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High-risk gamble by Mark Hunt attorneys to sue UFC for racketeering may be backfiring

By Zach Arnold | June 27, 2017

A strategic legal calculation to grab media headlines and Federal jurisdiction has possibly put Mark Hunt’s historic doping lawsuit against UFC in jeopardy.

Part of a court transcript quoted in Dana White’s motion to dismiss court filing against Mark Hunt reveals that the Federal judge involved in Hunt’s lawsuit versus UFC & Brock Lesnar is extremely skeptical about a mixture of both Federal and state (Nevada) causes of action filed. Outside of breach of contract and breach of implied covenant, the judge in question (nicely) is highly skeptical of the lawsuit filing by Team Hunt.

That doesn’t mean the judge will automatically toss out parts of the lawsuit filing. It’s possible parts could be removed and the judge gives Team Hunt a chance to amend the complaint. The big problem for Team Hunt is whether or not the judge tosses out the Federal RICO (racketeering) cause of action.

If the Federal RICO cause of action doesn’t survive, it means there’s no Federal jurisdiction for Team Hunt to sue UFC & Brock Lesnar. Which means the case, should it survive, would move to Nevada state court. The belief is that a state court would be a much more favorable venue to both UFC & Brock Lesnar. I’ve argued against this conventional wisdom.

Nevada, like Florida, is a state where old-school causes of action like unjust enrichment still exist. Concealment and fraud are also on the table. There are plenty of options in state court that make Team Hunt’s attempt to sue in Federal court an unforced error.

I still think Mark Hunt has a decent chance of getting a settlement or winning a court case against UFC. Discovery and deposition is going to be a pain in the ass for both UFC & Lesnar. It is in Lesnar’s best interest to settle this case as quickly as possible. The question is whether or not Team Hunt will be able to get one party to turn on the other.

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

UFC’s Cortney Casey can sue the Texas athletic commission for libel but she only has a few weeks left

By Zach Arnold | June 26, 2017

UFC’s claim that they may not run another show in Texas is a bluff but the anger behind the bluff is significantly real and justified.

An explosive report by Iain Kidd regarding UFC fighter Cortney Casey’s drug test suspension with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation has raised tensions between MMA’s premier promoter and a state with a horribly checkered past regulating combat sports events.

If the allegations in Kidd’s report are verified, Cortney Casey potentially has a libel case worth hundreds of thousands of dollars against the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for tainting her public reputation.

Here’s the kicker: Texas state libel laws require extremely swift action on Casey’s part in order to prepare for a libel lawsuit.

The intricate steps needed to sue a Texas government agency for libel

If a government agency in Texas libels a person, regardless of public figure status, the person libeled has to request a formal retraction in writing within 90 days of the publication of defamation. The request can be done in e-mail but courts usually want certified US Postal Service delivery with return receipt.

The agency has 30 days to either issue a retraction or 60 days to challenge a retraction request. No response is deemed as a denial.


The person libeled has 180 days (six months) from the time of defamation publication to file a formal government claim with the state agency in question. The claim must include a specific request for damages. Depending on the attorney, some claims are short while others are treated as treatises citing case law in an attempt to read the riot act.

The state agency has a limited period of time after the claim is filed to either deliver a response (a settlement offer, rejection, or no response which is treated by courts as a rejection).

The person libeled has 360 days (1 year) from the time of defamation publication to sue the state agency for libel.

The issues at state in UFC/Cortney Casey vs. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation

Let’s go to the Iain Kidd article at Bloody Elbow and read the allegations.

This is the kind of behavior that can get a state agency sued for millions of dollars.

What Cortney Casey needs to prove for a libel claim

Here are the elements you have to prove for libel in Texas:

A libel is a defamation expressed in written or other graphic form that tends to blacken the memory of the dead or that tends to injure a living person’s reputation and thereby expose the person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or financial injury or to impeach any person’s honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or to publish the natural defects of anyone and thereby expose the person to public hatred, ridicule, or financial injury.

If the person libeled is any kind of public figure, they must prove actual malice. Cortney Casey would be considered a limited-purpose public figure in this case.

To prove actual malice, the plaintiff would have to show that the defendant knew the information they were disseminating was false or showed reckless disregard (substantial & unjustifiable risk) to the truth of the claims publicly made.

If the allegations laid out in Iain Kidd’s article are true and the evidence is in writing, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is in big trouble… only if Cortney Casey herself files an immediate retraction request with the Texas DLR because if she doesn’t, she can’t pursue a libel claim against the state of Texas.

What about the Texas anti-SLAPP law?

Texas is one of several states that has an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute that allows a person sued for defamation to file a special Motion to Strike and dismiss parts or all of a legal complaint.

If the defendant filing the anti-SLAPP motion can prove their publication was about “a matter of public concern”, then the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that they have at least a preponderance of evidence to prevail in court.

Given the presented allegations, an anti-SLAPP motion to strike would likely backfire on the state of Texas and require the state to pay the attorney fees of Cortney Casey. Given those stakes, they would likely file a demurrer (motion to dismiss) to try to show that she can’t meet the elements of libel required. That’s highly unlikely to succeed as well.

Bottom line: If the UFC wants to change the way business is done in Texas, they’ll find it’s cheaper to find and hire a libel attorney for Cortney Casey instead of boycotting the state. They have the resources to pull this off. They should exhaust administrative remedies and pursue a proper conclusion.

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

Oh no… California judge Marcos Rosales scored BJ Penn demolition a 28-28 draw

By Zach Arnold | June 25, 2017

The ghost of BJ Penn surfaced again in 2017, this time in a fight against Dennis Siver at UFC’s Oklahoma City event. Penn was destroyed by Yair Rodriguez in February. I was surprised that UFC booked him again. I’m surprised athletic commissions, at this point in time, still would approve a BJ Penn fight.

On Sunday night, an emaciated-looking Penn faced long-time tank Dennis Siver. Siver was reportedly a 2-to-1 favorite. How he wasn’t a 4-to-1 favorite, if not higher, amazes me.

Siver dominated the first round. It was terribly sad to watch. Dominick Cruz was giving it his all on the broadcasting, wishcasting as much advice as possible to Penn. Cruz’s commentary was the interesting glue that kept my attention during the fight. He was more fan and fighter than analyst.

Siver was dominating round two until Penn clipped him with a punch and smothered him on the ground to ride out the second round. Technically, Penn won the round on points but it could have gone either way in terms of actual effectiveness of offense.

Round three was brutally sorrowful to watch if you’re an old-school MMA fan. Siver was just doing whatever the hell he wanted to against Penn. He nearly finished him and I wouldn’t have blamed referee Kevin McDonald from stopping the fight. Penn survived by barely.

Which brought us to the score cards. The correct score for this fight was 29-27 Siver. 10-9, 9-10, and 10-8 would be the correct and proper scores. Judge Geraldn Ritter got it right. Judge Cardo Urso scored it 29-28 by not giving Siver a 10-8 R3. Debatable but at least the right winner.

Then came Marcos Rosales. Oh no…

Rosales, inexplicably, gave Penn R1 by a 10-9 margin. By doing this, giving Penn 10-9 R2 and 10-8 R3 Siver meant there was no way for Siver to win the fight. This is an abomination. Whether it’s UFC scoring or PRIDE rules, Siver won the fight rather easily. It wasn’t even close.

There is no humanly way possible that a competent, experienced MMA judge would have scored Penn vs. Siver a draw. This fight was classic remedial tape for beginner students. I can guarantee you that most students, if not inclined to do 10-8 round scoring, would have at least reached the same conclusion as Cardo Urso.

There are zero justifications or excuses to score Penn vs. Siver 28-to-28. In a sport with insurmountable head-scratching score cards, this scoring was one of the most egregious errors in a long time on a big stage.

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

“The greatest prospect in MMA history” got knocked down but changed the recruiting game

By Zach Arnold | June 24, 2017

Is Aaron Pico the greatest prospect in MMA history?

Survey says… not after getting knocked down and choked out by Zach Freeman in 24 seconds at the Bellator MSG PPV on Saturday night. That’s a negative.

Now here’s a positive — ESPN picked the wrong headline to highlight how Aaron Pico has helped changed the game for recruitment of future Mixed Martial Arts talent. Bellator has been paying Pico for nearly three years while he was trying to make the Olympics in wrestling. In response, UFC has initiated their own “developmental program.”

This type of hybrid developmental program is much more useful to Bellator than UFC. It allows Bellator to compete when they can’t outspend in free agency. Bellator has stepped up in free agency recently and has been aided by UFC’s adhesive advertising policy with Reebok. Bellator can’t compete with UFC for the highest-level talent but they can fight on the margins. It’s really a classic Scott Coker promotional manuever.

Bellator NYC was all about the past, present, and future

Mike Goldberg and Mauro Ranallo. Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva. Tito Ortiz. Matt Mitrione and Fedor.

If you can’t sign the best fighters in the world, sign fighters with name ID and mix in some nostalgia with a home stable of fighters. It was bad luck for Bellator to have Aaron Pico lose and for Michael Chandler to get hurt the way he did.

I don’t like Chael Sonnen being a top face of Bellator MMA but I understand why a promoter would want him to be. He’s the best talker. High profile fight history and name ID. He’s on ESPN and can turn a crowd on the dime when he wants to. He’s also the face of the testosterone plague in MMA. Chael Sonnen is Alex Rodriguez without the social awkwardness. Tito Ortiz is close.

The crowd reaction for both Chael and Tito at Bellator NYC justified why those guys continue to get paychecks. It’s like watching a Legends MMA division come to life. An idea from the message boards to your television set. Chael vs. Tito is exactly the kind of fight that breaks through the incredible noise on social media platforms in 2017.

Scott Coker has always used the Cotton Candy philosophy to promote MMA. You get a little bit of everything under the circus tent. As long as he can continue recruiting new, younger fighters to go along with the main acts, he will have a job and stay relevant.

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

Here comes the “Floyd Mayweather is an ungrateful moocher” narrative from boxing brokers

By Zach Arnold | June 18, 2017

The promoters involved in Saturday’s Vegas fight between Andre Ward & Sergey Kovalev made it no secret how unhappy they were that the talk of the town was all about Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor. Kathy Duva went as far to suggest that Showtime intentionally announced the fight on Wednesday to hurt the HBO PPV.

Unannounced and with no fanfare, Joe Tessitore returned to boxing broadcasting head-to-head against the Ward/Kovalev fight by reuniting with old broadcast partner Teddy Atlas for a Golden Boy at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas. During the semi-main event fight, Tessitore damned Floyd Mayweather with faint praise. He called Mayweather one of the smartest businessmen ever in boxing and then promptly called him a taker, not a giver to the sport of boxing and that it would impact his legacy. Mitt Romney was unavailable for comment.

Tessitore was absolutely right and absolutely wrong at the same time. The fight with Conor McGregor is a circus. Everyone knows it. That’s the beauty of the shamelessness of it — it’s a rare moment for truth in advertising. You can post all the videos online of Conor McGregor sparring and it still won’t matter. Almost 80% of smallish-to-medium sized bets are on McGregor while 80% of the sharps are on Mayweather. ESPN claims that you can get Mayweather at 6-to-1 odds (-600), which is an incredible value. The fact that there is so much activity coming in on McGregor signifies the voracious appetite around the world to consume this spectacle. It could even be as entertaining as Michael Phelps racing a shark. You never know.

I get it. Mayweather and McGregor is going to impact the PPV bottom line for Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez. Oscar De La Hoya has his valid reasons to be upset. He had his chance to book GGG vs. Canelo long ago and decided to play out the string. He’s the one who decided to take the Vegas date over AT & T Stadium in Dallas. I don’t know if he regrets it yet, but he will soon enough. Regardless, Mayweather’s fight will happen and he’ll be primed to do business if the financial terms are right to re-match against Canelo Alvarez.

As long as promoters continue doing business with Al Haymon, Haymon and associates are going to have the last laugh. He got a huge pay day for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2017. He was involved in getting Mayweather vs. McGregor booked. Haymon is going nowhere. Neither is Stephen Espinoza at Showtime. They’re following the money just like Floyd Mayweather. Boxing isn’t dead. It’s not dying. The circus fight with McGregor isn’t going to hurt the sport and put boxing back “on the barges” as Tony Kornheiser often claims.

If Golden Boy is as upset about the Mayweather-McGregor fight as they claim to be, they can turn around to their “partners” at ESPN and ask them where Bristol stands. Where’s the advertising for Golden Boy events? Where’s the support? Why is a Joe Tessitore return to ESPN boxing not announced? ESPN has gone hog wild, like the rest of the American sports media, on Mayweather vs. McGregor. It’s going to be two months of non-stop hour-to-hour junk sports talk show fests psycho-analyzing the circus antics brewing for the pending road show. The amount of support ESPN is going to give to promote a fight they have zero financial interest in, juxtaposed to the lack of promotional support so far for Golden Boy events, should be Golden Boy’s real focus.

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

The over/under on PPV buys for Mayweather-McGregor is 5 million. Take the under – barely

By Zach Arnold | June 15, 2017

Will Jason Whitlock’s prediction of Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather devolving in a race war surpassing the rhetoric in the Quinton Jackson-Rashad Evans feud come true? Probably so, but the raw ugliness will not stop hundreds of millions of people from watching a $100 USD PPV.

The media’s expectations are not lining up with fan expectations. Before McGregor-Mayweather was signed, there were hypothetical odds of Conor being a 22-to-1 underdog. So far, the gambling lines have kept McGregor at an astounding 8-to-1 underdog price. Giving McGregor over a 10% chance to win sounds insane but there is definitely fan demand to bet some cash on McGregor. Hey, people play the lottery every day. It can’t be any worse of a sucker’s bet.

This is exactly the dream scenario that new UFC ownership WME-IMG imagined. They have been horribly distracted for the past six months in getting this fight booked. Conor McGregor dragged them along but management came to the conclusion that, given their massive debt in financing the purchase of UFC, they needed a financial homerun to dig out of the hole they found themselves in. Everyone is going to get paid. Mayweather is making 9-figures. McGregor no doubt is making mid-8 figures, perhaps higher. UFC is going to make tens of millions of dollars.

The level of incredulousness on display from the mainstream American sports media to the fan demand for the Mayweather-McGregor fight is the perfect display of cognitive dissonance in the fight industry. It’s a gross spectacle absolutely deserving of raw cynicism. The right people are disavowing this charade. The problem with dismissing this as a circus is that you can’t say the fight is going to ruin combat sports if the actual result doesn’t amount to a hill of a beans.

It’s not all roses for UFC

For the next two months, there is one major fight on the mind of fight fans. It’s Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather. It’s going to suck all the oxygen away from the rest of UFC’s upcoming schedule. It will even make a (minor) dent in the upcoming Anaheim fight with Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier.

There’s no doubt that the circus fight will take away oxygen from Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez. Do they keep the September 16th date? It’s hard to imagine rescheduling that fight for a later date given that NFL & College Football season is going to take away the spotlight. The decision by Golden Boy to choose what appeared to be the safer pick in Las Vegas over Jerry World in Dallas looks like a mistake in hindsight. That doesn’t mean the enthusiasm for the GGG fight has dampened at all. The question is whether or not the fans who will planning on buying that fight are going to get suckered into blowing their money on the spectacle fight three weeks before.

Remember, Oscar De La Hoya channeled his inner Trump and claimed the GGG fight with Canelo Alvarez would sell 3 million PPV buys. Now we have a circus fight which Vegas is taking prop bets on with an over/under of 5 million PPV buys.

UFC reportedly was pursuing a Seattle date (Key Arena) for August 19th. Running a UFC PPV a week before the Showtime PPV with Mayweather-McGregor is a bad idea. They may have no choice, however. They sure as hell can’t book another joke of an interim title fight as a headliner, either.

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

Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor set for August 26th at MGM Grand Garden Arena

By Zach Arnold | June 14, 2017

WME-IMG cut a deal with Al Haymon and Mayweather Promotions to get the boxing match approved for August 26th.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission rubber stamped the fight. Of course they would. Money talks, BS walks. The fight between Mayweather and McGregor will happen in Las Vegas three weeks before the Gennady Golovkin/Canelo Alvarez bout.

Important to note: the Nevada commission approved Mayweather Promotions as the promoter for the fight. No way UFC was going to be approved as the promoter since Conor McGregor is there fighter and a natural conflict would arise regarding Dana White being both the promoter and manager of Conor McGregor. Of course, no Attorney General is going to prosecute anyone in boxing or MMA for an Ali Act violation and nobody is going to file a civil lawsuit for such a conflict of interest.

Will there be second-guessing on behalf of Golden Boy for choosing Las Vegas over Cowboys Stadium for the GGG/Canelo fight location?

In the big picture, WME-IMG got what they wanted. They are in superfight mode to try to make as much money as possible in big spurts given the massive debt financing they used to purchase UFC from Lorenzo Fertitta. How much will this Mayweather-McGregor fight suck the media & fan oxygen away from the rest of UFC’s upcoming fights?

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

If you can’t buy star fighters, buy the next best star power on TV

By Zach Arnold | June 13, 2017

Viacom and Bellator management is playing a smart game in competing against UFC on the edges. When you can’t always buy top-level fighters, the next best thing is to buy high-profile television names who fans know and/or have an emotional connection with.

The hirings of Messrs. Goldberg & Ranallo for Bellator’s New York PPV signal a strategic reality for building trust with new and casual MMA fans. For many UFC fans past and present, Mike Goldberg was the face of UFC. Mike Goldberg was the face of UFC. More importantly, Mike Goldberg was the face of the old UFC. The UFC owned by Lorenzo Fertitta that felt more stable than the current WME-IMG product. The current UFC fired Mike Goldberg and gave the media a sob story to run with that made Dana White look cold.

The best thing about having star TV personalities that aren’t fighters? They never get hurt and always show up.

The circumstances surrounding Mauro Ranallo’s hiring are even more intriguing after settling with WWE. If allowed, Vince McMahon could have really found his Jim Ross. In the fight business, the voice matters just as much as the fighters in telling a story. The pairing of Goldberg & Ranallo may feel unusual on paper but I think it holds a lot of potential. A laid back yet in-command Goldberg with high-energy storyteller Ranallo has the chance to produce some smart, funny, and edgy commentary.

I have no problem with the current UFC roster of announcers. I like them. I don’t necessary love them. Professional and serviceable. Nothing offensive. What separates the good from great announcers is emotion. Creating emotion or channeling emotion.

There’s no better example of the value of emotion in a fight call than comparing the performances of Jim Lampley (HBO) and Colonel Bob Sheridan when Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson at the Tokyo Dome in 1990. Lampley was in shock but not boisteriously so. The Colonel went crazy and it was specactular. It’s the first thing I automatically recall besides Tyson losing his mouthpiece on the canvas.

There’s never a true substitute for having great fighters but having great television personalities who can tell a story, channel emotion, and communicate history is extremely valuable. Three cheers to Bellator and Viacom.

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

A new report’s claim of median age of 49 for UFC viewers is flawed but potentially good news

By Zach Arnold | June 7, 2017

Sports Business Journal did a recent Nielsen ratings review since the year 2000 on the changing demographics for sports fans watching TV. The top-level headlines are depressing for UFC (median age 49) and WWE (median age 54) but the substantive results reveal some positive notes.

First, the data review is largely about conventional TV. The WWE Network is all about streaming. That’s a young demographic. The sky is not falling for WWE on the technology front. It’s falling on the matchmaking front, which is atrocious but fungible.

Second, no one who understands or follows the combat sports industry actually believes that the median age of a UFC viewer is 49 years old. Maybe for boxing, but not MMA. Boxing’s reputation of an older demographic that spends more money than UFC is wholly justified and I still think there’s great hope for boxing’s long term success as a TV product. Ask any casino what kind of live show they would rather have to attract gambling and every one will tell you boxing for good reason. UFC draws a younger audience with not as much cash to burn.

UFC is a product with a safe floor of viewership but a very hard glass ceiling. It’s the classic cable/internet play. What works and drives traffic on those platforms doesn’t play on network television. The big question is how safe their viewership floor remains given how volatile matchmaking has become under Ari Emanuel’s ownership.

WWE ratings have plummeted on cable. Their internet business is doing well. They still need a cable footprint to act as advertising for the online venture. I’m not worried about them.

What happened to the value of the 18-to-34 year old demographic?

As usual, the SBJ article touts soccer and basketball as the future kings of sports because they have younger demographics… except for the fact that those “young” demos are still in the early 40s.

Viewership for television programming is aging. That’s why the 18-to-34 year old demographic is fool’s gold. American network news broadcasts discovered this phenomenon long ago and everyone else is catching up. It’s why you see a proliferation of Viagra and Cialis advertising. TV viewers actually buy those products.

Fox Sports point man Michael Mulvihill recently admitted that he is reconsidering the value of the 18-to-34 year old demographic for sports fans. He has to. If the youngest sports fans for conventional TV are above age 40, then 35-to-49 becomes your desirable demographic. That’s right in UFC’s wheelhouse.

Additionally, the new study conducted by SBJ delivers the confirmation bias on “time poverty” and how that plays well for UFC. Every TV program is now subject to a zero-sum game. People watch five hours of TV programming a day. Either your program attracts you or it doesn’t. No second chances. Feast or famine. Sports programming is no longer competing with other sports programming — it’s competing with all television programming. The value of a five round UFC title fight has great desirability because it fits into a 30 minute TV block. A soccer game fits tight in a two hour TV block.

The time issue is about millennial viewership habits. They have the shorter attention spans and embrace new technology for media platforms. Fox Sports wouldn’t be focused on UFC’s value for “time poverty” if the median age of viewership was 49 years old.

The question is what exactly is the value of time poverty? Baseball games are over three hours. College football and NFL games are well over three hours long and creeping into four hour territory. And yet those sports remain kings while the NBA’s contract with ESPN is choking that network out like a python on its finances. Will the NBA be able to command the same price tag next decade?

Bottom line: All of these data points are interesting.. but is it useful? Is it concrete? Does it matter? Is there a true reading of the tea leaves? The more TV data I see, the more I feel that decisions are being made on a paralysis-by-analysis basis. PPV is not dead and it’s not dying any time soon. The cable companies are surviving by turning from content distributors to pipeline distributors (internet) with huge profit margins. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Topics: Boxing, MMA, Media, UFC, WWE, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Report claims Spike TV has lost nearly 7% of its households in a year

By Zach Arnold | May 31, 2017

The headline is that ESPN is down 3% year-to-year in the amount of cable/satellite subscriber households. A minor bright spot is that from May to June, household numbers actually slightly increased. Nevertheless, the more interesting story for combat sports fans is what is happening with Spike TV.

The New York Post, citing data from Nielsen ratings, shows Spike losing 7% of pay TV subscriber households in a year-to-year comparison. The TV network is being rebranded as The Paramount Network. It is part of the Viacom family. Viacom has faced some rough seas after a potential reunion with CBS was nixed. Wall Street was not kind in response.

Bellator is owned by Viacom. The health of Viacom means everything for Bellator’s future in terms of how much of a budget there is to spend on producing events. Al Haymon’s PBC is gone from the network even though Spike made a public statement that they would be open to doing business with Haymon in the future if the right deal surfaced.

Even in turmoil, UFC still has the power and resources of Fox Sports to back them up. Fox Sports looks like a hell of a better proposition for the future than ESPN or Spike TV, “time poverty” notwithstanding. One interesting trend noted by Fox Sports point man Michael Mulvihill — Friday nights could becoming more competitive for sports with out-of-home ratings combined with traditional household TV ratings. Bellator has put their stamp on Friday night MMA events the same way UFC has taken over Saturday nights.

Some questions that this latest news raises:

  1. Will Viacom be interested in selling Bellator to a private equity investor group? At what price? How much would time on Friday nights on Spike be valued at?
  2. At what point does Viacom reconsider a reunion with CBS? If the reunion happens, can Scott Coker pull off the kind of magic that Gary Shaw did with Elite XC on CBS?
  3. How will Bellator increase its digital footprint with the traditional Viacom footprint shrinking?
  4. Can Bellator continue to afford getting into an arms race with UFC? (See: Rory MacDonald, Roy Nelson)
  5. What can Bellator and UFC do to expand their reach from being a pay-TV product to having true network appeal?

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

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 | 4 Comments » | 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 |

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