Late in 2014, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Reebok announced a partnership that would essentially forbid fighters from wearing other brands into the octagon. The idea was simple: Disperse the money Reebok gave the UFC amongst the fighters and they would not have to worry about scrumming sponsors together to make ends meet.
Some fighters were happy with the idea, but the rules applied to all— including the fighters who are making big money from sponsors. Fighters like Miesha Tate, Brendan Schaub, and Gegard Mousasi all stand to lose a large amount of money because of the Reebok/UFC deal. UFC fighter Ryan Jimmo are comparing how the fighters are being treated to an abusive relationship.
UFC President Dana White hears their complaints loud and clear, but still thinks it’s best for the sport. During an interview with Power 106 Los Angeles, White explained that the fighters can be short sighted. “The fighters aren’t thrilled about it. I don’t know, man. These guys don’t get it. These guys are short-sighted sometimes. It’s good for the industry. It’s good for everybody. You want to have a deal like this.”
White is most excited for this deal to change how the UFC is perceived in the public eye. Everything from their weigh-ins to the fights themselves are broadcasted on national TV and having Reebok’s logo everywhere could help build the sport’s future. “Let me tell you what’s going on. Our weigh-ins are live on TV. You see some of the underwear these guys wear? Guys in like— SpongeBob SquarePants underwear. We need to take this thing to the next level and have them in all Reebok gear.”
Despite acknowledging that change is causing a rift in the relationship between the fighters and their employer, White thinks that they are simply afraid of change and they will grow into it. “Change freaks everybody out. Listen, these guys can all keep their sponsors. They can all have them. They just can’t wear them in the octagon. That’s no different from any other sports organization on earth. NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball. It was the next step for the evolution of the sport. It had to be done, but nobody likes change.”
White keeps pressing the fact that fighters can keep their sponsors, but they cannot wear them into the octagon. He uses UFC’s current star Ronda Rousey as the prime example of how to stay profitable while representing the UFC in the octagon. “To tell you the truth, Ronda is actually one of the most sponsored people in the UFC,” White said. “She makes millions of dollars in sponsorship. She’s never worn one in the Octagon, ever. She wears UFC stuff. It’s part of the evolution of the sport.”
“Everybody freaks out and starts gossiping and freaking out. It’ll blow over.”
Will it blow over? The deal has already influenced regional fighters to sign with Bellator. Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
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