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Fox Sports: "Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion site is one of the best spots on the Web for thought-provoking MMA pieces."

For mobile & tablet users, access our boxing & MMA headlines here

By Zach Arnold | November 22, 2017

To make our site theme more compatible with mobile & tablet devices, we had to trim off the news sidebars. We’ve developed a temporary solution to address this problem: separate feed pages.

Access the latest MMA headlines here.

Access the latest boxing headlines here.

As you might notice, some RSS links we are trying to access don’t load properly or are dead. We are searching for updated RSS feed links. Send us some tips.

Help wanted

We need your advice on finding a two-column theme compatible for PC, mobile, and tablet devices. E-mail me at zarnold9000@gmail.com with all suggestions. If you can’t help us out with technical advice, send us a donation to help pay for a solution. We can and will make this happen.

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

A generation after PRIDE’s death, Japan remains the elusive golden goose of MMA

By Zach Arnold | September 29, 2020

There is a new generation of Japanese fighters and fans who never watched PRIDE or know who MMA legends like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson are.

My personal and professional life was defined by the rise and fall of PRIDE. I can’t tell my own story without telling the story of PRIDE. Read Lee Daly’s book on the history of PRIDE.

The ghost of PRIDE (and K-1) fading into oblivion is a cautionary tale of how fast things can change. Was the whole scene a giant mirage? Were these promotions once-in-a-lifetime anomalies?

Top combat sports business manager Shu Hirata (On The Road MMA management) recently wrote an article series reminding all of us that not a lot has changed in Japan and, in many respects, business pratices remain as restrictive as ever.

Japan is still the dream prize

You can’t tell the story of Mixed Martial Arts without discussing the parallel evolution periods in Japan and America. There is too much history in Japan to dismiss the market as a one-hit wonder. It’s Japan.

A realistic assessment of the current combat sports scene is that Japan, Germany, and Texas are the golden gooses that have never been fully cultivated.

China is a different story. UFC and One are in an arms race to win over the mainland. UFC has their $13 million USD Performance Institute in Shanghai and recently signed a deal to train athletes with the Chinese Olympic team. UFC also has Strawweight women’s champion Zhang Weili. One has Hawaiian-Singaporean Angela Lee and backing from the Singaporean government.

Everyone’s gamble on China, rather than reigniting what once existed in Japan, is an interesting business decision.

What the Japanese want

The business formula for success in the Japanese combat sports space remains remarkably the same as it was a generation ago.

  1. A ring, not a cage. The cage is safer for fighters but it is not palatable for societal tastes. The ring is also better for the arena and wide camera views by the broadcast television networks. Sponsors don’t like the cage and neither does the general population. It makes the fighters look like animals.
  2. Broadcasting TV networks want matchmaking influence. They want a focus on Japanese talent put in positions of winning fights. There is a reason UFC and WWE have failed to consistently make it big in the world’s third biggest economy. You won’t get a broadcast television deal if you’re not booking a Japanese product.
  3. Ditch the tattoos. In 2005, you would have been asked to wear a tattoo sleeve so you weren’t viewed as a gang member. This attitude has softened somewhat in 2020 but still remains a cultural bug-a-boo.
  4. Japanese management, Japanese presentation, Japanese values. A company perceived as “foreign” won’t sell long-term. A company whose leader doesn’t act Japanese isn’t going to play well. It never has and it never will. It’s debatable what is a worse stigma: public yakuza association or a stereotypical foreigner?
  5. Japan is to Asia as New York is to America. If you make it in Japan, you can export your product overseas to the rest of Asia, Europe, and America. Trying to build a product outside of Japan and then introducing it into the Japanese marketplace is a fool’s errand.

These are the rules. The rules really haven’t dramatically changed since the era of Reconstruction in post-World War II Japan. So why is Japan on the sidelines while the rest of the world is showing growth in Mixed Martial Arts?

Nobody wants to play by the rules

Top international MMA manager Shu Hirata recently wrote an article series detailing the challenges facing fighters in an industry where it’s UFC and then basically everyone else.

Many of the challenges are often self-inflicted wounds. Mr. Hirata’s message? In order for Japanese athletes to succeed in Mixed Martial Arts and other combat sports, they must adapt to the real climate of contract business. Fighters have a right to speak up and challenge the proposed terms of negotiation but in order to get to that stage, fighters also have to act in the right manner and stop screwing up when it comes to unethical behavior.

Managers vs. talent agencies

It has been long-standing practice for many young Japanese athletes to sign with entertainment talent agencies rather than hiring their own manager, which also entails hiring trainers, attorneys, and accountants. Young talent is often overwhelmed and not fully prepared with real-life experience to handle their own business decisions. So, those choices are often outsourced to talent agencies.

Many entertainment talent agencies are notoriously predatory.

These talent agencies allegedly use a tactic of putting potential clients on the spot. They may bring their own in-house attorney and request the young fighter to sign the contract immediately. The fighter often doesn’t have their own legal representation present. The attitude that ultimately prevails in Japanese culture is signing a contract without fully reading it, with the expectation that everyone will come back at some point and renegotiate. The contract is just a formality.

Meanwhile, the talent agencies are reportedly loading the contracts with explosive options clauses.

For example, some talent agencies in Japan insert automatic extender clauses. Let’s say a contract is set to expire at the end of a calendar year. The contract may contain an clause that states that if the talent does not give notice of termination before August 31st, the contract will automatically be extended after the end of the calendar year. Fighters preparing to terminate the contract either are unaware of the clause or forget about it, don’t provide notice, and then find themselves legally stuck in a fight they can’t win with the entertainment agency.

How about a talent’s individual rights? The majority of talent agencies may require their talent to sign away not only the rights to a ring name but also the rights to their own personal name for the duration of the agreement or in perpetuity. This business practice resembles something you might see in WWE.

What about fees? Japanese talent agencies can charge very large deductions from talent salary in the name of promotion — advertising, booking, training, clothing, feeding, TV commercial filming. You name the expense, the talent agency can deduct money from their clients. The process is not always transparent. Talent is often not in a position to go to war, either in a courtroom or outside a courtroom, with the agency. They’re at the mercy of the operation.

For example: UFC offers fighters an insurance policy to cover training-related injuries. The deductible is $1,500 USD. There is no such training insurance in Japan. You can’t get it. The insurance companies there simply will not underwrite athletes participating in MMA training because it is legally considered ultrahazardous and no one is going to underwrite a policy. Additionally, when a fighter gets injured in Japan, they are at the mercy of the event promoter when it comes to whether or not a medical bill is paid for. This isn’t fully guaranteed. If the promoter can’t protect a fighter, then it’s up to the talent to trust the agency they’ve contracted with to take care of them.

But who knows?

In America, we often talk about the lack of quality fighter representation and pontificate on what mega agencies might be able to change once they get into the negotiation space with a UFC or Bellator. What Mr. Hirata questions is the conventional Japanese wisdom of talent signing with entertainment agencies that often have their own power sourcing and own agenda.

The passive-aggressive screwing-each-other approach

The conditions created by many young Japanese athletes signing away all of their rights to entertainment talent agencies makes it very difficult to maintain a consistent business relationship.

The end result is that both sides start screwing with each other, which often results in business deals that die or unfulfilled promises with constant threats to make good on what wasn’t delivered.

What happens when those talent agencies negotiate with fight promoters? As Mr. Hirata recently noted, these agencies call all the shots. They tell the fighter where they are going to fight. The fighter doesn’t have any voice in the decision making process.

If past is prologue, talent agencies can double dip. They can get a percentage from the fight promoter for negotiating to acquire a desired talent and the talent agency will extract a percentage from the talent’s salary as well.

The end result of this business practice is fighters signing contracts with promoters that have incredibly one-sided terms.

Penalties

Penalties clauses in Japanese fighter contracts are terribly punishing.

Let’s say a Japanese fighter gets hurt the week of a scheduled fight and cannot participate. Their contract could stipulate that the fighter not only has to pay back all of the money they sold in tickets but also the money for tickets sold by their opponent. Meaning, if your fight purse is only a small amount but you were selling tickets for the fight to get a percentage, you could be severely damaged financially.

But how much is the penalty? If the ticket distribution system used by promoters to give tickets to fighters to sell isn’t modern, then pocketing the ticket money is very easy for fighters to do. How does the promoter know what is an accurate amount of tickets sold?

Then there are penalties for an actual fight. If a Japanese fighter commits a foul or is disqualified, they could lose all of their fight money.

In the PRIDE era, everyone used to joke about the use of yellow and red cards by referees as the “yakuza vacation fund.” Fight penalties remain harsh in 2020.

Payment dates

If you’ve even written anything in the publishing industry, you understand the delay in getting a paycheck for previous work. Sometimes the wait is 30 days, but often it can be 60 days before you receive money.

Unfortunately, the same holds true for Japanese fighters. According to Mr. Hirata, fighters who fight in a certain month do not receive any fight money until the end of the next month.

What happens if the fight promoter is short on cash? The fighters not getting paid may be asked to keep fighting basically for IOUs. Would a regular manager allow his fighter to fight three or four times without getting paid?

Health and safety

When UFC and Bellator run events, they have their own doctors who work alongside doctors that athletic commissions appoint. If a fighter gets sick, the fight gets canceled.

In Japan, the promoters hire their own doctors. The doctors will do everything in their power to make sure a fight happens. Remember when Stefan Leko got injected with pain killers for a bad back?

If fighters get sick or injured and can’t fight, there are demands for the fighters to undergo full medicals and write apology letters for screwing over the promoters.

Get sick the night before a show and can’t fight? Expect to be made to apologize to the promoter and to the fans for wrecking everything before you can make your trip to the hospital.

Japanese promoters stuck in their old ways

Unlike UFC contracts which require global exclusivity, many Japanese fight agreements do not. They require “regional” exclusivity.

The result of this clause is that foreign fighters are no long scared to breach their Japanese bout agreements if they decide to fight outside of Asia.

In the PRIDE era, the promotion could call up an attorney like Michael Connette and file a lawsuit in Los Angeles. Now? Many Japanese promoters can’t afford to go to court in America, so they allow the gaijin to breach the agreements and move on. This makes it very difficult for promoters to build trust with foreign fighters, which is why the rigid enforceability of the agreements between Japanese entertainment talent agencies and Japanese fighters becomes so important.

Remember the automatic extenders talent agencies use in their contracts with talent? Japanese fight promoters don’t include auto-extenders in their agreements, so the promoters are heavily wedded to the talent agencies in maintaining control of fighters. If the talent doesn’t go along, they could get screwed by both the promoter and the business entity representing the fighter.

The sports society refuses to cooperate with MMA

It may come as little surprise to you that many athletic institutions in Japan want no part of the chaotic MMA scene. What is regrettably crippling towards the development of a new generation of Mixed Martial Arts fighters in Japan is the outright hostility towards the sport by other athletic institutions.

Either you’re committed to a specific sport or you’re out.

For many decades, Sumo fighters would retire out and go into professional wrestling or other athletic endeavors. If it was a departure on good terms, there would be a ceremonial display to demonstrate a conversion.

You’re either part of the family or you’re not. It’s always been kind of accepted practice.

In 2020, the battle lines remain the same but with a higher level of hostility.

The powers-that-be in boxing, judo, karate, amateur wrestling, and other forms of martial arts see MMA as a bastard child. If you train in one of those disciplines, you are expected to maintain loyalty to that discipline.

It is like the debate amongst American parents about what sports their children should play. Should they only be able to play baseball or football? Or should the kids be able to play multiple sports, learn from each sport, and determine what is the best path of course for success?

There is a stubbornness and honor code in Japan that ultimately is discipline-first. K-1 was about kickboxing. Hidehiko Yoshida was representing Judo in PRIDE. Royce Gracie was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Everyone is boxed in by a label. Today’s MMA athletes must have a talent stack and be good-to-very-good in all martial art disciplines. How is this possible to obtain if the battle lines are drawn in Japan to discourage or punish MMA cross-training as young athletes?

Then there is the financial challenge of paying for a young athlete to train in multiple sports. This is where the talent agencies can get their claws into the action.

The old era of Mixed Martial Arts in Japan was built on the backs of professional wrestlers. A new era will have to build on the backs of Japanese athletes who are skilled in multiple disciplines. Unfortunately, the business conditions in Japan prevent young Japanese athletes from achieving success at home. They are being forced to obtain success outside of the country, which then hurts their ability to build and increase a marketing profile inside Japan. It’s a formula for market failure.

The problem is that the old formula was originally built on fans caring about style vs. style fights: the kickboxer vs. judoka, the professional wrestler vs. sumo champion. That is now an impossible format to sell today because that is not how MMA talent is developed. This is why managers like Shu Hirata are sounding the alarm about the changes needed to make MMA successful in Japan. Will there be a truly dominant Japanese champion in the UFC?

Without proper corrections, Japan will forever remain a ghost in the fight business and a giant “What If?” story for generations to come.

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

The little engine that could: How Chris McMaster and MMA Decisions changed the game in 10 years

By Zach Arnold | September 23, 2020

In a combat sports business plagued by politicians, lobbyists, and administrative bureaucrats looking for fame and career enhancement, one outsider stepped up to the plate to change the Mixed Martial Arts scene for the better.

10 years ago, Chris McMaster created MMADecisions.com and placed a factual spotlight on the decision-making process in a sport where losing a fight can mean a substantial pay cut or outright termination.

We are all better off for Mr. McMaster’s trials and tribulations, which were extensively covered in a recent radio interview for Couchside Judges. It is one of the more important interviews to listen to if you are a newer fan of the sport and want to know just how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.

Congratulations – you’re now considered old

I have recently discovered an unflattering truth about the modern Mixed Martial Arts scene: there is a new generation of fans that have no idea about the history of MMA before 2010.

And if you’re alarmed by this, you’re not alone. I am entering the 25th year of covering combat sports in America and Japan.

It is this as the context in which the evolution and impact of MMADecisions must be measured.

Continue reading this article here…

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

RIZIN’s survival depends on crowdfunding — would you crowdfund your favorite fight promotion?

By Zach Arnold | September 8, 2020

Tacky or creative? Innovative or low-rent?

What to make of RIZIN crowdfunding financing for MMA events from fans during the Coronavirus era?

RIZIN 24 is scheduled to take place on September 27th at Saitama Super Arena. According to RIZIN, the arena will be configured to seat 5,000 fans.

In the promotion’s latest crowdfunding effort, the target was 50 million Yen. They’ve raised 70 million Yen with over 8,000 contributors.

Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the King of PRIDE, runs RIZIN. He considers him the top Japanese MMA promoter left standing. Given that it is Mr. Sakakibara and his track record of big events with PRIDE has created an image of big things, does crowdfunding diminish his stature? Does it make him look terrible? Or is he being an honest broker in an industry full of failure?

Is it the future of fight sports?

There is so much risk involved in promoting a fight event during a good economy, imagine how terrible the odds are during a pandemic.

The idea of crowdfunding fights? I actually spent a significant amount of time last year offline war-gaming out a model, a concept if you will, of how to create a platform for fans to generate their own purse bids to book fights.

In the end, the legalities of contract, administrative, and tort law in the United States made the concept unworkable.

The concept would have revolved around two fighters agreeing to a purse bid with a minimum downside and if there was enough crowdfunding support to match the purse bid, then a contract would be negotiated with television networks and sponsors. Sounds easy but it ain’t so simple in execution.

Do I think a variation of this idea will happen sooner rather than later? Yes, but I’m not sure that it will happen in the United States. It will have to happen in a country with a large fight population but not a complicated set of regulatory bodies.

Where does this put RIZIN? They are proclaiming to be in survival mode — and that’s an entirely realistic story. Will surviving by crowdfunding be an “image down” scenario in terms of losing face? Nobody knows.

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

The real cultural and business significance of UFC winning the war in the Trump era

By Zach Arnold | August 18, 2020

2016 was the year that UFC triangulated and gambled big time on saving their business model by publicly supporting Donald Trump.

Barring a Joe Biden victory in 2020, the Ali Act will not be amended any time soon to give fighters a private right of action to sue in a US Federal Court.

2020 became the year that UFC assumed the mantle as the American cultural, business, and political leader of Donald Trump’s public policy response to the Coronavirus.

Most sport entities are flat-lining while UFC’s bottom line is soaring. It’s rise, despite explosive debt-financing, is as impressive as Netflix and Amazon.

For a majority of press writers who cover UFC’s business, this development raises a lot of uncomfortable truths.

Continue reading this article here…

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

The anger about WWE’s business dealings with Saudi Arabia and financing of combat sports

By Zach Arnold | May 3, 2019

Every time I attempt to make an argument against hypocrisy in the fight business, I realize what a fruitless proposition it is to try to persuade anyone. For all intents and purposes, consider this an exercise in mental therapy.

Someone please (gently) stop my old colleague Dave Meltzer from mentally torturing and contorting himself further into a pretzel regarding WWE’s current business dealings with Saudi Arabia. Dave’s outrage is well-intentioned but his various attempts to magnify Saudi Arabia financing of WWE as the worst financing in the history of combat sports requires downgrading some ugly, ugly history.

The world’s brutal butchers

You would be hard-pressed to find me contorting myself to produce an unclean hands affirmative defense to clap-back against all of the horrific human rights atrocities that the Saudi Arabia government has inflicted upon its citizens and the citizens of the world. The country is reportedly running out of executioners and hiring some more. Saudi government hands are plenty bloody. Ask the families of victims from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Which is why I am very proud of Dave Meltzer and others in the fight business standing by the courage of their convictions in pressuring WWE about its business dealings with the Saudi government. I, myself, wonder why on Earth WWE decided they had to make such a business deal in the first place.

The hygiene of hypocrisy

What I am not proud of is watching so many media colleagues, past and present, critique WWE and the Saudi government while they were largely muted about the corrupt financing of high-level Japanese combat sports for decades.

The level of violence from the major Japanese gangs in combat sports escalated hard. It went from extortion, pyramid schemes in ticket distribution, and turf protection to outright gun fights and gangland suicides. It was always a myth that the “older generation” of yakuza bosses were kinder and gentler compared to the young machos who replaced them. They just did a better sell job in marketing and covering up the bad behavior.

Consider this infamous Los Angeles Times article about four top yakuza members getting liver transplants at UCLA medical center.

Then consider the LA Times reporting on the “donations” UCLA received for the surgeries.

What would you say if gangsters like this were financing your favorite fight at the Tokyo Dome while sitting at ringside as a VIP for recruiting purposes?

“The show must go on!”

Making the combat sports situation in Japan even more combustible? The politics involving North Korea and the treatment of zainichi in Japan. So many important individuals who made enormous contributions in the Japanese fight business downplayed or hid their true family heritage. Those of high profile, like Yoshihiro Akiyama, found themselves scorned and ridiculed hard when scandal was attached to their name (e.g. the “Oil of Olay” incident with Sakuraba which in turn led to a rather hostile KO by Kazuo Misaki).

Nobody played both ends against the political middle in combat sports like Antonio Inoki. When it came to dealings with Saddam Hussein or the North Korean regime, Inoki always sold it under the banner of peace. He convinced many powerful individuals to go along with his various political journeys. The granddaddy of all of Inoki’s escapades was the 1995 Peace Festival at Pyongyang Stadium in front of 150,000 people. Ric Flair lost to Antonio Inoki in the main event. Here’s Flair talking about his experiences dealing with the North Korean government.

The event was a gigantic, successful propaganda coup for both the North Korean government and Antonio Inoki. People still talk about the show in historic terms. Which is why I found myself floored by this comment from Dave Meltzer comparing Inoki’s North Korean event to WWE’s business deal with Saudi Arabia:

WWE’s deal with Saudi Arabia absolutely deserves criticism and I hope Dave continues to speak his mind. However, Inoki’s dealings with North Korea were just as disgusting but far more impactful and successful. The Return On propaganda Investment game goes to Inoki.

Stay consistent and stay proportional in levels of criticism

There is plenty of room to criticize financial backers in combat sports. Karim Zidan and John Nash are highlighting Sequoia Capital’s role in financing ONE Championship and financing surveillance technology used by the Chinese government against Muslims. This is a big story that I personally find far more consequential than WWE’s cheerleading agreement with Saudi Arabia. However, both situations deserve critical analysis.

Just like the financing behind PRIDE deserved critical analysis. It was next to impossible to get anyone in the press interested on what was going on behind the scenes. The events were big, the fights were dramatic, and the money was flying. People got sucked in.

Criticizing gang financing of combat sports in Japan was unpopular. Taking a verbal wrecking ball to the business model that produced mega-events at the Tokyo Dome and Saitama Super Arena was no fun. I spent decades covering a rotten industry and spent God knows how much cash to do it. Criticizing the industry’s business model was still the right call, though.

When it comes to situational ethics in combat sports, you don’t have to downgrade past incidents in order to inflate current scandals to illustrate needed change. Dave Meltzer did some very insightful, honest reporting and commentary about what took place with Inoki in North Korea. To see the same person downgrade that shameful debacle in comparison to WWE’s current deal with Saudi Arabia is disappointing but understandable.

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

Disney’s gigantic yearly gamble on UFC/ESPN+ leaves PPV door wide open for Al Haymon

By Zach Arnold | March 19, 2019


Al Haymon is the biggest winner from UFC leaving traditional PPV

When Vince McMahon launched the WWE Network, I remember veteran wrestling & MMA writer Jonathan Snowden telling me that it was the equivalent of shooting PPV with a gun and putting that business model out to pasture. The carcass of PPV would be left behind to drip blood.

Years later, the traditional American PPV business model itself isn’t dead but the two major PPV drawing behemoths — WWE and UFC — have exited out of traditional PPV due to their own financial self-interests.

These are the major talking points I want to focus on regarding UFC’s new PPV-exclusive ESPN+ deal with Disney:

Continue reading this article here…

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

2018 California State Athletic Commission inspector salaries

By Zach Arnold | February 25, 2019

A golden financial state for some…

Mark Relyea (boss) – $63,892
Sean Wells – $48,657
Ernesto Martinez – $30,735
Jesus Villarruel – $19,787
Michael Guzman – $18,697
Roy Farhi – $17,354
Brett Correia – $16,812
Larry Ervin – $13,723
Rick Estrada – $12,601
Armando Gutierrez – $12,039
Dave Rasmussen – $10,031
Byron Woods – $8,589
Martin Gillitt – $7,694
Greg Fajardo – $7,507
Burt Alejandre – $7,505
Chris Bunyan – $6,753
Jeremy Roseman – $6,116
Joe Ulrey – $5,575
Rogelio Chapa – $5,507
David Pereda – $5,256
Ivan Guillermo – $4,976
Elizabeth Hawkins – $4,413
Nichole Bowles – $4,086
David Soliven – $3,916
John Tohill – $3,792
Gil Martinez – $3,232
Kevin Highbaugh – $2,873
Sacory Dillard – $2,759
David Infante – $2,650
Armando Melendez – $2,202
Jim Russell – $1,758
Hanley Chan – $1,636
Marcos Tome Jr. – $1,346
Brian Morris – $1,229
Felicia Oh – $1,081
Lily Galvez – $779
Bruce Rasmussen – $736
Carlos Moreno – $611
Danny Cruz – $262
Jeffrey Ervin – $138
Tim Huff – $69

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

Judge in Mark Hunt’s lawsuit against UFC says doping is part of assuming the risk

By Zach Arnold | February 15, 2019

When Mark Hunt’s attorney was squawking in late 2016 about filing a racketeering lawsuit against UFC and Brock Lesnar in Nevada over Lesnar’s failed doping test, I warned that this was not necessarily a serious legal tactic. Racketeering was a marketing tactic and that’s about it. The threats over concealment and unjust enrichment along with breach of contract carried more substance.

Racketeering got the case in Federal court. If it lost out, it would likely move the case to state court.

The judge in the lawsuit telegraphed her skepticism in June of 2017. This week, the judge carried through on her remarks and dismissed every cause of action except breach of contract.

This was not a surprise. The surprise was in the legal logic to dismiss the case and what a bad, no-good, terrible ruling it is for those looking to employ legal strategies in the future against fighters caught doping.

Opening his own can of worms

Remember the circumstances of what went down. Mark Hunt fought Brock Lesnar while negotiations were going down to sell UFC. Hunt has his attorney go public with legal threats. Hunt follows through with legal threats.

Then, inexplicably, Hunt goes public in an interview supposedly claiming slurred speech and sleeping problems due to damage suffered as a fighter.

UFC promptly pulled Hunt from fighting in Australia. He loudly protested. How much did Mark Hunt hurt his legal case in America?

In dismissing a majority of the causes of actions, judge Jennifer Dorsey claimed that Brock Lesnar’s doping did not negate Mark Hunt’s consent to fight. In other words, he assumed the risk.

The judge cited a precedent involving a case regarding a player intentionally hit with a baseball. Yes, the baseball can be a deadly weapon, but it didn’t exceed “ordinary range” of activity.

You can argue that doping makes athletes bigger, faster, and stronger but somehow you can’t legally prove that it actually impacts “ordinary range” of physical activity during an MMA fight?

The whole point of doping is to impact your “ordinary range” of activity in a sport. You wouldn’t use drugs to not enhance your performance.

If this is the temperature in the legal system for tolerance of doping, attorneys looking to clean up the sport face an impossible task.

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

Site issues with links

By Zach Arnold | January 20, 2019

You’ve seen the problems in the last couple of months with this site processing the various RSS links on the sidebars. The best way to describe the issue is that it’s like having a home with clay pipes that are clogged with tree roots. New plumbing is needed.

We will fix the issues. Hopefully, the sooner the better. A new site design and new processing for feeds is necessary. Complicating matters is that RSS is going out of style and trying to aggregate feeds is becoming a more difficult challenge.

Topics: Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

ESPN+ records massive subscriptions for their new UFC “sewer sport”

By Zach Arnold | January 20, 2019

ESPN rabblerouser and raconteur Dan Le Batard rudely and inappropriately treated guest Ariel Helwani as trash on his radio show. Le Batard correctly blitzed Disney management for promoting a “sewer sport” in exchange for saving the company with its new Over-The-Top subscription service.

Le Batard isn’t wrong in calling UFC a “sewer sport” for the way they promote Mixed Martial Arts. You have to call a spade a spade. UFC reinforced this notion by promoting Greg Hardy in the company’s semi-main event fight in Brooklyn. Hardy promptly lost by disqualification due to using a knee on the downed opponent.

The price for promoting a “sewer sport”?

Dave Meltzer reports that ESPN+ signed 525,000 new subscribers due to the UFC Brooklyn event headlined by Henry Cejudo destroying TJ Dillashaw. What makes the numbers so startling is that there is a heavy UFC presence over the next six months on ESPN+. Regardless of how successful Top Rank boxing cards have been on ESPN & ESPN+, there is no comparison to the subscription power that UFC is providing so far for Disney.

ESPN+ is a matter of life or death for Disney in professional sports. It must grow fast in order to maintain survival given the way cord cutting is accelerating. Disney paid a fortune to buy the rights to UFC programming. So far, so good.

What the monumental successes of both Jon Jones last December and Saturday’s Brooklyn event show is that there is no bottom for UFC in terms of paying any sort of price on the basis of fairness or morality. The dirtier, the better. The sleazier, the more seductive the product is. Disney has gone all-in with the swamp and there’s no turning back. Their future depends on UFC.

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

The Floyd Mayweather fight was costlier for RIZIN & Fuji TV than first anticipated

By Zach Arnold | January 4, 2019

The only good news for Nobuyuki Sakakibara is that Floyd Mayweather’s paycheck for the “exhibition fight” with Tenshin Nasukawa was $9 million and not $100 million USD.

Otherwise, it was an awful night for Japanese combat sports on New Year’s Eve 2018 television.

Tokyo Broadcasting System, which used to be home to mega K-1 and Inoki NYE events, finished with a 6.9% overall rating for their SASUKE show (athletic variety) plus Macau boxing event featuring Kazuto Ioka.

Fuji TV, which was home to powerhouse PRIDE, finished with a high of 7.5% for RIZIN for Floyd Mayweather’s fight. The overall ratings were 5.7%, 5.0%, and 6.9%. The day before Floyd’s fight, the Teiken Promotions boxing triple-header with Masayuki Ito, Ken Shiro, and Takuma Inoue pulled a 6.3% rating (8.8% in Kansai area).

The boxing numbers are a mixed bag but not a total surprise. The RIZIN rating figure is a big problem. Network executives don’t put up millions in cash for a distant fourth-place number in the high stakes Japanese ratings game of NYE.

If you’re intrigued by what used to go down politically with television producers on NYE events, go back and look through our archives. The level of detail and planning with ad agencies like Dentsu is exhaustive and extensive. Getting Mayweather for $9 million bucks was cheap by his standards but not cheap by anyone else’s. This hurts.

Where it hurts Nobuyuki Sakakibara is future investment. Yes, he proved that he could book Floyd Mayweather. There is some credibility built-in this maneuver because it will likely convince a private financier to perhaps open up a checkbook for a future show. However, the much more lucrative and bigger investment is with a Japanese network television partner.

If the Floyd Mayweather experiment had rallied a bigger number, such as 10%, the circumstances would be different today. That’s how important an extra 2% in the ratings would have been.

Topics: Boxing, Japan, Media, Zach Arnold | 10 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Andy Foster brilliantly gambled on being both the California fight boss & acting like a quasi-UFC agent to gain fame and power

By Zach Arnold | December 30, 2018

California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster was essentially exchanged a B-level Anaheim January UFC event for a mega last-minute Jon Jones UFC fight in December. All on the premise that Jon Jones somehow was the world’s most unfortunately unlucky drug testing fighter. Marc Raimondi has a great article on MMA Fighting explaining how UFC, Jon Jones, and California managed to profit on what social commentator Scott Adams labels as the “confusopoly.” You wanted a clean sport? Well, you’re just going to have to accept all the confusion that comes with it.

This kind of gamble of being “pro-fighter” and “promoter-friendly” has been the hallmark of Andy Foster’s tenure as Executive Officer of the California State Athletic Commission. It is paying off. California is back to being a $2 million a year state because Nevada’s commission is in complete disarray and the other big boy athletic commissions have failed to take advantage of the situation. Given California’s income tax situation, it’s a rather remarkable accomplishment.

That accomplishment has been buttressed by some very friendly circumstances.

First, UFC spent big cash through their Sacramento lobbyist Tim Lynch at Platinum Advisors to act as the political muscle on behalf of UFC & Andy Foster’s interests. Not a single fight writer has ever, curiously, delved into this topic. Of all of the early success Andy Foster had in California, a significant amount of credit belongs to the cash UFC spent — not only to control the outcome but to exert heavy influence over the Athletic Commission.

Second, California is back to collecting taxes on pro-wrestling shows while doing no work whatsoever. The amount of revenue on the budget sheets from wrestling is rather large. There hasn’t been any fight over this development.

Third, UFC managed to keep their best possible outcome with Andy Foster staying in California when it all but looked like he was heading to Nevada after Keith Kizer chaotically resigned. The world would look a whole lot different if Foster had left for Vegas. Vegas politicos didn’t want the Southern boy in power. What they didn’t gamble on was the Fertittas selling UFC to outside owners and relegating Nevada’s commission to lower-tier status in terms of political power.

The whole game changed when Nevada’s athletic commission was forced to self-finance and was no longer attached to a general state budget fund. It turned Nevada’s commission into any other state AC.

UFC correctly gambled on Andy Foster staying in California. UFC 232 was the blossoming fruit from the poisonous tree.

You scratch my back, I scratch yours. He promised $2 million dollar years in California and, by God, he’s doing it. At what price or what level of integrity, who cares. There isn’t a better comment to sum up Andy Foster’s no-risk-move in approving Jon Jones for UFC 232 in Inglewood than this comment by veteran MMA writer Luke Thomas:

Andy Foster’s easiest — but largest — gamble was assuming that not a single soul in the fight or local press would ever take him on regarding any controversy or scandal. Andy Foster can act like a quasi-UFC agent while drawing a sweet Sacramento paycheck.

Consider some of the various stories the press has soft-balled or ignored over the last five years:

These situations would have gotten every other major athletic commission big boss fired.

What Andy Foster discovered was that there was no one to stop him from doing what he wanted to do. The lobbyists. The attorneys at Consumer Affairs. The paper pushers. He managed to use the people who thought they were using or controlling him in the first place.

Combined with naked ambition, zero fear of a toothless press corps, and a lack of employee will to file lawsuits and you have a formula that no longer requires UFC or Andy Foster to tip toe around what matters the most to them.

There’s nothing stopping Andy Foster from making 2019 his biggest and most lucrative campaign to date.

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

The public officially delivers a verdict on Jon Jones: He owes nobody nothing, especially UFC

By Zach Arnold | December 27, 2018

Jon Jones told a reporter on Thursday that they sucked for asking why he’s had trouble with multiple drug tests. From his perspective, he understands something that the rest of us don’t really want to accept. The public at large does not care about steroid usage except:

1) if it involves a fighter the public hates or;

2) if the cheating is so sloppy, the PED is garden-variety gym quality, and the doping is performed so recklessly that it’s deserving of mockery

Fail a test for a random steroid and people shrug. Ask for a hall pass for testosterone in order to function like a man once again and the response will be loud.

The verdict is in: Nobody cares

UFC 232 has officially sold out in Inglewood at The Forum. On short notice, ticket sales roared for UFC after relocating the event from Las Vegas to Southern California. Jon Jones is the big ticket. When you’re the big ticket, you run the show.

The fans had an opportunity to send a crystal clear message about USADA’s drug antics. It was a chance to call out UFC for being sleazy. It was a moment to tell Jon Jones that he’s reached rock bottom.

None of those things happened. The fans don’t care about USADA drama. At this point, it’s as relevant to the public as media members talking about each other in profile pieces. UFC financially dodged a big bullet and their gamble paid off to run in California with their quasi-agent Andy Foster providing cover.

(We’ll have more on Andy Foster this Monday. It’s appropriate to give him the proper attention.)

As long as Jon Jones can beat people up, people will care about him. His last fight with Alexander Gustafsson was exceptional. Another exceptional fight will give an extra two years of top-flight momentum. That’s how this works.

The rules of protest

Protesting and fighting only works if there is real or perceived momentum. What momentum is there for regulators and promoters to be scared straight? Zero. Unless Sacramento loses cash, nobody is going to raise the alarm. More shows, more money, more events to be seen at and get camera time.

Want clean sport? USADA was supposed to give you clean sport. Instead, it’s become as polarized as Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Trump.

What are you going to fight about? What are you going to fight for? The only thing that matters to people is money. Right now, nobody is losing money. You can’t win a battle if someone’s ox isn’t getting gored.

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

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