Week in MMA & Boxing #39
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
April 9th- April 15th, 2016
UFC Sale Update
We wrote last week about the news that UFC is up for Sale and you can read those details in full here. Darren Rovell of ESPN detailed that UFC had hired Goldman Sachs to shop the company around, and that William Morris Endeavor/IMG, China Media Capital, The Blackstone Group and the Dalian Wanda Group have submitted bids, it was met by denials by UFC President Dana White.
There is at least one potential buyer who is serious that was not on the list, and the belief is that The Blackstone Group is not interested. Of the four companies listed, The Blackstone Group is the only one that has made any comments about the story, telling Rovell they were not in the game. The other companies have either not responded to media questions or issued “no comment” statements.
The only other news is it is clear that the attempt is to purchase a majority interest in the company, a minimum of 60 percent and it could be substantially more than that based on the money raised for their bid and total valuation of the company.
That doesn’t mean it will go down that way. Over the course of UFC history there have been multiple times when there have been serious negotiations and even people believing a deal was imminent where nothing ended up transpiring, as one side or the other backed out or changed at the last time. But information we’ve received is that one or all the companies involved in this are not looking at 10 to 15 percent purchases of a minority interest in UFC stock like the Flash Entertainment purchase, where Lorenzo & Frank Fertitta would retain most of the company stock. The people have been told there is a bidding process for a majority ownership of the promotion. This would indicate the belief the Fertittas are either selling most or all of their stock and it would be a new controlling ownership group.
Dana White becomes an interesting part of the equation. One would expect the company taking over would want to retain as the public face of the company and we are aware in at least one case that is the hope. With nine percent ownership of the company, if the $3.5 billion to $4 billion price tag is accurate, White’s stock would be worth $315 million to $360 million, although if the purchase is 60 percent, for example, it isn’t clear whether his stock would be part of the sale. Then comes a series of questions only White could answer. Would he want to stay if one of his best friends is no longer the owner and they are no longer working hand-in-hand?
Even if a new group doesn’t want to make major changes, it will be different and his role will be different, as will his real and ultimate power. Plus, will he have to expand his role regarding things Fertitta largely handled, which was a significant amount of things, or does a new Fertitta emerge, or even does Fertitta himself stay but as a minority owner, even though that would figure to be unlikely.
But with so many different players in this game and different ways the sale could go, from just selling points and the Fertittas (who own 82 percent of the company) remaining in charge, to selling a majority interest and Fertitta retaining an interest, to the Fertittas getting out completely, everything is uncertain.
One of UFC’s most visible fixtures, Joe Rogan, 48, whose contract expires in August, has indicated that if the promotion is sold that he would not likely return. Rogan said there was a 100 percent chance he would be leaving if the Fertitta Brothers sell a majority interest in the company. He said he had no knowledge of if there will be a sale saying he’s getting very vague responses, and said he doesn’t ask a lot.
Weidman Out, Bisping In for UFC 199
Chris Weidman suffered a serious neck injury and has pulled out of his middleweight title rematch with Luke Rockhold which was to headline UFC 199 on 6/4 at the Forum in Los Angeles.
UFC announced on ESPN that Michael Bisping would be the replacement, getting the first title fight of his career on just 17 days notice. Bisping, whose strongest quality as a fighter is his incredible cardio, which is one of the key aspects of a training camp, is taking this fight without a training camp, coming off his 2/27 win over Anderson Silva at the O2 Arena in London.
Weidman said he went to a spine specialist who was blown away by the size of the herniated disc and didn’t think the injection was a good idea, and he suggested surgery. He said he was continuing to train cardio until getting the epidural shot. He said he got the shot, and like the doctors said, it did nothing to relieve the pain. He said he couldn’t sleep or do regular day activities, although he was able to train, but needed painkillers and other medication to block the pain.
Weidman said he will be undergoing neck surgery, either removal of the herniated disc or neck fusion of the C-6 and C-7, low in the neck so after recovery he will have full range of motion. He was told his recovery time for disc removal would be six to eight weeks, and for fusion, it would be 12 weeks.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, the next top contender, just fought on 5/14, but will be undergoing arthroscopic surgery for a torn right meniscus on 5/18 and wasn’t available. Souza actually suffered the injury a week before the Belfort fight, which he won in the first round.
Bisping was ranked as the No. 4 contender in the UFC rankings, behind Weidman, Souza and Vitor Belfort. Belfort lost to Souza over the weekend in the first round and took enough of a beating that he also couldn’t be considered for the fight, so Bisping was the best, and really the only legitimate choice if he was willing to take the fight.
The negative is that Bisping lost to Rockhold on November 8, 2014, via guillotine choke in the second round of a fight Rockhold controlled. Rockhold said in an Instagram message that he would fight anyone. This now makes the fourth time in just over two years that Weidman has been injured badly enough to delay or cancel a scheduled fight.
Bisping, with 18 UFC wins, is tied with Matt Hughes for second place all-time behind only Georges St-Pierre. He’s also never gotten a title shot, but also always lost when put in a position where a win would get him a shot. The first fight didn’t give much of an indication Bisping could beat Rockhold as it was a consistent beating as opposed to back-and-forth.
Rockhold vs. Weidman was the main event of a show that also includes Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber for the bantamweight title, Dan Henderson vs. Hector Lombard and Max Holloway vs. Ricardo Lamas. Losing Weidman would be the 15th change of a main or No. 2 fight on a UFC show so far this year.
UFC 198 Review
We have a full review, which includes fight highlights, on the front page of Causioncreations that can be viewed here.
The biggest news coming out of the show was Stipe Miocic capturing the UFC heavyweight title by knocking out Fabricio Werdum in 2:47. Werdum was chasing Miocic with punches, when Miocic countered with a right that put Werdum down. The fight was too short and the nature of it really gave no indication of who would have any edge if the fight should settle down.
Werdum immediately pushed for a rematch, although that isn’t likely to happen. One would figure that Miocic would defend his title against Alistair Overeem. The timing works since they can work on the Miocic vs. Overeem fight and set a date right now. Werdum is almost 39, so if he’s going to make a move, he doesn’t have time to be patient. He didn’t appear any slower moving and the length of the fight gave no indication of things like stamina nor skill.
Ronaldo Jacare Souza earned himself a middleweight title shot by shutting down Vitor Belfort in 4:38. Souza looked exactly the same physically while Belfort’s physical transformation is almost amazing from 2013. Souza will first be undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus.
Even more intriguing is the most talked-about fighter on the show, Cris Cyborg. She ran through Leslie Smith as expected, weighing in at 139 pounds, the same as Smith. Her camp claimed she would enter the cage the next day at 168. Whether accurate or not, she looked 20 pounds heavier of dense muscle as compared to Smith, and it felt like such a size mismatch that the ref probably jumped the gun early on the stoppage. Smith was furious, and if you want consistent officiating, she had the right to be. But what hurt her was the feeling she was in a mismatch to begin with.
The sold out crowd of 45,207 fans, the largest MMA crowd ever in Brazil, was the third largest in UFC history. But even more impressive than the number itself was that all tickets were sold out the first day they were put on sale.
Most of the show saw Brazilian legends come out on top, including Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Mauricio Shogun Rua and Demian Maia, as well as a Brazilian winner of a great brawl between Francisco Trinaldo and Hawaii’s Yancy Medeiros.
Cyborgs future in UFC
UFC is working on Cris Cyborg vs. Germaine de Randamie at a 140-pound catchweight fight on that Atlanta show. But on Twitter, Cyborg is denying it vehemently in both English and Portguese.
Cyborg talked about going back to Invicta to defend her title, but there is no competition at 145. Her three big money fights are Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm and Miesha Tate, who all fight at 135. At 139, she would only have to make 136, unless it’s a title fight where it would be 135, but she also said she wouldn’t do it. For reasons nobody can figure, she has made no attempt to drop her natural body weight and lose muscle to where a cut to 135 would be possible.
Holm and Tate publicly have said they’d fight her at 140, even though Tate has also said she would drop to 125 if such a weight class opened. Even though she said she’d take the fight if offered, Holm did turn down this fight. But it’s hardly in UFC’s best interest to have any of the three lose a catch-weight fight to Cyborg, because there’s only downside to the aura of their top stars with a loss far more than a gain, and they’d all be at huge size disadvantages. Plus, at this point, until we see a sign different, Rousey maybe should be considered past tense as a fighter.
UFC PPV Estimates
UFC 197 PPV estimates at this point range from 375,000 to 450,000, which isn’t bad considering Jon Jones ended up facing Ovince Saint Preux, who nobody thought could beat him.
While it’s too early to get accurate numbers, very early indications for UFC 198 indicate it did slightly under what 197 did. The depth of the card likely helped a lot since I couldn’t see Stipe Miocic vs. Fabricio Werdum on their own doing close to the first Jon Jones fight in more than a year, even though Werdum vs. Miocic looked to be a fight either could win.
UFC Hall of Fame
The first name announced for the UFC Hall of Fame class this year is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Nogueira, 39, will be the Pioneer Era inductee, which means his career must have started before 2001. There will still be a modern era fighter, a five (must have taken place five or more years ago) and a non-fighter contributor that will be announced. The ceremony takes place at Fan Expo on 7/10 and will also air live on Fight Pass.
Nogueira was generally considered the No. 2 heavyweight in the world for the next five-and-a-half years, before he competed, with all kinds of injuries, and lost quickly to Frank Mir on December 27, 2008. So that’s quite the longevity record and he’s a legitimate Hall of Famer. He was also interim UFC heavyweight champion, beating Tim Sylvia by submission, but later losing to Mir. He finished a 15 year career with a 34-10-1 record with 1 no contest. He currently works for UFC as its UFC Brazil Athletic Relations Ambassador.
7/13 UFC Fight Night
The UFC has thus far announced these fights for the 7/13 FS 1 show in Sioux Falls, SD, a rare Wednesday night show, which has Tony Ferguson vs. Michael Chiesa as the main event, plus Tim Boetsch vs. Josh Samman (very weak for a semi), Louis Smolka vs. Ben Nguyen (good flyweight fight), Kyle Noke vs. Keita Nakamura, Alexey Oliynik vs. Daniel Omielanczyk, Scott Holtzman vs. Cody Pfister, Alex Nicholson vs. Devin Clark and Rani Yahya vs. the debuting Matthew Lopez.
Bellator Cut 2 Champs
The company made a lot of big moves including dumping two of its champions. Heavyweight champion Vitali Minakov has been stripped of the title. Minakov, who has a 17-0 record, has not fought for Bellator since April 4, 2014, due to a contract dispute. Since that time he has fought three times in Russia. To make things weirder, his recent fights have aired on UFC Fight Pass. Realistically, this move should have been made a year ago.
The other champion gone is Will Brooks, the lightweight champion. Brooks’ contract was coming due and because they hadn’t been using him he had already asked for his release and they gave it to him. Since he was going to leave, it served them no purpose to have him defend the title because if he won, his leaving would make things worse.
Michael Chandler vs. Patricky Pitbull Freire was announced for 6/24 in St. Louis to fill the vacated title. The obvious problem from a legit title standpoint is that Chandler lost twice in title matches, although he still probably should be in the match.
There was no point in having Brooks win one more fight and then just go to UFC if they knew he was leaving. Brooks had noted his contract was up on 7/15, so they’ve legally given him a two month head start in talks with UFC, but at the same time, removed any leverage he had of playing both sides against each other. Brooks, who is 17-1, is a quality lightweight and whether he could be a headliner for UFC is uncertain, but he should be a guy who can compete with the top tier guys.
5/14 Bellator Show
The Main event saw Phil Davis (16-3, 1 no contest) beat King Mo Lawal (19-5, 1 no contest) on scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 to earn a shot at light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary. McGeary, who has been out with a knee injury, said he’d be ready at the end of the summer, but talked about doing the fight in New York, mentioning he’d like it at the Barclays Center.
I’m not sure about 30-27 as I thought Mo won the first round. I gave two and three to Davis but two was close. 71 percent of media members scores had it for Lawal. Lots of booing of the decision. Davis was listed at getting $60,000 and Lawal listed at $30,000.
More Hype for the Fight that Won't Happen
Floyd Mayweather Jr. spent the weekend promoting a mythical fight with Conor McGregor, including on ESPN where he claimed to have “master plan” to make the fight happen. Mayweather said McGregor is the only fighter who he would come out of retirement to fight, and said he believed it would set PPV records and hit 5 million buys.
It’s impossible to predict accurately how such a fight would do, but it would be very big. The issue is that Mayweather will only do it under boxing rules, and McGregor has almost no chance under those rules, but may also be able to get the biggest payday of his career for making himself a human sacrifice.
UFC has McGregor’s contract and they’ve never let any of their fighters do boxing, let along one of their marquee stars, because a UFC fighter going into a boxing ring against a top boxer, let alone Mayweather, has no chance and can only make the UFC fighter look bad. Mayweather also wants $100 million guaranteed plus a piece of the back-end for what is essentially a fight where he’s not even threatened. But the numbers are very different for this than any other opportunity for their fighters in the past. It may be the biggest PPV possible given combat sports characters around right now, although you don’t know if the public will see through this or it’ll catch ridiculous fire because of the personalities.
In regard to what talent is able to do outside UFC while under contract, the wording in the contracts that the fighter cannot participate in or render his services as a professional fighter or in any other capacity to any other mixed martial arts, martial arts, boxing, pro wrestling or any other fighting competition or exhibition. The standard WWE contracts also prohibit the wrestlers from doing MMA.
Canelo vs Khan PPV Numbers
Canelo Alvarez vs. Amir Khan have been reported as just shy of 600,000 buys, although other industry sources claim closer to 500,000. Considering what Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao did in their last fights (not against each other, but both did less than Alvarez did), it’s not bad, but the Cinco de Mayo boxing PPV has traditionally been a monster. Also, Khan really wasn’t a strong PPV opponent for Alvarez because most people recognized it as a tune-up fight and it still did solid business.