GSP cleared to return for November

August 29, 2012

Georges St. Pierre announced via Twitter that he was medically cleared for his return to the Octagon this fall. GSP will face Carlos Condit to unify the UFC welterweight champion in Montreal.

Via Twitter:

The announcement prompted trainer Firas Zahabi to say that UFC 154 in Montreal to break PPV records.
Payout Perspective:

Finally some good news for the UFC.  The news that GSP will be back in November in his hometown should give the UFC PPV business a boost. Certainly Zahabi’s comments must be taken in context. He’s hyping GSP’s return. UFC 154 and 155 (JDS vs. Cain II) could help boost the PPV average for the year.

GSP’s return should mean a healthy PPV buy rate although GSP had lost some of his appeal with the criticism that he was not finishing fights. But, the long layoff should draw some interest to see how he does. Add to that the fact that he will be facing the interim champ to unify the title, and we should see a good number of PPV buys.

Jones apologizes for UFC 151

August 26, 2012

Jon Bones took to Twitter on Saturday to apologize for the cancellation of the UFC 151 card. Jones stated that he takes “full responsibility” for how UFC 151.

Payout Perspective:

I haven’t kept up with the various reactions to Jones’ tweets but I imagine there are some that don’t believe the apology. Its usual that “falling on the sword” would be a noble thing. From a public relations perspective, admitting fault grants the admitter some level of immunity from further blame. But does it here?  In this instance, it seems that Jones sent the tweet out in defense after White’s public berating of Jones for refusing to fight Chael Sonnen as a replacement.

In his tweets, he says he is “carrying the cross for his company.” An indirect comparison to Jesus? While Jones is trying to do the right thing, it seems as though he is overreaching. I’m not sure how he can take responsibility for how UFC 151 was handled. Realistically, it was White that called out Jones and Jackson. It was the UFC that decided to kill the card and name Machida as the next challenger when (as we know now) Machida had not yet accepted.  It is true that he could have taken the Sonnen fight.  But, would that fight have been for the title?  While Jones’ decision to refuse the fight can be debated, he did what he felt was best for him.

While the UFC framed the cancellation falling squarely on Jones and Jackson, it could have focused on Henderson’s injury and being too late in the game for Jones to prepare for a new opponent.  The UFC could have protected one of its top stars.  It does not seem fair that one guy should be the fall guy for the entire card. Yet, White framed the issue and it has taken off.

 

The Wrestling Post: WWE Twitter partnership and a new strategy for its studios

June 16, 2012

In this week’s wrestling post we take a look at WWE Studios and its partnership with Twitter to deliver expanded tweets.

WWE becomes Twitter partner

Earlier this week it was announced that the WWE and Twitter have entered into a partnership in which it would enable the WWE  to embed content previews, view images, play videos and more straight from its tweets.  The Wall Street Journal, Breaking News and TIME are also partners with Twitter in this initiative. (h/t CageSide Seats)

Payout Take:  The WWE is the sports entertainment leader in social media as it has taken advantage of the platform by directing its fans to its YouTube channel, Facebook and individual performer’s twitter accounts.  In addition, if you watch RAW on Monday nights, the show promotes Twitter or Facebook at every turn. It appears that the WWE’s channel on YouTube is doing well and it looks like it is attempting to garner the same success with its Twitter partnership.  This gives the WWE another monetary stream to promote its product.

WWE film division revamps itself

The SBJ Fight Issue covered the restructuring of the WWE Studios division.  As has been reported with each earnings call for the publicly traded WWE, the film division lags behind as a money loser for the company.  As a result, the WWE is reducing its financial exposure and risk through partnership with other film studios including 20th Century Fox, Anchor Bay and Lionsgate.  The move has been made in part to reach beyond the WWE’s core audience.

The story had been covered in the past.  Via the NY Times from March 2012:

To reach the nonfan WWE Studios is moving more heavily into co-production, other partnerships and acquisitions. Working with partners and a budget of $15 million to $25 million, it is producing six to eight projects in 2012 for later release.

In addition, it is purchasing scripts and co-branding the films under WWE Studios and working with existing distributors to help circulate its movies worldwide.  Also, another new part of the WWE Studios strategy is focusing on more PG-13 and R rated movies.

Payout Take:  
No word on whether this strategy will turn the WWE Studios division around but this more conservative approach of working with others in the industry makes sense.  Not only can it learn from these partnerships it reduces its risk. An underlying theme here is that the WWE cannot make everyone The Rock (e.g. making its wrestlers mainstream box office hits).  We will see with each earnings call how much of a turnaround the studio does.

UFC 145: Payout Perspective

April 22, 2012

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective!  This time the UFC hit Atlanta for UFC 145 where the much anticipated fight between Rashad Evans and Jon Jones took place.

Jones outclasses Evans

Did the fight live up to its expectations?  Despite the hype, the outcome was never in doubt.  Jon Jones dominated Rashad Evans to win via decision.  Jones’ ability to utilize his reach and unique strikes did in Evans.

Both fighters received their share of boos from the crowd.  It’s interesting to witness that folks hate Jones.  Is it due to the perceived arrogance?

It appears that Jones is heading for a clash with Dan Henderson in a fight where most fans will be behind Henderson.

Next big thing?

Rory MacDonald may be the next dominant fighter in the sport.  He dominated Che Mills to continue his ascent up the welterweight ladder.  He is adamant that he’d never fight GSP if it came down to it. But, that scenario is down the line.  We will definitely see more of him and he’s still very young.

Rothwell ends Schaub quickly

Honestly, I went out of the room during introductions and I came back and this fight was over.  This was the second straight fight in which Schaub was knocked out. A good win for Rothwell who looked like he was in much better shape than his last fight against Mark Hunt.

Attendance and Gate

The UFC announced on Friday that 145 had sold out the Philips Arena.  We’ll update the numbers once we recieve them.  UPDATED:  MMA Junkie reports 145 drew 15,145 for a gate of $2.2 million.

Sponsorships

-  The big news for UFC 145 was that headliner Jon Jones would sport UFC branded gear.  As we noted, it appears that this will be a trend for the future.  Frank Mir, who will take Alistair Overeem’s place at UFC 146, will be the next fighter to wear UFC gear.

As it turns out, MicroTech and Xyience were secondary logos on Jones’ UFC gear.  Xyience had prominent space on the back side of Jones. In the end, is this new trend a conflict of interest?

Evans was sponsored by MMA clothing manufacturer Jaco.  But, he also was sponsored by Bony Acai, MusclePharm and Corn Nuts.  Three UFC Official Sponsors.  Coincidentally, MusclePharm was a prime sponsor of the main event.

Frankly, we do not know the relationship between Official UFC Sponsors and what opportunities each gets in terms of signage/visibility at each event.  So, it’s possible that the UFC placing its official sponsors on UFC branded fighters is a complementary piece to its existing partnership.  It could also charge its official sponsors for being secondary marks on the UFC branded fighters.  The UFC has indicated that branding fighters is a sign of the future.  As we hypothesized, the UFC could be inching out other MMA sponsors from the fighters in the Octagon.  As a result, there might be a time the UFC could entice more sponsors to become official UFC sponsors so that it could be on fight shorts or walkout shirts.

- Metro PCS, Dodge, RYU, US Marines and Corn Nuts all sponsored different portions of the night.  Metro PCS sponsored the weigh-ins on Friday.  MusclePharm sponsored the main event.

- Some new fight sponsors I noticed last night:

Kalapaki Joe’s – Its is a sports bar in Hawaii.  Interesting that a sports bar with locations in the islands decided to sponsor UFC fighters.  The good news is that one of its sponsored fighters was Rory MacDonald.

Square – Full disclosure.  I actually use this device.  It allows businesses to swipe credit cards remotely.

Majors Pharmacy – Mark Bocek’s sponsor on the back of his trunks.  It was easy to see and it helped that Bocek had top position most of the fight.

Husky – Rashad Evans was sponsored by this company although after an internet search I could not find them.  Always have your website with your logo folks.  I seem to think that this is an industrial-type company but if any reader can help, I’d appreciate it.  UPDATED:  According to a commenter, Husky is a tool and construction accessory company.

-  The UFC didn’t have its usual walkouts as the main and co-main events were the only walkouts shown.  This is a new trend that may hurt sponsors in the end.  As it turned out, with the KOs, there was some filler time between fights which could have been done with walkouts.

Bonuses

MMA Junkie reports that the bonuses for the night were $65,000 each.

Submission of the Night:  Great ji-jitsu by Travis Browne to submit Chad Griggs.

KO of the Night:  As I stated earlier, I missed the Rothwell-Schaub fight because it was so quick.  But after rewinding, it was an impressive KO.

Fight of the Night:  Eddie Yagin and Mark Hominick – Hominick included his customary pushups after the final bell rang.  In return, Yagin did some situps.  It was like they were completing a workout or something.

Pre-Fight Hype

The UFC Primetimes were pretty interesting but were hidden away on Friday night and with TUF Live as a lead-in.  For all the efforts in promoting the fight, there were not enough opportunities to see a pretty good Primetime lead-in for the fight.

UFC Primetime Episode 1: 462,000 viewers
UFC Primetime Episode 2: 573,000 viewers

There was a lot of mainstream promotion for Jones-Evans.  The two traded verbal jabs on ESPN, UFC 145 sponsored a segment of Sportscenter (and I thought Dana White said the network hated MMA and the UFC?), they made an appearance on the NBA on TNT’s post-game show featuring Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal and Jones was featured in the Wall Street Journal.  The TNT appearance probably was due to the fact that the event was in Atlanta where TNT studios are located.

Mashable also had an article which featured the UFC’s social media strategy. In the article, it reports the UFC purchasing Promoted Tweets for UFC 145 which should increase trending visibility for the event. Despite paying for tweets, many UFC Fighters were trending topics last night on twitter organically.

The UFC is also starting to use Pinterest – which I still am not clear on how it works.

A criticism about the promotion of this card is the fact that not enough was done to promote the undercard.  There was little time spent on MacDonald-Mills, Rothwell-Schaub or any of the other fights.

Post-UFC 145 Headline

- Henderson next for Jones:  The only one real headline after the PPV.  The young lion versus the old vet.  Will Henderson have a chance against Jones?  Can he pull a Randy Couture?  Henderson packs more of a punch than Evans but will face the same reach disadvantages as Evans.  Also, Jones’ conditioning is phenomenal and one need only look to the Rua slugfest at 139 to see that Henderson may be in trouble.

Odds and Ends

- If the UFC is coaching certain fighters in interviews, it must have talked to Michael McDonald when he said he was going to party after his fight, “But not with alcohol, with the sweets.”  Ben Rothwell is another for thanking strangers, who he revealed were the fans of the UFC. Of course, I am joking about this.  I was chastised on twitter about making light of McDonald.  Now I know how Cage Potato feels.  Ok, not exactly.

-  Che Mills had the best walkout music of the night.  Too bad he faced Rory MacDonald.

-  I had hoped that Rashad Evans would have come out with his Bill Gates Mug Shot T-Shirt (FighterXFashion has the backstory).  The same one he wore after his knockout of Chuck Liddell at UFC 88 in Atlanta.  Evans did walkout to the same music at 88.

-  Anyone else think that the “Jones vs. Evans” lettering on the poster for UFC 145 was an odd choice?

Conclusion

In the end, the success of this PPV will hinge on the main event as the UFC put all of its marketing and promotional force behind the one fight.  It received some good mainstream acknowledgment which should help.  Also, Jones and Evans are great ambassadors for the sport.  This was the first PPV in which you could see some tweeks which could be influenced by Fox.  This included the elimination of walkout entrances of most fights except the main and co-main events. Venturing a guess as to the PPV buys, I would speculate we see somewhere in the 500K neighborhood.

King Mo ousted by Zuffa

March 28, 2012

Tuesday was a bad day for “King” Mo Lawal as he was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission 9 months and fined $39,000 for using Performance Enhancing Drugs. To compound the suspension, Lawal took to twitter to vent which lead to Zuffa cutting Lawal.

As you may recall, Lawal tested positive for PEDs after his last fight in Strikeforce in January.  The hearing before the Nevada State Athletic took place on Tuesday and it didn’t go well. Lawal was fined a total of $39,000 and suspended 9 months by the NSAC.  Also, his KO of Lorenz Larkin was ruled a No Contest.

MMA Fighting reports that Strikeforce’s Scott Coker stated that the release was based upon the “subsequent reaction” by Lawal.  This is in reference to Lawal’s twitter rant after the hearing.  The tweets railed against a female member of the NSAC questioning Lawal as she asked if he could read and if he spoke English. Lawal took offense and some of his tweets reflected his disdain.  As a result, Zuffa notified Lawal’s management that the fighter had been let go.

With Lawal’s termination came the uproar as to the lack of symmetry in doling out punishments by Zuffa.  But there is a code of conduct in fighters’ contracts.

MMA Junkie provides the section in a Zuffa fighter’s contract regarding code of conduct:

Section 9.1 of the Zuffa (or Forza, LLC for Strikeforce fighters) contract states:

“Fighter shall conduct himself in accordance with commonly accepted standards of decency, social conventions and morals, and Fighter will not commit any act or become involved in any situation or occurrence or make any statement which will reflect negatively upon or bring disrepute, contempt, scandal, ridicule, or disdain to Fighter, the Identity of Fighter or any of Fighter’s Affiliates, FORZA or any of its officers, managers, members, employees, or agents.

“Fighter’s conduct shall not be such as to shock, insult or offend the public or any organized group therein, or reflect unfavorably upon any current or proposed sponsor or such sponsor’s advertising agency, or any network or station over which a Bout is to be broadcast.”

Payout Perspective:

The termination issue here is based on Lawal’s tweets, something that has gotten UFC fighters in trouble in the past.  Recent memory will point us to Miguel Torres and his brief expulsion due to an off color tweet.  Also, Torres was taken back into the good graces of Zuffa less than a month after he was terminated. But Forrest Griffin had a controversial tweet about rape and was not punished.  Rashad Griffin made a topical, yet off-color remark about Phil Davis’ alma mater, Penn State in promoting their fight and was not punished either.

As for the reason for the tweets, it’s certainly understandable for Lawal to be upset for the line of questioning about whether he could read and/or speak English. As an attorney that’s actually been in situations like this, feelings are hurt and it’s unfortunate that this happens in the profession.  After listening to the audio, it seems like Pat Lundvall was asking a line of questioning which would segue into further questioning.  Definitely, she could have asked different questions to get to the same point.  But, it appears that she may have been upset with the fact that Lawal did not actually fill out the questionnaire which she questioned Lawal about preceding the read and speak questions.  Honestly, I’m not even sure if she realized that the questions were condescending.  But that’s only speculation.

The termination gives cause to pause about whether there should be a need to inform Zuffa fighters about its twitter policy (maybe implement one if one does not exist).  Zuffa could amend its code of conduct to specifically include social media use to spell it out to its fighters too.  For a tool it wishes, and in fact awards, its fighters for using, there needs to be some ground rules.  While it doesn’t want to restrict tweeting, fighters need to be smart about what they are tweeting.  Lawal has been through a difficult time and the tweets reflect his frustration.  But, he should have self-imposed a cooling period.  Stay off of twitter for a day so your tweets don’t get you into trouble. It’s one of the reasons why the media is not let into locker rooms immediately after a football/basketball game.  Players need to calm down lest they say something they regret.

In the end, Lawal may still have a chance to comeback to Zuffa.  If he shows contrition for his tweets and accepts the suspension, Lawal still may land back in Strikeforce or even the UFC. One need only look to Miguel Torres.  You could even point to Nate Marquardt as a fighter exiled by the company only to return.

UFC announces quarterly twitter bonuses

February 7, 2012

The UFC announced via twitter its second set of quarterly twitter bonuses. Each fighter received $5,000 for their use of twitter.

Most Followers: Junior dos Santos (@Junior_Cigano), Anderson Silva (@SpiderAnderson), Brendan Schaub (@BrendanSchaub) and Cung Le (@CungLe185).

Biggest Percentage of Growth: Jake Ellenberger (@EllenbergerMMA,) Cung Le, Roy Nelson (@RoyNelsonMMA) and Rodrigo Nogueira (@MinotauroMMA)

Most Creative: Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA), Pat Barry (@HypeOrDie), Joseph Benavidez (@JoeB135) and Duane Ludwig (@DuaneBangCom)

Specifically, Pat Barry won most creative for his video with former opponent Mirko Cro Cop. I’ll let the video explain:

Payout Perspective:

Interesting that Cung Le won in two categories and its not known whether he’ll be back in the UFC. You may recall that Le garnered a $350,000 base for his loss to Wanderlei Silva at UFC 139. The wins in most followers and biggest growth for this quarter shows that Le is still a commodity in the UFC. Le tweeted that he would use some of the money toward prizes for his followers for upcoming UFC and Strikeforce fights.

Have lunch with Anderson Silva before UFC 142

January 8, 2012

Burger King is taking advantage of its sponsorship of Anderson Silva with a contest in anticipation of UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In anticipation of Silva’s twitter following reaching 1 million, a follower will have a chance to travel to Rio to see UFC 142 and have lunch with Silva at a Burger King.

Silva is at 999,342 twitter followers and counting. Fans are asked to submit a response via twitter to @SpiderAnderson (Silva’s twitter handle) with the hashtag #BurgerKingCelebration to the question: What should Anderson Silva do to celebrate his 1 millionth twitter follower? Silva’s PR agencies 9ine and Ogilvy setup the promotion.

H/T: Robinashville

Payout Perspective:

An good bit of brand activation which helps Silva’s twitter following as well as Burger King. The hashtag should help BK with measuring the promotion to see its reach and effectiveness. It also is a way for Silva to make a run at another Zuffa quarterly twitter bonus. While this idea may not be the most unique, its a very simple form of brand activation through twitter. For Silva, its beneficial to him and his actual time investment is minimal.

Torres back after twitter termination

January 5, 2012

MMA Fighting reported last week, Dana White reinstated Miguel Torres after he was let go 20 days prior for an inappropriate tweet.

Torres had sent a quote from FX television show, “Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” which caught the ire of White.

Via MMA Fighting:

A soft-spoken Torres said he visited five different rape crisis centers in the Chicago area, donating money and talking with the people there about the power his words have, even in an off-hand attempt at humor on Twitter, he said

Payout Perspective:

Although this occurred last week, its an interesting case of impulsive administration rectified. Another example of this occurred in October when Nick Diaz was taken off the UFC 137 card after no-showing two press conferences. He was then put back on the same card against BJ Penn.

Certainly, the UFC can do what it pleases in terms of disciplining its fighters. However, Torres’ dismissal appeared not planned out thoroughly. Its debatable whether Torres should have been fired for his tweet after Forrest Griffin had a tweet mentioning rape. But, Griffin is higher in the fighter food chain than Torres. The UFC could have just suspended Torres for a period of time. Realistically, a suspension has the same effect of discipline yet does not have the stigma of a termination. It would have still had the same message to other fighters to be weary of what you tweet.

From the standpoint of Torres, he was admirable in doing the right things to try to get back with the UFC. Its good to see someone that makes no excuses and is proactive with their career. Obviously, Torres’ underlying goal in visiting rape crisis centers was getting back to the UFC. However, the interview seems like Torres took away some valuable information.

The good news is that White accepted the meeting with Torres and then let him back in. With social media so much part of the UFC, it would be best if the UFC designed a set of rules for fighters to abide by so as to not get in trouble. Although this may have been hashed over at last year’s fighter summit, it appears that a refresher course may be necessary. As the UFC moves forward with its relationship with Fox, it must present and maintain an image to the new viewer. Standards and practices for fighter behavior should be known and not just subjective. There will be obvious cases where a fighter must go (Paul Daley sucker punching Josh Koscheck), but Torres case seems like the punishment did not fit the crime.

11 for 11: No. 7 Twitter bonuses for UFC fighters

December 24, 2011

Where would the world of sports, and sports reporting without twitter? The UFC has been on the cutting edge of social media at made twitter a requirement for its fighters.

Starting in June, the UFC announced quarterly bonuses for fighters using twitter. As part of its Fighter Summit held in May, the UFC held a workshop for fighters on utilizing twitter. The first quarterly bonuses came out in November with fighters receiving $5,000 each. The UFC intends to expend $240,000 in annual twitter bonuses.

While the UFC promotes its fighters to use twitter to promote the UFC, there are pitfalls to twitter usage. Forrest Griffin, a winner of one of the twitter bonuses, was criticized for a tweet he sent about rape. Griffin quickly apologized and donated money to a rape crisis center. Dana White defended Griffin in explaining away the tweet.

In contrast to Griffin, Miguel Torres was fired for a tweet in which he referenced a line from FX’s “Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

And, as always ,Dana White is very active and outspoken on twitter. The phenomenon of twitter continues to help and hurt UFC stars (as well as other sports stars) as there is no filter and the user must self-edit their thoughts lest they get caught in PR problems like Griffin and Torres. We will see if fighters change their twitter usage in 2012 or will they continue to push the envelope to gain more followers.

Torres tweet causes dismissal

December 11, 2011

MMA Junkie reported late last week that Miguel Torres was fired due to a tweet he sent out in reference to rape. White announced Torres release due to his tweet regarding rape.

Torres stated that the tweet, which was erased and then revised to omit the offending language, was a gag in the FX show “Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Payout Perspective:

Irony that Torres’ tweet originated from a Fox show?

The Torres dismissal underscores the competing interests of Zuffa fighters. From one perspective, they encourage to tweet and serve as a brand ambassador for the UFC. As incentive for their use of twitter, Zuffa awards quarterly bonuses. On the other hand, fighters must know the parameters of their behavior and be responsible for their tweets.

Rashad Evans’ Penn State comments directed to alumnus Phil Davis and Forrest Griffin’s “rape is the new missionary” tweet are examples of questionable comments by fighters that went without punishment. With these as examples, perhaps Torres felt he could push the line with the twitter joke and get noticed by the twittersphere.

One of the winners of Zuffa’s first quarterly twitter awards, Griffin apologized for his tweet and did some damage control by donating money to a local rape crisis center. Not that it is an excuse, but Evans’ comments were made in the heat of trash talk with Davis. While the intent was there, the analogy to the Sandusky situation was unfortunate.

The recent remarks prompted the debate on whether a personal code of conduct should be instituted. This was dismissed by White as Torres was made an example for others not to follow.

Practically, Zuffa fighters must be smart about their place in the company. Evans and Griffin will be given much more leniency than a Miguel Torres. Regardless, fighters must recognize that they may be held accountable for what they say or tweet. While there is an award for being creative, fighters must figure a way to do it while knowing what’s appropriate.

From a PR standpoint, the UFC cannot condone its fighters joking about rape or child molestation on any communication platform. Torres was made an example as Evans and Griffin are more known within the UFC. As the UFC moves into the mainstream, it cannot have its fighters make any kind of joke regarding rape.

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