retirement, it’s likely that we won’t see him in any title fights but just features with handpicked opponents.

The strategy of signing ex-UFC talent seems to work.  Certainly, Sonnen-Ortiz will draw big ratings especially since the UFC moved its event off of the same day.  While using the former UFC fighters to draw in fans for name recognition, it allows the company to allow the young former amateur wrestlers get fights under their belt without the pressure of being a featured fighter.

We’ll likely see more UFC fighters take a look at free agency as more fighters weigh their options post-UFC sale.  This may allow Bellator to be more particular in looking at fighters to sign.

16 for 16

8.  UFC pulls credentials for Helwani after breaking news

9.  Legal troubles for Jon Jones continues

10.  WSOF legal woes continues

11.  Ronda Rousey returns

12.  Alliance MMA goes public

13.  GSP declares himself a free agent

14.  Bellator 149

15.  CM Punk debuts

16.  Former Bellator employee sues company, organization sues back

UFC 206 replay on Fox scores big Christmas Eve

December 26, 2016

The replay of selected fights from UFC 206 earlier this month drew 4.7 million viewers on Christmas Eve according to Television By Numbers.  It also drew a 1.6 rating and a 6 share in the Adult 18-49 rating making it the second highest viewed UFC show on Fox since UFC on Fox 1.

The replay was the most-viewed show Saturday night and drew the biggest share among adults 18-49 across the board on the network.

The fights on the 2-hour replay Saturday included Lando Vannata versus John Makdessi, Cub Swanson versus Doo Ho Choi, Donald Cerrone versus Matt Brown and Max Holloway versus Anthony Pettis.

Nielsen reports that the peak viewership occurred during the Swanson-Choi fight which many consider a Fight of the Year frontrunner for 2016.

Only the November 2011 fight featuring Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos scored more viewers when the company’s debut on Fox drew 5.7 million viewers.

Payout Perspective:

The obvious takeaway here is that the UFC has found a niche and its likely Fox will be open for this slot for next Christmas Eve.  Even on a night when many people were doing holiday activities and spending time with family, many people tuned in.  This is great for the UFC as the actual card only did 150,000 PPV buys.

16 for 16: No. 8 UFC pulls credentials for Helwani after breaking news

December 25, 2016

While it may not be a pure business or legal story, the UFC expelling Ariel Helwani and two others at UFC 199 is a reflection of the unique business of the company under Dana White and the Fertittas.

This past June, Helwani was escorted out of UFC 199 prior to the end of the event along with Esther Lin and Casey Leydon.  He was given a lifetime ban by the UFC as they revoked the credentials of the individuals representing MMA Fighting and SB Nation.  The web site and its parent company supported the three after the incident.

The reason for the revocation was due to Helwani’s discovery that Brock Lesnar was going to return to the Octagon at July’s UFC 200.  The UFC had planned to unveil this news on its own but Helwani received the confirmation.  Notably, the information was confirmed from someone with the knowledge of Lesnar’s return so the question becomes why the UFC was angered with Helwani’s report and not the fact that someone had leaked this information.

Ironically, people with knowledge of the Saturday night incident did not reveal the details or break this news until Helwani could give his first-hand account on The MMA Hour on Monday.  Thus, while media supported Helwani for getting the scoop on the Lesnar news, they were reluctant to break what they knew of the Helwani story because it was Helwani’s story.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the UFC reinstated Helwani, Lin and Leydon.

The incident highlights the current state of the media and the stories they cover.  Jeremy Botter and Darren Rovell were threatened by the UFC (Botter with a letter from the company’s attorney) when they reported news of a UFC sale in June.  While the UFC denied these allegations, we all know now that the sale was true.  Currently, the news that Ronda Rousey will not be obligated to speak to the media during fight week has infuriated many.  She has only given limited access to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and appeared on The Ellen Show to appease her women demo.  We now have The Player’s Tribune so that athletes can convey their side of the story without a media filter.  But the push-pull of media and its subjects and control of a story were highlighted with Helwani doing what journalists do and the UFC being angered that it could not control the story.  These things happen in non-sports as well as we know.  With the new UFC owners, we shall see how much access it will grant MMA media as opposed to its control of information and releasing it to certain outlets.

Fox to air UFC 206 Christmas Eve

December 23, 2016

The UFC announced that it will air a special presentation of UFC 206 on Fox on Christmas Eve Saturday night at 8pm PT/ET.

The two-hour special on the network will feature Lando Vannata’s KO on John Makdessi, a fight of the year candidate of Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi, Donald Cerrone-Matt Brown and the main event of Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis.

Payout Perspective:

Dave Meltzer pointed out that strings were pulled to air the PPV within 30 days of its original airing date as distributors have rights to this window.  But, it’s unlikely that anyone would purchase this PPV as initial estimates had it at just 150,000 buys.  The move is very good strategy despite the fact it’s a Saturday night on Christmas Eve.  There is still some leftover from NFL viewers earlier in the evening as most games have been moved to Saturday.  It also gets one of the better quality PPVs on network television with UFC 207 coming up on Friday.  Also, it can introduce the casual viewers to the likes of Cerrone and Hollway.  We will see if it can continue the momentum of last week’s UFC on Fox 22 ratings.

16 for 16: No. 11 Ronda Rousey returns

December 23, 2016

Ronda Rousey returns to the Octagon on December 30th.  Although this has yet to happen at the time of this post, it still makes the list as one of the top business stories for 2016.

The Rousey rise and fall is well-documented as she went from fan favorite to a polarizing figure among MMA fans and media.  Her recent decision to not do any media in lead-up to her return at UFC 207 has stirred some resentment from MMA folks.  This is likely due to the fact that she has allowed limited access for stories that shed positive light onto her comeback (i.e., Ellen and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN).  It’s controlling the message and not becoming entangled in internet rumors.  In the Shelburne piece, she explains that she had made too many people happy while leaving herself to deal with depression.

Clearly, Rousey hates to lose and her KO loss to Holm has set her into a self-imposed exile and she will resurface on December 30th. Like many ultra-competitive, pro athletes, Rousey hates to lose.  Her methods to return and win are turning the fans against her, but like Conor McGregor when he did not want to do media for UFC 200 for a rematch against Nate Diaz, they do not want any distractions.

With that being said, the Rousey brand is still activating around her return to the Octagon.  She is the star of a new ad campaign for the Procter & Gamble brand.  This summer she was the star of Reebok’s #PerfectNever campaign which nodded at her loss to Holly Holm.  Rousey also did was part of an ad campaign for Carl’s Jr.  So, while Rousey is turning down the usual MMA media requests, her business interests are still working for her.

The UFC has advertised UFC 207 around Rousey’s return and has seemingly left out the champion Amanda Nunes in its marketing.  But, to be realistic, it’s Rousey that is the star here and her proven record of bringing in PPV dollars is the reason why Rousey receives top billing and not the champion.

With UFC 207 being on a Friday night, you might expect a downturn in PPV buys considering the last time a UFC PPV aired on a Friday night it was UFC 141 in 2011.  Brock Lesnar versus Alistair Overeem headlined that card but the event drew 535,000 PPV buys – a low considering Lesnar was featured.  Notably, Nate Diaz-Donald Cerrone were the co-main event.

Rousey drew 900,000 PPV buys in her title defense against Bethe Correia at UFC 190 in August 2015 and her loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 drew 1.1M PPV buys.

Rousey’s mainstream fans which include women should help bolster next Friday’s UFC 207.  Also, the curious, casual fan will likely tune in to see Rousey fight.  You might expect another buy rate around 1 million buys making 2016 the best year on PPV for the company with 5 UFC PPVs (196, 200, 202, 205 and possibly 207) over 1 million buys.

Cyborg out of competition test flagged by USADA, she responds

December 22, 2016

USADA has formally notified the UFC and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino of a potential Anti-Doping violation stemming from a December 5, 2016 sample collection.

The UFC has provided its standard statement with regard to flagged tests.  A portion reads:

USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case. It is important to note that, under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full fair legal review process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed.

Consistent with all previous potential anti-doping violations, additional information or UFC statements will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.

Cyborg indicated that she’s on medical treatment.  “Everybody knows I’m sick, that I’m recovering from the weight cut I had to do for the fight. What is happening is post-weight cut. Everybody knows I’m sick. They are talking to my doctor to solve this the best way.” (via MMA Fighting)  On behalf of Cyborg, Ray Elbe posted on The Underground that she has not tested positive for a steroid.  Based on the post, it appears she is working with USADA in turning over all the necessary information from her doctor.

Cyborg has now posted a statement on her web site stating that the banned substance known as “Spironolactone.”  It is a potassium-sparing diuretic that prevents the body from absorbing too much salt and keeps potassium levels from getting too low.

Payout Perspective:

Whatever the outcome for Cyborg, this is bad public relations for the fighter and the UFC.  For Cyborg, she had been on the positive of the media as she was just made a U.S. citizen and ESPN covered her battle with weight cutting.  Yet, this news brings up all of the bad rumors of Cyborg in the past.  While many felt that she was bypassed for the inaugural women’s featherweight division in the UFC, it’s clear there was reason which she explains in her web site post.  If Cyborg does receive a retroactive Therapeutic Use Exemption for the prohibited substance, there will be criticism for this as well.  If Cyborg does not receive a TUE, it’s likely she will have a suspension coming.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

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