by Damon Martin
UFC Changes Rules For Fight Sponsors

By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly

Sports have always been about competition and the desire for victory, but another aspect that has been made evident through every major sport is that professional athletics is also about big business. Every major organization that runs a sports league or owns a team knows that at the end of the day it’s very much about the money made, and advertising and sports go hand in hand.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) the largest mixed martial arts organization in the United States, has recently changed their policies when it comes to how sponsors are allowed to display or have their advertisement shown on the fighters in their shows.

As of “Ultimate Fight Night 2” that was shown on Spike TV on October 3rd, the UFC has released a directive to all sponsors that they must sign an agreement that the UFC can dictate what sponsor’s logos can or cannot be seen during one of their television broadcasts.

This directive was sent to sponsors as late as the weigh-ins for “Ultimate Fight Night” with no guarantee that their logos and brand names would be viewable to fans watching on T.V. even though the money to sponsor the fighters had already been spent.

Any logo that the UFC does not authorize will be blurred or pixilated during the broadcast. Fighters and their sponsors were not told of this agreement until a day before the fight.

As of yet, there is no official word from the UFC if future sponsorship denials will be handed out further in advance to prevent them from putting logos on fighter’s shorts or from wearing their hats or shirts after the fight is ended.

At “Ultimate Fight Night” the fighters participating in the show were also told before the fights that they were not to thank any sponsors during their post fight interviews with UFC co-host Joe Rogan.

This directive that was handed to sponsors may have been handed down from the executives from Spike TV who were concerned that some of the fighters’ sponsors may interfere with the advertising that they have sold during the airtime of the UFC and their programming (i.e. a fighter wearing a local sports nutrition outlet would be blurred due to Spike’s financial commitment from Xyience and their products)

The repercussions of this directive may hit the fighters the hardest. It is widely known that a great many fighters draw their biggest financial support from the sponsors that they sign with to help increase their overall pay.

Although after this particular UFC show and it’s success, Dana White did hand out $2000 bonuses to the fighters. It is not known whether this was compensation for the potential backlash from the fight sponsors, or just a gesture for a good show.

Sponsors will now have to deal with the fact that they may not know until a day before the fight if their logo will even be shown with their fighter, thus eliminating any kind of advertising they may receive from fans wanting to visit their sites or purchase their goods.

Former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Tito Ortiz, has felt this kind of pressure before as his company, “Punishment Athletics” has now been blurred out during any of the company’s re-broadcasts of his fights. Ivan Salaverry, a fighter that Ortiz sponsors, was told before his main event fight against Nathan Marquardt at the first “Ultimate Fight Night” that the UFC would not allow him to show any article with a “Punishment Athletics” logo. Ortiz and his camp have since been told that any future fighter that wished to be sponsored by his company, should not try to break their ban.

“That’s really just too bad for the fighters,” Ortiz commented when hearing of the new rules. “It’s hurting them from making the extra money. These fighters aren’t fighting for a lot of money so the sponsors are the ones who are really kicking in and taking care of the fighters. Just for a training camp, that’s expensive. A camp for myself costs about 10 to 15,000 dollars, and it just seems like the sponsors are the ones keeping the fighters alive. Any of the repeats they’ve shown of my fights, they’ve blurred out Punishment Athletics on everything, on the mat, on myself, me walking out, I mean it’s just ridiculous. Welcome to a monopoly, that’s what it comes down to. If you don’t like it, don’t fight for the company, that’s pretty much what they’re saying.”

The UFC is not the only major sporting organization to deny sponsors. Recently, Nextel, who owns the rights to the NASCAR branded championship, denied many other telecom companies who compete directly with them throughout the wireless industry from sponsoring drivers and their teams during the season.

The largest opposition that the UFC might face with this directive may come from the fighters themselves. Many sponsors throughout the mixed martial arts community have been with the fighters since their decision to compete professionally and now knowing that they may lose these sponsors, the fighters themselves hold all the cards with any kind of potential backlash.

None of the fight sponsors have made an announcement that they are pulling any of their advertising dollars away from the fighters yet, but it will be interesting to see what happens during the next live broadcast on Spike TV on November 5th.