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UFC Still Hasn’t Informed Its Champions How Much They’ll Make (Or Lose) From Reebok Sponsorship


(RIP, @XBOX mouthpiece. / Screencap via MMATKO)

When the UFC and Reebok announced their six-year uniform agreement at the beginning of this month, we could only speculate at how good or bad this would be for the UFC’s fighters, based on the few details that were available. The reported “tier system,” of paying fighters according to their official media rankings (LOL, SMDH) was still a mystery, in terms of how exactly the pie would be divvied up.

But of course, CagePotato is just a mid-level MMA blog trying to find its way in this world with zero access to Zuffa executives. The crazy part is, the UFC’s own stars are still in dark about what the sponsorship agreement will mean for their finances, two weeks after the announcement was first made.

Case in point: MMAJunkie published an interview with Demetrious Johnson yesterday, in which the long-reigning flyweight champion wondered aloud what the UFC’s new sponsorship landscape will mean for his existing sponsorship with Xbox, which is now basically deceased; Johnson will not be able to wear Xbox logos in the Octagon when the UFC/Reebox partnership officially kicks in next year. Johnson’s comments were somewhat shocking, because it seems like he knows as little about the Reebok deal’s specifics as we do. Here are some choice quotes…

A guy like Nick Diaz, for example, comes out with all his Metal Mulisha, all his sponsorships,” Johnson said. “Let’s say from those sponsorships he makes like $80,000 to go in the octagon. That’s a nice payday just for wearing sponsorships.

“Lets say the UFC says, ‘Hey man, you’ve got to wear Reebok tomorrow.’ And he says, ‘OK, that sounds good. Here are all my pay stubs and my contracts for my last fight. They’re paying me $80,000, so what’s Reebok going to pay me?’ They say, ‘You’re ranked second in the world, so we’re going to pay you $2,000 to wear Reebok.’ For me, I think that’s not necessarily fair because there’s basically $78,000 that’s unaccounted for. If UFC’s going to compensate me with the same amount, that’s fantastic. If not, that’s a big boo-boo”…

“I think everyone would hope (they’re paid the same or more as before), whether they’re the champion or not,” Johnson said. “I would hope the person on the prelims card who is ranked 20th in the UFC, if they’re making $10,000 from Dynamic Fastener, I believe they have the right to be paid that. That’s just me being an honest person.

“If the person can show what they are making and this Reebok deal isn’t making the same, they should be making it right. That’s my take on it. I support the UFC, I’m happy for this deal, and I hope it helps out a lot of fighters, including myself”…

“I think it’s a good thing to where people don’t have to run out and struggle to find sponsorships and all that stuff,” Johnson said. “But at the end of the day, I just don’t want people to be stripped of what they can bring in. That’s my biggest thing about it. If a person is getting paid $80,000 for something and they’re told they can’t wear it anymore and they’re losing that money, then something needs to happen about that…We won’t know how good the deal is until we see the actual fine print.”

Disclaimer: Demetrious Johnson doesn’t know how much money Nick Diaz actually receives from Metal Mulisha, or how much a prelim fighter makes from Dynamic Fastener, and even we’re not pessimistic enough to think that #2-ranked UFC fighters will only earn $2,000 per fight from Reebok. Essentially, this is just nervous chatter from someone who has no idea what’s going on.

The problem is, that “someone” is a UFC champion and frequent headliner. Having Demetrious Johnson voice these concerns in the media is a public relations black eye for the UFC, and it could have been avoided if the promotion actually explained to its fighters what impact this would have on their income, preferably before the Reebok deal was even announced.

The UFC’s lack of communication and transparency on this issue tells us all we need to know. If the promotion’s top stars stood to earn a lot more money from Reebok than they were earning from their existing sponsorships, the UFC would be pushing that narrative as hard as possible. Instead, they’re silent — and champions like Demetrious Johnson have every reason to be nervous.

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