Payout Perspective: UFC debuts on ESPN

January 22, 2019

Welcome to a special edition of Payout Perspective.  We take a look at the UFC’s debut on ESPN and ESPN+ this past Saturday at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Cejudo KOs TJ in R1

Henry Cejudo may have saved the UFC Flyweight Division as he knocked out T.J. Dillashaw to retain his flyweight title.  Cejudo stunned Dillashaw with unassuming punch which knocked the bantamweight down. From there, Cejudo swarmed Dillashaw and the ref stepped in.

From first look, I thought that this was a quick stoppage as they usually allow a little more action for the fighter to recover in championship matches.  But after watching again, with less than a minute gone by in the round there was no way that Dillashaw could have held on and/or recovered.

Cejudo becomes the first champ to receive the new (and maybe controversial) UFC redesigned belt.  He also received props form Nikki Bella which may have been the biggest payoff. While Joseph Benavidez may be the next in light in the flyweight division, its clear that Cejudo would like to take this momentum and challenge Dillashaw for his 135 pound title.  One would think that Dillashaw will want a rematch as he claimed that the stoppage was too soon.

Hardy DQ’d in UFC debut

It was a controversial decision to have Greg Hardy fight on the ESPN debut.  It drew even more raised eyebrows when the UFC put him in the co-main event of the evening especially when you had Paige Van Zant and Donald Cerrone and Alexander Hernandez on the card as well.  Yet, Hardy faced Allen Crowder in a Heavyweight matchup.

While the imposing Hardy may have intimidated on the regional scene, it was Crowder that taunted the former football player.  But it was a knee to the head of a grounded opponent which, as Daniel Cormier described was “very illegal.”  There was no way for Crowder to continue after the knee and it was a disqualification.

Inauspicious debut for Hardy although the UFC does see something in him.  He is still a controversial figure considering his lack of contrition for his past domestic violence past.  We shall how the UFC books him in the future.  One thinks he will be a “Fight Night” athlete until he gets some more seasoning.

Attendance, Gate and Bonuses

The Barclay’s Center drew 12,152 fans for a gate of $1.23 million.  The last big UFC event at the Barclay’s Center was UFC 223 in April which drew 17,026 for a 3 million gate. Prior to that, UFC 208 in February 2017 which drew 15,628 for a gate of 2.275 million.

In comparison, the UFC’s debut on FS1 on August 21, 2013 drew 12,539 for a gate of $1.53 million at the TD Garden in Boston.  The main event was Chael Sonnen as he submitted Shogun Rua.

Pre-Fight Promotion

Having ESPN as a television partner dramatically increased the marketing and promotion of the event.  The UFC Countdown show for UFC 232 aired on ESPN and starting at the beginning of January you saw the UFC creeping into the network.  The fight library entered the digital platform for ESPN and during Fight Week there was a plethora of fights airing on ESPN2 and other networks.

Dana White did the ESPN car wash and was also on the Jimmy Kimmel Show among other outlets for the event.  ESPN+ also had a very good (if you could find it) shoulder programming featuring Dillashaw and Cejudo.

It was interesting that the criticism of having Greg Hardy and Rachael Ostovich died day during Fight Week.  This could be in part due to ESPN controlling the narrative and the airwaves and the casual ESPN media person not knowing much about the sport.  ESPN Outside the Lines did do a piece on Hardy but outside of that, there was not much else.

Sponsorships

The sponsors in the Octagon included Monster Energy sharing a post with Fastrac, Modelo, Toyo Tires, Nemiroff, Blackheart and Monster had the center of the Octagon.  ESPN+ was visible with signage in the Octagon as well.

UFC sponsor Van Heusen secured signage in the area where the corner stands outside the Octagon.  A new place for sponsors.

The prep point was given a new name and was sponsored by P3,

Also, Body Armor had all the water bottles and corner stools.

Paige Van Zant, who was dropped by Reebok prior to her fight on Saturday, picked up a new sponsor with Liv Body.

Odds and ends

Steven A. Smith on the broadcast was cringeworthy but he was not an embarrassment.  He relied on Michael Bisping and Daniel Cormier to do a bulk of the legwork when discussing the fight.  In addition, I thought Trevor Wittman did well as an “expert” chiming in on fight strategy, etc.

The pacing could have been better but it was on par with what the UFC did on Fox.  Notably, there were commercials on ESPN+.

It could have been a little confusing for fans that had to switch from the digital platform to see the early prelims, then watch the prelims on ESPN and then tune back on plus to get the main card.  Hopefully, they will avoid doing this in the future.

We’ll get to see the ratings for this event in the next day or so, although I would think it had to do well over 1 million viewers.

The lead-in to the ESPN portion of the Prelims started 12-15 minutes late.  Fortunately, the college game featured Duke-Virgina, a battle of two of the top 5 teams in the nation.  There was also an early NBA game on ABC which promoted the UFC card too.

The UFC had over 1 million google searches on Saturday which came in second to Chiefs with over 5 million which related to the Kansas City-New England game.  Greg Hardy and Paige Van Zant had over 200,000 searches.  Donald Cerrone had over 100,000.

UFC announces Motel 6 at “Official Economy Lodging Partner”

January 14, 2019

The UFC officially announced that Motel 6 as the “Official Economy Lodging Partner” of the UFC on Monday. The company logo visible in the Octagon at UFC events.

According to the UFC press release:

UFC®, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, today announced a new integrated marketing partnership with Motel 6, the leading economy lodging provider with more than 1,430 owned and franchised hotels across the United States and Canada.

Under the terms of the agreement, Motel 6 becomes UFC’s first-ever “Official Economy Lodging Partner,” creating a new sponsorship category for the MMA promotion. In return, Motel 6 will have a branded presence inside UFC’s world-famous Octagon® for select UFC events, including several Pay-Per-Views and a variety of ESPN and ESPN+ telecasts.

“We’re excited to join with Motel 6 to create a new partnership category for UFC,” said Paul Asencio, UFC Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships. “This new agreement strengthens our relationship with Motel 6 and allows our respective brands to work together to grow our customers in key markets.”

UFC and Motel 6 have partnered on several UFC events since November 2017.

Elevating our partnership with the UFC will enhance the visibility of the Motel 6 brand across a diverse, multi-channel sports platform,” said Lance Miceli, Chief Revenue Officer at G6 Hospitality, owner and franchisor of the Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands. “We’re excited for the activation opportunities to increase engagement among our guest population and UFC’s substantial fan base.”

Additional partnership activations will include in-venue commercials, branded integrations in select UFC Pay-Per-Views and collaborations on digital and social media campaigns. Motel 6 will also have a branded presence at several UFC Fan Experience activations in the U.S.

Payout Perspective:

The wording of the partnership keeps open the potential to have an “Official Hotel Partner” of the UFC in addition to Motel 6. The timing of the announcement makes sense since the UFC debuts on ESPN+ and UFC programming has been flooding ESPN’s networks of late. It is also another sponsorship secured under the new regime of Endeavor (WME-IMG).

UFC 232 Payout Perspective

January 2, 2019

Welcome to another edition of UFC Payout Perspective.  This time around we take a look at UFC 232 which took place at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

Jones tops Gus, calls for DC

Inside the Octagon, Jon Jones showed why you may consider him one of the best of all-time.  He thoroughly dominated Alexander Gustafsson and ended the fight by imposing his will on Gus, taking his back and reigning punches down on him to force the stoppage.

However, its outside the Octagon controversy and drama which makes people wince when they hear Jon Jones and USADA.  Moreover, the outright falsehoods and mistruths spewed by the people in control of the promotion makes you want to take a shower to clean off the grime of their words.

Jones made it clear he wants Daniel Cormier and it seems like the most logical fight to make.  While Anthony Smith and Corey Anderson made their overtures to the Champ, it’s clear that Cormier would be the fight that would draw most interest.

Nunes stops Cyborg, becomes double Champ

Amanda Nunes has now stopped, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg.  The latter two Nunes stopped in the first round in impressive fashion.  Perhaps the KO of Cyborg was more impressive considering she had not lost since 2005.  Nunes used her superior speed to stun her with some big shots.

Nunes is now the Women’s Featherweight and Bantamweight champions.  The question is how it will market Nunes.  A lot of online debate took place over why the UFC has not marketed Nunes in the past.  It’s clear that she is the best women’s UFC athlete of all time despite the mainstream notoriety of Ronda Rousey and the dominance of Cris Cyborg.  It seemed as though the demolition of Cyborg validated UFC’s greatness.  Cyborg was the once-feared women’s MMA fighter that was too big and skilled for most women.  But, Nunes’ speed, accuracy and punching power proved too much for Cyborg.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

Despite the short notice, the event was a sell out with 15,862 for a gate of over $2 million.  To be specific, the gate was $2,066,604.  The Fight of the Night went to Chad Mendes and Alexander Volkanovski.  The Performance Bonuses went to Ryan Hall and Amanda Nunes.

The event was moved earlier this week from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to The Forum in Inglewood, California for Jon Jones.

Notably, UFC 199 drew 15,587 for a live gate of $2,1687,675 in June 2016.  The fight featured last minute replacement Michael Bisping winning the middleweight title from Luke Rockhold.

Lance Pugmire indicated that his sources said that the attendance would be soft.  But that was not the case.  Let’s read these tweets as this occurred within 30 minutes.

Next tweet from Lance in which the UFC gets to him.

There was also this…

And then after the event…

Payouts

There were 10 fighters that grossed over six figures for UFC 232.  It was topped by the headliners splitting $1M a piece.  $500K for Gus and $500K for Jones for those that were unaware.

Of those clearing six figures, Andre Arlovski ($300,000), BJ Penn ($150K) and Carlos Condit ($115K) are well-paid fighters that aren’t living up to their pay scale at this time.  Chad Mendes, who just came back from a USADA ban, made $87K plus $50K for Fight of the Night.  But then stated he would retire.

Sponsorships

Perhaps the most noticeable for UFC 232 was a new “cryptocurrency sponsor” Litecoin.

Also, of note PokerStars continued its sponsorship and it appears it will be the official fight odds for the UFC.  Pari Match, an overseas book for the UFC, was also present in the Octagon.

There were a lot of sponsors in the Octagon for this end of the year event.  They included Monster and convenience store AM/PM sharing a post.  Another post included Pari Mutual, Toyo Tires, TriFecta Nutrition, Nemiroff Vodka, EA’s UFC3 video game, Modelo, Metro PCS, P3, Air Asia, Pari Match, Harley Davidson, Poker Stars, the movie “Happy Death Day 2U,” and Monster had the center.

It was announced that TriFecta Nutrition would be used in helping athletes with its nutrition.  P3 also appeared on the fighter shorts.

Nemiroff is spending a lot on its UFC sponsorship from the outset.

Cyborg signed an individual deal with Monster Energy.  Jon Jones also was sponsored by Monster Energy.

It was interesting to note that Amanda Nunes had to place tape over her headphones (likely Beats) because the UFC has Monster Headphones as its sponsor.

Ratings

The UFC Weigh-Ins drew 123,000 viewers on FS1.  The UFC Countdown Show on ESPN2 Friday drew 99,000 viewers.

The UFC Pre-fight show on FS1 drew 198,000 viewers according to Nielsen (via ShowBuzz)

The UFC Prelims scored just its second rating over 1 million when the UFC 232 Prelims drew 1.148 million viewers.

The UFC Post Fight Show on FS1 drew 227,000 viewers.

Odds and ends

$6 Million.  The amount that Dana White claims the UFC spent to switch the event from Las Vegas to Inglewood, California.  One has to wonder when they put a deposit on the building.  Or, does the UFC have a practice of securing other sites just in case.

As the UFC begins its partnership with ESPN, the Worldwide Leader aired the UFC 232 Countdown show on ESPN2.

With Carlos Condit taking on Michael Chiesa, I noticed that both fighters had cats on their right oblique.  Chiesa had some new ink with a Tiger and Condit has had his lion on his side for some time.

UFC announced a lot of original and new content for UFC Fight Pass in 2019.  This includes a gambling show which will be interesting to see how that goes.

Notably, Chuck Liddell was in attendance at UFC 232.  White had revealed Liddell’s pay in a Kevin Iole article earlier in the month, but I guess there is no hard feelings when you are comped tickets.

Anyone else notice that Conor McGregor’s Proper Twelve Whiskey was a sponsor and ran commercial during the PFL’s Championships on New Year’s Eve.

Cris Cyborg was a champion in defeat as you can see with the troll job of Ronda Rousey. She took the KO in stride and congratulated Nunes for her victory.

The UFC announced its events for the second quarter of 2019 and there’s a lot of them.  Most on ESPN+

There were over 2 million google searches on Saturday night for UFC 232 which was behind Alabama vs Oklahoma in North America.  Jon Jones vs. Gustafsson drew 200,000 searches the same night.  Cat Zingano had an additional 100,000 searches likely due to the toe poke she received.

Conclusion

It was a strong ending for the UFC on FS1 with over 1 million viewers and the google searches on Saturday looks as though there was above average interest in the event.  Whether it was due to Jon Jones’ issues or the title fights, UFC 232 probably made out well even though the last minute change of venue really hurt fans.  I would expect a buy rate of between 350-375K total buys including traditional and digital.

 

 

Reebok parts ways with PVZ

January 2, 2019

With ESPN’s first UFC event happening on January 19th, one of its headliners made the announcement that Reebok has decided not to renew her contract with the company.

Paige VanZant makes her return to the Octagon at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn on Saturday January 19th against Rachael Ostovich.  But she announced on her Instagram that the Official Clothier of the UFC has decided not to renew her individual sponsorship.

PVZ was one of the few UFC athletes to receive an individual sponsorship in December 2014.  But it appears that the 4-year contract came and went without a renewal.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Paige VanZant (@paigevanzant) on

Payout Perspective:

Despite being out of action since January, the decision for Reebok not to renew her deal seems curious considering she has been popular in promoting the brand and the UFC.  It might be that Reebok is deciding to go another way with sponsorships or they just didn’t see PVZ adding value to their brand.

UFC gets a Cryptocurrency sponsor

December 27, 2018

The UFC is getting an “Official Cryptocurrency Partner” for UFC 232 as Litecoin announced on its website that it has signed a sponsorship deal to appear in the Octagon at UFC 232: Jones Gustaffson 2 at the Forum in Inglewood, California. It is the first deal of its kind for the UFC.

According to its web site announcement, “We view this sponsorship as the first step to what will hopefully be a long and fruitful relationship with UFC.  We look forward to the possibility of doing some amazing things with this incredible organization.”

The Litecoin Foundation is a non-profit organization registered in Singapore.

Cryptocurrency is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses strong cryptography to secure financial transactions, control the creation of additional units and verify the transfer of assets.

In a bit of irony, the New York Times ran an article on Thursday discussing the depletion of cryptocurrency.  Notably, the article states that Litecoin was worth $366 a coin last year.  It’s now $30.

Payout Perspective:

The deal seems like a “one off” where the company hopes to get some publicity for sponsoring this event.  But, with the decline of cryptocurrency in general, I’m not sure how long it can sustain this type of media buy.  While it may capture the young demo, I don’t know how many people it can convert to its product.  It would be interesting to hear the plan for activation with the UFC.

Monster Energy renews sponsor deal with Bellator

November 16, 2018

Monster Energy will remain in the Bellator cage as the promotion announced a new three-year-deal per company release on Friday.  The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Via Bellator press release:

The partnership with Monster Energy has been an important component of our business since day one,” said Bellator President Scott Coker. “They have played a factor in our success and we are thrilled to announce this new three-year extension. The hard work and passion that Hans Molenkamp and the rest of their team have for this sport is unmatched. We look forward to new and exciting opportunities for our brand, fighters and fans that this continued relationship brings to the table.”

Beginning in 2014, Bellator became the first MMA promotion to partner with Monster Energy, which paved the way in creating numerous future sponsorship opportunities throughout the combat sports landscape. Since that time, many of MMA’s most memorable events and elite athletes have been supported by the industry-leading energy drink brand.

“Bellator delivers compelling, high-action, adrenaline-pumping MMA events worldwide,” added Monster Energy Vice President of Sports Marketing Mitch Covington. “We are thrilled to continue our longtime partnership and look forward to evolving our relationship even further, allowing us to further integrate the Monster Energy and Bellator brands.”

Over the years, Monster Energy and Bellator have worked together to host unique and creative activations for fans. Previously, Monster Energy Bellator MMA fight series events have been held during Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Monster Energy Supercross races. Drawing thousands in attendance to experience live MMA bouts and fighter autograph signings, these events are expected to continue and evolve under the new partnership.

In addition to Bellator, Monster is a sponsor in the UFC octagon and has forged individual deals with several UFC athletes.

(photo via Bellator press release)

Payout Perspective:

SoCal-based Monster is a big sponsor within extreme sports and MMA as it caters to the young, active demo.  With a new digital deal on DAZN for Bellator, Monster will get another source of visibility.  Not to mention it is heavily involved the UFC which solidifies itself as the energy drink brand in MMA.

UFC 230: Payout Perspective

November 7, 2018

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time around we take a look at UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden where Daniel Cormier took care of Derrick Lewis.

Double Champ takes care of Derrick Lewis

Daniel Cormier made easy work of Derrick Lewis using wrestling to negate Lewis’ KO power. DC easily tapped out Lewis in the 2nd round.

DC now sets his sights on Brock Lesnar with just one fight left on his contract.  However, you’d have to think that if Jon Jones pops up on the radar, that will be a fight to make.

As for Lewis, I would suspect he take some time off before getting back in the Octagon.  Two fights within a month is hard for any MMA fighter including a heavyweight like Lewis.

Jacare KOs Chris Weidman

Jacare Souza is a superior grappler, yet showed some flashy hands and dropped Chris Weidman in the final round.  The fight went back and forth and won Fight of the Night.  But Souza showed some strong combinations which stunned Weidman throughout the course of the fight and one to the former champ’s temple which put him down for good.

After this fight, Souza should be on the short list of fighters awaiting the winner of the Kelvin Gastelum-Robert Whittaker fight and perhaps he finally gets his title shot.

Attendance, gate and bonuses

UFC 230 drew 18,201 for a gate of $2,8471,718.16.  The bonuses of the night went to Chris Weidman and Jacare Souza for Fight of the Night and Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier for Performances of the Night. Each earned $50,000 bonuses.

According to secondary ticket seller SeatGeek, it was the second highest ticket for a UFC New York event outside of UFC 205.

Promotion of the Fight

Daniel Cormier joined the FOX NFL crew during halftime of Thursday night’s Raiders-49ers game to promote UFC 230.

He also did the intro on Fox Sports for his Saints.

Cormier did a lot of media.  He appeared on the Complex YouTube channel and played Connect 4 with Tony Mui.

As seen on Embedded, Derrick Lewis did a promotion at a Houston Rocket’s game and even sank a free throw to win money for his charity.

Sponsorships

The big sponsorship news for UFC 230 was the fast food wars that took over as DC and Lewis previously sparred over Popeyes Chicken.  The southern-based chicken restaurant forged a deal with Lewis.  In response, Carl’s Jr. came to the double champ’s corner.  It was an example of how sponsorships can happen organically.  Obviously, this may not happen for every UFC fighter but due to the visibility of the event and the social media followers for each, a sponsor’s deal became viable.

Embedded was sponsored by Air Force Reserves.

Motel 6 was also a sponsor of the co-main event.

Chris Weidman had a Monster patch on his walkout shirt and shorts which may indicate he has an individual sponsor with the company.

In addition, Cormier drew individual sponsor deals with Monster Energy Drinks and Nemiroff Vodka.

Inside the Octagon, Nemiroff Vodka, Modelo, Hospital for Special Surgery, Toyo Tires, the video game EA UFC 3, Metro PCS, Monster and convenience store Circle K shared an Octagon corner, Body Armor, P3 and Monster Energy had the center of the Octagon.

Modelo had the Fighter Prep Point.

Modelo also introduced its “Fighting Spirit” award of sorts to Daniel Cormier.

P3 had sponsorship space on the shoulder of the fighter’s walkout shirt.

EA UFC 3 was featured once again in pre-fight promos.

Toyo Tires also sponsored the Backstage Interviews.  This one included Megan Olivi speaking with Daniel Cormier.

Ratings

UFC PPV Prelims on FS1: 205,000

UFC Prelims: 635,000

UFC PPV Post-Fight Show on FS1: 188,000

Odds and ends

UFC 230 drew over 1 million searches which is above average and bodes well for the PPV buys.

Paul Felder did an excellent job as color commentator along with Joe Rogan and Jon Anik on the PPV.

The Last Stylebender has one of the best nicknames in the MMA game and is someone to watch.

Outside of the octagon, Ben Askren was the darling of UFC 230.

Notice that the gloves have the 25th anniversary logo on them instead of the usual UFC logo.

Lando Vannata-Matt Frevola draw should have won the FOTN honors.

The Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier rivalry remains alive despite the fact both sides say its over.

Conclusion

I was surprised by the amount of promotion for this event.  Granted, it was the UFC’s annual November show at MSG, but the main event did not look all too competitive on paper.  The event did have some good exposure with Cormier on Thursday Night Football’s halftime and the fast food wars with Derrick Lewis.  I would think this event does above average for a UFC PPV. One might expect a buy rate in the 375K-400K range.

Carl’s Jr. backs Champ Champ after Popeyes sides with Lewis before UFC 230

November 2, 2018

Less than 24 hours after Derrick Lewis secured Popeyes Chicken as a sponsor, Daniel Cormier has retained Carl’s Jr. in a sponsorship deal per the company’s twitter.

The SoCal Company with restaurants all over the country (except Seattle) changed the name of its twitter account to “Carl’s Jr/Daniel Cormier fan account” for the occasion.  Very active on twitter with mostly off-the-cuff humor, Carl’s Jr. entered the UFC world of promotion. It had a campaign with Ronda Rousey in 2015.

Similar to Popeyes offer for free chicken in Texas if Lewis wins Saturday night, Cormier announced that he’d be passing out free burgers when he defeats the Black Beast.

In addition, it appears that Cormier has an individual deal with official UFC sponsor Nemiroff Vodka.

Payout Perspective:

Credit to Cormier’s team and Carl’s Jr. for a chance at jumping on an opportunity.  This is great for Cormier, who made an appearance on the Fox Halftime Show of NFL’s Thursday Night Football and the promotion of Saturday’s event.  The fast-food war between Popeyes and Carl’s Jr. will likely help all involved.

Popeyes Chicken in Lewis corner at UFC 230

November 1, 2018

The Black Beast has made himself known for the outrageous things he says and his love of Popeye’s Chicken.  MMA Fighting reports that Derrick Lewis has signed a sponsorship deal with Popeye’s Chicken.

Through his management, Lewis has secured a deal with Popeye’s Chicken.  Lewis and his opponent this Saturday, Daniel Cormier, have taken friendly jabs at each other over the restaurant.

Lewis recently did a video in conjunction with another one of his sponsors, Represent.  Taking advantage of getting rid of his pants in his post-fight interview at UFC 229, Lewis is selling shirts with his infamous response to Joe Rogan.

Founded in Louisiana in 1972, the company now calls Miami, Florida its headquarters.  There are more than 2,600 Popeyes restaurants in more than 40 states and D.C., Puerto Rico and 30 countries worldwide.

As part of the sponsorship, Lewis will get free Popeyes for life in Houston and his picture will be on the  menu board according to his agent, Malki Kawa.  In addition, Lewis posted on Instagram that Popeyes in Cypress, Texas will let everyone eat for free on Sunday (from 2-4pm) if he defeats Daniel Cormier.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

“If Derrick Lewis wins eat for free from 2-4 on Sunday” at Popeyes on 9120 Barker Cypress Rd, Cypress, TX 7743. Also Derrick Lewis will eat for free at this location for the rest off his life!!

A post shared by Derrick Lewis (@thebeastufc) on

Payout Perspective:

At a time when its perceived to be hard to secure sponsor deals outside of the Octagon, Derrick Lewis has been able to draw deals.  Lewis’ outspoken nature has helped him jump on opportunities where none were available.  The Popeyes Chicken deal was facilitated through his management team that saw an opportunity that coincides with this fight.  Cormier and Lewis joked over the fast-food restaurant and an opportunity was born.  Lewis also got ahead of the curve when he started selling t-shirts with his catchphrase from UFC 229.  Lewis social media presence likely helped as he has 141,000 followers on Twitter and another 1.4 million followers on Instagram.  Of course, Daniel Cormier has more followers on both but Lewis has been a media darling for the outrageous things he says.  If he scores an upset Saturday, his portfolio of sponsors will continue to grow.

UFC 229: Payout Perspective

October 9, 2018

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time it was one of the biggest events in company history with UFC 229 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Khabib submits Conor, brawl ensues

You’ve likely read all about the post-fight brawl.  Despite MMA fan that like to downplay the incident, this was not how you showcase your product to the millions of fans that watched the fight.  Rather than be professional, both sides were not.  Conor’s antics prior to the night, and Khabib’s during it were both wrong.  It was a disgrace to the sport and overshadowed the dominant performance by Khabib.

At this point, the Nevada Athletic Commission will have to suspend and fine Khabib for some time to make it look like an authority.  With that being said, it’s clear that the UFC will take no action despite its ability to do something about it.  The UFC has maintained its alibi of hiding behind the regulation of a commission to do its bidding when it comes to these types of disciplinary issues.  It is clear that if they wanted, they could terminate Khabib’s contract.  Dana White stated that any fighter from Khabib’s corner would no longer fight in the UFC.  But what about Khabib?

Conor is to blame as well.  His antics have helped put him in the stratosphere of earners in combat sports and brought millions of dollars to Zuffa.  As a result, he’s been allowed to do anything without repercussions.

The whole scenario points to a suspension for Khabib and being stripped of his lightweight title.  We should have Conor face Tony Ferguson for the title and/or Diaz/Poirier winner facing Ferguson with the loser facing Conor.

Ferguson returns to stop Showtime

Tony Ferguson stopped Anthony Pettis in a blood-splattering fight that showed El Cucuy is back.  Both fighters had their moments and the movements in the fight were out of the ordinary and extraordinary.  Ferguson used a somersault to get out of the way of Pettis and Showtime used capoeira moves in attacking and defending.  Pettis was sliced by one of Ferguson’s strikes and was bleeding like a pro wrestler.  He did damage Ferguson as well.  In the end it was the relentless Ferguson that earned the victory as Pettis could not continue due to a broken hand.

Attendance, Gate and Bonuses

The event set a record for an MMA event in Nevada with 20,034 for a gate of $17.2 million.  It eclipsed UFC 200 held at the same venue.  The gate for UFC 229 fell short of the company record of $17.7 million for the UFC’s debut at MSG at UFC 205.

According to SeatGeek, a standing room only seat for UFC 229 went for over $400, with the get-in price at $1,234.  Again, it was second to only UFC 205’s get in price.

The bonuses went to Ferguson and Pettis for Fight of the Night, Derrick Lewis and Aspen Ladd for Performances of the Night.  Each drew the standard $50,000 bonus.

Payouts

The payouts were highlighted by Conor McGregor’s $3 million purse followed by Khabib’s $2 million.  But, the NAC has held up Khabib’s payout pending an investigation in the post-fight brawl.  While it has issued the check to McGregor, it’s held Khabib’s pay pending an investigation

The rest of the payouts can be found here.

Promotion of the Fight

Conor McGregor did not do a “world tour” for this fight which would have probably brought even more interest to the event.  He did promote when needed such as their first press conference.

The press conference which was held between Conor-Khabib prior to fight week was done without an audience but was shown in Times Square.  It was also on ESPN which had to use its censor liberally due to all of the profanity.  Conor’s late arrivals at the presser and ceremonial weigh-ins really put stress on the networks to deal with stretching out the time.  With more losses, networks will get tired of this habit.

ESPN did air the UFC Countdown show on its network in addition to it airing on FS1.

Dana White appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to promote the fight.  Conor McGregor made an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show and shared Proper 12 with his Irish counterpart.

In addition, there were multiple radio ads in addition to the television commercials.  Most of which highlighted the infamous Brooklyn bus attack.

Sponsorships

There were some new sponsors for this event including Conor McGregor’s Proper 12 Irish Whiskey and San Manuel Casino.  The latter sponsor is based out of Highland, California and was shown during the ceremonial weigh-ins.

One of the newest UFC sponsors, Portable Protein Pack aka P3, appeared on the front paneling of the UFC/Reebok shorts.  We may see more of this with existing official sponsors having secondary opportunities on fight gear.

In addition, Air Asia made a significant splash in its sponsorship activation which included stewardesses on stage with UFC Octagon girls during the ceremonial weigh-ins and with signage in the red corner of the Octagon to match the company’s branded color.

It was reported by Ariel Helwani that Conor McGregor signed a lucrative deal with Monster Energy which was said to be in the millions.

EA announced a new edition of its UFC3 video game featuring Conor McGregor.  EA conducted a fight simulation in which Conor McGregor KO’d Khabib in the 3rd round.

In the octagon, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Bud Light, Nemiroff, Motel6, MetroPCS, P3, CircleK, Modelo, Air Asia, UFC3’s Notorious Edition, Autozone and the return of the Walking Dead and Monster Energy held the center. It was clear that there were more sponsors than ever before within the Octano on its corners and canvas.  Harley Davidson had the fighter prep point.

Ratings

The UFC Prelims on FS1 drew 1.3M viewers on Saturday.  The prefight telecast on FS1 drew 373,000 viewers.  The prefight show matched the one from UFC 223.  The 222-prefight show was the highest-rated this year with 431,000.

Odds and Ends

I wrote about the UFC brawl in depth and how the promotion of the fight allowed for this to happen.  The UFC faces a lot of fallout (good and bad) from the event.  Khabib and Conor are facing NAC sanctions for their actions and at least two fighters from Khabib’s team will likely be expelled from the UFC and from fighting in Nevada.  For a promotion that is looking to grow the sport and find blue-chip sponsors, one has to ask whether UFC 229’s brawl was good or ad for business.

Conor went after Khabib’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, a controversial MMA manager that has been linked to terrorist groups if you believe McGregor and some journalists writing on the subject.  Despite these alleged ties, it seems that a majority of MMA fighters trust Abdelaziz with their career.  During the fight, Abdelaziz and members from both camps stayed in the back as the UFC tried to prevent what happened Saturday from happening.

The internet searches for this event were huge.  On Friday, UFC 229 drew over 2M google searches.  McGregor-Khabib drew over 2M searches as well.

Conor McGregor drew over 5M google searches on Saturday.  Derrick Lewis drew over 200,000 and Michelle Waterson drew over 100,000 searches.  “McGregor Fight” drew over 1 million google searches on Sunday.

Derrick Lewis’ post-fight interview was an all-time classic and was one of the reasons he drew as many google searches.  He took off his pants, said Donald Trump called him and told him to be Alexander Volkov.

Khabib appeared at the post-fight press conference and indicated he received congratulations from Vladimir Putin.

Matt Damon turned down the opportunity to be on Saturday Night Live to go to UFC 229.  There were many other celebrities drawn to this event as well and the aftermath had everyone on social media talking about it.

Internal numbers for Internet purchases of the event were up over 60% from Mayweather-McGregor according to Dave Meltzer.  This would be an indicator (although maybe not the strongest) the buy rate surged past the record of 1.6M PPV buys.  White indicated that it did not reach 3 million but was over 2 million.

The UFC received a ton of mainstream coverage due to post-fight brawl.  But, does this tarnish their image or encourage the promotion to try more of this?

Conclusion

Dana White touted that based on the viewership of Embedded episodes and YouTubes views compared with McGregor-Mayweather, the PPV would break the UFC record and it appears he will be right.  Despite the lack of expanded promotion of the event, its clear that the UFC hit all of the trigger points to garner the casual fans to buy the event.  The controversy is whether it was right to include footage of the bus attack or allow McGregor to continue personal attacks on Khabib’s religion, family and friends.  But, the PPV buy rate will likely go over 2 million (say 2.2 million) buys and show that marketing the bus attack footage helped more than it hurt.  There will be a rematch and you can believe that they will show the post-fight melee.

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