Former UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub has made his opinion known on the Reebok deal that was struck with the UFC, ultimately retiring from the sport of mixed martial arts with the Reebok sponsorship playing a big part in his decision.
Reebok senior director of combat training Michael Lunardelli spoke with the MMA Hour last week and addressed some of the criticism that the company has faced with the launch of their new endeavor in the sport.
“We’ve talked about this before, you can’t make everybody happy,” Lunardelli said during an in-studio appearance Monday on The MMA Hour. “Some people are going to criticize the deal. They may feel that they lost some sponsorships as part of this apparel deal. The way we look at it is, we’re not deciding where the money goes. We’re investing into all these different things that relate to MMA and the sport, so we’ve put a lot of money into the UFC deal, we’ve put a lot of money into fighters, we’ve put a lot of money into gyms and trainers and coaches, things like that. But then there comes a decision point, and the UFC decides how the fighters are paid. That’s not something we get involved in at all.
“So I can understand that he’s looking at us and blaming us because it’s a Reebok apparel deal. It’s a little misplaced from my standpoint. But at the same time, we have to do what we have to do, and that’s focus on making great gear, supporting fighters, getting fighters to showcase as the face of our brand. If we do those things really well, then things will come around.”
“That’s how we learn. We’ve said this, we come in as humble as possible, as humble as we can,” Lunardelli said. “We’re really good at training and fitness. We know how to make that gear. We know how to make the shoes, the footwear, all of that. We’re great at that. What we need to know is how do we specialize in the realm of combat? How do we make the best spots in here? How do we make the best MMA gear? You’re not going to do that just by sitting in your office and designing some cool looking stuff. You’ve got to get out there, you’ve got to work with fighters.
“You’ve got to send your people out there and you’ve got to talk to people, and that takes time. We’re three months into this launch, right? So come and talk to us a year or two years from now, and let’s see where we’re at then, and that’ll tell you how far along we’ve come. But we feel really good. Remember, we’re working out like three seasons out, so I’ve already seen the spring/summer ’17 stuff, and I’m blown away. The line is unreal. I can’t wait to get there. We have several layers of things, so instead of having one or two MMA shorts, we’ve started building four, five, six different MMA shorts. Same thing on boxing and all of that. So it’s going to take some time to get there, but we’re getting there.”
What are your thoughts on the Reebok sponsorship with the UFC and their roster of fighters? Do you think it is better or worse for the sport?