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Exclusive: After Being Shut Out by Zuffa Sponsor Fees, It’s Still Business as Usual for Ranger Up’s Nick Palmisciano

By Jason Moles

Earlier this week, news broke that Ranger Up a longtime sponsor of MMA fighters who have served in the U.S. military, and a passionate lover of America — has been forced to exit the building. Ranger Up CEO Nick Palmisciano was informed by Zuffa that his company would need to pay the recently-established Strikeforce sponsor fee if their fighters were to wear any RU gear at upcoming Strikeforce events. Most notably, this affects former Marine Liz Carmouche, who faces Sarah Kaufman at tonight’s Challengers event in Las Vegas, as well as bionic super-soldier Tim Kennedy, who’s slated to take on Robbie Lawler on the main card of Fedor vs. Henderson.

“[They] told us in a very professional way,” Palmisciano explained to “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now, I completely understand. It’s a business deal and I’ve got no hard feelings. I think it’s a good business decision for them and from my position, I don’t feel like we’re owed anything.”

That’s very gracious of him, but the fighters are still going to be losing money unless another sponsor picks them up, right? Wrong. “I know it sounds cheesy, but the military is a family and we are very passionate about what we do in taking care of the people in our community,” Palmisciano said. “We’ve been sponsoring Tim Kennedy since 2006 and we’re not going to all of a sudden treat a member of our family differently because an organization imposes a fee that prohibits us from going forward with the deal that we had. We’re going to continue to support both fighters like they were already and they will both get paid from Ranger Up like they expected to for this fight and in the future.”

The Ranger Up CEO expressed very clearly that it’s not about a lack of passion, or not having the funds to cover the fee. “The main issue we have is, and I’m not going to give out any figures of the fees — truthfully, it’s different for all businesses — but for us it’s not cost effective. So, if you’re TapouT or Dethrone, or any of those great companies out there supporting fighters, they have the ability to sponsor three, four, five fighters every single time there’s a UFC or Strikeforce event. We only sponsor military fighters with the exception of Tara LaRosa who was engaged to a Special Forces operator who was killed in combat. She is the one exception to our military rule. We sponsor Jorge Rivera, Tim Kennedy, Liz Carmouche, Brian Stann, plus a few up and coming fighters who may be on a Strikeforce card soon or the UFC.”

“But look at the last few years. Tim Credeur was out for eighteen months. Nobody wants to fight Tim so he’s had two fights in fifteen months. You go down the line and it’s all like that. Brian was out for a while too. We’ve had half-year periods where none of our fighters fought for Strikeforce or the UFC, but yet we’d still have to pay the fee. They’re all of a sudden making it very, very, very expensive to sponsor a fighter in the cage when it’s of no additional benefit to the fighter. The same is true for us. What good is it going to do to have someone see Ranger Up on a fighter once every four to five months?”

It makes perfect sense when you stop and think about it — we just hate to see an unapologetically American company that actually gives a damn about the guys they sign disappear from the bright lights of the main stage. But we haven’t seen the last of RU. Between taking care of their fighters, sponsoring the All-Army Combatives Tournament, and launching the Ranger Up Foundation (coming soon), business is sure to continue to grow.

As for how active they’ll be going forward in this aggressive business with so many projects going on, Palmisciano all but guaranteed that his company is in it for the long haul. ”Absolutely, we’ll keep sponsoring the military fighters,” Palmisciano said. “We just have to find new ways to build their brand and help them make their way.”

So how did his fighters react after hearing the news? “Kennedy said he’ll be wearing blank shorts and shirt to his fight against Lawler, and another guy decided to get a tattoo of the Ranger Up logo.”

You heard that right. When Zuffa told Ranger Up they couldn’t be in the Octagon anymore without paying the hefty sponsor fee, UFC middleweight Jorge Rivera threatened to get permanently inked up. Nick’s response: “You’ve gotta be f*cking kidding me! Don’t do that.” Rivera didn’t listen and later sent Palmisciano a text from Australia with a picture of the tattoo on his calf. Now who’s the boss?

Cagepotato Comments

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RwilsonR- July 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm
Ranger Up gear is about the only MMA shit I buy. Probably because most of it isn't MMA gear.
They seem like good dudes, have a good sense of humor on their website, and are true veterans.
Jason Moles- July 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I'm sure they could mention RU in a post fight interview, but would imagine it to be bleeped out in the replay.
Fried Taco- July 22, 2011 at 11:40 am
I'm buying me some Ranger Up gear.
FightZen- July 22, 2011 at 11:38 am
I definitely see both sides here, but Zuffa needs to remember where it comes from. 10 years ago, the fighters that whose names didn't sound like Muck, Mito, or Mandy, were getting paid jack. Small companies like RU are the reason everyone else was able to make this sport a living, and they did it with a smile on their faces.

The bigger sponsors aren't going to change the sport like that. They are just going to put more money in D Dubb's sausagey little fingers. I guess his Ferrari needs a brother.
WarpedAcorn- July 22, 2011 at 11:36 am
Stories like this make me want to support companies like Ranger Up much more than a fighter putting on a wacky-designed T-Shirt post fight.
amsterdamheavy- July 22, 2011 at 11:26 am
Its like 30k a year for the big companies like TapOut, but scales down for the smaller ones. Its based on the size / worth of the company if Im not mistaken.
WalksInTheDarkness- July 22, 2011 at 11:26 am
@Jason Moles
Silly question, but does that stop fighters from giving shout outs to people like Ranger Up even if they haven't paid their sponsors fee? In other words, if Tim Kennedy wins against Robbie Lawler can he still mention Ranger Up when Quadros or Johnson get on the mic with him post fight without the threat of getting in trouble with Strikeforce?
WalksInTheDarkness- July 22, 2011 at 11:23 am
Wow, those are some loyal fighters who clearly appreciate their sponsors not just when they're paying them money. It's quite something when a brand incites that kind of loyalty in their fighters. That's something Zuffa could do with bringing on board.
Machiavelli- July 22, 2011 at 11:18 am
How much is this fee? I mean, can we take up a collection or something?
monkyspunk- July 22, 2011 at 10:46 am
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