Ring Of Sports Marketing

Date archives April 2016


Conor McGregor Retires, Only Creates More Questions

The current, soon to be former, UFC featherweight champion announced his retirement on Twitter.  Conor McGregor was scheduled to fight Nate Diaz in a rematch as the main event at UFC 200.

According to Dana White, White and the UFC pulled Conor McGregor from UFC 200 because of McGregor’s unwillingness to do a promotional tour for the fight in favor of training in Iceland.  White said:

What’s happened is we pulled Conor McGregor from UFC 200 and we’re working on other fights right now.  Conor did not want to come to Las Vegas and film the commercial or be a part of any of the marketing we have. He’s in Iceland training and that’s not possible… Is Conor McGregor retiring? Only he can answer that question.

The UFC has said that they are working on finding a new opponent for Diaz.

Ringside Analysis:

There are a lot of facets to this event so here we go:

UFC 200 is in serious trouble

One of the biggest events in franchise history has had enough hardships and changes made.  A few months ago there were hopes that Rousey would fight Holm in a rematch of their first fight where viewers saw Holm knock out the undefeated superstar.  UFC 200 is scheduled for July 9th at the new MGM-built T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

In the immediate future there will be two title fights as the main events.  Jose Aldo is scheduled to fight Frankie Edgar for the interim featherweight title since McGregor is fighting in the lightweight division.  The second title fight will be for the women’s bantamweight title where Amanda Nunes challenges Miesha Tate.

McGregor’s retirement is most likely a power play

The root of the disagreement seems to be that McGregor was foregoing marketing responsibilities for the fight.  I think it’s a safe assumption that when talks heated up McGregor said he would retire in order to force the UFC’s hand.

In the contract I’m sure there are restrictions on how a fight can be cancelled.  One is due to injury, which we have seen before.  Another must be retirement.  If McGregor cancelled the fight or was taken off of the fight for not fulfilling his responsibilities he might be exposed to breach of contract, which is very costly for McGregor.  I’m assuming in the case of coming out of retirement the contract continues at the point that McGregor departed.

Just like in the NFL v NFLPA discussions over revising the new CBAs the negotiations are heavily influenced by whichever party has more leverage over the other.  It might be that McGregor has more leverage over the UFC.  McGregor creates huge PPV buys, he creates huge ancillary financial booms giving the UFC more weight when looking to put events in cities.

The UFC has always said that the brand is bigger than any single fighter, the same way that the NFL is bigger than any franchise or individual player.  McGregor’s move is really going to challenge the stance of the UFC on this issue.

I don’t believe this retirement is permanent

To be Devil’s Advocate there is some reason to take this retirement seriously.  First is that he may not have it in him anymore after losing to Diaz and he just can’t get up for training and fighting again after suffering a defeat.  Second, he’s been paid a lot of money the last couple years and he might have looked at his financial situation and thought that the cons of continuing to fight outweighed the pros.  At the end of the day, fighting is a very blue-collar sport where one is exposed to danger and gives up health in order to make money, no matter how big the amount of money is at stake.  Third, a MMA fighter died last week in Ireland after being knocked out in an MMA fight and the risks might be very apparent to him.

There’s simply too much money on the table for both the UFC and Conor McGregor for there to not be an agreement between the two.  It reminds me of negotiations on the NFL CBA between the Players Union and the NFL where the billions on the table guaranteed that a deal would be done at some point.


Algieri-Spence Jr PBC on NBC Fight Draws 1.24M Viewers

On Saturday night Errol Spence Jr fought former world champion Chris Algieri in the PBC on NBC event.  Viewers saw Spence Jr dominate the fight from the beginning to the fifth-round stoppage.

However, there was another decline in ratings to 1.24 million viewers.  For adults in the 18-49 year old demographic the program was rated at .3 and had 1 share.  

Ringside Analysis:

PBC on NBC Spence-Algieri occurred during a heavily saturated time in the sports calendar.  The MLB season is new, the UFC had an event, the NBA playoffs started, and the NHL playoffs are underway.  With such a saturated market splitting viewers it would be tough for a sport with no brand value to break through.  Spence Jr and Algieri are not well known to casual sports fans either.

Having said that, the ratings are disappointing.  These are the lowest ratings for the PBC on NBC thus far.  One would expect for the ratings to go up as more people get exposure to PBC events but the ratings show a downward trend.

Al Haymon is in this venture for the long haul.  I would keep in mind that at one point the UFC was $44M in the red with no signs of life before becoming one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world.


NY Governor Signs Bill to Legalize MMA in State

UFC returning to New York on Nov. 12 at MSG https://t.co/o0GYRgRc9F

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to legalize MMA in the state.  This signature comes three weeks after the New York State General Assembly voted to legalize MMA in the state.

From the UFC press release:

Today’s bill signing and event date announcements cement mixed martial arts’ incredible future in the state of New York, and reaffirm UFC’s commitment to a market that is home to many top stars including former UFC champions Jon Jones, Chris Weidman and Rashad Evans, and countless other title contenders.

Ringside analysis:

The UFC has announced a November fight at Madison Square Garden, immediately taking advantage of the new opportunity, which technically begins September 1 of this year.   Aljamain Sterling has already suggested that the first event in Madison Square Garden should be “New Yorkers against the world.”


Dawg Fight by Billy Corben – Miami Backyard Fights

It’s an area with an underground economy with flea markets, fight clubs, and gambling.  It’s an area sometimes ravaged with drugs and violence.  An area that has the police cracking down on all types of activities.  People can rarely find work, houses are in shambles, and the most entertaining part of their year are fights happening in people’s backyards where fighters make a couple hundred dollars with no medical coverage if something goes wrong.  Early reactions to watching this documentary and the area that it takes place in often draws the comment, “This doesn’t even look like America.”  In a lot of ways it isn’t.  Billy Corben views this as the alternate American Dream, or the death of the American Dream.

Billy Corben has made documentaries with Miami and Dade County as one of the main characters.  From Cocaine Cowboys, Cocaine Cowbows 2, The U, The U Part 2, and Square Groupers it has come to where most glamor has been stripped away.  Gone is the conflict of outrunning the DEA or making millions off tracking cocaine into America.  The conflict in Dawg Fight is the chronicles of people who can’t get jobs, are on food stamps, and have to fight in order to keep their families and themselves alive.

If it wasn’t for Netflix this documentary might have never made it out to the masses.  According to an interview with Rolling Stone Billy Corben said:

And people started watching the rough cut, and they were like, “Holy shit, this is your best work – No, I won’t buy it.” My three favorite rejections were, “Too violent, too urban, too real.” It was this galvanizing rejection. This was unabashed, completely uncensored urban culture, and that was the problem: People were petrified of that. There’s no Dana White, there’s no Roger Goodell. None of those guys are there to tell you it’s OK. That scared people, but that’s what I liked so much about this project; it’s what I liked so much about The U, it was a bunch of guys who just didn’t give a fuck. So we had decided we were going to self-distribute it, because we had already invested all this time and our own dime, and we wanted people to see it, to know the struggle. And then Netflix came to the rescue! They were like, “We’ll fucking show this!” And that was extraordinary.

It’s fascinating how people will condemn certain behaviors, actions, or sentiments held by people in the worst communities in America but will refuse to fix the societal conditions that cause said behaviors.  Often times, people don’t want to acknowledge that these communities even exist.  People hear Miami and they think of the clubs, the beaches, and the girls.  They don’t think of the majority of Miami-Dade County which has the second-highest income disparity in the country and the second-highest rate of food stamp usage in the country.  (RS)

Fighting really is the most universal sport there is.  Fight games of various fashions are prevalent in almost every community across the world and throughout time.  It’s been around longer than soccer, golf, football, fencing, and really any other sport you can think of.  You don’t have to tell people what the point is of the sport, the rules are minimal, and it’s what the UFC is banking on in their global expansion.  In the doc you see an entire community come together and for one day there is little to no crime in one of the most troubled areas of the country.  Kids, adults, and even grandparents are watching the fights and can be found ringside.

All of these fights are headed up by a man who goes by the name Dada 5000.  He is a former social worker and has a degree.  He organizes the fights, pays the fighters out, and actually takes little to no money for himself for putting on these fights.  Almost all the money goes to putting on the event and compensating the fighters.  There are clips of Dada handing out even more money than originally promised to fighters for putting on a good show.

To really understand why these fighters step in the ring you have to put themselves in their situations.  Many of the fighters shown have criminal records, which essentially make them unable to be hired.  Four guys from the fights have actually gone on to fight pro and make considerably more money than they were, but we also see two fighters die outside the ring during that same time span.  Largely, these people are living on the fringes of life.  Fighters are getting paid $200 in cash, which doesn’t seem like all that much until you hear a couple people talk about how these people have never seen even $100 in cash in their life.  They’ve got imminent issues that day, to eat, to pay the bills, and they are so close to not being able to survive that they have to partake in these fights.

The images in this documentary are incredibly powerful.  A couple fighters become protagonists through their fighting styles, the frequency at which they fight, and their abilities to continually push upwards through the ranks.  It’s an impressive mix of discussing the society that produces these types of event and the actual events themselves.  While the fights can appear jarring at first they become easier to watch as the film goes on.  The ease is not due to a desensitization but rather comes from a humanization for the fighters and more context for the fights themselves.  Once you understand why they’re fighting you don’t get as caught up in the fighting.

Dawg Fight might be Billy Corben’s best documentary to date, which is really saying something given that almost everyone has seen The U and Cocaine Cowboys.  Corben discusses the tragedies, triumphs, conditions, and people extremely effectively, so much so that it’s almost surprising he was able to keep it under two hours.  I couldn’t recommend this movie more, especially to those who don’t even like fighting.  At it’s core fighting is about people and the arcs of their lives and Dawg Fight does a fantastic job of cutting to the core of those stories.

This article that I wrote originally appeared on recessiongrads.com


Gennady Golovkin becomes third boxer to sign with Nike’s Jordan Brand

Gennady Golovkin becomes third boxer to sign with Nike’s Jordan Brand


Tecate Debuts New “Born Bold” Campaign Featuring Canelo Alvarez

Tecate has released a new :30-second spot featuring Canelo Alvarez.  This specific commercial is called, “Always Bold, Extra Flashy.”

The commercial features Canelo Alvarez entering a boxing ring on a golden throne with a crown and gold gloves.  He is surrounded by women and a man with dreads, wearing a hat, and yelling into a megaphone, which is very reminiscent of Floyd Mayweather’s entrance against Carlos Baldomir and Canelo Alvarez.  After coming across the Tecate bird we can assume Canelo Alvarez remembers his “bold” personality and enters the ring with his more traditional ring entrance apparel.

Ringside Analysis:

Tecate penetrated the market and rose it’s brand to prominence through sponsorships and advertisements for boxing content.  The company bought many spots around the ring and offered rebates when a Tecate pack of beer is purchased.

The partnership between Tecate and Alvarez is perfect with Tecate being a Mexican beer that has thrived off of boxing content and Canelo Alvarez has been described as the “Mexican James Dean.”


Adrien Broner Breaks Viewership Record For a PBC Fight on Spike

On Friday night Adrien Broner dispatched opponent Ashley Theophane in the ninth round.  Since the conclusion of the fight the estimated viewers for Broner’s main event fight was 1,013,000 viewers.  The viewership of over one million breaks the previous record of viewers watching a PBC fight on Spike.

The fight almost didn’t happen after an arrest warrant was issued for Broner in the state of Ohio after an alleged felony assault and robbery.  The Washington DC athletic commission had serious reservations before approving of Broner’s license to fight in the event.

During the pre-fight press conferences and after the fight Adrien Broner called out Floyd Mayweather to fight after Broner felt that he was being disrespected by Floyd Mayweather.  Mayweather has been in retirement since his 49th win over Andre Berto in September 2015.

Ringside Analysis:

Broner has become even more polarizing after his win over Theophane with many boxing fans completely disinterested in Broner, his sometimes uncomfortable build-up to the fights, his out of the ring legal issues, and his underwhelming fights against opponents who are most vulnerable to Broner’s style of boxing.

However, it seems that the high ratings are a clear result of how polarizing a figure Broner has become.  Many people will watch a fighter they hate in order to cheer against them.  Some studies have shown that people who dislike something are more inclined to participate or consume information on the object of their dislike, as seen a Howard Stern show study that shows people who strongly dislike the show spend more time listening to it than people who strongly like the show.

Given Broner’s legal issues we will see how toxic his background has become.  As important as ratings are to television there becomes a point where a program or person is considered too toxic for programming.


The Ultimate Fighter Season 24 Champion Wins Title Shot

On season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 flyweight fighters will compete to win a title shot against the UFC Flyweight Champion.  The finale will take place in December.

This is the third time that the TUF winner gets a title shot in the finale.  The other times were in season four when TUF winner Matt Serra took on UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre and in season 20 when Carla Esparza won the first women’s strawweight title.

Demetrious Johnson is the current UFC Flyweight Champion and has been the only champion in the flyweight division in the history of the UFC.

Ringside Analysis:

The lead up to the finale might create more interest in a division that has been dominated by a single individual.  Johnson has either finished his opponent or been named a unanimous decision winner for seven consecutive fights.

It is possible that to reach past the MMA niche fanbase and reach the casual sports fan the show TUF has to put more on the line in the season finale.  In a small sampling I found the reality TV draw strength’s has weakened tremendously with an over-saturation of reality TV in the market place and people’s general awareness of the UFC at this point.  A finale between two fighters that most casual sports fans have not heard of is not must-see TV.


Spike Sports Creates “Fighters First” Campaign

Spike TV, who is rebranding itself as the go to network for fights, has just launched a new campaign called “Fighters First.”  The campaign was created to place more promotional and marketing efforts on the fighters themselves instead of the larger institutions.

Special attention is given to the women, “being as tough as the guys,” and one male fighter saying that nobody gets to tell him what to wear.

Bellator has a partnership with Spike to show content.  Previously, the UFC broke into profitability through their exposure on Spike and the success of The Ultimate Fighter on the network.

Ringside Analysis:

This is a pretty clear shot to the UFC.  The UFC has said in the past that no one fighter is bigger than the UFC brand.  When considering the state of the UFC when the Fertitta brothers bought the company it makes sense why so much emphasis was put on building the brand and not the fighters.

There has been a counter-movement against the immense bargaining power that the UFC has over fighters.  Bellator and Spike have found a way to differentiate themselves to fighters through their greater emphasis on spending company dollars towards individual athlete marketing.

It will be interesting to see how the Bellator/Spike partnership works long-term in swaying athletes to their brand and ultimately how it fits into the financial success of the companies.


UFC Sells Out 45K Soccer Stadium For UFC 198

According to MMAFighting:

Tickets for the Curitiba event went on sale Tuesday for members of the Atletico Paranaense fan club, and 16,000 were sold in a few hours. The official sale began Wednesday, and 16,000 tickets were sold in less than 90 minutes. By Thursday afternoon, all 45,000 tickets were gone. VIP packages are the only available.

Ringside Analysis:

UFC 198 will be the third most attended UFC event in company history.  The highest attended event is UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia where viewers saw Holly Holm knockout Rond Rousey.  The second highest attneded event is UFC 129 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, when George St.-Pierre successfully defended his title against Jake Shields.

While most of the main PPV events seem to be placed in the United States there’s a good opportunity for the UFC to put every fourth PPV program in a different company and take advantage of the huge draws that a single event can garner in a territory that doesn’t get much exposure to the UFC Live.