Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Choice of a NOS Generation

By: Rich Bergeron

It's only fitting that Xyience's star is falling and the brand is collapsing into debt just as Coca Cola's NOS brand of energy drinks cements a spot as the top sponsor of The Ultimate Fighter. TUF is the show that put Xyience on the map in the first place, so it's a strange coincidence.

News is trickling in lately surrounding the stable of fighters Xyience once sponsored, and it sounds like Xyience and Xenergy are at DEFCON X. Virtually all of the current UFC fighters on "Team Xyience" were cut from their sponsorship deals in recent days and weeks, and inside sources say the company owes at least 1.5 million dollars to Cott, the beverage giant responsible for creating and canning Xenergy. Without a bailout from the same Fertitta Family that owns the majority of the UFC, the company could be headed for a second bankruptcy or a fire sale. Fertitta Enterprises still owns and operates the brand, but a recent ultimatum from Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta forced the brand to make attempts to stand on its own without further financing from the billionaire brothers.

Inside sources also report that the Fertittas and UFC President and Part-Owner Dana White recently tried to convince Coca Cola's NOS brand to replace Xenergy as an official UFC sponsor. Right now NOS does not appear in any other octagon outside of the one on the TUF series. It's a relationship that the company fostered more with the Fox network than with the UFC itself. Yet, Dana is always drinking from his can of NOS whenever the show's camera crew catches him with one in hand. That's pretty interesting considering in past years fighters were sometimes caught "drinking" from closed Xyience cans. Dana's can is always open, much like his mouth.

What makes the NOS connection even more interesting is the fact that only a little less than six years ago, Dana White was telling NBC Sports that the UFC didn't need Coke's sponsorship:

“I’m cool with Mickey’s and Toyo Tires, man, believe me, you’ll never hear me bitch. The way that we’ve run this business and the way we have come up, think about it… we didn’t have any mainstream press, we didn’t have any mainstream sponsors, and look at how huge we are. I don’t ******* need Coke to keep doing what we’re doing, man. Believe me, the big time sponsors if they come on, of course that’d be fantastic. I don’t need ‘em. 18-to-34 year old males, they’re here hanging out with me. If Coke wants them, Coke needs to come to us.”

Suddenly it seems that White's words have come back to haunt the UFC, and apparently Coke still holds a grudge and won't bite on the league's multi-million dollar price tag to move their branding beyond the reality show. They don't need actual UFC fighters to flaunt their brand, either. The same tired commercial featuring a flashy, overconfident MMA fighter getting dropped with one punch is the new standard for NOS when it comes to marketing to the TUF fan base. And you can tell the winner of the fight in the commercial is really drinking from the can in the TV spot. He chugs it so fast, much of it ends up dripping down his face. Another jab at the UFC, although it seems unintentional, is the fact that the whole made-for-TV fight happens inside a ring, not a cage.

The Fertitta-run Xyience is in crisis mode these days, recently laying off multiple sales personnel and leaving the rest of the staff in fear of an imminent implosion. The company the Fertittas surreptitiously acquired by stealing it out from under hundreds of earnest investors is now a money pit. The Fertittas don't seem to want to spend the capital to keep the operation going despite getting a hold of the company for a song. It's the ultimate payback for all those shareholders who didn't get a dime out of the deal when the Fertittas purposely bankrupted the company and then retained ownership through a scandalous scheme involving former Cott executives pretending to enter into a serious purchase agreement only to later default on that deal.

For a little while the Fertittas made all the right moves to make the brand appear stable and ready to X-pand. Sponsorship deals with top-notch fighters like Jon Jones and Anthony Pettis appeared to be signs of the brand's resurgence as a key UFC sponsor. None of the fighters pictured above represent the brand any longer according to inside sources at the floundering supplement company. For Matt Serra, this marks the second time he's getting screwed for associating with Xyience. His prize for winning The Ultimate Fighter ended up getting wiped out by the company's bankruptcy, and he was the only fighter from that Xyience stable to come back to the brand before Chuck Liddell came out of Xyience retirement in recent months. Since Liddell's sponsorship agreement came with a pre-paid setup, he is among the last of the Mohicans still repping the brand. That's also fitting seeing as his initial Xyience sponsorship was one of the most lucrative deals in the history of the sport at the time of his first signing with the company.

The operation of Xyience once the Fertittas had control of it certainly betrays their attitude toward the fighters they employ in the UFC. It shows these silver-spoon billionaires just don't give a damn about the people who line their pockets. These recent developments illustrate an underlying selfishness on the part of the UFC's royal family that pervades everything they do. Xyience only mattered to them when it was a way to get a HUGE LOAN or a way to pay the UFC with the same money they used to get the chief lien position over the company just before they rigged the bankruptcy process to work in their favor.

At the moment my own legal battle with Xyience and the Fertittas is in limbo. I've been waiting for the right moment to ask for a final hearing on my remaining claim asking for millions of dollars in sanctions against the Fertittas and their associates who made the whole fraudulent bankruptcy possible by silencing my reporting. Should Xyience and Xenergy fold due to the Fertittas failing to put their own money up to bail their UFC sponsor out, it will be the perfect cap stone for the case I've built brick by brick and year by year to prove that Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta only wanted Xyience to be a going concern if it operated as a personal piggy bank. Without any way to siphon money off the brand or use the brand to make the UFC look better than it actually is, the Fertittas just don't need it. Sadly, this has been the trend as long as Xyience has been in business. It's been passed from one abusive management and ownership crew to the next. Everyone seems to find a way to smack it around and treat it like another red headed stepchild with no real identity or meaningful purpose for living and thriving.

What seems to get lost in translation to most of the fans who stumble onto this story is that there are real victims behind this ongoing scandal. As the saga continues to unfold the people who suffered most are only reminded of the savings they invested into the fledgling Xyience. They saw all their hard-earned dollars put into the company get wiped out by a couple of scumbag brothers who have way too much money to begin with. Some of the children of these victims had to forego college. For many, their retirement plans were catastrophically altered. The money some of them spent their entire lives putting away for a rainy day is just gone, flushed down the drain by the careless and ruthless actions of a couple of casino barons who had all their wealth passed down to them from Daddy Dearest. They will never know what it is to truly earn a paycheck, but those they victimized over the years to keep themselves healthy and wealthy will always know what it's like to lose everything and have to start over.  

Let it be known that the Fertittas just don't care about real people with real struggles. They don't have any genuine concern for their own fighters, and they don't get bent out of shape in ruining families just to make themselves a little richer. Making things right for every individual they burned in the Xyience bankruptcy would be a drop in the bucket for these two billionaires with their ever-growing business empires, but they choose to ignore the suffering and act like it never happened.

While I never rooted for Xyience to fail in the past, it seems to be sweet justice to see it failing now. I seriously doubt my fledgling BOYCOTT XYIENCE campaign made a dent, but I'm at least proud that I never really gave up the struggle to educate the public about who the Fertittas really are and where their motivations really lie. I will never forget the people who really put Xyience in position to be successful in the first place, and I will cherish the day I am allowed to put Frank and Lorenzo on the witness stand to answer some real hard hitting questions about the damage they've done and the lives they've destroyed in the name of pure greed.

In all honesty, I hope Xyience doesn't fail just yet. I hope that the Fertittas actually sink a few more million into trying to make it work. I hope they invest just enough so they wind up losing as much as the people they've screwed over the years have lost for believing the brand would be taken care of by the UFC owners. Now that would be real justice. Here's to hoping Karma catches up to these corrupt and spineless scamsters, so even if the burned Xyience shareholders don't get any financial relief they can at least get a little revenge...served with a cold can of Xenergy.   

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