The case for legalization: quantifying economic windfalls
While I may have argued for a a fundamental shift in MMA’s approach to seeking legalization, I’m not naive enough to believe that the economics of the sport do not have a role in the legalization process.
The fact of the matter is it’s simply not enough to preach the virtues of MMA as a sport and expound its comparable safety record to all the public naysayers and fence-sitters. It’s now time to broach the topic of economic windfalls - MMA’s veritable ace in the hole.
Inaugural independent world MMA rankings released
We are proud to announce the launch of the Independent World MMA Rankings. Some of the best and most knowledgeable MMA writers from across the MMA media landscape have come together to form one independent voting panel.
These voting panel members are, in alphabetical order:
Zach Arnold (FightOpinion);
Nicholas Bailey(MMA Ratings);
Jared Barnes(Houston Chronicle);
Jordan Breen (Sherdog);
Jim Genia (Full Contact Fighter, MMA Memories, and MMA Journalist Blog);
Jesse Holland (MMA Mania);
Robert Joyner (MMA Payout);
Todd Martin (CBS Sportsline);
Zac Robinson (Sports by the Numbers MMA;
Michael David Smith (AOL Fanhouse);
Jonathan Snowden (Author of “Total MMA: Inside Ultimate Fighting”);
Joshua Stein (MMA Opinion),
and Dave Walsh (Total MMA).
Lee Murray's Prison Escape Attempt Uncovered
An attempt to escape Sale prison in Morocco by former MMA fighter Lee Murray was foiled by prison officials, according to the June 15 Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Small saws were found in a plate of biscuits in Murray's cell by another prisoner who broke into it. Prison officials believe Murray was planning to cut through the iron bars of his cell window with the saws. To make the escape through the small window easier, Murray had lost a significant amount of weight recently though training hard and starving himself.
Murray was in a different cell at the time as punishment for being caught with a laptop computer (with internet access) and five kilos of drugs. Other prisoners at Sale held it against Murray that he was able to use his money to smuggle in items like these, as well as expensive clothes. The fellow prisoner who broke into his cell was doing so to steal some of Murray's belongings.
The British Murray is believed to have been involved in the largest bank robbery in British history. He was apprehended in Morocco, where he has citizenship because his father was Moroccan. Because of legal complications stemming from his Moroccan citizenship and the country's lack of an expedition treaty with Britain, Murray remains in Moroccan custody.
Series 3 of popular Round 5 MMA figurines hits store shelves this week
Round 5's latest series of popular MMA figurines hits store shelves this week, the Ontario, Canada-based company announced today.
Series 3 features former UFC champion Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski, referee "Big" John McCarthy, UFC heavyweight title-holder Frank Mir and former PRIDE and UFC champ Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira.
The company also announced that a planned figurine of popular Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko has been delayed and will not be part of the Series 4 this summer.
"We continue to work closely with Fedor and his team on making his figurine as accurate and true to his persona as possible," Round 5 President Damon Lau stated. "Consumers appreciate Round 5's commitment to producing collectibles that capture each athlete's individual style, and we look forward to completing the Fedor figurine with that goal in mind."
Series 4, expected to be in stores by no later this early August, now features Gina Carano, Dan Henderson, Cung Le, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Matt Serra.
Series 5 will be released by year's end, though participating fighters have not been announced.
Round 5's offerings can be purchased at leading retailers such as Walmart (Canada), Toys 'R' Us, FYE, Century Martial Arts, Sunrise Records, The Treadmill Factory and Hatashita International. Other retailers can be found at www.round5mma.com/wheretobuy.php.
UFC Signs Content Deal With Heavy.com
MediaPost.com has the lowdown on the UFC partnering with Heavy.com to offer programming for the popular pop culture website:
Men’s media network Heavy.com has struck a content distribution partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Online Media Daily has learned. Heavy will now host a video channel containing content from the professional mixed martial arts organization’s library, including fight highlights, interviews and analyses, backstage footage and previews of upcoming fights.
All UFC videos will employ Heavy’s video ad units throughout — known as “video skins” — monetizing the video by wrapping it with a premium, high-CPM ad unit specifically designed for brand advertisers.
While UFC.com is hugely popular, it is encouraging to see the UFC in not looking at that as the sole distribution point online and source of revenues. The deal with Yahoo to sell PPV’s online is massively troubling from a journalistic viewpoint, but it is a smart for the UFC move in that they are dispersing their distribution. The Heavy.com deal has ad-based elements that will generate additional passive income. Dana white has stated in the past that he sees everythign eventually moving online, so staying aggressive in the new media realm will be key to this vision.
The deal also signals the UFC entrenching further in their 18 to 34 male demo. That is the target market for Heavy, and the UFC programming will complement the action sports programming that now plays a big role at Heavy. The UFC continues to increase its positioning with “action sports.” A similar move was made recently with the signing of the UFC to Fuel TV in Australia.
Tito Ortiz Sued Over MMA Trash Talk
Tito Ortiz is on the receiving end of a serious legal attack -- one that started after the UFC legend bashed "Rampage" Jackson's former trainer to the media.
The guy filing the lawsuit is Juanito Ibarra -- a fighting expert who claims he's trained more than 15 world champs and several Olympic Gold Medal winners. Ibarra's pissed over an interview Tito gave to a website back in 2008, in which the fighter ripped Ibarra as a "thief" who had financially "taken advantage of Rampage."
In the lawsuit, filed today in L.A. County Superior Court, Ibarra claims Tito's statements are all false and "highly offensive" -- and things got worse when scores of sports websites began publishing follow-up stories, repeating Tito's comments.
Ibarra is suing Tito and all the blogs and publications that ran Tito's interview for defamation, invasion of privacy and emotional distress.
E3 2009: EA Sports MMA Announced
Electronic Arts' Peter Moore has just announced that the giant publisher is finally making a mixed martial arts game under the EA Sports brand. Dubbed EA Sports MMA, the game is set to go on general release sometime in 2010.
I hope Fedor is on the cover!!
GSP Makes Men’s Fitness 2009 MF 25
By dismantling UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn earlier this year, St-Pierre took ownership of the "best pound-for-pound fighter" mantle. GSP routinely kills it in the gym with strength and conditioning coach Jonathan Chaimberg, a fellow Montreal native. Chaimberg has taken him from only eight body-weight pullups per set to now banging them out with a 120-pound dumbbell attached to his waist. Normally 188 pounds, St-Pierre cuts about 20 pounds for a fight and carries only about 5% body fat. "He's probably the most gifted athlete you'll ever meet," says Chaimberg.
UFC: Undisputed 2009 Also Tops in Canada
The UFC: Undisputed 2009 takes up the top 2 positions in Canada, according to Rogers and the Canadian Press:
TORONTO — The most popular game rentals (all platforms) according to Rogers Video for the period ending May 24.
1 UFC 2009 Undisputed (Xbox ***)
2 UFC 2009 Undisputed (PlayStation 3)
3 Terminator: Salvation (Xbox ***)
4 Bionic Commando (Xbox ***)
5 Punch Out (Nintendo Wii)
UFC 2009: Undisputed Topping Charts in UK
While THQ’s UFC 2009: Undisputed has been a solid hit on US shores, the game has also made its’ mark in the international market. The game debuted on the top of the charts, according to Brit gaming tracker el33tonline:
The All Formats UK Software Chart top ten follows below:
* UFC 2009: Undisputed (THQ)
* Pokemon Platinum (Nintendo)
* EA Sports Active (EA)
* Wii Fit (Nintendo)
* Fifa 09 (EA)
* X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Activision Blizzard)
* Wii Play (Nintendo)
* Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo)
* My Fitness Coach (Ubisoft)
* Call of Duty: World at War (Activision Blizzard)
At No. 1, UFC 2009: Undisputed debuts in the software chart, with a console sales split of 52% on Xbox *** and 48% on PS3.
That level of success with the game in the UK shows that the UFC is becoming further entrenched in the sporting and cultural environment of the Brits and only bodes well for the future.
Former Owner of Premier Fighter Indicted
Forbes is reporting that the gentleman with ties to the MMA apparel line Premier Fighter has been indicted on multiple charges related to fraud, money laundering and other criminal activity:
A federal grand jury has indicted a 37-year-old Nebraska man, alleging he operated a Ponzi scheme that caused investors to lose about $4 million from 2006 to 2008. Matthew Anselmo of Bellevue is accused of misappropriating investment and loan funds from 13 people to pay off previous investors and business debts, underwrite his gambling and buy a residence and vehicles.
The 27-count indictment, announced Friday, also charges Anselmo with mail fraud, money laundering and possessing counterfeit checks with the intent to deceive other people. Anselmo was owner, operator and manager of M&M Marketing and Premier Fighter. Premier Fighter sold mixed martial arts-related apparel.
There had been talk in MMA circles about Premier Fighter allegedly not paying fighters after the fighters wore Premier Fighter during their bouts during Anselmo’s ownership, with many threads on the UG detailing this. Premier Fighter had been distributed by Hitman Fight Gear (and therefore by TapouT) before Hitman parted ways with Premier during the Fall of last year. This indictment sounds like the other show dropping in relation to these earlier troubling reports.
UFC 98 Preview w/Monster, Ortiz, Miletich, Thomson & More!
Nate Quarry – “Serra/Hughes is the fight I'm personally tuning in to see. Ever been to a UFC and seen a fight break out in the stands? Everyone turns to watch it. Why would they want to see two drunken brawlers instead of two well conditioned athletes? Because of the passion the drunken idiots have. We're addicted to seeing this personal part of people's lives. It's what makes us tune in to reality shows. We want to see those raw emotions on display. It's one of the few taboos left in the world. Well, guess what? That's what we get to see with Hughes and Serra. Two guys who don't like each other. One farm boy and one New Yorker. Hughes plan is going to be the same as always. Take him down and ground and pound. But Serra is going to be very tough to do that to. He's got very fast hips and is built well for reversals and submissions. And Serra has proven he has knock out power in his hands. I don't generally give predictions because I usually get them wrong but... I've got to go with Serra on this one.”
CSAC Executive Bill Douglas Steps Down
Bill Douglas, the California State Athletic Commission Assistant Executive Officer, has resigned. He said the reaosn why is in order to accept a Senior Policy Analyst position with the Department of Consumer Affairs. Douglas was appointed to his position when then-executive officer Armando Garcia resigned in November and made revamping the CSAC's drug testing program a high priotity.No replacement has been named for Douglas, he says the position is vacant.
'Behind the Octagon' to Stream Backstage Video at UFC 98
The UFC has a special treat for those staying in to watch the fights on Saturday night. Starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, four live video streams will be available at UFC.com/BK, as part of a new Burger King-sponsored online feature called "Behind the Octagon." Viewers can switch between the red and blue corner dressing rooms, the fighter entryway, and a camera that will just be following Dana White as he makes his rounds. In other words, you'll be seeing a lot of behind-the-scenes action that's never been available before, aside from edited highlights in Danavlogs.
Specific details on "Behind the Octagon" are scarce at this point — we don't know if UFC.com will try to charge viewers for access, and we don't even know if the feeds will be available during the entire event. But if it comes together, BtO could be the most forward-thinking Internet feature the UFC has ever offered. Now all they have to do is give press credentials to bloggers and we'll have entered the Utopia...
What is Going on with UFC, Bud Light, and Mickey’s?
Last week’s edition of TUF had a subtle sponsor item that may have escaped the eye of most of those watching the telecast, but may speak to larger issues.
Mickey’s sponsorship of the tale of the tape comes after a long absence from sponsoring the UFC. The company was a major sponsor of the UFC, but was ushered out the door with the UFC’s signing with Bud Light. As noted in their press release at the time of the Bud Light signing, the Anheuser-Busch company signed on to be the exclusive beer sponsor for the UFC. With Mickey’s in, is Bud Light in, out, or somewhere in between? Many questions abound….
Is the UFC playing semantics with the difference between malt liquor and beer, and if so, at what cost to their relationship with Bud Light? The UFC has a deal with Tequila Cazadores to be the official spirits sponsor of the UFC, but the this represents another product category all together and wouldn’t be seen as a direct competitor to Bud Light. Not so with Mickey’s and Bud. In addition, Mickey’s is a MillerCoors company, which serves as the Pepsi to Bud’s Coke, so to speak. Trying to play off of both brands while having an exclusive deal for beer with one would be frowned upon. Even if Bud Light didn’t care to sponsor the tale of the tape, they would look to protect their exclusive rights with the UFC and have them pursue a non-alcoholic beverage sponsor for the TUF spot. I’m hard pressed to name any sports entity that is double dipping from both Miller and Bud Light. If the Bud Light UFC deal is still in effect, this kind of abrogation of the agreement would have to be run by Bud for an OK and their would likely have to be some kind of special circumstance instigating such a deal.
Which begs the question, does the deal with Mickey’s signal a strained relationship between the UFC and Bud Light? An noted previously on MMAPayout.com, Bud Light frowned upon Dana White’s recent blog rant commenting “The comments by Dana White were inappropriate, insensitive and out-of-line. We have spoken to Dana about the gravity of this issue and communicated that our company maintains a corporate commitment to zero tolerance for discrimination.” While they frowned upon Dana’s comments, they made no intimations that any kind of separation with the UFC was imminent. With the UFC hitting their demo wheelhouse, as loathsome as White’s comments were, Bud Light would be hard pressed to scrap their UFC deal. Industry sources have indicated to MMAPayout that Bud Light does have periodic outs in their UFC deal, allowing exits at specified times before the 3 year term of the deal is over. It should also be noted that Bud Light is still prominently featured on the UFC website, which suggests the relationship is seemingly healthy. Bud Light paid a premium to be an exclusive provider, have they scaled back their sponsorship? With the Bud InBev merger, one of the first areas mentioned for savings was the large amount of sponsorship dollars spent on sporting events. Is the UFC sponsorship becoming a casualty of this cost cutting mindset?
One possible explanation for the Mickey’s deal is the UFC meeting previous contractual obligations. The UFC severed their deal with Mickey’s rather quickly after signing with Bud Light. The UFC may be having to make good on their Mickey’s sponsorship that was shunted aside in the ushering in of Bud Light. Making good on an unfulfilled deal would be preferable to litigation, but again this is something that would have to be done in co-operation with Bud.
The Mickey’s sponsorship raises many questions, with few answers at this point. MMAPayout has e-mailed UFC VP of Sponsorship Sales Michael Pine, UFC Assistant General Counsel at Zuffa and Sponsor Czar Mike Mersch, and UFC PR Head Jennifer Wenk for clarification on this item, but have received no comment as of press time. We’ll let our readers know more when/if they respond.
Dana White to CNBC: UFC First Quarter up 20%
UFC President spoke with CNBC’s Darren Rovell and touted the UFC”s First Quarter results for 2009:
White gave us a never before released number to prove it, saying that business was up 20 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the first quarter of 2008.
Much of the increase in quarter over quarter results can be traced back to the PPV success of UFC 94: Penn vs GSP 2, which generated nearly a million buys on PPV. This was a net increase of around 300k buys over the highest selling PPV in the First Quarter of 08 (Lesnar vs Mir). The UFC also benefited from higher than normal numbers for their Franklin Henderson card from their UK Division. Other items, like their deal with Topps also came to fruition during this time period, opening up additional revenue streams. The UFC can also look forward to a higher than normal result for the second or third quarter of 2009, depending on when revenue from the UFC Undisputed 2009 video game is booked.
White also hinted at his strategy when enticing sponsors on the corporate level for the UFC:
“Look our ratings in the 18-34’s,” White said. “We outrated Monday Night Football in that demo four times last year.” White also said he thinks that even in this environment the UFC….. can land another big sponsor. “Especially now we can do it,” White said. “The price of an NFL sponsorship is so high and we hit the same market at a lower price.”
The UFC can sell itself as a value play, giving more bang for the buck. The UFC make a very attractive option, especially now when the ad/sponsorship market is in something of a free fall. The value play doesn’t come without some risk for the sponsors, as evidenced by the videoblog brouhaha that erupted recently.
Rising from the Slums
In Brazil, where an estimated 50 million people live in favelas, or slums, it’s common for a child to dream of changing his or her life through sports.
In years past, kids have aspired to follow in the footsteps of soccer idols like Romário and Ronaldo, both of whom were born in the Rio de Janeiro favelas. Nowadays, the popularity of mixed martial arts in Brazil and the growth of its international market have attracted more athletes from these poor communities who aim to become the next Wanderlei Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or Anderson Silva.
*one of the best reads in a long time*
THQ Finalizes Undisputed Roster
THQ has released the final roster of playable characters in UFC Undisputed 2009, and it'll top out at 85 characters. In addition to confirming that EVERYONE will be able to eventually get Efrain Escudero and Ryan Bader and not just those who buy the game at GameStop, the final 3 characters were revealed as the late TapouT founder Charles "MasK" Lewis and his TapouT partners "Punkass" and "Skyscrape".