UFC apologizes for judge removal

August 26, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that the UFC has issued an apology for the removal of a judge at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 48 in Macau.  The statement apologized to judge Howard Hughes “for calling his professional judgment into question.”

White removed Hughes after the first two fights on Saturday’s card after he believed that Hughes was a factor in the decisions for which White did not agree.  The UFC has now issued a “mea culpa” by stating it should not have done it.

Via MMA Junkie:

After an internal review, the UFC organization announced today that a breach of its independent regulatory protocol occurred on Saturday night during UFC FIGHT NIGHT MACAO.

After the second fight of the night, UFC President Dana White requested that Howard Hughes, one of the event’s five assigned judges, be removed from working any further bouts. Pursuant to UFC’s protocol, neither White nor any other UFC executive possesses such authority. Nevertheless, protocol was breached and Hughes did not work further bouts on Saturday night.

The UFC organization has always been in support of government regulation and oversight. Additionally, the UFC has established a protocol when required to self-regulate events due to the lack of an official athletic commission, federation or other regulatory body. In those instances where UFC holds events in locations without a regulatory body, the UFC’s protocol dictates that the organization’s internal regulators will handle all commission functions independently and without interference by company executives or employees.

The UFC remains committed to maintaining the strictest regulatory environment for competition and vows that no similar breach of protocol will happen again.

Both White and the UFC apologize to Mr. Hughes for calling his professional judgment into question. Hughes has judged more than 25 UFC fight cards and the UFC looks forward to him working on its events again in the future.

Payout Perspective:

As we indicated, there could have been several interpretations of White’s actions.  While we may think it proactive, it also posed a problem with an appearance of impartiality and fairness.  In a sport where gambling is prevalent (one might argue encouraged), there needs to be an independent authority appointing judges, etc.  This is a problem with international shows that do not have commissions.

The statement also attempts to repair Hughes’ reputation as a judge.  While the guy may have had a bad night in judging, having him removed could destroy any future judging opportunities for Hughes.  It was a good move by the UFC to make this statement.

Le contributes sponsor money to orphanage

August 21, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Cung Le will be donating a large part of his sponsorship money to a Vietnamese orphanage.  Le bought rice, toys, candy and gave money to an orphanage in his native Vietnam.

The 42 year old former Strikeforce champion faces Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 48 in Macau, China. Le put video/photos on his Instagram account commemorating his vist.

Payout Perspective:

The gesture by Le reflects the good that many UFC athletes do for charity and from a public relations perspective it’s good publicity leading to this Saturday’s event.  Although no monetary figure was reported and it’s not clear how much Le would have made from his sponsors, one would hope it would be a generous donation rather than a modest gift to get publicity.  One would think that if his sponsors knew ahead of time it would have matched and/or contributed to the donation by Le as a way to help out as well as piggy-back the press.

 

Payout Perspective:

The gesture by Le reflects the good that many UFC athletes do for charity and from a public relations perspective it’s good publicity leading to this Saturday’s event.  Although no monetary figure was reported and it’s not clear how much Le would have made from his sponsors, one would hope it would be a generous donation rather than a modest gift to get publicity.  One would think that if his sponsors knew ahead of time it would have matched and/or contributed to the donation by Le as a way to help out as well as piggy-back the press.

War Machine terminated by Bellator after incident

August 8, 2014

Bellator acted swiftly in terminating the contract of War Machine (FKA Jon Koppenhaver) after he is being identified as the prime suspect which found his girlfriend and another severely beaten.

Bellator President Scott Coker has issued a statement regarding Jon Koppenhaver, War Machine:

“We have a zero tolerance policy here at Bellator when it relates to any form of domestic violence, and after learning of this latest incident involving Jon Koppenhaver, War Machine, Bellator is releasing him from him promotional contract with the organization.”

Payout Perspective:

Although the organization could have waited until War Machine was found to obtain his side of the story, Bellator had enough information to render its decision.  War Machine has been in his share of legal troubles and the alleged assault on his girlfriend was the last straw not to mention domestic violence is something that can’t be tolerated.

Rousey wins ESPY for Best Female Athlete

July 16, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that Ronda Rousey was named the Best Female Athlete of 2014 at the annual ESPY Awards handed out by ESPN.

Rousey beat out the WNBA’s Maya Moore, Olympic gold medalist skier Mikaela Shiffrin and UConn’s Breanna Stewart.

UFC fighters Chris Weidman and Jon Jones were up for best fighter but lost out to Floyd Mayweather.  Weidman was also up for Upset of the Year but lost out to Mercer defeating Duke in the NCAA tournament. Mercer was a #15 seed while Duke was #2.

Payout Perspective:

I actually thought that the 19 year old Shiffrin would have won this award as she was a surprising winner of the gold medal in Sochi.  She was also the youngest to win the gold in the Olympic slalom event.  Regardless, it’s nice recognition for Rousey as the award may mean an ESPN spot or two.  Yes, this is ESPN self-aggrandizement as the underlying purpose of the ESPY awards is to draw attention to the network during a slow time for sports.

Sonnen remains on Metamoris 4 card

July 2, 2014

Metamoris has issued a statement concerning Chael Sonnen.  Despite failing two drug tests, the organization will allow him to remain in his match against Andre Galvao.

We are not cutting Chael Sonnen from the Metamoris 4 card on August 9th.

Why not? Because we don’t currently test for PED’s and we are not an MMA organization. Metamoris is a grappling event with different rules and we require our own unique set of regulations for all aspects of participation.

We are concerned about the issue of PED’s overall but we have a lot of research and work to do before accurately defining our stance. Due to the instability and controversy surrounding the regulation of PED’s we are taking our time to discover the best approach and fit for our organization.

Lastly, for the people who understand the level of opposition Chael is facing at Metamoris 4, his use of any suppliment [sic] or drug is not likely to provide any advantage whatsoever. Chael is a world class wrestler and MMA fighter and his participation is an exciting way for our fans to see something they don’t normally see.

-Ralek Gracie
Metamoris Founder

Here is the Metamoris official trailer August 9th.  In a short time, it produces the best hype videos around.

Payout Perspective:

Good for business, maybe bad for public relations.   Metamoris can have Sonnen participate if it wants to but it vicariously tells the outside world that it does not really care about what people are putting in their bodies when competing.  But, as it has hiked up its streaming price, eliminating its top match on the card would have hurt sales.

Notably, misspellings are never good, especially in important press releases like this one.

Noisy Withdrawal: Sonnen retires, Belfort out of UFC 175

June 12, 2014

After failing a drug test that left him out of UFC 175 and having his say about the NSAC random drug test, Chael Sonnen announced his retirement on Fox Sports 1.  In addition, Vitor Belfort will no longer be fighting on the UFC 175 card.

Sonnen’s retirement announcement can be seen here.

In addition, Belfort will no longer appear before the Nevada State Athletic Commission next week seeking a license to fight in Nevada per MMA Junkie.  The removal from the NSAC’s agenda means he will no longer be fighting at UFC 175.  A hearing would have brought up a random drug test in February which showed levels of testosterone not within the allowable range per the NSAC.

Payout Perspective:

Will this be a permanent retirement for Sonnen?  We shall see. It’s hard to say whether Sonnen should have retired before defending himself on TV or did he just want to save face prior to deciding to retire.

The move is likely for the best considering Sonnen is more of an asset to the UFC and Fox as a studio analyst rather than a fighter.  In the short term, it mutes further inquiry into the drug test failure and the potential for an appeal that would have sullied Sonnen’s image which, in turn, would make it very awkward for him to step in front of a Fox camera.

As for Belfort, pulling him from 175 was an easy choice in terms of public relations.  Without an opponent and the potential for him to have to answer questions about a February drug test, it was the best route.  At this point, it would make sense for Belfort to wait to fight.

Both of these moves are still problematic of the post-TRT era.  While they are moves to resolve short term public relations issues, one would hope that the commissions and the UFC work together to come up with an exit strategy in which fighters are able to come off of TRT and ensure that violators are dealt with swiftly and appropriately.

Sonnen speaks about positive drug test

June 11, 2014

Dana White and Chael Sonnen appeared on America’s Pregame on FS1 on Tuesday to tell its side of the story for Sonnen’s failed drug test which takes him out of UFC 175.

Sonnen stated that he would appeal the Nevada State Athletic Commission which is not what was originally reported.  As always, Sonnen was a master of persuasion in changing the conversation as to who was ultimately to blame for the failed drug test.  While there was some push back by the interviewer, it’s clear that Sonnen was allowed the opportunity to give his side of the story and placing blame on the governing body of Nevada.

Sonnen hammered on key talking points to make his case.

–          He took a legal substance to operate within the rules;

–          He took the banned substances to become a parent;

–          The drugs that he tested positive for are not performance enhancers, not illegal and not anabaloic steroids;

–          He made it clear that the drugs were not illegal, but banned;

–          He also made it clear that the drugs were taken “out of competition.”

Dana White preceded Sonnen to essentially defend his fighter and blame the Nevada State Athletic Commission for not providing a plan for fighters to come off of TRT.  White did place some blame on Sonnen for not calling the NSAC about what his doctors told him.

In addition, Sonnen made an appearance on Jay Mohr’s radio show which is also a part of Fox Sports Radio.

Payout Perspective:

No surprise that Fox, not ESPN, are the ones that help with getting out the UFC side of the story.  Sonnen, as always, makes a great case for himself but while he may have viable arguments the overarching issue is that the use of these drugs are against the rules.

The interesting part here is that Sonnen admits to the use of at least 3 drugs (HCG, Anastrozole and Clomiphene) despite just testing positive for 2.  We assume the drugs were used for assistance in helping him live without TRT treatments although Sonnen also admitted that he has (or had) fertility issues in trying to have children.

While I may not be a physician with expertise on these issues, I see two simple ways out of this problem for which Sonnen and the UFC now face:

1)      Ask the NSAC about ways to be clean without testing positive or request an exemption to any potential banned substances; or

2)      Simply not apply for a license until you are able to safely be off of TRT and not test positive for any banned substance.

Sonnen claims that he has not been able to be in contact with the proper regulatory authorities in Nevada but I assume that the UFC could have had enough clout within the state to contact an official and see if it would be possible to seek clarification on becoming compliant after TRT.

Is the Nevada State Athletic Commission at all culpable for banning TRT and then not advising athletes it gave TUE exemptions to a way to become compliant without testing positive for substances which may be on its banned list?  This is an interesting question that we may likely see more come out especially if Sonnen does appeal.

Could this be a case where both sides had fault with in one of the biggest problems in this sport?

Sponsors missing from Berlin mat

June 2, 2014

MMA Junkie reports on the logistical error made at UFC Fight Night 41 with the Octagon canvas.  It lacked the usual sponsors due to a shipping error which sent the planned mat to Brazil.

According to the Junkie article, there was enough time to make adjustments to the canvas in Brazil but not enough for the Berlin show.

UFC executive Gary Cook told MMA Junkie:

“Fortunately, we are well equipped to have a Plan B, so that was the standard canvas that didn’t meet the sponsor’s needs, but it met our needs and the fighters’ needs.”

Cook indicated that the sponsors were informed of the mishap prior to the show so presumably there would be no surprises.

It also did not go unnoticed by Dana White.

Payout Perspective:

This has to be the biggest mishap with running two shows on the same day.  As you may assume, a canvas without sponsors means having to do some sponsor relations which likely equates to some “make goods” for those sponsors down the road.  While we might not know the magnitude of the error and how upset the sponsors may (or may not) have been, it’s an error noticed by many and something the UFC will need to address as it will be having another two days this year with two shows.

UFC policy now requests background checks for fighters

May 29, 2014

MMA Junkie reports on the UFC’s new policy of requesting its contracted fighters to sign a release of their personal information for background checks including details related to their medical, educational and criminal history.

As pointed out by Stephen Marocco’s piece, the request includes a waiver of “doctor/patient confidentiality” which circumvents HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy laws.  Essentially, Zuffa could discuss a fighter’s health history with a fighter’s medical provider.

According to the article, the information has been collected for several years but the new document encompasses all of the releases in one form.

Payout Perspective:

There are obvious needs for the releases from the fighters.  The UFC does not want to be surprised by any unknown criminal issues or associations such as Will Chope or Benjamin Brinsa.  The health information is important because the UFC probably does not want to discover a pre-existing health condition which might preclude the fighter from fighting.

The Junkie article also talked to Sports Law professor Warren Zola about whether the release of information is standard for independent contractors.   Zola indicated that while the request is “more than many employers would ask,” it was not illegal.  Zola goes on to indicate that Zuffa’s leverage allows it to request the information and most fighters wanting to fight for the company must abide by its rules otherwise there’s the possibility that they may not work for the company.  Only top-notch talent would have some bargaining power over these consents.

Overall, the request for information is a way that the UFC is trying to protect its brand.  As it continues to grow and expand internationally, these new consents are a way to ensure that all of its bases are covered with its fighters so that it does not get blindsided with possible PR issues in the future.

If you read the article, you will find that Professor Zola uses the “M” word (he actually says “They have close to a monopoly…”) when talking about the UFC and its leverage to obtain these consents from its contracted workers.

UFC 173: Payout Perspective

May 26, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time around we take a look at UFC 173 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada where T.J. Dillashaw pulled off the upset of Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao.

Dillashaw upsets Barao

Renan Barao was thought of as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the UFC.  He had his way in the Bantamweight division and going through Dillashaw seemed like a sure thing especially with most odds having the former TUF cast member as an 8 to 1 underdog.  However, Dillashaw controlled the whole fight from the first round and left no doubt by finishing Barao in the fifth.

I would say Serra-GSP still is the top upset in the UFC simply because Serra had to win a reality show to get the title shot.  Dillashaw was an injury replacement but was still on the radar in the division.

The good news here is that the UFC now has a marketable U.S. Champion.  No offense to Barao, but one of the unfortunate knocks on him was that he was from Brazil and his lack of English limited his ability to reach out to the U.S. fans. Now, the UFC can rally around the underdog story of Dillashaw and maybe revive the division.

UFC 173

Cormier dominates Hendo 

Daniel Cormier served notice that he will be a formidable opponent for Jon Jones when and if Bones gets past his rematch with Alexander Gustaffson.  Henderson fought without TRT but that would not have mattered as Cormier totally dominated Henderson.  After winning, Cormier called out Jon Jones in a tasteful, pro-wrestling style way.

Attendance and gate

At the post-fight press conference it was announced that the attendance at the MGM Grand was at 11,036 for a gate of $1.7 million (via MMA Junkie). The number will be confirmed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission later in the week.

As we reported on Saturday, ticket demand on the secondary market was sparse.  Since 2011, it was the second least expensive ticket ($239) for a UFC event at the MGM Grand Arena.  Thus, not much demand from people that couldn’t buy (or did not want to buy) a ticket through the box office or Ticketmaster.  For those wondering, the least expensive ticket ($168) since 2011 was UFC 141 which featured Brock Lesnar versus Alistair Overeem. You may recall that it was on a Friday due to New Year’s Eve.

Bonuses

The bonuses were $50,000 each and Dillashaw received two for Fight of the Night with (Barao) and Performance Bonus of the Night.  Mitch Clarke won the other bonus with his submission over Al Iaquinta.

Pre-Fight Promotion

The UFC started new shoulder programming taking viewers behind the scenes with a series called, “Embedded.”  The series is in the same vein as HBO’s 24/7 or ESPN’s “The Life” for those that remember that show in the 2000s.  I am a fan of these behind the scene shows so I thought they were interesting although I can understand folks that think them a little tedious.

In addition, FS1 aired its usual “UFC Countdown” show along with “UFC All Angles” which was another behind-the-scenes show featuring Daniel Cormier.

Dana White was a recipient of a UFC friendly feature in the Washington Post.

Sponsors

The octagon sponsors included MusclePharm, Alienware, MetroPCS, Ultimate Poker, Air Force Reserve, Toyo Tires, EA Sports’ UFC video game (which comes out in June), Harley Davidson, the video game by Ubisoft, “Watch Dogs,” and Bud Light had the center.

Ultimate Poker had the fighter prep point.

People Finder and The Memory Tag were notable sponsors for T.J. Dillashaw as he won the Bantamweight Championship.

Odds and Ends

Popeyes Chicken crept into UFC 173 talk with the light-hearted dig at DC’s favorite fast food stop.  One of the behind-the-scenes UFC spots had Hendo delivering Popeyes to DC during a training session.  DC took it as a joke and did not seem to take real offense to Hendo’s “gesture.”  For his part, Hendo seemed to do it as a joke and less of an insult on DC’s chicken habit. There was debate as to whether the subtle undertones of racism could be scene (and used) by opponents of MMA (i.e., Culinary Union).  This seems unlikely as Cormier did not seem offended and he had admitted to liking Popeyes.

KFC, a UFC sponsor on TUF, cannot be happy with Popeyes being talked about without even having to pay.

Chico Camos sported Nike Foamposites at the weigh-ins.  It’s the second PPV in a row someone has sported the sneaks at weigh-ins.

Dana White had the most unfortunate auto-correct in a twitter debate when trying to explain that Renan Barao finishes people.  His tweet read “fishes” people. Of course, this was picked up on quickly.

It looked like slicker inset promos during the PPV hyping future events especially UFC 175.

According to Google Trends, Canada, Brazil and the United States were the top regions (in that order) searching for UFC 173.  On another note, TI-Mayweather was generating more hits than any UFC search term on Sunday.

Great scene after with Duane Ludwig and T.J. Dillashaw embracing after Dillashaw ended Barao.

Conclusion

The Memorial Day Weekend show for the UFC had been one of the company’s bigger shows of the year.  Even with last year’s big Heavyweight fights, it did not live up to expectations.  In fact, last year was down in attendance and PPV buys.  One might expect the same here.  Barao-Dillashaw was not a marquee fight going in despite the great action that occurred and Cormier-Hendo is not a main draw.  So what for the PPV buys?  It’s hard to say but 200,000 buys would be a good estimation here.

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