By Zach Arnold | December 4, 2013
An update to this article (Thursday, 12/5) can be read at the bottom.
I was just on this article on TMZ and there is this huge button beside the headline that says "Presented by UFC." Umm http://t.co/qE58h6aAMB
— Adam Martin (@MMAdamMartin) December 4, 2013
TMZ, the web site that floated a story about Georges St. Pierre having a dying father and baby mama drama, happens to have UFC ads on their web site via DoubleClick. A screen capture:
TMZ articles being presented by UFC is only slightly less awkward than the proposition of having Fight Opinion advertise the UFC Store, which we recently were solicited to do and to name a price. (I declined.)
Speaking of things that look strange on the surface… now that UFC appears to be taking a pass on signing Ben Askren, there’s hand-wringing online about his future. Chad Dundas is spot on about the situation in this article. Bellator seems to be closed off. Dana White was pushing World Series of Fighting. There’s One FC. For a fighter who is all about wanting to face the best competition, the league that has it doesn’t want his talents gracing their cage. Given a choice between WSOF and One FC, One FC is the equivalent of a working vacation with some travel to nice locales.
There’s a reason why Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta never say a bad word about World Series of Fighting and actually push it as an alternative for fighters who they don’t deem worthy of being under contract to Zuffa. Hint: this link will give you some of my past voluminous answers on why.
I'm convinced that the media is feigning ignorance about WSOF being UFC's unofficial bastard child & who the political fixers involved are.
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) December 3, 2013
By Zach Arnold | December 2, 2013
Monday’s Nevada State Athletic Commission meeting was interesting, to say the least. A local BJJ trainer appeared for open comment and pleaded for more transparency from the judges when it comes to scoring fights. The trainer stated that Nevada needs more MMA-focused judges rather than using boxing judges and also encouraged the half-point scoring system. When prodded about the issue of transparency, the man said that nobody is sure which judges apply what kind of weight behind certain scoring criteria other than the fact that it seems takedowns and top position rather than transitions & submission attempts always get weighted more heavily.
Which then led us to the officials selection for the upcoming Anderson Silva/Chris Weidman II fight. Herb Dean will be the referee. The judges booked: Junichiro Kamijo, Chris Lee, and Patricia Morse Jarman.
After hearing the comments made by the trainer and the officials booked for Silva/Weidman II, one thought popped into my head regarding the current crop of judges Nevada is using.
By Zach Arnold | November 29, 2013
Black Friday Beatdowns isn’t my beat, so let’s focus on another story.
A couple of days ago, the estimable Jim Genia asked me to write on whether or not I thought UFC could fade away like PRIDE given Zuffa’s decreasing ratings & PPV buys. The short answer is no. The long answer? UFC won’t die like PRIDE but the rest of MMA might. Such a scenario would require Viacom to pull the plug on Bellator and for other promotions to be swallowed up in a UFC-type developmental system. Not entirely impossible given how many promotions have failed over the last decade.
As I was writing about that topic, MMA Mania published this open letter from California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster: Judging system used to score MMA requires evolution.
Andy Foster’s proposal is simple: Keep the 10-point must scoring system for MMA judges but make those scores non-binding. Have judges pick a winner based on which fighter they thought overall won the bout. If there’s controversy (and there would be plenty), then the 10-point must system scorecards could be reviewed to see why judges picked the winners they did.
There are some good and bad consequences of shifting away from the 10-point system to the PRIDE scoring system. However, one thing is clear — since that open letter was published on Tuesday, Sacramento has been reportedly overwhelemed with reaction to the idea of going to a PRIDE-style scoring system. I can’t give a percentage on how much of the feedback has been positive versus negative, but I know the positive feedback has been high.
This point made by Andy Foster hits home to the heart of the debate:
For example, like we have recently seen, one competitor can win two rounds with a much larger margin, and the judges see the other competitor winning the other three rounds at a very close margin. The result is the winner on the scorecards is not the winner of the actual fight.
Examples discussed include the Gilbert Melendez/Ben Henderson and Eddie Alvarez/Michael Chandler fights.
Andy Foster, finally a commissioner who sees flaws in MMA's scoring system and who wants to make changes to it. Good to see.
— Adam Martin (@MMAdamMartin) November 27, 2013
What makes the argument complicated is that judges are often discouraged in certain states from issuing 10-8 or 10-10 rounds. If there wasn’t such hostility to issuing a 10-10 round, we’d see a lot more of them. But they are hardly used by judges because of fear of retribution from their political bosses. Nelson Hamilton proposed the half-point scoring system and it’s essentially dead in the water because the major commission states view such a scoring system, as used in CAMO, as muddying the waters even further. The logic goes as follows: if judges are bad enough at scoring fights with the 10-point must system, how on Earth would they not screw up even more if they judged fights on the half-point system?
So, the half-point judging system is basically dead in the water (politically-speaking). And there’s growing frustration with the 10-point must system. Which leads us to Andy Foster’s proposal. He pointed out the positives in his open letter.
However, adopting a non-binding 10-point must system combined with the PRIDE “pick a overall winner” system presents its own issues. It won’t stop incompetence or corruption. It might help both out to a degree but it’s not foolproof. Judges who come in bought off or with a bias towards one type of style over another will figure out a way to screw over fighters using the PRIDE system. When PRIDE was active as an organization, a lot of influencers at ring side were betting on fights and you can bet the pressure was palpable on judges in certain fights.
If a fight is very close to score, most judges will just fall back on their 10-point must system score cards to pick a winner. You can’t fix incompetence. Judges either know the sport and/or adapt to the learning curve or they don’t, no matter what scoring system is in place.
What isn’t in dispute is that there is a strong appetite to change the status quo and going to a PRIDE-style scoring system can’t make things worse. Right?
Exit question: We know that boxing dominates the revenue that California’s commission takes in but the energy on the regulatory side has been on the MMA side of the equation. Boxing people behind the scenes are completely confounded by this. Do people understand the significance of California, the largest commission in the United States, becoming an MMA-first entity on a historical level?
By Zach Arnold | November 27, 2013
At UFC 167, Georges St-Pierre retained his Welterweight title in a controversial split-decision victory over Johny Hendricks. The decision was controversial as a vocal contingent of the MMA community, notably UFC colour analyst Joe Rogan, felt Hendricks won the fight. It was decided in the first round, as the other four rounds were clearly split between the two fighters. Two judges gave round one to GSP, giving him the decision.
A second controversy ensued after St-Pierre’s post-fight interview with Rogan, where GSP reluctantly intimated that he wanted to “step away” from MMA for awhile. Many took this as a retirement announcement, although Georges never used that word. Dana White conducted an interview with the LA Times on November 18th, saying that a rematch between the two is on schedule and a date should be announced within a few weeks. TMZ reported stories about GSP’s father being sick, or Georges and an unknown woman having an unplanned pregnancy. Georges denies all of this. Hendricks has been interviewed saying that if Georges can no longer stand the heat, it’s time for him to step down as Welterweight champ.
Georges has been the Welterweight champ for years now, and in his prime was one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in history. But he no longer seems to be in his prime, as Hendricks, a top-flight wrestler, was able to take Georges down like no other opponent and gave the champ the hardest fight of his career. I feel Georges won the fight, giving him the first round, but the odds of winning a rematch have to be against him.
By Zach Arnold | November 25, 2013
Several months ago, Andre Ward asked for an arbitration hearing with the California State Athletic Commission to try to get out of his promotional contract with Dan Goossen. Both Ward & Goossen are California licensees. The contract was approved in California. So, it was hard to imagine on what grounds Ward’s camp had for convincing Executive Officer Andy Foster to terminate the promotional contract. Foster ruled in favor of Goossen.
Given Ward hanging out in Las Vegas and being a little bit more chatty to various boxing interviews, one could come up with an opinion that he and his Houston hip hop manager, James Prince, would perhaps be interested in working with Top Rank & Bob Arum. Arum and Goossen used to work together a long time ago.
After that attempt failed, news broke before the weigh-ins of the Andre Ward/Edwin Rodriguez fight in Ontario, California that Dan Goossen received a FAX notifying him that he had been sued by one of James Princes’ associates, Antonio Leonard. Questions immediately were raised as to why such a lawsuit was filed. The lawsuit was filed in a Texas state court in Houston.
Bay Area boxing writer Ryan Marquinana summarized the lawsuit news by noting that Leonard was claiming he had an oral agreement with Dan Goossen to be co-promoters. Leonard claimed that Goossen was going to ice him out as a co-promoter for future fights. The Boxing Scene link includes a link to the PDF of Leonard’s lawsuit filing.
The obvious question to ask here is why Leonard never had a written co-promotional agreement with Dan Goossen. If he had a written agreement, it would have been signed off/approved by the California State Athletic Commission. No written agreement meant no real basis for an arbitration case.
Leonard filed for a TRO (temporary restraining order) against Goossen in Houston. Why would Leonard think he has standing to file suit in Texas given that both Ward and Goossen do business in California? Leonard states in his own lawsuit filing that he is/was/tried to be licensed in California. Then what was he asking for at the arbitration hearing: to void Ward’s promotional agreement with Goossen because he, as a California licensee (or not), failed to disclose an alleged co-promotional agreement with both Andre Ward & Dan Goossen? No wonder Andy Foster ruled in favor of Dan Goossen.
@FightOpinion If Leonard wasn't a co-promoter, why was he listed on any promotional items in previous fights as one?
— Mark E. Ortega (@MarkEOrtega) November 26, 2013
Leonard further claimed that he got his tie-in originally to be a co-promoter of Andre Ward before and after buying out Square Ring Promotions from Roy Jones and that Ward wanted him as a co-promoter, therefore a supposed oral agreement for co-promotion was consummated. When Goossen said Leonard wasn’t his co-promoter, Leonard filed suit in Houston claiming breach of contract.
Punching back twice as hard
In response to Antonio Leonard’s lawsuit, Dan Goossen filed suit against Leonard in Los Angeles Superior Court for declaratory relief. The filing claims Ward & Goossen entered into an exclusive promotional rights agreement on April 6, 2011 and that Antonio Leonard isn’t licensed to be a promoter in California, the business venue where transactions between Ward & Goossen take place.
The filing reveals what happened at the California arbitration hearing. It quotes Andy Foster as stating that it appeared Antonio Leonard “deliberately kept Mr. Goossen uninformed about Mr. Leonard’s discussions with HBO” and that his interference led to a breakdown of relations between Ward & Goossen. The ruling also noted that any claims of co-promotional dealings were unenforceable because they weren’t disclosed and approved by California’s commission.
The Superior Court lawsuit asks for an entry of judgment to declare that any alleged contracts between Goossen and Leonard are null or must be dealt with in the jurisdiction of the California State Athletic Commission. Furthermore, the court is asked to issue an injunction against Leonard for engaging in interference in business matters between Ward & Goossen.
Houston, we have a problem
There was a hearing by a trial judge in Houston on Monday. A temporary 10-day TRO had been given to Leonard and money was kept aside in a trust account. Goossen’s side argued that Leonard was forum shopping. The trial judge removed the case from state court into Federal court. Now the next decision is whether the battle plays out in a Texas Federal court or if it gets pushed to a California federal court. Goossen went the offense after the Leonard suit was filed in order to ask for relief from Leonard’s alleged interference.
Bottom line? Leonard & Prince aren’t on solid legal footing here. The relationship between Ward & Goossen is further strained and yet contractually they are supposed to work together until the end of 2016.
By Zach Arnold | November 25, 2013
The UFC’s charm offensive in New York isn’t working with the politicians or the state’s voters. Writers like Dave Doyle can try to spin Dana White’s rhetoric, backed by Lorenzo Fertitta’s good cop/bad cop routine, as refreshing when it’s anything but. How can you expect New York politicians, who aren’t inclined to be favorable to MMA, to support your sport when you’re trashing your biggest fighters? You don’t need to be a “non-credentialed pseudo-journalist” to figure that out.
Assemblyman Hevesi further clarified that no, the MMA bill hasn't been getting killed by Silver. IT'S BEEN A LACK OF VOTES.
— jim genia (@jim_genia) November 21, 2013
…that there hasn't been at least 76 Assemblymen in favor of MMA each time the Democratic Conference has met. This is both bad and good.
— jim genia (@jim_genia) November 21, 2013
The UFC held a presser in New York City on Thursday to stomp their feet once again about not having MMA legislation in the state of New York. Getting legislation passed in New York is part of their plan for “World Fucking Domination.” A Democratic state assemblyman claims that the reason MMA legislation hasn’t passed in the state is because the members caucusing don’t have enough votes to get it passed on the Assembly floor.
Lorenzo Fertitta: Our sport & UFC has grown, so the impact has grown
With UFC grinding their way through the courts with their lawsuit against the state for regulation, Lorenzo Fertitta is hinting at using a third party to sanction a UFC event in the state of New York. That should tell you pretty much everything you need to know right now about the New York State Athletic Commission. The regulatory body is a disaster and easily one of, if not, the most dangerous “major” commissions in America overseeing combat sports. It’s only rivaled in horrific quality by Florida & Texas. Nevada is dangerously getting close to that category as well.
Some athletic commissions can’t do the job right. New York’s is one of them. MMA legislation sounds great on paper for New York but if the regulators aren’t motivated to do the right thing when it comes to protecting the health & safety of fighters, then perhaps it’s best not to have NYSAC overseeing MMA regulation at the moment.
With all of that said… if the UFC really wants the state of New York to give them full-blown MMA legislation, then we all know what has to be done politically to get the votes. Buying off the politicians with political contributions isn’t cutting it. The quickest route to UFC getting legislation in New York would be to settle their differences with the Culinary Union and that ain’t happening any time soon.
By Zach Arnold | November 21, 2013
Heading into 2014, the UFC has no rival on their global level as an MMA property. Bellator has some building blocks for a successful 2014 campaign but is nowhere near the UFC in terms of business metrics. The only thing that can stop the UFC from growing is the UFC itself. They can be their own worst enemy.
Putting on corporate pep talks with a backdrop of the Earth in the shape of an Octagon.
Lorenzo Fertitta just said the UFC is doing 54 events next year. I really hope he misspoke.
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) November 21, 2013
If the UFC wants to grow, not shrink, their business in 2014 then they will have to change their behavior. You can’t simply rely on a fan base that worships the cult of Dana White & Lorenzo Fertitta. They need to expand the base and attract casual fans. They’re struggling in that department.
Part of attracting new fans is to not turn off potential casual fans by acting like irrational testosterone-fueled idiots. Another part of the equation is finding a new way to build up new stars that the fans view as credible championship contenders who also aren’t socially awkward.
The UFC needs a star-making concept that is completely different than The Ultimate Fighter. Wednesday night’s episode on Fox Sports 1 proved how much of a train wreck the show has become and how far the once highly-valued franchise vehicle has crashed. Ratings are at an all-time low. The show no longer attracts top-class prospects because the UFC is signing such prospects without sending those newcomers onto TUF. The format is completely played out and few of the reality show winners go on to have big success in UFC. The show, at this point, only manages to drive up the negatives for most of the people who appear on it.
The UFC likes to say that they are real as it gets. Wednesday’s one-hour show about contestant Anthony Gutierrez missing weight for his semi-final bout against David Grant was raw, brutal television.
By Zach Arnold | November 20, 2013
Lets of racial, ethnic and gay slurs, a kick, a punch in the brawl between Roach Garcia and Ariza. Working on massive update.
— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) November 20, 2013
Mocking Jews, Mexicans, and people with Parkinson’s. Not since the racialist crap between Rashad Evans & Rampage Jackson has my head hurt from such over-the-top testosterone-iffic BS.
And on top of it all, Manny Pacquiao’s manager Michael Koncz suffered a heart attack. Welcome to Macau.
Everyone in boxing should be ashamed of trying to promote this Pacquiao PPV by having scumbags make fun of Freddie Roach's Parkinson's.
— Jonathan Snowden (@mmaencyclopedia) November 20, 2013
The long and short of the gym brawl on Wednesday: Brandon Rios had two hours of gym time before having to leave to give Manny Pacquiao six hours of gym time. Freddie Roach stirred the pot when it was time for Rios to leave and Robert Garcia exploded when the war of words began, prompting a debate over who kicked whom.
Naturally, all the big boxing writers were in Macau for the fight and Top Rank staff were taking pictures. Alex Ariza, quite the charmer, mocked Roach’s Parkinson’s disease. Then the battle lines were drawn over who called someone a
fucking Mexican, a fucking Jew, and a piece of shit.
Kevin Iole brings some clarity as to why Roach hates the Rios camp big time:
Seckbach is close with Rios’ camp and operated the video camera in 2010 when Rios and Garcia mocked Roach’s tremors from his Parkinson’s disease. There has been tension between them ever since.
Adding to the over-the-top nature of the proceedings was the Rios camp antagonizing the press from the Philippines, implicating that they are marks who give Pacquiao awards and instigators for what happened on Wednesday.
A writer asked one of the parties involved if they regretted what happened.
“Regret what? I regret that he can’t act like a professional and come over and have some dignity and class and just say, excuse me Robert, when you get done, can I have a couple of words with you for a second? How hard would have that been? Seriously, ask yourselves that. You guys are all grown adults. This isn’t a high school playground. This isn’t a basketball court. Unfortunately, this is a place that we all have to use and that we all have to share. Sometimes, with all the media, we have to be accommodating for times and some times run over. We didn’t complain when they wanted to take up the whole day from 11 to 5 o’clock. That’s six hours of training. They’re accommodating the interviews and things like that, the promotion of the fight.
So, this is how they plan to try to get last-minute buys to sell a PPV this weekend at $65 a buy. Good luck on that front.
By Zach Arnold | November 16, 2013
— Michael Hutchinson (@MikeHutchMMA) November 17, 2013
The judges for the main event were: Tony Weeks (GSP), Sal D’Amato (GSP), and Glenn Trowbridge (Hendricks).
D’Amato: Gave GSP rounds 1, 3, 5.
Weeks: Gave GSP rounds 1, 3, 5.
Trowbridge: Gave Hendricks rounds 1, 2, and 4.
Event: UFC 167 (Saturday, November 16th)
Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Fox Sports 1/PPV
- Light Heavyweights: Gian Villante defeated Cody Donovan in R2 in 1′22 by TKO.
- Bantamweights: Sergio Pettis defeated Will Campuzano after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Welterweights: Jason High defeated Anthony Lapsley after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Bantamweights: Erik Perez defeated Edwin Figueroa after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Welterweights: Rick Story defeated Brian Ebersole after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Middleweights: Thales Leites defeated Ed Herman after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Lightweights: Donald Cerrone defeated Evan Dunham in R2 in 3′49 by submission with a triangle choke hold.
- Featherweights: Ali Bagautinov defeated Tim Elliott after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Welterweights: Tyron Woodley defeated Josh Koscheck in R1 in 4′38 by KO.
- Welterweights: Robbie Lawler defeated Rory MacDonald after 3R by split decision.
- Light Heavyweights: Rashad Evans defeated Chael Sonnen in R1 in 4′05 by TKO.
- UFC Welterweight title match: Georges St. Pierre defeated Johny Hendricks after 5R by split decision.
If UFC is serious about Nevada, they get Keith Kizer fired next week. But unlikely they won't. TV tax & no state income tax only NV edges.
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) November 17, 2013
GSP says he can't sleep at night and that his head is not right. Needs to walk away. Dana is beginning to block questions towards Georges.
— Joe Ferraro (@ShowdownJoe) November 17, 2013
Event: Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale (Saturday, November 30th)
Venue: Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Fox Sports 1
- Welterweights: Zak Cummings vs. Sergio Moraes
- Featherweights: Rani Yahya vs. Tom Niinimaki
- Featherweights: Akira Corassani vs. Maximo Blanco
- Heavyweights: Jared Rosholt vs. Walt Harris
- Lightweights: Gray Maynard vs. Nate Diaz
By Zach Arnold | November 15, 2013
He’s the best free agent welterweight fighter available for any promotion in MMA to sign. In a sport-first climate, Askren wouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines. However, combat sports is and always will be entertainment-first. That’s especially true for Mixed Martial Arts, which is heavily reliant on pro-wrestling fans.
During his run in Bellator, Askren made it clear that he wanted to fight the best in the world and that meant going to the UFC. After he was granted his release from Bellator on Thursday, he reiterated his desire to go to the UFC to beat the best fighters. The problem is that UFC apparently isn’t interested in signing Ben Askren. Dana White seems too busy egging on Rory MacDonald to leave his training partners at Tri-Star in Montreal in order to set up Rory vs. GSP should St. Pierre beat Johny Hendricks on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Rory should ask Rashad Evans how Dana’s gym-busting shenanigans worked out for his career.
If the UFC won’t sign Askren, it means he will have to either go back to Bellator and cut a deal or else sign with UFC stalking horse World Series of Fighting. WSOF is bankrolled by Sig Rogich, top Nevada political fixer who is one of the men responsible for Keith Kizer having his job security at the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Rogich is very close to Marc Ratner & Lorenzo Fertitta. WSOF is UFC’s unofficial bastard child and exists for experimentation in different markets and to sign talent so that they don’t land in Bellator.
The problem for Ben Askren is that he’s all about credibility and relevancy. He didn’t view the competition in Bellator as being on his level. He’ll likely feel the same way about WSOF. Askren is stuck because he doesn’t possess much leverage at the moment with no bidding war on the horizon. Perhaps he (and many other fighters) should read this Cage Potato article about learning lessons from the sport of boxing when it comes to building leverage at the negotiating table.
If he wants to maintain exposure to MMA fans, Bellator remains his best option. If he wants to convince himself that going to UFC stalking horse WSOF means he’s a step closer to getting to the big show, then he’ll take the risk — but it is a mighty risk. He’ll be facing guys like Jon Fitch, Josh Burkman, and Steve Carl. UFC would love to see Askren in WSOF, as it would give them access to file tape to use to promote Askren on television should they decide to bring him in down the road.
All of this is irrelevant if UFC is hoodwinking everyone and is ready to bring Askren in as a surprise. That said, there are plenty of reasons the UFC legitimately isn’t interested in Ben Askren. His fight style is boring for their (shrinking) audience. He’s one of the good guys when it comes to calling out the rampant drug usage in the sport and that is a no-no in the organization that publicly backs anabolic steroid passes for certain fighters. UFC’s track record of bringing in guys from Bellator has been mixed.
So, where does Askren go from here? Bellator’s contracts are onerous but the Viacom-owned league remains his best option to stay relevant and in the public spotlight. If Bellator was gone from the MMA picture, he would have nowhere to go but to WSOF. Interesting to note how WSOF swept right in with a contract offer right after Dana White said they weren’t interested. Let’s see how many people in the press will connect the dots about the UFC/WSOF relationship.
Exit question: Is money really an issue in regards to UFC not wanting to sign Askren? Hard to believe, but this is the same operation that cut bait with Jon Fitch. They look like geniuses now for doing so, but at the time they got creamed for saying Fitch was too expensive. This is an operation that is making $90 million a year from Fox Sports and solid PPV revenue even if the buy rate numbers are in decline.
By Zach Arnold | November 11, 2013
Imagine Roger Goodell, David Stern, Bud Selig touting their athletes getting anabolic steroid passes. Media would destroy. This is UFC now.
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) November 10, 2013
In 1998, Fox Sports & MLB made outrageous amounts of cash on the backs of steroid-using athletes who whacked baseballs out of ballparks. In 2013, Fox Sports is making some curious history by building a cable channel (FS1) around the first modern semi-major American professional sports organization openly declaring support for anabolic steroid usage.
As Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa enthralled the masses in 1998 with their record-breaking home run chase to surpass the great Roger Maris, Associated Press writer Steve Wilstein dropped the stink bomb of all stink bombs on the proceedings. He wrote about seeing a bottle of Androstenedione in McGwire’s locker. Wilstein wrote this article during the time in which McGwire’s chase of 70 home runs was being touted as the thing that saved baseball from it’s doldrums of the 1994-1995 strike. Skip Bayless, a newspaper beat writer at the time, noted that the heavy majority of baseball writers were completely clueless about steroids and buried their head in the sand. Steve Wilstein may have not known everything about steroids, but he knew enough to take notice of McGwire using Andro and wrote about it. He wrote his AP article at a time when the major television partners for MLB (Fox Sports & ESPN) were cashing in big time. For Fox Sports, baseball was a key ingredient in building up their RSNs (regional sports networks) with each market’s team having their games shown on the respective RSNs.
By Zach Arnold | November 8, 2013
— MMA Supremacy (@MMASupremacy) November 7, 2013
In my Thursday column on Fightline, I laid out the numerous challenges Bellator is facing when it comes to expanding their horizons to PPV. The biggest challenge is that they are trying to convince fans to pay for a product that they often see for “free” on cable. In other words, when you condition fans to watch your product for free, you’re going to have a hell of a time convincing them to pay for a show. That’s what Viacom is hoping they can convince MMA fans of doing in 2014.
Part of the problem Viacom faces is that Bellator has weekly MMA programming. UFC has a glut of programming on Fox Sports 1. The ratings for Bellator shows have yo-yo’d up-and-down. On FS1, UFC programming has drawn mediocre numbers outside of the Chael Sonnen fight in Boston. That fight drew 1.8 million viewers.
At stake are a few issues. First, even with a heavy glut of MMA programming on cable, you can still pop a solid number if fans are convinced that the fight you are pushing is the real deal. This is why Bellator was able to score with Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez despite their low profile name value to the masses. It’s why UFC did so well with the Sonnen fight when FS1 launched.
Second, there is an impact on TV ratings when it comes to the amount of programming. Simply put, there are so many shows that fans are picking and choosing what events to watch. This is a real phenomena amongst MMA fans. You can’t treat MMA fans like traditional sports fans because they aren’t. Many are pro-wrestling fans who watch one or two other sports. Pro-wrestling fans are used to watching episodic television on a weekly basis and are conditioned to tune into a certain time and channel. The problem with MMA is that you don’t see the same fighters week to week. So, there’s a lot more fickleness going on here. So, as there’s been more supply of MMA programming on cable, the ratings generally have gone down for shows that fans don’t perceive as important.
Right now, a lot of UFC’s C-level and B-level shows are not drawing on Fox Sports 1 because the fans don’t perceive the fights to be important enough to watch. The Ultimate Fighter experiment with Ronda Rousey has fallen off the tracks. DVR or not, the live numbers are not very good. I think a solid reason behind this, besides the fact that the show has ran its course, is that the Fox Sports 1 brand is absolutely driving negatives for UFC. The channel stinks. There’s not much programming you want to watch on the network. The graphics and presentation feel second-rate for their Sportscenter-type shows. It feels like a chore for me to watch FS1 as opposed to ESPN. I don’t want to watch FS1 on a regular basis. I have zero emotional attachment to the network and I think a lot of sports fans feel the same way. Same with NBC Sports Network except for the fact that they went all-in with the English Premier League and the gamble has paid off.
So, with the lower cable ratings for many of the UFC shows, the ratings tend to suffer when fans don’t perceive the fights as important to watch. Which leads to a bigger problem — the impact on PPV numbers.
Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman drew 525,000 PPV buys and since that point it’s been malaise city for the UFC. They need big numbers from Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva in the next two months or else the 2013 PPV campaign will close out with a whimper for UFC.
Part of the reason why the numbers are down on PPV is because there’s so much content available on cable that the motivation to pay for a fight is not as great if you perceive the PPV fights to be only slightly above the quality that you see on the cable shows. So, UFC has double trouble on this front — many of their cable shows are drawing fewer viewers because fans perceive the fights to not be important enough to watch and they hate FS1 as a channel. That in turn means that you’re getting fewer eyeballs for the prelim barker shows that are supposed to sell PPVs. When UFC went from Spike TV to FX, there was a decrease in viewers but still respectable numbers. The drop off from FX to FS1 has really hurt. I honestly thought that UFC’s gamble of taking a hit on ratings in exchange for building leverage over Fox would pay off. I’m having second thoughts about that strategy right now.
The difference between Bellator and UFC is the fact that Fox is paying UFC over $90 million a year for TV rights while Viacom is budgeting $50k-60k per Spike TV show. Hard for Bellator to gain steam when you don’t have a lot of money to spend and can’t afford to get into bidding wars. Well, Viacom can afford to do it but choose not to do it because they want to stay in the MMA space but on the cheap.
Bellator is facing the same challenges as UFC is now but only on a grander scale. They have to convince fans who have been watching them for “free” to finally pay for a product. I am not sure if the Long Beach card was exactly enough to convince MMA fans that Bellator PPV quality is worth dishing out $60. The additional challenge Bellator faces is drawing live gates that can finance the undercards. MMA Weekly reports that Bellator drew 6,600 in Long Beach with 4,200 paid. It sure didn’t look like 6,600 on camera. The original goal heading into the show was to have 8,000 in the building. They need the PPVs to come across as major events on television.
Although Bellator has a lot of questions heading into their 2014 campaign, at least I have a sense about where things are headed for the company. Whether it will succeed or not, who knows. As for UFC, Fox Sports 1 is turning out to be quicksand for the promotion. If the numbers don’t come back strong to close out the 2013 campaign, then I think there are a lot of questions that will need to asked by Zuffa as to where things are headed in 2014. The Super Bowl 2014 weekend card with Renan Barao vs. Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas is WEC-level drawing power in Newark. They could have booked Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jon Jones in a rematch here. Instead, Gustafsson will face Jimi Manuwa in London this March.
The only constant we know with the UFC is that they’re continuing to let the testosterone flow, as both Vitor Belfort & Dan Henderson will be using the magic T heading into their Saturday fight. Of course, both men now claim that they don’t need to use testosterone to keep fighting… and yet the athletic commissions and promoters continue to rubber stamp the anabolic steroid usage. I wonder why.
By Zach Arnold | November 7, 2013
A couple of days ago, Courthouse News published a basic summary of a 25-page court filing in the Southern District of New York by lawyer Jonathan Plaut on behalf of his client, boxer Bermane Stiverne, against Don King, King’s step-son Carl King, Don King Productions, Elite Sports and Entertainment Management, and Dana Jamison.
The last time we saw Don King was six months ago on HBO when a floor director/producer was pushing him around and nearly pushed him off the ring to the floor during a post-match interview with Bob Papa.
The long and the short of it: Stiverne alleges that Don King made him sign contracts to become his exclusive promoter in exchange for fighting another Don King fighter, Ray Austin, in 2011 for the WBC Silver Heavyweight title in Missouri. Stiverne wants out of the contractual agreements, claiming he was pressured & coerced into signing the deals which are being portrayed as contracts of adhesion (leverage all one-sided).
The text of the court filing is long but yet a very interesting read. When my colleague Rob Maysey talks about the Ali Act needing to be amended to cover MMA, this is a perfect example of why he is motivated to see changes occur. I’ve always stated that the Ali Act is largely toothless because no one has been criminally prosecuted since the Act passed. However, Rob has argued that the private right of action clause in the Ali Act provides civil relief and provides some legitimate protection to boxers.
Onto the lawsuit filing text. Not all 25 pages is included here but pertinent parts relating to the allegations are included. If you ever wanted to see supposed details of a Don King promotional contract and wanted to compare it to what a UFC contract reportedly looks like, here you go.