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UFC Announces Fighter Uniform Deal With Reebok

(In the arms of an angel / fly awaaaaaay, from here…” / Photo by Paul Thatcher, Fight! Magazine)

The UFC’s long-rumored plan to institute an official uniform for its fighters has become a reality. As leaked last night by apparel company Dethrone — a longtime sponsor of MMA fighters — the UFC has partnered with Reebok for its uniform deal. UFC president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta will be discussing the details in this video announcement, beginning at 11 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. PT…

We’ll jot down the important points after the jump, as they happen.

While we wait, here’s what MMASucka wrote about this announcement yesterday: “From what we are hearing, in-fight sponsorships will be done with in 2015 and fighters will have to push their merchandise in order to earn a percentage of the earnings. It’s obvious that the bigger name fighters will do well for themselves, however the up and comers will take a big hit.”

It seems speculative to say that “the up and comers will take a big hit,” since even mid-level UFC fighters have been struggling to make real money off sponsorships lately. UFC rookies and Fight Pass prelim-carders weren’t making enough sponsor money in the first place to take a “big hit,” no matter what the financial arrangement with Reebok turns out to be.

What this deal really does is take power away from the fighter-managers who earned their money by finding sponsors for their clients. Managers have suddenly become less relevant, less necessary to a fighter’s life — and maybe that was the point all along.

Reebok president Matt O’Toole kicks off the presentation, covering Reebok’s concept of “tough fitness,” and the brand’s three-sided Delta symbol, which represents the physical, mental, social sides of the fitness/active lifestyle. Blah blah blah, crossfit, blah blah, the “fitness journey.” He introduces a video with people doing MMA training in Reebok gear. “There’s a fighter in all of us — Reebok.”

O’Toole introduces Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta, whose name he butchers. (“Lorenzo Fertatta.”) Lorenzo talks about how combat sports never had an official brand like the NFL, MLB, etc., and how the UFC’s goal was to change that. The UFC aimed to be synonymous with the greatest martial artists in the world. Maybe it’s just my stream, but I swear, everybody who tries to speak on this presentation is eventually interrupted by a video.

No, it’s not just me. Anyway, we’re 26 minutes in, and we haven’t heard a single newsworthy detail about this partnership.

Dana White: “This is the largest non-broadcast deal we’ve ever done, and every penny of this goes to the fighters…and everything that sells with their name on it, they get a 20% cut in the back-end.” Matt Saccaro is highly skeptical!

Swizz Beats was just welcomed to the stage by Dana. He was the visionary behind this thing, or something? “Thank you, Swizz.”

Okay, enough of these jackasses talking. Here are some actual details via Brett Okamoto:

The UFC announced a six-year partnership with Reebok on Tuesday, naming the sports apparel company the UFC’s exclusive uniform supplier and commercial outfitter.

Financial terms of the deal, which goes into effect July 6, were not disclosed…

The deal will eliminate independent sponsorships in the UFC’s Octagon, which athletes have long relied upon to supplement fight purses.

Fighters will no longer be permitted to wear independent sponsorships during a fight or the promotion leading up to it, but can maintain sponsorships outside of events.

UFC president Dana White told that all initial profits from the rights agreement will go directly to the approximately 500 rostered athletes.

“There are some costs associated with running this but other than those costs, every dime of this deal goes to the fighters,” White said. “This isn’t a six-year money grab. This is a long-term relationship we’ve created with Reebok. We’re investing in the fighters, they’re investing in the sport. It makes all the sense in the world to get the fighters invested in this thing.”

The pay structure will allocate funds per-fight, based on a tiered ranking system. Champions will receive the largest payment, followed by fighters ranked Nos. 1-to-5, 6-to-10, 11-to-15 and unranked. UFC’s official rankings are voted on by media outlets and are overseen by the company...

Whoa. Please-re-read that last paragraph. In other words, the approved media will be able to impact how much sponsor-money that fighters get. These people aren’t always qualified to rank fighters. And remember, the UFC can always unrank you out of spite. Oh man, the UFC Fighter Rankings have just gone from useless to terrifying. Anyway…

In addition to per-fight payouts, UFC fighters will receive 20 percent of any merchandise sold with their name or likeness. According to Fertitta, that will include currently retired fighters who inspire customized lines.

“They will receive royalties on apparel sold,” Fertitta said. “Certainly that would include for the rest of their life, so it becomes a revenue stream for them. There are plans to bring back ‘legends of the sport’ — guys that are already retired. We will create kits for them.”

The deal will also mark the end of fighter banners in the UFC — which are traditionally carried to the Octagon by an athlete’s cornermen and hung behind them during introductions. Corners will also be required to wear Reebok.

The UFC may still negotiate event sponsors, which would receive key advertisement placement on fighter uniforms during a specific event. White stated the number of event sponsors in such capacity would never exceed one.

“The reason we’re doing this is to continue to do things and implement things to elevate the level of the sport and really take it in a place where other major league sports are,” Fertitta said.

“This is no different than any other major sport. You can’t just run onto the field or basketball court with whatever sponsors you want. It just doesn’t work that way and we’re now at that level.”

Uniforms will be mostly standardized but should allow for individualism, according to Fertitta. Reebok is expected to unveil numerous designs for fighters to choose from in the spring.

One more thing: Didn’t Dana White say that “every penny” of this deal goes to the fighters? Well, close enough.

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