The UFC has received a tremendous amount of criticism for its athlete outfitting deal with Reebok over the years. Fighters from Al Iaquinta to Matt Mitrione to Nate Quarry to Ryan Bader have spoken out against the deal, disgusted by the fact that they’re being deprived of the far larger paydays they could earn if they were allowed to pursue their own sponsorship.
The financial hit that many fighters have felt since the UFC’s deal with Reebok launched has caused a significant exodus of talent from the UFC to Bellator, where fighters are allowed to work with their own sponsors. Fighters such as Matt Mitrione, Ryan Bader and Rory MacDonald have all made the jump, and Bellator President Scott Coker believes the Reebok deal is a significant contributing factor to this trend.
Coker riffed on the Reebok deal on the latest edition of The MMA Hour, explaining that he couldn’t fathom how it is allowed to exist from a legal standpoint.
“Listen, they’re independent contractors,” he said (via MMAMania).”How they’re forced to wear uniforms, to this day, still baffles me. It should be against the labor laws or something. Because you have to wear this sponsor? You have to wear a certain uniform when you fight? To me, they should be contractual position to get whatever sponsor they want. If Ryan Bader went out and made a million dollars in sponsorship, good for you!”
Back in February, Bader explained just how much money he lost as the result of the Reebok deal.
“One thing too which is huge for me is being able to have our own sponsorships,” he told Submission Radio of his move to Bellator. “In the UFC before the sponsorship with Reebok, the least I’ve ever made was $35,000 grand—and I made up to $80,000 a fight—that’s a huge amount per fight to be cut. …I mean, yes, we do get paid on tenure and I was one of the highest tenure guys, and we all know how that works with Reebok, but it’s a huge thing to be able to represent your sponsors again.
What do you think of the UFC’s deal with Reebok? Do you agree with Scott Coker?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 6/27/2017.