It’s hard not to have feeeelings about this UFC and Reebok sponsorship deal right now. The big thing is that we have some details, but not many. This UFC sponsorship thing could be incredible for the sport and move it ahead many years, or it could be one of the final nails in the coffin for what has been a sport in a serious downturn here in the United States.
This is a discussion between the writers here at MiddleEasy on today’s big announcement.
I kinda cringed when Dana said the fighters would be paid by ranking. I mean it’s kinda fair but can’t the UFC arbitrarily drop a fighter from the rankings? Also, will this change how the media votes on rankings? Also it kinda makes fighters totally dependent on the UFC for earnings. On the bright side, the sponsor tax made it harder for guys to get sponsors, so it should help. Especially since it doesn’t matter if a guy is on a PPV or Fox or FS1 or a Fight Pass card. Ultimately we’ll need to see this shake out a bit before we get a real idea if this is great or not.
From a UFC perspective the new uniform sponsorship deal is great. Lot of hugs and high fives (maybe a missed chest bump) were surely attempted throughout their Las Vegas office after the agreement was reached. Since the UFC hit MMA sponsors with the “sponsor tax” for the rights to advertise on UFC fighters, Zuffa has slowly but surely tightened its grip on all the money that flows through the promotion. What started with the sponsor tax ends with the Reebok uniform deal.
The days of small businesses using fighters as ad space are over. Condom Depot, Dynamic Fastener and Dave’s Tire Barn no longer have a place in the UFC’s 2015 version of MMA.
The UFC is now in bed with Fox Sports and Reebok clothing. #TheTimeIsNow for the corporate version of the UFC to be trotted out to fans in 2015. With the Reebok deal the UFC gets a bigger slice of pie right off of the top. No more middle man to go through. No more MMA agents to haggle with. The MMA world may be entering a time where all their favorite fighters look like a stock EA UFC create-a-player.
The IFL had uniforms for their fighters, now in 2015 the UFC will have uniforms for their roster. Perhaps a side effect of the Reebok deal is that the UFC will be friendlier to sponsors who were afraid to “step to this” in the past. What the fighters lose in individuality the UFC gains in uniformity.
The more individual a sport, the less a uniform feels right. For instance, it feels natural to see Aaron Rodgers in a yellow helmet every Sunday, but wrong to imagine Steffi Graf in a pair of standard issue red, orange and black Volkswagen tennis shorts. That’s a shame, because Aaron’s eyes might look really nice in blue. But it’s the law.
MMA is like tennis on TRT. It is a violent form of golf, the ultimate individual sport. Does Tiger Woods wear a uniform? Of course not. And ever since he ditched Elin Nordegren, the odds of Tiger getting hit with a nine iron have been close to zero. MMA should never confuse itself with team sports. It tried once, and it took just two years for the IFL to fail, and for Pat Militech to despondently pack away all those Quad City Silverbacks jerseys.
Imagine for a moment that we continued respecting the unique nature of this sport and the indivuality of its athletes. Imagine that we continued to allow young fighters to raise supplemental income from unique sponsors, and that we could still watch Shogun fight in those trademark white vale tudo shorts. That’s MMA as we have known it, and that’s about to change. But modern MMA already has serious problems. It has become so watered down, the results have often not been memorable. And I am reasonably certain that the solution to this entertainment problem is not to turn the roster into a dull army of wardrobed clones. Preserving as much individuality as you can muster in this thinning competitive landscape is probably the better practice.
Just throwing this out there, remember when Anderson Silva said he wasn’t a Nike athlete anymore & that the media would have to ask Dana why and when Jon Jones gave that BS reason for not being a Nike athlete anymore, it’s totally because of this right? I wonder if the UFC’s made the deal friendlier for guys who have the kind of negotiating power to get this kind of deal on their own.
Now Matt Wiman and Mark Hunt will be forced to take sponsorship money. Muahahaha!
For the fighters the benefits of the UFC’s deal with Reebok are to be determined. On one hand it’s great that a new high level sponsor is flooding money into the sport but how will the UFC distribute the money? UFC media rankings broken out into tiers sounds on the surface and in practice a horrible way to decide which fighters benefit the most from Reebok money.
Random Brazilian media member number five and local FM morning rock shock jock number seven should not decided the UFC’s new payout system. The UFC media rankings are already broken, attaching the ranks to brand new sponsor money will not fix them.
It’s great to make fun of the low level sponsors that forced their way onto fighter’s shorts and walkout tees over the years but the Reebok deal could also squeeze a ton of hard working, well run MMA niche businesses out of the sport. If a sponsor sees they can’t have their fighter promote their brand during fight week, on his or her walk to the cage or on a cage side banner where is the value for companies looking to invest money in MMA? Do potential or past reliable MMA sponsors bring their money to Bellator or leave the sport altogether?
The UFC is one step closer to having its fighters throwing down in a parking lot for free. MMA is under constant scrunity for fighter pay, and the way those fighters make up ends meet more often than not is by plastering something like CONDOM DEPOT across their arse. Sure it’s degrading, but they have to do it because at the lower levels, they are barely paid enough to cover their training expenses, let alone their living expenses. The corruption in fighter rankings will show itself to have glaring holes too. Too many fighters will want to jump ship, and they’ll do that by putting on shitty performances to get released from their contract. Hello Bellator. Plus, they’ll have to patch EA Sports UFC, AGAIN.
The UFC’s sponsor tax locked out a lot of outside money from the Octagon and in turn fighter’s on the promotion’s roster were left with fewer options. Dana White called the new Reebok uniform deal, the “largest non-broadcast deal we’ve ever done.” In the UFC bigger is always better. For UFC fighters less unsupervised sponsorship opportunities may not equal more pay in the long run.
This Reebok Uniform idea is one of the greatest Bellator moves of all time. Coker is making huge waves in the MMA world–and that is in NO WAY a statement to his robust size, but more about his ambitious business decisions. Coker, a TKD Black Belt under Ernie Reyes, and an original member of the West Coast Demolition Team, is obviously using what Far Eastern magical knowledge he aquired there in combination with what he knows about Zuffa/UFC to cast incantations of influence. The spell is a perfect in it’s design because it will seep into the minds of the lost advertisers (Venom, Dethrone, Bass Pro Shops, Bony Acai, etc) will commute to Bellator–making them more appealing for fighters to sign with. Coker recently said that he (and Bellator) would look to acquire Brock Lesner next year. While I do think Brock would/cold eat a shoe, do you think for a second that that huge man would give up Jimmy Johns & Jack Links sponsorship for Reebok? I think not. This Reebok deal is a huge power-move for Coker to convince fighters to jump ship. Bravo!
The problem with the UFC is everything looks exactly alike. When I tune into a UFC event, I can’t tell if they are in Japan or Oklahoma, nothing has personality and it’s just all different shades of grey. Much like the boring and bland grey canvas that they fight on. Having a uniform that all fighters are going to wear is just the silliest of silly ideas.
Close your eyes, when I say Shogun, the image of him wearing his white, green and yellow bad boy vale tudo trunks will pop up. When I say Minowaman the image of him wearing his red speedo with elbow and knee pads. When I saw Chuck Liddell the image of his iceman trunks will pop up, so on and so forth.
The UFC already has a problem with creating new stars, they already have a problem with all their fighters lacking anything that resembles a personality and being indistinguishable from each other. So now they will all well the same uniform, which I’m sure will have slight variants on them but still, like I said, different shade of grey.
Then there is the issue of the UFC rankings which are a complete farce. The idea of the rankings determining fighter pay is laughable at best. Alistair Overeem and Julianna Pena are both ranked 11th in their division, all respect to Julianna Pena but on an open market, Overeem would easily get quadruple the money she would in sponsorship money.
This is all just so silly.
This whole new pay structure confuses me on multiple levels. What about a fighter like Conor McGregor, who was ranked outside the top ten at UFC on FUEL TV 9, but had much of the show marketed around him coming to Boston? Fighters that promote themselves well deserve to get paid. They put asses in the seats. What about a guy like Chael who got a title shot in a weight class in which he did not have a victory in years? What would his pay be for that fight? Will merchandise be made for 1-15? How will a fighter make their worth if Reebok doesn’t make gear for them? What’s the marketing push behind each fighter’s gear? How much advertising cost will go behind a Bobby Green or Al Iaquinta compared to a Ben Henderson or Frankie Edgar. I feel like these guys used to have companies behind them, wanting them to succeed, but now they likely only get a very thin slice of a pie.
So much is vague about this whole uniform deal, in part because the UFC hasn’t announced any concrete details yet. Media rankings will reflect payouts, 20% of personalized merchandise sales go to the fighter and “most of” the sponsorship money will be passed onto the fighters. All of that is vague and is hard to judge right now. Who gets personalized merchandise? Does Joe Lauzon get a signature t-shirt? Does Mark Munoz or Ryan Bader? Probably not. So they will see 20% of 0.
If you look at the media rankings they are just a mess and there are a lot of things that make no sense. If you look on Twitter after they update the rankings you’ll see people like McKinley Noble tear into them and the awful votes from fringe media members who are included in these rankings. Some radio personality from Florida or some on-screen reporter from Indianapolis has more say in UFC’s rankings than a lot of people who actually know and care about the UFC and could come up with better rankings. Joe Silva should be doing these rankings, not some shock jock doing a low level Howard Stern emulation with local strippers as his set dressing.
In a way they are right that this will probably help out the lower level guys who don’t have managers or who have someone like their dad or uncle managing them. These guys who have no sponsors will all of a sudden have sponsorship money when there wasn’t any before. Upper tier guys will also get a heftier cut and not have to hustle and make appearances for apparel brands unless they get a sweet deal to do so that they can’t refuse. It’s the mid-tier fighters who will be hurt the most by this. Fighters who are ranked from 10 – 15 or so, but are recognizable names. Tim Boetsch is the #13 Middleweight right now, which means that he’s out of the loop of sweet payouts most likely and if he was able to make good money via his manager hustling for sponsorship for him that money has just dried up. Why won’t someone please think about Tim Boetsch?!
I just want some, any clear answers. I want this to work if it means more money in the pockets of fighters. All fighters. Especially the younger, up and coming fighters. I love MMA and want this to succeed, but Gary hit it on the head – what about Chuck Liddell and the Iceman shorts he still wears years later in car battery commercials? Iconic images will either be created en masse when Reebok’s design team throws a bunch of spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, or one of the most individually-focused sports in the world will lose its individuality.
Just imagine these fighters in their uniforms that look exactly like everyone else, saying this has been the best camp of their life and that they aren’t underestimating their opponents. Then they walk through the crowd with the same old look, the same old cage, the same old graphics package.
This sounds like facing the pain. Bellator is becoming Pride by just existing.
Where does Frank Mir stand in this? Frank Mir is ranked #13 right now, but he’s clearly a big star and he’s been one of the guys who has been “sponsored” by the UFC for a while now. Are they going to pay Frank Mir like everyone else in the 11-15 ranked tier? So if 6-10 make $20,000 and if 11-15 make $5,000 is Frank Mir getting paid $5,000 in sponsorships and not allowed to make the money he was making before? Probably not because if you pay Frank Mir like you pay #13 Flyweight Dustin Ortiz you are going to see Frank Mir bail as soon as he can to head to Bellator where he can probably find himself as Heavyweight Champion within a few months and making better money than the UFC is willing to pay him now.
I get that there have been bad sponsors in the past, companies that never paid up or who forced fighters into a crazy, hectic schedule of appearances. The thing is, those were the risks associated with the game and the reason to have a good manager. How does this affect guys like Glenn Robinson from Authentic Sports Management who also owns a clothing company like Jaco? Jaco exists because the guys he manages wear the Jaco brand. It’s a weird conflict of interest that we won’t probably see for much longer and probably is for the better, but there are going to be people like Glenn Robinson pushing back and fighting to keep his money flowing. Does he take his stable of fighters to Bellator now because Bellator will allow the Jaco brand to appear and try to get his guys out of the UFC? I just don’t know.
“Eliminating the burden of seeking sponsors on a per-event basis”
Eliminating the burden of freedom of choice sounds like something a comic book villain would say as their misguided justification for the atrocities they’re about to attempt to commit. Too bad there’s no superhero rushing to the rescue in this case.
Ranking fighters in any way outside of the Frate Trane list is dumb -> The UFC having official rankings is dumber -> Media members ranking the fighters is even dumber -> The rankings actually having a direct financial impact on fighter pay is the dumbest.
I think this is partially the UFC’s attempt to ‘legitimize’ the sport. Except they somehow missed the fact that having arbitrary standardization in your organization doesn’t lend legitimacy at all. Instead they should be focusing on things that make the UFC and MMA as a whole look like a circus to the sporting world.
As a British person, I feel I should be proud of Reebok for climbing to these heights – but I’m not. I don’t like Reebok, and haven’t for many years. I don’t want to see my favourite fighters in it, just like how I don’t want to see Jon Jones crashing another $200,000 car.
With each new nugget of UFC news, my heart jolts. I seriously despair at what old baldy-chops and the Fertitta Mafia have in store for what was once a pretty rad organisation. They’re so fucking corporate it hurts, and I’m sick of it. We need more excess. We need more JAPAN. Dream never die. 🙁
This is a triumph for German work ethic, Reebok a formerly a British firm has been taken over by the German conglomerate adidas which incidentally outfitted the luftwaffe, be that as it may it means huge things for the # 1 German star in mMa Denis Siver after Michael Shumaker he is the biggest name in German pro sports.
Unfortunately it sends Conor Macgregors title shots dashing away. Sivers German management brokered this deal with the uFc and its rumoured in Hamburg mMa circles that they demanded Siver be given the next title shot, whether this means Macgregor does the company thing & lies down at a appropriate moment or the fight is called off is yet to be determined.
This is Siver time.
Join our list
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.