Dana White says UFC’s deal with Reebok is not unique. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
On Wednesday, the UFC officially revealed its tenure-based, tiered compensation plan for fighters under the promotion’s six-year agreement with apparel giant Reebok.
Reaction within the MMA community was varied, ranging from outrage to dismay to acceptance. Some fighters, such as rising flyweight prospect Ray Borg, urged peers to stop complaining and improve their work ethic.
“Stop crying about the Reebok compensation deal,” Borg wrote on Twitter. “If you want more money work harder instead of asking for hand me outs.”
Others, such as heavyweight Matt Mitrione, were less pleased with the particulars of the plan.
“Congrats Reebok, you got the deal of the century,” Mitrione wrote. “Unfortunately, it was at the cost of the fighters. Hope the bad press is worth it.”
Fighters will make anywhere from $2,500 (one to five fights) to $40,000 (champions) per bout. While many athletes, regardless of tenure, may lose money as a result of the sponsorship, UFC President Dana White claims that the setup is par for the course in professional sports.
“It’s no different than any other sport. In other sports, lots of guys are sponsored by different brands outside of the NFL, outside of the NBA. The UFC is just catching up now,” White said during a conference call. “And there will be clothing companies out there and other sponsors, that if your business is mixed martial arts, you’re going to want some of the best guys and the most popular guys in the sport to represent your brand and shoot commercials and be on billboard and wear your stuff. Ronda Rousey does very, very well in sponsorships, and she’s never worn one of them into the Octagon.”
While fighters will no longer be permitted to wear non-Reebok apparel at UFC events and functions, they are still free to secure additional sponsors outside of UFC fight night and fight week events. How many are able to do so is another matter entirely.
The UFC’s contract with Reebok is reportedly worth $70 million. According to promotion CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, almost all of that money is going to the fighters.
“All the revenue that we’re receiving from Reebok is being distributed to the fighters,” Fertitta said on the call. “We essentially looked at the compensation tiers, and they were based on the distribution of the revenue from the Reebok contract to the athletes over the next five and a half years. The only revenue coming through from Reebok that is not included to be distributed to the fighters is being used to cover direct operating costs for this program.”
Fertitta says that the decision to distribute the sponsorship money through was carefully planned and did not come to fruition without input from the athletes on the roster.
“We took a lot of information from a lot of fighters, communicating with them and a lot of people in the industry, and ultimately came to the conclusion that we felt compensating the athletes based on tenure was the best way to do it. It’s clear-cut, black and white and could not be influenced by anyone at all,” Fertitta said.