Ring Of Sports Marketing

Date archives March 2016

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Jon Jones Arrested for Violating Probation 

Jon Jones, a light heavyweight fighter in the UFC, was arrested on Tuesday by the Probation and Parole unit in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  On Thursday the week prior Jon Jones received five tickets resulting from an illegal drag race that Jones allegedly participated in.

The footage provided by the police officer who stopped Jon Jones showed Jon Jones being very disrespectful to police officers and questioning their honesty.

Last September Jon Jones pled guilty to a felony hit-and-run charge.  In January Jones was ticketed for driving without a license, registration, and proof of insurance.  The most recent tickets mean that Jones has violated his probation.

Jon Jones is fighting in the main event against light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier at UFC 197.

The UFC said in a statement:

“UFC is aware that Jon Jones turned himself into the Albuquerque Police Department this morning for a potential probation violation stemming from a traffic stop last week.  UFC has been in touch with Jones’ legal team and will have no further comment until the organization has had appropriate time to gather necessary information.”

However, many pro fighters seem to believe that the police in the area are out to get or frame Jon Jones out of personal disdain for Jones.

Ringside Analysis:

Jon Jones is one of the best fighters ever in the UFC but all historical evidence has shown that he is incapable of getting out of his own way.  Jones was the light heavyweight champion before being stripped after he went to jail.  Cormier has been the interim championship since then.

The UFC is hoping that Jones is able to stay active and fight in UFC 197, otherwise that PPV program could be a financial mess for the promotion.

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New York Times Writes On UFC’s Push Into Mainstream

Read the full article here.

After the recent legalization of professional mixed martial arts in the state of New York the UFC has seen a new press cycle about the sports organization.  With MMA now legal in every state, and now the biggest media market in the country, the UFC is now closer than ever to cracking through the niche ceiling and becoming a “mainstream” sport.

The Fertitta Brothers have created a sport from the ground up that has enough central control to create brand value, something that boxing has been completely lacking for over a hundred years.  Boxing is a sport that has been around since the 1700s but has zero brand value:

“Every boxing match is a going-out-of-business sale,” Lorenzo said. In other words, promoters seek to maximize revenue — padding their fighters’ records instead of fighting the fiercest opponent, for instance — without much regard for the future of the sport.

Why, Lorenzo asked, did it take so long for Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao to square off, which they did in 2015, five years after negotiations began? “Those guys probably thought they could do other fights and milk it,” he said. “We have a different mentality. If the fans want to see the fight, let’s do it.”

A good distinction that the NYT makes is that the UFC is significantly different from the NFL in that there aren’t owners for each team making up leadership.  The UFC, luckily, has significant competitors so they can deter any anti-trust violations in the near future.  However, the lack of equal competitors has created some stir:

“The talent is being exploited,” Mr. Jimmo said in a telephone interview. “The UFC is basically where the N.F.L. was in the ’60s, before the players were paid anything close to their current salaries.”

Robert Maysey, a lawyer in Arizona, has filed a class-action antitrust lawsuit against Zuffa, asserting that it has a monopoly on the mixed martial arts business and exploits it to keep fighters from earning a fair wage. The case has six named plaintiffs, including Mr. Jimmo.

Going deeper into the legislation to legalize MMA in New York State the NYT discusses the Culinary Union spending a lot of lobbying money to create a roadblock against legalization.  The efforts by the Culinary Union in the state of New York were meant to weaken the Fertitta Brothers’ battle against the Cuilnary Union’s attempts to unionize the workers at the Fertitta’s casinos:

According to participants on all sides of the drama, the Culinary Union enlisted the help of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council (HTC), an influential lobby in Albany. The Culinary Union and the HTC share a parent group, Unite Here.

HTC had a strong relationship with Mr. Silver, because it represents 32,000 New Yorkers and because it gave — and continues to give — generously to the New York State Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, which was for years was controlled by Mr. Silver.

Ringside Analysis:

The New York Times does a very good job of telling a story in a few pages that for all the details could be a couple hundred pages.

What I believe the longform undersells is the importance of The Ultimate Fighter in turning a sport that was approximately $44 million in debt into a profitable enterprise.  The clear turning point in the success of the UFC was TUF on Spike.

The New York Times also has a very different readership outside of the normal MMA fan.  This article is simply more cracks in the pavement for the UFC’s push to the mainstream.

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Cris “Cyborg” Justino Will Make UFC Debut against Leslie Smith at UFC198

At UFC 198, Cris “Cyborg” Justino will make her UFC debut.  The current Invicta FC featherweight champion will take on Leslie Smith at a catchweight of 140 pounds.

Justino has been undefeated since her first professional MMA fight, which took place in 2005.  It is important to note that Justino’s TKO victory over Hiroko Yamanaka while she was at Strikeforce was overturned after Justino tested positive for an anabolic steroid in her post-fight drug testing.

Smith enters the Octagon with a UFC record 2-2 with her most recent performance being a unanimous decision win over Rin Nakai at UFC Fight Night 85.

From the UFC Press Release:

A native of Curitiba, the 30-year-old Justino (15-1, 1 NC) is unbeaten for over 10 years, and with 13 of her 15 pro wins coming by knockout, it’s not surprising that she has soared to the top of every organization she has competed in. Owner of victories over Gina Carano, Marloes Coenen (twice), and Shayna Baszler, the former Strikeforce champion has compiled a 5-0 record with five knockouts as a member of the Invicta FC roster.

A former Invicta FC standout in her own right thanks to three Fight of the Night awards and wins over Raquel Pennington and Jennifer Maia, Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith (8-6-1) is a fearless competitor who is well prepared for the biggest fight of her career this May. Winner of two of her last three over Jessamyn Duke and Rin Nakai, the 33-year-old Californian eagerly anticipates a fight to remember against “Cyborg.”

Ringside Analysis:

Justino normally fights at 145 so the catchweight of 140 is a good test to see if she can make the bantamweight limit of 135.  If Justino can make bantamweight then she will be able to fight Miesha Tate, Holly Holm, Cat Zingano, and finally take on Ronda Rousey.  Rousey and Justino have long been compared as the two best in women’s MMA but the discussino of who is better has been left up to debate as the two are in different weight classes, have been in different organizations, and no clear A-side or B-side to determine who will make the move in weight.

With Justino’s history of being caught with an anabolic steroid the testing procedure for the fight may draw scrutiny.  I hope that eventually the UFC will sign on the VADA testing, the clear best testing agency.

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New York Legalizes Professional MMA

The New York State General Assembly voted to legalize MMA in the state.  The bill, sponsored by Joe Morelle, had made it to the General Assembly multiple times over the last few years but had never been passed.

Through a stream I was able to watch the discussion and voting of the bill that lasted about three hours in length.

While millions were spent by the MMA community to lobby for the passing of the bill there was more money spent on lobbying to keep the sport illegal in the state.  The biggest supporter of lobbying against the bill was the Las Vegas Culinary Union, who has been hoping to weaken the Fertitta Brother’s position in negotiations with the union.  Historically, the Fertitta Casinos have been perceived by some as union breakers and had been opposing all unionization efforts by their culinary employers, according to the Las Vegas Culinary Union.

UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta on the vote:

Joe Morelle has worked tirelessly to educate his colleagues and build support for legalizing professional MMA and regulating both professional and amateur MMA.  He has worked closely with Senator Joe Griffo, who has shepherded this effort in the Senate, where the bill has passed with strong bipartisan support for the last seven years, and MMA fans owe both a huge debt of gratitude.

Bellator President Scott Coker on the vote:

The New York Assembly’s vote to legalize MMA is a watershed moment for this incredible sport. As someone who has been promoting combat sports for more than 30 years, this is a very exciting time for mixed martial arts. We at Bellator MMA are very much looking forward to hosting an event in the ‘Crown Jewel of America,’ New York.

New York is the last state in the United States to legalize the sport.  Regulation and protocols still needs to be defined by the state before the UFC, Bellator, and other MMA companies can put on events in the state.  The UFC has reserved a date for Madison Square Garden in November.

Ringside Analysis:

The UFC and MMA as a whole can now enter into one of the largest media markets in the world.  Studies in Australia have shown that the UFC event in Melbourne, that saw Holly Holm defeat Ronda Rousey, has shown to have brought in $102 million into the Victorian economy.

With MMA already available on TV, many other martial arts permitted in the state, and evidence of a huge economic boost to the economy, voting for legalization was a smart decision for the state.  An extreme majority, shown with green Ys in the photo above, also saw fit to vote in favor of legalization and regulation.

Many of the arguments against MMA being legalized were extremely weak, at best, citing erroneous statistics about MMA being linked to domestic violence and increased violence, all of which have been proven by research and studies to be false.  For those opposing the bill for the baseless arguments I would ask them why they aren’t fighting against not one but two NFL teams calling New York home.

I’m sure the overall valuation of the UFC has increased and through exposure the UFC and other MMA companies can break further into the casual sports fan environment.

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NY Assembly to vote on MMA bill next week

NY Assembly to vote on MMA bill next week

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UFC Reportedly Making Diaz-McGregor 2 for the Main Event at UFC 200

Conor McGregor suffered his first loss in eight fights at the hands of Nick Diaz in UFC 196.  Diaz took the fight on 11 days notice and both fighters weighed in at under the 170 pound weight limit.  The high weight limit is a function of McGregor already planning to fight Rafael dos Anjos for the 155 pound title before Anjos broke his foot.  Due to the short notice Nate Diaz wouldn’t have been able to cut under 170 pounds.

Diaz took McGregor’s best shot for over a round before landing some huge shots that rocked McGregor resulting in a submission victory for Diaz.  McGregor was a huge favorite over a very confident Diaz.

Early rumors had led MMA fans to believe that McGregor would be fighting Jose Aldo or Frankie Edgar at UFC 200.

UFC 200 is scheduled to take place on July 9th.

Ringside Analysis:

The buildup to McGregor-Diaz was excellent and the UFC PPV buy figures coming in show that UFC 196 might have been the biggest PPV program in the history of the UFC.

UFC 200 seems to be turning into a Plan B promotion for the organization.  At first UFC 200 was supposed to feature Rousey-Holm 2 until Holly Holm took another fight against Miesha Tate and lost her belt.  Now Rousey is scheduled to fight Tate in UFC 200 for the championship.  McGregor was to be another cash cow whose recent dominance was going to push the PPV buys through the roof.

The UFC’s plans for UFC 200 lost a lot of steam at UFC 196 but is still desperately trying to put together a monster card.  The “200″ is not lost on the promotion as they have been pulling out all the stops to make the program its best thus far.

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Matt Mitrione Ends Free Agency Period With Switch to Bellator

Heavyweight fighter Matt Mitrione has left the UFC to join Bellator after a free agency period.  Mitrione was on The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights and has experience as a defensive lineman in the NFL.  He was most recently rated as the #13 heavyweight in the UFC.  Mitrione had 14 fights with the UFC beginning in 2009.

From the press release:

“There comes a time in every athlete’s life, where the scenarios change and the landscape has eroded from what made you fall in love with it initially,” said Mitrione. “It has become that time for me. After a mutually beneficial free agency period, I’ve decided to move my career to Bellator. I’ve enjoyed almost every second of my career and unlike most that switch organizations due to being cut or no longer being able to perform at the sports highest levels, I am bringing a body and skillset that are only getting better and I cannot wait to test my abilities against the best Bellator has to offer.”

Since the press release Matt Mitrione has added that, “It sucks that UFC is bigger than the sport, it sucks.”  He’s also said that Bellator has an “Air of Sincerity” not present in the UFC.

Ringside Analysis:

There are two things that you tend to hear with fighters departing the UFC.  First, that they were paid more, which is totally reasonable.  The comments that follow, outside of the press releases, are pretty critical about the UFC.

The biggest beneficiaries of free agency have been the fighters themselves.  Those who feel that they have been held back by the UFC are able to test their value on the open market and often finding that Bellator values them more than the UFC does.

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Paige VanZant Named as Competitor on “Dancing With The Stars”

Strawweight MMA fighter Paige “12 Gauge” VanZant has been added to the roster of Dancing With The Stars, pitting celebrities against each other in a dance competition. Paige VanZant danced throughout her childhood.  Her parents owned a studio in Portland and VanZant has experience in jazz and ballet.

Past combat sports participants include: Floyd Mayweather Jr., Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, and Victor Ortiz.  VanZant is the first fighter to not be, or have not been, a world champion.

Other celebrities on the cast include: Von Miller, Ginger Zee, Jodie Sweetin, Antonio Brown, Wanya Morris, Marla Maples, Doug Flutie, Mischa Barton, Kim Fields, Geraldo Rivera, and Nyle DiMarco.

Ringside Analysis:

Women’s MMA continues to be the vehicle that carries the UFC into the mainstream.  Paige VanZant has been a hot topic of conversation within the MMA-fan community as some see her as being brought along too quickly and very carefully by the UFC in order to help her become a superstar.  Regardless, her appearance on Dancing With the Stars will get her, and the UFC, a lot of attention on Mondays on ABC.

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Daily Fantasy Sports Legalized in the State of Virginia

The Governor of Virginia signed the Fantasy Sports Act into law.  Virginia is the first state to fully legalize the daily fantasy sports industry. Other states, such as New York, Illinois, Texas, and Nevada, have outlawed the industry claiming that daily fantasy sports violate sports betting bans.

From engadget:

Virginia’s General Assembly recently sent the Fantasy Sports Act to governor Terry McAuliffe, and now that he’s signed, it is the first state with daily fantasy law on the books. Highlights of the bill include a $50,000 registration fee for companies like DraftKings and FanDuel and age restrictions on players (you must be 18, much like gambling). Oh, and in a nod to the mess that put the industry in the spotlight: employees and their relatives can’t play in any contests. What’s more, site operators need to keep player and operational funds separate in addition to keeping data secure.

Ringside Analysis:

This is a huge win for daily fantasy providers Draft Kings and Fan Duel.  The industry has been fighting the recent bans in courts and even lobbying the federal government.

It is important to note that daily fantasy sports fits the definition of sports betting.  The Fantasy Sports Act in Virginia creates an exception to the current law against sports betting.  The next step in legalization nation-wide is for more states to follow Virginia’s lead and create exceptions.  States creating exceptions then sets precedent towards helping daily fantasy providers in the appellate courts.

If daily fantasy sports become legal nation-wide then the United States essentially has legal sports betting.

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Miesha Tate Beats Holly Holm for Bantamweight Title, Perceived to Ruin Holm-Rousey

Miesha Tate submitted Holly Holm deep into the fifth round to become the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship.  Holly Holm was coming off one of the biggest sports upsets in history with her knockout win over Ronda Rousey in UFC 193.

Dana White had said a rematch between Holm and Rousey would be the biggest fight in UFC history, creating a lot of revenue for the organization.  White had also said that he opposed the Holm-Tate matchup and hate the business side of the fight.  White did not have a smile on his face when presenting the belt to Tate.

Ringside Analysis:

Since Tate’s win over Holm, White has said that Tate will fight against Ronda Rousey in Rousey’s first fight back.  Will a Tate-Rousey fight make as much money as a Holm-Rousey 2 fight?  It’s unlikely.

Rousey’s biggest asset to the UFC is her ability to break into the mainstream.  When I hear people discuss Ronda Rousey they never discuss her championship.  The concept of fighting for a championship belt holds very little weight to the mainstream.  The wording of the narrative “Rousey beating the Holm, the first to ever beat her in the UFC” is important because when casual fans or non-fans discuss a rematch they never bring up a championship as a factor in them watching.  Rousey has a brand name, Holly Holm has a brand name, and after Tate’s win over Holm she now has a brand name.  To the mainstream, there is not a strong brand name behind the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship Belt.