Nate Quarry, who is a TUF veteran and former UFC middleweight title challenger, is involved in a class action lawsuit against the UFC, and stands out as one of the promotion’s most outspoken critics. One of the issues that gets the former fighter most fired up is the UFC’s outfitting deal with sports apparel giant Reebok, which pays fighters small sums to wear Reebok clothes in place of the sponsorship deals they would initially pursue themselves. At this stage, it’s been made quite clear that most fighters actually lost money as a result of this deal. According to Quarry, however, it’s worse than most of us can imagine.
Quarry tore the UFC-Reebok deal to shreds on the latest episode of BJ Penn Radio.
“What a slap to the face,” he said of the outfitting deal. “You have [UFC President ]Dana White saying, ‘this is what’s best for the sport, I hear it from these athletes all the time that they don’t want to deal with these sponsors, so you know what? We signed with Reebok, and the athletes are getting 100% of the money, it’s the best deal ever.’”
“Donald Trump and Dana White are like twin brothers from another mother,” he continued. “I don’t know how this happened, where he’s just telling us what he thinks we want to hear, where it’s just complete and total bullshit.”
Quarry then gave a clear example of the financial loss fighters can experience as a result of the Reebok deal, using his own career for context.
“I’m looking at this Reebok deal, and going, well, let’s see. Eight years ago when my last fight was, against Jorge Rivera, through the sweat blood and tears of my agent, Gary Ibarra from the AMR Group, I got roughly $45,000 in sponsors. He made all the phone calls, he collected all the money, he just gave me the cash, and I wore [the logos on my clothes]. $45,000 – that was awesome. According to the Reebok deal, with my tenth fight in the UFC, I would have been worth $5,000. $5,000! A 90% pay cut! And you have Dana saying, ‘oh the athletes, they don’t want to deal with these sponsors.’ Well, let me give you a scenario. So I’m a fighter now and Joe’s Chicken Shack wants me to wear a t-shirt of his. ‘Hey fighter, I’d like to pay you $10,000 to wear this t-shirt.’ No thank you! It’s obscene. That’s it. If you don’t want to deal with sponsors and collect their money, just say no thanks!”
Quarry then broke down the evolution of fighter sponsorship in the UFC, from the halcyon days of ‘wear whatever you want,’ to the present ‘wear exactly what we say’ era.
“When we started fighting, it was ‘well, you can have whatever sponsors you want, cause we really can’t pay you that much, so you can make up for it with the sponsors.’ Then as the UFC got bigger it was ‘well, we need to approve your sponsors. We need to make sure that they present the image that we want the world to see.’ Then it was ‘you can’t have any conflicting sponsors. The UFC is signed with Harley Davidson, so you can’t have a Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, any other brand. And you can’t even have Harley, because Harley only goes to the huge shows and does the ones they want to do, but in all honesty, all of their money’s going to the UFC and they don’t have any money to spend on the fights.’ Then it was, ‘sponsors have to pay us $50,000 for the pleasure of sponsoring you in the UFC.’ Then it was ‘your sponsors have to pay us $100,000 to sponsor you.’ Then it was ‘you can’t have any sponsors except for Reebok.’”
From there, Quarry explained how the UFC’s ever-tightening restrictions on sponsorship cost him a major deal at the height of his career:
“The UFC scared away all the sponsors,” he said. “I was sponsored by AND1 basketball shoes. They were paying me more than the UFC was. After a year, that’s when the UFC implemented the $50,000 fee to the UFC. So I go to AND1 and I go ‘man, I’m so sorry, we have this contract but now the UFC wants you to pay them $50,000 to sponsor me’, and AND1 just told me, ‘we’re not going to pay them. They’re already billionaires, are you kidding me? We want to support you because you’re broke!’”
“So I lost my AND1 sponsorship.”
Finally, a fired up Nate Quarry explained his belief that this troublesome Reebok deal – and most of the UFC’s problems – can be attributed to the insatiable greed of the men who run the ship.
“They’re just so incredibly greedy and selfish,” he said. It astounds me, these are guys where it’s just never enough for them. That’s the way it is with these big organizations. They always say ‘oh my god, you’re living your dream.’ This is just ridiculous. I can’t believe how greedy you are. Well, which of us is more greedy? The guy that started fighting for free, that actually paid money to train and took fights for free, and then started fighting for a few dollars here and there and thought ‘maybe I can send my daughter to college by fighting if I really push and I really go hard’, and after twenty years he’s able to do that with the little pittance from the UFC… Is that the greedy guy, or is it the billionaire, flying around in a private jet, living in a mansion with second homes all over the world that then blames everybody else that actually wants to make money for fighting? It’s astounding to me.”
What do you think of Nate Quarry’s assessment of the Reebok deal? Sound off, PENN Nation!
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/20/2017.