MPO Year in Review – The UFC Athlete Retreat

December 21, 2017

MMA Payout begins its annual year in review with the UFC Retreat held in Las Vegas in May.  Over 300 fighters descended on Vegas to attend.  What seemed like a good way to introduce the new ownership to its fighters, the Performance Institute and new sponsors turned into a little more than expected with several story lines coming out of the weekend.

There was the confrontation involving UFC lightweight Kajan Johnson with Reebok representatives about the fighter pay related to the clothing deal.  Johnson indicated he lost about 80% of his fighter pay due to the loss of sponsors. The discussion lasted 90 minutes and according to a report from MMA Junkie, the following proposals were discussed by fighters included bringing back sponsor banners, more transparency about the financials surrounding the UFC’s sponsorship deal with Reebok and hire a UFC rep to leverage local sponsors.

Reebok indicated that it would look for more collaborative solutions with the deal although the payouts have not changed since the discussion.  Reebok did involve athletes more into the design of cloths and introduced a new line at UFC 217.

Kobe Bryant spoke at the Fighter Retreat and Leslie Smith asked about the importance of the player’s association in the NBA:

It was an obvious poke at the bear with MMA fighter’s fledgling attempts to unionize or create an association.

There was also the confrontation between Angela Magana and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino.  The Las Vegas Police was summoned but no charges came out of the incident.

As a result of the incident, Justino lost a sponsorship.

Finally, there was the claim that a Budweiser representative was intoxicated when he spoke to the fighters.

The UFC retreat seemed like a good idea in theory and perhaps we only received the outrageous news from the weekend. Will we see another one next year? Possibly, but getting fighters together is risky considering the hatred between some fighters.  Maybe everyone could just Skype into these meetings.

Trifecta Nutrition announces it is an official partner of the UFC

December 12, 2017

Trifecta Nutrition announced it is an official partner of the UFC.  The company touts former WEC/UFC fighter Urijah Faber as Managing Partner of the company.

The announcement was made by Trifecta Nutrition in an email blast.  The company’s signage was seen in the Octagon this past Saturday at UFC Fight Night 123.

The company describes its service in this YouTube tutorial.

In leadup to UFC 217, there was a Facebook video ad with former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt featured in a commercial for the company.

Payout Perspective:

The timing makes sense as healthy food options will likely be sought out at the beginning of the year as people try to lose the holiday weight.  The tie-in with Faber made it a natural fit for the company to be associated with the UFC.  Also, with the Performance Institute, the reference to Trifecta Nutrition as a means to eat healthy will garner even more traction for the company.

New sponsors sign with UFC thanks to Endeavor, Performance Institute

November 20, 2017

The Sports Business Journal had another issue dedicated to combat sports and the UFC was a part of it with an article about how the new owners have opened up new spaces for sponsorships.

With the new ownership, Endeavor took over the role of sponsorship sales as the UFC’s department was cut as part of the trimming of the company upon acquisition.  It has been able to upgrade the UFC’s sponsor portfolio.

One thing that was not scaled down during the purchase was the new UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas.  The center which caters to UFC athletes was a $14 million investment.  It is a 30,000 square-foot training complex similar to the ones utilized by NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB athletes.  It is staffed by strength and conditioning coaches, trainers, nutritionists and physical therapists.

This past May, the UFC secured a deal with New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery.  HSS provides the UFC access to their team of physicians and serve as orthopedic consultants to the physical therapy staff at the new UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas.  In addition, it secured Body Armor as its “official sports drink” and Performance Inspired as “official sports supplement” of the UFC.

Via SBJ:

Barely six months after opening the facility, UFC has tripled the sponsorship revenue that it expected to bring in based on pro formas, landing brands such as sports drink Body Armor and nutritional supplement Performance Inspired. It didn’t hurt that WME clients Kobe Bryant and Mark Wahlberg are investors in those two respective companies.

In addition to these new areas is the idea of integrating sponsors into the UFC content instead of selling spots and dots which is a reference to patches and banners that the UFC traditionally used as revenue drivers.  For instance, fighters will appear on 7-Eleven cups as part of the convenience store sponsorship.  In 2018, when Modelo takes over as the official beer of the UFC, it will feature fighters in its “Fighting for” series of commercials.

Payout Perspective:

The article which interviews Lawrence Epstein seems to be optimistic about attracting more sponsors to be “official” UFC partners.  Although the space has yet to be occupied Epstein expects that the UFC will have a fast food sponsor and insurance sponsor.  Despite the fact Geico and Progressive have purchased spots on UFC events on FS1, it has yet to secure a deal.  But, with Endeavor in the fold and its broad range of contacts, we might see the UFC expand with more “official” sponsors.

UFC 217: Payout Perspective

November 6, 2017

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 217 taking place at Madison Square Garden in New York.

GSP Returns to win Middleweight Title

Georges St Pierre looked more muscular than ever before in his foray into the middleweight division against champion Michael Bisping.  GSP looked great in the first round but it appeared that he tired.  Bisping was able to open him up with elbows from guard despite being taken down.  But, Bisping was caught by GSP.

We’ll see what happen next for GSP.  He’s not done, but could be in the middleweight division.  Of course, that puts Robert Whittaker’s position in the division up in the air.  If GSP leaves to face Tyron Woodley in the welterweight division, we could see Whittaker-Bisping.

TJ Dillashaw regains Bantamweight Title from Cody Garbrandt

In a heated fight between two former teammates, TJ Dillashaw regained his bantamweight title from Cody Garbrandt.  Cody tagged TJ at the end of the first but it was Dillashaw that got off the shot in an exchange in the second which ended Cody’s night.  Dillashaw says there will not be a rematch for now and is setting his targets on Demetrious Johnson.

Thug Rose upsets Boogie Woman

The stare-down at the weigh-ins and Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s proclamation that she was the “Boogie Woman” made me want to see this fight all the more.  The contrasts between a stoic Namajunas and the bombastic Joanna Violence led many to wonder if Rose was ready or if she knew something.  She knew something as she was able to knock down the strawweight champ twice and with the second make her tap to the strikes.  The loss was surprising to most as Jedrzejcyk looked, on paper, to have the overwhelming advantage out of the 3 title fights of the night.  Yet, Namajunas was able to outstrike the Muay Thai specialist.

If a loss were to ever be beneficial, this one helps the UFC as they can now set up a rematch between the two which could sell much better as a standalone main event for a future UFC PPV.

Attendance and Gate

Madison Square Garden produced a $6.1 million gate drawing 18,201 fans according to the UFC.  The event was the second highest gate in the company’s short history since MMA was legalized in the state.  Last year’s UFC 205 drew astronomical numbers with over 20,000 fans and a $17 million gate.

The secondary market was not as robust as last year’s November event, but still did very well.  Although tickets dropped during the week, the average resale price was still $538 as of Thursday of fight week.

Bonuses

There were no Fight of the Night bonuses as Performance $50,000 bonuses were given to GSP, Rose Namajunas and  TJ DIllashaw.  Ovince St. Preux and Ricardo Ramos drew $25,000 bonuses for their performances.  St. Preux stopped Corey Anderson with a headkick on the UFC Prelims while Ramos’ spinning back fist gave him the win over Aiman Zahabbi.

(UPDATED) Athlete Outfitting Policy Payouts

With 3 title fights, the Reebok payouts was more than a typical card.

Michael Bisping: $40,000
Georges St-Pierre: $30,000

Cody Garbrandt: $40,000
T.J. Dillashaw: $30,000

Joanna Jedrzejczyk: $40,000
Rose Namajunas: $30,000

Stephen Thompson: $10,000
Jorge Masvidal: $15,000

Paulo Costa: $2,500
def. Johny Hendricks: $20,000

James Vick: $5,000
def. Joseph Duffy: $5,000

Ovince Saint Preux: $15,000
def. Corey Anderson: $5,000

Mark Godbeer: $2,500
def. Walt Harris: $5,000

Randy Brown: $5,000
def. Mickey Gall: $2,500

Curtis Blaydes: $2,500
def. Aleksei Oleinik: $5,000

Ricardo Ramos: $2,500
def. Aiemann Zahabi: $2,500

Promotion of the Fight

Sponsors came out in full force for what many believed to be the biggest event of the year thus far.

Bud Light Canada produced a video and sent it out via twitter with Georges St Pierre

Body Armor, a UFC sponsor, produced bottles of its sports drink with the UFC logo.  Kobe Bryant, a part-owner of Body Armor was in town to speak at a Body Armor press conference making the sponsorship official.  Cody Garbrandt, Cynthia Calvillo, Francis Ngannou and Michelle Waterson were announced as the UFC’s BodyArmor athletes and a new UFC-geared BodyArmor flavor – Knockout Punch.

Air Asia was announced as the company’s very first “Official Airline” of the UFC.  It covers Asia and Australia so the opportunity for a domestic airline is still there.

EA Sports released the official trailer of the UFC’s next game, UFC 3.  It will be released on February 3rd and unveiled some new things to the game.  Conor McGregor will make his second appearance on the cover of the UFC video game.

MetroPCS introduced a new commercial featuring Demetrious Johnson.

The UFC provided a video of Cody Garbrandt preparing for his fight and using TriFecta Nutrition.  The company, which delivers nutritional meals includes Urijah Faber as a part of the company.

Embedded is starting to tie in the UFC sponsors as the episodes featured more Reebok kits (the fighters looked over their kits which they helped design), Body Armor and mouthguard sponsor GuardLab.

Sponsorships

New official UFC sponsor, Air Asia, made its debut in the Octagon.  In addition, MetroPCS, Budweiser, Toyo Tires, Budweiser, Harley Davidson, Performance Inspired, Hospitals for Special Surgery, Wish, Monster Energy and Sheetz shared an Octagon post.  Monster also had the center of the Octagon.  AMC’s the Walking Dead and EA UFC 3 also were in the Octagon

Budweiser sponsored the Embedded episodes and the fighter prep point.

In addition, Toyo Tires sponsored the post-fight interviews which was on the UFC Facebook page.

Wish sponsored the post-fight interviews in the Octagon.  EA Sports UFC sponsored the GSP-Bisping fight.

Odds and Ends

UPDATED:  UFC 217 almost made it without a cancelled fight after all fighters made weight.  But heavyweight Ion Cutelaba was flagged for an out-of-competition test and his fight was nixed from the card.

The Walt Harris-Mark Godbeer fight was called off after a low-blow followed by a kick to the head.  This was the fight that was held over from last PPV after Harris took the Werdum fight.  The way it ended, Godbeer probably wishes that the fight did not happen.

James Vick tied Demetrious Johnson with the latest stoppage of a fight with 4:59 in the third round.  Vick stopped Joe Duffy as the featured fight on the UFC Prelims on FS1.

Notably, GSP is still sponsored by Under Armour as he wore the clothes while working out on Embedded.   Also, some may have noticed the branded mat at TriStar on one of the Embedded episodes.

There were over 1 million searches for “UFC 217” on Saturday which bodes well for the PPV buys.  Dana White noted that it was trending to do 1 million PPV buys but nothing has been confirmed.  Rose Namajunas had over 200,000 google searches.  Cody Garbrandt had 100,000 searches and boxer Deontay Wilder had 100,000.

Conclusion

With over 1 million Google Searches on Saturday for UFC 217 and Rose and Cody getting their own searches, it appears that the return to New York will be a PPV success.  I am not sure if the PPV gets to 1 million buys but it will have the best chance of the PPVs this year to hit the mark.  Look for this to do a strong 825,000-850,000 PPV buys.

AirAsia announced as “Official Airline ” for UFC

November 3, 2017

The UFC has announced a partnership with AirAsia making it the company’s first “Official Airline” of the UFC.  The partnership encompasses Asia and Australia and starts Saturday at UFC 217.

AirAsia is Asia’s leading low cost carrier.  “AirAsia is an innovative and fast-growing brand, we thank them for the support and we’re looking forward to creating engaging branded content for fight fans and AirAsia customers to enjoy,” stated Kevin Chang, UFC Vice President of Asia-Pacific in a press release.

More from the press release announcement:

AirAsia will begin its international activations during UFC’s historic inaugural event in mainland China at UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: SILVA vs. GASTELUM on Saturday, November 25 at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. As part of this collaboration, AirAsia will obtain rights to signage and branding inside UFC’s world-famous Octagon® during the event in Shanghai and select international UFC events in 2018.

With this partnership, AirAsia will also serve as presenting sponsor of select UFC Fan Experiences throughout the region and promote a national sweepstakes campaign where two fans will win a UFC VIP Experience during an event in 2018. The airline brand will also be integrated across multiple UFC-based social and digital platforms, as well as having a presence during live-event broadcasts and on UFC.com. UFC and AirAsia will also jointly sponsor content featured on Weibo and WeChat platforms in China.

Along with integration during international UFC events, this sponsorship will also deliver exciting co-branded content to Asian fight fans via AirAsia and UFC’s media platforms. These initiatives include monthly training sessions featuring UFC athletes and members of the UFC Performance Institute’s staff.

UFC and AirAsia will also make history by selecting the first-ever UFC scholarship program recipient. As part of this program, one Asia-based athlete will be awarded an all-expenses paid scholarship that includes travel to the United States and training at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Payout Perspective:

It appears that the UFC is making a concerted efforted to find international sponsors in attempt to regionalize the UFC events.  The Chinese debut this month is a huge moment for the comment and partnering with AirAsia is another sign of making inroads with local partners.  On the domestic front, I would not be surprised if the UFC is making pitches to airlines to be the domestic airline for the company.

Modelo set to replace Bud Light as UFC U.S. beer sponsor in 2018

October 9, 2017

The Sports Business Journal reports that beer maker Modelo Especial will replace Bud Light as the UFC’s Official Beer for the United States starting in January 2018.  The deal is a benchmark move by the beermaker as it is attempting to make a splash in the U.S. market.

Bud Light signed a 10-year pact with the UFC in 20008.  At the time, the deal was huge for a still-growing company.  But, it appeared that despite renewal talks and being pleased with the sponsorship performance, Annheuser Busch did not want to come back at the same terms.

Financial terms were not disclosed but the report indicates it rivals the $10 million deal the UFC had with InBev for the global sponsorship.  The new deal with Modelo allows the UFC to negotiate sponsor deals with other beer companies outside of the United States.

The brand is new to sports sponsorships as it ran its first national English language TV campaign 18 months ago and signed its first sports sponsorship just a year ago.

According to the Sports Business Journal, Modelo is attempting to make a move into sports and this is the biggest deal thus far for the company.  Perhaps a surprise, Modelo is the number 1 beer of choice in the Los Angeles market.  It is the fastest-growing beer in the U.S. over the last 5 years according to SBJ.  Only sister brand Corona, is the best-selling import beer.

Payout Perspective:

The deal is a calculated risk for Modelo as it is seeking to grab more of an audience an attract the vaunted 21-34 male demo.  Unlike other sports sponsorships, this may come with some risk since UFC events are announced in a relative short timespan as compared to other sports.  Thus, market activation targeting a city (outside of Las Vegas) may be somewhat harder than baseball where it is known what cities will hold events.  For the UFC, it’s a good win for the company.  Not only does it grab a US beer sponsor, there is not global exclusive so the company can negotiate with local regions and countries to be the official beer in those respective areas.  Yet, the speculation is that the financial terms of the Modelo deal is on par with what Bud Light paid for the global sponsorship.  Also, the deal may open up what could be a lucrative liquor/spirits market as the Bud Light deal blocked this potential.

UFC announces multi-year deal with Body Armor

October 5, 2017

The UFC has announced a sponsorship with Body Armor making it the “Official Sports Drink” of the UFC.  No financial terms were disclosed regarding the multi-year partnership.

Via UFC press release:

As part of this ground-breaking collaboration, which covers the United States and begins in 2018, BODYARMOR will supply its line of high-end sports hydration products: BODYARMOR sports drink and BODYARMOR LYTE, to the UFC Performance Institute’s two “BODYARMOR Hydration Stations”.

“BODYARMOR is an industry leader in sports hydration and they are a perfect fit to partner with UFC,” UFC President Dana White said. “Providing UFC athletes with safe, nutritional products while training at the UFC Performance Institute is an important part of helping them maximize their overall performance and BODYARMOR will help us do that.”

“With the explosive growth that BODYARMOR has seen in recent years – it’s an exciting time for the brand to team up with UFC,” said Mike Repole, co-founder and chairman, BODYARMOR. “A partnership between the fastest-growing sports drink and the fastest-growing sports organization creates a tremendous opportunity for BODYARMOR to play an important role in the hydration needs of some of the best athletes in the world.”

In addition to product placement at the UFC Performance Institute, BODYARMOR will also serve as the presenting sponsor of select UFC weigh-in events, along with providing corner branding of stools, towels and buckets inside UFC’s world-famous Octagon® during all U.S.-based events. BODYARMOR will also have a presence on UFC.com and live-event programming, as well as being integrated across multiple UFC-based social and digital platforms.

BODYARMOR is the fastest growing sports drink in its category, having seen a 110% increase in sales from last year. The consumer demand for a better-for-you sports drink has made BODYARMOR the #3 sports drink in the U.S. Kobe Bryant is the number three shareholder in BODYARMOR.

“BODYARMOR offers a better-for-you hydration option at a time when athletes in every sport are paying more attention to what they put into their bodies,” said Bryant. “UFC athletes demand the best in hydration and nutrition, and we’re excited to be partnering with the UFC on such a large scale.”

Payout Perspective:

The last time most have seen Body Armor was during the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight in which its products and logo were placed throughout the event.  The press release notes that its investors include James Harden, Mike Trout, Andrew Luck and Dustin Johnson.  The partnership seems to be a major move by the sports drink and a nice addition for the UFC to its roster of official sponsors.

UFC and 7-Eleven agree to sponsorship deal

August 28, 2017

Sports Business Journal reports that 7-Eleven has agreed to become the official convenience store of the UFC.  The partnership deal will run through the end of the year but it may be extended depending on the results.

The two companies shared data about their customers and the convenience store believed that the UFC’s millennial fan base was an attractive opportunity.

The home of the Slurpee and Big Gulp has appeared in the Octagon for UFC events including most PPVs this past year.  The financial terms were not disclosed.  The 7-Eleven stores in the U.S. and Canada will participate in UFC promotions.

7-Eleven will offer “Peel & Win” sweepstakes featuring a multitude of prizes which will include discounts on UFC Fight Pass subscriptions to UFC championship belts.  The sweepstakes starts Friday.

The UFC and 7-Eleven have worked together when other UFC sponsors have launched activations in its stores.  But, this will be the first time the two have worked together.

Payout Perspective:

Despite just going through the end of the year, this is a good opportunity for the UFC.  7-Eleven has appeared in the Octagon with Monster Energy during UFC events and is attracted to the young fan base.  The activation of peeling stickers off of beverage cups is not a new one, but something that gets people to purchase a bigger size to play the game.

Report: Mayweather to make $20 million from clothing endorsements

August 25, 2017

Yahoo! Sports reports that Floyd Mayweather will make $20 million on just clothing endorsements alone when he steps into the ring against Conor McGregor Saturday.

According to the report, the side seams to his fight trunks go for $3.5 million for his side seams and front top waist, $ 1 million for his robe and $1 million for the hat he will win after the fight.  A 4-by-2-inch patch on his front thigh goes for $1.5 million.

According to a report for the UK’s Telegraph, they had more numbers for Mayweather.  His walk-out cap would be $500,000.  His boxing shoe:  $1 million and $1 million for his weigh-in trunks.  His rear top waist would cost $2 million, the rear center of his trunks would be $3 million and his rear thigh would be $1.5 million.

At the weigh ins, Floyd work tights with the sponsor PaddyPower on them.  It appears to be an offshore betting agency.  The scale at the weigh-ins was sponsored by Wish Shopping.

Payout Perspective:

We will see Saturday night how many sponsors signed on with Mayweather.  In previous fights, Floyd has not loaded up on sponsors, but when he does have sponsors, it appears that they pay a lot.  Hublot has signed on with the 49-0 champ again and explains why it has no problem sponsoring him.

Corona will be the main sponsor for The Money Fight

August 23, 2017

The Sports Business Journal reports Mexican beer maker Corona will be the main sponsor for Saturday night’s fight between Conro McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.  Aside from Corona, Body Armor will have “prime placement” as it will be all over the ring on fight night.

Terms of the Corona deal were not announced although it was previously reported that the asking price for the sponsorship, along with a suite of branded areas would go for $10 million.  Corona will have its logo in the center of the mat and will be integrated into Showtime’s PPV telecast of the bout.  Of course, ring girls that have been at Mayweather-McGregor events this week will be

Body Armor will have its logo on “towels and stools in the fighters’ corners.”  Fighters will drink out of BodyArmor-provided bottles.

The fighters have secured their own sponsor deals as Mayweather has renewed a deal with Hublot to have its name across the waistband of his shorts for the fight. He also signed a deal with high-end tequila brand Avion.  Mayweather’s likeness will appear on a limited number of its Tequila bottles.   McGregor has signed deals with Monster Energy and online gambling site BetSafe.

Payout Perspective:

It was curious that the sponsors had not been announced until this week but it appears that there will be a major presence at the event.  Whether or not the fight was able to garner the $10 million price tag for the main sponsor is something that may be revealed at a later date.  Corona is a long-time fight sponsor and most events they seemingly interchange with Tecate as the beer (and usually) main sponsor.  The BodyArmor deal is a big one for the company.  It has had a presence in the sport but I would assume that this is likely its biggest sponsorship to date.  As for the fighters, I think both will earn a lot of money from in-ring sponsorships.

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