Week in MMA & Boxing #32
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
March 12th- March 25th, 2016
MMA Legal in New York
After years of trying and hours of late and at times embarrassing debating points, the New York Assembly voted 113-25 to pass the bill to legalize and regulate professional MMA in the state.
A similar bill had already passed the state senate overwhelmingly for the seventh year in a row. It is expected to be signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo sometime within the next ten days. UFC is expected to run its inaugural event in Madison Square Garden in the latter part of this year, in either November or December.
After the bill passed, Cuomo said he was supportive of MMA saying it was an economic generator and would bring tourists from out of state into the cities they hold events in.
The bill has the state collecting an eight percent tax on all live gates and a three percent tax on either television rights fees or PPV revenue (with a maximum in that category of $50,000).
Once Cuomo signs the bill and it becomes law, the New York State Athletic Commission will have up to 120 days to finalize rules and regulations. Lorenzo Fertitta, when talking about the proposed Madison Square Garden debut, said that it could include the return of Ronda Rousey (the company has believed based on her movie schedule she would return to fight for the womens bantamweight title in November, although those close to the situation say that is far from a lock). Fertitta said the goal would be to set the all-time gate record for any event ever held in the building, which would mean very high ticket prices.
Fertitta said that New York is the top market for the company when it comes to PPV buys (which makes sense as it has a far greater population than any other market in the country).
“We’re looking to literally break the gate records at each arena we go to, and that includes Madison Square Garden when we eventually get there, hopefully by the fourth quarter this year.”
He also said that they were looking at two shows in the state in 2016, indicating a Fight Night could be the first show, mentioning Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester or Utica as a potential location. The company has talked for years about running regularly in upstate New York, as well as in the major arenas in the city.
UFC, which had spent in the neighborhood of $2 million over the last decade in trying to get the 1997 law overturned, has believed for years that it had enough votes in the Assembly to pass the bill, but had been blocked from getting the legislation voted on due to the longtime Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, being an opponent. Silver lost his position due to charges of corruption in early 2015, but the assembly session ended once again without a vote due to time running out.
Although there were very vocal opponents, who felt keeping MMA out of the state was championing prevention of violence in society, feeling there was a link between MMA fights and street violence, and championed protection of children, it was pointed out this protected nobody since MMA is on free television weekly. There was also the very real concern of brain injuries, with some who really didn’t know the subject feeling it was somehow worse than football or boxing. The condition of Muhammad Ali came up several times, but those arguments would only be relevant when it comes to questions of banning or changing the rules of boxing. The hearing was in many ways a sad reflection of government at work. But the vocal opponents didn’t have much power to sway the votes, which passed with strong bipartisan support.
UFC had promised New York legislators four shows a year for the next three years. Bellator noted that they are already making plans for an event at the Barclays Center in New York.
UFC 196 Buyrate
Dana White said that UFC 196, broke all kinds of records and ended up doing 1.5 million buys on PPV.
The number, if accurate, would be significantly up from both the November (Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm) and December (Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo and Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold) shows that are believed to have done in the 1.05 to 1.2 million buy range.
It would beat every UFC event to date with the exception of UFC 100, which is estimated at 1.6 million buys. The difference is that UFC 100 was supposed to blow away all numbers, with title matches featuring the company’s two biggest drawing cards at the time, Brock Lesnar and Georges St-Pierre.
This show had a main event put together less than two weeks before the show and it wasn’t even a championship fight, but a late replacement. It was expected to do very well given McGregor is a huge draw and Holly Holm was untested as a draw but garnered tons of mainstream publicity and name recognition from her win over Ronda Rousey.
The combination of the two main events bringing in different audiences led to giant numbers, and probably indicates the potential for a UFC event to do 2 million buys if it has the right double main event.
Nothing is solid this early when it comes to PPV buys, but based on some data the number for UFC 196 looked to be well above that of both UFC 193 and UFC 194, so even if it was 1.3 million buys, the show was a monster.
With only two weeks of build, the key was the Internet, most notably the press conference in Los Angeles to announce the fight that had more than three million viewers and all the mainstream sports coverage of the event. Diaz proved to be the right mix for McGregor as an opponent, although it was more the talking back-and-forth that did it. An opponent like Rafael dos Anjos wouldn’t have been able to compete at that level, although a Donald Cerrone would have talked back, perhaps at the same level, and perhaps better than Diaz.
McGregor was easily the key, but in looking at searches worldwide, Diaz and Holly Holm were neck-and-neck and Miesha Tate right behind them. Albuquerque, Holm’s home, was the strongest market followed by Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco (near where Diaz is from) and Seattle (where Tate is from) as well as the usual Las Vegas and Honolulu that are always strong.
UFC 200 Rumored Main Event
Ariel Helwani reported that UFC is working toward a rematch with Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz, at welterweight no less, as the main event for UFC 200 on July 9 at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Helwani reported the UFC is close to finalizing plans for the match.
This would be a major blow to Frankie Edgar, as just last week Dana White indicated the match that made the most sense going forward was McGregor defending the featherweight title against Edgar. McGregor himself, after his loss to Diaz, said he'd decide whether more people would be interested in Edgar or Jose Aldo, and that's he was looking at defending his title against one of them. He gave the impression that he thought Aldo would have more interest but was leery if Aldo wouldn't pull out before the fight.
McGregor vs. Diaz would also eliminate the possibility of Robbie Lawler vs. Diaz, a fight that both White and Fertitta talked about for the welterweight title.
Based on the results of UFC 196, McGregor vs. Diaz would be the best drawing fight for UFC 200 even without a title at stake. Plus, there would be longer to build the fight. For McGregor, he'd be facing Diaz with a full camp, making his odds of winning even longer.
It also puts the featherweight division on hold and almost forces an Aldo vs. Edgar match for the title shot, which would eliminate a contender.
UFC Fight Night Australia
Mark Hunt knocked out Frank Mir in the main event of UFC’s Fight Night on 3/20 (3/19 in the U.S.) at the Brisbane Entertainment Center in Australia.
Hunt did a one punch walk off knockout. Mir, who tied Tito Ortiz for the most fights in UFC history, with 27, had said before the show that he felt he could fight for another ten years. But after the show, announcer Brian Stann said that Mir should retire because he’s proved everything he could prove and he had taken a lot of punishment over the course of his career.
Punishment was the key to the low point of the show, the semi-main event. Hector Lombard landed hard punches from close range early on to put Neil Magny down. He landed hard punches and elbows on the ground and the fight should have been close to being stopped. There was never quite the moment to stop it, but it came close. Late in the round, Magny got up and Lombard looked tired, but did land some punches. Even so, a fight on the verge of being finished, and that a lot of referees would have stopped, was given a 10-9 by judges Evan Field, Barry Foley and Kon Papaionannou.
In the second round, Lombard knocked Magny down again with a left. Lombard, while on top, went for a leglock. That wasn’t smart because Magny escaped and it allowed Magny to get to top position. With 90 seconds left in the round, Magny secured the mount.
Then it got ugly. After Magny had landed 18 straight unanswered punches from the mount, with 1:13 left, the fight felt like it should have been stopped. After eight more seconds, it felt like it was now ugly and needed to be stopped.
After 60 more punches, with :21 left in the round, Magny looked at referee Steve Perceval as if to say, “What the hell is going on?” This was now long past ridiculous.
Magny landed 32 more punches before the round was over. It wasn’t stopped even after more than 110 unanswered punches, most of which were with Lombard flat on his face on the ground in the classic position that John McCarthy used to call, the “Please Mr. Wizard, help me” position.
If there was such a thing as a 10-7 round, this was it. A near stoppage is 10-8. A beyond stoppage for 73 seconds is easily a 10-7, but since Lombard did get an early round knockdown, I would have given it a 10-8. All three judges have it a 10-9. That’s beyond crazy.
It didn’t end up mattering. Lombard was done. He hadn’t recovered at the start of the third round, but came out and got beaten on. Magny was back in the mount pounding on a bleeding Lombard and it was stopped. It was the first time in 42 pro fights that Lombard had ever been stopped, and cements Magny into a top tier position in the welterweight division.
Performance bonuses of $50,000 went to Hunt and Magny, and fight of the night went to Jake Matthews vs. Johnny Case.
Ariel done with FOX
Ariel Helwani, who has won the MMA Reporter of the Year award the past six years, announced on 3/23 that he was no longer working for the UFC on FOX. That means he’s off event coverage as well as departing his role on UFC Tonight with weekly news coverage, that he’s had since the inception of the show. Helwani wrote that he was completely at peace with the decision and believe it’s for the best, noting it was a part-time job and his full-time job is with MMA Fighting. He will continue doing the MMA Hour on Mondays and writing news stories for the site.
A few weeks ago, the sports media web site “Awful Announcing” had broken that Fox Sports was looking at cutting costs with buyouts and layoffs and more than 20 employees at their digital operations were let go two weeks ago and the article also reported that a number of feature and news reporters would be cut over the next few weeks. The story claimed that FS 1 and FS 2 haven’t grown as fast as the company had hoped and rising rights fees for its sports have hurt the bottom line.
Poor Ticket sales for Jones vs. Cormier
UFC 197, with Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier, has a ton of tickets left. The first Jones vs. Cormier only sold 8,700 tickets and that was one of the biggest grudge matches in history and did 800,000 buys on PPV head-to-head with the NFL playoffs. For whatever reason, the two of them haven’t been a big ticket seller in Las Vegas and because they’ve run so many big shows in Vegas at high ticket prices, the market is going to be difficult unless it’s the super big show like UFC 200. Also, the scalper market is going to be dead after how much the bottom dropped out for the last show.
On the weekend show, they showed a new face-off taped two weeks ago between the two. It was intense. The whole storyline thing here is that Jones never lost and people see him as the rightful champion, and he solidly beat Cormier the last time and almost everyone thinks the next time won’t be different. Jones himself said what everyone is thinking, which is that Cormier will be 37 come fight time, and he won’t be stronger and he won’t be faster than he was last year, while Jones is going to be 28.
Jones claimed he’s now entering his prime and training harder than ever. Plus, if he’s telling the truth and he’s curtailed his partying ways, that should only make him tougher. Jones said he beats Cormier ten times out of ten. But with UFC hot right now when it comes to big shows, I sense a big number, not at Rousey or McGregor levels, but bigger than anyone else.
Dos Anjos gets Shunned
Rafael dos Anjos reportedly called the UFC and asked to defend his title against Nate Diaz or wanted a title fight with Robbie Lawler at welterweight, but was turned down on both requests
Jones gets off
Jon Jones latest minor legal mishap was settled this past week. Jones’ January arrest for driving without a license, registration or proof of insurance was settled on 3/23 in court when he showed proof he has a license, has insurance and the car was registered. TMZ reported that he struck a deal where he would make a $100 donation to the New Mexico Animal Humane Society and the judge said he would rescind the charges provided Jones stays out of trouble for the next 90 days.
Kimbo and Shamrock fail Drug Test
Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock failed tests for Nandrolone before their 2/19 fight. In other words, they failed their IQ tests. Everyone knows that if you are in a drug tested sport, you don’t touch Nandrolone because you’ll pop anywhere from three months to one year (if you’re unlucky) later, and there have been people who have popped farther back. Given that both fought each other 6/19 and neither popped, that would indicate the usage was more recent than that. Both also popped for testosterone being above 6-to-1 on their Testosterone/Epitestosterone ratio, which would indicate more recent use. Shamrock also tested positive for methadone.
Texas only suspends fighters 90 days for positive drug tests ad fines them a maximum of $5,000. Bellator can impose penalties longer and should, but Slice and Shamrock are probably still two of their biggest drawing cards . Shamrock had failed a test for three steroids back in 2009. If nothing else, this kills any sympathy for Shamrock regarding a rematch with Royce Gracie. He very much had the right to get a rematch given it was a low knee by Gracie that led to Gracie’s first round win. But given he was on steroids at the time of the fight, his complaint, still valid, makes it harder to consider a rematch, other than it would still draw a rating. The Kimbo vs. Dada 5000 results has been overturned to being a no contest.