The landmark deal between the UFC and Reebok has sparked serious debate among fans and media since it was announced in December 2014, but it has always been the fighters who will be most affected by the final breakdown of finances once the outfitting portion of the deal kicks in this July.
On Monday, SportsBusiness Journal exclusively reported an important change to the way the deal is structured, revealing that athlete compensation will be determined on a tiered system determined by a fighter’s tenure in the Zuffa organization, which will include bouts in the WEC and Strikeforce, as well as the UFC.
Initially, it was announced that fighter payouts would be made according to a fighter’s place in the official UFC rankings at the time of his or her bout.
The only exception in this system, which will see tiers of 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, and more than 21 fights, will be in world championship fights, as champions and challengers will be compensated in a more significant fashion.
“We’ve had some great discussions, and the fighters and managers have asked some terrific questions,” Tracey Bleczinski, UFC senior vice president of global consumer products, told Adam Silverman of Sports Business Journal. “There’s been some good debate.”
As for the Reebok vs. individual sponsors debate, Authentic Sports Management CEO Glenn Robinson, head of the Blackzilians team of fighters, believes this new deal is one that will benefit the athletes in an era where sponsorship money has steadily declined.
“You have a lot of companies that would come in for a brief period of time. They’ll sponsor really heavy for some period of time and then they go away,” Robinson told SBJ. “They don’t stick with the league for a long time because there’s not a lot of return on investment for them, whereas for Reebok, there’s a return on investment. The fighters are all getting behind a brand, the brand is going to be available for sale, so there’s a way for them to recoup their money, and there’s a cycle for the funds. Reebok makes an investment, the fighters get money, Reebok gets their money back by sales.”
And the UFC has an elite brand outfitting its athletes and giving them a streamlined and professional, yet individualized, look on fight week and fight night.
“The fighters doing individual sponsorship deals and things like that…has been a tough look for the UFC,” Mike Lunardelli, Reebok director of combat training, told SBJ. “It’s been a little bit all over the place. That was one of the things we talked about: How do we clean that up?”
UFC fans will find out in July.