Ratings Report: UFC on FX 8 pulls average numbers
Saturday night's final UFC main card on FX did right at the viewership average for that type of show.
UFC on FX 8, from Santa Catarina, Brazil, headlined by Vitor Belfort's first-round TKO of former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, averaged 1.3 million viewers for the two-hour prime time broadcast. The number is identical to the average of the previous seven main cards in prime time on the network. If including the other three main cards on the station, all Ultimate Fighter finals, the average is still 1.3 million viewers.
Belfort headlined UFC on FX 7, on Jan. 19, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, in a fight with Michael Bisping that set the series record with 1.86 million viewers. The other live main cards on the station have ranged from just under 1 million viewers to 1.4 million.
With the move to Fox Sports 1 in August, FX has only five UFC broadcasts remaining, which are the prelims leading to four pay-per-views, the next being Saturday's UFC 160, and prelims for the July 27 show from Seattle on FOX.
The three hours of prelims on Fuel drew a 0.35 rating and 156,000 viewers. The previous prelims on Jan. 19 drew a 0.47 rating and 255,000 viewers. But Saturday's figure was up 18 percent from the 132,000 viewer Fuel prelims before FX shows had averaged over the past 17 months since UFC's contract with FOX went into effect.
UFC 160 videos
UFC 160 videos are your home for pre-fight and post-fight interviews, highlights, Dana White vlogs and much more for the UFC 160 fight week. In the UFC 160 main event, Cain Velasquez will try to defend his UFC heavyweight title against Antonio Silva.
In Dana White's first vlog for UFc 160, it shows behind the scenes at UFC 159. Check out the video above to see Bryan Caraway and Pat Healy taking about submission of the night, Michael Bisping, Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones before their fights, and much more.
Alistair Overeem vs. Travis Browne set for UFC on FOX Sports 1 debut
The inaugural card for UFC on FOX Sports 1 is taking shape. Former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem will take on Greg Jackson-trained Travis Browne as part of that event's main card.
However, it will not serve as the event's headlining bout, according to MMA Junkie who first reported the story. MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani has confirmed the booking.
UFC on FOX Sports 1's first event takes place at the TD Garden in Boston, Mass. on Aug. 17th. The event is part of the launch of the new sports channel, which goes live and operational that day.
Browne, 30, most recently competed for the UFC in April where he defeated Gabriel Gonzaga by first-round knockout at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada. While the win was controversial due to the location of some of Browne's elbows to the back of Gonzaga's head, and Gonzaga formally protested the result to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the win was not overturned. Browne is 5-1-1 in the UFC and 14-1-1 in professional MMA.
Overeem, 33, last competed at UFC 156 where he was upset in a stoppage loss by Antonio Silva in the third round of their February tussle. The Blackzillian is 1-1 overall in the UFC with his lone victory being a first-round TKO stoppage of former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar at UFC 141 in December of 2011. He is 36-12 with 1 no-contest in professional MMA.
Roundtable: UFC 160, retired fighters' grievances, and Vitor Belfort
The UFC's big heavyweight doubleheader, featuring current champion Cain Velasquez and former titleholder Junior dos Santos in the top two bouts, is just days away. But that's just one item in an eclectic array of subjects on our plate here at The MMA Roundtable this week.
Former fighters came out of the woodwork to air their grievances, from the recently retired John Cholish, who gave his thoughts on the UFC's pay structure, to Luke Cummo, who posted a YouTube rant against the entire sport.
Oh, and we also have the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of Vitor Belfort and TRT.
It's my pleasure, then, to have MMAFighting.com senior editor Luke Thomas join me for the latest edition of the Roundtable.
1. Is there any reason to believe that when the dust settles after Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva and Junior dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt on Saturday, we won't have a Velasquez-dos Santos trilogy fight lined up?
Doyle: It's pretty easy to look at the two top matches at UFC 160 and assume that by Sunday, the Velasquez vs. dos Santos trilogy will be etched in stone. After all, you saw the first Velasquez-Bigfoot fight, right? And you do recall that, even though we all tend to judge fighters by their last performance prior to his title loss to Velasquez, dos Santos mowed down everyone else in his path over the span of five years, right?
Sounds like a cut-and-dried case. But then I remember that in the week leading up to Velasquez-dos Santos II, nearly everyone picked dos Santos to win and swore Velasquez had no realistic path to victory. In fact, Mike Bohn's pre-fight media poll on MMAMania.com had unanimous dos Santos picks. And you all saw what happened there.
Bottom line? I still think Velasquez-dos Santos III is a fairly safe bet. But we're still talking about heavyweights here. One punch changes everything. Bigfoot unleashing his wrath is one of the sport's scariest sights. What happens if Silva avoids Velasquez's takedown this time? Or, what if dos Santos is gun shy in his first fight back after taking a horrific beating? If either happens, all bets are off.
Thomas: I suspect we will and for many of the reasons Dave lists. It is a heavyweight fight, which means it doesn't take much for change to be affected.
I'd also add that Bigfoot is a limited fighter, but one with pretty technical skills and a decent fight IQ. His poor strategy cost him against Velasquez (partly), so that's something he can correct. And it was good strategy that helped him win the Alistair Overeem bout.
The problem, though, is that strategy wasn't the only reason Bigfoot lost to Velasquez the first time. He came up short because of his inability to get up off the bottom. Most importantly, there's a monstrous speed differential between the two heavyweights. There's really not much Silva can do to narrow that gap. He's just short on that end. Given the athletic differences here and Velasquez's superior wrestling, I'd say Silva's road to a title here is not so obvious.
2. From John Cholish to Jacob Volkmann to Chris Weidman to Matt Riddle, there are a ton of complaints about UFC and Bellator payouts and contracts. Is there any big picture takeaway from this?
Thomas: I'd say that there's probably some element of paranoia and incorrectly-articulated information. How much? Likely a very minor share, but every actor in this play has an axe to grind. And as they say, there's two sides to every story. I also have a bit of skepticism for accusations of sleight of hand or contractual malfeasance.
What I do believe, however, is that the current climate of MMA contracts from the UFC to Bellator to even regional shows favor the promoter. The only real leverage a fighter has is there popularity or status, e.g. middleweight champion. If a fighter has little of either, then they have little of anything. There is no collective bargaining agreement or legal minimum standard or the like. It's true in any line of work that the only thing you contractually get is what you can negotiate, but it's also true what you can negotiate is a function of one's own might. Most fighters have little.
Until that changes, I suspect complaints about contracts and pay and similarly related items won't be going away any time soon.
Doyle: I'm with Luke here. I know it sounds cold, but it comes down to the basics of supply and demand. It's not like anyone was going to make a decision on staying in to watch UFC on FX 8 based on whether John Cholish was on the card. I don't mean to pick on Cholish, he just happens to be the person who spoke up in this particular situation. It could apply to anyone. If you're an undercard fighter in the UFC making $6,000 to show and $6K to win, and you don't like the terms of your deal, there are dozens of other fighters who will accept the opportunity and take your spot in a heartbeat.
Tuesday, ESPN announced it was laying off several hundred people, despite the fact that parent corporation Disney makes money hand over fist. Is that fair? We live in an economic climate in which a few people rake in all the money and everyone else fights for the crumbs. "Fair" doesn't enter the equation, regardless of the industry.
It's up to their fighters to improve their lot. Wholesale changes would require the ones at the top of the heap, those making the most money, to rock the boat. Can you see any of the headliners on the upcoming pay-per-views boycotting a fight card in order to make sure John Cholish gets paid better? I think we know the answer to that one.
3. Eccentric retired fighter Luke Cummo recently posted a diatribe against mixed martial in which he said, among other things, "It's a mindless, stupid industry profiting from the spilled blood of the innocent, honest to God." Is this just the bitterness of someone who didn't make it to the top, or is there validity to his words?
Doyle: I don't want to disparage anyone who's stepped into the cage and competed. I can imagine it's frustrating to look back at all the years of effort and sacrifice and wonder if it was worth it, especially in a sport with such a heavy physical toll.
Still, it's not like Cummo wasn't given a fair shot. He trained with an elite gym in the Serra-Longo Fight Club and competed in the UFC for thee years. He was retained by the company even after dropping two of his first three UFC fights. He was 3-4 in the UFC and 6-6 overall when he was let go in 2008, which is where his career ended. He had his chance and he simply didn't get there.
Cummo's right about one thing: MMA is a heartless business. Like any other large sports or entertainment enterprise, the big machine carries on without you. But no one forced Luke Cummo to become a mixed martial artist. We're all adults responsible for making our own choices. Maybe this was just Cummo being Cummo. Maybe this is really how he feels. But we're all ultimately responsible for our own life's paths and Cummo's rants sound a bit too much like blaming the system for one's own choices.
Thomas: Other than saying Luke Cummo has an opinion here, I'm not sure what else to say. I'm also certainly no doctor or psychologist, but did anyone feel something was 'off' about Cummo when he talked? Like, did no one else get the sense he wasn't all there? Could just be me, but his never before seen underbite pausing between breathy sentences seemed a bit detached from it all.
Still, it's his opinion. It's not one I share, but we also don't share the same value system. If we're asking to what extent MMA contributes objectively toward human flourishing, one can make an argument both ways. I tend to think the good outweighs the bad.
Either way, I don't think this has much to do with Cummo's success or lack thereof at the elite level. He seems to have grown apart from MMA and is in a completely new phase of his life. Whatever the merits of his argument, I think they're genuine if rather misguded. No sour grapes. Plenty of weird grapes, though.
4. Will the amount of scrutiny Vitor Belfort is raising about TRT spill over onto other fighters who up to this point haven't been as criticized?
Thomas: I've been thinking about this all weekend and as of now, I'm inclined to say yes.
I find the charges that the English-speaking, Anglo media is focused on Vitor Belfort because he isn't one of 'us' to be a really poor argument. Belfort's situation is unique for any number of reasons, most notably the physical alteration and dramatic career success he's having at this late juncture in his career. If there's a poster child for TRT, Belfort is it. It's true others have had far more uneven experiences on the drug, but all of that sort of underscores my point.
I do suspect the level at which Belfort has lifted the pretension and phoniness that used to surround the conversation around TRT will have an effect on other uses. Just how much is anyone's guess, but I think it's probably fair to say there's a more open atmosphere about TRT's effects and the reasons for a fighter's usage now. But the truth is also that Belfort's erratic behavior exacerbates inquiries into his own use. Dan Henderson gets around the issue by basically dodging it and keeping his nose clean. Ditto for Chael Sonnen (albeit to a slightly lesser extent). So yes, other fighters should be prepared for more forced inquiries, but as long as they don't duck and dodge or threaten the physical safety of other reporters, they'll probably be just fine.
Doyle: I don't know that it necessarily will. The main crux of the problem is that Belfort's case is so blatant. He's the one with a steroid suspension on his record. He's the one who has been fighting outside of commission purview. He's the one with the most blatant "before and after" photos this side of Barry Bonds. And he's the one who's been most flippant about the whole process. Frankly, if whomever wins the Anderson Silva-Chris Weidman bout in July refuses to fight Belfort, I wouldn't blame either of them.
My guess is Belfort is going to continue to take the brunt of it. Sonnen seems to be out of the title picture once and for all. Henderson's not going to be around a lot longer, and the fact he lost his past fight to someone a decade his junior also deflects some of the heat. Belfort's the poster boy for TRT at the moment. And similar to how the baseball players who put up astronomical home run numbers became the focus of steroid attention, the fighter who has most benefited from TRT will likewise come under the biggest microscope.
Recent MMA retiree John Cholish now lobbying for UFC to raise fighter pay
It didn't take long for John Cholish to begin being outspoken since retiring from mixed martial arts. The now former UFC lightweight announced on Saturday via Twitter prior to his UFC on FX 8 bout with Gleison Tibau that win or lose, he was bowing out of the sport. Cholish eventually lost, but he hadn't even boarded a plane back to the United States before he began speaking out about the reasons why he was retiring on why fighter pay in the UFC could and should be higher than what it is today.
"The main reason behind it is just I do kind of have another job that provides for me and it got to the point where I really had to sit back and say, ‘You know, all the sacrifices that I'm making - time away from family, time away from friends - is it really worth what I'm getting in return?'," Cholish told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "For the love of the sport I was pretty much doing it the whole time, but then it gets to the point where financially it just doesn't make any sense."
Cholish spends his days as an energy trader on Wall Street after having graduated from Cornell University. While he acknowledges his day job is more than sufficient as an enjoyable, financially-rewarding career, his experience in the UFC caused him to believe his situation was particularly unique and ultimately very lucky. If he wanted to bow out of MMA, he could. "For some of the fighters that fight full time," Cholish observed, "I just don't understand how they can live off the income at this level." Others, in other words, weren't so lucky.
Cholish's story is basically this: he loved MMA and wanted to test himself at the highest level. When he got the opportunity to do so in the UFC, he took it. Yet, along the way, he noticed the financials in his experience were hard to understand. Even at points where he was winning bouts and earning discretionary bonuses, he was barely breaking even. In some cases, like his fight last Saturday, he was losing money just to compete.
"To kind of give a brief overview, why I'm here talking to you today is I just think a lot of fighters feel the exact same way I do, but are just in a situation or position where there, for a lack of a better word, just scared to say anything about it because they're worried about the repercussions," Cholish said.
Cholish believes a look at the UFC fighter pay arithmetic doesn't, well, add up. At least not for someone at his level.
"But just for a basic example. So Danny [Castillo] I know trains out of California. He had to travel to New Jersey [for a bout with Cholish]. I live in New York. I had to travel to Brazil. You're fighting in a sport, mixed martial arts, with a wide range of skills and tactics and a lot of people will have multiple coaches.
"You're allowed three corners for each fight, but you're only in your contract, and for me personally, I only get one coach's flight and one hotel room and cover one visa," Cholish said. "I know just from this last fight. I had to pay over $3,000 in flights. I had to pay for an additional hotel room. I had to pay for two additional visas which are $500 a piece. I have to pay for the licensing fees. I have to pay for the medicals.
Cholish says he made $8,000 for his Saturday bout. He estimates once you factor in costs required simply to travel to Brazil with his team, he's in the hole $5,000 to $10,000.
"Before you even step to the ring, your original purse is gone," Cholish claimed. "And that's before factoring in the gyms I go to train at, my coaches that take hours of time to sacrifice. I want to pay them and take care of them. It just seems like certain things could be handled better and the fighter could be treated better for an organization that claims to be the best in the world in mixed martial arts."
His ask is simple if controversial: pay the fighters more. Cholish believes the UFC could do more to pay fighters greater wages, particularly at the low end, without taking a dramatic hit to a pocketbook he views as very full.
"I can say from how I've been treated indirectly and just my understanding of what I think the UFC takes in on an annual basis, they could compensate the lower-level fighters and without going into detail the upper-level fighters a little bit better," Cholish claimed.
"I think if you're a fighter on the lower level, you should at least be getting enough income - win or lose in your fight - so that in a three-month period of time or two-month period of time, whatever the fight camp may be, you can go into that fight fully focused on the fight, performing your best as opposed to worrying about, ‘Man, you know, financially how can I prepare? Cut corners?'"
The Ivy League college graduate believes if one takes the time to see the sources of revenue UFC and parent company Zuffa take in, it isn't hard to make a case there's more money to go around to the fighters who could desperately use a raise.
"I think last year the average UFC ticket price was about $200 to $250. For an average sporting event in America, it's about $100 for a ticketed event. So, they're already double what the average price is," he insisted.
"Last year they had 31 events that ranged in 11 different countries. 13 of those were pay-per-view," he said. Cholish estimates the UFC is averaging between 300,000 to 350,000 buys per pay-per-view event. "That's generating, roughly, 4.5 million buys per year. That's $275 million, and that's just with their pay-per-views.
"They're kind of shifting more toward the contracted revenue, which would be FOX Sports, their Globo deal," he continued. "They signed a seven-year deal with FOX Sports and I know the Sports Business Journal quoted it roughly $100 million a year for seven years. I think it's probably more than that, but that's what they said. That's another $700 million.
"When you look at guys getting paid $6,000 to fight, $8,000 to fight, $10,000 to fight, I think if you add five to that number, ten to that number, it does a lot for the fighter. It secures their livelihood for their family and on the flip side, it doesn't hurt the UFC as much. I think they're going to get better performances because the fighters are going to be more focused on the fight."
UFC officials have yet to formally comment on Cholish's statements.
The New York-based fighter is speaking out now, largely because he believes it's important to do so. He also knows it's easier to do once you've moved on from the organization or sport itself. He contends active fighters feel pressure not to complain in a sport where there's really only one big show and that big show is looking to make tough roster cuts any day now.
As for his future, he isn't entirely sure what it will be. He enjoys his day job and has no intention of leaving it to stay in the industry. Cholish acknowledges in a sport where the top earners have little incentive to unionize, getting fighters together for collective action can be hard to come by. But, there is another group Cholish believes that could be influential in getting fighters greater pay.
"The fans, I think, are the biggest ones that can influence what a company does," he said. "The fans are the ones that bring the revenue to Zuffa and if that ever decreased, that's something they're going to take notice at. Until then, I think it's going to be hard for an individual fighter to do anything. I'm just hoping I can shed a little bit of light on it."
Cholish isn't planning any full scale attack on his former employers, who he acknowledges "aren't doing anything wrong" legally speaking even if he has ethical and practical concerns. At the moment, he's just voicing his opinion because he wants to and can without the fear of retribution.
He leaves MMA with a record of 8-3, 1-2 inside the Octagon. That's a commendable if not entirely impressive record. Cholish himself doesn't necessarily disagree and wonders whether for the sport he loves, he can do more outside of it than competing within it.
"I think now I might be able to add more value being able to speak out and kind of give me opinion," he said. "Hopefully it encourages other fighters to speak up and do the same, but in the end I just want to do what's best for the sport."