The Ultimate Fighting Championship and Reebok on Monday announced the worst kept secret in mixed martial arts: UFC fighter uniforms.
The UFC fighter uniform deal has been in the works for more than a year, but finally came to fruition on Tuesday when the two companies announced a six-year partnership, but revealed no financial details.
Uniforms will be required for all athletes and their cornermen beginning the week of July 6, 2015, which coincides with the UFC’s International Fight Week in Las Vegas.
The uniforms have been developed by Reebok specifically for mixed martial arts, but won’t be unveiled until Spring of 2015. Fighters will have various options, including product styles, colors and fight night short styles including board shorts, vale tudos and skorts, which will be selected in advance of fight week.
“It’s going to help the fighters, because it is going to allow them focus more on their training and not have to run around to get some (sponsors),” said Fertitta.
The fighters will get paid on a per fight basis, as they will be required to wear the uniform and company provided apparel at all UFC fight week official events including fight night, UFC produced content, or other official UFC events.
According to White, “every penny” of the money for the uniform sponsorship, outside of operating costs, goes back to the fighters in the form of a tiered payout system with UFC champion’s garnering the “lion’s share” of the money. The rest of the money will be divvied based on the official UFC rankings voted on by members of the media. The next tier down from the champions will be fighters ranked 1-5, then 6-10, 11-15, and then non-ranked fighters.
As no financial details have been revealed, it is currently unclear how much money that equates to per fighter.
The type of event a fighter competes on will have no relation to a fighter’s earnings from the uniform deal. So whether a fighter is on a pay-per-view card, a Fight Night event, or on “Big Fox,” the amount will remain the same, based upon the fighter’s ranking at the time of weigh-ins for an event.
Fighters can still have their own sponsors within certain parameters. Existing or prospective apparel and non-apparel sponsors can use the athlete’s name and likeness, but may not use UFC trademarks unless they have a direct commercial relationship with UFC, and the existing or prospective sponsors cannot be represented during official UFC fight week events including fight night, UFC produced content, or other official UFC events.
Which mean that fighters won’t be allowed to use their shirt or shorts or anything else as a billboard for sponsors. Any sponsorship on the uniforms will be under the UFC’s directive.
This also puts an end to sponsor banners, the vinyl billboards that a fighter’s cornermen often draped over the fencing behind their fighter while introductions were being made.
The terms of the deal also include Reebok taking over production of official UFC fan apparel, with a fighter getting 20-percent of “anything with their name on it,” according to White.
Without out knowing the numbers, it’s difficult to know if this will be a net positive for most fighters’ financial prospects. It’s sure to benefit some fighters, while possibly hampering others.
It is one of the most valuable non-broadcast deals that the company has ever done. But at the end of the day, the UFC is hoping the deal lifts its brand to the level of other major professional sports leagues like the NFL and NBA, which already have uniform deals that are controlled by the league and help build brand identity.
According to Fertitta, “I think it’s gonna elevate the whole sport in the level of professionalism.”