The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s decision to partner with Reebok for a new fighter uniform deal has garnered its share of supporters and haters alike.
The deal makes Reebok the sole apparel provider for the UFC and fighters will, as of July, be required to wear an official uniform manufactured by the sports apparel maker. There will be some options for fighters to choose from, but the biggest shocker to most of them was that they would be unable to wear individually sponsored apparel and would no longer be allowed to drape a sponsor banner in their corner during introductions.
The UFC argues that the deal will actually benefit the fighters, as significant individual sponsorship deals have mostly dried up and are difficult to maintain. The Reebok deal is supposed to replace those individual sponsors with a more sustainable revenue stream, while giving the UFC a more mainstream, professional look akin to other major sports leagues.
The UFC-Reebok deal is a six-year, $70 million agreement, according to SportsBusiness Journal (SBJ).
One of the more contentious parts of the deal was how the money would be divvied up amongst the fighters. The initial plan was to use the media-generated official UFC rankings to identify tiers of fighters that would be compensated depending upon which tier they reside in.
In subsequent discussions with fighters, managers, and cornermen, UFC officials told SBJ that the rankings idea didn’t go over so well, which led to a distinct change in that approach.
The UFC will instead use a tiered system based on how many fights that an athlete has while competing for Zuffa; a much more objective standard than the highly subjective fighter rankings.
The new system will put fighters into categories of 1-to-5 fights, 6-to-10 fights, 11-to-15 fights, 16-to-20 fights, and 21 or more fights. The number of bouts will not only include UFC bouts, but also World Extreme Cagefighting and Strikeforce bouts.
One notable exception to the tiered system is that champions and challengers will receive a bigger payout regardless of what tier they reside in.
The UFC-Reebok uniform deal goes into effect on July 6, 2015, just in time for International Fight Week in Las Vegas, and prior to the promotion’s summer blockbuster, UFC 189.