Le attempts damage control in wake of suspension

October 3, 2014

Cung Le responded to the initial reports of testing positive for elevated levels of HGH.  Le denies taking performance enhancing drugs in a Facebook post.

“I was completed (sic) surprised at the results of my recent drug test.  I was informed by the UFC that I passed my pre- and post-fight drug test, as well as the majority of the blood tests with the only abnormality being an elevated level of hGH being determined to be present. “

Le goes on to question the testing that took place.

“I have been informed that there are many possible reasons for a level of hGH  to exceed what is allowed unknowingly and my doctors are researching those possibilities, which may include a much more serious health concern.  I have also been informed about the unreliability of the current hGH testing that exists and it’s (sic) high rate of inaccuracy.”

“We were informed that the laboratory was advised to use the WADA approved rules and procedures when conducting the testing that they administer, yet the lab in Hong Kong contracted to do the testing was not WADA approved, which was surprising since there was a WADA approved lab available in Beijing China.”

The lengthy explanation goes on to bring into doubt the testing facility and its procedures for collection.  Still, the public perception was that Le used PEDs to gain an advantage.  The UFC has not responded to Le’s statement.  It has suspended Le for a year which essentially may end his career with the company.

Payout Perspective:

The press release does some damage control for Le as well as brings into doubt the testing procedures.  The release does a good job of attempting to educate those not familiar with the testing procedures that there could have been an issue with it as well as bring to light the fact that the UFC acts as its own regulatory body for these shows.  The conclusion it hopes readers (i.e., Le supporters) come to is that the process of using a non-WADA approved lab could produce an incorrect result.

NAC to issue ruling on Jones-Cormier brawl

September 18, 2014

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has filed complaints against Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier after review of the video related to their brawl at a UFC media event last month to promote their upcoming fight.  The complaint seeks to fine the fighters up to $250,000 and the potential for all of their fight purses according to the document obtained by MMA Junkie.

The issue will be determined at the upcoming NAC hearing on September 23rd.

According to the complaint obtained by MMA Junkie, the fighters violated NRS 467.158 which allows for a penalty not to exceed $250,000 or 100 percent of the share of the purse whichever amount is greater.  The penalty may include costs for the investigation including attorney’s fees.

Payout Perspective:

It is good to see the commission taking action whereas it appeared that it was going to wait on making a decision on the brawl.  The penalty for Jones and Cormier will probably not take away either of the fighters’ fight purse for their fight (now scheduled for January 2015) but I think that the NAC will issue a stiff fine to prevent these types of fights that could potentially hurt innocent bystanders.  It’s clear that a part of this brawl was precipitated to draw interest in the event and we will see how the commission will rule to prevent future spectacles.

UFC cites Code of Conduct for potential penalty for Monday fight

August 5, 2014

The Monday melee between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier may have ramifications for both from the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the UFC.  The UFC indicated that it is looking into the incident and citing it as a violation of the UFC’s code of conduct.

“We expect more from our athletes, especially these two gentlemen, who are very well-trained and highly educated professionals.  Their actions were clearly a violation of the UFC’s code of conduct,” stated Kirk Hendrick, the UFC’s Chief Legal Officer, per a report on UFC.com.

Hendrick indicated that the UFC would reserve the right to penalize Jones and Cormier pending the NSAC’s review of the incident.

Payout Perspective:

The Code of Conduct has not been in the news since Matt Mitrione caused a stir with his comments about Fallon Fox.  It’s clear that despite the news it’s achieved, brawling in a public setting where bystanders could have been injured is not a good idea.  However, don’t expect any suspensions.  It’s likely we will see a fine but nothing else.

Sonnen given 2 year ban by commission

July 23, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that the Nevada State Athletic Commission issued a two-year suspension as at a hearing held on Wednesday.

Sonnen must pay any and all doctors’ fees for the random drug tests he failed on May 24th and June 5th.  Additionally, it is expected that he will become a precautionary tale for others and serve as a “resource” for halting future PED use.

There were differing opinions on the penalty for Sonnen as they ranged from a lifetime ban to the 2 year ban.

Sonnen tested for a total of five PEDs prior to his intended July 5th fight with Vitor Belfort.  Initially, he claimed the positive test for PEDs related to him coming off of TRT treatment and the fact that he was trying to have children.  After the second positive test, Sonnen was terminated from the UFC and his analyst position at Fox Sports.

Payout Perspective:

Fair penalty?  Sonnen’s attorney stressed Sonnen’s cooperation with the investigation and the UFC and Fox Sports terminations when contemplating the penalty.  Essentially Sonnen threw himself at the mercy of the commission.  This strategy seemed to work.  Although it’s unlikely Sonnen will return to MMA in Vegas, the two year ban does leave a slim opening.  Moreover, he could have been assessed a stiff fine but seemed to have avoided this.

NY Senator vows to continue support of MMA bill

June 25, 2014

As most expected, including the UFC, the New York State Assembly failed to vote on a bill to legalize professional Mixed Martial Arts in the state.  Despite another year without any movement, the bill’s sponsor intends to continue on next year.

The lead sponsor to the MMA bill set to legalize professional MMA in the state, Senator Joseph Griffo told MMA Payout the following:

I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that my bill to legalize MMA did not come to the Assembly floor for a vote before session ended.  We’ve tried to address opponents’ concerns in crafting our legislation. This sport is much more organized and more regulated than when it first became popular. Everyone besides New York has allowed professional matches to be held in their state. The latest economic analysis, done by HR&A advisors, reports that legally sanctioned MMA would generate $67 million in annual spending and create 525 jobs in New York. I thank Assemblyman Joe Morelle for his effort to get a vote for the bill. It’s my hope that Assembly leadership reconsiders their position before the year is over. Regardless, I will carry this bill every year until it passes or I leave office.

Senator Griffo also sponsored the bill that would have allowed regulation of amateur MMA in the state of New York.  That bill was not voted on either by the state Assembly prior to the end of this year’s session.

MMA Payout has reached out to Assemblyman Morelle for additional comment but his office has not responded at the time of this writing.

Payout Perspective:

Another year, another missed opportunity for the legalization of professional MMA in the state.  Perhaps we may see some movement with this bill next year as the lawsuit filed by Zuffa in the state appears to come down to the filing of Summary Judgment motions.  The Court’s decision on these motions may coincide with next year’s legislative session which could facilitate a vote in the state Assembly.

This past Sunday we participated in a discussion on legal issues in MMA including the continued effort to legalize pro MMA in the state.  You can find the Sports Law Chat tweetup here.

Court sets schedule for Summary Judgment Motions in New York

June 22, 2014

With the New York Assembly not voting on a bill to legalize pro MMA in the state, the focus turns to Zuffa’s lawsuit against the state.  A court order issued late last week will allow the parties to file Motions for Summary Judgment by July 3rd.

The remaining cause of action left from Zuffa’s lawsuit filed back in November 2011 is the claim that the present law banning MMA in the state is unconstitutionally vague.  The Court dismissed the previous claims upon New York’s Motion to Dismiss.

The parties have until July 3rd to file a motion which would dismiss the final claim and end the lawsuit if filed by New York.  Zuffa has the option of filing its own motion which may leave an opening for a possible settlement.

Responses to the initial Summary Judgment Motions are due on July 17th with Replies to those Response Motions by July 31st.

H/t:  Jim Genia

Payout Perspective:

Spoiler Alert.  There will be a Motion for Summary Judgment.  The end to this lawsuit could be near.  Or, we could be hunkering down for more briefing.  Discovery has closed for all intents and purposes and if the Court is not persuaded to dismiss the lawsuit on New York’s Summary Judgment motion, we will be getting ready for a trial.

If you were wondering how long after the Court receives the papers will the Judge make a decision.  The lawyerly answer to that is: it depends.  But if you want some guidance.  New York filed its Motion to Dismiss in October 2012, a hearing did not take place until February 2013 and the ruling was not issued until late September 2013.  Thus, we could wait almost a year for a ruling.  Hopefully, it may happen sooner.  But, we may be through another legislative session in New York before a ruling.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

MMA Payout returns to Sports Law Chat Sunday

June 20, 2014

On Sunday, June 22nd from 8pm-9pm ET MMA Payout will be a part of Sports Law Chat’s tweetup talking about Legal Issues in MMA including a discussion about the continued struggle to legalize professional MMA in New York.  MMA Journalist Jim Genia and Sports and Entertainment Lawyer Carla Varriale will also be a part of the discussion.

Varriale is teaching a course this summer at Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education’s Sports Management Program entitled, “MMA in New York: A Study in Whether It Should Be Legalized and Regulated.”  As you can tell from the name of the class, it takes a look at the battle to legalize the sport in New York state.  As many of you know, Jim Genia is an MMA journalist that is intimately familiar with the battle in the state.  It should prove to be an informative time.

For more information, please follow Sports Law Chat on twitter (@SportsLawChat).  You may also feel free to follow Varriale (@carlavarriale), Genia (@jim_genia) or myself (@dilletaunt).

For those on the west coast, it will take place on twitter between 5pm-6pm on Sunday June 22nd.  Celebrate the U.S. World Cup win over Portugal by logging on and learning more about legal issues in MMA.

New York State Senate passes Amateur MMA Bill

June 18, 2014

A bill to establish protocols for amateur MMA has passed the New York Senate and is being delivered to the New York Assembly for the possibility of a vote to make it a law.  Newsday’s Mark La Monica first reported the passage of the bill.

The bill, sponsored by New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, provides rules and regulations for amateur mixed martial arts in the state.  Griffo is a proponent of lifting the ban on professional MMA in the state.

Via Senator Griffo’s News Release:

“In my advocacy for mixed martial arts, I’ve met many fighters and promoters. All want to make the bouts as safe as possible – not just for the fighters, but for the judges, refs and fans,” said Griffo, R-Rome. “However, there was a lack of consistency among amateur contests. Most promoters would ensure their bouts were sanctioned by an established and reputable organization. A few, however, put profit over safety and held bouts that put fans and fighters at unnecessary risk.”

“This bill brings the entire amateur realm under the oversight of the New York Athletic Commission,” said Griffo. “It will put the emphasis where it should be – creating a safe and enjoyable experience for all.

The bill would establish a medical advisory board and commission to have jurisdiction over amateur matches. It would require participants to undergo a thorough physical examination, including neurological and neurophysical examinations, prior to being approved for a fight. No one could fight unless they were 18 years of age or older.

The bill would also prohibit fighters who suffered a KO or TKO – or were rendered unconscious – from participating in a match for 90 days. It requires promoters to provide insurance for participants and reimburse athletes for medical, surgical and hospital care that was a result of participating in the program.

Without mandating it, the bill gives the Commission the ability to require medical personnel and an ambulance at the site of match.

Any fighter, referee or judge who participates in an amateur match without being licensed by the Commission would be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Payout Perspective:

If you read, Jim Genia’s piece on Deadspin a month ago, you might be thankful that this legislation is moving along.  Genia provides an analysis of the bill here.  Genia points out the potential ramifications of the bill which may include the NY Athletic Commission’s refusal of granting licenses to promoters to hold amateur MMA events, the NYAC could staff the amateur MMA events, there could be the interpretation that MMA is now a “single discipline art” and allow an MMA organization to oversee and/or someone could challenge the bill in court.  We shall see whether the bill is passed and what the ramifications could be.

In the end, this does nothing for professional MMA in the state at this point.

Vote on MMA looking unlikely in NY

June 9, 2014

With a week left in the 2014 legislative session in New York, it appears that Dana White’s comments a couple weeks ago were prophetic.  A vote legalizing MMA in the state will not happen in the State Assembly this year.

UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner confirmed to MMA Junkie Radio he doesn’t expect a vote this year.    “…I would say it will not make it to the floor again (this year),” Ratner said of the bill which will be bypassed yet again after passage through the state senate.

Ratner indicated that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the possibility of a bill but also stated that, “I feel like the handwriting is in big block letters on the wall and we’re not going to get it done this year.”

Ratner went on to express the frustration of the ordeal which we may assume is felt by White and many other MMA supporters in New York.

Via MMA Junkie:

“I’ve been to (New York state capital) Albany 20 times throughout the past five years, and it’s just wrong. One of my biggest analogies would be, give us a turn at bat, and if we strike out, then it’s on us. But to never, never get a chance and have the leadership of the Democratic assembly look around the room and say, ‘Not enough interest this year, let’s talk about medical marijuana,’ that’s all we get. It never comes to a vote.”

Payout Perspective:

Ratner indicated that they would need 76 of the 101 Democratic assembly members to have the MMA bill pass.  Ratner says they have 60 sponsors and would need 16 more votes for passage.  While the UFC appears to be softening the blow for what will be another empty legislative session, one has to wonder what else the UFC could do to facilitate a vote.

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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