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 CagePotato.com. “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?