First, Zach Arnold points out that Dan Hardy was sponsored by HGH Infusion. Yes, HGH. You know, that huge story that is plaguing American sports right now, emphasized by Alex Rodgriguez, Barry Bonds, and MLB.
With the Alex Rodriguez debacle in baseball over steroid usage (primabolan, testosterone levels), what exquisite timing it was to see Dan Hardy being openly sponsored by HGH Infusion at UFC 95. (His other sponsors were Tapout and Pirahna Water.)
So, what is HGH Infusion? According to its manufacturers, it’s "homeopathic growth hormone" as opposed to, well, normal old Human Growth Hormone. Take a look at their marketing pitch:
- "Contains the highest grade growth hormone available."
- "Increase muscle recovery and tissue repair."
- "Naturally increases energy and weight loss."
On Friday, we posted an article from Gabriel Shapiro on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in sports (particularly in MMA) and what should or shouldn’t be done about such usage. We know that in the past that UFC has approved/disapproved of certain sponsorships for fighters, so I find it a little curious that given the heat someone like Alex Rodriguez is taking that they allowed Hardy to be sponsored by HGH InFusion, which is an American operation. Plus, UFC does their own drug testing for foreign events. While not stating on the telecast that Hardy was sponsored by HGH InFusion, UFC didn’t negate the sponsorship and they did not bother to censor or pixelate the HGH InFusion logo on TV when displayed on television.
Some questions that should be asked to the parties involved:
- Does Dan Hardy use HGH InFusion or is he merely being sponsored by the company?
- What is the reasoning for UFC approving of this type of sponsorship for a fighter in the semi-main event of a big show in London? Or did UFC not know about the specific sponsorship in question?
Will other UFC fighters be allowed to be sponsored by HGH InFusion? If so, will this sponsorship be allowed for all events (including American shows) or simply for foreign events?
Second, MMAPayout brings up another interesting situation between SPIKE TV and Full Tilt Poker:
With a collapsing ad market, the UFC recently changed their informal policy and brought in Full Tilt as a top shelf sponsor for the fight company. Full Tilt has also become a major sponsor of fighters, with their logo being omnipresent on fighter hats, shorts, and T-shirts. The road seems to have taken another turn, as MMAPayout.com has learned that UFC television partner Spike TV has stepped in and nixed Full Tilt from being a sponsor on its’ airwaves. Sources indicate the embargo on Full Tilt could go into effect as soon as this week-end’s UFC 95 card on Spike. The Full Tilt sponsorships would still be OK for PPV, since they aren’t first run on Spike. The ban affects the UFC in it’s ability to have signage on the Octagon mat as well as naming rights on the replays during the broadcast. The ban looks to affect the UFC as well as fighters, who wouldn’t be able to wear signage for the poker company.
Interesting to note that SPIKE TV did in fact allow the Full Tilt brand to be shown on the UFC 95 telecast, despite MMAPayout's reports. The brand was all over the place, so I find it very hard for SPIKE TV to be able to televise the event otherwise.
Finally, I was curious why some websites were reporting that UFC 95 did pretty good numbers despite the economy. MMAPayout shines some light on the subject with a comparison between UFC 85, which was held in the same arena and had no title bout, and UFC 95.
The MMA Insider Blog also details the attendance and gate for the show:
"The fans that did make it to the O2 Arena treated the UFC to a strong attendance of 13,268, totaling ticket revenue of slightly more than $1 million U.S. Both are considered strong numbers during tough economic times, especially with a fight card sans a championship bout."
Just for comparison, the UFC 85 card from the same O2 Arena drew a sell-out 15,327 fans and a gate of $2.93 million. That represents a near two thirds decline at the gate, on comparable attendance. This would indicate a high level of comps for the show, or deeply discounted tickets. With talk from UK fans before the card about ticket price increases, it would lead one to believe the crowd being heavily papered.
UfC 95 featured some questionable sponsors in HGH Infusion and Full Tilt Poker on the SPIKE TV telecast. Although a collapsing ad market, or perhaps just an oversight, could be the reason why the UFC is now allowing some of these gray area sponsors, you would have to question a sport/promotion tying itself to gambling and performance enhancers, especially when both steroids and gambling have historically plagued the legitimacy of national sports. It will be interesting to see if anyone else, besides Zach Arnold and MMAPayout, question these recent moves by the UFC.
This is also coming after UFC 94, where GSP vs BJ Penn gave birth to grease gate, which is still going strong since Penn is still planning on filing a formal complaint to the NSAC.
All in all, UFC 95 was a really good card with great pacing and action packed bouts. Showing 9 out of 10 fights is something any MMA fan would welcome and has been praised my many websites.