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The fishing expedition that could scare potential business clients away from UFC

By Zach Arnold | December 17, 2014

The long-rumored anti-trust lawsuit against UFC was officially filed in court on Tuesday. Specifically, in the Northern District of California federal court. The plaintiffs are Cung Le, Nate Quarry, and Jon Fitch.

For significant background information on the lawsuit, I would suggest you read the following: Dave Meltzer, MMA Junkie, Scott Harris, and Josh Gross. Josh’s article has the most interesting tidbits.

One of the law firms involved is Joseph Saveri’s. That’s the same law firm that recently went after Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe over allegations of poaching & hiring in the tech industry. The settlement figure was widely panned in the business press as underwhelming.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: MMA, Media, PRIDE, UFC, Zach Arnold | 41 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Teddy Atlas calls California State Athletic Commission boxing judging ‘criminal’ on Thursday

By Zach Arnold | December 12, 2014

The more things change, the more things stay the same. The reputation of the California State Athletic Commission under Andy Foster has been cemented as a top MMA commission and in our opinion one of the worst, if not the worst, athletic commissions in America when it comes to boxing regulation. The cards approved by Sacramento are full of mismatches, especially for TV fights. Even worse is the quality of regulation at the fights, especially the quality of judging.

Before we get to Teddy Atlas’s comments about the Athletic Commission from last night’s ESPN2 telecast, it is important for me to give you a brief primer on what the political climate currently looks like in Sacramento for the AC.

The Athletic Commission currently is considered ’safe’ politically-speaking and that’s good news for Andy Foster given how powerful the Department of Consumer Affairs is. Awet Kidane has to be happy about the AC’s current financial situation, given that Governor Jerry Brown’s point-man John Carvelli is currently the $ watchdog on the commission board. The dental HMO boss from Newport Beach is a wheeler-and-dealer. His company uses Platinum Advisors LLC in Sacramento for lobbying. This is the same lobbying firm the UFC has successfully used for years in the state capitol.

What has sailed under the radar, politically-speaking, is the fact that Governor Jerry Brown appointed 33-year old Platinum Advisors lobbyist Melinda McClain to be the deputy director of legislative & policy affairs at Consumer Affairs. Check her profile out here.

While John Carvelli is the Governor’s watchdog over Andy Foster when it comes to Athletic Commission finances, veteran DCA lawyer Spencer Walker has firmly entrenched himself as the powerhouse legal broker for all AC affairs. Watching him do his thing at each AC meeting is quite a spectacle. He sits right near the center seat at all the meetings. Spencer is a smooth operator and, as we’ve stated before on Fight Opinion, has big aspirations. He is a dominant figure without having to say too many words.

With Carvelli overseeing $ and Spencer overseeing legal affairs, this leaves Martha Shen-Urquidez to basically be Andy Foster’s consigliere on affairs such as inspectors, doctors, and officials. Especially officials. She may be a lawyer, but I would love to see one of the grunts challenge her legal authority over a recent officials competency exam she created in closed sessions. She likes to be seen and definitely heard. Our viewpoint is that she has a lot less power than she thinks she possesses but as long as nobody calls her bluff…

On the surface, the picture of what the Athletic Commission’s future looks like is portrayed as rosy. Claims of $750,000 in the bank account of the AC. Even with drug testing costs exceeding current projections, fine money from fighters who have failed tests is going to help make up some of the deficit. The AC will be on pace to regulate 130 events. The UFC event this February at Staples Center with Ronda Rousey is doing a solid box office advance.

Everything on the surface looks great. That’s one way to look at the AC operations.

The other way to look at the current Athletic Commission operations is to actually focus on the regulation itself and the tenuous position that the AC is in. First and foremost, Consumer Affairs & CSAC is at the mercy of the Feds right now in regards to the Leland Yee show trial pending in San Francisco. If Yee and associates, who are accused by the Feds of trying to extort cash & resources from outfits like the Athletic Commission, do not play Let’s Make a Deal with the Feds then all hell could break loose regarding wire-taps and other evidence alleging Yee & company got their hooks into players who wanted to keep the Athletic Commission alive. I’m still convinced that Yee and company will cut deals but if they don’t, everything will go public and it would damage the image of an Athletic Commission that DCA has tried to rehabilitate.

And then there is the actual quality of regulation at events. Strip away the dollars and cents. Focus on the quality of inspectors and judges currently being used.

(For the record, I’m not talking about the referees in the ring booked for shows.)

Thursday night’s ESPN2 card from Pechanga was a lousy watch. Mismatches on the TV cards. Not as bad as say a typical Golden Boy event, but close. Just like Jermain Taylor gave Al Haymon a shoutout after his win in Mississippi, Austin Trout gave Al Haymon a shoutout for his squash match that proved absolutely nothing. Antonio Tarver, an out-of-shape heavyweight at age 46, had his own personal squash match.

However, the controversy de jour that stole the thunder on ESPN2 involved a fight between Canadian Tyson Cave and Colombian fighter Oscar Escandon. It was an awful, one-sided 12 round fight. Escandon really didn’t present much of a fight to Cave. It certainly came off as more of a club showcase fight than a competitive TV bout. The only argument heading to the scorecards after 12 rounds was how lopsided the win for Cave would be. He won, at the very least, 8 of the 12 rounds.

And then came the reading of the score cards. Raul Caiz Jr. scored the fight 117-111 in favor of Escandon. Tony Crebs scored the fight 115-113 in favor of Escandon. Max DeLuca, Andy Foster’s most-preferred boxing judge, scored the fight 115-113 in favor of Cave. At least DeLuca picked the right guy. Crebs gave Escandon 7 rounds and Caiz gave the guy 9 rounds.

Teddy Atlas ranted and raved but summarized his position in sober fashion. He’s been in boxing for 40 years and has seen countless screwjobs that he’s considered criminal in nature but where’s he going to go and what he can do about it? Nothing’s changed.

What Andy Foster must do next

Andy Foster is in a tough position here after Thursday’s troubling scoring of the ESPN2 TV fight. He could ignore the situation and let it pass, which is entirely possible but would also mean failing to capitalize on an opportunity to improve upon his image as a leader in the fight game.

He could administratively yank Crebs & Caiz Jr. off of future boxing shows, but that could create real & legitimate openings for legal challenges for administrative suspensions without due process. It would be a trap.

The correct move for Andy Foster in this situation is to summon all three judges (Crebs, Caiz Jr., and DeLuca) to the next Athletic Commission meeting and haul them in front of the commission board for a performance review. Allow the commission as a body to take action and to dish out discipline. Give the judges their due process and make them explain in public how and why they scored the fight the way they did.

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

UFC 181 perfectly displayed the company’s potentially bright yet complicated future

By Zach Arnold | December 6, 2014

The headline coming out of UFC 181 in Las Vegas was the signing of CM Punk by UFC.

“This is obviously gigantic news for a lot of people.” – Ariel Helwani

CM Punk credited Ariel Helwani with him getting a fight in the UFC. Punk stated that he had a meeting in Chicago with Dana & Lorenzo.

When pressed about the critics trashing the promotion for hiring a guy with no experience, Dana White agreed with the criticisms and said he is skeptical, too, but would be willing to give Punk a fight. He estimated that it could happen within the next six or seven months.

Immediately, several UFC fighters smelled blood in the water (and money) and challenged Punk to a fight.

First Question: If Bellator had signed CM Punk to a fight, would they be receiving the same amount of criticism as UFC is getting right now for the hire?

Second Question: Given CM Punk’s admitted history with concussions, should he be cleared to fight by a high-profile athletic commission?

And on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of talent & experience, there’s Anthony Pettis. The UFC is pushing him hard as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in MMA.

Pettis has the total package except for consistent health. He attracts a lot of female fans, which is very important right now for UFC. He has the potential super-fight with Jose Aldo. Really, everything you could ask for. Plus, Ben Askren is working alongside him.

As for the Welterweight division, Las Vegas judges really do not like Johny Hendricks. The Welterweight division has a bunch of really talented fighters who all possess different styles that will likely end up cannibalizing each other in fight after fight. Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler likely in Montreal. None of the guys in Welterweight have the star potential of Georges St. Pierre but they are all extremely respectable & diverse in skill and present some interesting match-ups on paper. I’m not sure if any of them will shatter the current glass ceiling for stardom but you never know.

Everything that took place at UFC 181 happened admist a back-drop where the company is basically greasing the skids, in my opinion, to make managers extinct with the new Reebok uniform/sponsorship deal. If signing with the UFC means they control your fight booking pay slots, have your rights/likenesses forever, and now control your sponsorship deals, why have an agent? Conversely, the company is exerting & maximizing business control during a time in which their (reported) estimated EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, etc) has gone down 40% this year.

Lucky for UFC, Bellator exists. In one respect, Bellator is a gnat in their face. In another respect, Bellator presents great cover whenever someone starts pushing against UFC for being a monopoly. The UFC has the best of all business controls right now. Everyone’s an independent contactor. They will control the sponsorships. They get to pump out merchandise for years to come with the images & likeness of past and present fighters. On one hand, UFC is facing some very difficult challenges. On the other hand, they are insulating themselves with more international TV deals.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 59 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

What you need to know about California & new Therapeutic Use Exemption proposal

By Zach Arnold | December 3, 2014

It turns out that Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemons may get his wish regarding a new TUE policy in the state of California.

The California State Athletic Commission, controlled by the Department of Consumer Affairs, as far as I know/recall didn’t bother posting a direct link to an October 31st notice by OAL in Sacramento. This notice starts the clock on public comment for a 45 day period. The Athletic Commission, for unknown reasons, did not post a direct link to this notice on their web site. Here is the notice link.

There will be a hearing at Consumer Affairs in Sacramento on Monday, December 15th at 10 AM regarding the new proposed regulations to adopt Dr. Lemons’ new TUE policy. Currently, state law disallows any sort of TUEs for fighters. However, this proposal would officially change the rules on the books.

All public correspondence supporting or opposing this new measure must be sent within the next 10 days to the Athletic Commission’s front office.

Heather Jackson
2005 Evergreen Street, Suite 2010
Sacramento, California 95815
Phone: 916-263-2195
FAX: 916-263-2197

Without any sort of public opposition, the measure will be implemented. For those who want to see the actual text of this new proposed TUE policy, they have to contact the Athletic Commission ahead of the December 15th hearing.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Should California strip Elliott Seymour of his boxing license?

By Zach Arnold | November 28, 2014

Mickey Rourke, at age 62, had a boxing exhibition fight in Moscow on Friday against a California journeyman boxer named Elliott Seymour. The bout was stopped in round two. Seymour is only 29 years old. He’s also 1-9 as a professional.

Seymour came into the Rourke fight with four fights under his belt in 2014. All in California. All losses. Seymour’s last fight before the Rourke bout on Friday was only one month ago.

Our opinion: it’s time for Andy Foster and the Athletic Commission board to strip Elliott Seymour of his boxing license for health & safety reasons. Continuing to allow Seymour to fight, in our opinion, is dangerous and creates potential issues regarding liability. If he wants to re-apply for a new license in the future and can demonstrate proficiency in boxing skills, then let him go through the process.

In his four California fights in 2014, three different referees have officiated Seymour’s bouts: Jack Reiss, Jose Cobian, and Tom Taylor. Nine different judges have scored Seymour’s 2014 bouts: Max DeLuca, Michael Bell, Tony Crebs, Alejandro Rochin, Fritz Werner, Nelson Hamilton, Big John McCarthy, Fernando Villareal, and Raul Caiz Jr. In other words, there’s a whole lot of people who have worked California shows this year that Andy Foster can pick up the telephone and call to solicit opinions on whether or not Elliott Seymour should continue to be actively licensed to fight in states like California.

If other states want to grant Seymour a license to box, then that’s their choice and they will have to live with the ramifications. It’s our opinion that Andy Foster should take this opportunity to set an easy example that California has health & safety standards that need to be met by fighters in order to keep their licenses active. This is a matter that should be addressed in Sacramento sooner rather than later.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | 15 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The Feds may really get their show trial regarding allegations of extortion of California athletic commission

By Zach Arnold | November 27, 2014

One of the more complex, yet intriguingly fascinating stories of 2014 that we’ve been following in combat sports involve allegations made by the United States Government against California state senator Leland Yee. Yee, a powerful California Democrat, is accused of being affiliated with alleged Chinatown mobster Shrimp Boy. A multitude of charges from a multi-year investigation by the FBI produced criminal charges claiming extortion, gun-running, and other unsavory acts.

One of the allegations levied against Yee is based around claims of supposed extortion of individuals who wanted to keep the California State Athletic Commission alive in March of 2013. It was around this time period in which there was a sunset bill in the California Legislature to extend the life of the athletic commission for two years. Andy Foster had just gotten the job as Executive Officer in November of 2012. The Feds claim Yee extracted money and political support from multiple individuals in order to get his support to back the sunset bill.

Despite a few embarrassing episodes (like an undercover agent that supposedly may have gone rogue with cash), the Feds have largely gotten what they wanted so far in San Francisco court. Given the wide scope of charges the Feds have charged Yee & associates with, the judge in the case has split off the political corruption charges from the Feds monstrous criminal complaint. Translation: there could be a trial early next year relating to Yee, his associate Keith Jackson, and others regarding the Feds claims of bribery. This would theoretically include any charges the Feds filed against Yee in regards to the California State Athletic Commission.

It’s “Let’s Make a Deal” time for Yee and company. We know the track record of Federal prosecutions — over 90% success rate in getting convictions. History also largely tells us that deals will get cut in order to save face and to perhaps keep some records sealed permanently.

However, Leland Yee is a fighter. His defense team has chipped away aggressively at the credibility of the Feds in the case. Yee is no ordinary politician and certainly an extraordinary man in California politics. Under any other normal circumstances, Yee would cut the best deal possible and move on. However, the Feds have created enormous leverage here by throwing the kitchen sink against Yee in their criminal complaint. Yee may simply fight on because he’s cornered by the Feds. It’s entirely possible the Feds could drop the other charges against him if he waves the white flag here on the political corruption charges. It would be the predictable outcome. It’s a move most people would rationally expect.

If Yee and Jackson cut deals with the Feds, it’s hard to say how much evidence in the case will remain sealed by the judge. If it goes to a show trial, that is when all hell breaks loose and we could find out all sorts of information about what the Feds claim exactly happened with the Athletic Commission. It would be highly embarrassing if there were wire taps and other sorts of secret communication that revealed some very ugly secrets. It’s the last thing the Department of Consumer Affairs wants to deal with.

My expectations are low that we will really find out the full scope of what exactly happened. It’s all in the hands now of Leland Yee.

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

The view from 30,000 feet regarding the health of the Mixed Martial Arts industry

By Zach Arnold | November 25, 2014

I’ve been absent. Maybe you noticed. Friends (and enemies) did. Perhaps some of you didn’t. Good for you. Sometimes, real life beckons and you have to deal with issues outside of the MMA bubble. That’s where I’ve been the last 45 days.

While I’ve paid attention to everything that has happened in the industry and stayed (somewhat) in the loop, the recent absence has kind of forced me to step out of the information bubble and look at the MMA scene from a distance. What I see is not very encouraging for the sport’s long-term health unless dramatic changes are made by UFC.

The UFC may be making solid cash, but you don’t lose 40% of your EBITDA without some major problems. Cancellations & injuries helped dig the hole but there is a much larger issue at play here. The UFC has done its fighters and itself a major disservice with the brand-first approach. There are simply too many television & internet fights and too much of a “random guy A vs. random guy B” vibe. Nothing is special any longer. This vibe discounts all of the hard work & sacrifices made by so many who are chasing a dream that only the top 2% in the sport can attain. The pool of cash is shrinking unless you are a big name or made yourself into a big name outside of the sport (see: Brock Lesnar). I’m extremely concerned about this. The industry continues to rely too much on either casino cash or dark money and the pool of dark cash has evaporated in a hurry. Once PRIDE left the scene, so did a lot of the loose cash in the Asian fight scene. Morally and ethically, I support what police & politicians have tried to accomplish on this front. But the damage has been very real to combat sports, even deeper than I first thought.

Bellator’s success feels largely independent of UFC right now. It may last a few years and go away. It may last longer. I don’t think Bellator right now really is expanding the pie. What I do think Bellator’s November show in San Diego proved is that they can win over some disgruntled UFC fans and also bring in the casual MMA fans who simply haven’t kept up with the current scene. Any time some of the older fighters can continue getting pay days, that’s a good thing. As long as those fighters are still in good enough physical shape and are not in danger of permanently damaging their bodies, then there’s nothing wrong with veterans getting fights. At the same time, I will be interested to see if Bellator & Spike can get the star rub onto guys like Will Brooks and make them into household names. The UFC will undoubtedly poach Bellator’s top stars with higher frequency. Bellator will be able to survive as long as they are able to attract some big names and mix them onto cards with fights of importance and value.

The UFC, on the other hand, needs a complete reboot. From the production values to the matchmaking, there needs to be a dramatic overhaul and it needs to be done fast. 45 shows a year is putting so much pressure on the production staff that it simply does not allow the hard-working employees any time to breathe or gather their collective thoughts. It’s backbreaking work. Burt Watson and others get paid a respectable wage but it’s not nearly enough for all of the turmoil they have to manage & put up with. Dana White is skipping more and more shows. There’s this processed, antiseptic, automated feel right now for the UFC product that feels stale, old, and unimportant. Even the current 115-pound female version of The Ultimate Fighter on Fox Sports 1 is underwhelming in presentation.

In pro sports, you fire the GM and the coach when you need to shake up the scenery. There are also off-seasons where the athletes have a chance to catch their breathe and regroup. The UFC suffers from the worst of both worlds — ownership can’t remove itself from the scene, isn’t willing to make dramatic changes, and they have no desire (like WWE) to implement a seasonable format. Every time you compare a UFC event to a college football or pro-football or NBA game, it will always feel like a last-place sports product for importance.

UFC management has become the one thing they mocked a decade ago — conservative.

I enjoy Mixed Martial Arts. I have great respect for the athletes who have so much at risk in attempting to accomplish their professional & personal dreams. I also know that the industry’s long-term shelf life has some real question marks and I’m not sure the power brokers in Las Vegas fully understand the gravity of the current situation they are facing.

I’m not sure ESPN gets it either by hiring Chael Sonnen to be the face of their MMA coverage. You go from Josh Gross & Mike Fish exposing the industry’s testosterone plague to hiring the poster child of said plague and making that person the face of your MMA coverage.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 29 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

How many fights does the body of a UFC champion possess in 2014?

By Zach Arnold | October 22, 2014

Cain Velasquez out with a right knee injury, derailing the building of Ultimate Fighter in Mexico and the highly anticipated main event against Fabricio Werdum in Mexico City. In steps Mark Hunt. Werdum is putting his best motivation forward.

When Cain Velasquez fights, he is one of the most gifted giants we’ve ever seen. His determination to be the best has made him an incredibly gifted heavyweight. The problem is that, like Chris Weidman, he has the injury bug. The toughest champions in UFC also seem to absorb the most punishment to their bodies. In retrospect, it makes Georges St. Pierre’s decision to temporarily step away look smart.

The UFC has invested so much into promoting Cain Velasquez and for good reason. However, he has difficulty maintaining his health to frequently defend the championship. What do you do if you’re UFC? I don’t know.

Guys like Cain are once-in-a-generation type fighters. In MMA, generations usually last 7 years or so. How much longer will he be able to last as an upper echelon heavyweight? It’s the heavyweight division. The lifespan of a solid heavyweight lasts much longer than fighters in other weight classes. We’ll see more of the big man soon enough. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 55 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Fight Opinion Radio discussion: How can UFC be growing so much, yet face so much uncertainty?

By Zach Arnold | October 10, 2014

Some days, being an MMA fan feels like fighting a two-on-one handicap match.

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The current UFC business model is proving to be very unique. How can the UFC be experiencing record international business growth in markets like Mexico and yet face real uncertainty regarding their next television deal in Canada (!), an office closure in China, the release of Asian middleman Mark Fischer, and now the reported mass resignations from UFC’s Singapore office? With a Singaporean report claiming that UFC is only interested in sold show-type zero-risk deals to run in big Asian markets due to their supposed unwillingness to change their product & business practices to mesh with cultural concerns, what is UFC’s plan for growth in Pacific Rim markets outside of Australia?

The UFC is allegedly experiencing big time TV growth internationally and yet their PPV revenue has declined substantially. One minute, Dana White is claiming that Conor McGregor is bigger than Brock Lesnar or GSP and the next minute you have estimates of UFC 178 drawing 180,000-230,000 PPV buys. Additionally, none of the current UFC champions appears to be an all-time Top 10 UFC PPV box attraction.

Dana White is busy telling The Financial Times that UFC could be worth billions. The next minute, another publication claims they’re worth a billion. What is the UFC brand really worth without Lorenzo Fertitta or Dana White? If UFC’s growth is so explosive, then why do the people who have an interest in Zuffa’s debt seem concerned about the company’s future earnings?

If you’re a manager or agent, how do you navigate the negotiating waters now with UFC given that their PPV buys are declining? Do you have more leverage given the volatility of UFC’s current business situation or do you have less leverage given that UFC has said the hell with it, we’re going to proceed with a McDonaldification of four or fight cards a month with line-ups consisting of bouts where fans only know 25% of the fighters participating?

It’s one thing to experience international growth. It’s another thing to maintain that growth & to retain, let alone maximize, your gains.

With so many UFC events happening globally, expect more colossal mistakes like the botched HGH drug test of Cung Le to happen. The amount of stress on the employees involved in regulation & the production teams is enormous and things will slip through the cracks. When mistakes are made, UFC rarely admits or takes responsibility for their problems.

So, what’s next for UFC? What’s next for the fighters? What about the fans? Jeff Thaler & I discuss all of these angles on this week’s edition of Fight Opinion Radio.

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To Zack Nelson for his past & present support of Fight Opinion Radio.

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Topics: Fight Opinion Radio, Jeff Thaler, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold, podcasts | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Has UFC lost all credibility drug testing their own fighters for self-regulated shows?

By Zach Arnold | October 8, 2014

Is UFC’s HGH drug testing of Cung Le their ugly Roger Goodell moment?

Cung Le went into his Macau fight against Michael Bisping with a ripped physique. After he got Freddy Krueger’d by Bisping, UFC announced last week that Le had failed a post-fight HGH drug test. UFC initially suspended Le for nine months, then came back and stated that they made a mistake and the suspension would be a year-long ban.

Le’s camp argued that the Hong Kong lab UFC used wasn’t WADA-approved. The blood sample was collected after the fight. The IGF-1 test wasn’t used for HGH detection. The HK lab only kept the blood sample for one week. The WADA standard for keeping a blood testing sample is 10 years. There was no chance for appeal (the B sample) because the blood sample taken had allegedly been destroyed.

These are very specific allegations being made here. The claims should be easy for UFC to refute. Instead, UFC issued a no comment.

The blowback from defending Le’s protest was swift. On Twitter, Scott Carasik argued that the fighters signed contracts agreeing to let UFC handle the testing and that it is up to Le & other fighters to prove that UFC violated their own drug testing policy & protocols. In other words, UFC isn’t guilty of anything unless they contractually stated that their HGH testing had to be done at a WADA-approved lab. The counter-argument to that point is that UFC attempts to mirror various state athletic commissions and commissions like California and Nevada use WADA-accredited labs.

Whatever your opinion of the situation may be, it appears that UFC got caught with their pants down here. It is entirely reasonable for fans to believe what UFC is claiming regarding Le’s supposed HGH usage while at the same time recognizing that they screwed the pooch here on the process.

Smelling blood in the water and providing an appropriately aggressive defense, Cung Le’s camp is firing back again in the press. Previously, no appeals process was going to be granted by UFC. How can you have an appeal if the blood sample taken was allegedly destroyed?

Then came the U-turn today with ESPN reporting that UFC will allow Le to appeal his HGH test with a third-party arbitrator. The arbitration process will take place in America even though the testing happened overseas. UFC is now claiming that they will never use a non-WADA accredited lab again for blood testing. If you’re a fighter competing on a card where UFC is controlling the drug testing, how can you trust their protocols now? How can UFC stop the paranoia in which fighters & managers will be suspicious of drug testing results being used against their clients as a hardball financial negotiating tactic?

Gabriel Montoya published this damning article today at Bloody Elbow with comments from Don Catlin & Gary Ibarra (Le’s manager). Le’s camp claims that the drug testing results were not in English.

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

UFC scoffed at WWE’s PPV abandonment strategy but will they end up doing the same thing?

By Zach Arnold | October 8, 2014

It turns out that the Rory MacDonald fight that aired on Fox Sports 1 after the marathon baseball game between the Giants & Nationals drew around 800,000 viewers. Not bad. I’m not sure if this should be celebrated, but everyone seems to be grading on a curve these days given the oversaturation of Zuffa’s TV product.

There was the recent report that the ill-fated UFC 177 Arco Arena show in Sacramento with TJ Dillashaw vs. Joe Soto drew 125,000 PPV buys.

As for the fate of UFC 178 Las Vegas PPV buys…

No matter how you spin the numbers, UFC is falling off a cliff on PPV right now. Sure, they can pop 500k for a Chris Weidman/Ronda Rousey dual event. That appears to be the ceiling. Without GSP & Anderson Silva, it’s a rough go of things. Johny Hendricks is really their best hope at this point in time.

As WWE got overexposed on PPV and stunk up the joint, they cut the cord on PPV and gambled with their online WWE Network. UFC is headed down the same path. They may not give up entirely on PPV but their own business practices are ensuring a one-way outcome for their PPV future.

A series of news items from the estimable Adam Swift indicates what the future looks like for UFC:

Continue reading this article here…

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

UFC discovered the hard way they’re not a #1 priority on Fox against a major sporting event

By Zach Arnold | September 29, 2014

The good news? UFC did some very solid business in Sweden and Halifax with their Saturday double-header. Over 10,000 at the Metro Centre. Over 10,000 in Sweden for a million dollar gate. Rory MacDonald tore apart Tarec Saffiedine and is ready for Johny Hendricks or Robbie Lawler. Raphael Assuncao had no trouble with Bryan Caraway but now is the odd-man out with UFC giving Conor McGregor Dominick Cruz a title shot against TJ Dillashaw.

The bad news? Rick Story exposed Gunnar Nelson. And most people didn’t see the Halifax fights on TV because UFC got pre-empted on Fox Sports 1 for the 18-inning marathon game between the Giants and Nationals. The UFC running on Saturday nights during college football season is a risky move and they will get pre-empted for a Big 12 game. Running against Major League Baseball is another no-no. Fox will always choose a NASCAR race, an MLB post-season game, or a Big 12 game as lead-in programming for Fox Sports Live any day of the week.

Rory MacDonald had exactly the type of performance needed after no one watched his PPV fight in Vancouver four months ago. UFC has to hope and pray that fans stuck through their FX impromptu telecast and watched the fight. Otherwise, another scenario where few people witnessed Rory do his thing.

The UFC can continue their global schedule but it comes with a price domestically in the United States when you are running against bigger sports fish on television. The only solace they can take is that FS1/FX didn’t get dropped from Suddenlink cable like Spike & other Viacom channels did. If you’re a Bellator fan, not a happy time right now if you’re stuck with Suddenlink.

Event: UFC Fight Night 2014 on October 4th in Stockholm, Sweden at Ericsson Globe Arena
TV: Internet

Event: UFC Fight Night on October 4th in Halifax, Nova Scotia at the Metro Centre
TV: Fox Sports 1

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Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The state of the MMA union after UFC 178 (w/ audio discussion)

By Zach Arnold | September 27, 2014

MMA optimists stated that the momentum would pick up for UFC after a lackluster Summer 2014 business campaign. All signs pointed to UFC 178 being that launching point over the next five months to re-heat interest.

Heading into UFC 178, a legitimate question: was it the right call to put Demetrious Johnson in the main event slot as opposed to giving Donald Cerrone and Eddie Alvarez potentially five rounds? The results turned out to be rather interesting:

Just like in Vancouver, the Las Vegas fans walked out during a Demetrious Johnson title fight. (Ed. — Those in attendance claimed the fans rushed out right afterwards rather than during the fight.)

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Topics: Bellator, Fight Opinion Radio, Jeff Thaler, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold, podcasts | 16 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

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