Ring Of Sports Marketing

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Richard Schaefer and David Haye Form Hayemaker Ringstar For UK Fights

Former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer has partnered with former British heavyweight champion David Haye.  The two have formed an equal partnership to create Hayemaker Ringstar.  The new promotion company will put on fights primarily in the United Kingdom and are hoping to put on a few in the United States.

Richard Schaefer said the following to Dan Rafael at ESPN:

“I’m delighted to be partnering with David to form Hayemaker Ringstar… The U.K. is a great market for boxing, with exciting fighters and passionate fans, and we’re determined to work with the most talented boxers to give people the fights they want to see.

“I’ve wanted to set up in the U.K. for a long time, but it was important to partner with a team who knows the market. I couldn’t ask for a better partner than David. We’re both incredibly passionate about the sport, we both want to put fighters first, and we’re both committed to bringing boxing to the masses.”

Hayemaker Ringstar has placed a tremendous amount of emphasis on signing young fighters that are just a few months removed from the 2016 Summer Olympics.

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More Than 500 UFC Fighters Will Visit Las Vegas in May For “Athlete Retreat”

All UFC fighters, more than 500, have been invited to a UFC Athlete Retreat.  The two-day event is is the first since the UFC was sold by Zuffa to WME-IMG last July for $4 billion.

From the article by Kevin Iole at Yahoo:

Emm]anuel and Whitesell are big on integrating their clients from their various sports to create opportunities for everyone, and the retreat will mark the start of that for the UFC fighters.

Athletes, musicians, actors/actresses and celebrities from many different genres who are represented by WME/IMG will appear at the retreat and will either offer presentations or be available to the fighters to ask questions.

The retreat will also feature UFC VP of Athlete Performance Forrest Griffin unveiling the new UFC Performance Institute.  Topics Griffin will cover include recovery, training, and how to safely make weight.

This is the last year the the UFC fighter summit will be held with the athlete retreat taking its place from now on.

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MMA, The UFC, And The Fighter’s Union

The UFC has brought combat sports back to the forefront of the American sports world.  Boxing, as a brand, was relegated to niche programming found on HBO, Showtime, with the mid-tier fights taking place on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights.  Much like boxing, the UFC has a chaotic schedule, volatile fighters, and more unpredictability than any mainstream sport.

To an extent, the UFC and MMA as a whole is paying for boxing’s sins.  One of the stigmas attached to combat sports is that the sport abuses the value of it’s fighters.  The Muhammad Ali Act was put in place to protect boxer’s from predatory promoters who had been stealing money from their prize fighters.  Some state representatives are now trying to extend the Muhammad Ali Act to cover MMA.  In order to protect itself for long-term stability, the UFC must navigate promoter-fighter relationships better than the fight promoters of the past.

There are strong arguments both for and against creating a fighter’s union.  Since the end of summer there are now multiple players looking to unionize MMA fighters.  Current events surrounding the recent sale of the UFC and recent practices by the company have created a sense of urgency amongst some fighters to form a union to collectively bargain for benefits, pay, and protections.

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UFC 202 Diaz-McGregor 2 Press Conference Heats Up

Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz had a scheduled press conference promoting UFC 202 with other fighters on the card.  McGregor was very late and once he began answering questions Diaz left and says, “F – – – your whole team, how about that.”  Conor McGregor then responds back with similar language as Diaz walks out of Dvaid Copperfield Theater with his camp.

The press conference is abruptly ended by Dana White once Diaz’s camp has fully left the theater and Conor McGregor has been restrained and snet back behind teh curtain.

Ringside Analysis:

Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor have had some very heated exchanges in the past outside of the octagon so it is not a surprise that emotions boiled over at this press conference.  When Diaz and McGregor began throwing things at each other it instantly brings to mind the press conference brawl between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, which ultimately led to a postponed fight date.  Dana White can be heard yelling, “Conor don’t throw that!” as McGregor goes to pick up a Monster Energy can.

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Keith Thurman Wants To Stay Off PPV

On June 25th Keith Thurman defeated Shawn Porter in a close but unanimous decision on network television.  The fight was incredibly entertaining, but the most important thing for the health of the sport was that a viewer didn’t need to pay to watch.  Keith Thurman understands how important it is to stay on free TV.

Pay-Per-View fighters make the most money.  Boxer compensation has one of the largest spectrums in sports.  Some lower pro-level fighters make a few thousand dollars to fight while some fighters can make a minimum purse amount of $100 million before PPV points.  Developing a brand, a following, and one’s skills is what takes a fighter to PPV events where he hopes to cash out.  However, Keith Thurman wants to stay off PPV.

In the press conference Thurman said:

“I don’t want pay-per-view.  I don’t want you to pay for this entertainment. There’s too much world class athletic entertainment [available] for free. I want all of America to see [me fight].”

“I didn’t have HBO growing up.  I didn’t have Showtime growing up, and if you have HBO and you have Showtime, and they make it pay-per-view, now you’ve got to come out of your pocket some more [money]. I’m not trying to gouge the American people and the American public. I want to get everybody on my side. I want everybody to have an opportunity to witness ‘One Time’ and I want boxing to come back to the forefront of network television.”

Ringside Analysis:

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Dana White’s New Contract Gives Him 9% Of Future Profits

UFC President Dana White will stay on as President once the new ownership group takes over.  White owned 9% of the UFC before it was sold to WME-IMG and other outside investors for $4 billion, which most likely netted him $360 million.  It is not known how much ownership Dana White will retain after the largest acquisition in sports history.

ESPN is reporting that Dana White’s new contract gives him 9% of future profits.  In an interview with CNN last year Lorenzo Fertitta said that the UFC made $600 million in revenue.  Based on some speculation done it is estimated that the UFC makes a $200 million profit a year.  The contract is set to last for five years and given logical estimations will create an annual salary for Dana White in the realm of $18 million.

Ringside Analysis:

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Lorenzo Fertitta And Dana White Speak With LA Times About Sale And UFC 200

There have been two stories that have dominated the talk in the MMA world: the possible sale of the UFC and UFC 200.  In a recent interview with the LA Times, the head of the UFC, Lorenzo Fertitta, was quick to dismiss any rumors about the UFC being for sale and deflected the question in favor of UFC 200.  The two owners wanted to strongly emphasize the growth of the company since UFC 100.

Lorenzo said on selling the UFC:

“Look, if we bring on an investor or something happens, we’ll let everyone know,” Fertitta said. “I sat here as I got back from the Fourth of July weekend and went through every piece, every second, of what’s been created for UFC 200.”

“I’ve never been more bullish on the business. I still have massive love for the sport. I never said I was walking away.

“What’s happening — this is standard. Any company, this size and magnitude, you don’t talk about things you’re working on in strategical terms. So there’s nothing to report.”

UFC 200 is just 36 hours away and while Jon Jones has been pulled from the fight the card remains stacked with huge names like Daniel Cormier, Miesha Tate, Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, and Frankie Edgar.  Brock Lesnar makes his UFC return to fight Mark Hunt.  Their 3-round fight is now the main event for UFC 200.

On the growth of the company Fertitta said:

“The spectrum and brand of the sport has come a long way. You don’t take time to look at the accomplishments and appreciate how the sport has grown when you’re doing this every day – but there’ve been a lot of changes.”

Ringside Analysis:

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Jon Jones Pulled From UFC 200

Today the UFC announced that Jon Jones has been pulled from UFC 200.  USADA notified Jon Jones that he failed an out-of-competition drug test that took place on June 16th and will be unable to compete Saturday night.  There is an appeal process but it takes 72 hours for it to be completed and the process would not be done by the time of the fight.

This is not Jon Jones’ first issue with testing and adds onto his history of out-of-competition incidents.  Jones was stripped of his light heavyweight title after a felony hit-and-run charge in April 2015.  Before fighting Daniel Cormier, Jones also failed a drug test a month prior to fighting when testing found cocaine in his system.  In January of 2015 Jones had a brief stint in rehab.

Jon Jones is still on probation so if it is found that he did something illegal, such as using steroids, he will be in violation of his probation and will go to prison again.  Recreational drugs are not tested out-of-competition so the positive test must be a result of a performance enhancing drug (PED).  If there is in fact a PED violation Jones is also looking at a two year suspension from fighting.

Daniel Cormier was looking to get revenge from his loss in UFC 182 and was looking at making seven figures from this fight.  Cormier will be missing out on a lot of money given that the fight is no longer happening.  Dana White left open the possibility that the UFC could find someone to fight Daniel Cormier on what is essentially 48 hours notice.

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UFC And Topps Partner For Digital Trading Card App

The UFC and Topps Trading Cards has launched the Knockout 16 app just in time for International Fight Week.  The app will have thousands of trading cards with unique artwork and will feature some of the biggest stars in the UFC such as Conor McGregor, Miesha Tate, and Demetrius Johnson who is the cover athlete.

From the press release:

“Topps has been a great partner and we’re thrilled to offer fight fans a new way to experience UFC in the digital realm while watching live events,” UFC Senior Vice President of Global Consumer Products Tracey Bleczinski said. “Fans are really going to enjoy collecting and trading their favorite UFC athletes in real-time.”

“We’re excited to expand on our relationship with the UFC by introducing engaging and easily accessible digital trading cards to keep up with the demand of UFC fans around the world,” said Jeremy Strauser, Vice President and General Manager of Topps Digital. “We see the enormous impact and global popularity of the UFC, so UFC KNOCKOUT 16 is a natural fit for Topps’ apps portfolio.”

Ringside Analysis:

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UFC Makes UFC 200 Promo For Adult Swim

In promoting UFC 200 taking place on July 9th the UFC has made ad buys on Comedy Central during “Adult Swim.”  It is more branded content than straight commercial and brings back King of the Hill’s Hank Hill and George Liquor from the Ren & Stimpy show.

The main reason for the buy is not only Dana White’s affection for Adult Swim but also the clear alignment of demographics.  People who watch Adult Swim are the same type of people who like the UFC.

From the article on Adweek:

“The way the pay-per-view market works for us, we give them a spot and then they circulate it through all the cable channels. But our spots are never on Adult Swim,” said White. “Comic-Con is huge, and that demo is a very loyal fan base and hardcore, much like ours. We’d never had a presence on this network that is so strong with this young demographic.”

White reached out to Judge about creating an animated short, and Judge tapped friend and fellow UFC fan Kricfalusi. The spots took more than a year to create due to the red tape required to clear the rights to use Hank Hill (which is owned by Fox) and George Liquor, and getting Adult Swim on board. “They’re into funky, crazy new shit, and they were so supportive of this thing,” said White of the network.

Ringside Analysis:

The UFC is fully committed to marketing to the core fan.  Almost every marketing effort is designed to attract men between the ages of 18 and 34 with an African-American ethnicity.  Basic marketing is that you market to the people who are most likely to buy your product, not to persuade non-buyers to suddenly purchase your product or service.

One of the genius parts of this spot is that it doesn’t show knockouts or the kind of footage that people who aren’t necessarily already fans of the UFC characterize as “goofy” and “weird” and actually end up deterring them.  Creating an advertisement that doesn’t follow the usual images and messaging is a great move and I’m sure will end up being a huge success for the UFC.