April 29, 2013
The UFC has provided an official statement on the reinstatement of Matt Mitrione. It came a day after the UFC announced his return to the Octagon in July.
The UFC issued a statement indicating that Mitrione received a “significant monetary penalty.” Still, the timing of the fight announcement and communication concerning the lifting of the suspension seemed out of order and lessened the credibility of the UFC Code of Conduct.
MMA Fighting explained the reasons for the initial suspension:
Letting these comments go without any company reaction would not only give more ammunition to the company’s political enemies, but also undo work they had done with organizations who they were friendly with. Only a few hours after the show aired, the UFC issued a statement.
Here’s a portion of the UFC statement on Mittrione after lifting the suspension via (MMA Fighting):
“The organization finds Mr. Mitrione’s comments offensive and wholly unacceptable and–as a direct result of this significant breach of the UFC’s code of conduct–Mr. Mitrione’s UFC contract has been suspended and the incident is being investigated.”
Dana White also weighed in on the situation and explained the reason for the fine as opposed to suspending him. He also indicated that Mitrione apologized privately but did not make him make a do a public apology. However, Mitrione apologized and chose to issue a public statement (via Bloody Elbow).
As MMA Fighting points out, it appears that the swift suspension was just to investigate what happened rather than it being punitive. Once the UFC determined what happened, a fine was levied and the suspension was lifted. The question is whether it could have just put Mitrione on leave and investigate the matter and then announce the suspension. The reason being is that a suspension and then touting the UFC Code of Conduct weakens the implied bite of a suspension under a Code of Conduct violation. Yes, Mitrione was disciplined and it appears that he was genuinely sorry for his comments but the timing and handling appears as mangled as Jon Jones’ toe.
What was the gain in announcing Mitrione’s fight prior to the announcement of the reasons for reinstatement? It could have announced the fine, and then do the announcement. It does sound nit-picking but it would be a reflection to the fighters how the UFC will handle such situations.
April 28, 2013
MMA Junkie reports that the attendance announced for UFC 159 was 15,227 fans for a gate of $2.7 million. In addition, bonuses were $65,000 each up from the “standard” $50,000 which were announced earlier this year.
The attendance was second highest at The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey with UFC 111: GSP v. Hardy ($4 million/$17,000). UFC 159 placed right in front of UFC 128 where Jones won the title against Shogun Rua at UFC 128.
Bonuses were up to $65,000 each and as follows
Fight of the Night: Pat “Bam Bam” Healy vs. Jim Miller
KO of the Night: Roy Nelson
Submission of the Night: Bam Bam Healy
A good debut for the Strikeforce alum Healy as he gets an extra $130K to take home.
Darren Rovell sent out an interesting tweet Sunday about the event and whether the UFC has lost its “edge.” Not surprisingly, it received a return tweet from Dana White. I’ll let you wonder how that went. We’ll discuss this a little later this week. But, a part of the discussion had to do with attendance at events. Based on the announced numbers, it does look like the card did well financially. As for the bonuses, I did not read an explanation for the raise but good for the fighters.
April 27, 2013
For MMA fans the thought of professional wrestling is beyond comparison with the real sport of the UFC. Yet, if you want to see pro wrestling in MMA, you need only look to Chael Sonnen.
“Anderson Silva you absolutely suck.” – Chael Sonnen post-fight Octagon interview at UFC 136.
In my opinion, the best start to a promo in UFC History with GSP’s admonishment of Matt Hughes: “I’m not impressed by your performance,” coming in second. Sonnen liberally uses old school pro wrestling microphone techniques to add a unique spin to get his point across.
While we may scoff at Sonnen’s antics, his brash, trash-talk has grabbed himself headlines and main events. How is it that Sonnen was on the short list of fighters sought to replace an injured Dan Henderson at UFC 151? At that time, Sonnen was competing in the Middleweight division. He was chosen (after Lyoto Machida) because the UFC knew he was reliable to sell the fight.
When Jones passed on taking the match with Sonnen, UFC 151 was off and Jones and Greg Jackson took the brunt of the blame for the cancellation. Sonnen took to social media to call out Jones and rail on the champ. Seeing this as an opportunity, the UFC put Jones and Sonnen together as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. Hoping for the social media beef to continue on television, the adversaries actually became friends on the show. As a result, the ratings did not do as well as expected. Thus, no momentum was gained from the show to the fight. Yet, Sonnen has picked up the banter for UFC 159.
Sonnen has done the media rounds from The Jim Rome Show to ESPN. He’s bragged, he’s boasted, he claims to be making $10 million in the Jon Jones fight. Is it because of the delivery that no one seems to challenge Sonnen on his proclamations?
He’s helped promote this fight despite receiving little assistance from the champion. But then again, does the one man sound-bite need a partner?
Sonnen’s unabashed mouth has paid dividends for his career. He will eventually become a full-time talking head for the UFC…and will be the best at doing that job. He looks the part on the set of UFC Tonight of television anchorman. He’s composed, articulate and even if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it sounds like he does.
While there have been claims that Sonnen may use inferences of race in promoting himself to subtly remind people that he is white and his opponent is not, it is hard to verify the truth or falsity of the claim. Old school pro wrestling is known for racial insensitivities (YouTube any wrestling promotion in the 1970s-80s…90s…) and you will find the divide between good and bad may be based just on that. We’re not saying this may be the cause for the inferences of race, but its a possibility. But, the defense or the accusations of race baiting are set aside here. The purpose is to address the promotion ability of Sonnen.
In the end, will Sonnen sell pay per views as he claims he will? Let’s take a look from when he first had the chance to get an extended amount of time in front of a microphone – his fight at UFC 117 with Anderson Silva.
UFC 117: Sonnen-Silva I – 600,000 PPV Buys
UFC 136: Sonnen-Stann – 225,000 PPV Buys
UFC 148: Sonnen-Silva II – 925,000 PPV Buys
This does not include Sonnen’s fight with Michael Bisping at UFC on Fox 2 in January 2012. Still, Sonnen sold UFC 117 almost all by himself. He put the heat on Silva and almost pulled off the upset. I suggest watching the documentary “Like Water” to see that fight from Silva’s perspective. Silva did assist in providing some heat to the rematch at 148. Yet, Sonnen was still the center of attention.
However, UFC 136 seemed like an anomaly. It marked the return of Sonnen from suspension. It was headlined by Maynard-Edgar and Aldo-Florian yet only received 225,000 buys. UFC 159 should do well because of Sonnen’s constant sell for the fight and Jones’ ability to fight.
Do people tire of Sonnen’s gimmick? Yes. Will people stop watching him because of it? Probably not. Sonnen’s tactics in promoting fights are questionable but one thing is certain, he makes his presence known and tries his best to make you take notice.
April 24, 2013
MMA Junkie reports that Matt Mitrione will be fighting Brendan Schaub at UFC on Fox 8 this July. After the UFC announced his suspension on April 8th for his comments on transgender fighter Fallon Fox, it appears he is no longer suspended.
As you recall, Mitrione’s comments on The MMA Hour which were directed at Fox drew the ire of the UFC as it issued a statement suspending Mitrione for a violation of the UFC Code of Conduct. The UFC even released a copy of its Code of Conduct as an apparent sign of transparency and a caution to other fighters.
It appears that Mitrione’s suspension has been lifted as just 16 days after the infraction, the UFC has set him up for a summer fight.
Hopefully the UFC will address the situation and the reasons why it lifted its suspension of Mitrione and did not address the conditions for its reinstatement. Its an obvious question and whether Mitrione has done his penance or if he has met with UFC officials to discuss what happened, an explanation should occur to satisfy the LBGT community and others that his comments may have offended. For the UFC, an explanation also would serve notice to the rest of the roster that the Code of Conduct is not an idle document and a suspension will not be in name only.
April 24, 2013
Ronda Rousey has signed a one year sponsorship agreement with official UFC sponsor Xyience. The monetary terms of the deal were deemed confidential.
Via Xyience press release:
Rousey will appear in advertising, on point-of-purchase materials and on the brand’s website. She will also make appearances at beverage trade and consumer events.
“Ronda’s excellence in athletic performance is only part of what makes her a huge inspiration to athletes and fans,” explains John Lennon, XYIENCE’s president. “She is a fearless agent of change within MMA, whose passion for her sport and dedication to achieving her goals embodies the spirit of our brand’s philosophy: Power to Win. We are proud to be associated with such a talented and articulate athlete.”
According to Lennon, XYIENCE Xenergy has attracted a large number of female consumers – approximately one-third of its consumer base. “According to research that we conducted in early 2012, females’ preferences for Xenergy included its superior flavor and the fact that it is sugar- and calorie-free. Ronda is an excellent spokesperson who will be an integral part of XYIENCE and communicating our brand message to this growing audience.”
Rousey’s in Octagon sponsors in her UFC debut was the UFC and Xyience. The announcement makes this official. Its likely that Xyience will utilize Rousey more so than most of its male UFC fighters. It will be interesting to see what other sponsors Rousey will obtain. One has to think that she’d pick up some more mainstream sponsors considering her retention of a Hollywood agency and the publicity she’ll have with the upcoming TUF series on FS1 in September.
April 23, 2013
The ratings are less than December’s UFC on Fox 6 which featured Henderson in the main event. The Seattle show received 4.39 million viewers for a 2.5 rating.
By itself, the Henderson-Melendez match which mostly aired during the time overrun scored 4.96 million viewers for a 2.7 rating. This was lower than Henderson-Diaz (5.7 million) and Johnson-Dodson (5.2 million)
Via MMA Fighting:
The positives were in the demographics, as in the Male 18-34 age group, the 2.2 rating was more than double the combined average of ABC, CBS and NBC programming in competition (1.0). FOX also outrated the other three major networks combined in Males 18-49 (2.7 to 1.6) and Males 25-54 (2.8 to 2.2). One thing notable from these numbers is that the show did far stronger numbers with males 35-49 than those who were 18-34, the latter of which is UFC’s usual prime demographic.
The numbers reflect that Saturday’s event was 3rd lowest rated UFC on Fox event out of 7. The article suggests that the NFL cross-promotion of the UFC events aids in UFC viewership for its network events.
The ratings are somewhat disappointing considering this UFC on Fox card was one of the best cards the UFC’s has had on Fox. In fact, it has overshadowed this Saturday’s PPV. But, how much does the NFL influence have over UFC events? Fox bumpers during each and every NFL broadcast during the season and a controversial skit demonstrated the UFC-Fox synergy. And based on the numbers it looks like the NFL’s influence helps with UFC viewership.
April 23, 2013
The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) is running an in depth perspective on combat sports this week and one of the articles asks whether this will be the year New York finally sanctions MMA.
The article points to several inferences that could position the bill to legalize MMA for a vote in Albany this year. This includes the state senate passing the bill to legalize MMA by a vote of 47-14, comments made by Governor Andrew Cuomo in support of MMA and64 members of the Assembly co-sponsored the MMA bill (12 short of the needed for the bill to be made into law). The most telling inference is the fact that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told the New York Daily News that MMA will “probably” be legalized but did not indicate when this might occur.
An interesting take on the fight to legalize MMA in New York is the position that the lobbying efforts of Zuffa has hurt the overall effort due to the strong opposition against Zuffa. Namely, the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York questioned whether if Zuffa played a “smaller role” would MMA have already gained legal status.
A vote on the bill to legalize MMA must take place before the legislature ends on June 21st. But, the Assembly’s Democrats will decide on the bill’s fate at the annual Democratic Conference in May.
With the article coming out this week in the Sports Business Journal and the indication that the bill would be decided (whether to vote or not) in the next couple weeks, it was likely that opponents would voice their opposition and will speak out about the bill on Tuesday.
It will be interesting to see how the legislature will play out this spring. If a bill is turned away this year, the litigation efforts will likely not provide any help this year as well. Even though the New York Attorney General conceded in court proceedings that the statute may allow an exempt third party to sanction professional MMA, it has taken a hard line in not entertaining a settlement in the lawsuit if one of the concessions is allowing professional MMA in New York. Despite the financial benefits of MMA in the state, the opposition remains stiff. The union opposition to Zuffa has definitely come back to hurt it in trying to legalize MMA in New York.
April 22, 2013
The Zuffa-New York litigation continues on despite reports last month that the parties had entered into negotiations to settle the case. MMA Payout has learned that the New York Attorney General cancelled the settlement conference citing it would not agree to professional MMA in the state under any circumstances.
As a result of the cancelled settlement conference, the parties submitted supplemental briefing on New York’s Motion to Dismiss in response to the issue of whether under section 8905, the statute banning MMA, a professional MMA event would be permitted if it is sanctioned by one of the martial arts organizations listed in the statute and how that interpretation would affect New York’s Motion to Dismiss.
In its Supplemental Briefing, New York contends that even if a professional MMA event could be sanctioned by an exempt organization listed in the statute, it would still not be permitted. New York cites the New York State Athletic Commission, the regulatory body governing the exempt organization in the statute, in arguing that the intent of the statute did not contemplate MMA. The NY State Athletic Commission sides with the defendants in this interpretation.
Moreover, New York argues that regardless of the unambiguous nature of the statute, the Court must look to the actual intent through the legislative history. The state goes on to cite that the intent of the law was to ban Ultimate Fighting and that sanctioning of such activities was not contemplated at the time of the creation of the statute.
Zuffa frames its opposition to New York’s Motion to Dismiss argument on the basic premise of whether it has pled sufficient facts for its claim that the New York statute banning MMA is unconstitutionally vague. It also counters New York’s supplemental briefing with the transcript from the Motion to Dismiss hearing where the New York AG states, “[I]t looks as if one of these exempt organizations could sanction a mixed martial arts event.” (Page of 5 of Plaintiffs’ Response to Defendant’s Supplemental Memo of Law). Zuffa goes on to outline the number of interpretations the state of New York has had regarding the New York statute. As a result, the number of interpretations suggests that the Court cannot dismiss its claims.
While most thought that the lawsuit would come to a happy ending for the UFC in terms of a settlement that is not the case. Although a reading of the statute would suggest that an exempt organization identified in the statute would be able to sanction a UFC event, New York has come back to argue that despite the reading of the statute…that’s not how it should be read. Furthermore, despite what appears (via the transcript) that the AG admits that the statute could have an exempt organization sanction an MMA event, New York argues otherwise.
As we recently learned in the Alvarez-Bellator lawsuit, settlement negotiations do not necessarily mean the parties will settle. Of course, we also learned that it’s hard to dismiss a case on a party’s Motion to Dismiss. The Court has yet to render a decision. MMA Payout will keep you posted.
April 21, 2013
MMA Junkie reports the UFC on Fox 7 salaries with Benson Henderson and Frank Mir earning the most. Surprisingly, Nate Diaz earned only $15,000 for his KO loss to Josh Thomson.
Via MMA Junkie:
Benson Henderson: $200,000 (includes $100,000 win bonus)
def. Gilbert Melendez: $175,000
Daniel Cormier: $126,000 (includes $63,000 win bonus)
def. Frank Mir: $200,000
Josh Thomson: $95,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Nate Diaz: $15,000
Matt Brown: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)
def. Jordan Mein: $16,000
Chad Mendes: $56,000 (includes $28,000 win bonus)
def. Darren Elkins: $24,000
Francis Carmont: $38,000 (includes $19,000 win bonus)
def. Lorenz Larkin: $23,000
Myles Jury: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus)
def. Ramsey Nijem: $14,000
Joseph Benavidez: $66,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus)
def. Darren Uyenoyama: $12,000
T.J. Dillashaw: $28,000 (includes $14,000 win bonus)
def. Hugo Viana: $8,000
Jorge Masvidal: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)
def. Tim Means: $10,000
Anthony Njorkuani: $36,000 (includes $18,000 win bonus)
def. Roger Bowling: $12,000
Yoel Romero: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Clifford Starks: $8,000
Notably Gilbert Melendez earned $175,000 for his UFC debut. Henderson’s $100K/$100K payday is part of his new contract with the UFC. Its a step up from his $39K/$39K deal he had last December. Somewhat of a surprise was Nate Diaz’s $15K for his fight Saturday. In Diaz’s last fight against Henderson in December, he earned $50K. Diaz, a former TUF winner that earned a “six figure contract” with the UFC, changed managers prior to this fight. Saturday’s payday could be a result or repercussion of the manager change.
April 21, 2013
MMA Fighting reports the ratings for UFC on Fox 7 were down slightly from UFC on Fox 6 as it received an average of 3.31 million fans for a 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demo.
The fast national ratings gages the 8-10pm timeslot and does not cover the overrun in which most of the main event took place. Moreover, it does not calculate the west coast time zone as it only looks at what Fox showed between 8-10pm and not 5-7:40pm, the actual time the event was shown live.
The fast overnights for UFC on Fox 6 were 3.77 million and a 1.8 rating for the 18-49 demo.
In the end, UFC on Fox 6 in January received an average viewership of 4.4 million viewers with the main event of Mighty Mouse Johnson versus John Dodson.
Saturday night’s televised card had much more depth and featured a back and forth fight between lightweight champion Benson Henderson edging Gilbert Melendez. It also showed that the audience grew with each fight.
Via MMA Fighting:
The show had consistent growth, with the Jordan Mein vs. Matt Brown fight doing 2.59 million viewers, the Josh Thomson vs. Nate Diaz fight doing 3.18 million and the Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir fight doing 3.73 million.
The show finished second overall among the networks, losing to CBS, which aired a first run airing of Vegas and a replay of The Mentalist in the time slot. But in the 18-49 target demo, over the first two hours, it more than doubled second place ABC (1.5 to 0.7).
The MMA Fighting article suggests that the NFL’s help in promoting its event was a contributing factor in the decrease in ratings. It notes that four Fox events during the NFL season were above 4.2 million whereas Fox events outside of NFL season were only 2.4. Of course, the quality of fights may have contributed to this. Notably, August’s UFC on Fox 4 featured Brandon Vera vs. Shogun Rua and May’s UFC on Fox 3 featured Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller.
In the end, is the UFC gaining on mainstream fans with its Fox relationship? Adam Swift evaluates the relationship and determines that, at this point, the UFC has solidified itself as a good niche sport.
UFC numbers have been solid for FOX. Cost effective niche pgrm w/ a high ceiling. Must be protected, but can win 4 Saturday nights a year.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
Value of FOX to UFC is harder to find. Haven’t made any new stars, diluting PPV cards to meet ratings expectations, no major new sponsors.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
FOX cable platforms have been a step back for UFC compared to Spike. Confused tune-in message and devalued shoulder programming.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
FOX deal was/is a gamble to expand UFC beyond its niche audience into a mainstream sport. Hasn’t happened yet, but doesn’t mean it won’t.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
Worst case scenario $100M in guaranteed TV money cemented UFC as a stable niche sport. Everything else is playing with the house’s money.
— Adam Swift (@AdamMSwift) April 21, 2013
Will the creation of Fox Sports 1 help straighten out the confusion with platforms or continue it? This would depend on whether Fox execs anchor UFC programming on FS1. Moreover, there is still time for the UFC to make inroads into the mainstream. It just has not done so as of yet. The question is whether there is a timeframe that the UFC or Fox has in its projections where the UFC will develop into a mainstream sport. Of course, the definition of mainstream is another discussion itself.