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Report: Oscar De La Hoya shuts the door on California hosting Canelo vs. Golovkin fight

By Zach Arnold | May 24, 2017

Oscar De La Hoya claimed Magic Johnson made him an offer to host the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight at Dodger Stadium. Tom Loeffler trolled a few days later at a U2 concert at the Rose Bowl by claiming the Rose Bowl would be a good venue for the fight.

In the end, it was predictable gaslighting.

It’s between Dallas and Las Vegas, so I have my meetings set already all this week and next week and hopefully I can have an answer for you in a few days.”

Both locations have no state income tax. Neither location has a 5% events tax like the city of Los Angeles or a 13% state income tax like California.

The consolation prize for the state of California will be Miguel Cotto vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai on 8/26 at StubHub Center. Golden Boy will promote that event.

The reaction to this news in Sacramento will not go over well. The Athletic Commission is fighting to increase it’s spending authority in the Governor’s hotly contested budget. Athletic Commission chairman John Carvelli, a wheeler and dealer in the dental business (Liberty Dental), has spent significant money on lobbying over the state’s Denti-Cal program for children.

Important political power brokers in Sacramento wanted the Canelo/Golovkin fight badly. The Athletic Commission and Consumer Affairs have spent the last year lobbying specifically for this fight. Tom Loeffler even received a ceremonial award from the AC. He knows how sensitive of an issue this is.

There will be internal tension at Consumer Affairs in Sacramento over this development. Andy Foster has done the best job he can to try to navigate the shark-infested waters with top politicians in the state Legislature always trying to get their hands into the AC’s business affairs. UFC has greatly helped him out with lobbying via Tim Lynch at Platinum Advisors. Even with that as the backdrop, there will be palpable disappointment and anger among Democratic leaders — specifically Southern California Democrats — who strongly believe that Canelo should be fighting his biggest fight in Los Angeles.

In yesteryear, a power player like Tim Leiweke would have gotten involved and bought the fight for Staples Center. Leiweke moved onto the Toronto Raptors and Staples isn’t buying fights like they used to. Without men like Tim Leiweke, the Athletic Commission has no juice to get an A-level boxing match. The false promises of tax breaks and empty sloganeering in pamphlets isn’t going to cut it. That won’t stop political leaders in Sacramento from applying pressure via interrogation on why they couldn’t get the fight they believe was owed to them as a God-given right.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The TV industry buzz phrase UFC is banking on in new negotiations: “time poverty”

By Zach Arnold | May 22, 2017

In an interview recorded this past weekend, Fox Sports point man Michael Mulvihill made his case that the television industry is not dying. In particular, regional sports network are monstrous cash cows and baseball is the sport best-positioned to take advantage of the current media trends because of how much content is produced. It plays in both sides of the equation: live events (standard TV formats) and recorded (digital consumption).

According to Mr. Mulvihill, Americans watch over five hours of TV daily. Cord cutting & cord shaving is having an impact but a disparate one. The impact is felt greater at a network like ESPN. The biggest threat to sports programming and television is “time poverty.” Television habits are becoming a zero sum proposition. Americans are watching five hours a day but viewership habits are hardening. Sports programming is no longer competing strictly with other sports programming for viewership time. The margin for error is getting slimmer. What if there is too much good content?

Mr. Mulvihill remarked that all the major American sports corporations are extremely sensitive to “time poverty.” MLB has implemented small measures to try to speed up games. Instead, games are now over three hours in length. Are Americans willing to spend three out of their five hours daily watching a baseball game? Viewers are hanging in with professional and college football games. Gambling can make torture fun.

According to the Fox Sports executive, two sports are primed to withstand the problem of “time poverty” – soccer (MLS) and MMA (UFC). You can watch a soccer game in two hours. A UFC title fight, with intervals and commercials, is around 35 minutes. This, according to Fox Sports, is becoming more valuable than whether or not a sport can capture the 18-to-34 year old demographic. UFC built its reputation in the television & social media industries on the fact that it’s prime demographic is right in the 18-to-34 year old sweet spot. Mr. Mulvihill believes that reconsideration is in order because younger Americans are delaying big life-changing experiences until they reach an older age – buying cars, houses, and starting families. He believes a more productive demographic to focus on is 25-to-54 and that middle-aged viewers have more purchasing power. This change in principle helps baseball (demo skews older 40s-early 50s-ish) more than it helps UFC.

The words of Michael Mulvihill should not be taken lightly. He is the man UFC will be negotiating with when it’s time to renew the Fox Sports 1 TV deal.

What about multiple television deals with different channels?

Since WME-IMG purchased UFC, the automatic assumption is Ari Emanuel pitching different kinds of UFC television packages to multiple channels (similar to the NFL, NBA, MLB).

Fox Sports just purchased rights to Big 10 college football and is splitting games with ESPN. According to Mr. Mulvihill, the two channels have been engaged in a fantasy lottery of sorts to buy dates in order to get games. Thus, Fox Sports bought the date to get first rights to Michigan vs. Ohio State.

Could such a scenario play out with the UFC? UFC has Super Bowl weekend, Memorial Day weekend, 4th of July, and New Year’s Eve. UFC can’t predict what fights are going to happen on specific dates. Selling dates as events, however, could be the avenue they pursue if they can convince a second television partner to buy some of their content.

The big question is what kind of financial value Fox Sports places on UFC content. Fox needs UFC content to justify the existence of Fox Sports 1. The network suits can argue until they are blue in the face that MLB & college football games are going to build the channel’s relevance. Certain games may pop bigger numbers than UFC programming. By in large, however, UFC programming remains the most solid performer on Fox. It’s good programming inventory. The question is at what price does it remain a good value. ESPN’s misfortunes has taken away some of UFC’s leverage. How valuable is UFC as an antidote to the “time poverty” conundrum?

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

Dana White secures UFC’s power in the Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather negotiations

By Zach Arnold | May 14, 2017

The best negotiating systems are those with at least two different paths to success and no downside. New UFC ownership agreed with Conor McGregor’s desires to fight Floyd Mayweather. They wanted to hit a proverbial grand slam in order to make as much cash as quickly as possible given the amount of financial debt as a result of purchasing the company from the Fertitta family. UFC held contractual power over Conor McGregor. However, new UFC ownership let McGregor figure out, on his own, what he was worth and what Mayweather would want for a boxing match. After the fishing expedition, UFC figured they could step in and figure out what made sense for their bottom line and McGregor’s bottom line.

The mistake new UFC ownership made was letting the situation drag on for half a year. It took away valuable time and resources from what they needed to use for day-to-day matchmaking negotiations. It impacted UFC’s timetable. A big no-no.

Dana White reclaimed power this week by creating a deadline, artificial or real, on the McGregor/Mayweather negotiations. He had increased his leverage a week after Golden Boy & HBO announced the impending September mega-fight between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. He executed on the deadline and McGregor’s side blinked. Dana says he’s ready to talk to Al Haymon.

What a perfect situation for UFC.

Dana White has said the Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather fight must happen in 2017 or else it’s not going to happen at all. McGregor wants to fight twice in 2017. That would mean a fight in the Summer most likely and then a New Year’s Eve weekend fight.

The new UFC management went all-in on “hero booking.” The problem is they gave an inch to the fighters in negotiations and things became unwieldly. Dana White can now walk away from the situation, fight or no fight, as a winner in the eyes of the public and move onto boosting his day-to-day matchmaking affairs.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Ditching GSP/Bisping and McGregor/Mayweather is about UFC trying to regain control

By Zach Arnold | May 10, 2017

On Wednesday night, Dana White proclaimed negotiations for a Georges St. Pierre/Michael Bisping fight to be finished (for now). He claimed that St. Pierre wouldn’t be ready to fight until November of 2017. Therefore, Yoel Romero will get his title match with Michael Bisping.

The bottom line is that the new UFC, managed by WME-IMG, cannot afford to be patient with matchmaking due to how much debt they have to pay back from buying the company for $4 billion dollars.

The impatience on display this week from Dana White does not match the strategy WME-IMG implemented at the beginning of 2017. They played along with Conor McGregor’s desires to book a fight with Floyd Mayweather. They’ve spent months playing the string on booking Georges St. Pierre vs. Michael Bisping. The new UFC’s strategy was transparently obvious. They were willing to put everything to the side in order to go for the instant home-runs to make as much cash in big chunks rather than grind out the regular matchmaking schedule.

White’s pronouncements this week of GSP/Bisping getting pushed to the back-burner and stalling talks between UFC, McGregor, and Mayweather signal his loudest attempt yet to try to grab control of UFC power to restore “normal” order.

If the new UFC had the willpower to do what was necessary to make Michael Bisping vs. GSP happen, the fight would be happening as promised. It’s not happening now. This has nothing to do with the desires of other fighters or fan wishes. From my perspective, this is about a much bigger story within WME-IMG and the power struggle to figure out the best course of action to address the massive level of debt they currently have on the books for their UFC purchase.

There will be spin about the new UFC giving Conor McGregor and GSP enough rope to hang themselves on getting the marquee fights they wanted. With Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin getting booked, there’s no doubt incentive for UFC to put the squeeze on McGregor to soften demands for negotiations. That’s the up front story. The bigger picture? This is about Dana White and the old UFC guard attempting to re-establish their power base while rebuking the speculative financial strategy of paying off debt with “hero booking.” The new UFC was abandoning the financial path that had gotten the old UFC to the point of being sold for $4 billion dollars. The old guard in UFC is trying to correct the course but damage has been done.

Fighters are learning a very valuable lesson that when it comes time for negotiations with the new UFC: their enormous debt obligations are the weak point that can be exploited. Dana White’s attempts to regain control of UFC by strong-arming everything into normal order runs counter to the strategy from new ownership motivated by financial interests & obligations on the calendar.

The new UFC has let fighters find their own voice. The old UFC would have never allowed this to occur. Can Dana put the genie back in the bottle?

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

UFC’s massive debt load is being used against them by fighters to create unforced errors

By Zach Arnold | May 9, 2017

Dana White is telling the public that UFC “lost its date” of September 16th for the proposed Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather fight after Golden Boy announced Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin. UFC perpetuating the charade of McGregor/Mayweather highlights what a precarious position WME-IMG is in right now.

Lorenzo Fertitta would have never let Conor McGregor hold UFC hostage like this. He certainly gave McGregor plenty of perks and put up with a lot of shenanigans. What Lorenzo didn’t allow was his company to become prey for a hostile takeover. He just left the headaches for his business partner, Ari Emanuel, to deal with. Once WME-IMG paid $4 billion dollars in a highly speculative play on UFC, the whole business model changed.

All of this has taken a toll on Dana White. Look at White’s current behavior. The man who sold the public on being able to put together the fights you wanted to see is now getting exposed by Oscar De La Hoya, of all people.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

The point of the fight business is to make matches that the public wants to buy.

You would think that WME-IMG’s UFC, saddled with monstrous debt, would be sensitive to booking fights that the public wants to watch. Instead of demonstrating matchmaking consistency, WME-IMG decided to play along with Conor McGregor’s hostile takeover. Give him what he wants. If he wants to fight Floyd Mayweather, then UFC gets its cut. Go for the home-run. Go for broke. Go for the fastest way to make a payday on paper. Why make money incrementally? Swing for the fences.

From the outside looking in, UFC’s strategy in dealing with Conor McGregor looks simple. Appear to give a good faith attempt on booking the Mayweather fight, watch things fall apart, and then come back to McGregor when his act has cooled off or squeeze him when the next big fight comes along. That next big fight is Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin.

UFC’s preoccupation with playing the leverage game on Conor McGregor has robbed them of oxygen in the matchmaking department for the rest of the company. A flood of cheap interim title matches with the end result being more fighters getting contractually tied up to UFC because of the dreaded “champion’s clause.” Fighters are starting to stand up and refuse interim title fights because of this onerous legal provision. Better late than never even if it’s a risky strategy. Luke Rockhold, like many UFC fighters, understands what the game is now:

“I don’t know, man,” he told Ariel Helwani when asked about his situation. “You can’t predict anything these days. So, [the UFC is] just chasing to pay off a debt really, is what they’re doing, trying to put these megafights together that don’t make sense. I don’t know. You never know what they’re going to do these days. Who knows.”

The reaction from UFC is the kind of cheesy, half-hearted laser pointing of Dana White publicly questioning what the worth of a fighter like Nate Diaz is.

UFC has one solid big money fight on the horizon — Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones. They have a second fight that could do good in Michael Bisping vs. GSP. The overarching WME-IMG philosophy on matchmaking is simple — go for the grand slam. If everything else gets plugged up, that’s collateral damage. Where else are fighters going to go?

Focus on the star power. Hang in there until a new television deal arrives. Then consider the option of flipping the company to another set of venture capitalists or the option of embracing an IPO. The strategy may pay off but the downside is incredibly treacherous. The business fundamentals that brought UFC to the point of being sold for $4 billion dollars have been abandoned. The company’s word is ringing hollow to fans and fighters.

The weather vane known as ESPN

Remember how hot and bothered ESPN got over covering UFC events over the past few years? Once Ronda Rousey’s career imploded, they cooled off a little bit. Things cooled a little bit more when Al Haymon cut a deal to air PBC events on the network. The PBC experiment backfired and ESPN ended up cutting a deal with Golden Boy. Suddenly, ESPN toned down the “boxing is dead” rhetoric to pump up Oscar De La Hoya & Canelo Alvarez.

As ESPN went in bed with Golden Boy, the on-air love fest with UFC got smothered by a proverbial wet blanket. After Canelo Alvarez easily defeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., an ESPN anchor had the temerity to declare Canelo/Chavez the biggest fight in the history of Mexican sports. Just as quickly, ESPN went into promotional mode for Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin. A real fight that fans want to see. Red meat over cotton candy. The only media defender of UFC continuing to pursue Mayweather vs. McGregor is Fox Sports 1 and that’s because they need UFC to stay relevant in order for their network to remain carried by cable & satellite providers.

ESPN cooling off on UFC is a telling sign. ESPN thought they could gain street cred among the 18-to-34 year old social media demographic by going all-in with UFC. Now they’re backing away and pushing their own business interests with Golden Boy. Unless ESPN decides to get in bed with UFC on the next television contract, I would expect ESPN to continue with its new-found half-hearted treatment of an MMA product that is frequently getting colder. That’s the price WME-IMG is paying for the gamble they’ve made in their business strategy to address the massive financial debt load they have.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 9 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Put up or shut up time for California in recruiting the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight

By Zach Arnold | May 7, 2017

The California State Athletic Commission has spent a year groveling to promoters in order to attract a major fight to the state. Useless pamphlets. Pleas for money marks to pay for sold shows. False promises of tax breaks while California voters continue to support higher taxation rates. Even consideration of the Athletic Commission creating their own title belt.

Sacramento’s targeted fight has been Canelo Alvarez vs. GGG. They went as far as to kiss promoter Tom Loeffler’s ass with an award. Now a date has been set for the proposed Canelo/GGG fight: September 16th. The venue has yet to be determined.

It’s go time for Andy Foster and the California State Athletic Commission. There are major politicians who want the Canelo/GGG fight in Los Angeles, come hell or high water. Now that a date has been set for September 16th, the political & business pressure to obtain the Canelo/GGG fight is going to significantly increase in the next 45-to-60 days. It will likely be a topic of discussion at the next Athletic Commission meeting in Anaheim on May 16th.

The alternatives to California for Canelo/GGG are: Nevada, Texas, or New York. Florida is an option but an unlikely one. Texas makes a ton of sense at JerryWorld (Cowboys Stadium). Nevada makes a lot of sense given that it would be easy to get a site fee. New York, however, would be a swift kick to Sacramento’s balls. High taxation, high cost of doing business in NYC, and a terribly tarnished athletic commission. California losing Canelo/GGG to Nevada or Texas would hurt the Athletic Commission and cause political frustration at Consumer Affairs. Losing the fight to New York would produce backlash in the Legislature at a time when the Athletic Commission is requesting $200,000 in spending authority for athletic inspectors and Athletic Commission Chairman John Carvelli is spending over $65,000 in a short lobbying period for his Liberty Dental company regarding Governor Brown’s budget and the Medi-Cal dental (Denti-Cal) program. A lot of money is at stake here for both parties.

Andy Foster prides himself on being a salesman with a gift of gab. John Carvelli views himself as a deal-maker and closer. They’ve been talking big about recruiting the Canelo Alvarez fight with GGG. They must deliver this fight for California or else politicians in the Sacramento Legislature will start meddling (again) with the Athletic Commission’s business & political activities. Consumer Affairs and Sacramento wants the Canelo/GGG fight for two reasons: 1) the revenue and 2) the tickets so that politicians and their associates can go and be seen on camera. There is no bigger fight on the horizon than Canelo/GGG.

Al Haymon wins again

Lost in the charade that was Canelo Alvarez easily defeating Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Saturday night in Las Vegas was the fact that Al Haymon, once again, cashed in big on a lopsided fight.

Haymon had a piece of the action with Chavez. Chavez was a Top Rank fighter who ended up with Haymon. Chavez and Haymon made a lot of money on Saturday night.

Just a few months ago, Haymon defeated Golden Boy in court when he successfully fought off their anti-trust lawsuit in Los Angeles. Golden Boy immediately did business with him after he won. The PBC may be on the rocks but Haymon’s ventures in boxing will remain profitable for a long time to come. Reported rumors from a few weeks ago regarding ESPN considering litigation with Haymon appear unfounded — at the moment. There are no lawsuits filed in Federal court.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

ESPN’s financial collapse ensures that Fox Sports is the only major TV player for UFC

By Zach Arnold | April 26, 2017

About WME-IMG’s plan of spreading UFC programming in the future on multiple networks…

ESPN overspent on NBA and NFL programming packages. They built a business plan based on outbidding everyone else for sports programming. Then cord-cutting started. In response to cord-cutting, the network became more political and more infatuated with both social media & popular culture. The spiral downward accelerated. Unable to break free from the massive television contracts they’ve signed, ESPN is in firing squad mode to get rid of their reporters and television personalities. At least the professional ones.

This is why Fox Sports has and will remain the one major television partner for UFC in the future.

Without UFC, there is no major justification for cable & satellite networks to keep Fox Sports 1 in programming bundles.

Fox Sports is the only television network that truly understands how the MMA industry operates. They’re the only television partner willing to work hand-in-hand with UFC on how to market and hype events. Fox has the money to pay WME-IMG to keep UFC. The question is whether or not WME-IMG’s gamble on tripling or quadrupling UFC’s TV rights fees will pan out. I say no. This has a similar feeling to the showdown between USA Network and WWE a couple of years ago that resulted in WWE only getting a modest increase in rights fees.

Rather than go the WWE route of going all-in for their own streaming service, it feels like (from the outside-looking-in) that WME-IMG is intent on packaging Fight Pass as part of the next TV rights deal package and letting the future TV partner manage or navigate the Fight Pass business model. Think: Turner Sports and NBA TV.

ESPN, meanwhile, is in a disadvantageous position to negotiate becoming the main home of UFC programming. They got rid of Todd Grisham. The Al Haymon/PBC experiment imploded. ESPN continues to do a piss-poor job of hyping programming that isn’t NBA or NFL-related. You don’t even see ads for future Golden Boy shows on the network. If you’re UFC, are you going to sacrifice your hype machine to the mercy of ESPN management? Not a chance in hell.

And just how much demand is there for the “new” UFC? I think a lot of the ‘new’ UFC sucks. The Ultimate Fighter franchise is as desirable as stepping on a rusty door nail. UFC shoulder programming on Fox Sports 1 is a dreadful watch, especially with Karyn Bryant getting so much air time. The cards for Fox network television events aren’t treated with importance or significance. UFC continues to highlight Mighty Mouse on network television despite not having a real plan on how to market him to the masses or push the right buttons to make him somewhat of an attraction. The inability of UFC to treat Cris Cyborg like a human is grating. UFC has failed to capitalize on making the right deals to cash in on Nick & Nate Diaz post-McGregor re-match. The matchmaking for the women’s 135 pound division is an unholy mess. How many champions can the average UFC fan name right now?

Most important of all – the massive debt load that WME-IMG is trying to manage. Perhaps that’s all they will have in common with ESPN when it comes time to negotiate a new television deal.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Spike TV drops PBC; what’s next for Al Haymon and the major athletic commissions?

By Zach Arnold | April 12, 2017

Dan Rafael at ESPN is reporting that Spike TV has dropped PBC programming. The reporting tone at ESPN regarding Al Haymon is a far cry from when he was doing business with the network. Now the network is in bed with Golden Boy.

Rafael’s report claims that Spike TV was the only “non-premium” cable network paying a rights fee for PBC programming. This goes against what I had been told in the past regarding the deal PBC has with Fox Sports 1, but I could be factually wrong on that account. Nevertheless, PBC programming on FS1 continues while their deal with Spike TV is over.

The big picture now is the stability of PBC with other television networks. Chris Mannix claims PBC is about to get dropped by other television stations.

Things changed in a hurry for Al Haymon once PBC agreed to drop their exclusivity clauses from television contracts as part of the settlement with Top Rank. Top Rank settled their antitrust lawsuit against PBC. Golden Boy, however, did not. They lost their court case via summary judgment. However, Golden Boy got very lucky that they were not subjected to “loser pays attorney fees” status. Instead, the most that Al Haymon’s side could recover was court costs estimated to be around $35,000.

In the end, Golden Boy paid a lot in legal fees but so did PBC. That had to hurt.

While various reasons/excuses were stated for Spike TV dropping PBC, not mentioned in mass media reports is the fact that the legal climate for PBC changed once a few shareholders from the Ivy Fund in Kansas filed a shareholder derivative lawsuit against the hedge fund for financing PBC and allegedly putting $525 million dollars in a shell LLC (Media Holdings LLC). The lawsuit is attempting to get the hedge fund to claw back the money they invested into Al Haymon.

The lawsuit was filed in April of 2016. PBC had a big run in the Summer of 2016. Then things slowed down to a crawl. The shareholder lawsuit was part of (what we guestimated in past articles) a legal python strategy to choke the cash from PBC.

Even if PBC dies a slow & agonizing death, Al Haymon will have made his money. He will have cashed out big. As long as PBC isn’t subjected to future litigation by business partners or adversaries, things will be good for Al Haymon. He’ll be free and clear to do as he pleases in boxing. Can the same thing be said for the fighters he has signed to long term deals? Will fighters attempt to extricate themselves out of his management/advisory contracts?

Lost in the noise is what the impact will be on athletic commissions like California, Texas, and New York. A past breakdown I did of the revenue numbers in California showed that revenue from PBC & Al Haymon was around 15-to-20% for the state Athletic Commission. With UFC slumping and Al Haymon facing new economic realities, it’s not good news for the athletic commissions who helped propel Haymon’s rise in the boxing world.

Topics: Boxing, Media, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Devil’s advocate on Dan Miragliotta at UFC 210 — ABC has fault for confusion on grounded fighters

By Zach Arnold | April 8, 2017

There was a perfect storm of events heading into UFC 210 to create chaos in the Gegard Mousasi vs. Chris Weidman fight.

First, it’s Chris Weidman. There’s always something dramatic happening with him in or out of the cage. He came into the fight on a losing streak and was fighting for his career on home turf.

Second, Chris Weidman’s home turf is New York. The New York State Athletic Commission is still trying to learn the MMA industry. Plus, they’re one of the worst if not worst state athletic commissions in America for regulating combat sports. Which means there is even more pressure on UFC itself as an organization to try to figure out how to run the regulatory show with a bunch of incompetent, green regulators. See: Daniel Cormier weigh-in and Pearl Gonzalez breast implants.

Third, the California State Athletic Commission and their friends at the Association of Boxing Commissions pushed through new regulations to modify the Unified Rules of MMA. It’s created confusion. It’s created a split in the United States with several states not adopting the proposed ABC changes. This includes states such as New Jersey, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado, Virginia, Maryland and South Dakota.

This means that MMA referees who work shows in multiple states have to remember both the old Unified rules and the new Unified rules. Rather than build a full political consensus on having all states slowly modify the Unified rules, you have legalized anarchy that’s bound to create confusion even amongst the most experienced MMA referees in the business.

The biggest source of confusion between the old and new Unified rules deals with the definition of a grounded fighter. The old rules allowed fighters to protect themselves with a single finger on the ground. The new rules:

…now a fighter must have both hands down — palms or fists — or a knee or another part of the body besides the soles of his or her feet on the mat to be grounded.

Which leads us to the finishing sequence at UFC 210 for the Mousasi/Weidman fight. From MMA Junkie’s PBP of the event:

n the middle, Mousasi gets hold of Weidman and drills him with two knees while his hand is on the canvas – or so it seems. Miragliotta stops the fight and sends Mousasi to a neutral corner. Weidman will get looked at by the doctor. He gets five minutes. It looks like they may want to stop the fight. The replays show that the knees may have been legal. Now they’re consulting with the commission – and the fight is over. The place goes absolutely crazy with boos. It’s Weidman’s home state, he’s saying he can continue and wants to continue – and they’re shutting it down. It’s a TKO win for Mousasi – and the crowd is absolutely livid. Miragliotta made a mistake stopping the fight because the knees actually were legal. So when Miragliotta gave him time to recover, that was a problem. Weidman is pacing the cage during Mousasi’s interview, and he’s completely drowned out by the boos.

I am surprised that it took this long to see the fruits of confusion sewn over the definition of a grounded fighter.

If the knees were viewed to be illegal, Miragliotta should have taken point a point away from Mousasi while giving Weidman time to recover and return to action. Instead, there was a stoppage… and then the fight got stopped without Weidman having a chance to fight. Weidman is automatically appealing the decision and wants a rematch.

There are three points of future debate here for public consumption:

I don’t foresee any helpful changes coming any time soon to erase doubts or confusion.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The legal war in Kansas over Al Haymon’s hedge fund money heats up

By Zach Arnold | April 6, 2017

Shareholders of the hedge funds financing Al Haymon’s PBC (Premier Boxing Champions) sued said hedge funds in Kansas state court. The lawsuit was a shareholder derivative lawsuit, meaning the shareholders sued the hedge fund in order to claw back money that the hedge fund invested or was about to invest in Al Haymon. Plaintiffs claimed that over $525 million dollars was being held in a Delaware LLC called Media Holdings.

The lawsuit involves prominent attorneys from both New York & Los Angeles along with local Kansas attorneys.

The defendants are: 1) Ivy Investment Management Company, 2) Waddell & Reed Investment Management Company, 3) Waddell & Reed Advisors Fund, and 4) a slew of individual defendants/trustees.

Here is the quick and dirty summary of what has transpired in state court:

Which brings us to what happened in court on Thursday.

A statement from plaintiffs attorney Sam Bonderoff in response to today’s events:

“Although Judge Mason dismissed the derivative claim brought on behalf of the Waddell & Reed Advisors Fund, the derivative claim on behalf of the Ivy Fund remains and that fund is responsible for the overwhelming majority of shareholder losses from the Haymon-related investments. We will continue to press our claims vigorously.”

To be continued…

Topics: Boxing, Media, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

Golden Boy’s ESPN debut consisted of Teddy Atlas dumping on matchmaking & California commission

By Zach Arnold | March 23, 2017

So much for ESPN bothering to advertise their new television deal with Golden Boy.

The network didn’t run any ads for Thursday’s debut card from Fantasy Springs. Nothing on Olympic medalist Marlen Esparza. Zero on undefeated Randy Caballero. Nothing on Jason Quigley or veteran Glen Tapia. Even TruTV did more for Top Rank than ESPN did for Golden Boy.

What we did get was Teddy Atlas being… saucy. The old Teddy Atlas on ESPN used to dump on people and name names. The new ESPN-ified Teddy Atlas (thanks producers?) dumps on people without naming names, especially those working for athletic commissions.

The opening fight featured Marlen Esparza making her professional debut against Rachel Sazoff. On paper, it was designed to be a classic squash match. It was also a fight that should have never been approved by Andy Foster. Matchmakers book squashes all the time. It’s up to the Athletic Commission to say no. Andy Foster rubber stamped this squash just like he approved a nearly 60-year old female fighter versus a 300-pounder.

Rachel Sazoff is an MMA fighter. A 1-7 MMA fighter. A 1-7 MMA fighter and 0-2 boxer facing an Olympic medalist in a 4-rounder. It wasn’t a contest.

Teddy Atlas dumped on Golden Boy during the entire fight for booking this one-sided affair. After the fight, ESPN went to an interview spot with Teddy Atlas and Oscar De La Hoya where Atlas proceeded to question DLH on booking squashes because that’s not what fans want to see. It was a dressing down session.

Which brought us to Randy Caballero against Jesus Ruiz. It was more competitive in real time than the bout looked on paper. Teddy Atlas talked about Caballero finding real estate in the ring… and then proceeded to say that Caballero brought his “real estate agent.” It was one of those truly awkward Teddy moments that you used to see on Friday Night Fights.

HBO Boxing photographer Ed Mulholland noticed Teddy’s remark as well:

The main event brought us prospect Jason Quigley against grizzled veteran Glen Tapia. Tapia took a beating early and the fight could have reasonably been stopped. The old Teddy Atlas would have been screaming and shouting. The ESPN producer-ified Teddy Atlas was more gentle in nature even while protesting. The California State Athletic Commission allowed Tapia to continue boxing and Tapia, who took a man-sized beating, proceeded to expose Quigley for needing significant improvement on his defensive skills. But you wouldn’t have known that on the score cards which gave most rounds to Quigley. Carla Caiz (100-90), Max DeLuca (98-92), Zac Young (99-91).

After ring announcer Joe Martinez read the score card, Teddy Atlas questioned whether the judges had enough respect or knowledge of the sport… but didn’t mention the name of the judges. No significant build-up for the next fight. They went right off the air.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

ESPN’s brutal weight cutting video package demonstrates the incompetence of the fight industry

By Zach Arnold | March 20, 2017

Sandwiched in-between wall-to-wall coverage of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, ESPN decided to air a video package on Cris Cyborg and her brutal adventures in weight-cutting. It was built upon this video feature Cyborg put online several months ago about her torturous experience of dehydrating herself to the point where blood could not be drawn from her arm:

The video package itself was not entirely new but it was updated by ESPN to contain some interesting responses to its initial airing.

ESPN aired Cyborg’s claim that UFC refused to give her a fight at 145 pounds and that allegedly UFC made a u-turn on 145 pound fights when they found out about the Outside the Lines segment. Whether that is factually accurate or an issue of false light, I cannot say one way or the other. The segment claims that Cyborg rejected the offer of a 145 pound title fight and aired her various comments talking about how insulted she was that someone 0-2 was going to get a UFC 145 pound title shot. This drew an analogous response from Dana White saying that players for the New England Patriots don’t get to pick and choose when they participate in a title game.

Added to the context to the weight cutting issue was Cyborg’s recent USADA back-and-forth over a diuretic and whether she had properly gotten doctor’s permission to use it.

Andy Foster planted his flag in the ground to try to stop bad weight cuts

California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster has made it a mission to try to put a stop to the kind of massive weight cuts in boxing and MMA that have damaged kidney & organ function of fighters who knew better but decided to take the risk no matter what the price was to pay for such destructive, masochistic behavior.

California pushed the idea of early weigh-ins. Instead of making weight at the last minute, weigh-ins are taking place at 10 AM the day before a show and the traditional weigh-in events with fans are ceremonial in nature. The idea, which is entirely logical and reasonable on its face, was to give fighters more time to hydrate so that they wouldn’t be in such bad shape come fight time. Plus, if a fighter fails to make weight at 10 AM, there is always the opportunity for a promoter to negotiate a last minute replacement to save a fight card.

What appeared to be solid policy has backfired in a disastrous manner. More fighters are missing weight. More fighters are turning down last-minute opponents. Promoters are pissed. Fighters are extra pissed, not only at opponents for missing weight but for how much promoters are allegedly paying them (or not) in terms of show money. See: Tony Ferguson.

The carrot didn’t work, so bring out the stick

That’s the best way to summarize the newest policy evolution by Andy Foster and the state of California regarding punishment of fighters who miss weight.

Remember the days of “shower bonuses” under Lorenzo Fertitta? California is now pushing for a new policy on their bout contracts to require, I suspect under penalty of perjury, disclosure regarding potential win bonuses. If a fighter misses weight, they already lose 20% of their purse but they can still fight the next day and win both base money and bonus money. The new California policy would attack not only the base money but would also take a percentage of the win bonus.

I believe this will actually create an adverse impact and make the weight cutting situation even worse in California-regulated combat sports.

First, I expect managers, promoters, and fighters to try to hide any oral or written contractual bonus clauses and dare the Athletic Commission to administratively hound them with the Attorney General’s office for punishment. If the penalty for perjury isn’t criminal in nature, why are people in the fight business going to care?

Second, I would expect bonus agreements to go off the books. It’s hard enough to pry financial information honestly out of event participants. If this becomes too much of a headache for UFC, what’s to stop UFC from blowing their whistle and proclaiming win bonuses to be part of their contractual trade secrets that should be legally sealed?

Third, there isn’t enough money to be made for the majority of fighters to change their behavior by fining them. You can’t half-ass the punishment here. If you’re going to drop the hammer, drop the hammer and start suspending fighters the way you suspend fighters for doping. The threat of fining fighters for weight cutting will likely turn out to be mostly for show. Fighters want to fight. Take away their ability to fight the same way you get an athlete’s attention by telling them to sit down.

There is no easy answer on addressing the incredible dilemma of weight cutting. Changing weight classes in increments of 10 pounds per division is really where everything is heading. Until the fans and promoters agree to acquiesce to those changes, everyone is spinning their wheels and more fighters are going to end up in the hospital due to kidney failure.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

California State Athletic Commission seeking permission to spend $200,000 more on athletic inspectors

By Zach Arnold | March 13, 2017

In the upcoming California state budget fight, the Department of Consumer Affairs is working with the legislature to have Governor Jerry Brown’s budget give the California State Athletic Commission authority to spend up to $1.65 million dollars for the upcoming Fiscal Year (starting July 1st).

In the concurrent state Assembly & Senate budget bills, there is an additional provision to give the Athletic Commission an additional $200,000 in spending authority in order to recruit more athletic inspectors and for athletic inspector training sessions.

Over the last couple of years, the Athletic Commission has improved its budgetary numbers but has gone on an infrequent training schedule regarding its frontline employees. Additionally, the revenue has been built on the back of professional wrestling (WWE) events. The Athletic Commission does not actively regulate wrestling events. They simply collect a check from the box office at the arena. WWE has not challenged the Athletic Commission in court for disparate treatment even with the voluminous amount of independent wrestling shows in the state each year.

According to a March 14th memo, the Athletic Commission has $1.1 million dollars in its bank account.

The concurrent budget bills in the California Legislature also request $55,000 in Athletic Commission spending authority for their neurological fund (with an extra $50,000 bump if requested) and $105,000 in Athletic Commission spending authority for their boxer’s pension fund.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

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