UFC 180: Payout Perspective

November 17, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 180 from the Mexico City Arena in Mexico City.

Werdum wins interim Heavyweight title

It was to be Cain Velasquez fighting in Mexico City against Fabricio Werdum.  However, an injury to Cain allowed Mark Hunt the chance to step in and seize the title.  Hunt looked good until a well-timed knee spelled the beginning of the end for Hunt.

Werdum wins the title and will eventually get to face Cain Velasquez to unify the titles.

UFC 180

Gastelum ascends while Ellenberger descends

Kelvin Gastelum defeated Jake Ellenberger with a rear naked choke in the first round.  The win should propel the former TUF winner into the top 10 of the welterweight division while it showed the Ellenberger maybe a broken fighter.  Gastelum secured a rear-naked choke with ease as it appeared that Ellenberger did not defend his neck despite his back being taken.  The win should mean a step up in fights for Gastelum while Ellenberger is teetering on the cusp of being cut.

Attendance

Initial reports in August had UFC 180 a sell out in just 8 hours after the announcement of Velasquez-Werdum and the launch of TUF in Mexico (which drew 7 million viewers on Televisia according to Yahoo! Sports).  The announcement made post-fight had the attendance at 21,000 although no official gate was given.

Bonuses

The bonuses of $50K were given to Werdum, Gastelum, Henry Biones and Guido Cannetti.  Briones and Canetti put on the Fight of the Night.  White indicated that Ricardo Lamas would also be given a bonus although that was unofficial.

Promotion of Fight

Once again one of the main drivers of the promotion was the UFC Embedded series which followed the fighters on the main card.  It caught the best moment of the pre-fight hype with Werdum-Hunt singing together.

The UFC also did a photo op with the NBA as the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves played a game in Mexico City earlier in the week.

The UFC and Fathom Events put the event on movie screens across the country hoping that the event would gain more eyes.  Unfortunately, if we look at the tweet from Mike Bohn, it did not.

Sponsorships

The Octagon sponsors were without UltimatePoker.com, the Stations Casinos online poker site which was closed down last week.  Notably, one of the Octagon sponsors for UFC 180 was Costa Rican online gaming company, BetCris.  The sponsors included the UFC Network, UFCStore.com, UFC Fit, MateFit.me, MusclePharm, Toyo Tires, video game FarCry 4, the aforementioned BetCris and Bud Lite in the center of the Octagon.

Gastelum wore the UFC Network logo as did Werdum during pre-fight activities and but wore Bad Boy to the Octagon.

Hunt wore his own clothing brand Juggernaut on his shorts.  It’s interesting that Hunt does not have more sponsors.  You may recall he had zero as a fill-in when he fought Junior dos Santos at UFC 160.  Werdum most prominent sponsor was clothing brand Torque.

Doritos was a prominent sponsor for this event as it banked heavily on the Werdum-Velasquez matchup including producing in-store placement of 2.5 million bags with the fighter likenesses on them.  It was described as a “360 degree activation” around UFC 180.  With Cain falling out, the campaign likely fell short of its goal.

Post-UFC 180 Headline

Werdum-Velasquez should be next although White indicated that if Cain were to have another injury that forces him from action, he could be stripped of the title.

Odds and Ends

  • The WWE collaborated with the UFC during the UFC Prelims on FS1. To be exact, a 2K Sports commercial for the WWE video game, WWE2K15, infused images of the video game and UFC action.
  • The main event ended at 8:50 pm on the west coast. Only about an hour and a half of fights before the UFC showed the prelims to fill the time.
  • Bellator used the footage of Melvin Manhoef knocking out Mark Hunt from 2008 during its pre-fight hype package to put over Manhoef.
  • Jessica Eye almost took Leslie Smith’s ear off but Smith still wanted to fight.
  • Google Trends revealed that the top countries searching for UFC 180 were Mexico, Canada, Brazil and the United States in that order.
  • The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) ran a story on the Fertittas and Dana White and their ties to Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School in last week’s Sports Business Journal. It was placed “below the fold.”  Prominent placement for a rather evergreen story during UFC 180 week.
  • Chael Sonnen began his duties with ESPN as an analyst.

Conclusion

It was a good night of fights but the lack of brand-name power was one of the detracting factors about this event.  When the Werdum-Velasquez fight was initially announced and the two were TUF coaches, there was much hope that UFC 180 would be one of the bigger PPVs of this year.  Entering a new market and the quick sell out appeared to be good signs for the PPV.  But, Velasquez’s injury was a significant blow to any hopes that this PPV would do well.  Without a good undercard, the UFC was placing its hopes on Cain’s drawing power.  Based on Google Trends, we are looking at a buy rate comparable to UFC 174 or 177 which drew between115-125K PPV buys.

Ultimate Poker closes due to lack of profitability

November 15, 2014

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the Fertittas have closed down Ultimate Gaming and thereby shutter Ultimate Poker.  After 19 months, the company indicated lack of profitability for closing down its business operations.

The article stated that Stations Casinos is the majority owner of Ultimate Gaming.  Online poker revenue “fell far short of once-lofty projections,” stated Ultimate Gaming Chairman Tom Breitling in the article.  Only Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware allowed online gambling and for Ultimate Poker to accept wagers the players must be physically in the state.

UltimatePoker.com was a sponsor of the UFC.  It launched in May 2013 but with the limited amount of potential players, the once novel idea, turned to out to be a dud.

Payout Perspective:

The news of the closure comes the week before New Jersey hears oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by sports leagues (i.e., NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB) seeking a temporary injunction from passage of a law allowing the state to accept bets on sports games. Although the NBA opposes the New Jersey law, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times this week supporting legalizing and regulating sports betting.  As for the closure of Ultimate Poker, expect Zuffa to look into other ways to monetize the future of gambling.  In the meantime, it means one less UFC sponsor in the Octagon.

More future crossover promotion for Bellator-Monster Energy?

November 3, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Bellator MMA and Monster Energy may be doing more combo events together in the future.

A couple weeks ago, Bellator held fights outside a Monster Energy motorcross event at Sam Boyd Stadium.  According to a recent report, the two companies could plan more collaborations in the future.

Bellator head, Scott Coker is “on board” with another collaboration with Monster Energy.  According to the Junkie article, Coker indicated it could “commit more resources to more cross-promotional opportunities.”

Payout Perspective:

The term “sideshow” came up in the article and it comes to mind when thinking about holding a Bellator event at a motorcross event.  Notably, the fights were not televised and no known fighters participated.  Even if it is spun in terms of a “festival” atmosphere with thousands of people gravitating to a motorcross event and seeing an MMA fight, what does this do for the Bellator brand?  While collaborating with a sponsor is understandable, holding fights as a compliment to another event does not seem like the end game for Bellator.

British Judo announces UFC as title sponsor for 2015 British Open

November 3, 2014

British Judo announced that the UFC has signed on as title sponsors of the 2015 British Open Judo Championships.  The sponsorship reflects a part of a new partnership between the two organizations.

The Championships will take place at Wembley Arena on July 12th.  The UFC will secure ads on the British Judo website and social media.  The belief is that the partnership will aid both organizations.

British Judo Chief Executive, Andrew Scoular stated in a news item announcing the partnership on the British Judo website, “By partnering with such a leading martial arts brand as UFC, we will receive significant added exposure for British Judo as a core martial art and the partnership will be instrumental in raising the profile of the sport of judo, ultimately leading to increased participation for young people.”

In the same news item, Garry Cook, UFC Chief Global Brand Officer said: “The 2015 British Open Judo Championships will be a fantastic event and an important stage on which athletes can perform and promote their sport. Judo is a key component of mixed martial arts, and we are excited at the prospect of bringing together UFC fans, Judo supporters and practitioners of both sports.”

Judo has found success in its membership after the rise of Ronda Rousey.  Rousey earned an Olympic medal in Judo at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008.

(H/t:  MMA Junkie)

Payout Perspective:

We have seen Judo, USA Wrestling and Tae Kwon Do all secure sponsorship spots with the UFC at recent events.  The interest level of these disciplines, as well as jiu jitsu, can be directly attributed to the popularity of mixed martial arts and the UFC.  This latest move reflects the UFC reaching out to Judo for more visibility.  We may see the UFC reach out to other MMA disciplines in the future.

Jones eyes Reebok sponsorship

November 2, 2014

Last week, MMA Fighting reported that Jon Jones was in talks with Reebok about a potential sponsorship.  Looking to replace Nike, Jones would be the third UFC fighter sponsored by the sports apparel company.

Although the report indicated that Jones’ team was in talks with other sponsors, Reebok appeared to be one of the frontrunners to sign the UFC Light Heavyweight champion.  Jones lost his Nike sponsorship as a result of his media day melee with Daniel Cormier in August.  However, it appears that the Beaverton, Oregon company may be leaving the MMA space altogether as former Nike endorser, Anderson Silva, revealed that he no longer was with Nike.  Junior dos Santos was the only other Nike sponsor.  No word whether JDS’s deal is also done with Nike. Silva is in talks with Adidas as a replacement.

Reebok currently sponsors UFC fighters Anthony Pettis and Johny Hendricks.

Payout Perspective:

The Reebok signing may make sense especially if it becomes the official uniform of the UFC.  Jones has sported multiple mainstream sponsors including Nike and Gatorade.  Losing Nike may have been inevitable.  Despite the fight with Cormier, Jones is still a marketable fighter that will find a replacement for Nike in the near future.

Rousey signs deal with Buffalo David Bitton

October 30, 2014

Ronda Rousey has signed an endorsement deal with jeans brand Buffalo David Bitton.  Rousey was interviewed about her Manhattan photo shoot for the brand.

The photo shoot features some provocative shots with Rousey and a male model.

Rousey’s next fight against Cat Zingano has been moved from December in Vegas to February in Los Angeles.

The video of her photo shoot is here.

Payout Perspective:

The photo shoot is an extension of Rousey’s brand outside of the Octagon and reflects her mainstream popularity.  This photo shoot is a far cry from her Insureon commercials or even when she did the ESPN Body Issue.  It shows another side of Rousey as she seems to be embracing the entertainment side of her fame.

Silva signs new deal with UFC; done with Nike

October 27, 2014

Anderson Silva has signed an unprecedented 15-fight deal with the UFC according to Combate.  The Brazilian web site also reports that Silva is no longer being sponsored with Nike but is talking with Adidas about a potential sponsorship.

It’s highly unlikely that the 39 year old Silva will fulfill the 15 fights on his new contract. Silva indicated that he had 7 fights left on his previous contract before the UFC “canceled” that contract in favor of the longer term deal.  It’s clear that the deal will more likely allow Silva to work in some ambassador role for the company after he decides his time in the Octagon is done.

As for ending the relationship with Nike, it appears that the Beaverton, Oregon company may be getting out of the MMA sponsor business.  With the recent news that they severed ties with Jon Jones, we may see the end of the swoosh in the Octagon.  The potential for another Oregon-based (US HQ) company, Adidas, may be on the horizon for Silva.

Payout Perspective:

We’ll see how many more fights are in Silva before he decides to retire.  Obviously, this past weekend’s appearance showed his massive popularity among Brazilian fans and an asset for the UFC to keep around even after he’d done fighting.  As for the potential Adidas sponsorship, it will be interesting to keep an eye on as the three stripes has been creeping into the UFC sponsor game with Robbie Lawler and Luke Rockhold having signed deals this year.

Rockhold signs deal with Adidas

September 29, 2014

FighterXFashion reports that Adidas has signed on UFC fighter Luke Rockhold.  Although no terms of the sponsorship have been revealed, its anticipated that Rockhold should be repping the three stripes in preparation for his fight against Michael Bisping on November 8th.

Robbie Lawler is the only other UFC fighter to be sponsored by Adidas.

Payout Perspective:

The news of Rockhold’s deal might be seen as an expansion of Adidas’ Combat Sports Division.  The Three Stripes should translate well overseas as Rockhold’s fight against Bisping takes place

in Sydney, Australia as the main event for UFC Fight Night 55.  We’ll see if the signing means that Adidas is in the race to be the official uniform for the UFC.

UFC 178: Payout Perspective

September 29, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.   In this edition, we review UFC 178 which took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena where Demetrious Johnson took on Chris Cariaso in the main event.

Johnson outclasses Cariaso

Despite the lack of fan support (i.e., PPV buys), Demetrious Johnson can legitimately stake a claim to being the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC.  It was clear in the first minute that Johnson was the better fighter and ended Cariaso in the second round with a submission.

Johnson is getting prime placement on UFC shows and it’s the second PPV he’s headlined this year.  One should also stress the fact that Johnson has not been hurt during his title reign and is not an outside-the-Octagon problem.  So, why don’t people buy his PPVs?

UFC_178_event_poster

Cowboy welcomes Eddie to UFC

The skeet shooting and wakeboarding training regimen pre-fight aside, Donald Cerrone is an extremely good fighter.  In what was one of the more entertaining fights on the card, Cerrone defeated Eddie Alvarez.  It was the long-awaited debut for the former Bellator champ and the first round he showed why the UFC wanted to acquire his services.  Yet, Cerrone moves on looking for another fight before 2014 closes.

McGregor makes quick work of Poirier

You would have thought that this was the main event based on the crowd reactions.  The hype, trash talk and vitriol between the two (especially during any face off promoting the fight) was classic in what to do to have people interested in purchasing your fights. The Conor McGregor experience continues and likely his most impressive fight on the biggest platform so far.  McGregor easily handled Dustin Poirier in the first round.  It’s clear that McGregor is ready for a title shot after Saturday night.

Attendance and Gate

The attendance and gate announced at the post-fight press conference was 10,544 for a gate of $2.2 million.  Out of 9 PPVs this year, it ranked 7th in attendance.

Bonuses

The bonuses of $50K each were awarded to Yoel Romero-Tim Kennedy for Fight of the Night and Dominick Cruz and Conor McGregor for Performances of the Night.

Promotion of the Fight

The Embedded episodes continue to be popular as the UFC has found a formula to promote the fights digitally.  For the most part, viewers got to see Cowboy Cerrone wakeboarding and skeet shooting prior to his fight with Eddie Alvarez, Conor McGregor get a haircut, Demetrious Johnson getting a shave and Dustin Poirier at the Whole Foods at Vegas.  The one thing really missing from the embedded episode was a profile on Chris Cariaso.  The Countdown show did have a profile on Cariaso but it seemed incomplete.  Even if it was a foregone conclusion that he would likely lose (which happened), it would have been nice for them to have elevated his profile for this fight.  It seems to get better reviews than the UFC Prime Time episodes because they are short and can be viewed whenever people want to see them.

Conor McGregor did a good amount of pre-fight press.

Mighty Mouse appeared on the local Fox affiliate in Seattle last week hyping UFC 178.

Salaries

Salaries have been disclosed via MMA Junkie:

Demetrious Johnson: $183,000 (includes $54,000 win bonus)
def. Chris Cariaso: $24,000

Donald Cerrone: $126,000 (includes $63,000 win bonus)
def. Eddie Alvarez: $100,000

Conor McGregor: $150,000 (includes $75,000 win bonus)
def. Dustin Poirier: $34,000

Yoel Romero: $58,000 (includes $29,000 win bonus)
def. Tim Kennedy: $70,000

Cat Zingano: $18,000 (includes $9,000 win bonus)
def. Amanda Nunes: $15,000

Dominick Cruz: $100,000 (includes $50,000 win bonus)
def. Takeya Mizugaki: $32,000

Jorge Masvidal: $90,000 (includes $45,000 win bonus)
def. James Krause: $15,000

Stephen Thompson: $32,000 (includes $16,000 win bonus)
def. Patrick Cote: $33,000

Brian Ebersole: $42,000 (includes $21,000 win bonus)
def. John Howard: $21,000

Kevin Lee: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus)
def. Jon Tuck: $10,000

Manny Gamburyan: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus)
def. Cody Gibson: $10,000

Some notes:

Some interesting figures including Demetrious Johnson being paid like a champ (base of $129K).  The last official report of his purse was at UFC on Fox 9 where he made a base of $125K (notice a bigger bonus for that Fox event).  You might assume that June’s UFC 174 he made a base of $127K although those salaries were never officially reported.  Eddie Alvarez was paid $100K (show) for his first UFC fight.  You might recall when he was originally offered a UFC contract which precipitated the Bellator lawsuit, he was offered $70K for his first match in the UFC.  Conor McGregor is already up to $75K base.  Cat Zingano only made $9K/$9K which is only a $2K bump from her last fight in April 2013 against Miesha Tate.

Sponsors

The octagon sponsors included MusclePharm, MetroPCS, Alienware, Harley Davidson, Toyo Tires, Fram, UltimatePoker.net, Assassin’s Creed’s latest game, Matefit.me and Bud Light in the center.

Missing from the octagon was long-time sponsor, Xyience, which was purchased by another company that quickly pulled the sponsorship with the UFC.

Yoel Romero was sponsored by likeaboss.com.  I’m not sure what they do.

Cain Velasquez appeared in a promo for Harley Davidson Motorcycle’s “Hometown Throwdown.”

Mighty Mouse had his traditional sponsor of Xbox 360.  The only sponsor for Johnson, his fight banner told folks to pre-order an Xbox One.  I thought those were already available?  If you were wondering, on his recent Wrestling Observer podcast, Dave Meltzer did not know how much Johnson is receiving from Microsoft.

Cariaso was sponsored by Mountek.  Really.

Dominick Cruz was sponsored by the Phoenix International Raceway which stuck with him despite Cruz being on the shelf for a long time.  It paid off as PIR had a prominent logo on Cruz as he was demolishing Takeya Mizugaki.  He also wore the shirt in his post-fight interview.

Odds and ends

-Didn’t mention this earlier, but Cat Zingano-Amanda Nunes fight was the way to start a PPV.  Zingano has been through a lot and it appears that she will be the next for Ronda Rousey.

-MMA Fighting has backstage footage of Tim Kennedy confronting Yoel Romero about the extra time he took to get up from his stool in between rounds.

-Interesting that the UFC are rolling out different types of Bruce Lee t-shirts.  Hopefully some of the money that I suppose the estate is receiving from licensing his likeness is going toward this.

-Dominick Cruz won me over in just the 61 seconds of work.  First, his Jay Z/Cypress Hill remix entrance, Then, the plain black CRUZ sweatshirt.  Easily the best thing anyone has worn to the octagon in the history of this sport.  Finally, his “Alpha-Fails” drop is probably one of the best post-fight lines in a while.

-UFC on Fox YouTube channel has the whole 61 second Cruz return fight.

-Some argument as to whether Cruz fight should have been on PPV.  You can see it as perhaps a concession to boost FS1 ratings.  In hindsight, all of the fights on the PPV were great and hard to see replacing one.

-The good news is that the clay pigeons that Cerrone shot during that Embedded episode were not real as they were made at the same place that Floyd Mayweather got his fake weed from All Access.

-Not surprising, but according to Google Trends, Dublin and Ireland were the most interested city and country for search term “UFC 178”.

Conclusion

This was to be Jones-Gus II.  But after that was scrapped, it was Jones-Cormier.  After the Jones-Cormier media day brawl in August, one could have made the argument that UFC 178 would be the second-biggest PPV event of the year after UFC 175.  But with Jones getting injured, the need to adjust the lineup probably hurt the buy rate.  Overall, this card was very solid with every PPV fight being an entertaining one.  However, selling the Johnson-Cariaso was tough and you might infer that most of the pre-fight hype was for McGregor-Poirier. Although McGregor could be a breakout PPV star, he is not one yet.

While Google Trends saw an uptick in searches for UFC 178 from Ireland, it’s worth to note that the US was the 4th interested country for the event.  In the end, a buy rate of 300,000-325,000 seems reasonable.

Raceway continues to stick with Cruz sponsorship

September 26, 2014

MMA Junkie reports on Phoenix International Raceway and its continued sponsorship with Dominick Cruz despite his prolonged absence from the Octagon.  Cruz returns to action this Saturday at UFC 178 as the headliner of the FS1 prelims.

In the past, Cruz has served as an “Honorary Pace Car Driver” for a NASCAR event at the raceway back in 2012.  Despite the string of injuries that had kept him sidelined, the racetrack kept Cruz and its logo will appear on Cruz’s shorts Saturday.

Previously, Jon Jones, Benson Henderson and Anderson Silva have crossed lanes into NASCAR events to serve as pace car drivers and make appearances prior to races.

The raceway also announced Chuck Liddell will appear at the November 9th NASCAR event as a pace car driver.

Payout Perspective:

The continued relationship with Cruz shows patience and belief that he would return to the Octagon.  Cruz is an Arizona native so it did make sense to continue the relationship since there was a natural tie-in.  Also, Cruz has remained visible as an analyst for Fox so it was not like he had fallen off from the public view.  The raceway wants to tap into the UFC audience as it sees it sharing the same demo as MMA.

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