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UFC Reportedly Loses ‘Huge’ New Sponsorship After Online Poker Indictments

(“I survived the Full Tilt Poker bust and all I got was this crappy jacket.” Too soon? Pic: WSOP.com)

The federal indictments lobbed at three top poker websites late last week – including noted fight sponsor Full Tilt Poker – continue to cause a troubling ripple effect in the MMA world, new reports indicate. You may have already seen the stories over the weekend about how much the sudden absence of such poker site dough may or may not adversely affect the bottom line of individual fighters, but notable sports business reporter Darren Rovell (who works a lot on ESPN) now says the charges against Full Tilt also mean the loss of an important upcoming deal for the UFC.

“The UFC had a huge new sponsorship deal on the table with Full Tilt that will now go out the window with the feds bust,” Rovell tweeted on Monday afternoon.  This came on the heels of a story from MMA Junkie quoting agent Ken Pavia saying the poker shutdown “will severely impact fighters’ sponsor revenue, which traditionally matched their show pay for our televised clients.”

So yeah, any time big sponsors drop out (or get indicted) and their money gets taken out of the pockets of fighters and the coffers of the only important company left in the industry, we have to do the Dennis Hopper voice again: Bad things, man. For those of you who may have actually gone outside or done things with friends/family over the weekend, a short recap of the story and some reflection on what it might mean for MMA are after the jump.

Essentially, the feds charged Full Tilt, Poker Stars and Absolute Poker (basically every poker site you’ve ever heard of) with fraud, illegal gambling and money laundering last week. Uncle Sam accuses these companies of “tricking regulators and banks into processing billions of dollars of illegal Internet gambling proceeds,” according to the initial report from Reuters.

MMA has long enjoyed a weird relationship with poker, with a litany high profile fighters and at least one high profile veteran voice of the Octagon who fancy themselves quite the players. While poker sponsorships are reportedly not currently allowed in the UFC (possibly because it was working on its own sponsorship with Full Tilt? Just thinking out loud there …), the company’s website does regularly sponsor its own online tournaments (not for pay, we assume) and Full Tilt was already one of the major sponsors of Strikeforce.

For SF, the loss of that money can only be viewed as yet another blow against the embattled MMA company, though perhaps a less significant one now that it’s merely part of the Zuffa portfolio. Still, Pavia made the situation sound pretty dire for some of his clients: “I would venture to say the poker industry is equal to (the) apparel industry as the No. 1 sponsor of fighters outside the UFC,” he said.

Manager Sam Spira also called the indictments a “disturbing development,” though it should be noted that most Full Tilt fighter sponsorships were for the company’s free-play “.net” address, which is still operational. Zuffa of course will more easily be able to replace the sponsorship money than the individual fighters, so (surprise!) news of the indictments will likely have a much worse affect on the workers on the ground than the guys upstairs in the big glass offices.

Granted, it remains to be seen how any of this will play out, but (as is usually the case with federal indictments) our guess is: Not very well.

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KINGMADE- April 19, 2011 at 11:48 pm
I own a lawn company and Full Tilt was how I survived the winter. I fucking hate our GOV and the DOJ can come lick my hairy ball sack. Shit has to change.
CungwantsCookies- April 19, 2011 at 5:18 pm
i live in a gambling town/state and in new orleans it aint the gambling that killing us its the crooked fucking politicians. well that and 24 hour access to cheap liquor, strippers, and fried food.
ReX13- April 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm
NP9000 >> Yeah, man, i'm pretty much in agreement with RNCyomamma on this subject. Sorry, forgot to use the sarcasm font.
Nut Puncher 9000- April 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm
@Rex13 - Yes Tax it, since when does the Gov care about anything that doesn't involve money?taxes?? Why do you think Prostitution is illegal????

@Jimbonics - Actually, contrary to popular belief, all lottery funds go to a general fund for the govt to be used for whatever they want. Even though Lottery funds were all supposed to be education, lawmakers (congress) changed that little tidbit to all go general the day before the vote.

And as for this huge sponsorship deal...Poker and MMA arent going anywhere...there will be another giant poker site that appears soon enough. When we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars it wont be held down for long.
danomite- April 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm
So how much longer before they start going after the Sportsbetting sites?
Fried Taco- April 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm
Thankfully I switched all my investments from online poker to Açaí Berry Diets.
Me likey- April 19, 2011 at 11:26 am
these non us companies payed no taxes and commited money laundering and bank fraud. it is just another example of a big company doing shady business.
i don't want the government regulationg every little thing i do but i don't have much sympathy for huge overseas corporations circumventing the united states laws.
RNCyomama- April 19, 2011 at 11:03 am
Gambling, prostitution, drugs. Legalize and tax all of 'em. Let people learn some personal responsibility or it'll thin out the herd. Win/win.
PERPATRAITOR- April 19, 2011 at 10:22 am
So it was a scam??? I want my fucking money back!! Shit I think I still have $.20. Who the fuck is running things at fulltilt? M-1 global!?!?
Steve W- April 19, 2011 at 9:57 am
More moral policing. Government as usual.

Despicable!
jimbonics- April 19, 2011 at 9:51 am
drago, most states use a LOT of the proceeds from lotteries towards education and the like.
 
But yeah, this is total bullshit. I've gotten like 5 checks from FullTilt between 100-200 bucks. Shit was fun.
italia furia- April 19, 2011 at 9:40 am
i can't state enough how much i hate the Bing rollover ad to the right of the screen...goddamn those things
dragoman- April 19, 2011 at 9:38 am
Poker illegal but fuckin' scratch tickets and Mega Millions totally fine. Makes perfect sense.
Tuggernuts- April 19, 2011 at 9:26 am
Thats it. I'm moving to Thailand, all the gambling and lady boys I want!
Fried Taco- April 19, 2011 at 9:25 am
Sucks because I just finished getting my Full Tilt tattoo done.
ReX13- April 19, 2011 at 9:24 am
Tax it? Admit it, KidCC, you're a dirty socialist.
knucklesamitch- April 19, 2011 at 9:24 am
@Kid Clam Curtains,

Gambling is illegal is most of the country because the Gov't feels the need to protect those who are too stupid to stop themselves from gambling away their rent/mortgage money. Just a guess. But it seems like a decent one.

I assume the allure of "easy money" is too much temptation for people who really can't afford to lose.
Kid Clam Curtains- April 19, 2011 at 9:19 am
Why is gambling illegal in this country? Legalize it everywhere and tax it, you fuckpigs.
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