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The UFC’s Sponsor Smackdown: Minor Screw-Job or Major F*ck-Job?


(First they came for Affliction, and I did not speak up because I was not Affliction. Then they came for Full Tilt Poker, and I did not speak up because I was not Full Tilt Poker. And then…they came for me…and by that time there was no one left to speak up.)

A couple weeks ago we mentioned the UFC’s new stance on fighter sponsors heading into UFC 100 – particularly the part where they are now requiring certain would-be sponsors to pony up $100,000 for the privilege of paying a fighter to plaster “Condom Depot” across his ass – and we noted that since few of the smaller sponsors were likely to agree to this, it seemed like a real screw job for the fighters.  But $100,000 only buys you six months worth of potential sponsorships in the UFC, so the real cost is $200,000 a year, and that’s before you pay a single penny to a fighter.  And already guys are feeling the pain in their pocketbooks.

SI.com’s Josh Gross quotes one unnamed “veteran MMA agent” who says this new policy could cost fighters in the neighborhood of 35-40% of their sponsorship dollars, and cites one (again, unnamed) fighter who could stand to lose about $300,000 at UFC 100 if he doesn’t manage to secure another sponsor.


In other words, this move is going to prove costly for fighters, especially the guys on the low end.  If you’re on the unaired preliminary portion of the card making six grand to show and six to win, chances are you’ve come to rely on the handful of small-time sponsors that pay a thousand bucks to get on your gear.  Your struggling MMA clothing companies, your Buy Guns/Sell Guns, your local car dealerships – there’s absolutely no way they can afford to pay the UFC $200,000 a year and still have anything left to give the fighters.  

So they’ll bow out, which leaves the heavy-hitters and the “official” sponsors like Harley-Davidson and Bud Light, who went through the UFC and not individual fighter agents/managers in the first place.  Fewer eligible sponsors means less competition, which, when combined with the cash those relatively few sponsors are already paying to the UFC, means smaller sponsor payouts to fighters.

Now that we know who’s winning (the UFC, official sponsors) and who’s losing (everyone else), the question becomes, is this ethical?  The UFC would argue that it is, because they are the ones providing the platform, the exposure, and the means of communication for sponsors to get their message out.  It’s their house, they built it, so they get to make the rules.

At the same time, the UFC is essentially taking money out of fighters’ pockets, and they know it.  If they can convince all sponsors to go through them and not fighter agents, they will have turned a fighter revenue stream into a UFC revenue stream, while at the same time gaining more control over both fighters and sponsors.

Maybe the only option now is for sponsors to pay for a fighter shout-out in the post-fight interview.  The UFC can’t control what comes out of a guy’s mouth when Joe Rogan shoves the mic in his face…or can they?    

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Savageleto- July 9, 2009 at 1:15 pm
With the gobs of money the UFC makes on PPV sales alone...

Paying even the lowliest fighter less then $50,000 is a fucking disgrace...

If the UFC wants good fights-- Which they do naturally because WE WANT GOOD FIGHTS .. AND WE PAY THE FUCKS TO WATCH THE FIGHTS...

They have to pay these guys a Living... They have to pay them enough so at the least they can afford to TRAIN on a daily basis and not have to go hammer nails, or deliver pizza to make ends meet... which will only take away from their potential to deliver good fights.

Take away the hodink sponsers.. fine...

Pay the fighters money!...

Sure.. once a fighter attains a championship level.. certainly start giving them the big payday's.. .. But until then at least afford them to live a modest middle class lifestyle...

I cringe every time I see the fighter payout sheets... and now with this...

Filthy...



ArmFarmer- July 9, 2009 at 4:18 am
@Shaolin

Because A. UFC is not going to raise their pay B. Who gives a fuck if their shorts have their team name? I just said.. it's not a team sport. Unless you think the fighters and their corners are too dumb to remember which fighter is which, they do not need uniforms. Basketball, baseball, football ect. wear uniforms so that they know who is on what team. Two guys fighting in a cage is not the same as 2 different teams having 22 guys playing on a football field where the only way to know who's on your side and who your opponent is is by the color of their jersey.
831 Son- July 8, 2009 at 3:24 pm
Agentsmith you are dumb. CP made the same point retard.
Joedirt- July 8, 2009 at 2:13 pm
I've always said Dana White is the Don King of MMA. If he is going to be a dick and take away that type of income... then he should start paying the fighters what they are worth for their fights!!! And people wonder why any good boxers haven't joined the UFC.... they can't handle the pay cut. Lets see..... 30grand or 30 million?????
Contraband- July 8, 2009 at 2:05 pm
It's all part of UFC trying to buy out affliction. They say look at all the t-shirt advertisment you can get there wont be many other sponsors if we can buy affliction mma and then you will be allowed to sponsor fighters in the ufc again. and for all the sponsor competion inside the octagon we will give you 50k
ShaolinKempo- July 8, 2009 at 1:58 pm
@Armhuh???

Their trunks say nothing about team and everything about their sponsors. If they each make about 10k extra in sponsorships from their "team trunks", then why not just raise their fight amount? If they did this, then they could actually wear trunks that have their fight team name on them....
phaderlanx- July 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm
can someone make a petition or ... something? its pretty disheartening to say the least to see the grass roots sport turn into big buisness and go the way of boxing. Fucking FFFFffffffffffffffrrrrustrating.
agentsmith- July 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm
Sherdog made an interesting point about this whole debacle... the UFC could be shooting themselves in the foot with this policy. Sponsorship money paid to fighters indirectly subsidizes the UFC's payroll... so third parties are in effect helping to offset the UFC's costs. This is especially true for the mid- and lower-tier fighters who rely on sponsorship money to get by since they UFC isn't paying them much. That's the whole rationale that many people use to defend the low pay for such guys... even Dana White himself has used this defense in at least one interview that I've personally seen/read.

So those guys will now be forced to try to bargain for more fight pay to offset their loss of revenue. Either that or go to a rival promotion, or maybe reconsider whether the fight game is financially viable for them at all. So in the end, the UFC will have to pay their fighters more or suffer a shrinking talent pool or both.
ArmFarmer- July 8, 2009 at 12:56 pm
@Swedish

More like if you aren't happy with your pay.. go to strikeforce. Half of Strikeforce's last event were ufc vets anyway, they only new so many more before they are putting on just as good if not better cards than ufc. The ufc needs to realize that they have some competition now, and it won't take much to push their fighters away.

Oh and one more thing.. SHUT THE FUCK UP

@Shaolinwhatever

Yeah they do wear uniforms.. because they are on a fucking team. MMA is not a team sport. Not to mention that football/basketball/baseball pros make a fuckload more than 3k a game.
ArmFarmer- July 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm
Wow.. just wow. I use to stick up for Dana and ufc, can't see myself doing that anymore. This is just pathetic and pure greedy. Fuck you Dana and whoever else is making this call, you just lost a supporter.
ShaolinKempo- July 8, 2009 at 12:36 pm
AMEN SWED.
Swedish- July 8, 2009 at 12:26 pm
CagePotato - or should I call you Barak Hussain "CP" Obama?

This is the world of business. The fighters are making more now than ever thanks to the UFC. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

I'm glad you stand up for the little guy and tell them they deserve all things handed to them on a silver platter.

This is america, wake up. If they aren't happy with their pay... TOUGH. Go train more and get better.
ShaolinKempo- July 8, 2009 at 12:24 pm
Why is this bullshit?

In every other sport this is also not allowed. They wear uniforms and can only make a cleat or a glove deal. It does get out of hand when the post fight comments are all about giving props to sponsors rather than actually talking about the fight. Bud Light/Harley pay TONS of cash to be a sponsor and the whole fight all you see its Full Tilt on someones ass, and they paid only 5K for that.

What they need to do is give the fighter some more cash to fight rather than 6K, and that could possibly make up some of the difference.


Times Infinity- July 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm
That would be sweet if all of the fighters just refused to fight because of this. Can you imagine Mir and Lesnarjust had slapping back and forth like two queers fighting just to protest? Or how about BJ Penn and Ken Flo just laying there, holding each other whispering sweet nothings and dreaming of the day they can go back to hawaii together and train under water carrying large rocks.
Titos Head- July 8, 2009 at 12:04 pm
GO DANA!
Fuckyerfrat- July 8, 2009 at 11:48 am
After 100 i'm never buying another fucking pay-per-view until this bullshit is rectified. thanks CP for showing us the light with your "Dana White ,Vladimir Putin" comparison. turned out to be pretty fucking prophetic.
agentsmith- July 8, 2009 at 11:47 am
I wonder if the guy losing $300k is Brock Lesnar... his sponsors tend to be smaller redneck-ish companies that sell beef jerky or ammo or hunting scents.
Nikloai- July 8, 2009 at 11:30 am
they need money for the history to be made @ UFC 100. UFC 100 making history!

I bet the UFC will increase everyone's salary by like 20%, which would only be fraction of what they took from the sponsors, but it makes them look better! DW is having a great time
CJ- July 8, 2009 at 11:24 am
Every time we all forget the last piece-of-shit move DW has pulled, he goes ahead and ups the ante. I hope terrible things happen to him and his family until he stops being such a fucking cock sucker to his fighters.
Art Gibs- July 8, 2009 at 10:36 am
Not only is this policy greedy, but it's also bad business. Pissing off your fighters by taking money out of their pockets is a terrible idea -- especially when you've spent enormous amounts of money renovating your offices, buying a saber-tooth tiger skull (!), flying around in private jets, and God knows what else. These lavish displays of wealth in the video blogs likely do not go unnoticed by the fighters who are losing their sponsorships. If the UFC continues to show their fighters this kind of disrespect we'll start seeing high-profile defections to Strikeforce or elsewhere. Be warned, DW.
Cocky- July 8, 2009 at 10:32 am
This is a business decision... I'm just not sure it's the best long-term one Zuffa has ever made. Fighters will see the grass is greener on the other side meaning less PPV buys and less ratings on Spike if/when Strikeforce and others go head-to-head with the UFC. Like others have stated before, I believe this to be major BS and hope someone can find a middle ground that benefits the UFC, Fighters, and all of us fans.
Lonny- July 8, 2009 at 10:14 am
Well.... Dana's gotta pay for Muffee's parking spot some kind of way!
shartacus- July 8, 2009 at 10:12 am
This is fucking horseshit. The Fitch videogame fiasco, the bullshit with Roger Huerta, Dana White's constant bullshit posturing, the debasement of reporters who don't fall in line with the UFC's corportate ethos, etc., etc. and now this. I believe MMA is the greatest sport in the world and it's fighters, who got me into the sport, are the greatest athletes in the world. To see these guys get constantly screwed to add to the bottom line of an already successful corporation is enough to make me not watch the UFC anymore. Hopefully Strifeforce and a few other companies will become viable competion for the UFC because this is getting absolutely fucking ridiculous
MaxTheLimit- July 8, 2009 at 10:07 am
It doesn't sound unreasonable or unethical to me. However it's pretty cold hearted towards lesser known fighters that rely on those dollars for training.
I think this should only apply to fighters with contracts over a certain value. that way there is little competition for major sponsors on fighters that matter to major sponsors, and lesser known fighters can get that extra little financial help they would need.
Incubuz- July 8, 2009 at 10:07 am
Maybe the extra few million they are going to get per show they could actually up the winnings of the fighters so there not just getting paid a few thousand, they can be making 10's of thousands instead. This would help the poorer fighters a lot.
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