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Cases of good judgment & bad judgment in MMA

By Zach Arnold | March 8, 2011

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There are a few stories brewing that should be highlighted or at least observed. Whether it’s good or bad judgment is up to you.

JUICY SUITS: Ultimate Fighter Matt ‘The Law’ Lindland sued for alleged stolen marijuana

Read the story. I laughed at the fact that someone filing such a lawsuit was ‘civil’ (pardon the pun). However, it does bring into question the whole mess right now with Team Quest and all the turmoil surrounding what’s left in Oregon. We know the situation with “Mr. Hypogonadism” Chael “Mortgage Fraud” Sonnen. Based on the fan reaction he is currently receiving, it doesn’t look he will be all that punished in the end for his transgressions. Sadly predictable. Which reminds me of this Cageside Seats article talking about the media tying themselves up in pretzels to justify a booking of Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping. Professionally, I know the fight will draw big numbers. Personally, I have no desire for it nor do I have any more desire to withstand the behavior of either man in and out of the cage. Just don’t expect me to have any sympathy for Sonnen when no one has any for Josh Barnett. Both men, of course, have licensing issues.

“UFC 129: St-Pierre vs. Shields,” future pay-per-views, to start one hour earlier

This is the big story today and so far the public reaction has been unanimous in supporting the decision. Logistically, it will help out the company in getting show production done faster after events and it gives the media some extra time to meet deadlines. For fans on the East Coast, it will be a pleasant surprise (especially compared to late state times for boxing PPV events). The only drawback, if you want to call it that, will be for UFC live events in Vegas or on the West Coast where the start times will be even earlier than usual. The flip-side is that people can just have a late dinner after the show. All in all, this sounds like a good decision.

Except if you’re working for Bellator, of course, and find yourself running against either Strikeforce or UFC all the time.

Speaking of Bellator, they drew a reported 200,000 viewers on MTV2 for their debut on the network last Saturday night. Strikeforce drew a reported 412,000 viewers last Saturday for their Columbus, Ohio event headlined by Dan Henderson.

I think, all things considered, drawing 200,000 viewers on MTV2 is solid. Most people I know do not have access to MTV2 or have to pay for it and the network on certain cable providers is in Standard Definition rather than HD. On a personal level, SD or HD programming differences don’t bother me, though the reaction I saw from MMA fans about not getting their events in HD was as if they were victims of a tragedy was amusing. If not being in HD is going to piss off fans, then I would expect the numbers to drop a bit. More concerning, to me, was the slow-pacing of the show and the fights. I can’t see how anyone who is 10 or 12 years old, which is the demo that Bjorn Rebney keeps touting, is going to want to watch this long-term. Bully Beatdown is a much better produced show than what we saw with Bellator on Saturday night. Nevertheless, I was surprised they hit 200,000 viewers. I admit it.

As for the Strikeforce number, I say you should reserve judgment on the ratings number. Nick Diaz fighting on April 9th in San Diego will tell us a lot. He, other than Fedor, is the promotion’s #2 TV draw right now. (Gina Carano has been inactive, so who knows how she will draw in her return.) If the show headlined by Nick doesn’t draw well, then I think there will be legitimate concern. It really feels like that the promotion is gearing up to make June 18th in Dallas their next big ratings all-or-nothing pop. They’ll have Gina Carano on along with the rest of the first round of their HW GP ‘tournament.’ I realize how ridiculous all of this sounds with the way they’ve handled the ‘tournament’ and how it’s created a vacuum for everyone to speculate about Fedor returning, so on and so forth. For now, I would say to withhold some judgment on the Showtime rating this past weekend. What I will say is that every time you run one of these year-long gimmicks, like a ‘tournament,’ you completely suck the oxygen away from spot shows and other events because the fans are assuming that the tournament shows are the A-shows and everything else is on the B-level, no matter how good the card is.

(A perfect example of this was in PRIDE where the GP shows drew big ratings but the Bushido cards, which had some great fights, completely and totally tanked.)

Topics: Bellator, Media, MMA, StrikeForce, UFC, Zach Arnold | 27 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

27 Responses to “Cases of good judgment & bad judgment in MMA”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    1) I thought 200,000 would be about what Bellator would get. There is a devoted fanbase that will watch any MMA, so I figured that would help double the 100,000 average the channel typically gets.

    2) I really question if getting under 250,000 viewers every week can make for a sustainable MMA company that will likely need $5 Million plus in revenues to come even on the year. Running a live show is expensive. I still wonder if the rumor that Bellator is around as SpikeTV’s insurance policy is true.

    3) Dan Henderson & Nick Diaz ended up being great indicators of what impact the Grand Prix has on the overall popularity of SF. Both had fights scheduled within 2 months before and after the Fedor/Silva card. So far with Henderson we have seen no such increase. The 70,000 more fans is likely due to no UFC competition this time around. If Diaz can do the same numbers he did in January then it shows a bump up. The reason is because he has no Walker this time. If he loses 75 to 100 thousand viewers…. Then I think it’s proof that “fans” didn’t stay past the gimmick of the GP.

    4) Being on the east coast, I love the idea of cards ending by midnight. I don’t like when baseball goes into the next day. I don’t like when MMA goes into the next day. This is great news.

    5) The Bellator SD signal was beyond bad. It hurt my eyes during scenes.

    6) There is talk of doing Fedor/Henderson. Maybe even with Fedor moving down to LHW. Not sure if it will happen, but if Fedor does move down in weight, it will kill his legacy. Everytime people bring up Fedor in terms of all time greats, the following will always be said: ” He fought at a time when there was a smaller breed of Heavyweights. Once the new bigger breed came into the sport, he couldn’t handle it and had to move down in weight. So he can’t be the best if he couldn’t hang with the Heavyweights of today.”. And you know that will be brought up into the discussion.

    I also think it’s a no win fight for Fedor. If he wins, he beat up a MW. If he loses, there is no where else for him to turn. But for SF, it’s one of the only fights that makes sense because they have nobody who can headline fights against Fedor right now.

    • mr. roadblock says:

      I’d really like to see Hendo vs Fedor.

      I doubt Fedor would take it though. If he loses he’s going to have lost to a guy who was himself beaten by a 170lb fighter two fights ago.

    • Nottheface says:

      A bigger sin – with regards to MMA – than Chael’s legal woes and failed drug test is the fact that he used Kieth Kizer of the NSAC as part of his defense. A fact Kieth flatly denied. I don’t think it’s acceptable or smart for Zuffa to allow fighters to impugn and lie about the Nevada commission.

  2. Precious says:

    SF squandered the momentum they had generated.

  3. klown says:

    I’m really happy about the earlier time slot. It’s something I’d always hoped for.

  4. EJ says:

    I’m sorry Zach did you just compare three time busted and unapologetic cheater Josh Barnett to Chael Sonnen?. Come on now that is not only a ridiculous comparison but really reaching on all counts. So is the idea that Sonnen should somehow be punished more than he already is when he’s already been suspended and the court system will take care of his other issues.

    I know some people don’t like the guy but the UFC isn’t in the morality policing business, the last thing Dana needs to do is turn into David Stern 2.0. The reason people like him is he’s nothing like the suits that run these other leagues and legislating morality isn’t something the UFC should be doing at all.

    • Keith Harris says:

      The only difference between Sonnen and Barnett is that Barnett has been busted more times. And yes Sonnen should have been punished more than he has, as it was completely ridiculous that the CSAC cut his suspension in half and he lied about his dealings with the NSAC in order to try and get his suspension overturned.

      It’s not about legislating morality, it’s about having a level playing field for all athletes. If Dana White purposely avoids booking Sonnen in Nevada due to his licensing issues and books him in states that are more liable to give him a TUE for TRT, then that’s unfair for his opponents.

      • EJ says:

        There are alot of differences between Sonnen and Barnett, for one Chael actually showed up and defended himself in court against the accusations. He didn’t run from it and went overseas to compete and he’s been repeatedly tested in the US and passed.

        Also was a reason why his suspension was reduced the CSAC is a freaking joke and the fact that people still treat them seriously is another joke.

        Finally Sonnen has no licensing issues in Nevada what he has is Keith Kizer mad at him because he put his name in the hearing. But he has nothing to stand on even if he hates Sonnen he’ll have to give him a license because Sonnen by then will have paid his dues. And the last thing Kizer can afford to do is pick a fight with the UFC because he got his feeling hurt by Sonnen’s comments.

        • Keith Harris says:

          One can only conclude that just like Barnett doesn’t really want to fight in California, Sonnen doesn’t really want to fight in Nevada, given that both would be licensed if they jumped through the respective commission’s hoops.

  5. Chromium says:

    Gonna do some math here…. okay, fuck it, I don’t need to do much math to tell this is a bad number for their future, but I’ll do some sloppy math anyway.

    Okay, advertising is split up between local and national blocks, even on cable. Let’s give Bellator the huge benefit of the doubt and say they actually had 16 minutes worth of national ads (probably it was less) during their two hour show (the rest would be “local” ads run by the specific cable and satellite outlets and MTV2 wouldn’t see a dime from that). Let’s say MTV2 managed to sell every single slot (which they probably did not). If the production costs of the show were the same as they were last time they did these, their shows are costing $400,000 each, and getting $80,000 back from the gate and international licensing. That means MTV2 would have to cough up $320,000 for them to break even.

    Ain’t no way they’ll be able to sell ads for $10,000 apiece for a show drawing 200,000, or even half of that, even if it skews young and male. They might have had higher initial estimates but MTV would actually have to “make good” on their advertisers if the show ended up significantly lower than their projections, and repeat the ads in another time slot for free.

    Even with a replay or two, I do not think they can sustain this. Furthermore MTV2 is getting a cut of that money, even if they might be overpaying a bit for something that brings new viewers to their network.

    MTV2 probably pays them a deal roughly according to their rating. It’s probably how they managed to get a deal with them. Like a lot of promoters, Bjorn probably overestimated how well he’d do or just plain gambled on greater success.

    Unless they pick up a whole fuckload of steam, while cutting costs and finding some extra ways to make money, I don’t foresee them lasting beyond this year.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I wonder what the investors were thinking when they saw 200,000 viewers by season 4. They might start getting cold feet as this is Bellator’s future for the next 3 years which can’t be a good thing.

  6. Jason Bennett says:

    What has Chael Sonnen done that’s all that bad really? Mortgage fraud is a pretty tame white collar crime compared to what most sports stars get wrapped up in. Is it good? No, but hardly character damaging in the eyes of most fans. At least he was man enough to step out of his political race rather than deny and cover it up like most politicians.

    The steroids issue is more of a problem for the commission than him. Seriously, what did he do wrong here? He let the commission know pre-fight that he had a medical condition (if you wish to dispute the condition, take that up with his doctors) and a prescription for the banned substance and they still let him fight. Then they back paddled and said you didn’t tell us properly (huh?). Then when he asked pointedly,how to inform them properly, they didn’t even know the answer, and still don’t evidently. The real story here is why isn’t the media crashing down on the commission for being incredibly inept and unable to do its job the taxpayer pays them to do. This also discredits every steroid test and any other action of the commission has ever taken, (“FREE SEAN SHERK…”) His steroid case shows how completely clueless and unorganized the state comission really is. I applaud him for his effort and manner he handled this ridiculous ‘Keystone Cop’ mentality of the comission. To be as vocal and outrageous as he normally is, he handled this like a complete professional.

    Josh Barnett’s story is much much different. He’s failed multiple drug tests in different states. But as we see with Sonnen’s case, that hardly matters anymore. Personally, I do not care about steroids in sports and think it’s high-minded naivety to stand tall against them. Come back with an anti-steroid argument when you include every single supplement, vitamins, additives, growth hormone and any other performance enhancer that does the same thing steroids do – only they are legal.

    Just because some bureaucrat with a pen decided something was illegal, it doesn’t make it the correct decision. The ‘dangerous drug’ argument is a bad one too, there are much much more dangerous drugs that are legal and actually killing people (alcohol, anti-depressants, tobacco and numerous other legal pharmaceuticals). Change is not coming though, too much money is being made.

    How ironic, my anti-spam word is ‘juiced’.

  7. The Gaijin says:

    “What has Chael Sonnen done that’s all that bad really? Mortgage fraud is a pretty tame white collar crime compared to what most sports stars get wrapped up in. Is it good? No, but hardly character damaging in the eyes of most fans. At least he was man enough to step out of his political race rather than deny and cover it up like most politicians.”

    The sad thing is that people think like this when it comes to “white collar crime”. Whereas a great deal of crime is related to a number of socioeconomic factors and or desperate people who need help (mentally, financially, etc.), white collar crime is purely a crime of greed and a crime of choice. IMO it’s worse than 90% of crimes that are committed, and I don’t know about you Jason, but the last time I checked this type of “tame” crime was at the epicenter of the meltdown of the U.S. and western economies. It cost you, me and every other taxpayer trillions of dollars…hardly tame if you ask me.

    • Jason Bennett says:

      Gaijin, Your point is 110% true. I didn’t make mine clearly. I was merely pointing out why people disregard his crime as not being a ‘big deal’. The fans perspective is what I was referring to. The economic crime you speak of is dear to my heart and should be to all people, as I see the US dollar falling in the near future and life as we know it about to change forever, and I sincerely mean that. Those responsible are criminals in the highest means possible and even treasonous as their intentions were knowingly meant to destroy the US economy. And they never will be prosecuted ever. Unlike Chael.

      Chael’s crime here though was quite small and insignificant really; it was a problem more aligned with a political character assassination than anything. A fine tuned political hit. He’s guilty, but not of a whole lot really.

  8. Light23 says:

    Bellator got another 100ksomething in the replay directly after too.

    They don’t show Bellator in the UK, so I downloaded it. When I saw that it was in 4:3 I was like GTFO 😮 😮 😮

    They even produce programs in 4:3 in 2011?! Horrible.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      They have been in HD at 16:9 in the past. But this season is on a channel that doesn’t even have HD. So whoever put it online only had access to the 4:3 broadcast.

      Honestly, I don’t even watch TV if it’s not in HD anymore. Bellator reminded me why. It was ugly on the eyes.

      • Light23 says:

        My dad has a 720p TV but doesn’t pay extra for HD (it’s quite a lot).

        I downloaded an HD broadcast of the Spike prelims to see what it was like, and there wasn’t that much of a difference, although really I’d need to do a side by side comparison.

        The TV is only 32 inches though. I guess on a 48 inch screen at 1080 looks much different.

  9. A. Taveras says:

    I’m not really a snob about image definition. For a long time I watched the UFC Fight Nights in SD before my cable system picked up Spike in HD. Still the Bellator broadcast was barely watchable to me. The combination of SD + lighting just didn’t work. I jumped to Strikeforce as soon as it came on just to get away from the presentation (not because I thought the fights were better). And after a couple hours of Strikeforce I didn’t bother watching the DVR of Bellator after the fact. That’s how it will prob go most weekends for me, which does not bode well for Bellator.

    The HBO boxing had stellar ratings that night. I’m not sure if it could be argued that show hurt Strikeforce to the tune of 50-100k. I know the standard line is the two audiences don’t overlap, but there is surely an overlap of HBO & Showtime subscribers due to packages. I can imagine a subscriber flipping between the two and going with the more polished HBO BAD especially with a younger, more intriguing headliner on the boxing show.

    • edub says:

      But the HBO boxing show featured Saul Alvarez who draws probably 90% mexican fans and women who think he’s hot.

      The MMA crowd who watches boxing probably isn’t into that type of draw. I know I’m not until he fights someone not past his prime and his own size.

  10. bluerosekiller says:

    We may not agree on a whole lot 45, but when it comes to being completely spoiled by HD, we certainly do.
    SD is like a pox upon the eyes in comparison.
    While I was watching the STRIKEFORCE show live on Showtime Saturday night, I recorded the boxing on HBO. Only to discover that I’d inadvertently chosen the SD channel on the guide rather than the HD.
    I couldn’t even recall the last time I’d watched a fight in SD & having to do so was like trying to watch with a film of Vaseline covering my eyes.

  11. TheJudge says:

    See, I don’t think Chael Sonnen’s behavior is that unethical. Wire fraud like that is often just a way to get around regulations, taxes, etc. Yeah, it’s not the height of propriety, especially for somebody running for office, but I am willing to let it slide, it’s nowhere near the amoral assholish behavior that Michael Bisping has exhibited towards nearly every fighter he has ever faced. So Sonnen has my sympathy. As does Barnett.

    Weren’t Bushido cards not that big of a draw anyway, even in non-GP years? I look at the line-ups for the cards PRIDE ran between 2006 Grand Prix cards and tournament or no tournament, those are pretty weak. No Fedor, one or two star a card, lots of one-sided matchups. Strikeforce could work the tournament to its advantage, if it is able to use the increased viewership to expose these new viewers to its midcard stars, its non-heavyweight main eventers and its rising young talent.

    • The Gaijin says:

      “See, I don’t think Chael Sonnen’s behavior is that unethical. Wire fraud like that is often just a way to get around regulations, taxes, etc. Yeah, it’s not the height of propriety, especially for somebody running for office, but I am willing to let it slide, it’s nowhere near the amoral assholish behavior that Michael Bisping has exhibited towards nearly every fighter he has ever faced. So Sonnen has my sympathy. As does Barnett.”

      Uh do you even know what you’re talking about? Sonnen allegedly created a fraudulent entity (or entities) in order to jack-up the price of the mortgage being provided for a home sale, it was a straight up, out and out fraud (I’m not looking at all the documents, but I recall they created some bogus company that provided repairs and upgrades to the house that were required as part of the sale). That type of crap is exactly what people should be getting punished for in the wake of the MBS collapse.

  12. Yuriy Kleyner says:

    Gaijin, first of all I want to say is I can tell you care about the truth, are angry at people, who wrecked the ecnomy and aren’t just trying to slam Sonnen, and I respect that. But you don’t have a very good grasp of the facts on this particular subject matter.
    There was no fraudulent entity created in this case. Sonnen had the seller transfer money to a plumbing company for non-existing repairs, which then transferred money to the buyer. The effect of this was to make the mortgage appear more expensive than it actually was to the buyer. Like, if I said my steak was 29 dollars, but gave you 5 bucks under the table. And to disguise the matter, instead of giving it straight to you, gave 5.05 to Dave Meltzer, saying it was for hot UFC-promoting air, and he gave you 4.95, claiming it was for Randy Couture’s dirty jock strap. Now it’s harder for the investigators to determine what actually happened. In reality Dave Meltzer is not overly high on UFC, Randy Couture’s underwear is always clean and there were no repairs required or performed. Usually this kind of chicanery is done for tax purposes or because I am bribing you, in this case it was done to encourage the buyer to buy the house (I don’t know why they couldn’t just reduce the price of the mortgage, probably has to do with legal purposes). Now, this isn’t the height of ethical behavior, but is this really the kind of stuff that sends you into fits of moral outrage and anger over the rape of justice? It’s shady but doesn’t make me hate Sonnen or put him in the same league as the people in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who on a large scale gave out mortgages to folks, who couldn’t afford them.

    • The Gaijin says:

      Thanks for clarifying Yuriy – I kinda jumbled my explanation about exactly what happened, but as I said I didn’t have the documents in front of me. I meant to say created a company (or had this shell company) that made “fradulent charges” for repairs (that were never done or required, but papered up to look like they were a condition of the sale), not a “fraudulent company” that charged for repairs that actually happened.

      Regardless, the entire exercise was designed to funnel money into a shell company (which really was a sham company at least for this transaction) in order to inflate the size of the mortgage and grease the palms of some greedy folks. Yes it was probably an enticement to the buyer and some tax driven feature, but it was a fraud and it still cost the taxpayers money, be it that they avoided paying taxes they owed or the bank made an inflated mortgage to add to the shit pile of mortgages no one can afford. I think people shrug it off as, he was just trying to get one by on “the man”, but in the end these shitty/fraudulent mortgages ended up in the taxpayers lap (or end up costing honest people more money because the bank ups its fees and service charges to recoup losses).

      I don’t HATE Chael Sonnen, I think he’s a douche (and not the type that I would pay to see get his ass kicked re. his schtick) and a dishonest slimeball who doesn’t deserve my adulation, dollars or attention…and his shady “professional” dealings just show his true colors.

  13. Yuriy says:

    Ok, not quite.
    The plumbing-repairs company was not shell or fraudulent but a legitimate local third party plumbing-repairs company that was well-connected to Sonnen and willing to serve as a transfer point for the money.

    I am also not sure who screws the taxpayer more, the people who try to pull one by the man or the man who issues regulations and taxes that are too much, but that’s a political argument, not an MMA one. What I was trying to point out is that Sonnen didn’t commit some sort of a massive fraud on the taxpayer or steal money from an innocent victim. Let’s leave it at that. 🙂

    • The Gaijin says:

      Oh right sorry…just remembered, the repair/plumbing company was owned by Sonnen’s mother. I knew there was something shady with the company besides the charged non-repairs. Sorry, was a while ago – I shoulda just went and read the filing again rather than lazily stumble through arguments half assed.

      You’re right, now widows or orphans were harmed directly and most likely by any close degree of separation. But we’ll leave it at that, thanks for keeping me honest.

      • klown says:

        How would we feel if Sonnen had stolen a television set from a store or robbed a home? I don’t think we’d be downplaying the charges. It’s a double standard whereby white collar crime, because it involves paperwork, seems less serious than crime involving material goods.

        White collar crime is especially despicable because it’s a crime of pure greed committed by the already wealthy. Shame on Sonnen.


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