UFC hires Farragut Partners to address Ali Act expansion

June 11, 2016

According to a PR industry web site O’Dwyer’s PR, the UFC has retained a Washington D.C. lobbying firm Farragut Partners to combat the expansion of the Muhammad Ali Act.

The D.C. based firm was formed this year.  They are an offshoot of partners from another firm.  They have a list of clients in the telecommunications, energy and healthcare industries.  Earlier this year, T-Mobile chose the firm to help it push support for the “Wireless Tax Fairness Act.”  The bill would enact a five-year moratorium on any new state or local taxes imposed on consumers for wireless service.

The firm also represents Comcast Corp., Altria Group (Tobacco Industry) and Blue Cross/Blue Shield according to opensecrets.org.  Thus far this year, it has reported $950,000 in lobbying income.

Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin introduced the bill late last month.

The bill would introduce measures to expand the Ali Act protecting boxers to all pro combat sports athletes.

A three-person team at Farragut Partners will handle the UFC account including federal legislative staffers for Republican politicians.

Payout Perspective:

Clearly, the UFC opposes federal regulation of MMA and specifically its business practices.  It should not surprise anyone that it has hired a lobbying firm to represent its interests and gain support in opposing the expansion of the Ali Act.  This year it has already spent $110,000 on lobbying firms.  Last year it spent $410,000.  Look for the total for this year to increase due to the Ali Act lobbying efforts.  We shall see if it is money well-spent for the company.

TUF 23 Episode 8: 376,000 viewers

June 9, 2016

The Ultimate Fighter Episode 8 drew an average of 376,000 viewers in Live + SD rating on FS1.

Per Sports TV Ratings, the viewers for this episode in the adult 18-49 demo was 199,000.

The season average increases slightly to 376,000.

In the fight of the episode, Team Joanna finally posted a victory with Josh Stansbury defeating Abel Medjedoub via unanimous decision.

Episode 8

Payout Perspective:

Not a positive sign that the 8th episode did not increase from last year’s TUF 21 (425,000 viewers)  The ratings trend could mean that this season will be the lowest-rated ever on FS1.

Spike TV to air tribute to Kimbo Slice prior to Bellator 157

June 8, 2016

Spike TV will air a one-hour special paying tribute to Kimbo “Kevin Ferguson” Slice who passed away on Monday.  The special will air prior to Bellator’s quarterly tentpole event, Bellator 157: Dynamite 2.

Slice passed away on Monday, June 6th.  He was 42 years old.  According to a report, Slice passed away of heart failure and was in need of a heart transplant.  Notably, Slice was scheduled to fight next month in London, England.

Slice went from YouTube sensation for his street fight videos to an MMA ratings magnet in EliteXC then on SpikeTV as he appeared on TUF and then in Bellator.

Payout Perspective:

Whether it was Slice’s look, his reputation or his fighting style, he was “must see” TV.  While you may attribute the heat between Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson on the show, the season of TUF peaked when Slice was on the show.  Despite losing on the show to Roy Nelson, it was one of the higher rated shows for the series.  His TUF Finale 10 fight against Houston Alexander on Spike TV peaked at 5.2M viewers and the card drew 3.7M viewers.  Although he was a shell of his former shelf, he produced top ratings for Bellator and SpikeTV in his last two fights.

Lesnar subject to UFC’s anti-doping policy

June 7, 2016

MMA Fighting reports that Brock Lesnar has been entered into the UFC’s anti-doping policy testing pool.  Since Lesnar’s return to the Octagon comes sooner than the official policy giving USADA four months’ notice to be entered back into the pool.

According to section 5.7.1 of the UFC anti-doping policy, it states:

An Athlete who gives notice of retirement to UFC, or has otherwise ceased to have a contractual relationship with UFC, may not resume competing in UFC Bouts until he/she has given UFC written notice of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of four months before returning to competition. UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.

According the MMA Fighting article, the negotiation with the WWE caused Lesnar to sign his bout agreement on Friday.  The UFC did inform Lesnar that if he signed to fight in the UFC, he’d be subject to the anti-doping policy.  The article quotes the UFC’s Dave Sholler in stating that since Lesnar last fought in the UFC prior to the anti-doping policy, he is being treated like a new fighter to the UFC.

Even if one was to argue that Lesnar should not be considered a new athlete, the four-month window is apparently being waived under one of the two provisions: 1) “exceptional circumstances” and/or 2) “where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.”

Payout Perspective:

Lesnar will be subject to in and out of competition testing per the UFC anti-doping policy from here until his fight at UFC 200.  Of course, the WWE has a “Wellness Policy” in which its contracted performers are tested so it’s not like Lesnar has gone without being tested.  The WWE has flagged several performers but Lesnar has never been one of them.  While this may seem a minor issue for the UFC, it also reflects the fluidity of the anti-doping policy. The waiver in the UFC/USADA policy allows for ease of having someone like Lesnar come back after retiring without the need to give a 4-month notice.  It would seem that to consider Lesnar a new athlete is a little convenient since the anti-doping policy is less than one year in existence.  Of course, this is likely the first time that someone who has “retired” from the UFC is returning under the policy.

UFC 199 Prelims: 798,000 viewers

June 7, 2016

The UFC 199 Prelims on FS1 drew 798,000 viewers per Sports TV Ratings.  The ratings reflect a slight increase from last month’s PPV.

UPDATED 6/8/16: According to Nielsen, UFC 199 ratings reflected a 7% gain over the averag of Q2 2015 PPV prelim cards on FS1 (744,00 viewers) and up 10% over last June’s UFC PPV Prelim card on FX (727,000).  The UFC 199 Prelims peaked from 9:45pm-10pm with 989,000 total viewers.

The post-fight show on FS1 drew 218,000 viewers which improved over the average of post-fight shows on FS1 from this time last year.  The prefight show drew 279,000 viewers.

The Prelims competed with the NHL Stanley Cup on NBC Network which drew 2.78M viewers.  Ahead of the UFC Prelims was the Vargas-Salido fight on HBO which drew 833,000 subscribers to the premium network.

The prelims drew 357,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.  The rating is less than the 399,000 viewers that tuned in for UFC 198.

ufc ppv prelims through 199

Payout Perspective:

Although there is no direct correlation between the prelims rating and the PPV buy rate, the estimate for UFC 198 was between 325-350K PPV buys.  One might foresee that UFC 199 drew a little better than the 350K PPV buys.

Hendo’s $800K tops UFC 199 salaries

June 7, 2016

UFC 199 salaries were disclosed by the California State Athletic Commission. Dan Henderson topped the list of fighters earning $800,000.

Via MMA Junkie:

Michael Bisping: $250,000 (no win bonus)
def. Luke Rockhold: $250,000

Dominick Cruz: $350,000 (no win bonus)
def. Urijah Faber: $160,000

Max Holloway: $150,000 (includes $75,000 win bonus)
def. Ricardo Lamas: $53,000

Dan Henderson: $800,000 (includes $200,000 win bonus)
def. Hector Lombard: $53,000

Dustin Poirier: $110,000 (includes $55,000 win bonus)
def. Bobby Green: $24,000

Brian Ortega: $46,000 (includes $23,000 win bonus)
def. Clay Guida: $55,000

Beneil Dariush: $62,000 (includes $31,000 win bonus)
def. James Vick: $23,000

Jessica Andrade: $40,000 (includes $20,000 win bonus)
def. Jessica Penne: $20,000

Alex Caceres: $48,000 (includes $24,000 win bonus)
def. Cole Miller: $33,000

Sean Strickland: $46,000 (includes $23,000 win bonus)
def. Tom Breese: $19,000

Luis Henrique da Silva: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Jonathan Wilson: $12,000

Kevin Casey: $15,000
vs. Elvis Mutapcic: $16,000

Polo Reyes: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. “Maestro” Dong Hyun Kim: $10,000

Payout Perspective:

Reyes and Kim, the two lowest, reported paid fighters earned a Fight of the Night bonus.  Henderson’s $800,000 ($600,000 show, $200,000 win) is one of the highest-reported salaries for a UFC fighters.  His last official reported purse was at UFC 173 where he made $100,000 in a loss to Daniel Cormier.  Including the Cormier fight, he has gone 2-3 since then.  Aside from Conor McGregor’s purported salary, Anderson Silva has made $600K/$200K.  Also, Dominick Cruz earned $350,000 which is a considerable boost from winning the title this past January.  At UFC Fight Night 81, Cruz earned $110,000 ($55K/$55K).

Lesnar-Hunt set for UFC 200

June 7, 2016

Brock Lesnar will face fellow heavyweight Mark Hunt at UFC 200.  Lesnar made the announcement in an interview with ESPN on Monday morning.

The 38 year old Lesnar will face the 42 year old New Zealander in one of the featured fights on the stacked UFC 200 PPV.

Lesnar, who is still under contract with the WWE, has received the company’s blessing.  The WWE announced this in a prepared statement as well as announcing that Lesnar would be at the company’s next big event, Summerslam, a month after UFC 200.

Interesting enough, there is news that Paige VanZant has been contacted about a possible appearance at WWE’s Summerslam.

Payout Perspective:

Could this be a sign of a UFC-WWE talent exchange?  Most likely a “one-off” but Mark Hunt is a tough opponent for Lesnar’s return.  If Lesnar is KO’d by Hunt, will it have any bearing on his persona in WWE?  Moreover, will Lesnar be ready to perform a month later at Summerslam.

UFC releases statement on Helwani, MMA Fighting staff

June 6, 2016

The UFC has backpedaled on its initial stance on banning Ariel Helwani and other MMA Fighting staff from receiving media credentials from the company in a prepared statement from the company.

From the UFC.com web site:

Following a conversation with the editorial team at SB Nation, UFC will not prevent MMAFighting.com from receiving media credentials to cover live UFC events. We respect the role the media plays in our sport and beyond, including MMAFighting’s ability to report news. However, in our opinion, we believe the recurring tactics used by its lead reporter extended beyond the purpose of journalism. We feel confident our position has now been adequately communicated to the SB Nation editorial team.

UFC’s goal as the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion is to cultivate interest in its world-class athletes and events, and deliver for the fans. We will continue to introduce this sport and its athletes to new fans across the world, and we will do so by working alongside media across all platforms.

The ”lead reporter” is obviously Ariel Helwani.  As MMA Fighting staff, I assume Helwani’s ban is lifted.  The timing of the statement comes after Helwani’s show, the “MMA Hour” in which he seemingly peeled back the curtain on the media practices of the UFC.  He revealed that he was paid directly from Zuffa for some Fox shows.  He also came close to describing a physical altercation with UFC staff.

Helwani has been on a media tour since his ejection from 199 on Saturday night.  He was made the MMA media martyr and mainstream journalists applauded Helwani’s right to free speech.

Payout Perspective:

Another PR gaffe by the UFC in which it had to “reinstate” the credentials for Vox media staff.  But, the statement did indicate “recurring tactics” by Helwani which “extended beyond the purpose of journalism.”  One would hope that the UFC consulted with journalism professionals and its legal team when coming out with this statement.  Helwani’s decision to reveal news communicated to him by a source should not be his fault but that of the person that is giving it to him.  It will be interesting thing to see going forward is how Helwani will cover the UFC from here on out.

Ariel Helwani given lifetime ban by UFC

June 5, 2016

MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani was escorted out of UFC 199 prior to its conclusion according to multiple reports including the host of the MMA Hour.  In addition, Esther Lin and Casey Leydon of MMA Fighting were required to leave the event.

MMA Fighting has issued a statement:

MMA Fighting and SB Nation fully support Ariel, Casey, Esther and the entire MMA Fighting staff. And we appreciate the support we have received from the MMA Fighting audience and community.

The UFC has not been in contact with us since revoking the credentials of Ariel, Esther and Casey. But we will keep you, our audience, informed of the situation.

Ariel will address what occurred at UFC 199 on tomorrow’s MMA Hour. The show begins at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT

Essentially the statement amounts to an advertisement for the MMA Hour.

Helwani indicated that he was told that he was banned for life from the UFC.

Payout Perspective:

The move by the UFC amounts to a PR issue with dealing with the media.  Helwani has scooped the UFC of its breaking news of fight announcements on its FS1 show, UFC Tonight, since leaving the show.  The reason for his dismissal on Saturday night was the reporting of Brock Lesnar’s return prior to the UFC’s announcement.  Jumping on the news appeared to be the last straw for the UFC.

But the question is why Helwani was the scapegoat for the news leak.  Shouldn’t the UFC be irate over the sources that fed Helwani the news?  Likely, Helwani was the easiest target.  Moreover, he has become a popular media figure in MMA.  Perhaps a little too big.  Helwani still has the contacts within the industry to obtain stories and unless the UFC can control his contacts, then he will still be a major MMA media figure.

Frankly, whether you notice it or not, the control of the news by an organization is not uncommon.  The tenuous relationship between public relations and journalism was exemplified by this episode.  While we may believe the UFC doesn’t need the media, it actually does.  If you watched the PPV on Saturday, the UFC 200 promo for Jones-Cormier included interviews with 3 reporters (Kevin Iole, Case Keefer and John Morgan).  The inclusion reflects the fact the UFC needs the media to legitimize fights.

Will the UFC suffer for what it has done? Of course not.  If you look at bigger leagues and companies, the muting of news occurs all of the time.  Helwani was not the chosen person to break the Lesnar story and the UFC decided to make an example out of him.  It does appear that more bigger name, mainstream journalists are picking up on this issue.  Will the UFC do anything to address the matter or will they just let it air out?  The Stitch Duran situation was prickly but the UFC got through it fine. We shall see.

UFC 199: Payout Perspective

June 5, 2016

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 199 taking place at The Forum in Inglewood, California.  The show featured two title defenses.

Bisping shocks the world

Michael Bisping waited a long time for his shot at the middleweight title and he did not disappoint.  Perhaps exposing a suspect chin, Bisping KO’d the champion Luke Rockhold in the first round.  Rockhold appeared to be overconfident in the lead up to this fight and admitted as much post-fight.  Bisping is a polarizing figure but you have to respect his journey to the title.  We could see a rematch of the two or maybe Jacare Souza, who congratulated The Count on the way out of the Octagon would be a good choice.

UFC 199

Dominator overwhelms Faber

It was a very entertaining promotion for the fight, but in the end, Dominick Cruz showed that he was much better than Urijah Faber.  The oft-injured bantamweight champion secured a unanimous decision.  Joe Rogan seemed to focus on whether or not Faber would retire after this fight.

Would people be willing to pay $60 for a “superfight” with Demetrious Johnson?

Bonuses

Bonuses went out to Bisping and Dan Henderson (coincidentally opponents at UFC 100) for their performances.  Polo Reyes and Dong Hyun Kim earned Fight of the Night.  All received $50,000.

Attendance and Gate

The UFC announced post-fight that The Forum was a sellout with 15,587 for a live gate of $2,168,675.

Sponsorships

The sponsors in the Octagon included Harley Davidson, Toyo Tires, Bud Light, MetroPCS, and the TNT upcoming drama, Animal Kingdom.  Food 4 Less, a Compton, California-based “no frills” grocery was a sponsor in the Octagon as it shared a post with Monster.  As with most UFC events, Monster Energy had the center of the Octagon.

Dominick Cruz sported a Monster patch on his Reebok black kit.  He also did an old school thank you to them post-match including holding a Monster can.

UFC Embedded appears to be the place to have your non-official UFC sponsors to be visible.  Luke Rockhold wore Adidas and Monster Milk during the vlogs.

Odds and Ends

Three big pieces of news not related to 199.  First, Brock Lesnar is back.  Despite how he left the company, he returns and the move should draw eyebrows as the WWE is allowing Lesnar to fight a month before the company’s second-biggest show of the year – Summerslam.

Second, Fedor Emelienenko will be on Fight Pass on an EFN card on June 17th.   Thus, the UFC will finally get Brock Lesnar-Fedor…just not together.

Finally, the rematch no one except Conor McGregor wants as Nate Diaz will face McGregor at UFC 202 in Vegas August 20th.  Interesting that the UFC is traveling less domestically.

There were 4 fights on UFC Fight Pass Prelims.  3 of the 4 fights were very good.

UFC Fight Pass introduced a promotion where fans can send in 1 minute videos to tell Dana White why they are the biggest UFC fan.  The winner will get to come to International Fight Week, meet Dana White and attend UFC Fight Night: Alvarez-RDA.

UFC allowed flags in lieu of sponsor banners in the Octagon.

Octagon ladies sport the Monster patch on their uniforms, do they get paid for doing so?

Watching Embedded, apparently the champions (Cruz and Rockhold) were given rental properties to stay in during fight week while the others stayed in a hotel.

The weigh-ins were different since newly instituted weigh-in rules with the California State Athletic Commission allowed fighters to weigh-in between a 10am-2pm window the day before the fight.  Thus, the televised weigh-ins we usually see did not include the official weigh-ins.

Did the finish of Hendo/Lombard look similar to Hendo/Bisping at UFC 100 with Hendo unloading on an already unconscious opponent?

Ariel Helwani and three others were escorted from the building during UFC 199.  Helwani tweeted that he had been banned by the UFC for life.  It was Helwani that broke the Brock Lesnar news on MMA Fighting.

The show concluded with a tribute to Muhammad Ali who passed away on Friday.

Conclusion

This was a very good show but it will likely be overshadowed by the news that Brock Lesnar is returning next month.  Google trends had 500,000 searches for UFC 199 on Saturday.  Notably, Brock Lesnar drew 100,000 searches on Saturday.  How many PPV buys will this card receive?  Without a proven PPV draw at the top of the card, yet a solid lineup for the PPV, the buy rate should be 350,000 to 400,000 PPV buys.

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