One of the top concerns as a result of the coronavirus is the overall health and safety of others. The virus, which is spreading at a rapid rate, can be shared through coughing, sneezing, and other methods of germs, and it takes 1-14 days to determine if you have tested positive for it. Health-wise, it has caused a panic across the world; a true crisis.
What about financially?
Various companies have had to either close shop or have their employees work from home. The stock market has gone down almost every single day, while events have had to cancel months in advance. In the world of MMA, all of this is happening in a big way.
FIGHT SPORTS has started a series that looks into the stats and the impact the coronavirus has on sports organizations that go out of the way to entertain us all. Today’s feature focuses on the art of cage fighting.
Before we get to brands, let’s take a look at the market today. Speaking to ABC 6’s Good Day Columbus, economic expert Neil Jesani stated the world is going through a global recession. He went on to say people shouldn’t buy and that it will be a long and hard recovery.
Let’s start with the UFC first, shall we? The top dog when it comes to events and profit, Dana White’s organization has been defiant until the bitter end when it comes to holding events. While they have taken measures to make sure the safety of the fighters is priority number one, there are concerns from all over the world, and within.
The UFC held an event in Brazil with no fans, no tests and a primetime spot on ESPN+. The result happened to be one of the lowest-rated cards in the ESPN era for the UFC. A shock when thinking there was no true competition on that Saturday.
UFC Brasilia card ratings on ESPN – average of 672,000 viewers. Lowest number of UFC on ESPN era – also streamed on ESPN+ and broadcast on ESPN Deportes.
— Trent Reinsmith (@TrentReinsmith) March 17, 2020
The UFC then had to cancel three events: London, Columbus and Oregon. Financially speaking, the big names on the cards could have brought in a profit. Let’s take a look at recent events at the locations the company was supposed to go to:
- 3/16/19 – UFC London inside the O2 Arena: Till v. Masvidal – 16,602 in attendance, $2,400,00 total gate
- 9/10/16 – UFC 203 inside the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio – 18,875 in attendance, $2,600,000 gate, $450,000 buyrate
- 10/1/16 – UFC Fight Night: Lineker vs. Dodson inside the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon – 6,240 in attendance, $501,035 gate
The UFC may have missed out on over $2,000,000 last weekend from UFC London, maybe even more. It also leaves space off of ESPN and ESPN+, the former company providing $750 million for a partnership to broadcast events. The company will rely on ESPN+ and archived footage to help keep the partnership profitable during these trying times.
One of the main concerns doesn’t have to do with the UFC directly, but with its parent company, Endeavor. The agency, which bought the UFC for over $4 billion, is on negative “CreditWatch” by S&P. According to Deadline, Endeavor was placed there as a potential drop in revenue is expected. The company has existing debt due to acquisitions such as the UFC, even if the company has been the backbone of profit. The company also represents a few of the athletes, like Conor McGregor.
UFC’s live ticketing revenue taking a drop is crucial to look into, as the negative “CreditWatch” could become valid.
“The leisure and entertainment economy is currently disproportionately hurt by fears of public gatherings. Endeavor owns, operates, or represents a number of events and entertainment properties, including Professional Bull Riders, Fashion Week, Fortnite competitions, and several European soccer leagues,” S&P said. “The events, which make up half of total revenue, “are sensitive to consumer demand for out-of-home entertainment, as well as sponsorship and advertising.”
Prior to the Nevada Athletic Commission banning combat sports until March 25, the UFC was planning on having events at the APEX Center in Las Vegas. With that axed, media revenue could be a main factor in the UFC’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). Dana White and company are still hoping to have big fights like Khabib Nurmagomedov v. Tony Ferguson take place within the next few months.
Just recently, Bellator MMA had to postpone Bellator 241, one of its biggest events of the year. Highlighted by the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix, it was meant to take place inside the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT. When it comes to events inside the casino, depending on the event, this is what Bellator has pulled off:
- 10/26/19 – Bellator 232: MacDonald v Lima 2 – 9,624 in attendance, $1,192,207 gate
- 10/25/19 – Bellator 231: Mir v. Nelson 2 – 7,919 in attendance, $857,486 gate
- 2/16/19 – Bellator 216: MVP v. Daley – 9,624 in attendance, $1,005,708 gate
- 2/15/19 – Bellator 215: Mitrione v. Kharitonov – 9,117 in attendance, $902,401 gate
Bellator 241would have had Patricio Freire defend his Featherweight Title against Pedro Carvalho in a Team Pitbull v. SBG Ireland bout. Due to the dramatic nature of the rivalry between the two groups, as well as DAZN’s nine-figure streaming contract with Bellator, the promotion lost out on a gate that may have even surpassed MacDonald v. Lima. Speaking with MMA Junkie, Bellator President Scott Coker understood the financial difficulties that came with postponing the event.
“It wasn’t even a consensus of the outside looking in. It was the inside looking out – how our fellow staffers, production people, some of the fighters and corners felt. It was the right thing to do,” Coker stated.
“Just so you know, fighters were paid,” Coker continued. Officials were paid. Cutmen were paid. All of the producers, the lighting guys, everybody got paid. Nobody was shortchanged. We want to make sure everybody had what they thought they were going to get. Everybody gets to go home and be with their families now.”
What is Viacom, Bellator’s parent company, doing about all of this? With a variety of platforms to worry about, the entertainment company formed an #AloneTogether campaign. To be socially aware, Bellator will be joining in.
“We’ll be here to keep you company.”
It is not only Bellator and the UFC that are dealing with these issues. ONE Championship has had to cancel multiple events, as well as Combat Americas, KSW, Cage Fury Fighting Championships, Legacy Fighting Alliance, ACA MMA and more.
Gyms are also closed, which has affected several fighters. This is especially true when groups of 10+ aren’t allowed to congregate. At one point, it was 50, which made it easier for some places.
“As of right now, (we’re) trying to calm a lot of the members down and calm a lot of the coaches and everyone else,” Eric Nicksick, head coach of Xtreme Couture, stated to MMA Junkie. “This is all of our livelihoods, and I understand that. I guess the one saving grace is that we’re all on the same boat, so we’re just trying to figure this out. It’s new to everybody, and really just take care of one another right now.”
With the UFC still holding events, it is unknown when one can get cancelled. That results in doubts over gym time, travel and monetary situations.
“How do we stay sharp? We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Nicksick continued. “From my understanding, the word ‘postponed’ has been for those fights, not ‘canceled.’ So I try to keep these guys’ mindset ready where it’s like we might fight, but we just don’t know when. But again, it’s hard.”
At the end of the day, sponsorships, training, TV rights and overall revenue have been affected by the coronavirus. As time goes on, will there be progress? In the end, the MMA world might see a dip in profit, something nobody ever thought was possible ten years ago.