Rovell calls out White on UFC numbers

May 1, 2013

ESPN Business Reporter and UFC head Dana White went back and forth on twitter on the state of UFC business.  The UFC drew the scrutiny of ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell.  If you didn’t know, Rovell covers the business of sports and is as active on twitter as Dana White.  Rovell sent a tweet out the following tweet after UFC 159.

This drew the ire of UFC fans, media and eventually got back to Dana White.  And in usual form, he escalates the criticism to make it personal.

Rovell didn’t seem pleased about the “ESPN” remark and defended his reason for inquiry.

After a query to substantiate the numbers that the UFC was still on the rise, White indicated to Rovell that he’d get him those numbers

On Wednesday, three days after the initial back and forth, Rovell received his request.  It appears to either be a cut and paste of a Fuel TV press release, a hastily put together word document and/or both.  You can click on the pic to see it close up.  As you can read, White tells Rovell that Zuffa is a private company.

The following tweet is a lesson in making sure you read what you tweet.  White’s response to Rovell.

Rovell did concede that the UFC had some strong indicators of improvement.

Rovell then addressed the data White provided to a follower that believed White had shown the reporter up.

Rovell did make a back-handed complement about the back and forth with White.

He then makes the most sense in the following tweets in requesting information that most would ask about a company’s financials.

Prior to receiving the data from White, Rovell ran a poll for his twitter followers.  Its something he does periodically to create engagement.  The poll asks whether UFC has mainstream potential.  As you can read, a little over half don’t think so.

You can also head over to Storify to see the original version of this.

Payout Perspective:

Its an interesting back and forth between a mainstream business reporter and White.  Certainly, there are errors on both sides of the conversation.  Rovell frames the questions differently.  He first states that the UFC has lost its “edge” based on the anecdotal evidence that a friend bought a ticket for substantially less than face value.  He then asks about the UFC slowing down financially and would like to see its net profits.  White responds over the top.  Rovell baits him to provide him data that the UFC is doing better and then White gives him something that can’t be substantiated.  Being a reporter, Rovell is upset and White relies on the “private company” safe harbor to protect the UFC from having to release its numbers.

At times, Rovell uses financial information to dampen the mood for fans.  For example, when a player drops in the NFL Draft, he’s the first to tweet how much money that player is losing.  Still, Rovell is being a journalist here and it would have looked better if White could have just said granted him an interview to talk about it or provided him information that did not look like it was a press release.

The Wrestling Post – Wrestlemania Edition

April 3, 2013

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  Its the biggest week of the year for the WWE as Wrestlemania 29 happens this Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

New Jersey Area Expected to Receive Huge Financial Upside from Wrestlemania 29

The Bergen Record (NJ) reports that the area can expect a financial impact to the region comparable to last year’s $102.7M economic impact in Miami.  In addition, to the financial boon from wrestling fans from travel, hotels, food, rental cars and entertainment, Miami received $15.3M in local, state and county taxes.  Last year’s attendance at Wrestlemania 28 was 78,363.  First day ticket sales for this year’s event was at a record 52,000.   This generated over $10 million in gross revenue as compared to $6.3 million last year.  The report also states that hotels surrounding the event are sold out.  

Wrestlemania 29

Some interesting demographic figures from the article:

Who goes? attracts 12.3 million unique monthly visitors, and 58 percent of them have at least some college education and 46 percent have a household income greater than $60,000, according to a WWE website. The company says 74 percent of its television audience is over 21 years old, and 36 percent are female. It does particularly well with black and Hispanic viewers.

Payout Take:  The wrestling may be fake, but the money is real.  The annual wrestling extravaganza is a destination event for fans and the WWE has supplemented Sunday’s event with an Expo (WWE Axxess), a “Hall of Fame” ceremony and other events this week.  The economic impact to the area is what appeals to cities to have this event in their city.  Despite what you think about pro wrestling, Wrestlemania is one of the biggest economic generators around.  

Social Media Explosion Supporting Wrestlemania

The WWE has announced a “record social media activation” for Wrestlemania 29.  The number of initiatives going on this week include CEO Vince McMahon joining twitter, Wrestlemania will stream on multiple platforms including Apple, Android and Windows 8 devices. The WWE also will provide bloggers with embeddable content on a new Yahoo! web site. It has included celebrity “social media ambassadors” including Jimmy Fallon, Lil’ Wayne and Charlie Sheen to name a few.  These ambassadors will be tweeting from various events the WWE will be conducting throughout the week.

Payout Take:  The WWE is ahead of the line with social media and the brand activation shows. It has taken advantage of its tech/social media-savvy demo and given them tools to play with which in turn will help promote the WWE brand.  Certainly, the WWE will be trending all over twitter this weekend.  It is interesting that it has not utilized Tout more as it had invested in the video snippet, social media platform.  

Hart Family Settles with WWE

The Washington Post via AP reported that the Hart Family has settled with the WWE in a lawsuit involving the rights to the likenesses and images of deceased WWE wrestler Owen Hart.  Hart died in a staged accident at a WWE PPV.  The Hart Family sued in June 2010 alleging that the WWE did not pay royalties to the Hart Family (or Owen’s estate) for the use of Owen in WWE produced content.  No terms of the settlement were disclosed although it is rumored that the WWE will be able to utilize Owen’s likeness and images again.

Payout Take:  The real in-ring death of Owen Hart was one of the more tragic events in pro wrestling history.  Its good to see that the two sides in this lawsuit have settled and it appears that the sides have come to an agreement on the use of Hart’s likenesses and imagery in WWE content.

Payout Interview: Elie Deshe of VFD Marketing

March 8, 2013

MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with Elie Deshe, a partner at VFD Marketing.  Deshe and his organization represent several UFC fighters including Leonard Garcia, Travis Browne, Clay Guida and Nate and Nick Diaz.  We covered a couple interesting subjects including the Diaz Brothers, agent regulation and working with sponsors.

VFD Marketing is based out of Miami, Florida.  Deshe (the D in VFD) works on the marketing aspects of fighter representation including brand marketing and emerging technologies.  Deshe also works with sponsors. SafeAuto Insurance (a company he previously worked for) and MusclePharm are a couple of the sponsorship deals Deshe and his company have brokered for their representatives.

VFD consists of 6 employees and the company actually has 3 arms with a sports agency, a modeling agency and a media agency.  VFD manages several fighters and serves as marketing agent for others. One client is Nick Diaz.

The interview came at an opportune time as the Nick Diaz-GSP/UFC 158 telephone conference just ended.  VFD Marketing secures sponsorships for the Diaz Brothers.  They are working on deals for Nick for March 16th.

Marketing for the Diaz Brothers

“I don’t think people realize that they’re different people.  They just get lumped in the same category. Love them or hate them, people have an opinion and so long as they are on people’s minds, it makes them marketable.”

Deshe added that it’s not hard to find companies that will work with them.

“All they do is train.  They don’t care about the limelight or attention.  They’re there to fight.  It’s up to us (VFD) to show sponsors the differences between the two. There has been no scenario where a sponsor has said, ‘I like Nate but not Nick.’”

As for sponsors for next week, Deshe said that they will be working up until Thursday night to secure deals for Nick.  Fighter shorts are turned in on Friday and VFD ensures that everything is in the right place.  For Deshe, ensuring “everything is in the right place” may mean making sure the sponsor logos are in the right place on the shorts or banner to whether the logo looks good on television. “Sometimes we’ve said to sponsors to try a different logo to maximize how it looks on TV,” explained Deshe.

Agent Regulation

We asked what he thought of regulating agents that manage fighters.  “It’s a very loose term.  If the UFC had a vetting process of who is an agent and who is not, we wouldn’t have a problem with it. Some of the agents are friends of the guys growing up.  Does that make them qualified?  They may be good on their own merit.”  Deshe stated that fighters could be hurt, “if someone is in it for the wrong reasons.”
UFC sponsor tax

“We get why it’s in place. But we put sponsors in a position to succeed unlike most.  If it was like in the early days, (obtaining sponsorships) it makes a manager’s job easier, but makes it tougher to distinguish who is good.”

Negotiation with sponsors

Deshe stated that negotiating terms of a deal on how much their clients are paid is not the hardest thing.  “The bigger part of it is getting the sponsors on board.  Its about selling the sport to them.  UFC is the best value in sports entertainment from a marketing perspective.  Once on board, the budgets will work.  It’s good to get money for one fight, but if they (sponsors) don’t see value, they won’t come back.”

Deshe commented that a part of working with companies is to ensure that the sponsorship is supported through social media and blog articles among other things.  He also seeks out opportunities outside of the octagon.  Four of VFD’s fighters have appeared in Safe Auto commercials. “Being in the ring is great, it can’t be the only thing to do for these guys,” said Deshe.

How much do sponsors pay

“Ranges are all over the map.  Deals range in the mid to high 6 figures and we’ve done deals in the low four figures. We’ve done everything. That’s why we spend time working with sponsors.  VFD has become a company sponsors want to come to.”

Deshe stated that VFD receives inquiries from companies that want to sponsor fighters and come to them to find out how. “They know we can get them on the right guys, make it look right, get social media support and add value.”

Fighter income between fights

We asked Deshe about how fighters maintain income after a fight is over or before their next fight.  Deshe indicated that there are several ways fighters can supplement their income between fights.  One way is negotiating deals with sponsors which would allow the fighter to receive a monthly payment from the sponsor.  For instance, a deal may consist of sponsoring a fighter over the period of a year and the fighter would be compensated monthly.

There are also the usual opportunities to book appearances, seminars and autograph signings.

Deshe noted the limited time for their fighters to supplement their income.  “There’s not a big window to do all of the things in between.”  They maybe take a couple months off but are usually back in the gym training.

Spike TV Launches Bellator App

February 28, 2013

Spike TV launched an iPad and iPhone App to be used while watching Bellator MMA.  According to the press release, the App will give users real time fight data as they watch the event.

Via press release:

When the Bellator cage door closes and the gloves touch, the innovative app works in concert with the live Spike broadcast to supply fans with real-time fight data only available through the app.  Developed from the ground up to make watching live fights more immersive, viewers will have the unique ability to track expansive fighter analytics and participate in the on-air broadcast.  As “The 4th Judge,” fans can score rounds with the help of real-time statistics powered by CompuStrike, a service providing data in 26 categories from arm strikes to submission attempts.

“The Bellator app is truly the first of its kind.  It allows our passionate fans to experience the fight as a virtual fourth judge – creating a level of immersion that’s unparalleled in any sport,” said Jon Slusser, Senior Vice President, Sports and Multiplatform Events, Spike TV.  “We see this second-screen as a game-changer.  The results from the app will actually become part of the on-air discussion.  There’s nothing like that in all of sports television.”

“At Bellator, we continually look for new ways to connect with our fans in a more meaningful way,” said Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney. “This innovative app will resonate with our first-adopter audience, who will feel closer to the action than ever before.”

As “The 4th Judge,” viewers will be able to have their opinions known during the live telecast.  The Bellator broadcast team of Jimmy Smith and Sean Wheelock will announce the results of viewers’ polling to see how fan opinion compares to their own as well as the official cageside judges. (“The 4th Judge” voting will not factor in the actual judges’ decisions).

The app features historical statistics for every fighter, pre-fight fan picks, and “Favorite Fight of the Night” polling, which will be sharable via social networks. The Bellator MMA app also gives fans the opportunity to watch exclusive videos, and dig deep into fighter biographies.

Spike TV worked with Omnigon Communications to develop the App.

Payout Perspective:

Multi-tasking is something that most of us do all of the time.  When watching Bellator or UFC, most check tweets to see what others are saying about the fights.  Its a good source of information and social interaction.  Hence, the Bellator App will create a center for fans to go.  The statistics and “The 4th Judge,” feature will create discussion among fans and another way to connect.

The Pro Wrestling Post – 02.07.13 edition

February 6, 2013

Welcome to another edition of The Pro Wrestling Post.  In this edition, we take a look at the dismissal of a lawsuit, what’s next for the future of WWE video games and its YouTube channel tops 1 million subscribers.

TNA dismisses lawsuit against WWE

In mid-January, TNA dismissed its lawsuit against the WWE as the parties settled the case out of court. The case was based on claims that a former TNA employer that was hired by the WWE provided the WWE with confidential information he obtained while a TNA employee.  Despite WWE turning over the documents, TNA claims it took the WWE three weeks to provide them with the documents and used them in attempting to acquire TNA talent, notably Ric Flair.

The parties quietly agreed to dismiss the lawsuit without further fanfare.  TNA had requested to depose the likes of Triple H and Ric Flair to determine the extent the WWE knew of the documents provided by the former TNA employee.  

Payout Take:  It appears that cooler heads have prevailed in this standoff without any heated depositions.  TNA believed that the WWE would use the documents as leverage, but as it stands now, Ric Flair is the only notable TNA contracted performer (at the time of the allegations) to have made an appearance with the WWE. Flair had been on the outs with TNA and is only making occasional cameos with the WWE.

Take Two to buy WWE video game franchise

Kotaku reports that video game maker Take Two, owned by 2K Sports,  will purchase the WWE license to make its video games  As you recall, THQ holder of the WWE’s rights to make its video games filed for bankruptcy late last year.  The WWE is an unsecured creditor, owed an estimated $45 million by THQ.

Payout Take:  It will be interesting to see what video titles the WWE will release (if any) this year.   There is debate as to whether Take Two will produce an arcade style game or a simulation game.  It will be interesting to see how this acquisition will affect the WWE’s business in this sector.

WWE tops 1 million subscribers

The WWE announced that it hit 1 million subscribers on its YouTube channel this past week.  A press release by the WWE marked the accomplishment. It is one of the top 15 most influential brands in social media.

Payout Take:  While the UFC is one of the pioneers of social media to promote its sport, the WWE has invested in it and developed new ways in reaching its audience. Its partnership with YouTube and producing original content on its channel has been a success.  I think one of the markets it may have tapped into is the cord-cutters and the youth that feel as comfortable in front of a computer screen (or tablet) to watch “television.”  The 1 million subscribers also speaks to its global reach, something the UFC is still in the infancy stages of developing.

Hawn settles sponsorship dispute

January 28, 2013

MMA Junkie reports that Bellator fighter Rick Hawn has settled his dispute with a sponsor that did not pay him after his fight January 17th.  Hawn took to twitter to let his followers know of the issue.

Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney initially covered the $1,500 due Hawn from clothing sponsor HTFU apparel.  The sponsor has now paid Hawn although he plans on donating the $1,500 to charity.

Via MMA Junkie:

…Hawn tweeted a portion of an email from [HTFU’s Mark] Gingrich informing him payment had been stopped on the check, which was part of a sponsorship deal verbally negotiated five days prior to the event by his representative, Mike Russell.

There was no contract between Gingrich and Hawn, though Russell said a series of emails and Facebook messages constituted a formal agreement and threatened to sue when the check was voided. Gingrich threatened legal action in response.

Gingrich and Russell agree the sponsorship’s value was $3,500 – $1,500 by check and $2,000 in HTFU apparel – but disagree on what was promised in return.

Gingrich expected that Hawn’s corner would wear HTFU apparel but only one of the cornermen did so.  He also expressed disappointment that Hawn “snubbed” him after weigh-ins.  

Payout Perspective:

Here is an example of how social media helped deter a lawsuit.  Its also an example of why verbal agreements are not a good idea.  There was a misunderstanding between Hawn’s rep and the sponsor regarding how much visibility HTFU would receive.  While Hawn’s tweet made it seem as though HTFU stiffed Hawn, there might have been a genuine issue regarding what Hawn was supposed to do for his sponsor.

The sponsors pay for the fighters and their corners to don its logo especially when the camera is on them.  This is the reason why you see cornermen rush to put on a shirt on their fatigued fighter or flip on the hat of their sponsor before the camera shows them during the decision.

One of the down sides of social media is that although Hawn’s tweet brought up the issue to the public (and to Bellator), it also brought Hawn’s other sponsors to question.  When I first saw the tweet, Hawn did not name the sponsor he had a problem with so people were left to speculate.  I actually watched Hawn’s fight again to see which sponsor it could be.  This could be an issue with Hawn with future potential sponsors.  As for HTFU, it indicated that it would not sponsor another MMA fighter.  This may be a case of not knowing what to expect in sponsorship of an MMA fighter.

Dana White interviewed on UFC’s social media use

December 14, 2012 conducted an interview with UFC head Dana White on the company’s social media presence.  The interview was done in lead-up to the BusinessNextSocial conference next month in Las Vegas where White will be the keynote speaker.

The article/interview talks about how White transformed the public perception of the UFC with help from social media.  As most know, the UFC has been ahead of the curve in its social media efforts.  White has over 2.3 million followers and the article highlights the fact that the company’s fighters compete for quarterly bonuses for its use of twitter.

Notably, White points to twitter and his vlogs which are posted on YouTube as the two platforms of social media White utilizes the most.  The video blogs are heavily viewed by UFC fans.  White also talks about the livestreaming of fights on Facebook and the company’s use of Spotify.

Payout Perspective:

The article touts the social media successes of the UFC as White will be a speaker at a conference on social media use next month.  It does not cover some of the social media issues White has had in the past such as the various outbursts he has had with fans on twitter.  Overall, the company has used social media to connect directly with fans without the need of the use of an intermediary (i.e. the media).  This can be a good and bad thing.

UFC 152: Payout Perspective

September 23, 2012

Welcome back to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 152 coming from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Jones survives scare, subs Phenom

A first round armbar out of nowhere and Jon Jones almost saw his unblemished (let’s not count Hamill DQ) record go away and one of the biggest upsets this side of Matt Serra.  But, Jones survived and does what he does: dominate opponents.  This time, it was a Keylock that made Belfort submit.

Belfort gave a lot more than expected but it was a definite mismatch after the armbar attempt.  This match showed the beauty of jiu jitsu in the UFC. First, Belfort’s armbar was perfectly executed and he would have subbed, or broken the arm, of almost every other fighter in the UFC.  Secondly, Jon Jones’ elbows sliced Belfort’s forehead and as Jones positioned himself for what everyone believed to be a mounted crucifix to reign more elbows on Belfort, Jones saw Belfort’s arm was bent and immediately went for the keylock.  Excellent strategy by Jones.

Mighty Mouse wins Flyweight title

Demetrious Johnson won a split decision over Joseph Benavidez to win the inaugural Flyweight title.  It was a great technical match up.  I had thought Johnson won the fight outright but the judges had it at a split decision.

It’s a great win for a guy with a good backstory as we learned from the Countdown show.

The fans were booing during the end of the match which made no sense to me.  Sure, the fight had slowed but its due to the pace in the early rounds.  The crowd reaction drew some criticism from Joe Rogan on the broadcast.

The Count includes Stann as win

Michael Bisping used his superior cardio skills and outclassed Brian Stann to stake a claim for the next title shot against Anderson Silva.   For as outspoken as Bisping is, he backs it up and did a good job of muting Stann’s offense.

Attendance and gate

MMA Junkie reports that the attendance at the Air Canda Centre in Toronto drew 16,800 for a gate of $1.9 million.  In comparison, the UFC 140 which featured Jon Jones taking on Lyoto Machida last December drew 18,303 fans for a gate of $3.9 million.

It’s interesting with the card shuffling that even with the addition of Jon Jones it did not move the ticket sales as compared to last December.


MMA Junkie reports the bonuses which were announced at the post-UFC 152 press conference.  Each fighter received a $65K bonus.

KO of the Night:  Cub Swanson

Submission of the Night: Jon Jones

Fight of the Night: Evan Dunham vs. T.J. Grant


The octagon sponsors included Edge,, Dodge, the upcoming film, “Here Comes the Boom”, video game Assassin’s Creed ,, TapouT and Bud Light with the center.  MetroPCS, RYU and Corn Nuts also sponsored portions of the PPV.

New UFC sponsor Allfuse had the prep point.  This is the second straight PPV where a new sponsor has had the spot where fighters get greased  before heading into the octagon.  I’m not sure if its being used as a one off for sponsors looking to dip its toe in the sponsorship game.

The biggest new sponsor was Nike as Jon Jones sported the swoosh in the Octagon for the first time. The Bones Knows t-shirts were worn by Jones on each media obligation he had prior to the fight.

In addition, Jones was sponsored by Muscletech.  In order to get some notoriety with the sponsorship, it aired a short swim workout Jones did in conjunction with the sponsor.  It was tweeted out to Jones’ followers.

Xyience is also a sponsor of Jones.  After the fight, one of Jones’ corner men reminded Jones he needed to hold the can when he had his hand raised.  But Jones shrugged him off and handed the can back to him.  Xyience was probably not happy about that considering a part of the deal is that he have the can.  After further review, Jones’ right arm was the one that was armbarred so maybe he couldn’t or didn’t want to hold it.

SKY was a prominent sponsor for Vitor Belfort.  Also, Gillette, BMG, Jaco and RVCA were on Vitor’s person.  Despite losing the fight, Vitor did well for himself.

Mighty Mouse was sponsored by Xbox once again.  Probably, one of the best brands and the strongest outside of the Swoosh to endorse. had a sponsor tie in with a “Belt the champ” contest in which the winner was able to put the belt on Jon Jones.

SE Solutions sponsored Brian Stann.  SE Solutions is an IT company servicing federal agencies focused on protecting America’s security.  The sponsorship fits with what Stann has done and who he is and that’s a good thing.

The cutmen were back to TapouT vests as opposed to RYU ones which they had last PPVs.

Here Comes the Boom, the upcoming movie about a mild-mannered teacher becoming a UFC  fighter to raise money for his school.  The UFC gave James, a huge UFC fan before it became mainstream, license and access for the movie. But, was Kevin James supposed to look that big in the promo for the movie, “Here Comes the Boom.”  James is living the dream.  Not only was he in the King of Queens opposite Leah Remini (at her best), now he’s opposite Selma Hayek in a role where he allegedly becomes a MMA fighter.  I know, we are supposed to suspend reality…

Roger Hallet was sponsored by MMA Bodyguards.  The company offers security assistance leveraging their MMA training.  Former UFC fighter Josh Neer is on the web site.

Sponsor Assassin’s Creed had a UFC tie-in with Royce Gracie winning a contest voted on by the fans.  Sure, we’ll buy it.  The contest and the video game.  Edge had a similar activation with Joseph Benavidez winning the Edge new “fresh face”

Although the two companies can be considered  competitors , RYU sent a welcome to Nike.

Post-UFC 152 Headlines

What’s next for Jones?

Is a Chael Sonnen showdown really what the UFC needs?  Sure, it will sell a PPV but what about the long-range direction of the division.  We can argue that the division has been cleaned out and now the UFC should just find the biggest fight.  Sonnen can hype a fight.  But does he stand a chance on winning.

How much will we see the Flyweight division?

With the crowning of a champion, it will be interesting to see how much we will see this division featured on PPV.  I think that the division should start out on Fuel and FX Prelims and eventually gravitate to PPV.  But, from the crowd reaction, it may take some time for fans to adjust.

Does Bisping deserve a title shot?

We may hate him as much as Jon Jones but Michael Bisping is a top contender in the middleweight division.  He controlled Brian Stann and should be thought of as the next in line for a title shot against the Spider.

Odds and ends

-The initial headliners: Johnson-Benavedez and Stann-Bisping did some promos where they hung off of the CN Tower.  All that and they didn’t even receive top billing

-We outlined the PR issues Jon Jones has and the main point from that is Jones needs to mature and be himself with the understanding that he couldn’t please everyone.  But his entrance song last night:  Bob Marley’s “Could you be Loved” as if it were a plea to his fans to like him.

-I believe it is now mandatory that Ronda Rousey appear at anything UFC related.  She was seen in the crowd at the event.  Also, Strikeforce fighters Luke Rockhold (wearing black) and Daniel Cormier (wearing white) to which Cormier mouthed to the camera “Ebony and Ivory”.   It’s the details that make me laugh.

-Any twitter jokes that the Marines Keys to Victory figures of Benavidez v. Johnson were their actual sizes?

-Can someone tell me the other man that Matt Hume told he should quit his full time job to train as a fighter?  Mighty  Mouse was one, who was the other?

-We will address Dana White’s post-UFC152 fury at a Toronto columnist in a separate post.


It will be an interesting buy rate for UFC 152.  Arguably, the cancellation of 151 could have helped with buys since fans would be Jonesing for UFC fights.  Still, the card shuffling and main event of Jones-Belfort didn’t seem like it was a real attraction.  A buy rate of 450K-500K would be a success.  But think what the buy rate would be if Jones was not on this card.

Survey confirms UFC fans social media savvy

July 16, 2012

The Sports Business Journal commissioned a survey which looked at social media trends in sports. The survey confirmed, among other findings, that younger fans, like those in MMA, are the most engaged users of social media.

There were approximately 500 respondents to the survey who use social media to follow college basketball or football, MLB, NBA or NFL team or MMA. It should be noted that MMA and UFC are used interchangeably in the survey and SBJ article.

The study noted that MMA fans are receptive to brand engagement and, more than any other sports fans, will access sponsor promotions via social media sites.

MMA and college basketball fans have the largest growth over the past year in use of social media to follow a fight or a game. Put another way, over the past year more fans are using social media to keep track of events and games.

The survey revealed 90% of MMA fans use Twitter or Facebook while watching the fights. Also, 50% of MMA fans stream video to watch fights. The SBJ notes that the survey revealed 12 percent of UFC fans say they use social media as their primary source of media. Its the highest percentage out of the six major properties (NBA, NFL, NHL, NASCAR and MLB) in the survey. The UFC’s (9.64 million followers on Twitter and Facebook combined as of the date of the article) reach in social media is more than any of the other properties. The NFL is second with 9.46 million.

Also, it notes that teens and Hispanics age 18-34 are receptive to athlete endorsements.

Via SBJ (subscription required):

Two groups that make up a considerable part of the MMA fan base are also the most receptive to brand connections with athletes in general: 69 percent of teens and 66 percent of Hispanics age 18-34 say they would be more likely to purchase a brand mentioned by an athlete on a social media site, compared with a 53 percent rate for the survey-wide total.

Payout Perspective:

A lot of interesting numbers from the survey. Although one may argue that the sample size is on the small side, it paints a picture for sponsors. The first impression is that UFC fans are social media savvy. In comparison to other sports properties, the UFC has the most followers on Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps they are early adapters to technology (although the amount of tablet owners was low for MMA fans).

One of the takeaways from the survey is that UFC fans are multi-taskers. Not only do they watch fights, they want to interact with others and comment about them in real time via social media. It is interesting to see the number of people commenting on twitter during fights and after fights. Social media is a way to vent or boast about the fights.  Its also a rumor mill which many people like.

Also, MMA fans are familiar with streaming content (hopefully legally) online. This may be due to the various ways to watching the UFC Facebook prelim fights, fights on YouTube, the site or other MMA sites. Another takeaway from the survey was the rise of the fan-managed blog in other sports. Obviously, MMA fans are aware of the many MMA sites to visit.

Good news for sponsors of MMA is that many users of social media are aware of the sponsored brands and are receptive to engagement. This may be due to the many sponsor promotions that occur.

UFC 148: Payout Perspective

July 8, 2012

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we look at the biggest card of the year: Silva v. Sonnen II at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Silva KOs Sonnen in 2nd round

Anderson Silva eluded a spinning back elbow from Chael Sonnen and began and assault with a knee to Sonnen’s  chest which was beginning of the end for the challenger.  Although it looked like an illegal knee, the replay showed that it was to the body and not the face.  In a first round that resembled most of their first fight at UFC 117, Sonnen took down Silva and attempted to ground and pound the champ.  It looked like Silva played dead as it looked like the Spider held onto Sonnen and closed his eyes.

Was Silva making a point by laying down in round 1 and then outstriking him in round 2?  For all of the hype, the fight was somewhat anti-climactic as Sonnen crumpled to the mat after a couple of Silva’s shots.  For all of the hype and the backing from fans , Sonnen’s performance in round 2 was disappointing.

Aside from the knee, Silva detractors will cite grabbing Sonnen’s shorts to avoid a takedown and rubbing the Vaseline on his brows onto his body during introductions as reasons to hate on the Spider.  But, you cannot deny Silva is one of the best fighters ever in the UFC.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.  Can the UFC really do Silva-Sonnen III based on this ending?  Its hard to say because Sonnen promos have been geared toward being an “Icon” and the “real champ”.  His post-fight

Griffin bolts before winning decision


That can describe the end of round 3 in the Forrest Griffin-Tito Ortiz fight.  At the end of the round, Griffin bolted the Octagon as he did in Philadelphia when he was outright humiliated by Anderson Silva.  While it’s easy to gather that he likely left because he believed that the judges would give the fight to Ortiz (and we know that Forrest is not the best of sports) for sentimental reasons it upstaged the final bout for Ortiz.

After receiving the UD, Griffin, apparently attempting to make amends, conducted the post-fight interview of Tito Ortiz.   To compound the confusion post-fight, Ortiz was heard complaining that he didn’t have his patented post-fight t-shirt which he was able to display at the very end.

It would have been nice if Griffin left after getting his hand raised.  That would leave Ortiz to soak up his fans and thank them for all the years of supporting him.  Instead, it was a rather awkward end to the Bad Boy’s career.  Ortiz will still be around MMA in some capacity (most likely commentator/guest analyst) and maybe a for Forrest a Griffin-Bonnar III would be a good Fox fight in the future.

40 year old Le gets first UFC win

Overshadowed by the main event was a very entertaining fight (and my pick for FOTN) between Cung Le and Patrick Cote.  Although Le was fading toward the end of the fight, he had enough to beat Cote.  Despite losing, Cote showed he could trade with the former Strikeforce Champ.  Le proved he still can be an asset to the UFC and it’s a no-brainer that he’ll be on the Macau card this November.  His international appeal is the reason for his lofty base salary.  As for Cote, he is still a respectable fighter and can be a mid-tier guy that can be gatekeeper for the division.


MMA Weekly reports the bonuses:

FOTN:  Griffin-Ortiz

KO:  Silva

Submissions:  None

All 3 received $75,000 each.  What about Chad Mendes’ KO of Cody McKenzie (who looked like a slim Mick Foley)?  Interesting that the 3 top salary earners from last night also received the bonuses.  It would have been nice to award a FOTN to Le-Cote.


UFC 148 set an MMA attendance record for the state of Nevada with a reported $6.5 million gate $7 million.  It’s the biggest in the history of the state beating Ortiz-Liddell II from 2006.   The attendance for the event was 15,016.


Forrest Griffin earned the highest salary of the night $275K ($150show/$175win) however it’s likely that Anderson Silva will make the most overall with his cut of the PPV.  Surprisingly, Chael Sonnen’s salary is relatively low compared to the amount he’s done in promoting the UFC (and himself).  Also, Cung Le took a significant pay cut from his UFC 139 salary of $350,000 to $150,000 at UFC 148.  Patrick Cote made $21,000 for his game effort.

Promotion for the Fight

A little surprising that the UFC did not do a three part UFC Primetime for this event.  Also a slight surprise that the lone UFC Primetime was not aired on Fox.   The UFC Countdown show was aired once in prime time during fight week.  One has to wonder if the UFC detoured from this platform for this event or whether it will be the norm.  With Sonnen , one would have to think the UFC wants him in front of a camera.  With the initial numbers, the UFC Prelim numbers on FX should be above average.

A unique promotion for this event included daily cartoons of Sonnen and Silva on the UFC Facebook page.  It also segued into a monetization opportunity as the UFC sold Sonnen/Silva cartoon hero t-shirts.

Jim Rome Smackoff in May.  Silva infamously added his own trash talk to the fight via UFC teleconference.

In addition to the main event, it was Tito Ortiz’s last fight with the UFC.  It was an added touch that he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame during the same day as his last fight.  He did various media rounds and helped with promoting the card.  Ortiz is a polarizing figure but nostalgia has regained some popularity he may have lost.

The Las Vegas Review Journal provided some timely articles on the business of the week including the UFC obtaining a TRO to fight bootleg vendors and the economic impact of International Fight Week.  Based on the UFC report, the LVRJ wrote that Vegas expects an $140 million boost from this week’s activities.  It’s hard to fathom that this week could have that much impact despite factoring in the many fans flying in (including from Brazil).

The UFC also released several big fights of its co-main eventers.  Usually, you’d have to purchase them from the UFC library but the UFC granted fans the access.  It was a great way to highlight the fighters and get the casual fan interested in purchasing the PPV.

The UFC also bought ad space at the Facebook login page.  Did anyone see this?  The UFC also scoured the backgrounds of most major MMA web sites.

ESPN did an extensive job of covering UFC 148 including a Sonnen promo montage and featured the fight on its “What 2 Watch 4” segment at the end of Sportscenter Friday night.  In fact, it probably did more in on air promotion of the fight than Zuffa’s partners at Fox.  According to Dana White, ESPN hates the UFC.  I wonder how much it would promote the sport if it actually liked it.

International Fight Week

The UFC partnered with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority to sponsor International Fight Week.  The UFC Expo was a part of International Fight Week along with a plethora of events which took advantage of the Fourth of July holiday to entice visitors to come and stay for the fight festivities.

It included a session  where MMA media could be trained by UFC fighters.  Interesting way for the fighters to get back at those keyboard warriors.  Of course, some of them train full contact 4 times a week.

The thought is that this will be an annual event which would be a great way to work in conjunction with Las Vegas to promote tourism and the UFC.


Ortiz sported Soul Headphones instead of the customary Beats, which has become the chique headphone for athletes.  The company had its logo on Ortiz’s shorts too.

Silva came out at the weigh in wearing a shirt with Burger King and Nike logos as well as his marketing agency 9ine.  It was interesting that his training shirt had a bigger Nike Swoosh than normal.  Also, Silva’s fight banner was adorned in swooshes. He was also sponsored by Philips.

Courtesy of


Edge Shave Gel took its turn as the sponsor in the prep zone.

Sonnen sported the MP of MusclePharm on his shorts. was on the mat among other places for UFC 148.

Odds and ends

How much would have a Faber-Cruz fight added to the interest of UFC 148?

Not only is Tito Ortiz out of business , the person that prints up Ortiz’s shirts is probably done as most shirts have sponsors all over them.

Ortiz-Griffin did that “soccer jersey exchange” thing but Griffin was seen wiping his face with Ortiz’s shirt.

Interesting that Silva shook the hand of Jon Jones before entering the cage last night.  Also, does Silva’s picture with LeBron James make you like or hate him more?

Can someone who speaks Portuguese confirm Anderson’s post-fight words to Chael about attending a barbecue?

Speaking of Silva, did anyone else think that Anderson Silva’s post-fight speech to the fans was reminiscent of Rocky Balboa at the end of Rocky IV?

The definition of gaunt was Demian Maia at weigh-ins. His face was reminiscent of James Irvin’s attempt at middleweight.  But, he won so that all that matters.


This was a big show for the UFC and it invested  a lot of promotion into creating a buzz for the Sonnen-Silva showdown.  The reported gate of $7 million shows the interest in this event and the UFC hopes it can bank on this equating to a huge PPV number.  I am a bit skeptical about whether it can do UFC 100 numbers as promoted by Dana White, but it may hit a respectable $800K buys.  A number like this could equate to a third fight between Silva and Sonnen for the end of the year.  But, based on the result, how much better could a third fight be and would Silva agree to a third fight against a fighter he’s beaten twice.

MMA Payout will have more on post-UFC 148 news this week.

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