Fertitta fine with Fight Night opposite football

January 12, 2015

MMA Junkie reports on the UFC looking forward to its Sunday night Fight Night in Boston.  Despite the concerns that it conflicts with the AFC Championship game in the same town as the event, Lorenzo Fertitta looks forward to it.

Fertitta told MMA Junkie that he looked at this date as “beachfront real estate.”

Fox has been doing its part in promoting UFC Fight Night 59 during the NFL divisional round of playoff games this past weekend as well as during its slate of college basketball games.

The AFC Championship game is the second game on Championship Sunday in the NFL as it officially starts on CBS at 6:40 p.m. ET.  The NFC Championship game is the early game at 3:05 p.m. ET.

The UFC Fight Night 59 prelims begin on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET.  Thus, fights begin just as most Patriot fans will watch them play the Indianapolis Colts.  Certainly, many attendees at the UFC event will be checking for updates and/or a stray TV in the arena.

Fertitta remains optimistic with the results of the card on TV citing the fact that many saw the promos during the NFL games this weekend.

Payout Perspective:

What UFC Fight Night 59 amounts to is counterprogramming to football on CBS.  While there have been tons of promos for the event on Fox, it’s hard to imagine the casual fan of MMA and football choosing to watch the UFC event live.  Certainly, one could look at DVR ratings to seek out how many folks will watch the event to get a better sense of viewership.  The placement of the card occurs on the middle day of a three day weekend in the U.S.  so one would think this was a good choice.  Of course, knowing that it happens during a time when most fans in your demo are watching football will hurt live viewership.  The fact it now happens in the same town as the Patriots game could hurt local attendance as well.

Zuffa wins court case lifting TV ban on UFC

January 9, 2015

The UFC announced that a German court has ruled a broadcast ban imposed by the Bavarian State Media Authority (BLM) on UFC events is “illegitimate” and therefor annulled.  The Administrative Court in Munich, Germany declared the UFC “a plausible sport.”

The initial ban arose in 2010 out of what BLM believed to be “undesirable” programming which may influence youth.  Zuffa filed a lawsuit against BLM in 2010.  The court ruled on October 9, 2014 that “UFC content is generally suitable for broadcast” and that the BLM could not impose the ban based on its own point of view.  The court also found MMA a “plausible sport.”

Prior to the ban, Germans could watch UFC events on TV Channel Sport1/DSF.

Payout Perspective:

Lifting the ban is an obvious win for Zuffa as it will now be able to negotiate with networks in the region to air UFC programming.  It also helps with the potential to return to the country for fight cards.  The episode reflects the issues the UFC faces when entering new markets and/or dealing with existing international regions.

UFC renews with In Demand

January 9, 2015

Zuffa has reached an agreement with In Demand to distribute its UFC PPVs which include the ability to sell UFC Fight Pass to subscribers.   Terms of the agreement were not disclosed although the report by MultiChannel.com indicates it’s a multi-year deal.

New wrinkles to the deal include an “electronic sell-through” and affiliates can offer the subscription UFC Fight Pass to authenticated video subscribers.”  The deal also allows for affiliates to sell PPVs to “commercial establishment in their territories.”  It will also allow for longer viewership windows via video on demand.

According to MultiChannel.com, In Demand reaches more than 50 million households across the U.S.

Payout Perspective:

One might see this deal as one that focuses on the continued expansion and monetization of UFC Fight Pass.  Last week the UFC announced the enhancement of its content by adding several libraries of other promotions to its digital network.  This deal will give subscribers the opportunity to subscribe to Fight Pass.  The renewal sounds like that subscribers will have a better opportunity to view UFC content with larger viewership windows.  Another facet of the deal that grants affiliates the right to sell to commercial establishments will be another way to allow the licensing of its PPVs to sports bars and restaurants.  This can be seen as preventative measure to deter from piracy.

UFC 182 Prelims scores 1.03M average viewers

January 8, 2015

MMA Payout has learned that the UFC 182 Prelims on FS1 drew a viewer average of 1.02 million making it the best viewership of a prelim show since UFC 168 in December 2013.

The Prelims Saturday peaked between 6:30-6:45pm PT with 1,346,000 viewers.

The last fight on the UFC Prelims was Paul Felder taking on Danny Castillo.  The newcomer, Felder, KO’d Castillo with an impressive spinning backfist.

The prelims far-exceeded 2014’s UFC Prelim viewership average of 712,000.

The UFC 168 Prelims back in December 2013 drew 1,554,000 average viewers.

In addition to the very good prelim ratings, the UFC 182 Post-Fight Show immediately after the PPV on FS1 drew 459,000 viewers – the largest ever for an FS1 post-fight show.  In comparison, the previous most-watched post-fight show was UFC 168 which drew 313,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

With the heavily promoted main event of Daniel Cormier-Jon Jones, it appears that the prelims enjoyed strong viewership as a result.  The prelims saw three stoppages.  In addition to Felder’s KO, Shawn Jordan and Coby Garbrandt provided the viewing audience with some excitement with their performances. Felder and Jordan earned Performance of the Night bonuses.

The post-fight show was likely helped by the PPV ending abruptly as well as Jones’ short, post-Octagon interview which probably sparked more interest.  And as I predicted…

The increase in viewership should be a good sign that viewers were seeking out this event. Comparing the ratings to that of UFC 168 is a good thing. Although there was no other big events (except college basketball games) occurring in the same time block, the rating should indicate increased interest in this card.

Nevada AG may review Jones’ commission testimony

January 7, 2015

MMA Fighting reports that the Attorney General of Nevada is looking into whether it will investigate the possibility that UFC light heavyweight champ lied under oath while testifying before the Nevada State Athletic Commission this past September.

Based on the commission review of the incident including Jones’ testimony, he was fined $50,000 and given 40 hours community service in the Las Vegas area.

While testifying about the media day brawl with Daniel Cormier in August, Jones indicated that he had lost Nike as a sponsor due to the brawl.  However, Jones backed off of this statement during a conference call during UFC 182 fight week.

Jones then tried to re-explain his comments from the call (via MMA Fighting):

“I had like thousands of dollars of credit left on my Nike account that I never got to spend,” Jones said. “I had several months of monthly revenue money that I never got to receive. … So I lost several thousand dollars because of that fight, so technically that fight was the reason for thousands of dollars being out of my bank that I couldn’t receive. So technically, they have nothing to come back on me for.”

Payout Perspective:

We wrote about the issue of the possibility of Jones’ punishment due to not stating the truth under oath here.  Jones’ explanation about his own comments does not negate what he told the commission.  Essentially, his re-explanation equates to having store credit but not being able to use it.  He also claims that he had unpaid “revenue” that he never received.  This is vague and it’s not clear if this was related to his credit.  Thus, this would not be the same as losing a sponsorship as a result of the media day brawl.

NSAC calls Jones’ testing “administrative oversight”

January 7, 2015

MMA Fighting reports further on the Jon Jones drug test and how the news of his positive test came to light.  The Nevada State Athletic Commission remains a little vague on the reasons it tested Jones for a recreational drug not banned outside of competition.

Bob Bennett on why Jones was tested for a recreational drug via MMA Fighting:

“That was a bit of an anomaly that will be addressed [at the next NAC hearing on] Jan. 12. It was not a report requested by the NAC. It appears to have been an administrative oversight.”

The NSAC learned of the drug test failure administered on December 4th on December 23rd according to commission chairman Francisco Aguilar.  The results were sent to the UFC “around that day” according to the MMA Fighting article.  Aguilar was not clear when the UFC informed Jones of the test.

Jones took another “out of competition” test on December 18th and passed although he was not tested for cocaine on that day per the article although the below report seems to reveal otherwise.

A public request for Jones’ December 4th test was made which may have precipitated the reveal.

Kevin Iole has tweeted the results:

Payout Perspective:

According to the NSAC, which follows the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code, “in competition” is considered 12 hours before competition and the time needed to collect test samples afterward.  Thus, the NSAC will not punish Jones because his test did not violate the rules of the NAC.  Of course, Jones could be subject to the UFC Code of Conduct.  The UFC “may” impose discipline for Jones’ use of cocaine.  The UFC code is subject to interpretation and it is still is up to the UFC to decide whether or not it may issue discipline.  Per MMA Fighting, the UFC considers Jones’ failed test December 5th a violation of the code of conduct but is considering Jones checking into drug rehabilitation as perhaps a mitigating factor in determining discipline.

There are obvious issues with the drug testing and subsequent revelations by the NSAC.  The first question is why was Jones tested for a drug not banned for “out of competition” use.  Not sure how much will come to light during the NSAC hearing on January 12th but it should provide for some interesting explanations.

Reebok issues statement in support for Jones

January 7, 2015

Reebok issued a statement yesterday in support of UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones.  The UFC clothing partner recently signed an individual sponsor deal with Jones.

Via MMA Junkie:

“We commend Jon for taking the necessary steps to address this issue, and we will support him in any way we can.  The status of Jon’s relationship with Reebok has not changed.”

You may recall Jones stating that he lost his Nike deal due to the media day brawl with Daniel Cormier.  Then, during a UFC 182 media session, Jones indicated that he misspoke and he actually severed ties with the Beaverton, Oregon company prior to the brawl.

Recently, Jones announced a partnership with Fantasy Sports operator DraftKings.  There has not been an official statement on Jones from the company as of yet.

Payout Perspective:

It’s no surprise that Reebok is supporting Jones at this point.  The recent deal with the UFC and its individual deal with the light heavyweight champ seems to have solidified its position.  It has followed the UFC’s strategy in conveying support for Jones in a time of personal need for him.  From a business and PR perspective, it positions the company as sympathetic of an individual with a problem.  It also allows for a “rebirth” of sorts when Jones returns.

Jon Jones enters drug rehab

January 6, 2015

Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports reports that Jon Jones has entered a drug treatment facility for what may be an addiction to cocaine.  Jones failed a Nevada State Athletic Commission drug test on December 4th testing positive for benzoylecgonine which is the main metabolite in cocaine.

Clearly, Jones’ entrance into drug treatment confirms that the positive drug test was a result of cocaine use.  Per Iole’s report, the Nevada commission follows WADA and benzoylecgonine is not banned out of competition.  Thus, it appears that the commission could not stop Jones from fighting at UFC 182.

The UFC has issued a statement on Jon Jones:

“We support UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ decision to enter a drug treatment facility to address his recent issue. While we are disappointed in the failed test, we applaud him for making this decision to enter a drug treatment facility. Jon is a strong, courageous fighter inside the Octagon, and we expect him to fight this issue with the same poise and diligence. We commend him on his decision, and look forward to him emerging from this program a better man as a result.”

Dana White issued his own statement:

“I am proud of Jon Jones for making the decision to enter a drug treatment facility. I’m confident that he’ll emerge from this program like the champion he truly is.”

Payout Perspective:

This news puts a damper on UFC 182 and the momentum the company had in the new year.  Certainly, Reebok may be concerned with Jones after it signed him to an individual sponsorship deal.  There were likely other sponsors outside of the Octagon that might have been options for Jones which are likely out.

Jones was the face of the UFC and arguably the greatest fighter of all time.  Now, his image is tarnished…for now.  There are a lot of instances of fighters coming back from drug issues as outlined by Bad Left Hook’s Scott Christ.  But there has not been anyone as big a star in his sport as Jonesthat had to enter rehab at the pinnacle of his career.  At a time when there is concern about UFC business, Jones was the leading face of the company.  The UFC will not be able to lean on him now.

Also for the UFC will be questions as to whether Jones’ conduct violated the UFC Code of Conduct Policy.

Another issue is the Nevada State Athletic Commission.  How was his positive drug test kept confidential until now?  Has Jones finished his community service from the media day brawl punishment?  If not, will they revisit his community service hours now?  He’s talked to kids about choices and now the news of his cocaine use is out.  Highly unlikely he can continue to talk to kids and serve as a role model at this point.  If he does make it out of rehab and remains clean, he can serve as a positive story but not right now.

Obviously, Jones’ admittance into drug rehab also brings up the old question of a UFC drug policy.  This is something that the UFC seemed to dismiss during UFC 182 fight week.

Jones tops UFC 182 salaries

January 5, 2015

MMA Junkie reports the UFC 182 salaries that were disclosed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.  Jon Jones topped the list of salaries making $500,000 despite no win bonus.

Via MMA Junkie:

Champ Jon Jones: $500,000 (no win bonus)
def. Daniel Cormier: $90,000

Donald Cerrone: $140,000 (includes $70,000 win bonus)
def. Myles Jury: $16,000

Brad Tavares: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Nate Marquardt: $49,000

Kyoji Horiguchi: $40,000 (includes $20,000 win bonus)
def. Louis Gaudinot: $10,000

Hector Lombard: $106,000 (includes $53,000 win bonus)
def. Josh Burkman: $45,000

Paul Felder: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Danny Castillo: $36,000

Cody Garbrandt: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)
def. Marcus Brimage: $12,000

Shawn Jordan: $44,000 (includes $22,000 win bonus)
def. Jared Cannonier: $8,000

Evan Dunham: $54,000 (includes $27,000 win bonus)
def. Rodrigo Damm: $12,000

Omari Akhmedov: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Mats Nilsson: $8,000

Marion Reneau: $17,600 (includes $8,000 win bonus)*
def. Alexis Dufresne: $6,400 (minus 20% for not making weight)

Payout Perspective:

Dufresne was docked 20% of her purse due to not making weight.  Jones and Cormier actually received an additional $50,000 for their FOTN bonus.  Felder ($70,000) and Jordan ($94,000) also benefited from their awards.  It was originally reported that Cerrone was making slightly over $100,000  but if you factor in his win bonus, he would have only made a base of $70,000 without a win bonus.  Cormier made $90,000 which reflects a $5,000 bump from his last fight and Hector Lombard made $106,000 with his win

UFC 182: Payout Perspective

January 5, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at the much anticipated fight between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier.

HQ_UFC_182

Jones dominates Cormier

In one of the most anticipated fights in some time, Jon Jones dominated Daniel Cormier.  It was clear that as the fight progressed, Cormier looked like he lost confidence and Jones had broke his will.  Say what you want about the crotch chop at the end, Jones is the best there is right now and he knows it.

This guy may be next for Jones:

Then again, there are rumblings that Jones may face Cormier’s training partner and friend Cain Velasquez. Although Cain is a heavyweight, Jones looked huge compared to Cormier.

Cerrone decisions Jury

One might have thought that this fight would have been a great lead-in to the main event.  Cerrone is a guaranteed “bonus” of the night, right?  Well, not so much tonight.  Except for a bunch of meaningless kicks by Cerrone to Jury, this was a forgettable fight.  Cerrone was disappointed despite winning.

Attendance and Gate

MMA junkie reports the attendance at the MGM Grand at 11,575 for a gate of $3.7 million.  There was no news on comps although the UFC were giving away tickets for the event. The gate failed to crack the top 5 of UFC events at the MGM Grand.  Notably, UFC 168, which occurred at about the same time last year, drew 15,650 for a gate of over $6.2 million.

Despite the low attendance, Dana White was bullish about the PPV buys as he indicated that the 750K PPV buys he predicted pre-event were trending to exceed his expectations at the post-fight press conference.  Although this cannot be confirmed, there were multiple reports that movie theaters and sports bars were full or near capacity.  This will not help contribute to the PPV buys but shows the amount of interest.

Bonuses

Bonuses for UFC 182 went to Paul Felder, Shawn Jordan, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier.  Arguably, Felder was the most impressive fighter of the night (next to Jones of course) with his spinning back fist KO of Danny Castillo.

For you gamblers, Felder was the biggest underdog to win at +190 according to the MGM Grand.

Cody Garbrandt was shut out of receiving a bonus despite a strong UFC debut against Marcus Brimage.  Garbrandt was a +130 underdog.

Pre-Fight Promotion

While it was not as expected, the media day brawl back in August was the best thing to promote this fight.  Perhaps it would have picked up more steam if the fight actually happened in September than now.  Still, the promos for this fight were outstanding.  It centered on Jones and Cormier’s brawl and the subsequent ESPN dust-up caught on camera.

The UFC Embedded episodes included Jones attending a high school wrestling practice and Cerrone’s action sports (snowmobiling, car racing and flying).  It also included a backstage altercation between Jones and Cormier.

Tyson Griffin also captured the animosity on his Instagram as the two camps passed each other here and here.

The UFC special Bad Blood featured the Jones-Cormier feud.  Although this episode which aired on FS1 and replayed FX drew praise and hype from MMA folks, in my opinion, it amounted to a regular HBO 24/7 episode.  There was also a countdown show and an “All Angles” show featuring Cerrone.  Essentially, the episode was a “getting to know” Donald Cerrone show.

In addition to the television commercials, there were extensive radio buys which do not usually occur for a standard UFC PPV.

UFC 182 was shown in movie theatres across the country. From surveying social media, it appears that many people actually went to see the event at theatres. 

Also, bars across the country seemed to be packed for this event.

Sponsorships

The octagon had UFC sponsors, MusclePharm, Fram, MetroPCS, Harley Davidson, Cimemax’s Banshee, Toyo Tires and Bud Light in the center.  There was also signage for UFC 183 featuring an image of Anderson Silva sitting in a “spider” position.  Banshee also had the fighter prep point. There was also a commercial on the Cinemax show during the event.   

Cerrone was sponsored by Budweiser and attempted to giveaway beer on the Las Vegas Strip on New Year’s Eve until the UFC stopped the promotion.  Prior to the fight, it was announced that he had signed a sponsorship with Fram.  

Cormier had “Break Bones” t-shirts for the event which were made by his sponsor, CageFighter.

Jones sported his new Reebok sponsorship.  Jones’ trunks appear to be what his official uniform may be. He also has his own share of shirts from UFC.com.

Odds and Ends

  • To the dismay of some people, the UFC increased prices of its PPVs to $59.99 HD for the first three events of 2015.
  • The PPV was short on time which is odd since there have been at least two times in recent memory where a UFC PPV has exceeded 3 hours. UFC 181 had five hours squared away instead of the normal four hour block on PPV.  One would think if people were going to pay $5 more, the UFC would pay for an overrun to get some in-ring interviews of the co-main and main eventers.  Regardless, look for big ratings for the FS1 post-fight wrapup.
  • CM Punk was on the FS1 pre-fight show and did a Q&A before the weigh-ins. The company is getting the most out of Punk already and putting him out there for 182 made sense.  How much will they use him before he actually fights?
  • The commission threatened the fight purses of Jones and Cormier if there was any dustup at the weigh-ins. Thus, the awkward weigh-in staredown.
  • Steven Seagal was in attendance and “aided” Daniel Cormier prior to the fight as shown in an “Embedded” episode. Doesn’t look like it helped.
  • UFC Heavyweight newcomer Jared Cannonier utilized crowdfunding site GoFundMe to raise money for his training camp. He exceeded his goal of $5,000 by raising $6,100.  Unfortunately, he was KO’d by Shawn Jordan.
  • Speaking of training camps, Cerrone indicated he paid $20,000 to bring in fighters to spar with him. He is set to make slightly over $100,000 for the fight.
  • The UFC announced big additions to its Fight Library with the acquisition of libraries from several promotions.
  • We already know, but Conor McGregor is getting a huge promotional push by the company.
  • Is the UFC using the “boxing strategy” as many suggest that they highlight one fight to sell for its PPV? This can be done if there is a heated feud, but probably hard to sell as frequent as its PPVs are due to lack of build.

Conclusion

After the event, Dana White indicated that PPV buys were above the 750,000 he predicted pre-event.  There were 500,000 Google searches as of Friday which would indicate a big PPV buy rate.  However, the cautionary tale of relying on Google searches is that Pacquiao-Algieri fight in November drew 500,000 searches yet only drew a reported 300,000-400,000 PPV buys.  But, the promotion of the Jones-Cormier feud alone seemed to create the kind of buzz that got fans that pick and choose purchasing PPV events to buy this one.  Any buy rate number hitting 600,000 (or above) will be a great start for 2015 for the UFC.

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