Report: Fox pays 5 year, $1 Billion Dollars for WWE’s Smackdown

May 21, 2018

Fox and WWE are close to a 5-year $1 Billion Deal for the ‘Smackdown Live’ show currently airing Tuesday night’s on NBC Universal-owned USA Network.  The deal may have ramifications with the future of the UFC’s TV deal.

First reported by ESPN’s Darren Rovell and the details provided by a report on The Hollywood Reporter, the deal is close to being complete and would pay the WWE $205 million annually and is expected to begin in October 2019.  It is 3 times what NBCUnversal currently pays to air the two-hour weekly show on the USA network.

Unlike its last television rights deal, there seems to be more of an appetite for the company’s content as The Hollywood Reporter notes that there is an even higher bid from a third party.  But, the WWE chose Fox as it will commit to promoting Smackdown in its sports portfolio which includes MLB and NFL.

The WWE’s anchor show, Raw, will remain with NBCUniversal’s USA Network.

During the upfront presentation to advertisers last week, the WWE introduced Ronda Rousey which was likely spurred interest in the package.

NBCUniversal has had SmackDown since 2010 and reportedly paid $30 million for the franchise.

As a result of the news, WWE stock has jumped up to $57.87 as of 4:01pm EDT, up almost 12.5%, which is outstanding as it trades near its 52 week high.

Payout Perspective:

Rousey is currently on the Raw brand although it’s clear she’ll likely switch to SmackDown to be on Fox starting in October.  The deal likely has some impact on whether the UFC renews with Fox.  While it has forged a digital package with ESPN’s new OTT platform, the TV deal still remains up in the air.  If Fox is willing to spend $205 million annually for the WWE, will it still open up its bank account for the UFC?  The likely play is that the programming is similar and the UFC will now look elsewhere and perhaps the unnamed highest bidder that the WWE has turned down.

UFC PR Exec Sholler leaves for NBA job

October 13, 2016

Dave Sholler, the UFC’s Vice President of Public Relations, Athlete Marketing and Development, is leaving the UFC to take on a role with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.

Dana White first broke the news on UFC Tonight and Sholler confirmed his departure on twitter.

Sholler worked in PR with the WEC and came over to the Zuffa-owned UFC brand upon the merger in 2009.  Sholler is best remembered for his attempt to stop a face of altercation between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones in August 2014.

Sholler’s last event with the UFC will be the November 5th for UFC’s debut in New York.

Payout Perspective:

Back when Sholler was with the WEC he pitched a story for a local Seattle outlet that I wrote for about an up and coming WEC fighter that was originally from Federal Way.  The fighter was Benson Henderson.  Through the years he has helped get access to Henderson and a couple others for the local Seattle outlet.  Overall, he’s been very fair and from what most say is an overall good guy.

PPV History (or lack thereof) of UFC 164 main eventers

August 31, 2013

As we get a UFC PPV just a couple days after a free TV event and a couple days before another one, we take a look at the PPV history of UFC 164 main eventers.


Benson Henderson

Henderson’s last two fights have been on Fox cards and his last two PPV appearances were against Frankie Edgar.  So, it’s hard to gage how much of a draw he is to PPV.  While the network cards brought good ratings, the PPV appearances against Edgar were sub-par. Henderson was on the big UFC 129 card but not the real attraction for that show.

UFC on Fox 7 Gilbert Melendez (w) April 20, 2013 3.7M
UFC on Fox 5 Nate Diaz (w) December 8, 2012 4.39M
UFC 150 Frankie Edgar (w) August 11, 2012 190,000
UFC 144 Frankie Edgar (w) February 26, 2012 375,000

Anthony Pettis

“Showtime” has not been in a main event position since his upset loss to Clay Guida at TUF Finale 13.  Pettis received KO of the Night for his performance against Joe Lauzon at UFC 144 in Japan.  Ironically, the same night Henderson won the title.

UFC on Fox 6 Donald Cerrone (w)(KO) January 26, 2013 4.4M
UFC 144 Joe Lauzon (w)(TKO) February 26, 2012 375,000
UFC 136 Jeremy Stephens (w) (split decision) October 8, 2011 225,000
TUF Finale 13 Clay Guida (L) June 4, 2011 1.8M

Payout Perspective:

If you were wondering, the final rating for their famous WEC title match drew an average of 615,000 viewers on Versus.  The fight took place on December 16, 2010 and we still see the highlight everywhere.

As for the rest of the card, Frank Mir-Josh Barnett should be an intriguing fight.  I didn’t go over their respective card histories since Mir is not the same fighter or draw he was at UFC 100 (1.6M PPV buys) or even UFC 140 (485K PPV buys) when he subbed Big Nog.  It’s the Warmaster’s return to the UFC and a step up in opponents.

Is this a card that the casual PPV fan will be interested in, or does the fact its sandwiched between two free cards on FS1 hurt its chances?

UFC 156: Payout Perspective

February 4, 2013

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 156 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Aldo sends Edgar to third straight loss

Thud.  The leg kicks of Jose Aldo last night were reminiscent of those he delivered to Urijah Faber at WEC 48 which (IMO) was his coming out party.  To Frankie Edgar’s credit, he was able to deal with most of those with an effective counter.  Aldo’s cardio issues were evident in rounds 4 and 5. But, he had done enough to stop Edgar.

For Aldo, the first couple rounds showed his dominance that he had in the WEC.  He was quicker, had the counter and snuck in the devastating kicks to Edgar’s legs.  Will Dana White take the request of Anthony Pettis and give Showtime a shot to fight Jose Aldo.  What about Ricardo Lamas?  The guy who beat the guy (Erik Koch) that was supposed to fight Aldo for the title shot.  What about the Featherweight rankings?

For Edgar, its his third loss in a row.  The dip to Featherweight now looks like a waste unless he’s willing to take a couple fights before getting another shot at Aldo.  For Edgar’s benefit, a couple fights to get back some confidence would help.  Losing three straight decisions has to be hard on him.

Bigfoot Silva KOs Overeem

And that’s why haters are going to hate.  Alistair Overeem wore a shirt  to the weigh-ins saying, “Haters Going to Hate.”  The end result was a reason why people hate.  A classic case of underestimating your opponent.    Overeem had the first two rounds with ease although a couple shots at the end of the second round gave Bigfoot some momentum.  And then, Bigfoot laid hands on Overeem and that was all she wrote with Silva talking smack over a prone Overeem.

Overeem’s loss messes up the UFC’s hope for a Cain-Overeem fight.  For Silva, a Velasquez fight will not happen although JDS might be a good matchup to see which heavyweight gets back into the title picture.


Attendance and gate

MMA Junkie reports that the attendance for UFC as released by the Nevada State Athletic Commission was 10,275 for a gate of $2.437 million.


The Bonuses drew some eyebrows as it was only $50K per bonus as opposed to $60-65K which had been the standard in 2012.

The bonuses were as follows:

Fight of the Night: Aldo-Edgar
KO of the Night: Bigfoot Silva
Submission of the Night:  Bobby Green

Interested that they did not give sub of the night to Dustin Kimura with a Rear Naked Choke for the sheer fun of announcing Kimura won with a Rear Naked Choke.

Promotion of the Fight

The UFC decided to promote Frankie Edgar’s move down to Featherweight as the main sell point for the PPV and touting Edgar-Aldo as a “Superfight.”  Certainly, the battle of a past and present champion has some juice but the UFC also had a Heavyweight battle between the returning Alistair Overeem and Bigfoot Silva.  It also had Rashad Evans, a proven PPV draw go up against a veteran in Little Nog.  We also know that Frankie Edgar is not a PPV draw.  And, at this point, neither is Aldo.

Notwithstanding what we know now, (that Overeem may be overrated and that while Evans brings a big event feel walking to the Octagon,he showed little in it on Saturday), it gave the lighter weight class the top bill.  Strategically, the UFC could be giving its lighter weight classes the opportunity to show what it could do. With Aldo out, the Featherweight title has not been defended since last January.  Marketing the PPV around Edgar-Aldo will be a test to see where the fan base is with respect the lighter weight classes.


The octagon featured, Xyience, MetroPCS, Harley Davidson, the movie Dead Man Down, MusclePharm, Tapout and Bud Light in the center.  Dodge also sponsored stats during the PPV as well.

Dead Man Down had the corners of the Octagon.  One had to wonder if there was hope that a fighter would be knocked out in one of those corners.  In fact, Overeem went down up against the Dead Man Down signage.  How appropriate.

Based on his wearing his headphones after the fight, Jose Aldo is sponsored by a headphone maker although I could not make out the brand.

Rashad Evans had top level sponsors as always.  Notable sponsors included Jaco, Corn Nuts and Bony Acai.  The last two are official UFC sponsors.

Little Nog signed a deal with Venum prior to UFC 156.  He also was sponsored by Bony Acai.

It appears that the UFC was sponsoring Frankie Edgar last night.  He had the UFC brand on his shorts and in a prominent spot on his fight banner.  He was also sponsored by FeartheFighter, Alienware, MicroTech, Wild Wing, Virtustream and Gaspari Nutrition.

Buy My was the most intriguing fight sponsor of the night.  The website, established in 2012, offers signed MMA memorabilia.

F3 Nutrition was a sponsor with big name fighters (Overeem and Rashad) wearing its logo that did not do so well with their outcomes.

Post-UFC 156 Headlines

Aldo versus ? – We will see if Aldo will take on Anthony Pettis for the Featherweight crown. Pettis just introduced himself to the nation on Fox last month and will have to wait for a lightweight shot after Bendo-Gil fight on Apri 20th.  What better way to stay busy than a title fight?  It would be an interesting scenario for the UFC to consider.

Cain’s next challenger – The UFC had hoped that Overeem would have beat Silva to get it to Cain versus Overeem in a big matchup that it could set for this summer.  Now, we will see what is in store for the Heavyweight Champion.

Odds and ends

It was a good night for Brazilian fighters.  A lot of Brazilian sponsors on many fighters tonight as well.

Fitch/Maia was a fight that went unnoticed by the media hype for this card but was intriguing from a tactical standpoint.  It was not a fight for people liking standup but for those grappling folks, it was outstanding control by Maia over Fitch.  Maia could be close to a welterweight title shot soon.

Evans and Little Nog had the best walk in music of the night but the worst fight of the night.  In the words of Joe Rogan, “That was not an entertaining fight.”  To complement that fight, at the end they showed Wilmer Valderrama and JWow.  It was as if the UFC wanted to make sure you knew that fight sucked.

Silva was very thoughtful in his post-fight interview when he said knocking out Overeem was the biggest in his career since it was the UFC.  Obviously, he was thinking his Fedor knockout as bigger but since it was in Strikeforce and he is now in the UFC, why insult your employer.

Would you check a kick from Jose Aldo?


As I alluded to earlier, this PPV will test to see whether the lighter weight classes can carry a PPV.  It will also test again whether Frankie Edgar can be a PPV attraction.  Last week’s Dodson-Johnson main event on Fox scored 5.2 million viewers.  Did the commercials featuring a closeup of Edgar’s face do enough to draw people to buy the PPV?  Aldo has been out for a while and is still relatively unknown.  But there may have been enough buzz for it to get to 500,000 PPV buys.

Zuffa’s Former WEC Staff Takes Over Strikeforce

May 17, 2011

All it took was two events after the Strikeforce purchase was announced for Zuffa to take over the Strikeforce promotion and replace the staff, quickly disproving the “business as usual” motto tied to the acquisition two months ago.

According to MMAPayout sources, May 9th, 2011 was the last day Strikeforce was an MMA  promotion under Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, their previous owners who sold the budding promotion to Zuffa, LLC.  A few days after 5/9, Scott Coker and Peter Dropick met with the old Strikeforce staff individually to inform them that their services would no longer be required to avoid operational overlap and inefficiencies. A couple of staff members were offered positions to join Zuffa, but accepting the job would required a move to Las Vegas, which was not seen as a desirable move for those that were already established in Northern California. Those few opted to stay in the Bay Area instead.  Those that were willing to relocate and accept an offer from Zuffa were not offered a position.

As MMAPayout reported last month, Strikeforce employees were aware that after the April 9 event, staff changes were going to be made by early May and Zuffa would complete the process around early July, when most Strikeforce staff is expected to have worked their last days under the promotion.  Rich Chou was let go a few weeks ago and was replaced by former WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby.  Former WEC VP Peter Dropick will now do most of the heavy lifting for Strikeforce, as he was assigned to help run the promotion shortly after it was purchased.

It is still unclear what Scott Coker’s role will be going forward, but he will still be the figurehead of the promotion as long as they are up and running. It’s said that part of Scott Coker’s contract, besides a guaranteed job with Zuffa, included a clause that states he does not need to relocate to Las Vegas and could continue to work from his San Jose office, though that could not be confirmed upon publishing this article.  Former WEC PR director Dave Sholler has been traveling with the Strikeforce staff helping promote their events since the purchase was announced, and will continue to spearhead the PR efforts for upcoming events.  He flies to Dallas this week to meet up with Scott Coker, Herschel Walker, and Josh Barnett for a press tour in order to promote the second leg of the Heavyweight Grand Prix event in June.


Payout Perspective:

In post mergers and acquisitions, these type of layoffs are expected and it’s no difference in this case.  In fact, considering the situation regarding the Strikeforce TV deal with Showtime – which will be up around February/March of 2012 – it makes perfect sense.  During that time, Showtime will have the option of extending the TV deal, which would keep Strikeforce alive for the span of that deal.  Without an extension, many in the MMA industry believe the promotion could be folded as early as second quarter of 2012.  Negotiations between Zuffa and Showtime should heat up in the upcoming months leading up to the expiration date of the current TV contract.

Behind the scenes, Strikeforce is continuing to sign young prospects (Yuri Villefort, Maximo Blanco) and popular veterans (Keith Jardine, Jeff Monson) to fill up their cards, since they have a heavy schedule planned with Showtime for the remainder of the year.  During recent contract negotiations, fighters have stated that they only spoke to Zuffa personnel (no one from Strikeforce) and that everything ran a bit smoother behind the scenes since the takeover.  Fighter manager Monte Cox told that Zuffa wasted no time in making changes:

“We didn’t get per diem [money]. We didn’t get mileage [money]. They just didn’t pay those things for the undercard…. Now there’s per diem. Now there’s travel. Now there’s three nights for a hotel. Instantly that all changed. For those guys, it’s a homerun.”

Along with increasing incentives for undercard fighters, Zuffa has done away with amateur fighters in the prelim slots, which will in fact help many in the Strikeforce roster who complained that they weren’t getting enough fights.  The extra room will allow to book more fighters already under contract, though Showtime will continue their policy not to air the prelims.  As a result, the UFC was looking to package those fights into another outlet for the fans, and although Facebook is a likely destination, nothing has been officially announced or confirmed yet.

No matter what type of outcome the Showtime TV negotiations produce, it appears that Zuffa  has their personnel ready to either keep the promotion running or start the merge process, a move similar to what the WEC experienced just a year ago.  Luckily for the former WEC staff, they are on the other side of the merger talks this time around.


MusclePharm to be Featured During Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley on Showtime

April 9, 2011

MusclePharm announced earlier today that they will be prominently featured during the Strikeforce: Diaz vs Daley event airing on Showtime Saturday night.

From the press release:

MusclePharm Corporation, a Nevada corporation (“MusclePharm” or the “Company”) MSLP, an expanding U.S. healthy lifestyle company, is pleased to announce that it will be prominently featured during Saturday’s Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley fight card, which takes place at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California and will be broadcast live on Showtime cable network.

MusclePharm will have significant mat placement in the cage for the event, which will be available live to Showtime’s 16.5 million subscribers.

This will be Strikeforce’s first major event since it was purchased by Zuffa, LLC (“Zuffa”), which is the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  Zuffa acquired Strikeforce on March 12. In the main event, Nick Diaz defends his welterweight title against challenger Paul “Semtex” Daley.

Thanks to his entertaining style and brash personality, Diaz has been involved in several of Strikeforce’s most viewed telecasts on Showtime, which we believe will allow for greater exposure for MusclePharm during the broadcast.

The co-main event features current lightweight champion Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez fighting Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri.


Payout Perspective:

In the press release, MusclePharm claims that it will have significant mat placement in the cage for the event, which will be available live to Showtime’s 16.5 million subscribers.  They also go on to point out that Nick Diaz has been involved in several of Strikeforce’s most viewed telecasts on Showtime, which will allow for greater exposure for MusclePharm during the broadcast.

MusclePharm has also been tied to some interesting headlines lately, most notably, a report that surfaced last year claiming that Musclepharm, the WEC’s official supplement company at the time, owed the WEC $375,000 in sponsorship fees. The company’s debt was sold to a third party company, and shortly after that settlement, MusclePharm announced they had raised 1.4 million to continue to fund the company. MMAPayout covered the events earlier this year:

It was announced last month that nutritional supplement company, MusclePharm, owed Zuffa approximately $375,000 in over-due sponsorship fees accrued over the course of a year-long agreement between the two companies starting in January. This outstanding debt was subsequently sold by Zuffa to a collection agency in the Fall.

Many were surprised to see the brand return to the Octagon in January. The WEC deal had expired and Zuffa didn’t appear to have any outstanding obligations to the company. Why would it do business with a company that had already failed to pay its debts? The answer is ostensibly because MusclePharm was able to raise new capital in December to fund new marketing efforts and recommit to sponsoring UFC fighters (including the payment of the UFC “sponsor tax”).


MusclePharm signed a one year deal with the WEC back on January of 2010 and had accumulated debt throughout the partnership with the WEC.

World Extreme Cagefighting® announced today that MusclePharm will serve as the organization’s Official Sports Nutrition Company for 2010. Considered a leader in the sports nutrition industry, MusclePharm is committed to providing the best nutritional products to athletes and general consumers. MusclePharm’s commitment to athletes, in particular mixed martial artists, made the partnership attractive to WEC officials.

“We are pleased to have MusclePharm as our official sports nutrition company for 2010,” WEC Vice President Peter Dropick said. “They are dedicated to providing the best nutritional products to athletes of all levels. Because of that, they are a great fit for WEC.”


Since the time the WEC/UFC merger took place late last year, the fate of MusclePharm was in limbo considering the debt collected working with the WEC along with the UFC’s exclusive sponsors and partners, though it seems they are in good graces with the UFC once again.

Good4U drinks was in a similar situation when the UFC banned them for being  a competitor to one of their existing sponsors.  Good4U was able to land on HDNet, followed by Showtime as a main sponsor just a few weeks ago for M-1’s debut on the network.  Showtime is quickly becoming a great alternative for MMA sponsors who are looking for a platform to grow their brand, as many sponsors are not allowed in the UFC.

MusclePharm Raises $1.4 Million

January 8, 2011

In December, nutritional supplement company, MusclePharm, raised $1.4 million through convertible promissory notes and a registration agreement with accredited investors.

“We are very pleased with the successful completion of the agreement with the investor and believe this capital will support our capital requirements for growth,” commented Brad Pyatt, MusclePharm’s Chief Executive Officer. “We appreciate our investor’s confidence in MusclePharm as we continue to execute our long-term growth strategy.”


This capital raise, combined with the previously released fulfillment agreement with IVitals, further enhances the Company’s overall financial strength for future long-term profitable growth. Management will continue to focus on the development, sales & marketing of MusclePharm’s growing portfolio of nutritional supplement products.

Payout Perspective:

It was announced last month that nutritional supplement company, MusclePharm, owed Zuffa approximately $375,000 in over-due sponsorship fees accrued over the course of a year-long agreement between the two companies starting in January. This outstanding debt was subsequently sold by Zuffa to a collection agency in the Fall.

Many were surprised to see the brand return to the Octagon in January. The WEC deal had expired and Zuffa didn’t appear to have any outstanding obligations to the company. Why would it do business with a company that had already failed to pay its debts? The answer is ostensibly because MusclePharm was able to raise new capital in December to fund new marketing efforts and recommit to sponsoring UFC fighters (including the payment of the UFC “sponsor tax”).

MusclPharm’s new apparel partnership with Tapout is encouraging. It’s a textbook case of two brands working together to better leverage the sponsorship of a property and increase value. This is something that’s going to hit across multiple sponsorship objectives such as awareness, interest, intent to purchase, favorable attitudes towards the brand, and increased sales.

However, I remain skeptical that the company can turn things around.  The company sponsors a lot of fighters and that’s a good thing, but if it blows through its working capital again, then it’s likely to leave a lot of people in the lurch. Here’s a glimpse of its liquidity and capital resources as of November 15th’s Q10 (emphasis mine):

Liquidity and Capital Resources


Our primary source of operating cash has been through the sale of equity and through the issuance of convertible secured promissory notes and other short term debt as discussed below.


At September 30, 2010, the Company had cash of $10,657 and a working capital deficit of $2,578,866, compared to overdrawn bank accounts of $17,841 and a working capital deficit of $1,223,074 at December 31, 2009. The working capital deficit increase of $1,355,792 is primarily attributed to the operating losses incurred for the nine months ended September 30, 2010.


Cash used in operating activities was $2.4 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2010, as compared to cash used in operating activities of $0.4 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2009. The increase in cash used in operating activities for the nine months ended September 30, 2010 compared to the nine months ended September 30, 2009 was primarily the result of the net operating loss net of non-cash expenses, for the current nine month period.


Cash used in investing activities was $30,395 for the nine months ended September 30, 2010, as compared to cash used in investing activities of $5,510 for the nine months ended September 30, 2009. The increase in cash used in investing activities represents purchases of various fixed assets. We also maintain a website, designed for customers and investors. Future investments in equipment and other fixed assets, as well as further development of our Internet presence will largely depend on available capital resources.

Note: I pointed out last week that Tapout has been much less consistent on the activation front in the last six months (due, in part, to what I believe to be the ABG acquisition and likely marketing strategy reformulation). However, the partnership is something I also believe needs to be recognized; more sponsoring brands need to co-promote, because its an innovative way of pooling resources, leveraging a sponsorship, and creating value that might not always be present with stand alone activation strategies. Kudos.

Edgar-Maynard rematch cuts in front of Pettis title shot

January 2, 2011

The trilogy beat out Showtime. After an outstanding match between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard ending in a draw at UFC 125, the UFC booked an immediate rematch between the two. The move contradicts the initial plans for the Edgar-Maynard winner face WEC lightweight champ, Anthony Pettis.

The move to switch course came after UFC Vice President Craig Borsari confirmed at the UFC 125 post-fight press conference that Pettis would get the next shot at the champ, Frankie Edgar.

Via MMA Junkie:

Borsari said UFC president Dana White, who did not attend the evening’s post-event press conference, informed him of the impending booking. Obviously, Maynard was dejected by the news. Maynard, who heard of the news as it was revealed to the media, immediately dropped his head and later admitted the revelation that he would not get a second crack at the belt was indeed painful.

Later that night, the UFC changed its plans. Instead of the promised title shot for Pettis, it decided that a third fight between Edgar and Maynard take place.

“We changed the plans. After Craig made the announcement, I had a lot of people talking to me, and the reality is, Gray Maynard deserves that fight. We had planned on doing Anthony Pettis next, but Gray went in there and fought his ass off and deserves another chance,” White added, “In the UFC, we do the right thing, and the right thing is to put on this rematch.” (via MMA Junkie, h/t Yahoo Sports)

Payout Perspective:

For all the planning the UFC could have done, it didn’t think that the Edgar-Maynard fight would end in a draw. Such a great fight needed a winner, and it didn’t, and Dana White and the UFC powers decided that it would be best to have a third fight before the promised fight for Anthony Pettis. Maybe White’s absence at the post-fight press conference was due to him deciding the next move for Edgar, Maynard and Pettis

This is a difficult decision and you could see arguments on both sides of the fence as to whether an immediate rematch was the correct choice. For Pettis. it stalls career momentum. Last month he was a media darling and his career was ascending. This month, he is old news. His Showtime kick will be shelved until his title shot…if he gets it. He was in attendance at the PPV and one has to wonder if the UFC planned for him to enter the Octagon to do a promo with the winner of the match. Since, it was a draw, any planned promo had to be scrapped. It’s unclear what’s next for Pettis. He joins Jon Fitch as a fighter promised a title shot only to have it pulled from him (With Chael Sonnen back, Yushin Okami will likely have this happen to him later this year).

Good news for Maynard. He gets another shot at Edgar. After the first round, the fight went back and forth and it was too close to call. It would be a shame for Maynard to put out such a great performance only to receive a draw. A third fight should get some interest and a good PPV number for fight number 3. 

There are many questions that come out of this change:

What happens if Maynard wins the third fight, or wins by just split decision? Does Edgar get a rematch since he was the champion?

When Pettis gets the shot, will the UFC bill the fight as unifying the UFC-WEC title? How long will Pettis have to wait for the shot? Will he be given a fight in the interim? Does the slight of Pettis say anything about the integration of the WEC into the UFC?

WEC 53: Payout Perspective

December 21, 2010

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective: WEC edition. The final WEC event took place in Glendale, Arizona at the arena. In the main event, hometown favorite Benson “Smooth” Henderson faced Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. Fitting for the WEC, it ended with a flourish with the kick seen everywhere.

Business Storylines

It’s Showtime! Pettis claims UFC lightweight title shot

Anthony Pettis solidified his promotion to the big show by defeating Benson Henderson. Whatever you want to call the kick, everyone has seen it and commented on it. We have looked at its promotional value and the mainstream attention it has drawn.

The kick is the biggest MMA move to occur in the era of social media. Don’t think so? Just look at how many times it was looped on ESPN. It was featured on Top Plays of the Night, commented on Pardon The Interruption and Pettis was interviewed on ESPN’s First Take. It was an Internet sensation.  It even received a posting on Deadspin.  Not to mention, Pettis’ twitter account exploded with 4,000 more followers in a day.

For the WEC, it was an appropriate way to send it off. For Pettis, it is not hyperbole to think that the kick propelled him as an overnight sensation. For Henderson, a dominant reign in the 155 pound division ended on the biggest night for the title. An instant shot at the UFC title and a main event on MMA’s biggest stage was on the line. But, Pettis looked prepared for Henderson and implemented a strategy which wore down Henderson (by literally riding his back for almost one round) one of the best conditioned athletes in the lightweight division.

Pettis will be a marketable 155 pounder if he shows well against Maynard or Edgar.  Fans will like his flash, his fighting style and the anticipation that he will put on a “Showtime” move at a moment’s notice.

Cruz defeats Jorgenson—possible TUF coach versus Faber

Overshadowed by the “Showtime” kick, Dominick Cruz dominated Scott Jorgenson to win the new UFC Bantamweight title. It’s rumored that Cruz and Urijah Faber will oppose each other as TUF coaches in 2011. This would be a great way to introduce the Bantamweight division and the Cruz/Faber rivalry to the UFC viewers.

Zhang loses

Tiequan Zhang lost by unanimous decision to Danny Downes on the undercard.  This is a setback for Zhang, the first fighter from China, as Zuffa is trying to garner more interest from the China market. Zhang’s fight was televised live in China.

Versus Pre and Post Fight Show

Once again, Versus included a Pre-Fight and Post-Fight Show. Prior to the pre-fight show, Versus ran the World MMA Awards. A good lead-in to a night of fights. The Pre-Fight Show served as the ad hoc retrospective for the WEC. The broadcast did a sufficient job of previewing the fights while looking back at the best of WEC.  Still, it would have been nice to have had a dedicated hour to look back at the best fights and fighters. 

Promoting the Fight

Most of the promotion for the fight centered around hometime favorite Henderson, which makes his loss more bittersweet. Henderson made appearances at the Phoenix Coyote hockey game and at a rally in his honor. His gym, MMA Lab, held daily Ben Henderson contests on twitter giving away Henderson memorabilia leading up to the fight.


Fight of the Night – Henderson v. Pettis – $10,000

Submission of the Night – Shane Roller – $10,000

Knockout of the Night – Eddie Wineland – $10,000

These bonuses will be much more in the UFC. As you may recall, UFC 124 fighters made $100K bonuses–ten times what was dished out at the final WEC card. Unlike UFC 124, the main event, Henderson/Pettis, was definitely the fight of the night.

Sponsorship Watch

-Henderson sported t-shirt maker Dethrone Royalty while Pettis was a Form Athletics endorser. After the win, Form Athletics sent out a press release congratulating Pettis and maybe made a little jab at Henderson’s sponsor.

Pettis overcame a nearly 2-to-1 underdog rating, dethroning lightweight title-holder Ben Henderson in the card’s featured fight of the night.

Maybe reading into this, but it would be a funny jab to use dethrone in describing Pettis’ win.  Despite the loss, Dethrone still has a champion stable of Velasquez and Aldo.

-It was interesting to see Henderson’s primary short sponsors as The Gun Store and Iron Bridge tools. The Gun Store as a sponsor seems a little contrary to Henderson, a devout Christian.

-MusclePharm continued as a mat sponsor despite a report that it settled a debt in which it owed the WEC $375K for outstanding sponsorship debt.

-The Kenny Powers/Uriah Faber commercials for KSwiss are hilarious. They are not new, but it shows the marketability of Faber.


According to MMA Junkie, 6,348 fans attended the event at the Arena in Glendale, Arizona. It is the seventh largest crowd in WEC history. The top three were WEC events in Sacramento. It was the promotion’s first time in Arizona.

The venue was chosen as a result of a fan vote from the “Hometown Throwdown” promotion sponsored by Amp Energy.

(UPDATE) Ratings

MMA Junkie reports that the event scored a strong 0.62 household rating and an average audience of 615,000 viewers. In addition, the post-fight show on Versus scored a 0.34 household rating with an audience of 352,000.


For the last round of the last fight for an outstanding organization, it would have been nice if Versus kept with the fighters as they came out of their corners. Instead, we saw the two fighters in the center of the ring. It was a small thing, but it’s the details that would help close out the organization.

I was surprised that there was little closure to the end of the WEC. Reed Harris mentioned in more than one interview that he’s been “too busy” to think about the ending of the WEC. Yes, this may be true, but it seems like he is ignoring the history of the situation. Perhaps this was the corporate edict-business as usual. Definitely, Zuffa could have capitalized on the ending of the WEC with a retrospective and a bigger lead-up to the event. It could have released a “Best of” DVD just in time for the Holidays. Although the WEC 53 pre-show provided some memories, it seemed like more could have been done.

But, the story of the night, and what made the night a success was the “Showtime” kick. It was a good sendoff for the WEC.

The Promotional Value of the Pettis Kick

December 17, 2010

Anthony Pettis became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter on Thursday, December 16 when in the 5th round of his WEC lightweight championship fight he leapt from the ground, pushed off the cage, and delivered a roundhouse kick to the face of a stunned Ben Henderson and dropped him to the floor.

Naturally, my reaction was “Nice kick. I wonder how much it’s worth?”.

Payout Perspective:

I’ll point out that the promotional value of the Pettis kick depends on the assumptions made. It’s nearly impossible to come up with an accurate number because there are so many factors that influence a UFC PPV event purchase decision. Yet, I always enjoy estimating the value of fights and performances simply as an exercise to further my understanding of how the fight game works. So, let’s have some fun and play with it a little:


The promotional value of this kick to the UFC will be determined by a number of things: increased interest in the UFC, its PPVs, its live events, it’s television events, and its merchandise. However, for simplicity’s sake let’s just look at the number of people influenced by Pettis to watch his next fight. In this case the short term is far easier to estimate than the long term (just know that the more success Pettis comes to have, the more this kick will continue to add value to the UFC in the future).

I’ll start with asking a simple question: how many people were watching the fight last night? We’ll know in a few days, but the peak viewership was likely in the 500,000 to 750,000 range. Now let’s make two assumptions:

1. Nearly everyone that saw last night’s event has been motivated to watch Pettis his next fight.
2. The UFC will get 1 PPV buy from every 10 of those fans (this is consistent with the notion of 10 fans per viewing party)

This gives us 50,000 to 75,000 PPV buys as the result of Pettis’ performance (the kick being the last thing that most fans remember is very influential here). The calculations then are as follows:

– 50,000 x $49.99/2 =  $1.25 million
– 75,000 x $49.99/2 =  $1.9 million

*Note: under the terms of the UFC’s agreement with PPV companies, it receives approximately half of that $49.99 (although I understand that the UFC is starting to earn a more favorable term here).

Now, it’s here that we need to adjust our estimate based on the likelihood that those watching the WEC show are the types that buy UFC cards every time out. In other words, how do we know those 500,000-750,000 fans watching WEC (most likely semi to hardcore fans) aren’t the types that buy every PPV anyway? It’s a valid consideration. So, let’s assume that 50% of those watching the WEC card would have been on the fence as to whether to buy Pettis’ next fight. The new estimated value of the kick is then probably closer to $625,000-$950,000.’s Jason Cruz rightly points out that the UFC will use this kick in a host of future promotional videos, Spike TV Countdown Shows, ESPN SportsCenter, and other PR efforts in order to convince casual fans that missed the fight that Pettis is a dynamic and exciting fighter worthy of challenging for the belt. It’s plausible, depending on how much they push Pettis’ kick and dynamic abilities that this could translate into as few as 25,000 PPV buys or as many as 50,000 more. This adds an $625,000 to $1.9 million to the value pie.

Thus, we arrive at an estimated short term promotional value of the kick at between $1.25 million and $2.85 million.


The value to Pettis is harder to determine. Immediately he received a $10, 000 bonus for fight of the night. I’d also venture to guess he’ll be given a sizable discretionary bonus from Zuffa (anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000). However, in moving to the UFC, we have to be careful to separate the extra value Pettis will receive as the result of that kick from what he would have received just because of the move itself.

The easiest way to estimate this is perhaps to just take a percentage of the UFC’s value. The UFC typically pays out ~20% of its gross revenue to the fighters and this translates to anywhere between $250,000 to $570,000 over the medium term. I say medium term because there’s going to be a lag between what the UFC earns due to Pettis and what Pettis earns due to himself (as the result of contracts that lock him into a certain compensation set for a period of time).

Don’t forget sponsorship value too. Pettis will be a hot commodity for his fight with the winner of Edgar vs. Maynard.


The kick was incredibly impressive. It’s moments like that which make this sport so incredible. It’s also more support for the idea that the key to developing PPV draws is finding those with immense and entertaining fighting ability. All the charisma and good looks in the world cannot match the selling effect of a beautifully timed jumping roundhouse kick off the fence. It all starts and ends with fighting ability. Everything else comes second.

Perhaps the only thing I would have changed is the fact that it happened in the WEC. Imagine the value of that kick if it happens in the UFC (or even for the WEC in an earlier show). I also think this kick (and the card as a whole) is demonstrative of the value the WEC’s divisions will add to the UFC.

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