UFC 238 Payout Perspective

June 12, 2019

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at UFC 238 taking place at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Cejudo dispatches Moraes and becomes double champ

Henry Cejudo recovered from a shaky first round to defeat Marlon Moraes with at TKO in the third round of the main event at UFC 238 to win the vacant UFC Bantamweight title. With the win, Cejudo holds the UFC Flyweight title and the Bantamweight title.

The fight showed Cejudo’s growth and maturity of an MMA fighter. The first round saw Moraes getting worked by Moraes with leg kicks. Cejudo seemed a little tentative in the first round but pressed Moraes in rounds 2 and 3 to get the victory.

Shevchenko leg kick KOs Eye

Valentina Shevchenko showed why she is the Flyweight champion. She almost submitted Jessica Eye with a Kimura in the first round, but used a perfectly timed leg kick to the head to knock Eye out. It was a very scary couple minutes as Eye lay on the mat unconscious.

The broadcast showed how Shevchenko set Eye up for the KO with leg kicks to the body drawing Eye’s guard low. Then, instead of a kick to the body Shevchenko went to the head as Eye braced for a body blow. A perfect setup.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

The event at the United Center drew 16,038 for a gate of over $2 million.  The bonuses went to Cejudo, Shevchenko, Ferguson and Cerrone.

Prefight Hype

UFC 238’s return to Chicago saw Henry Cejudo throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game. He also showed up at a media luncheon with “bodyguards.” At the face offs during media week, Cejudo wore a costume to face off against Moraes. Shaun Al-Shatti explained it here:

Cejudo’s act may be just that to get him some publicity.  But, if he continues to improve and dominate opponents, he may be bringing a throne to his next fight face-off.

UFC Embedded was sponsored by Toyo Tires.

Sponsorships

Octagon sponsors included Toyo Tires, Motel 6, P3, Nemiroff, Modelo, Poker Stars, Devour, PariMatch, Monster, Hudson Shipping and Monster Energy in the middle.

Modelo had the fighter checkpoint.

Interestingly enough, no real signs of the UFC’s newest sponsor, Aurora Cannabis.

Despite his loss, Donald Cerrone is one of the few UFC fighters with his own Monster Energy sponsorship with

Ratings

The UFC Prelims on ESPN did its best since March scoring 964,000 viewers.  It served as a lead-in for Top Rank Boxing.  The UFC main card went up against the return of GGG on DAZN.

Odds and Ends

The Tony Ferguson-Donald Cerrone fight was everything you could have wanted until Cowboy blew his nose.  Ferguson looked sharp and if the fight have lasted longer, probably would have won a decision over Cerrone.  He should face the winner of Khabib-Dustin.

Tai Tuivasa was likely the star of the Embeddeds based on his outgoing personality.  However, he’s now lost two in a row as he lost a unanimous decision to Blagoy Ivanov.

There were some great performances on the undercards including Eddie Wineland, Calvin Kattar and Aljamain Sterling.

Sterling had a good week:

It was interesting to see Moraes get upset at a heckler at media day face offs.  It seemed over the top although you may believe that he was thrown off by it considering this was supposed to be media at the event.

Jessica Eye did not have a good start to fight week as she had problems with here airline.

The broadcast crew is using more technology in explaining a lot of the strategy and moves going on in the Octagon.  A prime example saw Daniel Cormier go step-by-step explaining how Shevchenko was able to get a clear headkick over Eye.

Is this good or bad?

UFC 238 google searches drew over 500,000 for Saturday and another 500,000 on Sunday.  Tony Ferguson had 100,000 himself on Saturday night

Conclusion

UFC 238 was a very entertaining show.  It went up against Top Rank Boxing on ESPN and the return of GGG on DAZN.   But the prelim ratings were up which may equate to a better PPV buy rate.  Reports indicate that the buys since going to ESPN+ have been lower than when on satellite and cable providers.

UFC 235 (pre-ESPN+ only PPVs):  520K-650K

UFC 236:  >100K buys

UFC 237:  ~70K buys

With that being reported, its hard to think that UFC 238 did better than UFC 236 although one might be generous and state that the buys were likely around 100,000.

Despite loss, AJ sponsor Under Armour is sticking by the boxer

June 5, 2019

According to the Baltimore Business journal, Saturday’s loss to Ruiz received more news coverage due to the upset than if Joshua would have beat the heavy underdog.

Since the event was held on digital streaming service DAZN, still photos were used for coverage by ESPN and other reports.  The Under Armour “UA” logo was prominently displayed on the front of Joshua’s trunks.  Thus, there was more exposure than usual for the event if Joshua had knocked out Ruiz as many had anticipated.

While it is debatable that the publicity may have been bad since the UA-sponsored athlete lost.  But you could also argue that many did not know that Joshua was fighting since his US debut was meant to be against an opponent that he could easily defeat.  Ruiz was a fill-in opponent when Joshua’s original matchup failed his drug test.

Under Armour is sticking with Joshua after his loss.  Attica Jacques, the senior vice president of brand management told the Baltimore Business Journal that they would “stand with AJ and look forward to supporting him in the future.”  Under Armour once sponsored Canelo Alvarez but he is now a free agent per an interview last month.

Under Armour used Joshua’s fight week as an activation for its ‘Rush’ training apparel.  Joshua was one of three athletes featured in a marketing campaign for Rush.  Stephen Curry and U.S. women’s national team member Kelley O’Hara are the others.  Curry is currently in the NBA Finals and O’Hara and the U.S. National Team begin World Cup action this month.

Joshua was a part of a documentary on his training with the new ‘Rush’ training material showing behind-the-scenes training in lead-up to Saturday’s fight.  UA also created ring boots for Joshua to wear during his fight.  There was also social media promoting the UA brand.

While the loss may have hurt Joshua momentarily, UA is sticking by him for the long run.  UA says that activations were “extremely successful throughout fight week.”  It’s unlikely that the surprise loss will harm the marketing campaign for the new training apparel, but it may have hoped a win would propel the brand for future marketing campaigns.

Ruiz camp in talks with Snickers about sponsorship after Joshua upset

June 4, 2019

The Sports Business Daily (via NY Post) reports that Andy Ruiz, Jr. is in talks with Snickers about a potential sponsorship deal for the newly crowned heavyweight champion.  Ruiz stated his penchant for snacking on Snickers before big fights and the legend grew after his upset victory against Anthony Joshua Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

According to the article in the New York Post, Ruiz’s manager has had “semiformal discussions” with Mars, Incorporated, the McLean, Virginia headquartered company that owns Snickers.

A lot has been discussed about Ruiz’s body-type  since his upset of the taller, Adonis-figured Joshua.

Payout Perspective:

It’s not my money, but taking advantage of one of the bigger upsets in boxing in recent history would be worth the sponsorship dollars for Snickers.  If nothing else, Ruiz could have a new sponsor prior to his next fight which could be a rematch with Joshua.  If so, you would think that more people would be tuning into the rematch to see if Ruiz could duplicate his efforts yet again or if it was just a fluke.  This would be great marketing for the candy bar company and maybe draw up some notoriety with Ruiz.

Report: UFC-CBD sponsor deal for 5 years at $15M per year

May 30, 2019

The Sports Business Journal reports that the UFC’s recent sponsorship deal with Aurora Cannabis is for 5 years and $15 million per.  The report is based on a source obtained through the SBJ.

CBD products are formulated from the non-psychoactive chemical in marijuana plants.  Nate Diaz was seen at his last post-fight with a vape pen stating he was using CBD.

With little fanfare, the CBD company inked a sponsorship deal with the UFC last week.  It has yet to be announced by the company formally although the SBJ article notes that an industry source says the deal is worth 5 years at an annual average of $15 million.  The UFC’s senior vice president of global partnerships, Paul Asencio, did not confirm or deny the report.  Asencio said that the deal took less than 3 months to complete and that the UFC had meetings with “five or six other CBD companies.”

UFC fighters have been promoting CBD products for a while now on podcasts and other venues as the industry is booming.  The SBJ article reported on the rise of CBD sponsorships and how some believe it is the next big industry.

The deal with Aurora Cannabis includes octagon placement and content rights and is one of the UFC’s five largest sponsorships.

Payout Perspective:

The report is not surprising given the rise of the industry and the fact that several states have fully legalized marijuana.  The UFC has been active in its signing of sponsors to its various exclusive categories.  It has always been an early adapter and with the ownership change it has made moves to sign a vodka sponsor, hard liquor sponsor and more.  With scooping up a CBD sponsor seemed natural.

UFC signs multiyear sponsorship deal with Aurora Cannabis

May 21, 2019

Sports Business Daily reports that the UFC has signed a multiyear sponsorship deal with Aurora Cannabis of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

As part of the deal, the parties will pledge fund research on “CBD products and athlete wellness and recovery, with a view to accelerating CBD product development and education.”

The sponsorship will become visible next month at UFC 238 in June.

According to a report from Forbes.com, CBD sales in the U.S. will surpass $20 billion by 2024.

Payout Perspective:

It seems like every fighter on a major MMA podcast pedaled some CBD company and the UFC finally came aboard.  As a growing industry, it is clear that the UFC wanted to take advantage.  As for the research it will do, one may only suggest that it will look into how it will help athletes without altering its current anti-doping policy.  The deal also shows the continued expansion of the UFC sponsorship portfolio as it is signing up more deals for otherwise untapped industries.

Monster Energy drops Dillashaw

May 9, 2019

Monster Energy has cut ties with former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw as the energy drink company is no longer a sponsor of the fighter.

Ariel Helwani first reported the business decision by the Orange County-based company.  Dillashaw is serving a two-year suspension from the UFC after USADA tests discovered EPO in drug tests.  Dillashaw did not appeal the ruling and in an Instagram post expressed regret for his mistake.

Monster Energy, a UFC sponsor, also has individual deals with several UFC and Bellator fighters including Jon Jones, Donald Cerrone, Joe Schilling and Rory MacDonald.

Payout Perspective:

Despite Jones’ past issues with USADA, Monster has not flinched with its support of Jones.  Of course, Dillashaw was found guilty of using EPO which many consider is worse than Jones’ past USADA indiscretions.  The business move makes sense considering Dillashaw’s brand needs some repair and time away from the spotlight may rehabilitate him.  So, it would make no sense for Monster Energy to continue to sponsor a fighter on the sidelines.

PFL and iHeartMedia announce new partnership deal

May 3, 2019

The Professional Fighters League and iHeartMedia announced a marketing and content partnership deal “designed to promote fight events and enhance the fan experience through the fusion of music and MMA.”

The PFL begins its second season in its “sport-season format” of Regular Season, Playoffs and Championships next week. iHeartMedia touts itself as the “umber one audio company in the United States with subscription-based (and free) options for users to listen to live broadcast stations across the nation.

Via press release:

iHeartMedia on-air hosts and talent will make appearances at select events, kicking off with New York’s Hip Hop and R&B station Power 105.1’s DJ Suss-One spinning live at the first event of the PFL 2019 Season May 9 at Nassau Coliseum. Promotional opportunities continue with DJ Envy of The Breakfast Club, the popular morning show syndicated on Hip-Hop and R&B stations nationwide, to drive tune-in for the events.

The partnership also includes creating music experiences in connection with each fight night and providing fans with access to PFL “in the life” fighter interviews. Fans will gain insight into what happens behind-the-scenes during fight week through the lens of iHeart and PFL influencers. Promotional contests will run across iHeartMedia stations throughout the country and on iHeartRadio, the all-in-one digital live streaming radio service.

Payout Perspective:

The partnership looks to help the in-arena experience while infusing music into the PFL programming. One has to believe that this partnership was aided by PFL’s new platform on ESPN. How this helps each side? We will see.

UFC 236: Payout Perspective

April 15, 2019

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  In this edition, we take a look at UFC 236 which took place at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia where fans were witness to two of the best championship fights in recent history.

Poirier earns lightweight title with win over Holloway

Dustin Poirier was too big for Max Holloway and it was clear that his power overwhelmed the 145-pound titleholder.  Poirier hurt Holloway several times in the first round and despite the featherweight champion’s heart, could not fight his way back into the match.

“Paid in full,” was the mantra Poirier proclaimed about his win.  Poirier had made his way back from losses to Conor McGregor and Michael Johnson on his journey to the championship.  He finally got his chance and now has a chance to unify the titles against Khabib Nurmogomedov in what is rumored to be September in Abu Dhabi.

Holloway will be influenced to return to his Featherweight division and the UFC is likely hoping that Alexander Volkanovski can defeat Jose Aldo next month to secure a date between the two for the 145 title.

Adesanya takes middleweight title from Gastelum

In what was a back and forth fight (and likely 2-2 going into the last round) Israel Adesanya defeated Kelvin Gastelum to win the interim welterweight title and a shot at to unify the middleweight title with a showdown against Robert Whittaker sometime in the future in likely a big stadium on the continent of Australia.

There was a point during the fight that Gastelum had Adesanya hurt on his feet but instead of trying to finish him, Kelvin went for the takedown.  One can only assume that Gastelum was tired himself and could not continue on his feet.

But Adesanya poured it on in the 5th round to earn the victory.  One may argue that the ref could have stopped the fight in the final seconds of the fight.  Clearly, Gastelum was in no shape to continue but had the heart to finish.

Attendance, Gate and Bonuses

It was the first time that the UFC awarded two Fight of the Nights with the main and co-main events drawing the $50,000 bonuses.  There were no Performance Bonuses due to the dual FOTNs.

The attendance and gate for UFC 236 did not break records for UFC events at the Philips Arena but it definitely drew a lot of people for this event.  The event drew 14,297 for a gate of $1,908,721.

Past Atlanta, GA UFC PPV events:

UFC 88 (9/06/2008) Evans-Liddell: 14,736 for a gate of $2.6M

UFC 145 (04/14/2012) Jones-Evans: 15,545 for a gate of $2.2M

Payouts

Israel Adesanya and Max Holloway made $350,000 each for their respective fights.  All of the salaries are compiled here.

Promotional Guideline Payouts (compiled via MMA Junkie)

Dustin Poirier: $30,000
def. Max Holloway: $40,000

Israel Adesanya: $30,000
def. Kelvin Gastelum: $30,000

Khalil Rountree: $5,000
def. Eryk Anders: $5,000

Dwight Grant: $3,500
def. Alan Jouban: $10,000

Nikita Krylov: $10,000
def. Ovince Saint Preux: $20,000

 Matt Frevola: $3,500
def. Jalin Turner: $3,500

 Alexandre Pantoja: $5,000
def. Wilson Reis: $10,000

 Zelim Imadaev: $3,500
def. Max Griffin: $5,000

 Khalid Taha: $3,500
def. Boston Salmon: $3,500

 Belal Muhammad: $5,000
def. Curtis Millender: $4,000

 Andre Soukhamthath: $5,000
def. Montel Jackson: $3,500

 Poliana Botelho: $4,000
def. Lauren Mueller: $3,500

 Brandon Davis: $4,000
def. Randy Costa: $3,500

Sponsorships

For the first time, the UFC released a photo of the Octagon match which featured its core sponsors as well as the Cinemax series Warrior.  In addition, in the Octagon was Pari-Match, the international sports betting site sponsor of the UFC.  Also, convenience store RaceTrac shared space on the Octagon with Monster Energy.

The sponsors on the mat were as follows:

Monster Energy: Official Energy Drink of UFC

Modelo: Official Beer of UFC

P3: Official Protein Snack of UFC

Devour: Official Frozen Food of UFC

Nemiroff: Official Vodka of UFC

BODYARMOR: Official Sports Drink of UFC

Warrior: The new original series from Cinemax, premiering April 5

Poker Stars: Official Gaming and Poker partner of UFC

UFC 236 takes place in Atlanta, Georgia at the State Farm Arena.

UFC partner, Heed, offered data on the strikes of UFC competitors via sensors in the gloves of fighters. This was explained during a part of episode 3 of UFC Embedded.

The Embedded events were sponsored by the video game Fallout 76.

Odds and ends

It was the first time that ESPN+ became the sole PPV provider in the U.S.  and it came with headaches for many that decided to make the PPV purchase last minute.  Many were directed to a page that indicated they could not purchase the PPV.  Dana White acknowledged the issues and promised that it would be better by the next PPV.  Another critique of the UFC PPV.  No rewind.  Also, if you missed a portion of the PPV, you could not immediately turn back to the beginning.  Instead you had to wait for the full replay to be uploaded on the web site.  Finally, one last critique is that ESPN + was noncommittal about how long you could view a broadcast after purchase.

ESPN ratings for the Prelims were yet to be released at the time of this post but one might them to be north of 1 million viewers.

Kelvin Gastelum actually took off his fight shorts in his hurried rush to take off his sweats for the Octagon and had to put them back on before entering the Octagon.

With the main and co-main event being so good, there were some outstanding performances that did not receive the official bonuses.  This includes Brandon Davis, Khalid Taha, Nikita Krylov and a revamped Khalil Rountree.

From December, Max Holloway has his own Reebok, “It is what it is, headband.”

Shaq was a notable attendee at UFC 236 as he was shown in the crowd during the PPV.

There were over 1 million google searches for UFC 236 although the number may be misleading as some of these numbers are likely due to the inability to order the PPV.

The UFC marketed the co-main and main event with a Game of Thrones-inspired theme with the popular HBO series returning.

Rich Franklin was announced as heading to the UFC Hall of Fame this July.

Conclusion

We would normally give a buy estimate for this PPV but it’s highly unlikely that ESPN releases any numbers related to the buy rate of UFC 236.  If one had to give an educated guess, I would suggest that despite the buy problems for many fans, it still draws 425,000 PPV buys which is very good.  Adesanya is a rising star in the company and Poirier will get more notoriety as he should face Khabib this fall.

UFC releases photo of sponsors on the canvas for 236

April 12, 2019

The UFC has released a photo of the canvas for UFC 236 on Saturday.  Buffalo Wild Wings is the only non-Official UFC sponsor on the Octagon mat.

Per the UFC release:

Monster Energy: Official Energy Drink of UFC

Modelo: Official Beer of UFC

P3: Official Protein Snack of UFC

Devour: Official Frozen Food of UFC

Nemiroff: Official Vodka of UFC

BODYARMOR: Official Sports Drink of UFC

Warrior: The new original series from Cinemax, premiering April 5

Poker Stars: Official Gaming and Poker partner of UFC

UFC 236 takes place in Atlanta, Georgia at the State Farm Arena.

Payout Perspective:

It is Devour’s first time as a sponsor for a UFC PPV.  Also, Buffalo Wild Wings gets a slot on the mat.  One would expect similar signage on the posts of the cage which may include Monster Energy sharing a post with a convenience store.  The release of the sponsors pre-PPV is a new thing by the UFC and it seems like another way to help support its sponsors.

PFL secures global partnership with Anheuser Busch In Bev’s Estrella Jalisco

March 13, 2019

The Professional Fighters’ League announced a multi-year global partnership with Anheuser Busch In-Bev’s Estrella Jalisco brand. It will be the Exclusive Beer Partner of the PFL.

Via PFL press release:

As the Official Beer of the PFL, Estrella Jalisco has global rights to use PFL logos and “Official Partner” branding for advertising and promotional usage, including pass-through branding rights for promotions with on-premise and retail channel partners. ABI and the league will also collaborate on exclusive content across digital platforms.

Estrella Jalisco logos will be featured in and around the cage and on signage in and around the arenas. PFL regular season action returns to New York and New Jersey, with mini residencies for PFL 1-3 at NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, and PFL 4-6 at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. This season, the PFL will be introducing the PFL Cageside Club, a new VIP floor level experience for fans, which will prominently feature the Mexican beer.

Payout Perspective:

Interesting sponsorship development when you consider that the UFC and Modelo forged a deal for it to be a sponsor for the promotion.  Anheuser-Busch In Bev is the parent company of Modelo.  Thus, the company’s beers will be seen on ESPN through the two MMA promotions.  The partnership with the PFL was likely secured with the ESPN deal.

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