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MMA

NBCSN Partners With Professional Fighters League

NBC Sports Network has partnered with the World Series of Fighting (WSF) in 2012 resulting in mixed results and a lot of learning experiences.  According to John Ourand’s article with the Sports Business Journal the WSF was trying to “punch above it’s weight.”  Under new ownership, the WSF has been renamed to the Professional Fighters League (PFL).

What differentiates the PFL from other promotional companies like Bellator and the UFC is that the fights will be run like a league with schedules and a playoff at the end of the first year.

Facebook will be streaming all fights that are not picked up by NBCSN as well as having a pre and post-fight show.

Ringside Analysis:

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MMA

FOX Offers $200M To UFC For Media Rights

Negotiations for the UFC media rights are underway and the first offer from FOX is well below what WME-IMG valued them at.  WME-IMG CEO Ari Emanuel was one of the key negotiators between FOX and UFC for the first media rights deal so he had a good idea going into this next negotiation window what the right value for the rights in 2018 should be.  However, the live sports media rights market has been cooling over the last few years as subscriptions to ESPN have decreased and people are regularly cutting the cord on their TV and going with streaming-only options.

The current agreement runs through 2018 and more offers will come in but the UFC will also be competing against other live sports options, like the WWE, which has good ratings and some overlap in demographics.  Companies like Amazon have also become a bigger player in live sports.  Amazon has media rights to the NFL and Jeff Bezos direction with the company is pointing towards creating new, exclusive streaming content that people will pay for, therefore becoming Amazon Prime members.

At the start of 2017 the media fees paid to the UFC will be $160 million, after being $115 million a year when the deal first began in 2011.

The media rights could also be for a digital only platform that Dana White has brought up recently.

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MMA / Sports Law

Conor McGregor May Speak to US Congress on Extending Ali Act to MMA

Conor McGregor is only a few weeks away from the richest fight of his career and is now supposedly going to speak to Congress about extending the Ali Act to MMA Fighters.  Congressman Markwayne Mullin has been told by Conor McGregor’s team that McGregor is going to go to Capitol Hill and advocate for passing a bill that would help give greater transparency to the financial information in MMA in order to better protect MMA fighters.

The Ali Act was passed in 2000 and is designed to help protect fighters through financial transparency, tighter regulations, and help maintain the integrity of the sport.  One of the cornerstone parts of the Ali Act is that it protects fighters from “coercive contracts.”  Other key parts are aimed to separate promoters from the managerial process of the sport.  Boxing has rankings determined by independent commissions and promoters are not able to have a “direct or indirect financial interest in the management of their fighters.

Ringside Analysis:

UFC COO Lawrence Epstein gave commentary on the article written by Telegraph Sport.  Epstein says that the UFC exceeds any requirements when it comes to the health and safety of fighters, which is certainly true.  The UFC uses USADA for testing for performance enhancing drugs in athletes, which boxing as a whole does not, (Although some fighters require that their opponents undergo extensive testing with USADA) and the UFC has invested millions into a new performance training center near corporate headquarters in Las Vegas to help reduce the number of injuries that fighter sustain during training.

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Boxing / MMA / Ratings / UFC

Mayweather-McGregor Earns 6.5 Million Buys According to Dana White

Dana White is the first person directly involved with the event to give a public statement on the number of PPV buys Mayweather-McGregor earned.  At a studio with Snoop Dogg, Dana White says that the fight earned 6.5 million buys.  The previous record was for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, which doubled the previous record with a reported 4.6 million buys.

The 6.5 million buys would set the North Americna record.  Other countries sold the fight for much less than the $100 price tag we saw in the United States.  Some countries had the fight available for free on television.

There were early signs for a huge PPV total when the prelims averaged nearly 2.5 million viewers and peaked above 3 million.  It should be noted that the prelims had no well known boxers on the card so the people tuning in were there for the names on the top of the card.

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Boxing / MMA

Mayweather McGregor Could Be Most Pirated Event Ever According To Lawrence Epstein

The biggest revenue-drivers for both promoters and fighters are PPV events.  New streaming apps are now allowing people to bypass the financial commitment to watching the fighters by basically leeching off of someone streaming the event.

UFC COO Lawrence Epstein says, via the article:

“For Mayweather-McGregor, it’s going to be tens of millions of dollars [in stolen signal]… There’s no doubt about it. This is going to be the most pirated event in pay-per-view history. I predict that.”

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Boxing / MMA / Sponsorships

Title Sponsorship For Mayweather-McGregor set at $10M

The logo that you see at the middle of the ring when Mayweather and McGregor walk to the center for round 1 of their mega-fight will cost $10 million.  According to Dan Rafael at ESPN, the ownership company of the UFC, WME-IMG, sent out proposals for the title sponsorship to possible corporate sponsors.  The asking price for the Mayweather-McGregor title sponsorship is nearly double that of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, which was sold to Tecate for $5.6 million.

From Rafael’s article:

The sponsoring company would get its logo at the center of the ring at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, its branding on ring girls, on two of the ropes and in the two nonfighter corners of the ring. The deal also includes sponsorship of the first minute of every round on the broadcast and $500,000 in tickets.

Relative to other ad deals, Goodyear will pay the Cavaliers $7 million to $10 million in each of the next three seasons to have its 2½-inch-by-2½-inch logo patch on the team’s jerseys.

It is important to note that the title sponsorships are only for the neutral corners.  Mayweather and McGregor can each sell their corner for $2.5 million.  A fighter’s sponsor would get $250,000 in tickets as well as sponsorship on the broadcast corner cam.

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International Business / MMA / UFC

UFC Signs New TV Deal in Russia

The UFC has partnered with Match TV in Russia to air UFC programs in the country.  At multiple points the deal looked like it would end without an agreement between the UFC and Match TV.  The previous UFC owners had an agreement nearly finalized for $500,000 to be paid annually for the program licensing.  However, once WME-IMG became the owners the annual fee increased substantially.  When WME-IMG looked to Russia to increase profits they sold the TV rights to Telesport.  Telesport became the mediator between Match TV and the UFC that led to the agreement.

CEO of Match TV Tina Kandelaki said:

“The negotiation process was difficult, and we are grateful to our partners for their mutual interest in staging UFC broadcasts in 2017. We are seeing increased attention for this tournament, not only in the media, but also among viewers… We are confident that all broadcasts will bring great pleasure and enhance sports viewership. We believe that the start of the season with the fight of Khabib Nurmagomedov will lead to even greater increase in the audience to the sport.”

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MMA / UFC

George St-Pierre To Fight Michael Bisping For UFC Middleweight Championship

UFC great George St-Pierre (GSP) is coming out of retirement to fight Michael Bisping at UFC 209.  St-Pierre has been retired from the UFC since November of 2013 and in his first fight back gets a title shot in the middleweight division.  George St-Pierre has fought nearly all of his fights at the welterweight limit of 170 pounds.  This will be St-Pierre’s first UFC fight at the middleweight limit of 185 pounds.  Michael Bisping is coming off his first successful title defense in the UFC with a unanimous decision win over Dan Henderson at UFC 204.  Bisping accepted this fight largely based on the pay that would come with it.

According to Chad Dundas at Bleacher Report:

Well, what he gets in his return to the Octagon after a three-year absence is a potentially winnable championship fight, a nice payday and a chance at the history books.

If St-Pierre is able to return to action at nearly 36 years old and win another UFC title in a weight class above his natural division, there will simply be no argument against anointing him the greatest MMA fighter of all time.

Even though George St-Pierre is from Canada, which has been a growing hotbed of MMA fans, the fight will most likely take place in Las Vegas, Nevada at the T-Mobile Arena during the beginning of July.

Ringside Analysis:

The matchup for George St-Pierre’s return has been polarizing.  Some argue that the addition of GSP back into the UFC at the  middleweight division is happening mostly because of the short-term payoff that will come from it.  The middleweight division is currently one of the most exciting in the UFC and it is unusual for a fighter who is coming out of a three year retirement would get an immediate title shot.  St-Pierre allegedly requested that he fight Bisping in his first fight back and that may have been one of the tipping points that brought GSP back to the company.

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Boxing / MMA / UFC

Mayweather Says Fight With Conor McGregor Is “Getting Very, Very Close”

Former professional boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and current UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor have had ongoing discussions about a potential fight and rumors have started that the fight is almost agreed upon.  Mayweather told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that the fight was getting “very, very close” to happening but then posted the above Instagram post this afternoon.

According to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto:

Sources confirmed to ESPN that McGregor arrived in Las Vegas on Monday evening. Mayweather lives and trains in Las Vegas.

Nevada State Athletic Commission chairman Anthony Marnell confirmed to ESPN that the commission has been made aware of active negotiations between the two camps, but said the fight still faces several challenges.

Conor McGregor flew to Las Vegas and posted this Instagram photo shortly after.  Floyd Mayweather lives and trains in Las Vegas.  McGregor is currently trying to make amends with the Nevada State Athletic Commission after a press conference that ended with McGregor throwing energy drinks into an audience, targeting Nate Diaz.  Conor McGregor has been granted a boxing license in the state of California but needs a license to fight in Nevada to fight Floyd McGregor.

UFC President Dana White said that an agreement between McGregor and Mayweather is not close to happening and would have to go through him first.

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Entertainment Business / MMA / UFC

Golden Boy Boxing Partners With ESPN

Golden Boy Boxing and ESPN have partnered together to create “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN.”  The program will begin in March.

According to ESPN:

The series, sponsored by Tecate, will air on ESPN2 and will be simulcast in Spanish on ESPN Deportes as well as streamed on ESPN3. A few of the 2-hour cards, which will generally take place twice per month, will not be available on ESPN2, however, because of scheduling conflicts.

The deal includes 18 cards in 2017 (which will air either on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays) and 24 more in 2018. ESPN has an option for a third year of the series.

ESPN Exectuvie VP of Programming and Scheduling Burke Magnus said:

“We are excited to announce this new agreement with Golden Boy Promotions, one of the world’s top promoters… ESPN and ESPN Deportes look forward to featuring a new series of exciting world-class matches, along with a deep and wide variety of studio and digital content, in this multi-year, exclusive, live fight package.”

Golden Boy Boxing owner Oscar De La Hoy cited ESPN’s reach as a big selling point in entering into the partnership.  The promotional company will rely on sponsors to pay the fees for air time instead of relying on licensing fees from ESPN.

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