Ring Of Sports Marketing

Date archives December 2015


Aljamain Sterling Wants Pay Level of a Pro Fighter

On the MMA Hour podcast with Ariel Helwani Aljamain Sterling said he wants to be paid on the level a pro athlete should.  Many athletes for various sports don’t get paid enough to make it their full-time job but MMA fighters, a sport that is exploding financially, should have bigger pay increases for fighters.

Sterling is the fifth ranked fighter according to the UFC’s rankings and was only paid $12,000 for fighting Johnny Eduardo and another $12,000 for winning a very exciting fight.  Sterling has a 12-0 record, a lively personality, and is in exciting fights, so logically you think he would be getting paid more.  However, he was buried on a Fight Pass card featuring Paige VanZant and Sage Northcutt, the new UFC darlings.

The UFC has been putting its PR efforts behind Paige-Sage resulting in more money for the two.  This puts fighters, deserving fighters like Sterling, on the outside making less than perceived market value.

The UFC is often viewed as the top promotion company and has name value but Sterling had this to say:

Whether it’s Bellator, OneFC, World Series, whatever, the door’s open for me.  Financial stability is the most important thing for me. To be in the UFC and have the name but not the earnings, good for you, you get a hand clasp and a shake and a don’t let the door hit you on the way out sort of thing. I want to exit from this sport with my head intact.

Sterling is clearly doing a cost-benefit analysis.  MMA is a grinding sport with a huge time commitment and the costs associated may not outweigh the psychic benefits of competing combined with the monetary gain.

This ‘is my shot’ is slowly starting to feel like this ‘was my sho.’  I’m a realist and in doing the math, I will not be able to have a financially stable future if things don’t change. I teach my students to focus on what you can control and the only thing in my control right now is furthering my education and hoping I get my big break into MMA… If you aren’t at the top of the game in your division, count your blessings if you’re able to retire with any money, and with your body and brain intact

Sterling will be entering a free agency period where he can test his true market value and possibly earn more money than he currently is.  He’s an exciting 12-0 so I hope he sticks around.

What this means:

Aljamain Sterling is treating fighting as a real athlete and business person.  It might be a result of the ongoing research on concussions and sports or just putting a lot of time and energy into competing, being at the top of his game, and barely making any money once you take into account money going to his trainer, taxes, and so on.  His statements remind me of Floyd Mayweather saying he wants to retire from the sport, not have the sport retire him.

Sterling will be able to enter free agency and test his true market value.  I’d like to imagine an undefeated fighter will be able to make more than $12,000 for showing up but we will see.

Sterling’s situation is a textbook example about how fighters need to be their own promoters and brand managers or have someone in place to do so.  The UFC puts their money behind the fighters that they think will make the most money for them.  It’s up to the fighters themselves to create a large social media following, create a brand to attract sponsors, and gain revenue streams independent of fight purses.


Rousey’s Fight Against Holm Earns Over 1 Million PPV Buys

Ronda Rousey is the most mainstream of all UFC fighters.  She seemed to be on every talk show, wrote a biography, and appeared in multiple movies.  There’s a difference though in being a mainstream athlete and garnering PPV buys.  There is a real commitment that people make when deciding to buy a PPV program.

While Rousey is a fantastic fighter in the MMA community there needs to be another demographic purchasing to break a million PPV buys.  The casual sports fans, and I believe a relatively disproportionate number of female buyers, tuned in to watch this program.

What this means:

Women can carry a PPV fight.  Before Rousey no women’s headline fight broke 125,000 viewers.  The UFC estimates that the rematch between Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey would break the current PPV record.

With Holly Holm having entered the public eye as “the woman who beat the invincible Ronda Rousey” there would be two mainstream athletes headlining the main event, so breaking those numbers would be more likely than not possibility.



(via Rousey vs. Holm looks to have topped 1 million pay-per-view buys – MMA Fighting)


Illinois Says Daily Fantasy is Gambling


ONE Championship MMA Ending Dangerous Dehydration Tactics

Fighters often show up to the weigh-ins looking like they are just skin, muscle, and bones.  While the physiques can be impressive how the fighters got to the point is often dangerous.  Cutting weight through dehydration and starvation the week leading up to the weigh-in can cause dangerous situations for the fighters.

ONE Championship MMA decided to make their promotions much safer for photos by establishing new rules on making weight.  It’s refreshing for a promotion to see a dangerous problem and then actually do something about it.

The new rules are thus:

1. Athletes must submit their current walking weight and daily training weight regularly. Athletes will input and track their daily weight online via a dedicated web portal. Athletes may input data weekly but must include daily weights.

2. Athletes will be assigned to their weight class based on collated data and random weight checks. Athletes will not be allowed to drop a weight class less than eight weeks out from an event.

3. During fight week, weights will be checked daily. Urine specific gravity (which increases when the patient is suffering from dehydration, the result of a rise in solutes in the urine) will also be checked the day after arrival and three hours prior to the event. Athletes must be within their weight class and pass specific gravity hydration tests all week and up to three hours before the event. If an athlete falls outside the weight, or fails a test, they are disqualified from the event. Doctors may request additional testing at their discretion.

4. Catch-weight bouts will be allowed. However, the athlete with the higher weight will not be heavier than 105% of the lighter opponent’s weight.

5. ONE will conduct random weight checks on athletes at their discretion.

6. Athletes will be allowed to petition to change weight classes outside of the eight-week competition zone but must be within their new desired weight at that time. In addition, athletes must pass a specific gravity urine test when their weight is within the limits of the newly petitioned weight class. ONE doctors can request additional testing to determine the amount of weight drop allowed over a specific time.

7. The usage of IVs for the purpose of rehydration will not be allowed.

What this means going forward:

In ONE Championship we will most likely not see fighters weighing in at one weight and then showing up to fight 15-20 pounds heavier.

Athletes will always perform better when they are properly fed and hydrated so this will create more entertaining fights and safer fights as the fighters are not hampered by dangerous practices that allowed them to make weight.

The only way this could backfire is that the fighters are assigned weight classes and this could result in fighters leaving the promotion in order to stay at their most desired weight class.

(via ONE Championship MMA to Ban Dehydration and Make Weight-Cutting More Humane | FIGHTLAND)


UFC CEO: McGregor will be ‘first $100 millionaire’

UFC CEO: McGregor will be ‘first $100 millionaire’


Aljamain Sterling to Enter “Free Agency”

Aljamain Sterling is the 12th-ranked bantamweight fighter, formerly with the UFC, who has just entered into free agency after his manager reportedly received a message from the UFC saying that the promotion was allowing Sterling to explore other opportunities.
Sterling is coming off a win in UFC Fight Night 80.  Dana White told MMAJunkie that the UFC would allow Sterling to enter into a non-exclusive matching period.

What this means:

The fact that Aljamain Sterling can even enter into a free agency-type situation is a positive sign for fighters.  No longer are the fighters strapped to the UFC who has maintained a form of monopoly power despite not having a complete monopoly over the sport.

Through “free agency” the fighters can get paid at a level more in-line with their true market value and I expect fighters to opt into “free agency” more often.

(via Aljamain Sterling on Instagram: “When the @UFC calls your manager and tells them you’re good to start shopping around as a #FreeAgentProspect. #BiggestThreatToAny135Roster #5 th #Ranked #FreshPrinceofNY #HumanAnaconda #ufc #UFCRock #dab #undefeated #newyork”)


How Violent Royal Families Buy Their Way Into The UFC

How Violent Royal Families Buy Their Way Into The UFC


McGregor Partners With Fanatics Authentic

Conor McGregor signed another startup with Fanatics Authentic, the official used gear and apparel store of the UFC.  They provide the authenticity and guarantee of authentic memorabilia.

Clearly the company is getting on the Notorious McGregor train before UFC 194 knowing that McGregor is going to draw a ton of attention, and if he wins, his memorabilia could fetch a lot of money on the market once it looks like he’s going to be one of the tent poles of the UFC as a true champion.


New Company Gives Quicker Concussion Insights

RightEye LLC is a new eye tracking technology that created a fifteen second concussion detection test, known as Neuro Vision.  The technology is free of contact, uses screen based eye tracking, and can be taken anywhere.

Adam Gross, co-founder and CEO of RightEye LLC, said, “The successful launch of RightEye’s first series of vision tests is critical to our future success and our ability to change the way the world approaches vision care.  We have included SMI in our first product series because they can deliver the exact kind of high-speed, high-quality and contact-free eye tracker required to ensure our solution is highly accurate and meets the needs of health care providers and their patients.”

What this could mean for combat sports:

Concussions are one of the biggest concerns for fighters because they participate in a sport where one of the ways to win is to hit someone so hard in the head that they are unable to stand up or fight back.

For the health of the fighters it might be best to have a RightEye system in the locker rooms to check for concussions immediately after fights to give any proper care if necessary.


Ronda Rousey Is More Popular After Defeat

Having an undefeated record in combat sports is one of the most valuable assets in combat sports.  Floyd Mayweather Jr. made a whole brand centered on having a zero in his loss column.  Many thought, myself included, Rousey’s apparent invincibility was what helped make her such a star in the mainstream.

Dana White said this in an interview ESPN’s First Take (Why this show is still on the air is a mystery given how repugnant some of the things Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless say are, but that’s a different story):

“It’s funny because we were comparing her to Tyson, who had this invincibility. She was a Tyson. It was never more true than when she lost. Because when she lost, everybody was shocked. A hundred million people were talking about it on social media. And I actually think that Ronda Rousey is bigger now after the loss than she was before the fight. And there’s gonna be a rematch.”

Rousey is on the cover of the next ESPN The Magazine.

What this means for combat sports:

It’s a promising sign that casual fans care more about the individual fighter than a win-loss record.  A fighter’s star power is no longer tied to their athletic prowess inside the ring in order to be the biggest moneymakers.

The again, Pacquiao lost twice in 2012 and casual sports fans would only ask me when Mayweather would fight Pacquiao, even if there were many other fighters who might put up a bigger fight to Money.

I think this might be a sign that if a fighter’s brand is disassociated from the storyline of “dead or in jail” or having a perfect record they can have bigger, more valuable, and more consistent brand value.