With International Fight Week approaching this July, the UFC’s Athlete Outfitting Policy in association with Reebok is continuing to take shape, with last month’s announcement that fighter payouts will be determined by tenure, not ranking, followed by the revelation of said payouts for each tier of the program during a media teleconference on Wednesday.
“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,” UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said, joined on the call by UFC President Dana White and Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein.
Fertitta then revealed that the 586 athletes currently under UFC contract will be paid per fight in the following way:
1 to 5 bouts - $2,500
6 to 10 bouts - $5,000
11 to 15 bouts - $10,000
16 to 20 bouts - $15,000
21 bouts and above - $20,000
Title challenger - $30,000
Champion - $40,000
The number of bouts will be determined by the fighter’s participation in UFC bouts, as well as any with WEC and Strikeforce that took place while those latter two promotions were under Zuffa, LLC ownership.
“We believe that the introduction of this outfitting policy is very beneficial for the athletes,” Fertitta said. “It’s an investment we’re making as a company and we think it’s going to create long-term value for the athletes, the UFC brand and for the sport. It’s going to provide guaranteed income for each athlete for each fight, thus eliminating the burden of acquiring sponsors and ultimately having to go and try to collect payment on a per-event basis.”
Added Epstein, “We obviously want to get the program off the ground and we want to see how the sales of the products go, but there will be a periodic review of these compensation levels.”
Fighters will be required to wear Reebok’s official outfitting kits during fights and fight week, but are still allowed to secure any apparel and non-apparel sponsors they want to. Those sponsors will just not be seen on fight night or during UFC fight week official events. In addition to the aforementioned fight night payouts, each athlete has the opportunity to generate additional revenue based on the sales of UFC and UFC / Reebok apparel that features the athlete’s name and / or likeness. Royalty payments will be made to fighters based on the terms of their UFC Merchandise Rights Agreement.
“All the revenue that we’re receiving from Reebok is being distributed to the fighters,” Fertitta said. “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.”
As for the concern that fighters required to wear Reebok won’t be able to secure other sponsors, White said “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. 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. (UFC women’s bantamweight champion) Ronda Rousey does very, very well in sponsorships, and she’s never worn one of them into the Octagon.”
And while some have questioned the AOP on social networks, Epstein believes that in talks with several athletes that the ones with the gloves on are happy with the direction the UFC is going in.
“Prior to sending out this letter today, we spoke with a ton of athletes – not just champions, but athletes at all levels of the UFC - and got their feedback on the Athlete Outfitting Policy, and a lot of the provisions of the policy are the result of discussions we had with particular athletes about their concerns and their ideas," he said. "I’m sure there will be those that aren’t excited about the policy, but I can tell you that the vast majority of athletes that we’ve spoken with are excited about the opportunity.”