UFC, Reebok strike deal to outfit fighters

UFC strikes deal with Reebok to dress its fighters in a move that will boost fight purses

A deal the Ultimate Fighting Championship chairman said is his organization’s richest non-television agreement will dress fighters exclusively in Reebok gear and boost their purses.

The new outfitting policy, a six-year agreement to begin in July 2015, will aim to maintain “individuality” for athletes with “unique, iconic and consistent looks,” UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said, promising “the vast majority, if not all, of revenue from this deal to the fighters.”

Fertitta said the UFC has established a five-tier payment structure, from champion through three slots of top-15 contenders to non-ranked fighters, in which the Reebok money will be used to inflate current purse compensation on a per-fight basis.

“The more successful they are, the more money they will make from this contract … champions get the most,” said Fertitta, adding that his stable of fighters will also receive lifetime royalty payments from sales of merchandise that bear their likenesses.

The UFC has received criticism in the past and some fighter complaints about their purses.

UFC President Dana White said the fighters’ merchandise royalty cut is 20% of the profit.

“No one thought we would give the money to the fighters,” White said. “They get paid every time they fight -- one to five times a year -- it’s a nice little business for them.”

Fertitta declined to reveal the value of the Reebok deal, calling it “significant.”

Fighters had been dressing in what Fertitta said was a “mishmash” of styles, depending on their own small or major sponsorships, while cornermen also usually hung banners around the octagon of other sponsors during their fighter’s introduction.

The Reebok deal halts that, although Fertitta said athletes can make or keep existing apparel deals outside of their UFC fight appearances, adding that some retired UFC “legends” will be folded into the Reebok deal.

“There’s a sense [from the fighters] that this elevates the sport and their brand,” Fertitta said, describing the fighters’ early responses to the agreement as “overwhelmingly” positive. “They get paid for wearing the uniforms, don’t have to scurry up sponsorships. This is the direction the company is going … a long-term investment, a seminal moment.”  

Like its cross-fit apparel business, Reebok will feature UFC-themed workout wear in its new “combat-training” division.

“The UFC has never had one of these apparel deals,” White said. “To get behind the brand, it’s a huge, massive investment.”

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