Former UFC Heavyweight and recently retired, Brendan Schlub (10-5) has been quite vocal about his displeasure with the UFC’s decision to partner with Reebok. He’s had the advantage of voicing his opinions in the podcast world during his show “The Fighter and the Kid” and he’s also gone to such great lengths as to even retire from the sport of professional mixed martial arts.
Well his cries have not fallen on deaf ears.
Reebok senior director of combat training Michael Lunardelli is no stranger to the criticism his company has received, but in Schaub’s case, Lunardelli believes the big man’s frustration is misdirected.
“We’ve talked about this before, you can’t make everybody happy,” Lunardelli said during an in-studio appearance Monday on The MMA Hour. “Some people are going to criticize the deal. They may feel that they lost some sponsorships as part of this apparel deal. The way we look at it is, we’re not deciding where the money goes. We’re investing into all these different things that relate to MMA and the sport, so we’ve put a lot of money into the UFC deal, we’ve put a lot of money into fighters, we’ve put a lot of money into gyms and trainers and coaches, things like that. But then there comes a decision point, and the UFC decides how the fighters are paid. That’s not something we get involved in at all.”
“So I can understand that he’s looking at us and blaming us because it’s a Reebok apparel deal. It’s a little misplaced from my standpoint. But at the same time, we have to do what we have to do, and that’s focus on making great gear, supporting fighters, getting fighters to showcase as the face of our brand. If we do those things really well, then things will come around.”
UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman joined Lunardelli as an in-studio guest to announce his signing with Reebok and introduce a signature line of ‘Join the Team’ t-shirts and stars-and-stripes shoes.
Weidman echoed Lunardelli’s sentiment, suggesting that Schaub’s frustration was “misplaced anger” that should be directed elsewhere.
“Right away, you see people wearing Reebok and not getting the sponsors that he was making, so he gets upset. But you can’t blame Reebok for that,” Weidman said. “Reebok is coming in and doing the best they can to make this sport even better, and they’re paying the fighters. So it’s not Reebok.
“If he wants to get mad, get mad at the UFC. But in general, I think this is going to be good for the sport, and right now it’s just a tough transitional period. But again, I think the anger, you can’t keep blaming Reebok. I think MMA fans need to start supporting what’s going on, because it’s going to happen. Support Reebok and support the UFC in this move, because otherwise you’re wasting your time and energy getting upset about it.”
Lunardelli said that while he understands the criticism Reebok has received for decisions beyond its control, the company’s focus is to move forward with a goal to help “elevate the sport,” so that in the future, mixed martial arts becomes a more lucrative endeavor for all involved, including the athletes.
“When the sport becomes a sport like MLB or the NFL or NHL, when it becomes a sport that’s viewed in that lens in the U.S., if it’s elevated to that level, then there will be a lot more money in the game overall for everybody,” Lunardelli said. “That’s my viewpoint on it. I don’t think it’s quite there yet, but it’s certainly getting there. It’s growing. We’re looking at some of these fights in Australia (at UFC 193), if they sell out that stadium, we’re talking 65,000 or 70,000 seats for two title fights on the women’s side of the UFC. That’s amazing.”