Sonnen readies for Metamoris, no clarification from NSAC

August 7, 2014

Despite threats from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, it appears that Chael Sonnen will participate at this Saturday’s Metamoris event in Los Angeles.  Sonnnen’s legal representatives believe that he has a case that the NSAC penalty assessed in July does not apply to this event.

According to MMA Junkie, Sonnen’s lawyer in this matter has contacted the commission twice seeking clarification yet it appears that it has yet to respond to the inquiry.  It was the commission that warned Sonnen about violating the terms of his year suspension by participating in the grappling event on Saturday.  Notably, the NSAC did not question Sonnen about the event even though he was before the commission to receive his punishment in July.

Sonnen’s lawyer argues that the NSAC has “no jurisdiction” over the grappling event.  Essentially, Metamoris is not regulated because it does not fall within the ambit of “unarmed combat” per the Nevada rules.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the NSAC does when Sonnen participates.  If the NSAC levies a fine, it would not be surprising to see Sonnen fight it considering the strong arguments made by Sonnen’s attorney.  The lack of clarification from the NSAC to Sonnen’s lawyer infers that it is not wholly clear on whether Sonnen is violating his suspension.

UFC cites Code of Conduct for potential penalty for Monday fight

August 5, 2014

The Monday melee between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier may have ramifications for both from the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the UFC.  The UFC indicated that it is looking into the incident and citing it as a violation of the UFC’s code of conduct.

“We expect more from our athletes, especially these two gentlemen, who are very well-trained and highly educated professionals.  Their actions were clearly a violation of the UFC’s code of conduct,” stated Kirk Hendrick, the UFC’s Chief Legal Officer, per a report on UFC.com.

Hendrick indicated that the UFC would reserve the right to penalize Jones and Cormier pending the NSAC’s review of the incident.

Payout Perspective:

The Code of Conduct has not been in the news since Matt Mitrione caused a stir with his comments about Fallon Fox.  It’s clear that despite the news it’s achieved, brawling in a public setting where bystanders could have been injured is not a good idea.  However, don’t expect any suspensions.  It’s likely we will see a fine but nothing else.

NSAC will review video before determining action in Jones-DC melee

August 4, 2014

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has not ruled on whether there will be any repercussions following today’s brawl during a promotional square off for UFC 178 between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier.

The fisticuffs (click the link) between the two main event fighters on September 27th occurred during the standard face to face between fighters.  However, Jones head-butted Cormier and Cormier shoved Jones off of him causing a different kind of press scrum in which the UFC 178 backdrop was sent flying as well as staff trying to separate the two.

The two continued their feud with joint appearances on ESPN’s SportsCenter and then Fox Sports 1.

(H/t:  MMA Junkie)

Payout Perspective:

One might think that if the NSAC had jurisdiction over this appearance, it would levy some sort of monetary fine as a deterrent for future events.  Notwithstanding any fine, the UFC probably makes this up in the amount of social media buzz and press it received.  While the brawl may not be the most professional thing, it is something that draws interest as it’s out of the ordinary.  The brawl shows the passionate hate between the two.  In the past, these types of bitter rivalries have helped sell PPVs.  Think Rashad-Rampage (UFC 114 1 million PPV buys), Silva-Sonnen II (UFC 148 925K PPV buys), Tate-Rousey (UFC 148 1.02 million, of course Weidman-Silva helped) and even Jones-Evans at UFC 145 drew 700K buys.

What was missing from this matchup was a backstory as to why these two hate each other.  There is enough lead time to build this.  In an unusual quiet time for the UFC (due in part to the cancellation of UFC 176), the Jones-DC rivalry is heating up and should have enough promotion time to make September 27th a must see for the casual PPV fan.

NSAC threatens Sonnen participation at Metamoris

August 4, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that the Nevada State Athletic Commission may attempt to block Chael Sonnen’s appearance at this Saturday’s Metamoris grappling event in Los Angeles.  The Commission believes his participating is in violation of the suspension that was handed out last month.

Junkie identified a source “close to the commission” that stated the commission sent a letter to Sonnen informing him that the Metamoris event violated the terms of his suspension.  Sonnen’s legal rep responded to the NSAC’s definition of competing.  No word yet from officials at Metamoris.

The news was initially reported by BR’s Jeremy Botter.   Sonnen could be fined $250,000 per drug violation.  As you may recall, Sonnen tested positive for 5 PEDs and was given a 2 year ban by the NSAC without a monetary fine but for payment of doctor fees for the drug tests that he did not pass.

Although the Metamoris event is not sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission as it’s not considered a combat sport, the NSAC does not want Sonnen to participate.

Payout Perspective:

Hard decision for Sonnen and a very concerning issue for Metamoris since Sonnen is in the featured event of the online PPV.  Without Sonnen, buys for the event may not be as high.  Furthermore, the organization may get complaints from those that purchased the event early to take advantage of the discounted rate.  For Sonnen, he runs the risk of a stiff fine and he does not have a current place of employment.  We shall see if the NSAC enforces its threat of a penalty.

New York and Zuffa file Summary Judgment Motions in lawsuit

August 2, 2014

The state of New York and Zuffa filed Motions for Summary Judgment in the ongoing lawsuit which seemingly has no end.  The filings, which were filed Thursday of last week, each hope to bring a resolution to the lawsuit filed by Zuffa in November 2011.

As most know that have been following this legal fight, Zuffa and other named plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General of New York in an effort to strike down the existing legislative ban on professional MMA in the state.  The Court dismissed most of Zuffa’s claims including a legal claim suggesting it infringed against its First Amendment rights.

The remaining claims before the Court are whether the statute is unconstitutionally vague and the state liquor law which allows for liquor to be sold at events.  Both parties have requested the Court to rule in its favor on the remaining claims.

For New York, it is requesting the Court to dismiss the challenges made by Zuffa.  If granted, the case would effectively be over pending an appeal to the Circuit Court.

For Zuffa, it is requesting the Court to strike down the law banning professional MMA in the state.  This would effectively allow for professional MMA in the state since the law would no longer exist.  Of course, we’ll speculate on this later.

The standard for a Court to grant a Summary Judgment has the party filing the motion having to prove that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact” and that the person bringing the motion “is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Basically, the Court must find that based on the facts presented, there is no reason to hear anything else about the dispute because the facts show there is no dispute.  This certainly can be a tough threshold for any party bringing a motion.

New York’s Summary Judgment Motion

New York strategically argues that most of the named Plaintiffs must be dismissed because they have no standing.  Essentially, they cannot bring the lawsuit because there is no injury (i.e., damages).  In this scenario, if there are no damages, there is no standing to bring the claim.  Plaintiffs cannot bring a claim on hypothetical damages, rather the damages must be “actual and imminent.”  New York argues that most of the named Plaintiffs including Jon Jones, Gina Carano, Frankie Edgar, Matt Hammill and Brian Stann do not have the requisite standing because each have not suffered an actual injury and thus have no damage claim.  The parties had agreed that Jones, et al would not be deposed if they would not provide any evidence of the vagueness allegation.  Thus, New York now brings the motion to dismiss them.

It argues that the “only still surviving Exempt Organization,” the World Kickboxing Association (WKA) has only a “tentative” relationship with Zuffa.  It also points out that Zuffa and WKA have no formal agreement to run an event or future plans to do so.  Thus, Zuffa cannot claim injury.

Arguing that the Plaintiffs have no standing means the Court does not need to rule on the substantive legal issue-whether § 8905-a, the law banning professional MMA (or the New York “Liquor Law” which prohibits licensees who serve alcohol for on-premises consumption) is unconstitutionally vague.

While this may be cynical, arguing the procedural issues rather than the substantive content allows the Court an “out.”  Courts would not have to decide on the constitutionality of a law if the procedures to address the actual issue are not met.  Rather, Courts could allow the legislative branch the chance to address the law.  And, as we know Zuffa has been trying to do this for a while with no success.

If you are looking for a recent case that reflects a Court ruling on procedural grounds rather than substantive, look at the U.S. Supreme Court case which ruled on California’s Proposition 8.  In that case, the Supreme Court did not rule on the legal issues as it determined that the private parties that brought the lawsuit had no “standing” to bring the lawsuit because they had no injury.

Here, New York argues that the Plaintiffs have no “standing” to bring the lawsuit because they lack the requisite “injury.”

Zuffa’s Summary Judgment

Zuffa filed its Summary Judgment motion seeking that the Court determine that Section 8905-a and the New York Liquor Law is unconstitutionally vague as to professional MMA.  It cites the uncertainty of state officials as to the application and interpretation of the law.  It notes oral argument in which the Attorney General for New York admitting that professional MMA could be sanctioned by an Exempt Organization under the law.  The AG later explained away his statement.  Zuffa also argues that the law is vague and it encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

Zuffa’s moving papers hammer away that the law banning professional MMA has many interpretations and these multiple interpretations even trip up those that enforce the rules.

Payout Perspective:

The following summary is just a cursory look at the papers and does not even delve into the deposition excerpts and exhibits.  At this point, we’ll wait on the opposition briefs which should include more declarations and deposition transcript excerpts.  And then there will be more in the reply to the opposition briefs.  The final pleadings for the motion will not be filed until early September.  Based on the amount of paper to read, one might not expect a decision until December, or early 2015.

But let’s assume New York wins and the case is dismissed.  Zuffa will have to consider its options which may include an appeal to the Circuit Court on the decision.  It would cost more money and take much longer and unless there is movement in Albany, no MMA in New York.

But what if the Court sides with Zuffa and grants its motion for summary judgment?  This would mean that the law banning MMA will be determined unconstitutional and essentially strike down the law.  One might expect a stay and/or the state of New York filing a preliminary injunction to stay the ruling in an effort to appeal the ruling.  The effect of an injunction would be a way to prevent pro MMA in the state before an appeal to the ruling is heard by another Court.  The last time most of us heard about a preliminary injunction was in the Eddie Alvarez case.  In the meantime, legislators in New York that are anti-pro MMA could draft new legislation which would clarify the vagueness issue and have it ready for Albany in 2015.  We could be completely off on this scenario and we haven’t even seen opposition briefs but I thought I’d throw this theory out there.

MMA Payout will have more on these motions in the coming days.

WWE reports second quarter earnings, Network sub update

July 31, 2014

WWE announced its 2nd Quarter earnings on Thursday.  The big news was that the WWE Network added just 33,000 subscribers from the 1st Quarter.  In addition, it reported laying off 7% of its work force.

While the number of subscribers is off from the company’s initial projections, the WWE indicated that the existing subscribers are happy with it.  The company indicated that the Network will roll out in its present form internationally.

Similar to how the UFC introduced pricing options for Fight Pass, the WWE will also roll out options to its current payment plans.  Fans can now pay $19.99 per month with no commitment to renew.  This is likely to grab those wanting to order specifically to watch a “PPV” event.  The other new option is that one can pay one time the $9.99 x 6 months.  These two options will be in addition to the current $9.99 per month plan with a 6 month commitment.

The WWE also announced a 10 year deal with Rogers  Communications in Canada for the Network to be a traditional pay-tv option.

Overall, WWE reported a Net loss of $14.5 million, or $0.19 per share compared to last year’s second quarter net income of $5.2 million or $0.07 per share.  The wide swing is due to the costs for the Network.

Payout Take:  WWE stock was up slightly to $12.48 on Thursday.  Unfortunately, when a company cuts jobs, the stock experiences a positive bump due in part to the belief that the company is addressing issues with excess.  The Hartford Courant states that 53 of the 762 positions with the company would be cut.  The article also states that the cuts “along with other efficiencies” should improve the operating income by $30 million (before depreciation and amortization) in 2015.

As for the Network, the number of gained subscribers at this point suggests that it will not reach its targeted goal of 1 million by the end of the year.

Silva-Diaz set for Super Bowl Weekend 2015

July 30, 2014

The UFC announced Tuesday that recently re-signed Nick Diaz will face the returning Anderson Silva on January 31, 2015.  The card will be in Vegas although no venue was announced.

Silva will be back from recovering from having his leg broken at UFC 168.  Diaz will be back after contemplating retirement following his fight with Georges St. Pierre at UFC 158.

White had alluded to the possibility of the two matching up upon Diaz’s signing.  Upon announcement of the fight, social media went crazy with anticipation for the fight.

The event will be UFC 183 and will be the annual card the night before the Super Bowl.

Payout Perspective:

This may be one where the marketing and promotion of the fight may exceed the actual fight itself.  Diaz sold UFC 158 almost by himself.  We might see something similar here.  Certainly, this is a fight where the UFC can build some solid shoulder programming around.  There is the story of Silva’s recovery and rehabilitation from an injury we thought would end his career.  There is also the unpredictable Diaz.  As for the fight itself, it’s not clear what shape these fighters will be by Super Bowl weekend next year.

UFC on Fox 12: 2.5 million viewers

July 29, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that Saturday’s UFC on Fox 12 main card received a Live plus Same Day rating of 2.5 million viewers.  The rating falls in line with Fox shows during the summer and is better than UFC on Fox 11’s rating this past April.

UFC on Fox 1: 5.7 million

UFC on Fox 2: 4.57 million

UFC on Fox 3: 2.25 million

UFC on Fox 4: 2.36 million

UFC on Fox 5: 3.41 million

UFC on Fox 6: 4.22 million

UFC on Fox 7: 3.3 million

UFC on Fox 8: 2.38 million

UFC on Fox 9: 2.9 million

UFC on Fox 10: 3.22 million

UFC on Fox 11: 1.98 million

UFC on Fox 12: 2.5 million

UFC on Fox 12 received a 1.5 rating and 3 share. The peak occurred during the main event overrun at 3,427,000 viewers.  The event featuring Robbie Lawler defeating Matt Brown was first in all of the key demos for the organization.  Men 18-34 (1.3), Men 18-48 (1.5), Men 25-54 (1.7) and Adults 18-49 (1.0).

ufc on fox 12

Payout Perspective:

The ratings improved slightly from the summer event for Fox the past two years.  Notably, Lawler was on the July 2013 show last year too.  And, even though there was a title fight in 2013, it was Demetrious Johnson.  It seemed like the Lawler-Brown fight had a little more interest.  It also may have helped that the prelims were on the network as well.  The prelims scored an average of 1.3 million and the audience built through the evening.

UFC on Fox 12 Prelims on FOX: 1.3 million viewers

July 29, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the UFC on Fox 12 Prelims drew an average viewership of 1.3 million.  It was the first time that Fox had aired the prelims on its network.

The network exposure helped the prelims which preceded the main card.  The last fight before the main card had Jorge Masvidal defeating Daron Cruickshank by unanimous decision.

 UFC on Fox Prelims on FS1

UFC on Fox 9 – 613,000 (Dec. 2013)

UFC on Fox 10 – 713,000 (Jan. 2014)

UFC on Fox 11 – 521,000 (April 2014)

UFC on Fox Prelims on FOX

UFC on Fox 12 – 1.3 million viewers (July 2014)

Payout Perspective:

An MLB game was on FS1 at the time of the Prelims on Fox.  Certainly the UFC would prefer these fights occurring on the network rather than FS1 based on the viewership.  More than doubling your viewership (from April) for the prelims is great for the UFC but one would think it’s up to Fox if it wants to give up the time slot.  I’m not sure Fox would want to do this come December for UFC on Fox 13.

UFC apparel deal likely to feature Rousey

July 28, 2014

UFC Senior Vice President Mike Mossholder states that Ronda Rousey will likely be the face of the UFC’s first official outfitting deal according to reports on FoxSports.com and AdWeek.

Although Mossholder did not indicate the clothier, he stated that the UFC were in active negotiations with a “premium apparel line” per the AdWeek article.  But, it appears to be an exclusive deal to outfit any UFC fighter that will step into the Octagon for the company.

Both articles state that a clothing deal could be a financial boon for the UFC as it listed Nike’s 5 year, $1.1 billion deal with the NFL as an example.

As an indicator of Rousey’s draw, the Adweek report states that Rousey is No. 3 in ticket sales for the UFC and Xyience sales jumped 12 percent when it place images of the women’s bantamweight champ on its cans.  Rousey has become the top requested athlete by UFC sponsors when it comes to fighters they want to endorse its brand.

Payout Perspective:

The overarching news here is that the UFC will have uniforms at some point.  The not so breaking news is that Ronda Rousey is star.  AdWeek identifies Nike, Under Armour and Adidas as potential clothing sponsors while Fox Sports also includes Reebok.  Each of the clothing sponsors have fighters it represents.  Notably, Adidas just signed Robbie Lawler (although Lawler wore no visible Adidas gear on Saturday), Under Armour worked with GSP, Reebok signed Anthony Pettis and Johny Hendricks and Nike has Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Junior dos Santos.  We shall see what happens.  Whatever choice is made, we can expect Rousey to sport the gear in print ads and commercials.

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