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UFC Cracks Down on More Fighter Sponsors

(The American Kickboxing Academy team poses during a Dethrone Royalty photo shoot. Yes, that is Josh Thomson‘s mean-mug. Photo courtesy of Combat Lifestyle.)

In the future, UFC fighters will only be able to wear Xyience t-shirts and Burger King hats before and after their fights. At least that’s how it seems with the way the UFC has been banning sponsors from the Octagon:

Five Ounces of Pain was able to obtain an e-mail distributed by the UFC’s legal department that now lists Dethrone, One More Round, and Rolling Stone as a list of sponsors that will not be approved for UFC 100 on July 11. Unacceptable sponsors for UFC 100 also online Poker sponsors Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate Bet, and Party Poker.
Clothing sponsors that are approved for UFC 100 include Cage Fighter, MMA Authentic, Familia Gladitoria and MMA Elite. The source added that several clothing sponsors have indicated that they were contacted recently by the UFC and informed that in order to have the ability to sponsor a UFC fighter during a UFC-promoted event that they would have to pay a $100,000 fee to the UFC for the right to sponsor a fighter.

Based on the details provided, certain clothing companies may have to pay the UFC an unofficial licensing fee to have the ability to utilize the UFC’s telecasts to market their product. All sources contacted for this article expressed a great deal of concern regarding their ability to generate income for their fighters.

Okay, I get the Dethrone thing — the MMA apparel brand is associated with AKA‘s fighters, and the UFC is probably still salty over the video game likeness rights debacle. But Rolling Stone just made its debut at UFC 99, MMA Authentics was supposed to be dead to the UFC…and how are you going to steal One More Round from poor old Stitch? Don’t tell me he’s thinking of starting a rival MMA league.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any details as to why each brand is on the blacklist. Obviously this sucks for the fighters who are just trying to make a living, some of whom will probably have to scramble to find new sponsors for the July 11th show. (The long-suffering Jon Fitch, for example.) And that $100,000 fee thing? Ballsy, guys. We’ll see if anybody’s stupid enough to pay it, but that seems like a cruelly effective way for the UFC to shut out certain brands without actually telling them "you can’t sponsor our fighters because we don’t like you on a personal level."

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just some dong- June 26, 2009 at 3:10 am
The UFC is fucking awesome. Period. It's the whole fucking show. They can do whatever the Christ they want for all I care, as long as they don't stop putting on the best fights on the planet. I'll never say a bad word about them until something major occurs that affects me as a fan. This is such a behind the scenes move I couldn't care less.
Chri534.- June 26, 2009 at 12:30 am
I skipped over everything in the comments, but my take on the message being sent as: Do you see the guys in the MLB or the NFL wearing their own ads on shit? This ain't the little leagues anymore...sponsors need to be corporate approved.

Maybe not the best example, but even Nascar restricts their sponsors, so I guess now we're as legitimate as a bunch of inbred hicks as far as sports fans go.

Whether it's right or wrong, it seems the UFC is trying to obtain the right to control as much as they can. Which I think is smart.

...There are strong questions of ethics and morals, and it probably sucks for the fighters right now...but what are you gonna do, go start a bright and promising career with Affliction?
Dmonicideals- June 25, 2009 at 7:23 pm
A fighter is going to sue the UFC over this. A manager, someone, but the UFC IS going to catch its first lawsuit.
Maitreyan disciple- June 25, 2009 at 5:43 pm
Way to own Swedish, that was well played.
Mike Milbury- June 25, 2009 at 3:26 pm
To be fair, who says the $100,000 was Dana's idea? Could have just as well been the Ferittas' idea. And it's not like the $$$ is going straight into Dana's hands.
BallPtPenTheif- June 25, 2009 at 2:49 pm
I wonder how Mask's funeral went down...

DANA: Hey, skyscrape how you holding on?

SKYSCRAPE: Good bro. You know it's just crazy, one minute you're hanging with your dog and the next minute he dies in his Furrari.

DANA: Oh, I forgot to mention. You guys need to get your shit together and pay me $100,000 if Tapout wants to continue sponsoring fighters in the UFC.


DANA: Get better, and the punch is fucking great.
dbiggles- June 25, 2009 at 2:39 pm
Every time i start to like Dana White he does some shit like this. This is taking money out of the fighters pockets, who is going to pay a fighter to wear their clothes if no one is going to see it chickenshits especially Dana the Dictator they must love to fuck fighters over, if they were smart they would all go to japan
Fiction- June 25, 2009 at 1:16 pm

While i agree with most of what you said, your first statement isnt really fair. Most non-team / single person sports (think golf,boxing,tennis etc.) you DO see people wearing whatever they want / whatever sponsors they want as long as its not offensive.

Of course you're not going to see team sports (NFL, Football, MLB) advertising on jerseys. Those owners OWN the stadiums. They advertise PLENTY. Compounded by the fact that the average MINIMUM salary of any of the major team sports in america is DOUBLE most of the best paid MMA Fighters in the UFC... the individuals dont NEED to advertise for themselves. Theyve made their money just for making the cut.
Nut Puncher 9000- June 25, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Really, those fighters were 40 million in debt trying to get MMA on the map?

thebloc- June 25, 2009 at 12:22 pm
this is fucking ridiculous. If i get this right, the UFC has found a way to turn the fighter sponsors into UFC sponsors and if they dont agree to their demands they just ban
munche- June 25, 2009 at 12:19 pm
UFC is much more lenient then well, any other sport when it comes to fighter sponsors. You don't see any other major sports where players just come in with any thing they want on their jersey.

While it sucks, it seems like they're targeting specific brands that are either quite large or using UFC fighters a LOT (like Dethrone) to promote their products. It's not like they're saying that fighters can't have their Joe Blow Chevrolet ads or whatever. It's big ticket sponsors who are trying to sneak in some cheap/free ads.

There's a lot of outrage on the internet about it, but really, there are very few guys who are complaining about their pay, and it's not like they don't have other choices. Plus, if they were fighting in Dream or Strikeforce, the big ticket sponsors wouldn't be interested because they weren't getting the exposure of UFC.

Having even fought in the UFC once adds insta-cred to your gym where you're selling memberships, your instructional tapes, and any random t-shirts/whatever you decide to lend your likeness to.

It's also interesting that in the same thread people will comment that MMA fighters don't get paid enough compared to MMA fighters, and then note that the superbowl gets 100x the amount of viewers of a big MMA event. There are a million different orgs to fight for, and that's why these fighters have managers to determine the pros and cons of each.
Endocat- June 25, 2009 at 11:57 am
To the guy that said if it wasn't for the UFC then these people wouldnt have a way to make a living.

If it wasn't for the fighters leaving there blood and sweat in that cage the "UFC" wouldn't exist
Fiction- June 25, 2009 at 11:52 am
@ Swedish,

Uhhhh, the average cost of a 30 second ad during the superbowl was $800,000. 97 million people watched the superbowl this year, and an average of ~90 million people have watched over the past ten years.

Today we salute you, CP resident Math Genius Swedish. Ignoring all factual, statistical, and common sense data, only you would think reaching 1% of the superbowl's audience for 1/8 the price is "not bad".
Im sure your thriving lemonade stand at $8 dollars a cup is a big success.

Mike Milbury- June 25, 2009 at 11:51 am
@Kazi: Day jobs. Seriously. And train when they're not working. I'd much rather see these guys make a living solely on doing what they love, but that's life.
Kazi- June 25, 2009 at 11:07 am
Yeah this is typical UFC bullshit. Other than sponsorships, how else are fighters supposed to supplement their shitty UFC pay?
gracie_nuthugger- June 25, 2009 at 10:58 am
How do you spell douchebags? U-F-C.
They pay guys like Jardine 14,000$ to fight on main cards, fuck with them any chance they get (hey Fitch!) and the only steady source of income these guys usually have are their sponsors, so why not fuck with that too?

Oh well, I guess they will in return get more publicity on magazine covers. Oh wait, Im sorry... the UFC doesnt promote their fighters on magazine covers, they instead have aerobic instructors try to act tough on covers (your thumb goes on the outside when you make a fist Dona).

I dont care about brand and marketing, all I care about is seeing good fights and that the fighters get treated well for the work they do.
And as much as the ball lickers here would just want one organization, I hope that for this latest (and the previous) reasons, that the other orgs like Strikeforce and Affliction and Bellator do well. Monopolies never serve anybody except the monopolists.
T Rex- June 25, 2009 at 10:39 am
I don't like this at all.

Not at all.

It's like the fucking thought police. It's unfair for the UFC to ban any sponsor from the UFC. What purpose does it serve? Fledgling companies may end up folding if they're not allowed to get exposure from UFC events.

Honestly, if the UFC wants to prove that they're the best in the business. They should allow fighters any sponsor they want. I can understand approving fighter T-Shirts and the like, but to completely ban whole companies is another story.

If Dana White really wants to shit on Tom Atencio's chest, he should allow Affliction shirts back in the cage.
Armbreaker- June 25, 2009 at 10:37 am
Once again the UFC overreaches and interferes with the ability of fighters to make a decent living. Could it be that Dana wants the fighters to be completely dependent on him and the UFC? Is this just another means of controlling the fighters?
831 Son- June 25, 2009 at 10:37 am
This is dumb. The sponsors provide alot of the fighters' income whether they lose, win, or draw. Those people that make 5k to show up and fight deserve the right to show off a couple sponsors. Dana shouldn't be pulling fag shit like this.
Best_Blank_Ever- June 25, 2009 at 10:35 am
@Nut Puncher 9000.

Yes, this is the way of capitalism. However, the way of capitalism is also that those who are greedy eventually get punished by the free market. History is littered with companies that were big, got greedy, and got killed by their competitors. And if the UFC continues to bleed other companies looking to make a living, eventually, those companies will turn on the UFC and support other organizations.

The UFC is sure throwing its weight around considering only 8 years ago they weren't on pay per view, and 5 years ago they weren't on television. They are on a meteoric rise, but how will they maintain that? By building relationships with the companies and fighters that help make it possible. If they're going for the quick payday now, so be it. But if they want to build for the long term, they should quit alienating fighters, product sponsors, and others whom they will need down the road.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Don't be surprised if in 5 years Dana White is out of a job, and the Fertittas are begging everyone to give them another chance while some other upstart company is the king of MMA.
NateGetsIrate- June 25, 2009 at 10:25 am
Where would the Rocky's of today be if they weren't able to advertise their own "Shamrock Meats, Inc." on their purple robes (or t-shirts)? Not everyone can get Xyience to sponsor them. Or at least cut them a fair deal, if they do.
Sheps- June 25, 2009 at 10:18 am
For the number 1 MMA organisation in the western world, the UFC sure do treat their fighters like shit. Eventually it will come back to bite them in the ass. Theres nothing more satisfying than seeing Dana White broke and homeless, like he had done to many a fighter who thought they had a 3 fight deal, paid a whole bunch of shit to get in shape just for the UFC, only to get their ass kicked to the curb one fight later.
Mike Milbury- June 25, 2009 at 10:13 am
@ecimmortal: True, but even the biggest scrub in the major sports is making good coin (A 4th bench rider in the NHL makes minimum $500,000 to mostly hang out in the press box). In the UFC, what about the dude who's making like $5000 to fight every few months?
ecimmortal- June 25, 2009 at 10:04 am
Hey morons!

What other major sports franchise allows it's athlete's to wear whatever it wants during competition?
averagejoe- June 25, 2009 at 9:56 am
Good comments all around.

I don't have a problem with the UFC seeking revenue for advertising - to a point. They sell signs on the octagon, and have Buffer weave movie plots into the pre-fight intros, they have sponsored replays, and the whole thing costs money to watch on PPV. That's all good, it's all their stuff, they should be able to sell it.

But to tell a fighter what kind of t-shirt he can wear to walk out and fight? I get restrictions on tshirts banning profanity, etc., but actually saying which brands are approved on the fighter's own clothing?!? that crosses the line, especially because framing the issue as "approved sponsors" allows them to control the fighters without bargaining for that control through a contractual agreement.

Smells like power gone wild.