FS1 doc on Rousey nominated for Sports Emmy

March 27, 2014

The Fox Sports 1 documentary UFC Presents: Breaking Ground, Ronda Rousey has been nominated for a Sports Emmy for Best Sports Documentary.  It is just 1 of 3 Sports Emmys that the network has been nominated for in its first year in existence.

The one hour documentary which originally aired in September 2013 featured the UFC’s women’s bantamweight champion.  “The program examines the remarkable rise of the first female champion in UFC, detailing her childhood trauma and the complicated relationship with her mother that fueled her athletic endeavors,” is how the documentary is described by a Fox Sports release.

Breaking Ground Ronda Rousey

The Ronda Rousey documentary is up against 3 other documentaries.

-  First: The Official Film of the London Olympic Games NBC

-  LT. The Life and Times (Lawrence Taylor) Showtime

-  The Doctor (Julius Erving)

-  UFC Present Ronda Rousey:  Breaking Ground FS1

Payout Perspective:

ESPN (30) led the way in Sports Emmy nominations.  The awards will be handed out on Tuesday, May 6th. The UFC should try to do more of these types of documentaries despite the fact that they can be pricey.  It’s a revealing look at an athlete and can attract a broader audience due to the human interest part of the story. As one of only three nominations for the network, it shows that the UFC is a valuable part of the network.

Hendricks gets Times slide show

March 26, 2014

The NY Times did a feature on new welterweight champion Johny Hendricks.  The story is a personal feature on Hendricks, his training and family as he prepared for his fight with Robbie Lawler.

Entitled, “U.F.C’s Big Daddy: A Fighter’s Training Pays Off.” the feature is more slideshow pictorial than actual story but it focuses on his training regimen as well as a look at his home life with his kids.

The piece comes off good for Hendricks as he appears as a simple family man working out at his nearby gym and swimming pool in preparation for the biggest fight of his life.

Johnny Reebok

Payout Perspective:

Coming off of his big win at UFC 171, this is a great mainstream placement for the UFC.  It shows that the UFC (waiting on the AP style ruling on whether it is U.F.C.) is hoping that Hendricks can be the next big star for the UFC.  Without Anderson Silva and GSP, the UFC needs faces for the company and they hope that it gets one with a guy who is as tough a guy in the Octagon as he is nice outside of it.

UFC Fight Night 38: 936,000 viewers

March 25, 2014

MMA Payout has learned that UFC Fight Night 38 received an average viewership of according to industry sources. The show peaked at 1.25 million viewers during the main event between Dan Henderson and Shogun Rua.

UFC Fight Nights since August 2013
UFC Fight Night 26   1,780,000
UFC Fight Night 27   824,000
UFC Fight Night 28   539,000
UFC Fight Night 29   638,000
UFC Fight Night 30   122,000
UFC Fight Night 31   641,000
UFC Fight Night 32   722,000
UFC Fight Night 33   755,000
UFC Fight Night 34  Fight Pass
UFC Fight Night 35   629,000
UFC Fight Night 36   1,400,000
UFC Fight Night 37   Fight Pass
UFC Fight Night 38   936,000 viewers

UFC Fight Night 38

The 1.25 million viewer peak occurred during the last quarter hour of the event. It was the third-most watched UFC Fight Night on FS1. In addition, UFC Fight Night 38 scored 485,000 viewers for the M18-49 demo.

According to sources, it was FS1’s second-most watched Sunday (measured from 6:00am-3:00 am) since its launch this past August as it averaged 270,000 viewers. In addition, the UFC Post-Fight coverage which ran immediately after UFC Fight Night received an average viewership of 356,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are impressive considering it was Sunday opposite the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. It’s the second big rating for a Fight Night from Brazil as UFC FN 36 (Machida-Mousasi) scored 1.4M viewers on Saturday, February 15th. With the good ratings for Sunday despite strong opposition, one would have to wonder if FS1 would consider more Sunday night fights in the future.

Weidman injury forces Machida fight to UFC 175

March 24, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that an injury to Chris Weidman will push back his title defense at UFC 173 in May to UFC 175 in July.  The UFC indicated that a new headliner will be announced to replace the title fight although at this point Junior dos Santos-Stipe Miocic is at the top of the card.

According to the Junkie article, the light heavyweight champion will have minor surgery for a knee injury.  The fight will be delayed a little over a month and will headline UFC 175 which occurs during International Fight week.

The card, occurring on Memorial Day weekend, has featured the Heavyweight division the last couple years.  Last year featured Cain Velasquez and Bigfoot Silva which garnered only 380,000 PPV buys.  In 2012, JDS-Frank Mir headlining received 560,000 PPV buys.  (via MMA Payout Blue Book).  Junior dos Santos is slated to face Stipe Miocic in what is now the main event at UFC 173.

Payout Perspective:

Initially, this card was to be Weidman-Belfort but with the NSAC voting to ban TRT and eliminate TUEs, Belfort gave up his spot.  Even with Machida, a dangerous opponent for Weidman, it did not seem like a fight that would attract a lot of PPV buys.  Unless there are dramatic moves, UFC 173 may do worse than last year’s disappointment of 380,000 PPV buys.

On the other hand, UFC 175 could be a very strong card with Weidman-Machida and the possibility of Ronda Rousey fighting on the same card.  Couple this card with Penn-Edgar the night after at the TUF Finale and International Fight week will be one of the biggest ever for the UFC.

Chope terminated by UFC after news of military charges of domestic violence

March 24, 2014

The UFC has let go of featherweight Will Chope when it was discovered that he was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force for domestic violence as indicated in court documents.  His fight at UFC Fight Night 38 was scrapped due to the news.

The news, broken by Bleacher Report, occurred one day before his fight with Diego Brandao after Bleacher Report revealed the details of his legal troubles.  The news broke after weigh-ins as Chope made weight and faced off against Brandao.  So, it’s obvious that the reason for the cancellation and subsequent dismissal was the news of his domestic violence discharge.  The issue here is why didn’t the UFC know of Chope’s background and the fact he had a criminal history.

The court documents from the Air Force deny Chope’s appeal of the severity of his sentence related to assaulting his wife.  The key phrase in the court record that causes you to recoil is Chope, “physically assaulted her [Chope’s then wife] on multiple occasions.” He also “disobeyed an order given to prevent future assaults.”

Chope’s sentence of a “bad-conduct discharge and confinement for 5 months,” was upheld.

The UFC released a statement on Chope:

Tonight’s featherweight bout between Will Chope and Diego Brandao has been canceled after UFC officials were made aware of Chope’s previous military conviction. The UFC does not condone behavior of this nature whatsoever and Chope has been released from his contract.

Brandao will receive both his show and win money for the bout.

Payout Perspective:

Did the UFC do the right thing?  Certainly there have been other fighters in the UFC with sordid backgrounds and charges of domestic abuse.  But, how did the UFC not know of this issue prior to Sunday’s bout?  Chope debuted with the company in January of this year.  One might imagine that legal documents, especially those in the military, may be hard to obtain.  One would have hoped that the UFC would have done its due diligence especially since Chope indicated he had a criminal charge on his record.

Should the UFC have dismissed Chope?  It’s obvious that he is a PR issue in the UFC especially with the Culinary Union looking for any misstep by the UFC to jump on.  The UFC is trying once again to legalize MMA in NY and opponents believe that the sport is barbaric and Chope’s domestic violence charge would affirm these perceptions.  Moreover, with the UFC expanding to more countries, it is trying to put its best foot forward.  We will see if the UFC will undergo much more of a vetting process after this incident.

For Chope, it’s a hard situation if we believe his regret for the incident and his wanting to move forward from it.  The UFC is the pinnacle of one’s career in MMA and it’s apparent that he will not get a chance to fight for the organization again.

UFC Fight Night 38 attendance and bonuses

March 23, 2014

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and bonuses for UFC Fight Night 38 held on Sunday from Ginasio Nelio Dias in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.  Dan Henderson became the second fighter under the new performance bonus structure to win two bonuses.

The Fight of the Night was Henderson and Shogun Rua with Henderson also getting a performance bonus for his KO of Rua who looked like he was winning the fight at the time.  The other $50,000 performance bonus went to Godofredo Pepey who won via flying knee over Noad Lahat in the first bout of the night.

In addition, UFC executive Grace Tourinho announced the attendance of 6,828 which took place for the first time in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.

Payout Perspective:

How does everyone feel about holding fights on Sunday nights?  Although it is the busiest day for television and Sunday’s event went up against NCAA March Madness, it is a throwback to watching WEC events on Sundays.  We will see if the UFC thinks about Sunday events in the future.

Henderson-Rua II was another instant classic and Pepey’s KO (which most may not have seen) were solid choices for bonuses.  Of course, there were a lot of good performances on Sunday card including Kenny Robertson, C.B. Dolloway and Rony Jason

Sponsor speaks of ills of UFC “tax”

March 22, 2014

Bloody Elbow reports on MMA apparel maker Americana MMA and its issues with the UFC sponsor tax.  The article points out the hurdles that a small company has with losing athletes once they leave.

Americana MMA sponsored three women fighters while in Invicta FC that will be going to the UFC as part of the newly developed straw weight division.  Essentially, Americana MMA founder Peter Giannoulis talked about how the UFC had told him that his company would have to pay $50,000 plus a year if it wanted to continue to sponsor the fighters it had set up relations with in Invicta FC.  Thus, it lost three fighters it had good relationships with and it cannot continue the relationship.

If there was no tax, we assume that Americana MMA would continue sponsoring the fighters which would elevate the status of the fighters along with the brand as they would wear its logo in the Octagon.

Payout Perspective:

The sponsor tax/fee the UFC charges brands to sponsor fighters in the UFC is a definite barrier to entry for small companies with limited budgets.  And, while there is an argument for the UFC to have the sponsor fee, there are few indications that the fee is paying off…except for the UFC. There are few blue chip sponsors that have been brought in by the UFC since the implementation of the fee.  Certainly, Reebok has paid the fee to sponsor Johny Hendricks but it was made clear that it was with Hendricks and not a UFC sponsor.  Others like Nike have dipped its toe into the UFC with Jon Jones, JDS and Anderson Silva.  But a blue chip brand has not sponsored fighters on a greater scale.  The Americana MMA problem is an issue seen by many small companies in any sport with limited capital.  It is highlighted in the UFC because we’ve seen the company grow with inclusion of a variety of small sponsors helping fighters in the beginning and now its policy has shifted with the popularity which has forced out many companies like Americana MMA.

Team Takedown’s investment with Hendricks pays off

March 21, 2014

SI.com reports on Team Takedown’s unique investment in Johny Hendricks and other fighters when it agreed to manage and fund fighters in exchange for a 50-50 split in their earnings.

The brainchild of founder Ted Ehrhardt, along with his brother and business partner agreed to pay for living expenses, trainers and gym time.  According to the article, it costs the company $100,000 a year to fund just one fighter.  It has spent over $4 million in its 7 years in existence but does not break even with a fighter until those fighters’ earnings (including fight purses, sponsorship and other revenues) reach $200,000.  The good news for the fighter is that according to the article, the fighter need not pay back any of the money advanced by Team Takedown. 

The most telling, or outrageous, depending on what you believe, is the quote from Ehrhardt:

“[Former champion] Georges St-Pierre has gone public saying he makes $20 million-$30 million a year with all his sponsorships,” according to Ehrhardt.

Ehrhardt’s quote is contrary to a pre-UFC 167 Forbes article in November in which it stated that the former welterweight champion made $12 million per year.

Payout Perspective:

Team Takedown’s business plan is similar to MTX Audio’s plan back in 2009.  MTX Audio sponsored fighters such as Ben Henderson and according to MTX Audio, it provided the fighters with living expenses in order to train full time.  Team Takedown differs from MTX Audio in that its income is directly tied to its fighter’s success.

The financial managerial arrangement set up by Team Takedown is also similar to how agents, particularly in the NFL, recruit clients and advance training and living costs to them in hopes of recouping the investment when/if they get drafted.  The problems with this are evident.  Athletes can bolt for other agents, an athlete may not materialize or get injured and the agent is left without realizing on their initial investment or an athlete that hits it big may seek to break away from the company.  The company has much risk involved with the distinct possibility of no reward.

For Team Takedown, they must be good scouts to ensure that it finds the right fighters that will eventually succeed.  For the fighters, it’s an enticing tradeoff.  Most fighters are in need of funding to train and having an organization pay for you up front would make sense for the fighter at the time. Of course, if you finally make it and receive the big payday you worked hard for the fighter will realize that half will have to go to your management.

Forbes.com reports on “lean” UFC sponsor market and Hendricks/Reebok deal

March 20, 2014

Forbes.com wrote a piece on Johny Hendricks and his sponsor Reebok in light of his victory in the Octagon at UFC 171.  Notably, one of the takeaways from the articl focused on the fact that Reebok’s main goal was not to sponsor MMA fighters but to develop Reebok’s Fitness Marketing division.

It was noted that Hendricks was sponsored by Reebok for the fight.  Hendricks indicated to Forbes how he had problems getting gear from past sponsors and was thankful to Reebok for helping him without any issues.

John Lynch, Vice President of Reebok Fitness Marketing told Forbes that Reebok’s focus is on fitness. The Hendricks sponsorship for his fight was a byproduct of this.  Lynch stressed that while Hendricks only fights 2 times a year, he’ll be training year around and that is where the sponsorship ties in.

Hendricks and Jamie Varner both participated in The Spartan Race.  The race is an obstacle course which tests competitors as they navigate various physical challenges throughout the race.  Reebok sponsors the event and eventually came into partnership with Hendricks and Varner for the event.  It was not until UFC 167 did Reebok officially sponsor Hendricks in his title fight against GSP.  UFC 171 was the second time it sponsored Hendricks.  Despite the continued relationship, Reebok maintains that it is sponsoring Hendricks and not the UFC.  “We’re with Johny, but we’re not sponsoring the UFC,” Lynch told Forbes.

The article, written by sports and entertainment attorney Darren Heitner was a mainstream narrative on Hendricks and painted the MMA sponsor landscape as “lean” while noting “obscure brands” such as Dynamic Fastener spreading its sponsor dollars to multiple fighters.

In addition to the Forbes article, Sports Agent Blog wrote an article this week on “Mega Brands” entering the UFC sponsorship landscape.  The post mainly focused on Jon Jones and his deal with Nike although it touched upon the Hendricks and Reebok deal.  The article reads directly opposite to Heitner’s article.  Ironically, Heitner founded the Sports Agent Blog.

Payout Perspective:

Lynch’s quote can be interpreted several ways.  He could be just clarifying Reebok’s role as a sponsor of Hendricks and not an “official” UFC sponsor.  It could also be a note to MMA agents that it is not looking to expand its sponsorship of fighters in the Octagon.

These are two interesting reads that tell us what most MMA fans already knew.  The sponsorship market is tight but for a few fighters that a few mainstream brands will sponsor.  It’s interesting to note Reebok’s strategy of casting its audience very broad as it builds its fitness niche.  While Reebok has been tied to Hendricks and has appeared in the Bellator octagon (Reebok also sponsors Rampage Jackson), its main emphasis is on fitness, not MMA per se.  Both Hendricks and Jackson have starred in Reebok commercials promoting its sportswear line.  Those commercials emphasized fitness and exercise although the Hendricks commercial emphasized the fact he was a fighter.  But the question is whether these brands would sponsor athletes in MMA like a Dynamic Fastener?  It appears not.

The sponsor issue is one of the reasons Dana White has proposed a UFC uniform.  But, we probably should cross off Reebok off the list of potential suitors as the uniform maker.

UFC 169 and UFC 170 PPV Updates

March 19, 2014

Dave Meltzer, from MMAFighting.com, reported the latest estimated PPV numbers from the first two events in 2014, UFC 169: Barao vs Faber II and the much talked about UFC 170: Rousey vs McMann.

Final_UFC_170_event_poster

According to Meltzer, UFC 169 drew an estimated 230K pay-per-view buys while UFC 170, which was mostly sold on Rousey’s name, did an estimated 340,000 buys. Meltzer then went ahead and discussed the new UFC draw PPV categories:

It appears, at least for now, that there are a few categories of UFC on pay-per-view.

There is the somewhat rare sub-200,000 buy show, which are fights that, for whatever reason, a lot of the regular buyers are willing to skip. The 200,000 to 275,000 range are usually title fights with champions who have yet to establish themselves as major draws, fights significant to fans of the sport but the general public doesn’t really care about. The 275,000 to 375,000 range looks to be the major champions, Jones, Rousey and Cain Velasquez, when put in with opponents without major name value, although Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos was in that range.

When the public feels there is a big fight or a can’t miss show, like UFC 168, the sky is still the limit. But even [Canelo] Alvarez, coming off the biggest grossing pay-per-view event of all-time, only hit 350,000 buys on March 8 when matched up with someone who was not considered a pay-per-view level star.

The changes from a few years back, where any UFC event was seemingly guaranteed to hit 300,000 buys, is a natural evolution coming from the proliferation of free content on television.

Ultimately, the economic future is going to be driven by television rights worldwide, and new technological advances. It will be less reliant on pay-per-view, the revenue stream that allowed UFC to have its huge growth from 2005 to 2010.

The MMAPayout Blue Book has now been updated with these latest numbers.

 

Payout Perspective:

The week leading to the fight, MMAPayout analyzed trends and historical data to predict what Ronda Rousey’s impact would be on the event. We pegged the event doing 300K-400K buys in the “acceptable” range. Above 400K would have been a huge hit while anything below 300K would have been a disappointment. So it fell exactly in the range in which we predicted.

The new “floor” for the UFC seems to be around 150K PPV buys for those rare cases that even core MMA fans are willing to pass up a PPV event.  You then have this range of 200K-400K which most fighters not named Anderson Silva and GSP will fall into.  At this point, getting anything over 450K will be a tough talk and will definitely have to be something beyond the average card that fans and casuals will both want to see. We expected that 2014 would be a telling year for the PPV business for the UFC considering most of their big PPV draws are absent. The only question heading into 2014 was if the next tier of UFC stars such as Rousey, Jones, Weidman, and now Hendricks would be able to hold the fort until either the stars comeback or the UFC figures out how to make a big fight fans will gladly pay for.  The biggest fight that they have touted so far in 2014 is Rousey vs Carano or against Cyborg.  That alone tells you drastically the UFC has changed in the past couple of years.

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