MMA lobbies in Albany…again

January 30, 2014

In a story that seems to repeat itself, MMA advocates were in Albany Tuesday starting its annual bid to legalize mixed martial arts in New York State according to the USA Today.

MMA supporters were in Albany to stress that the sport has “evolved” and state regulation would “ensure safety precautions” would be followed.

Aside from the arguments regarding safety, MMA fighters and promoters argue that the sport would be an economic boon for the state as it estimates “about $135 million a year in additional revenue from fights at major venues.”  This includes $67 million from the statewide expansion of UFC Gyms.  A study submitted by the UFC in November suggests a $68 million economic impact on the state as a result of anticipated live events from the UFC, Bellator, WSOF and Ring of Combat.

With the lawsuit over the law banning New York matriculating through the court system, the only way the UFC makes it to New York any time soon is through a law legalizing the sport.

Payout Perspective:

Just like spring training in baseball, MMA proponents are getting ready to give it their best efforts again this year.  The article suggests the key to persuading legislators is educating them on MMA by dispelling preconceived notions of the sport.  Last year, a sexual harassment case in Albany involving a proponent of MMA invoked some of the past stereotypes of the sport.  This was one of the reasons for last year’s stall of legalizing the sport.  Has anything changed since last year?  We will see how this plays out this spring in upstate New York.

UFC gets denied at Super Bowl Media Day

January 28, 2014

The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that the UFC was turned away at the NFL’s Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday.  NFL officials chased down UFC reps trying to obtain pictures of NFL players wearing the UFC Championship belt.

The NFL did not want it around as league officials believe it was “wrestling stuff.”  The official for the NFL, Dennis Kayser stated, “we don’t want that associated with us and this event.  This is the NFL.”

It was not until Fox’s Jay Glazer explained the UFC-Fox corporate partnership did the NFL back off of the UFC reps.  Even then, Kayser clarified not to show the belt on the podium.

Payout Perspective:

Some of the NFL apprehension to the championship belt wearing may stem from various players wearing pro wrestling belts.  The WWE has sent players in the NBA (e.g., LeBron James) and MLB (recently Boston Red Sox David Ortiz) replicas of its belts to wear.  It could have been that the NFL did not want any non-partner to overshadow the NFL’s “media day.”  A little “chickens coming home to roost” situation for the UFC as many complain of the UFC’s stringent media practices.  This time, the NFL came down on the UFC for trying to overshadow the league on the day.  Of course, NFL “media” day is more of a free-for-all so maybe that’s why the UFC thought it could take its liberties.  The other thought is why didn’t the UFC, a Fox partner,  not coordinate something with the NFL today or sometime this week for media to promote UFC 169?

TUF Brasil: Silva-Sonnen on Fight Pass

January 27, 2014

The UFC announced that The Ultimate Fighter Brasil: Team Wanderlei vs. Team Sonnen will be exclusively shown on the UFC Fight Pass.  The announcement via UFC press release came on the heels of fisticuffs between the two coaches during the taping of the show.

Via UFC press release:

 The first episode of TUF Brasil will be available, on demand, on UFC Fight Pass from 7pm PT/10pm ET on Sunday, March 9, just hours after airing on Brazilian television. Each new episode will then be available every Sunday at the same time.

Filming has already begun in Sao Paulo, Brazil and the bad blood between coaches Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva has already resulted in incidents which UFC president Dana White could only describe as “crazy”, “nuts” and “absolute insanity.”

Bad blood has been on the boil between three-time UFC title challenger Sonnen and the legendary “Axe Murderer” for years and now that they are in close proximity to each other day-in, day-out, the pair is struggling to keep their mutual dislike in check.

Fight Pass

Via MMA Fighting:

“Wanderlei and Chael fought,” White said. “Just today. They literally fought.”

While details aren’t entirely clear as to how the altercation started, White says the fight went on for awhile before it was broken up, and that one of Silva’s people jumped into the fray.

Payout Perspective:

If we are to connect the dots here, a press release comes out announcing that the season of TUF Brasil featuring the bitter rivals can only be seen on the UFC’s new digital subscription service on the same day that it is revealed that a fight broke out between the two coaches.  Public relations at its best?  It had been rumored for a while that Wandy-Chael would only be seen on The Fight Pass.  This makes sense from the UFC perspective as the free trial ends the end of February and fans continuing to pay to subscribe will get the TUF Brasil season almost immediately.  Whether the fight was a staged publicity stunt and/or a fight that could have been prevented but let go to promote the season, it gets those fans excited about these two fighting wanting to season this season of TUF.

Rousey makes Forbes.com’s 30 for 30 list

January 7, 2014

Forbes.com has picked UFC Bantamweight Champ Ronda Rousey as one of its 30 sports figures under the age of 30.  The list includes athetes, young executives and inventors in the industry.

Forbes.com described Rousey as “generally considered the world’s No. 1 women’s pound-for-pound MMA fighter,” it goes on, “[H]er dreaded armbar move has kept her undefeated.

Rousey joined NBA players LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, track star Usain Bolt, young stat gurus and others on the list that are under the age of 30.

Payout Perspective:

Rousey’s appearance on the list shows her mainstream appeal.  Of course, if you look at the list, the rationale for picking people is suspect.  Rose, who has been out with a knee injury, made the list because he turned his ACL tear (the first one), into an online video series.  Really?  Making the list could be a product of a successful pitch by Rousey’s agents at William Morris or the UFC.   Regardless of how she got on the list, its good press for the UFC and is another accolade for Rousey.

UFC 168: Payout Perspective

December 30, 2013

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at the last UFC event of 2013 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Weidman retains belt after Silva breaks leg

Corey Hill. That is what went through my mind as Anderson Silva’s shin was shattered on a Chris Weidman leg check.  Many may recall the lanky TUF competitor breaking his leg on an eerily similar

Leg checks are gruesome as it is and Silva’s kick that broke his leg looked like it was right on Weidman’s knee.

It appeared that Weidman may have knocked out Silva in the first but Silva was able to survive round 1 and even bloodied Weidman.  Although Weidman likely won round 1, the fight was still up in the air before the kick despite folks concluding that Weidman would have won the fight.  Weidman did look much improved from July and solidified his standing as the division’s champ.  It appears that Vitor Belfort may be next.  The question is will it be in Vegas or Brazil?

As for Silva, it’s likely the end to his career.  At 38, Silva has had a successful run and should be financially set for the rest of his life.  We may see him in the UFC in some sort of emeritus role but never again in the Octagon fighting.

UFC_168_event_poster

Rousey armbars Tate to retain title

Ronda Rousey submitted Miesha Tate although the challenger put up a fight and was the crowd favorite throughout.  Rousey refused a Tate handshake at the end which solidified her as the heel.

Tate was a heavy underdog and it seemed that surviving the first round was a victory in itself.  Despite not getting armbarred in the first or second round, Rousey was still dominating the match.  Her Judo was exceptional and one has to wonder why attempt to take Rousey to the ground when Tate scored with shots on her feet.

Rousey has a quick turnaround as she fights Sarah McMann on February 22nd.

Some have speculated that the Rousey-McMann fight was made to coincide with the Winter Olympics.  Both were medalists in the Olympics.  The only problem with this theory was that Rousey and McMann competed in the Summer Olympics.

Browne KOs the Warmaster

Travis Browne used his elbows to KO Josh Barnett in what was a mini-upset.  Browne propels himself to a fight with Fabricio Werdum with the fighter likely getting Cain Velasquez.

Attendance and Gate

As announced at the post-fight press conference, it was the second-highest gate for an MMA event in MGM history with 15,650 for a gate of $6.2 million.

Bonuses

Rousey, Tate and Browne were the recipients of the fight night bonuses.  Instead of the standard $50K each, the UFC upped the bonus to $75K.

FOTN – Rousey-Tate

Sub – Rousey

KO – Browne

As we previously pointed out, Jim Miller should have received the Submission of the Night with his slick setup and eventual arm bar of BJJ Black Belt Fabricio Comoes.

Salaries

The Nevada State Athletic Commission revealed the pay of the top 3 fights on the card (via MMA Junkie).  The rest of the card should be made public later this week.

Chris Weidman received a big pay increase in pay in his first title defense.  He received $200K to show and another $200K for the win for a total of $400K.

Silva received $600K and would have made another $200K if he won.

Rousey made $50K/$50K but with another $150K in bonuses she tallied $250K for the night.  Tate made $28K and another $75K for $103K.

Josh Barnett made $170K and Travis Browne made $56K ($28K/$28K) plus his $75K win bonus for a total of $131K.

Raise in PPV Price

One of the surprises that came before the fight was the $5 bump in price for the last PPV of the year.  UFC 168 was the first at $59.99 (HD) and $49.99 (SD).  White indicated that this would be the only time it would raise its price.  However, there is some confusion as to whether the $59.99 will remain in 2014 as the current prices on the UFC web page list UFC 169 an 170 at $59.99 although there are reports the listed price is a mistake.

There were many promotional commercials leading up to 168 that still promoted the PPV as $54.95 although you were likely made known of the price change when you went to order.

The rise in the price could mean more people went to bars to watch the PPV and maybe more fight parties.

Promotion of the Fight

The UFC went all out for UFC 168 with branding all over the MGM Grand including the key cards, slot machines and gaming felt.  I can attest the UFC has done the gaming felt back in the Tito Ortiz days (circa 2006).  Still, the constant reminders of the fight likely helped out.

ESPN got in on the action as it let Dana White take over its twitter and Instagram accounts on Saturday to hype the fight.  The obvious conflict is that White’s company is featured on ESPN’s newest competitor, Fox Sports 1.  The fact White is allowed to promote on ESPN and that ESPN wants White to promote the UFC infers that MMA is legitimately making strides as a sport that is newsworthy (well, except that ESPN got rid of the over the air version of MMA Live).

UFC used FS1 to promote the fight and showed Weidman-Silva I and also aired “Fighting Words” which was an interesting look at the first fight that included audio of the corners that caught what each said to their fighters.  It also included interviews by both fighters and audio from Jon Jones and Urijah Faber at the fight.  While UFC Primetime has been shut down, this show did a great job in recapping events leading up to the rematch.

The Saturday morning edition of Good Morning America did a spot on Ronda Rousey which is a pretty big even if it was the weekend crew of GMA.

Fight Pass

The UFC held a press conference prior to the fights to announce the UFC’s new digital network, the UFC Fight Pass.  More on this later but the sweetener for UFC fans is that it is giving users 2 months free before it charges your credit card $9.99 per month.

Sponsors

Sears was the newest “big” sponsor to the Octagon.  Maybe a “one off” but I’m sure the UFC hopes that it can bring it in as an official sponsor.  Tapout, MusclePharm, Harley Davidson, Toyo Tires, Cinemax’s “Banshee”, Peter Berg’s movie, “Lone Survivor”, WarGaming.net, MetroPCS and Bud Light with the center.

UltimatePoker.com had the prep point outside the cage and AXS TV had the official weigh-ins.

Harley Davidson ran a promotion for its Project Rushmore motorcycles in which the winner of Weidman-Silva would win a motorcycle.

MetroPCS also had a unique activation for this event where twitter users could obtain a “personalized” digital photograph of Ronda Rousey.

Interesting sponsor of the night:  Autoshopper.com.  It was on a number of fighters including Miesha Tate.

1Law.com, a law firm out of Utah picked the right fighter to sponsor as it was on the front of the shorts of Travis Browne as he KO’d Josh Barnett.  It has sponsored Browne in the past.

Monster (an official UFC sponsor) headphones are going to be around more and more heads in the Octagon so get used to them having them on and not listening to anything.

Nike was noticeably absent from Anderson Silva.  When asked by Ariel Helwani in a pre-fight interview, Silva told him to ask Dana.  White deflected comment but it was clear that Nike did not pay or would not pay the sponsor fee for Silva this time around.  To be clear, Nike still sponsors Silva, it’s just that he was not on Silva’s shorts, shirt or banner.

Rousey was sponsored by the UFC in what looked like signature gear.  She was also sponsored by Xyience.

Tate had a number of sponsors including Autoshopper.com, Venum, Affliction and Training Mask.

Silva did have less sponsors this go round.  He had Wizard, Burger King, computer maker Lenovo and soccer club Corinthians Paulista.

Weidman had an assortment of sponsors including Bad Boy Club, Oak Grove Technologies, American Ethanol, Monster and investment firm InCapital.

Post-UFC 168 Headlines

The new faces of the UFC.  Saturday we saw the two new faces of the UFC in Ronda Rousey and Chris Weidman.  With GSP and Anderson Silva gone within weeks of each other, Weidman should be marketed as the top UFC guy.  Even though Jon Jones has a fair argument here, his last couple of fights have not equated to PPV success.  Weidman took down the GOAT twice and we will see how long he can defend the belt in this division.

Despite being the “heel” against Miesha Tate, Rousey has the “it” factor that draws people to watch her.  She is brash, dominant and that look of determination walking to the ring would have anyone hiding their arms around her.  The question is whether the fame and time obligations may catch up to her.  With her next fight so close to this one and coming off of shooting two movies, we will see if it catches up with her.

Odds and Ends

-The UFC offered closed circuit of the fight at the MGM for $60 per person.  I do not believe the UFC put this PPV in movie theatres.

-There were over 5 million Google searches for Anderson Silva on Saturday night.  Most searchers likely wanted to see an image of his broken leg.

-It was the first time I recall the main event fighters coming out from different sides of the curtain at the weigh-ins.

-Over 14.6K people were on YouTube at the start of the very first fight which bodes well for viewership for the rest of the card.

-Rumors of Brock Lesnar in Vegas during UFC 168 is reminiscent of the two guards that sat in the courtroom that unnerved Colonel Jessup in “A Few Good Men.”  In other words, the UFC could have just flown Lesnar out to Vegas and create a story that wasn’t there.

-Rousey and Tate are complete opposites and this was most telling in their walkout songs.  Katy Perry (Tate) vs. Joan Jett (Rousey).

-Due to the short fights, there was a lot of downtime and “commercials” and the live fights ended at 9:30pm PT.

-Buried by the main event stories was the second straight impressive win by Michael Johnson on the Prelims.

-Uriah Hall saved his job, while Chris Leben likely heads to retirement.

-Marc Jacobs is selling a Ronda Rousey t-shirt.

-Anyone else notice that the broadcast team kept pumping up the odds including right before the Tate-Rousey fight.  That might not be new, but what was new was that it directed people interested in odds to the UFC web site.

Conclusion

The hype for this fight was the biggest this year and the women co-main event had a lot to do with it.  It may be one of the highest HD PPV buys ever.  There was a lot of mainstream buzz for the fight which not always transfers into PPV purchases. But I think the buzz helped.  Despite the protests about the price increase, it will likely not affect the final PPV buys.  An estimation of around 750K PPV buys should be attainable if not surpassed after all is said and done.

UFC going all in for UFC 168 promotion

December 27, 2013

To say that tomorrow’s UFC 168 is an important event for Zuffa this year would be quite the understatement.  In fact, the focus placed on UFC 168 has been so strong that some have argued that it has actually undermined the UFC events in between, which caused them to under perform. We will take a look at some of the numbers and the promotion being put together the week leading up to the event.

UFC_168_event_poster

 

The UFC announced on July 13th, 2013 that the highly anticipated rematch between new Middleweight champion Chris Weidman and MMA legend Anderson Silva would take place on UFC 168, making Rousey vs Tate 2 and incredibly strong co-main event for the casual fans and mainstream. Since that announcement was made, about 5 months before the event was to take place, the UFC made it no secret it would be heavily promoting the event, which include an entire season of TUF dedicated to pitting both coaches on the PPV along with countless of media appearances and press conferences.  To summarize, the UFC has been promoting UFC 168 for five months straight hoping to cash in big at the end of the year.

In that span, the UFC has hosted four PPV events, from UFC 164 to UFC 167, and all have arguably underperformed.  Pettis vs Henderson, the highly anticipated rematch from WEC, which produced the Showtime Kick, drew less than 300,000 buys.  Jon Jones was the first noticeable casualty, drawing his lowest PPV buy rate since becoming champ.  Velasquez/JDS III drew 330,000 viewers while Velasquez/JDS II drew 590,000 the previous year.  GSP’s 630,000 PPV buys are the lowest since UFC 87 in 2008 against Jon Fitch z9 not to mention that it was the UFC’s anniversary event).   All events underperformed, but will the gamble to place most of the attention on UFC 168 for almost half a year pay off? They are certainly betting on it.

UFC 168

????

Weidman-Silva II

UFC167

630,000

GSP-Hendricks

UFC 166

330,000

Velasquez-JDS III

UFC 165

325,000

Jones-Gus

UFC 164

270,000

Henderson-Pettis

 

The UFC has gone all in the week heading into UFC 168 with countless ad spots on FOX Sport properties and key big FOX spots during NFL programming.  The UFC even scored an appearance in Good Morning America this morning. To put it bluntly, a lot of money was spent on promoting UFC 168 and considering that UFC predicted the event would be as big as UFC 100 (1.6M buys), they really had no choice.  Then again, the UFC also bumped up the PPV price by $5 just for this event, hoping to reach UFC 100 levels of revenue even they most likely won’t be able to match the buyrate.  This week, Dana White estimated the gate for UFC 168 to be around $6.3M already, which would place it among the top gates in the company’s history.  It also appears that ESPN is all in for this event, which has historically meant good things for the UFC.

Now, is the event a shoe in to become a huge PPV success? Well, not necessarily.  End of the year between Christmas and New Years has always been a tough sell due to the festivities, new toys, NBA, and CFB Bowl games. UFC 141 hosted a huge main event between Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem, two of the biggest and physically gifted athletes in MMA.  Lesnar had been a shoe in for 1M PPV buys for years with the UFC, and adding an opponent like Overeem seemed like a PPV buyrate slam-dunk. Only, it didn’t turn out that way.  The event ended up doing around 535,000 buys, which is nearly half what most expected, though there were a few key differences between that event and UFC 168.  One major factor was holding UFC 141 on December 31st (Friday night) where UFC 168 is being held on the more traditional Saturday night time slot. Lesnar had also lost his belt for that bout for his bout against Overeem after being dominated by Cain Velasquez along with many health concerns.  However you slice it, UFC 168 will be a hugely successful event, though the question of whether it can crack the 1M PPV buyrate which Lesnar and only a couple of other main events have been able to accomplish in the past 5 years is still up in the air.

Lets take a look at some of the promotion:

 

 

 

 

 

 

GSP announces indefinite leave from UFC

December 13, 2013

Earlier today, during a last minute scheduled press conference call from Montreal, Georges St-Pierre announced that he is going to take an indefinite leave of absence from the UFC and vacate his welterweight title in order to deal with personal issues.

GSP opened up the conference call with the following statement,

I’ve been fighting a very long time at a high level. It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of criticism, and I’ve decided I need to take time off. I know UFC is a business, and it can’t wait for one person. They have to keep things rolling, so I’ve vacated my title out of respect to the other competitors.

No timetable was given on when GSP would return, or if he would return at all. In his absence, the UFC has scheduled Johny Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler for the vacated welterweight title on March 15, 2014 as the main event for UFC 171, which will take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX.

 

Payout Perspective:

We have no idea if GSP will ever be back, and no commitment was made one way or the other, but Dana White pushed the proverbial promoter talk and stated he believed GSP would be back in the Octagon. For years and years, Dana White has trumpeted GSP as the number one draw the UFC has had in its stable, even when Brock Lesnar was around.

Now that he will be gone for at least all of 2014 and considering that the UFC’s stable of champs are ailing from injuries (Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Anthony Pettis, Dominick Cruz) and will be out a significant portion of 2014, the impact to the bottom line next year will be noticeable. On the positive side, for fighters such as Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, and Anderson Silva, the bargaining chips and assumed leverage has never been more on their favor then it is now.

In 2013, after 12 events (UFC 156 – UFC 166), the UFC has averaged an estimated 430K PPV buys.  Without GSP headlining UFC 158 nor UFC 167, the highest PPV buy total would be in the 550,000 range. The average PPV buy number would also dip into the upper 300K range, which would equate close to a loss of roughly 800,000 – 1M PPV buys.

Another interesting note from the presser was Dana White’s comment about GSP’s contract status with the UFC during his leave.  White stated that GSP’s contract would be “frozen” while he is on leave and would continue whenever he returns.  Without any timelines set by GSP and considering that he vacated his belt, it would be interesting to see what parts of his contract are triggered by this scenario, which is one that the UFC has not had to exercise at all in recent years.

Time Magazine chooses Rousey to “30 People Under 30 Changing the World”

December 6, 2013

MMA Junkie reports that Ronda Rousey has been named to Time magazine’s list of “30 People Under 30 Changing the World.”  Rousey joins a list of entrepreneurs, policy makers, inventors and humanitarians.

The only other person on the list related to sports is Parker Liautaud, a Yale student that skied to the North Pole to study climate change.  Rousey was chosen because she “is updating the face of female athletics through her tough skills and commercial successes” according to Time.

Payout Perspective:

Despite Rousey’s on-air demeanor last Saturday on the TUF Finale, her accomplishments and the fact that she is an outspoken woman in a sport that is male-dominated is still the narrative to most mainstream media.  She recently appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel Show and happily told the story of kicking someone’s ass at a movie.  Overall, she presented well on the show.  So, while most of the MMA fans in the know may have lost respect for Rousey after some of her antics on TUF, she still can be a media darling and sell UFC 168.  Getting on the Time list may not mean much to most, but it is still good publicity for the UFC, Rousey and the sport of MMA.

Bendo featured in series on athlete tattoos

November 11, 2013

Ben Henderson was recently featured on a web episode series entitled “My Ink” which follows athletes as they get tattoos. The online feature includes an interview with the athlete as they discuss the meaning and reasons behind their ink.



Payout Perspective:

I’ve always thought that there should be a series like this for the NBA. The online feature also includes skateboarder Ryan Sheckler (from MTV’s “Life of Ryan” fame), NBA player J.R. Smith and NFL football player Ray Rice among others. Henderson describes the meaning of some of his Korean tattoos in an interview with me back in 2010. The obvious cynic would ask why someone needs so much ink and perhaps someone like Henderson could spend the extra time in the tattoo chair focusing on things like defending an arm bar. But, it is these “get to know you” type episodes that helps a fighter gain press and should aid with opportunities outside of the Octagon

Rebney rings NASDAQ “closing bell”

October 31, 2013

Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney rang the “closing bell” today at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York’s Time Square. The PR photo op comes two days before Bellator’s biggest event across the country in Long Beach, California.

In addition to Rebney’s appearance at the NASDAQ, Bellator plastered Times Square with the Chandler-Alvarez promotion today.

Payout Perspective:

The “closing bell” of the stock market or NASDAQ has always been a good PR opportunity and this was a great opportunity for Bellator. We note that Viacom is on the NASDAQ (if you were wondering ended down $0.20 for the day). Does this elevate Bellator’s status and gain viewers to tune in Saturday night?

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