Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - It’s a day many hoped for, and after a flurry of activity that has taken the industry by storm, fans of the Ultimate Fighting Championship will soon be able to collect Jakks Pacific UFC figures, use UFC-branded Bic lighters and Silver Buffalo watches, shop with a UFC credit card, and pick up UFC apparel at JC Penney stores. This unprecedented series of announcements truly stamps the UFC as the premier brand in the sport of mixed martial arts as well as the home of the elite fighters in the game.
It’s a day many hoped for, and after a flurry of activity that has taken the industry by storm, fans of the Ultimate Fighting Championship will soon be able to collect Jakks Pacific UFC figures, use UFC-branded Bic lighters and Silver Buffalo watches, shop with a UFC credit card, and pick up UFC apparel at JC Penney stores. This unprecedented series of announcements truly stamps the UFC as the premier brand in the sport of mixed martial arts as well as the home of the elite fighters in the game.
“This puts our merchandise on a global scale,” said Randy Klein, the UFC’s Vice President of Licensing and Merchandising. “The fans have been waiting for UFC product for years and now we’ve joined up with some of the biggest and best companies in the world to produce authentic UFC-licensed products.”
For Klein, who worked closely with each company on these deals, getting these major names on board was an easy sell considering the reach and popularity of the UFC.
“The companies see the future of this sport and the loyalty of the fanbase, and the potential for enormous growth,” he said. “They see this taking over boxing and they can’t get over how recognizable these athletes are. You can’t even name five boxers now and that sport has really changed from the days of Ali and Tyson. So to the companies, they see working with the UFC as a tremendous opportunity to get involved with an emerging sport, mixed martial arts.”
Already, UFC-branded Bic lighters are hitting retail shelves, and after April’s ‘soft’ launch of UFC t-shirts at 450 JC Penney stores, the retailer will create “UFC Hot Zones” in August that will sell shirts and headwear in the Young Men’s department. Silver Buffalo, which has developed licensed products for such brands as WWE, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, and Kiss, will come on board this summer with UFC-branded watches, barware, bar accessories, lighting, wall décor, and billiards and darts accessories, and on June 15th, US Bank launches its UFC VISA card with no annual fee and the option to receive points for UFC merchandise.
“There’s going to be incredible UFC-branded product,” said Klein. “We’re establishing a benchmark of MMA product that no one has ever seen before. We’re going to be in retailers all over the world with our video game, apparel, and sports collectibles. It’s really an exciting time right now.”
Perhaps no items have been more demanded by fans in recent years than action figures, and thankfully, those prayers have been answered.
There are also going to be more than a few happy faces when official UFC action figures hit major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, and Toys R Us in Fall of 2009. Expected in this launch will be Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Brock Lesnar, Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira, Michael "The Count" Bisping and UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson "The Spider" Silva. Octagon playsets and role-play items based on the UFC brand and its classic and current roster of star fighters are also planned.
Needless to say, the UFC has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and it has no intentions of stopping anytime soon when it comes to delivering quality MMA action and quality MMA products to its fans.
“In everything we do, whether it’s television, pay-per-view, fights, or merchandise, we do it for the fans,” said Klein. “And our fans are smart people. They know when there’s an authentic product out there and they’re very loyal. So when we’re providing merchandise, we’re using the same philosophy – quality, innovative, authentic mixed martial arts products with the UFC brand and our best fighters.”