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Nevada’s athletic commission demanded USADA & UFC provide its contract. So where is it?

By Zach Arnold | October 25, 2016

No matter how badly Jon Jones screws up, he seemingly manages to find a way to catch a break. Will he catch his biggest break yet?

The Nevada State Athletic Commission, a public agency, recently changed their rules & regulations to allow for third party drug testing and acceptance of such results on the provision that third party drug testing contracts are provided to the Athletic Commission to ensure legal protection. This has been known since June of 2016.

According to the estimable Erik Magraken, there is no contract on record with the Nevada State Athletic Commission for USADA’s drug testing deal with the UFC. How did he find out? He filed a records request with the Athletic Commission and they told him no such contract exists on record.

How could this be? Unless Nevada’s athletic commission invoked a “trade secrets” exception, they are obligated to disclose the USADA contract in public during a disciplinary hearing. Like a disciplinary involving Jon Jones if it gets to that stage. And that’s some leverage for Team Jon Jones in the upcoming arbitration hearing next week with USADA over his failed drug as a result of alleged consumption of contaminated supplements. USADA also has good leverage if/when it claims that Jon Jones failed to list his supplement(s) at the time of testing.

USADA applies strict liability for ingestion of contaminated substances. Nevada allows for a contaminated supplement defense to lower a potential suspension.

USADA has the power to fine and suspend Jon Jones. So does the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Nevada badly wants as much money as possible after being kicked off the state’s general budget and moved into self-financing. They also want Jon Jones to fight in Nevada as soon as possible so they can make more money. Someone will blink first here.

If Nevada’s new rules & regulations on third party drug testing acceptance costs them fine money and creates legal headaches for suspensions, there will be some excellent billable hours for attorneys. Nevada’s commission is the gift that keeps on giving for attorneys.

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

Self-congratulatory California State Athletic Commission thinks they can win Canelo vs. GGG fight

By Zach Arnold | October 21, 2016

Tuesday’s California State Athletic Commission meeting in Los Angeles had an excruciatingly arrogant tone that rivaled the kind of palaver Nevada’s commission has been dishing out to the public for the last decade.

Over the past several months, California’s commission has been on a “branding mission” to declare themselves not only the best regulators in the United States but specifically the world’s best boxing regulators. They are openly patting themselves on the back Barry Horowitz-style.

“We are, of course, the boxing capital of the world,” according to Big John McCarthy ally and transactional attorney Martha Shen-Urquidez.

Video from Tuesday’s meeting was a painful example of what’s in store for 2017: an Athletic Commission-sanctioned boxing title and the mother of all ass-kissing campaigns to find money marks to pony up the site fee to host Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin in Los Angeles.

Continue reading this article here…

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

UFC’s impending declaratory judgment & anticipatory breach fight with Georges St. Pierre

By Zach Arnold | October 17, 2016

Georges St. Pierre wasn’t booked for UFC’s next event in Toronto. Now St. Pierre says he has hired attorney James Quinn to terminate his contract with UFC for failing to meet a contractual deadline. UFC responded with a not-so-veiled threat of impending legal action.

What’s at stake in the impending legal fight?

St. Pierre would likely answer UFC’s lawsuit with his own countersuit. A likely cause of action in that countersuit would involve Breach of implied convenant of good faith and fair dealing. St. Pierre would allege that UFC acted in bad faith and did not meet contractual requirements. St. Pierre claims that new UFC ownership pulled back an offer that Lorenzo Fertitta allegedly worked on bringing the former champion back to active UFC competition.

I would also expect a fight from St. Pierre on grounds that he did not sign a new agreement regarding the Reebok sponsorship agreement. However, GSP has a problem and it’s regarding USADA. He made a declaration that the contract with UFC is terminated. If so, then he is under no obligation to continue USADA drug testing.

But there’s a problem: if he misses a USADA drug test, he will get suspended and that suspension would last through the duration of his UFC contract if a judge upholds the agreement and declares an invalid termination. If St. Pierre continues to agree to USADA drug tests, then UFC can legally use that against him as evidence that St. Pierre is acting as if he is still obligated to the UFC contract.

The court fight will begin. The question is whether or not UFC’s new owners will acquiesce on St. Pierre’s demands and make some money with him or if St. Pierre will be able to negotiate a release from the company. It’s a race to the courthouse now.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

UFC’s Nate Diaz running into Nevada conflict of interest buzzsaw in punishment hearing

By Zach Arnold | October 14, 2016

Athletic Commission boards across the country are a bizarre mixture of business and politics. Nevada’s athletic commission board is no different. Francisco Aguilar, former Chairman, is an attorney for Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. Anthony Marnell is a casino owner who filed for a marijuana license despite the Gaming Commission warning him to back off. Marnell got his marijuana license. And Nick Diaz became a Nevada whipping boy.

The most interesting character on the Athletic Commission, however, is long-time board member Pat Lundvall.

Pat Lundvall loves the show trial aspect of Nevada State Athletic Commission meetings. She’s been an attorney for nearly three decades. It’s a chance to flex power against those with limited power (at best) in an administrative civil hearing.

Lundvall hammered Conor McGregor over his water bottle throwing incident with Nate Diaz at the UFC pre-fight press conference before their re-match in Las Vegas. She pushed for a $150,000 fine (turned into $75,000) plus 50 hours of community service plus McGregor’s involving in filming an anti-bullying PSA (public service announcement). The Attorney General’s office had recommended a $25,000 fine and 25 hours of community service.

After the state of Nevada removed the state Athletic Commission from general funding, the AC has had to shift to self-financing & budgeting mode like every other athletic commission. The result has been an aggressive money-grabbing campaign against licensees. There has been a direct campaign to force licensees into “plea agreements” containing the word “guilty” instead of liable.

Given the Attorney General’s office recommendation of a $25,000 fine for Conor McGregor, a question had to be asked: did Conor McGregor turn down a plea deal with the AG’s office? We may now know the answer to this question: he may have not been given the chance to do so.

According to a charging document obtained by Erik Magraken, Nate Diaz has been summoned to meet the Athletic Commission. That charging document does not specify a punishment, therefore forcing Diaz to appear rather than accept a “plea agreement”:

Facing no other options, Nate Diaz’s team is going to throw themselves to the mercy of Pat Lundvall and the Athletic Commission board. There’s also another good reason Nate Diaz shouldn’t fight Pat Lundvall: she’s representing California’s Franchise Tax Board in the state of Nevada in a famous lawsuit filed by inventor Gilbert Hyatt. Hyatt, an inventor who moved from California to Nevada to avoid paying state income tax, was audited aggressively by California’s tax collectors for alleged unpaid taxes. The state claimed he owed $7.4 million and now that amount has ballooned up to $55 million in penalties. Hyatt and California ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said Hyatt had the right to sue the state agency in Nevada but that his damages would be capped to $50,000. The attorney representing California in that lawsuit is… Pat Lundvall.

Which brings us to the possible conflict of interest. Pat Lundvall’s client is California’s tax agency. She will be overseeing a disciplinary hearing involving Nate Diaz in Nevada. Nate Diaz’s brother, Nick, famously said after UFC 158 that he hadn’t paid his taxes and that he would probably go to jail over it. This forced Cesar Gracie to go public and say that Nick had paid $100,000 in taxes over the last two years. Jonathan Tweedale was quoted as saying that Cesar had supposedly not taken care of Nick’s tax issues.

If the California Franchise Tax Board has audited either brother in the past ten years, that should raise a warning flag over Pat Lundvall’s ability to give a fair and impartial hearing to Nate Diaz given who her legal client is. Nate Diaz, unfortunately, has no choice but to tread lightly and roll over when he faces the Nevada State Athletic Commission for punishment over the water bottle throwing incident.

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

Conor McGregor’s (empty) threat to not fight in Nevada exposes how vulnerable Athletic Commission is

By Zach Arnold | October 12, 2016

Dana White is playing the public role of “peacemaker” with Conor McGregor threatening to not fight again in the state of Nevada after getting fined $150,000 $75,000 for the water bottle incident with Nate Diaz.

White made it clear, during an interview with Jason Whitlock on Fox Sports 1, that he wanted Conor McGregor to fight again in Nevada. It’s where UFC is headquartered and where they get rights fees from casinos for big events.

McGregor’s threat to not fight again in Nevada may be hollow but it underscores the new reality facing the increasingly abusive Nevada State Athletic Commission. After the state of Nevada yanked the Athletic Commission from general funding, the Athletic Commission has been forced into self-financing and budgeting. The response to this new reality by the Athletic Commission has been to brazenly transform itself into a money-grabbing asset forfeiture operation with a mentality of criminal authority it does not possess.

For every action, there is a reaction. The reaction to behavior of the Nevada State Athletic Commission has created the following openings:

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has no one to blame but itself. Instead of fully processing the new realities of self-financing, the Athletic Commission went into Sheriff Joe Arpaio mode. Someone should explain the concept of capital flight to the board members. The UFC has new owners who have a world to conquer. Floyd Mayweather is retired. Al Haymon is dealing with major legal & financial issues. There simply aren’t as many guaranteed mega-money fights for Las Vegas as there used to be.

Fighters choose to fight in Las Vegas because it’s the entertainment capital of America and has no state income tax. Fighters aren’t choosing to fight in Nevada because of the regulatory quality of today’s Athletic Commission. It’s not as easy to conduct business in the state of Nevada today as it was during Marc Ratner’s tenure. Fighters have more options now. Fighters can go to South Beach or Orlando if they want to fight in a state with entertainment options and no state income tax. There’s Jerry World in Dallas. Options are no longer limited.

Without political and business pressure from the UFC, the Nevada State Athletic Commission would be financially on the rocks. The Nevada State Athletic Commission needs the UFC and its fighters for self-financing their operations. Instead of understanding how vulnerable their position is, the Athletic Commission has gone all-in as regulators with powers they do not truly possess. They can ask their next door neighbor in California what happens when major fighters don’t want to come to your state.

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

Cash grabbing trial taxes by Nevada athletic commission makes state dangerous for fighters

By Zach Arnold | October 11, 2016

“Conor McGregor was fined $150,000 and sentenced to 150 hours of community sentence.”

This was the text message viewers watching Comcast Sportsnet saw Monday night in the United States. If you didn’t know the details of the water bottle fiasco involving Conor McGregor and who was punishing him, you would have been under the impression that he was being hauled in a court room for a criminal hearing.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission is an administrative civil body. It is not a criminal court. However, that is no longer the image the public agency wants to portray to the public. The Athletic Commission is visually and administratively acting as a tribunal with authority for criminal punishment. Last Spring, we documented the significant changes that the Athletic Commission made to its rules and regulations. A major symbolic change that nobody picked up on was the fact that the Athletic Commission changed the wording in their rules and regulations to remove text stating that they are a civil body. It was a red flag for intent and motive of what was coming in the future.

When the Nevada State Athletic Commission brought Bob Bennett on board as its new Executive Director, it promised significant changes were coming for drug testing and administrative procedure. Those changes were implemented. The war on doping was ramping up. What the Athletic Commission didn’t count on was the state of Nevada cutting off general funding to finance the Athletic Commission. The Nevada State Athletic Commission, generating millions of dollars a year for the state’s general fund, now found itself put into a situation of self-financing in order to pay their own bills. They got hit with years of back-dated claims from the state’s Attorney General office in legal bills.

The end result is that the Nevada State Athletic Commission, once considered a gold standard in athletic commissions, has resorted to extortionary money-grabbing tactics against fighters in order to pay administrative bills that the taxpayers in the state of Nevada used to pay for.

Continue reading this article here…

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

Are the Feds setting up Goldman Sachs for legal action over the UFC sale?

By Zach Arnold | October 8, 2016

America’s Federal Reserve and Goldman Sachs have long had a revolving-door relationship. That relationship is now getting tested by Janet Yellen and the Obama Administration in regards to banks pitching high-leveraged business propositions.

Bloomberg News reported on Thursday that Federal Reserve supervisors have sent Goldman Sachs a warning letter regarding promises they supposedly made to prospective buyers for the UFC.

These figures have allegedly alarmed Federal regulators because of the net debt to EBITDA ratio. Using these figures, UFC would have a ratio of 12 — which would be alarming. Bloomberg reports that numerical adjustments lowered UFC’s ratio to 6.

This information comes at a time where word is spreading about new UFC ownership wanting to create multiple television deals with different cable & broadcast networks when the Fox Sports deal expires in 2019. Exclusivity of UFC’s product has kept Fox Sports 1 afloat as a fledgling cable sports channel. Without UFC programming, FS1 struggles to attract programs that draw 6-figure ratings. UFC is the network’s lifeline.

The financial pressure for UFC’s new venture capital owners to maximize profits is high. The financial pressure for Fox Sports to keep FS1 going is meaningful. Big changes could be coming for both parties in two years.

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

California enacts new concussion law for kids under age 18 in boxing and martial arts

By Zach Arnold | October 6, 2016

A recently passed California state law mandates that anyone under the age of 18 participating in a school-based sports or youth sports organization program who suffers a concussion or head injury must be removed from further activity and receive medical clearance from a doctor.

The big question is how much teeth there is going to be in enforcing this law.

The new law, Assembly Bill 2007, requires that anyone under 18 who suffers a head injury must take at least seven days to be slowly phased back into activity rather than immediate clearance. The law applies to anyone participating in baseball, basketball, motocross, boxing, cheerleading, diving, football, martial arts, gymnastics, hockey, rodeo, skateboarding, softball, soccer, swimming, and amateur wrestling.

Coaches and trainers involved in youth programs will also be required to undergo educational training on concussions before being allowed to supervise athletic activities. Sports programs will also be required to create concussion & head injury information sheets that athletes and their guardians must sign before being allowed to participate in activities.

It will be interesting to see how this law is implemented with the United States Fight League (pankration), USA Boxing, and CAMO and whether or not the legislation is worth the paper it’s printed on. This will be a topic of discussion at the October 18th Los Angeles meeting for the California State Athletic Commission.

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

Despite recent TV ratings, UFC’s overall success rips the scab off of uncomfortable truths for Fox

By Zach Arnold | September 13, 2016

Despite below-average UFC 203 prelim ratings (870,000 viewers) and Ultimate Fighter viewership (370,000 viewers), UFC’s overall success on Fox Sports 1 has ripped the mask off of some very uncomfortable truths about the future of Rupert Murdoch’s suicide sports pact with ESPN.

The two sports properties saving the Fox Sports 1 ship from sinking are UFC and NASCAR. In the words of Dan Patrick, they don’t have “ESPN muscles” — they have their own muscles and have demonstrated to be capable, portable television properties.

For non-live event programming, the most successful shoulder programming on Fox Sports 1 is the daily NASCAR race hub show that attracts around 150,000 viewers. That number is only “good” relative to how else Fox Sports 1 performs. Colin Cowherd’s radio simulcast draws around 100,000 viewers. The Skip Bayless Experiment is drawing between 70,000 and 90,000 viewers. Cowherd & Whitlock average around 60,000 viewers.

You can’t build a major sports network on those kinds of figures and expect cable & satellite companies to pay hefty carriage fees like ESPN is asking for right now. The great heist ESPN has pulled off for years getting $7 a month from each cable subscriber for having shoulder programming that draws a few hundred thousand viewers has been exposed. Fox Sports 1 emulating ESPN in 2016 makes little sense.

Which brings us to the uncomfortable truths about Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to compete with ESPN:

First: Without UFC and NASCAR, there is little (if any) justification for cable & satellite providers to carry Fox Sports 1.

If ESPN executives warmed up to the idea of poaching UFC away from Fox, it would severely hurt Murdoch’s ability to demonstrate the long-time viability of Fox Sports 1.

Second: UFC and NASCAR drawing solid ratings on Fox Sports 1 while the rest of the programming tanks demonstrates that plenty of sports fans are aware of what Fox Sports 1 and they simply don’t want to watch the channel.

It also demonstrates that your average American sports fan is really only interested in one 24/7 TV sports channel. ESPN’s declining fortunes are due to self-inflicted wounds. There are sports fans who hate how hollow the network’s daily programming has become. It’s empty. It’s political. It’s a poor attempt at becoming a dumber, less sharper version of MSNBC. For the average American, sports programming is supposed to be a reprieve from politics. Instead, ESPN has gone full-throated on one-way politics.

Rupert Murdoch thought he could capitalize on this opportunity with his own sports network. He didn’t in the past with Fox Sports Net and he can’t now with Fox Sports 1. Best Damn Sports Show Period remains his greatest daily sports show accomplishment. Murdoch’s inability to capture sports fans who are sick of ESPN’s political agenda is a manifestation of two problems:

  1. Murdoch simply doesn’t know how to create a smart alternative to ESPN
  2. Americans don’t want two full-time 24/7 sports TV channels — they just want ESPN to clean their act up

In Rupert Murdoch’s world, politics are transactional. Murdoch wasn’t the driving force behind Fox News — Roger Ailes was. Outside of immigration issues, Murdoch largely has maintained a hands-off approach to Fox News. Murdoch maintains the New York Post simply as a matter of convenience if he has an axe to grind. He used the paper to shuttle Ailes out the door during the major sexual harassment scandal.

The great irony? The blueprint that made Murdoch the most money on American cable & satellite TV is the one he’s most resistant to use in competing with cable TV’s biggest giant in ESPN. Murdoch could have attacked ESPN by presenting Fox Sports 1 as the conservative alternative. He could have driven that wedge. Murdoch has chosen not to. In his 20+ years of trying to compete with ESPN, he’s used *every* tactic except the Ailes business model.

As a result, Murdoch is left with a sports channel that is wandering aimlessly and being single-handedly saved by a Mixed Martial Arts boss who is a full-throated Trump supporter. Without UFC, there is no reason to watch Fox Sports 1 and no reason for cable/satellite providers to keep the channel for a high carriage fee. The best Murdoch can do is fail with his channel while inflicting damage to ESPN. ESPN could wipe out his venture by poaching away UFC programming rights. UFC is in the catbird’s seat and can demand as much cash as they want from Murdoch in order to keep his channel alive.

Exit question: Would Murdoch consider making a deal with TNA if Dixie Carter’s out of the picture?

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

The dirty secret: Athletic commissions do not want the Ali Act amended for MMA

By Zach Arnold | September 10, 2016

All of the latest political trends represent a real roadblock in amending the Ali Act to cover MMA. If there is to be action on this front, the timing to make it happen needs to happen during the lame duck session of Congress from November 2016 ~ January 2017.

Let’s start from the top and work our way to the bottom.

Trump & Hillary will not be naturally inclined to support amending the Ali Act

If Trump wins the election, the political power of Dana White and Vince McMahon grows. They’re tight with Trump. He speaks their language. They know his language. Not only are they his friends, they’re entertainment bosses in ventures he has great personal interest in.

If Hillary wins the election, it gets more complicated but also more negative for the forces advocating change. The new owner of UFC is Ari Emanuel, brother to forever Clinton-fixer Rahm Emanuel. The Clinton Machine sticks together, especially when there’s a lot of money changing hands. It would not be surprising to see Rahm Emanuel leave Chicago and head back to DC under a Hillary Clinton administration. Additionally, there isn’t a national vocal outcry on a mass scale to amend the Ali Act for MMA. Politicians are not going to spend their political capital on this front.

The UFC will spend money to kill this attempt to amend the Ali Act

UFC has reportedly spent $100,000 in lobbying efforts to stop House Resolution 5365. Given UFC’s brutal lobbying experience in Albany, the company understands that DC lobbyists will play the game and ask for more money in order to stop momentum that may or may not exist.

The threat posed to UFC has nothing to do with giving athletic commissions more power. It has everything to do with giving fighters a private right of action to file a lawsuit in Federal court to get out of an adhesive contract. That alone is worth millions of dollars to UFC. Our initial estimate for UFC lobbying efforts in New York was $7 million dollars.

If UFC is going to spend $7 million dollars lobbying in a state like New York, it means they will spend that kind of money lobbying for business interests involving athletic commissions.

For two major reasons, athletic commissions don’t want an Ali Act for MMA

Without UFC events coming to states like California or Nevada, it means lost revenue. Boxing is still king but Al Haymon’s business model has brought a lot of uncertainty as to what the financial model for boxing will be in the future.

UFC has power because they are a promoter that runs big events. However, standard promoter power is not the reason athletic commissions want to keep in the UFC in their good graces. There are two significant reasons why athletic commissions do not want to see the Ali Act amended for MMA.

First, the major source of UFC’s political power involves their efforts in lobbying state capitals across America. They have top lobbying firms, like Platinum Advisors in Sacramento, on retainer. The minute something needs to get done on behalf of Andy Foster of the California State Athletic Commission or the powers-that-be at the Florida Boxing Commission, UFC writes the check to their lobbyists to get things done.

This is the undercovered story of the new century regarding the rise in UFC’s power. Bob Arum, Oscar De La Hoya, Richard Schaefer, and Al Haymon do not play the lobbying game. Much to their own detriment, they have sacrificed building political power because they are cheap. UFC had to hire powerful lobbyists in order to build political influence and build their business model. That pro-active approach has now put UFC in a political position that boxing stakeholders cannot obtain overnight.

UFC is the power broker for the Andy Fosters and Bob Bennetts of the world. Without UFC, they don’t have job security and stability. Without UFC’s lobbyists, these athletic commission bosses wouldn’t possess the ability to promote and enact their agenda. Self-preservation matters. If UFC doesn’t want the Ali Act amended for MMA, then the commission bosses better get on board if they want gainful employment — especially after they retire from athletic commission work and want a job with UFC.

A terrible but useful analogy: Look at the athletic commission bosses as combat sports versions of Bashar al-Assad and look at UFC as Vladimir Putin.

Russia has every interest in keeping Assad in power for their business interests. The Russian Navy is in Tartus. In return, Assad wants the Russian fleets to help him in military matters in order to keep his political power in Damascus. This kind of symbiotic relationship is exactly the kind of business and political relationship UFC maintains with the major athletic commission bosses.

Second, athletic commission bosses do not want to see the Ali Act amended to cover MMA because they don’t possess the legal backgrounds to make sound decisions when contract & arbitration disputes land on their desk.

The minute there is a contract dispute, athletic commission bosses call the state’s Attorney General’s office. The AG’s office immediately starts racking up the billable hours and what should be a simple task ends up in a costly fight. California recently attempted to shift the costs of arbitration hearings onto the participants involved. Nevada has recently used commissioner Pat Lundvall, a licensed attorney, to help in contractual disputes involving Nevada fighters and promoters.

In short, the bosses appointed to run athletic commissions do not possess the knowledge or confidence to make the right legal decisions. In California, the commission has the right to appoint independent legal counsel separate from the Department of Consumer Affairs or the AG’s office. Andy Foster has chosen not to go down this path.

For politicians in state capitals who grossly interfere in commission matters for little rhyme or reason, having non-state agency attorneys who possess legal knowledge as executive directors on a athletic commission is considered a dangerous thing and immediately makes such individuals a target for getting axed. See: New York.

Conclusion: Without financial assistance from the UFC, athletic commission bosses fear instability and lack of job security because of UFC’s willing to spend money on lobbyists to keep the current political system in place. The same athletic commission bosses fear that expanding the Ali Act would bust their budgets in legal disputes. The UFC fears that an expanded Ali Act would weaken the strength of their contracts. The major politicians have individual reasons as to why they would naturally be inclined to reject amending the Ali Act for MMA. The clock is ticking.

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

Heading for the exits: UFC fighters are “interchangeable” but what about management?

By Zach Arnold | August 31, 2016

Joe Rogan signaled that he would leave UFC after the company was sold to Ari Emanuel. He decided to stick around for at least one more year. Now veteran matchmaker Joe Silva is reportedly leaving.

WWE discovered that you can move on when wrestlers leave but when management & on-air talent like Jim Ross & Pat Patterson leaves, you’re left with the Michael Coles of the world.

A change in personnel is natural given the $4 billion UFC sale but there is something to be said for a brain drain. Yes, Dana White is the top matchmaker and face of UFC, but Joe Silva and Sean Shelby micro-managed a roster with hundreds of fighters and were put in a position of constantly looking for the next diamond in the rough. Try booking 800 fights in a calendar year and see how you hold up.

These changes come against the backdrop of UFC looking for a new television rights deal. The odds seem strikingly in favor of UFC staying married to Fox Sports. UFC isn’t just a cornerstone for Fox Sports 1 — they’re practically the damn reason the channel still exists. Top flight Fox Sports 1 programming is barely able to hit 6-digits for cable ratings. UFC programming on Fox, for a disappointing show, draws 700,000 viewers. The numbers UFC is able to pull on Fox Sports 1 are nothing short of incredible.

What it exposes is that there is plenty of awareness of Fox Sports 1 but nobody wants to actually watch the channel. The Colin Cowherd & Jason Whitlock experiment has gotten off to a rough start. The Skip Bayless & Shannon Sharpe era will likely do the same. Take a look at the amount of retweets and reader activity on Skip Bayless’s Twitter account now versus what it was when he had his ESPN muscles. It’s striking. Without UFC programming, there really isn’t a justification for Fox Sports 1 to exist as a channel.

Ari Emanuel knows this. Dana White knows this. It’s why the $4 billion price tag isn’t as big of a gamble as you might think. The business side looks prospectively great but change is coming. Our UFC comfort creatures are departing. The whole business of MMA is rapidly changing. We are now in a world where Sherdog no longer employs Sherdog (Jeff Sherwood) or Greg Savage.

Corporate MMA is here to stay. Just ask the boxing promoters in New York how the new MMA insurance law is going to cripple their business. Here come the anti-trust lawsuits.

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

UFC 202: Will the Conor McGregor/Nate Diaz trilogy fight be at 155?

By Zach Arnold | August 17, 2016

Ticket sales weren’t so hot heading into the Conor McGregor/Nate Diaz re-match at UFC 202. There was more interest online than locally in Vegas. That changed.

Then there was the water bottle session at the Wednesday presser, resulting in Dana White claiming he would fine both fighters “massively” and efforting settlement offers with spectators.

The weigh-ins Friday featured police all over the stage when McGregor and Diaz did their celebratory posing for the media and fans. WWE wrestlers went after McGregor verbally, including Brock Lesnar who said that his turds are bigger than McGregor.

Heading into fight time, Conor McGregor was a very slight favorite. The late money from bettors started to come in on his side, making him a -130 favorite. And then the fight happened and it was everything you expected it to be. The 170 pound weight distinction made this a challenge for both men. They went the distance, they went 5 rounds, and McGregor won a majority decision in a fight that could have been genuinely scored either way.

The fight played out exactly the way that the EA Sports simulation on ESPN on Friday demonstrated. Scarily so.

Gate was $7.7 million with 15,600 in the arena.

This fight saved Conor McGregor’s career. It also made Nate Diaz, bizarrely, an almost sure-fire lock for the UFC Hall of Fame. For UFC, their hopes of pushing McGregor back into Featherweight at 145 and Diaz at LW (155) just got postponed again. They cannot resist promoting a third and final fight between these two men. There’s too much money at stake.

Everyone walks away making money with an option of making even more money. The question is what the agenda is after the trilogy. Those thoughts will have to be delayed now.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 14 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The price tag of a $4 billion UFC sale: competing fighter union proposals

By Zach Arnold | August 11, 2016

The irony of Nick Diaz’s attorney being part of a new UFC Fighters Union is super delicious. Lorenzo Fertitta cashed out just in the nick of time, as he always does.

The Professional Fighters Association is being headed by Barry Bonds’ agent, Jeff Borris. It allegedly has the support of former baseball Godfather, Don Fehr, who is the king of hardball.

The question then becomes: where do fighters race to first? PFA or Rob Maysey’s MMAFA organization and his fighters engaged in an antitrust lawsuit against UFC?

After you answer that question, then there’s a next series of questions:

Bonus question: Should unionization become successful, how much longer before UFC starts raising prices on everything in order to justify rising costs of doing business?

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

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