Ring Of Sports Marketing

Date archives February 2016

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BBC – UFC is coming to BBC Three – Media Centre

BBC – UFC is coming to BBC Three – Media Centre

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Conor McGregor Will Move Up Two Weight Classes to Fight Nate Diaz at UFC 196

Nate Diaz has filled the void of being Conor McGregor’s next opponent after Rafael dos Anjos broke his foot during training.  The fight will take place at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

We last saw Nate Diaz two months ago calling out Conor McGregor in a profane-laced tirade after Diaz won his fight in UFC on FOX 17.

Diaz will take on fight Conor McGregor in a five-round welterweight main event.

If McGregor had beaten Rafael dos Anjos he would have been the first fighter in UFC history to hold championship belts in two different weight classes.  In this fight McGregor will move up two weight classes.

Ringside Analysis:

McGregor has fought at 145 pounds at featherweight and moving up to 170 pounds is a very dangerous move.  Conor McGregor is the king of self-confidence so I fully believe that he believes this will be easy.  He had been training for a fight at 155 pounds so I’m sure he has already made weight.  In fact, McGregor might even feel better entering this fight because he doesn’t have to drastically cut weight.

If McGregor wins this fight it might be one of the most impressive performances in UFC history.  Moving up 10 pounds was already a bold move and going up another 15 pounds on relatively short notice is extremely risky.

The fight with Rafael dos Anjos would have been fun to watch to see if McGregor could win two championship belts, but now moving up to 170 has changed the dynamic and makes this a more exciting fight to PPV.

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Rafael dos Anjos Out of UFC196 With Broken Foot

Conor McGregor’s hopes of being a title holder in two weight classes, the first to ever do it in the UFC, is delayed after Rafael dos Anjos has broken his foot during training camp preparing for UFC196.

The PPV fight is scheduled for March 5 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.  The co-main event for the fight is Holly Holm against Meisha Tate.  With both McGregor fighting and Holm having crossed over into the mainstream this could have been huge PPV numbers.  Now those numbers could be dampened.

Possible replacements for Anjos in what could be a fight for the interim lightweight championship include: Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis.

For McGregor, the situation is a repeat of when he first was scheduled to fight Jose Aldo but Aldo had to remove himself because of a rib injury.  McGregor had to fight for an interim featherweight championship before fighting Aldo for the undisputed championship belt.

Ringside Analysis:

A Conor McGregor fight most likely has enough brand power to garner a high PPV rate no matter who he’s fighting.  If a replacement can be found in time for the March 5 fight then the PPV numbers could still be high, especially with Holly Holm and Meisha being the co-main event.  Realistically, Holm-Tate could be a PPV event all by itself.

While specifics about the injury are not released I would believe that the injury could have been prevented with modernized training methods and using body trackers to test for bio-information.

One of the biggest impacts trash talking can have is not during competition, but in the lead-up to the event.  Athletes train too hard and can sometimes become injured, or they overtrain and come into the fight extremely fatigued.  Maybe fighting for interim belts is just the cost of doing business for Conor McGregor.

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Ronda Rousey Opens Up Emotions After Loss To Holly Holm on The Ellen Show

Ronda Rousey says that she was disoriented after the first exchange with Holly Holm.  Rousey says she lost her depth perception during the fight, which makes sense given the wide shots and looking to have no answer to Holm’s left hand shots.

The real story behind this interview is Rousey opening up about her time in the hospital.  She says that she felt like she was “nothing” if she wasn’t the world champion MMA fighter and had suicidal thoughts.  Based on psychological studies a complete loss of identity or trauma, which both happen in this case, can create bouts of depression and depression can lead to suicidal thoughts.

In many interviews I’ve read about boxing and fighting the single most difficult moment is a fighter being alone after a loss.

Ringside Analysis:

I think that discussing the “business” aspect of this interview is really missing the point.  This is a truly authentic and vulnerable moment that we don’t get to see from athletes, let alone fighters.  I can’t recall a sports figure being able to be so dominant and so tough keep, let alone increase their popularity, by opening up emotionally.  Sports often tell athletes to not show emotion or weakness and Rousey herself admits that one of the hardest parts of the fight was to keep acting like nothing bad had happened after she was knocked off balance.

Rousey says that she came to the conclusion that winning “might not be best for everybody,” which is extremely brave and completely unexpected from a top-level athlete.

Ellen makes a point to say that Rousey sharing her experiences is helpful to many people watching who have gone though, or are going through, a similar experience.  In her autobiography Rousey writes about dealing with her eating disorder but it seems that Rousey has a new experience to speak about, one that she is also dedicated to.

I’ve been the person who always thinks that athletes strengths, but most often their faults, are what makes them truly interesting.  Agents and the media like to paint top athletes as invincible in every aspect and try to do everything possible to stop their faults from making it public.  I’m a huge supporter of Rousey, even more after her loss, and think that her being so open is not only beneficial to everyone watching but also to other people in the business so that athletes can be more open with their whole selves.

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Aljamain Sterling Returns to UFC After Free Agency

Aljamain Sterling, an undefeated bantamweight fighter, wraps up his two-month free agency stint by resigning with the UFC.  Sterling expressed frustration about his pay and promotion at the UFC.  He decided to enter free agency after his contract expired with the UFC.

Sterling made it a point of emphasis that even though every fighter dreams of being the UFC Champion but ultimately a fighter needs to be compensated to make the sacrifices worthwhile.

Ringside Analysis:

Sterling resigning with the UFC means that the UFC was able or willing to offer more than Bellator or another competitor was willing to offer.  This is the benefits of free agency.

Lorenzo Fertitta will reference this event in the future as an example of how the UFC and MMA fighters don’t need a union.

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DraftKings Acquires Daily Combat Fantasy Provider Kountermove

Daily fantasy provider DraftKings has acquired Kountermove, a daily fantasy platform dedicated to combat sports covering boxing, MMA, kickboxing, and jiu-jitsu.  DraftKings has had a MMA platform as a service since 2014.

From the press release:

“At DraftKings our mission is to bring sports fans closer to the sports that they love, and we are excited to expand our combat sports offerings,” said Matt Kalish, Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of DraftKings. “The Kountermove team has built a tremendous product with an enthusiastic fan base and we’re excited to grow with them. “ Fantasy sports give contestants the opportunity to play the role of a general manager, creating a fantasy lineup of real-world athletes in an attempt to earn more “fantasy points” than competitors.

Points are awarded based on significant strikes, advances, takedowns, reversals, knockdowns, knockouts, and submissions.

DraftKings already has a partnership with the UFC.

Ringside Analysis:

Daily fantasy is the key to getting more fans and increasing avidity for combat sports.  Without a consistent schedule and fighters only fighting a few times over the course of a year, daily fantasy is really the only medium that will work.

DraftKings has had a partnership with ESPN that has been dissolved in light of the legal litigation occurring with more and more states declaring daily fantasy illegal, declaring that it violates the federal laws against sports betting.

If daily fantasy is shown to be legal in the United States, this move is a step in the right direction for DraftKings and the UFC.

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UFC Donates $1 Million to Cleveland Clinic Concussion Studies

The UFC has extended its partnership with the Cleveland Clinic for five more years.  The money goes to support the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study and the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.

From the press release:

“We have learned quite a bit in the first four years of the study about how repetitive head trauma affects the brain and how we can detect accumulating injury,” Charles Bernick, M.D., Associate Medical Director at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and principal investigator of the study said. “The involvement of the fighting community and organizations like UFC will only help us better understand the field and protect our athletes. Their support has helped sustain the infrastructure of this very large study and will allow us to follow the participants over longer periods of time and develop ways to improve safety in combat sports, along with others exposed to repetitive head trauma.”

The study is, “focused on developing methods to detect the earliest and most subtle signs of brain injury in athletes exposed to head trauma, as well as determining which individuals may be more likely to develop chronic neurological disorders.”  There are 600 active or retired athletes voluntarily participating.

Ringside Analysis:

This donation accomplishes two main objectives.  First, the UFC has a great PR move by funding more brain studies, which is a contrast to the NFL who has a PR backlash because of their complete lack of cooperation on studying concussions.

Second, the UFC gets closer to getting closer to the truth on concussions in MMA.  In order to increase participation and viewers the UFC needs to pass the gatekeepers of the home: mothers.  Mothers don’t want to support an organization that makes a product specifically about knock outs.  The NFL is lucky enough to have the violence be a secondary benefit to the sport and not an innate part of the sport itself.  When MMA is shown to be safer, in terms of brain injuries, than the NFL, then mothers might change their stance on which sport should be shown in their house.

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Al Haymon is spending to put boxing on TV, but do the numbers add up?

Al Haymon is spending to put boxing on TV, but do the numbers add up?

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Benson Henderson, Who Moved from the UFC to Bellator, Now Advising Other Fighters on Free Agency

Benson Henderson has departed the UFC to Bellator.  Upon signing with Viacom-owned Bellator he was given an immediate title shot with the organization.  While specifics haven’t been named it is also likely that he was given a higher pay bump moving to Bellator.

According to the UFC rankings, Henderson was ranked top-15 in two different weight classes.  Henderson has stated that the rankings “hold no weight” and it is reasonable to believe the low rankings, pay, and lack of title shots, have been the main influencers on Henderson’s move.

Dana White has a history of news-worthy parting words.  According to MMAJunkie:

When the former UFC lightweight champ heard White’s parting comment following Henderson’s new deal with Bellator, telling MMAjunkie “we’re looking for top-5 guys, guys that are going from (No. 1) 15 to (No. 1) 1, not the other way around,” he shrugged it off.

It’s Dana White, after all.

“We know Dana,” Henderson (23-5 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) told MMAjunkie Radio. “You know Dana. I know Dana. We’ve heard some other things he said. That was the worst he said? He didn’t say my momma was ugly; he didn’t say I was the worst fighter in history? If that’s all he said, that’s not too bad, considering his history of outlandish quotes.”

Benson Henderson is now the highest-profile figher to move from the UFC to another promotional organization.  The idea of free agency is still new to the MMA world.  Henderson says that many fighters have reached out to him to ask questions:

“I can’t even say how many texts and calls from other fighters asking me, ‘What did the UFC bring to the table? What did Bellator bring to the table? How did they treat you? Was (UFC Chairman) Lorenzo (Fertitta) mad? Did Dana get all mad?’” Henderson said. “A ton of fighters hit me up and asked me that and asked for advice.”

Ringside Analysis:

The most interesting development is the note about other fighters reaching out to Henderson.  With free agency being so new it is clear that many of the fighters have no idea how it works.  In the Boxing/MMA sporting world the idea of free agency has never existed.  Mayweather has said in the past that if he spoke with an MMA fighter he would show them how much money they aren’t making by being with a promotion.

With Henderson being the most well-known fighter to switch promotions and other fighters asking him about the process I think it is likely that we see a few more fighters switch to Bellator from the UFC.

(via ‘Bendo’ brushes off White’s parting shot, now advising other potential free agents | MMAjunkie)

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Canelo-Khan Fight Announced, Coordinated by Al Haymon

In a surprising announcement, Golden Boy Promotions has announced a fight between Canelo Alvarez and Amir Khan.  The fight will take place May 7th on HBO PPV.  A location has yet to be named.

Canelo Alvarez has fought under Golden Boy Promotions for his whole career and Amir Khan was last seen fighting under the PBC banner.  Amir Khan is managed by PBC owner Al Haymon.  Golden Boy Promotions is currently in a lawsuit against Al Haymon and the PBC for violating the Muhammad Ali Act.

Because Al Haymon never says anything publicly, PBC spokesman Tim Smith said:

This highlights what Al Haymon’s management model is all about- allowing fighters to have the freedom to make the best possible fights for their career and their financial gain,” Smith said. “This was one of the best opportunities available for Amir and Al helped him to land the fight. That’s why the management structure was constructed so that fighters wouldn’t be deprived of these opportunities. Al has been criticized for keeping guys out of long term promotional agreements but look at what happened in this particular case. It allowed Amir to have the freedom to make the best possible fight for himself.

Khan  has been lobbying and waiting for years to get a shot at a superfight.  He cancelled one fight in the hopes of getting a fight with Mayweather or Pacquiao.  Now he’s got a showdown with one of the new PPV stars.  Khan is still in his athletic prime at 29.

Ringside Analysis:

Golden Boy has a $300 million lawsuit against the PBC on the grounds that Al Haymon is acting as manager and promoter, violating the Muhammad Ali Act.  Al Haymon working purely as a manager in this situation could have huge implications in the lawsuit between Golden Boy and the PBC.  It might show that Al Haymon, as Tim Smith said, is purely acting in the best interest of his fighters.

I’m glad that Amir Khan finally got the big-time PPV fight he’s been trying to get for years.